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Annual conference for professional development schools includes 35 local educators

Pat Waldrip

May 1, 2017

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The 2017 National Association for Professional Development Schools conference took place March 9-11 in Washington, DC. The Professional Development School District Partnership (PDSD) was once again well represented, with thirty-five participants from UGA and the Clarke County School District.

The group ranged from undergraduate teacher candidates in the middle grades program, to teachers at J.J. Harris and Howard B. Stroud Elementary Schools and Hilsman Middle School, to principals, UGA faculty members and graduate students. In all, members of the PDSD gave twenty-one presentations.

It has become an annual tradition to gather for a meal to collectively share impressions and "takeaways" from the conference. This year's conference in particular made a significant impact on those who attended and shared reflections at the group dinner. For some, the conference served as a re-affirmation that they are moving in the right direction and having a real impact on children. Beth Tolley, professor-in-residence at Fowler Drive Elementary School, was reminded "that we are doing the right thing for our kids. It's all organic and it's not always the same from school to school."

Others were inspired by the passion and dedication of their colleagues, both from our own PDSD and from those around the country. Many were reminded that PDS work is not easy and requires continual learning. Doctoral student Sarah Marie Catalana pointed out that "everyone here does what they love," and Gayle Andrews, co-professor-in-residence at Hilsman Middle School, said, "I'm full of gratitude for the work I get to do."

For many of the undergraduate teacher candidates who attended, presenting at a national conference was a new experience. They now have a deeper understanding of partnership work, and also an appreciation for the opportunity to complete their student teaching at a PDS school. They were thrilled to be taken seriously by other professionals as they shared their experiences about Genius Hour at Hilsman Middle School.

For the graduate students and professors who had worked with them throughout their program, it was a proud moment to see them growing into confident educators. Tarek Grantham realized how far the work at H.B. Stroud Elementary had progressed when he proudly watched his graduate students present their research and move from being mentored to mentoring each other.

Janna Dresden, Office of School Engagement director, summed up everyone's feelings when she shared a comment from the NAPDS membership meeting: "We are one of the only professions that hold democracy in our hands. We educate the future and are most successful when we lift each other up."