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Teaching and Learning Center Provides New Frontier Using Online Educator Development Platforms

During the pandemic, gaining professional development hours is next to the last thing on educators’ minds. Teachers are tasked with posting online lessons and grades. They’re meeting with students, parents and administrators on Zoom. Educators are coping with teaching their own children. Harris County Department of Education’s Teaching and Learning Center sees the challenge as an opportunity to revamp professional development, flipping over to the virtual world. “There’s a new frontier in professional development,” said Kelly Tumy, TLC’s curriculum director for English language arts and social studies. “Everyone is testing the waters. Not only is it because of COVID, it’s time out of the classroom.” Like other education institutions, Tumy and fellow curriculum directors at TLC began cancelling national and local presenters scheduled for the spring and summer as the pandemic hit. “I started thinking about the livelihood of our independent consultants who offer these workshops and conferences,” she said, remembering the cancellation calls and emails. “They have mortgages and families too.” A solution came as national literacy consultant Kate Roberts agreed to present virtually in May for HCDE. Tumy set up her sessions online through Zoom. Roberts agreed to do three, two-hour sessions in April-May. Sixty-one teachers and administrators signed on for the workshop. “People said it was rejuvenating,” said Tumy. “Plus, it was nice having professional development to sink their teeth into to get them going again.” Sheila McAninch, secondary English language arts and reading coordinator for Waller Independent School District, attended the virtual training. She liked the spaced, short sessions. “I truly loved how Kate Roberts made is seem personal, like we were sitting in her house and chatting,” McAninch said. “I was able to soak in, share and even implement what we’re learning.” Andrea Segraves, director of TLC at HCDE and Brenda Arteaga, curriculum director of TLC’s Special Populations hosted a similar virtual conference recently for 175 early childhood educators. Six-hour, back-to-back sessions with presenters like Dan St. Romain allowed for training ranging from teaching strategies to takeaway activities for early childhood educators. Online attendees came from educational communities in Plainview and Allen looking for resources. “I think that because we are currently in COVID, online platforms are the only option for professional development,” said Segraves. “There is power in the face-to-face, but virtual platforms we are using will change the future of professional learning, and we’re realizing that it can be done.” The virtual connections her 175 attendees made at the early childhood virtual conference this month give teachers a chance to cultivate resources and professional relationships. “We’re finding ways to virtually create a community for educators,” Segraves said. “Teachers are connected with other teachers in other areas of the state and nation through online professional learning whom they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to meet and collaborate with. “It’s truly a whole new virtual world.” Source: HCDE