Teachers Model Life-Long Learning
At PDS, teachers and administrators lead by example. Instilling a life-long love of learning is not just something you hear at PDS; it is something you see as teachers continue to grow professionally through a variety of professional development opportunities.
[ Read More ]
he most precious asset at PDS, “the heart and soul of the school,” according to Headmaster Lee Burns, is the faculty and staff. They are the individuals who teach, inspire, nurture, correct, create, encourage, and model. They pray with and for their students, offer hugs and happygrams, and pour out their hearts for their boys.
Full of nurture and love, PDS teachers also bring professionalism, immense talent, high standards, and creativity to the school. Over 60% of the teachers and academic administrators have advanced degrees. They are a good balance of seasoned, veteran teachers and younger teachers more recently trained in their graduate schools. A growing number of the faculty and staff, now numbering 17, are men.
Professional Development at PDS
The faculty all share a passion for their calling to work at PDS, and they are all immersed in a school that insists on their on-going professional development. “I have been amazed at the school’s commitment to our professional development,” says 2nd grade teacher Sharon McCall, now in her 20th year at PDS. “As a faculty, we have attended conferences and workshops all over the country and visited some of the country’s leading independent schools. The faculty culture here is one of continual growth and commitment to educational research and best practices.”
“We invest very aggressively in the on-going training of our teachers,” says Headmaster Lee Burns. “Whether through summer grants, conferences, consultants, reading, visits to schools, or our committees and task forces, we spend a lot of time and energy carefully reflecting on and designing what we do. Our teachers attend workshops, seminars, and conferences around the country. As we talk to our colleagues at other schools, they are amazed and envious of our commitment to professional development.”
Teachers Instructed at Harvard's Project Zero
During the summer of 2010, Debbie Isom, Early Childhood Head, joined 12 PDS teachers in attending Harvard’s Project Zero, bringing to over 85% the percentage of PDS teachers having attended this world-renowned institute. Project Zero focuses on five areas: teaching for understanding, multiple intelligences, critical and creative thinking, assessment of learning, and learning in and through the arts. It is a fast-paced and intense program of plenary sessions, mini courses, and study groups where researchers shared their most current findings with educators from twenty-five countries and thirty-one states.
Though salaries are very competitive, teachers don’t come to PDS to get rich. “They come because they believe in our mission, because of the love and support of their colleagues, and because they are treated as professionals and stimulated and supported in their on-going growth,” says Elementary Principal Mark Fruitt.
“I love being at a school that cares so much about its teachers and their happiness and growth,” says pre-kindergarten teacher Sandy Kilgore.
Each year, every teacher sets a professional development goal and has compensation tied to it. “Though we are very proud of our tradition at PDS, we know that we can’t teach exactly how we did a generation ago,” says 6th grade teacher Jean Nabers, a 26-year PDS veteran who created her own social studies curriculum with internet resources instead of the textbook she used to use. “Boys love this approach that asks them to be more active researchers, learners, and constructers of meaning. The laptops we give them open up a whole new way of teaching and learning.”
As hard as the teachers work, PDS is not all about curriculum and educational research. Last summer, the faculty and staff all read The Global Achievement Gap
, The Prodigal God,
and Ephesians, as well as watched 11 videos.
One of the school’s institutional goals is for each employee to grow spiritually. Every other year, all employees go on a two-day, overnight retreat. “It’s wonderful to be a part of a school that is so thoughtful about building community,” says Early Childhood Head Debbie Isom. “This is an incredible place to work.” There is even a faculty nursery.
“I feel so blessed to be a part of a community of professionals who are committed to continuing their growth in our field,” says Shari Caruthers, a Junior Kindergarten teacher. “I feel that I have grown tremendously in my teaching abilities and love of children because of the support and mentoring that I have received at PDS. I am forever grateful for the opportunities that I have had because of the school’s commitment to excellence in all areas.”
It’s not surprising that the faculty and staff turnover is low and that the school can be so selective in its hiring. “Our stability and continuity is a strength, and I wouldn’t trade our faculty and staff for any in the country,” says Lee Burns. And obviously, they wouldn’t trade working at PDS either.