For professional development to be effective, it cannot be one workshop, one day, or one speaker that staff engages with. Therefore, when the District sought to provide the staff with training on implicit bias, a commitment was made to provide training over a sustained period of time. During the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years, staff engaged in training with Herring Seminars. During this in-depth training, staff engaged in workshops aimed at building equity and inclusion by examining and reflecting on implicit bias.
All new teachers in the Avonworth School District participate in a two-year New Teacher Induction Program. One of the goals that resulted from the strategic planning process was to add a component to the New Teacher Induction Program focused on implicit bias. The District is currently in the process of putting this training in place for all new teachers. This training will become a permanent aspect of the District's New Teacher Induction Program.
Teachers are powerful mentors for our young people. At the middle school, an Advisory Program has been flourishing as teachers work with small groups of students during an advisory period. At Avonworth Middle School this program is called Connections. During Connections time, teachers and students connect in ways they may not normally do in the regular classroom environment. With the middle school years being crucial developmental years for children, the District strives to ensure all students feel a connection to and feeling of support at school. The Middle School Advisory Program, Connections, is designed to do just that. To prepare teachers for their role as advisors/mentors, training was conducted by the Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
In addition to the training received by our teachers, middle school administrators also participated in a train-the-trainer training with the Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern Pennsylvania. This training focused on the topics of boundaries and assumptions. Middle school administrators have since been able to conduct professional development with teachers on these topics using the training they received.
As our teachers engaged in training provided by the District, some teachers asked for additional training and support specific to their content area our course. To provide this additional support, our administration reached out to Dr. Gretchen Generett. Dr. Generett is a Professor and currently the Interim Dean in the School of Education at Duquesne University and is also the Director of the UCEA Center for Educational Leadership and Social Justice. Dr. Generett worked with teachers to review literature, select literature, and to provide guidance on course development. Dr. Generett also worked with a small group of teachers in a mini-workshop conducted over the course of the 2018-2019 school year.