Teachers going back to school

Plank Article Milo Moggan ’26

Every so often, students get a four-day week  due to a scheduled Faculty and Staff Professional Development Day. On these days, teachers work as a group to address changes in the educational world. However, the school may be looking to change the Professional Development Day schedule to better accommodate the individual needs of teachers in the future.

Professional Development Days don’t really sacrifice a day of school for students. According to math teacher Mr. David Zielke, the total number of days in the school year remains the same. 

“They’re factored in, those Professional Development Days,” Mr. Zielke said. “[We] have to allow these kinds of days to be built into the school year so we can do professional development.” 

Ms. Sarah Ruano believes Professional Development Days are necessary throughout the school year in order to keep teachers up to date with changes in education.

“We try to minimize the impact on students, so we try to do it when students are not on campus,” Ms. Ruano said. “The idea is to have Professional Development during the school year so you can implement what you’ve learned. You stay current by doing training.”

Mr. Zielke describes Professional Development Days as a school day for teachers. During professional development, the teachers are the ones learning.

“We’re being spoken to – lectured, in a way,” Mr. Zielke said. “Maybe the only difference is we don’t have tests or assessments on it afterwards. But we’re there to learn, like a student might be in a classroom; we’re there to learn as teachers.”

Professional Development Days are opportunities for every faculty and staff member to learn. Principal Dr. Michael Wood ’99 also participates, hearing and learning from other teachers.

“I just participate and learn what [faculty and staff] are learning,” Dr. Wood said. “Just because I’m the principal does not mean that I know more than anybody else; in fact, the experts are out there.”

Not all Professional Development Days are created equally. Some are particularly enticing while others are not.

“In my 26 years of teaching, I’ve sat through my fair share of laborious and uninspiring presentations, but I’ve also found several [Professional Development] Days helpful,” Mr. Chris Chandley ’93 said. “Last year, for example, we had a good one on best practices for accommodating and teaching students with [attention-deficit hyperactivity order] and other learning differences. And this year’s – with its focus on [artificial intelligence]– was, for me at least, illuminating.” 

Mr. Zielke attributes the effectiveness of a Professional Development Day to its speakers, but also notes that some of the topics don’t apply to all teachers. He believes individualized Professional Development Days will help solve that.

“If it’s well structured and the speakers are presenters who know what they’re talking about and have prepared something that meets our needs, [Professional Development Days] can be very productive,” Mr. Zielke said. “The potential is certainly in a smaller scale Professional Development Day that is more targeted to specific needs of each teacher. Those are probably more effective than school-wide or faculty-wide development days where some teachers may only get something useful out of it.”

In the future, a full day of professional development may not be as common. Dr. Wood and the school are looking into the current system and may change the structure of Professional Development Days to better suit the individual needs of faculty and staff.

“[Supporting] each individual person’s needs [...], whether that’s over the summer or on their own time, might make more sense than sacrificing the school day,” Dr. Wood said. “The model of the full day in service is tending to become less popular and not the best mode. We’re actually looking at that for next year, [whether or not] we should do another day like this, [as] we’ve been doing in the past. We’re planning to review it.”

Just as education evolves for students, professional development for teachers may also be changing at Jesuit. The school plans to evaluate the pros and cons of a whole day dedicated to educating faculty and staff members as opposed to a system designed around the individual needs of teachers. But for now, a Professional Development Day remains the day faculty and staff go back to school.