March 17 ‘Leading and Learning’ professional development day showcases faculty and staff expertise

Unique professional development day includes 30-plus workshops created by Niskayuna educators to present to district colleagues

On Friday, March 17, Niskayuna teachers and staff participated in workshops and training sessions rivaling what they would find at a national conference – but the only place they needed to travel was the high school Balltown Road and the presenters were district colleagues.

Set aside as a Superintendent’s Conference Day on the calendar, it was called “Leading and Learning Day” to reflect the fact that Niskayuna educators are leaders within their profession and that they are always learning and growing.

There were sessions on using video in the classroom, teaching the weather and atmosphere to elementary students, reading strategies, Google Apps, mindfulness, “makerspaces” and much, much more. There were even t-shirts featuring the logo for the day created by high school graphic design student Elizabeth Whelan as part of a class design challenge.

As the Professional Learning Committee planned the day, its goals were to bring colleagues together from across the district, highlight the talent and expertise that exists among the Niskayuna staff, and address relevant topics and concepts. The committee is led by Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lauren Gemmill, and includes teachers, administrators and staff members from all areas of the district.

The result of their planning was more than 35 morning sessions on March 17 that allowed teachers and staff members to step outside their normal routine and build some specific skills and learn some new strategies to engage and support students.

Additionally, by participating in workshops led by colleagues, faculty and staff members have ongoing access to a resource right in the district as they try the new strategies with students.

“The depth and variety of the offerings was exceptional,” Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. said. “This showcases the incredible talent, expertise and leadership of our faculty and staff. Even better, what was learned and shared by colleagues will further enhance teaching, learning and student support in our schools. I commend the committee for all of the thought, planning, and energy that went into making this day such a success.”