Woodland teachers use summer break to keep working by learning new skills and honing their craft

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When the school year ends and students go home for a much-needed vacation, Woodland Public Schools’ teachers continue their work by attending a professional development programs designed to help hone their craft and, just like their students, to make learning a life-long adventure.

Kyla Keefer (left) and Shari Conditt (right) met Mary Beth Tinker (center) who, as a student, helped pave the way for student free speech in "Tinker v. Des Moines" (1969)
Kyla Keefer (left) and Shari Conditt (right) met Mary Beth Tinker (center) who, as a student, helped pave the way for student free speech in "Tinker v. Des Moines" (1969) 

Kyla Keefer, a Social Studies Teacher at Woodland High School, attended several professional development programs over the summer including the Advanced Placement (AP) Summer Institute in preparation for two new courses she will teach this fall including AP Literature and Composition. “All new AP teachers must attend the AP Summer Institute, however, regardless of the requirement, I would have opted to attend the institute,” said Keefer. “My command of AP course and exam requirements are crucial to my students’ success in my class, their performance on the AP exams, and their future academic pursuits.”

Keefer also attended the Judicial Institute for Teachers hosted by Seattle University Law School and the U.S. District Court in Seattle with colleague, Shari Conditt, a Government and History Teacher at Woodland High School. “I wanted to improve my content knowledge as I’ve taught government and politics courses at Woodland High School for several years,” explained Keefer. “The opportunity to discuss the federal judiciary with actual federal and state supreme court judges along with lawyers and professors was an incredible experience!”

While at the Institute held in Washington D.C., Keefer and Conditt met Mary Beth Tinker, a woman responsible for paving the way for student free speech in schools who, as a student, won her case Tinker v. Des Moines at the Supreme Court in 1969. “I loved all the opportunities I took advantage of this summer as I’m so busy during the school year that I don’t have the time to attend conferences,” said Keefer. “My open summer schedule and supportive family give me the time to attend workshops and institutes that help me improve both personally and professionally.”

In addition to the Judicial Institute, Conditt attended a week-long program covering American Constitutionalism and the U.S. Supreme Court at Stanford University organized by the Gilder Lehrman Group which runs a variety of summer seminars for teachers. Conditt attended the program free-of-charge as an incentive from when she was awarded History Teacher of the Year for Washington State in 2016. “I like to balance content-specific programs with larger generally education-related conferences,” explained Conditt. “Doing this gives me the opportunity to network and interact with teachers where I get great ideas from folks who teach the same subject, just in different states.”

Conditt met with Washington State Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler to discuss funding structures and to advocate for Woodland's students and staff.
Conditt met with Washington State Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler to discuss funding structures and to advocate for Woodland's students and staff. 

Conditt also attended the National Network of State Teachers of the Year Conference held in Washington D.C. with seminars covering a variety of issues facing the educational system including innovative technology for the classroom; recent data and research on Social Emotional Learning; the EduColor Movement; and strategies to use when talking with legislators and other policy makers. “Being in the nation's capital always brings a special opportunity to see historic and governmental sites that we don't typically get to interact with due to our geography,” said Conditt. “In order to improve my work, deepen my knowledge, and increase my skills, I have to engage in professional development." While at the conference, Conditt met with Washington State Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler to discuss federal funding structures and to advocate for Woodland’s students and staff.

While attending the Institute, Katie Klaus met current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and former Secretary of Education John King (pictured here).
While attending the Institute, Katie Klaus met current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and former Secretary of Education John King (pictured here). 

Katie Klaus, an English Language Learners (ELL), English, and History Teacher at Woodland High School, began the process of planning for this summer’s professional development last year when she was named the James Madison Fellow for Washington State. Created by Congress, The James Madison Fellowship helps secondary-education teachers become scholars of the United States Constitution and includes a $24,000 scholarship to fund the pursuit of a master’s degree. This summer, all James Madison Fellows attended a four-week institute at Georgetown University. “I met the Chief of Staff for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, had a private tour of the Capitol where I met two senators, visited countless monuments and historical sites, and met current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and former Secretary of Education John King,” said Klaus. “Every day when I was in class or visiting sites, I would think, ‘Oh! I can use that for my students!’”

Following the institute, Klaus visited Boston and New York to see additional historical sites including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the 9/11 Memorial University. “This has been an amazing summer for me and I will never forget the things I’ve learned and the memories I’ve made,” said Klaus. “I am so excited to start school so I can use all of my experiences in the classroom to enrich the education of my students!”

Woodland’s teachers hold professional development as an integral part to their success with student learning. “I consider development a crucial part of my calling as a teacher,” said Keefer. “Since I try to inspire my students to love learning both in and out of the classroom, I love getting the chance to be a student myself by learning more about my content and craft in order to pass that on to my students.” Conditt agreed with Keefer, “Knowledge isn't static; it requires growth and every now and then, some cognitive dissonance,” she said. “Teaching and learning is a field that is always evolving with new technologies, resources, and research that help inform our practice which I want to be able to provide my students in a classroom environment that maximizes their strengths and abilities.”

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