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Lafayette School District Teachers Attend Columbia University Program

For the third year in a row, LPIE funding allowed district teachers and administrators to attend week-long reading and writing workshops at the Columbia University Teachers College summer institute.

A total of 35 district employees - 30 teachers and five administrators - attended the workshops over the summer. This was the largest number of participants the district has ever sent, says Mary Maddux, Lafayette School District’s Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction.

LPIE provided the majority of the funding for the workshops, but the district also had a grant from the state’s Educator Effectiveness program, which is why they were able to send such a large group.

The Columbia summer program brings together educators from all over the country to learn more about how to teach reading and writing to make students more engaged, literate learners. Maddux says the Lafayette School District adopted the workshop model of teaching reading and writing around five years ago, and the shifts she has seen in the students has been profound.

“Now you hear a 6th grade teacher talk about how they have a new group of writers come into the classroom and they’ve written a lot and have more endurance,” says Maddux. “They’re at a point where they’re seeing kids who’ve had this shift in instruction over a period of time and they’re coming in as readers and writers.”

Stanley 7th grade core teacher Heather White attended the conference this summer for the second time and says she not only appreciates the opportunity for professional development, but also notices the change the workshop model has on her students.

Unlike more “traditional” styles of teaching where the teacher does most of the talking during the class and tells the student what they’re going to read or write about, the workshop model encourages teachers to have students write or read about a topic that is of interest to them.

For example, if the class is doing opinion writing, the students can pick the issue that they want to write about, instead of the teacher telling them what to do.

“I have students who come back and say, ‘That was my favorite part of class,’” says White. “It’s really engaging for the students.”

White also says the method encourages the students to revise and experiment more in their writing, which she says pushes them to become more creative and take risks.

Springhill 3rd grade teacher Liz Caldwell attended the workshop for the first time this past summer and says the experience inspired her to come back to school and implement some of the techniques she learned.

“It was totally eye opening as a teacher because the way (the workshop) is structured puts you through the writing process just like your students are going to do,” says Caldwell.

Both teachers say they were grateful for the opportunity to participate in professional development and hope to continue to take part in the program in the future. Maddux says the district encourages teachers to apply when the lengthy process begins in February and is excited about the progress she’s seen in both the students’ skill level and their enthusiasm for reading and writing.

“It’s about teaching that lifelong skill of being a good reader and a good writer and what does that mean,” she says.

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