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At Passaic Valley, Educators are Constant Learners

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Kristina Martir '20Brianna Rodriguez '20, & Lulu Mubarak '20
14 January 2020


Passaic Valley embodies the belief that effective educators are also constant learners. Since the beginning of the school year, teachers have been active in programs and workshops to improve their instructional skills and pedagogy.Auditorium during Regaion PD

Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships in Focus as Theme of 2019 Annual Regional Professional Development - Brianna Rodriguez '20

Every year during the first week of November, teachers and administrators from Passaic Valley and the three sending districts gather for Regional Professional Development. This year, PV hosted its 4th annual event on Wednesday, November 6th. Last year’s theme was Mental Health and Wellness, but this year was focused on Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships. 

Regional PD; photo credit: Rae Allex According to Superintendent Dr. JoAnn Cardillo, each one of our districts is looking at our curriculum and how we approach teaching and learning. The goal is to improve that approach. “We’re trying to move in a direction that better prepares students for the future,” Dr. Cardillo stated. All of the workshops at the professional development were geared towards exploring effective methods of teaching content to students and preparing them for the next stage of their lives/education. Outside of Regional Professional Development being an opportunity for teachers to learn, uniting Passaic Valley with the three sending districts also strengthens the camaraderie within the community.

Regional PD; photo credit: Rae Allex “We want to work together to build healthy relationships among teachers and administrators, so that it will positively affect the students’ education,” said Dr. Cardillo.

The annual Regional Professional Development exemplifies our educators’ commitment to constantly perfecting their craft. “When you choose the profession of becoming an educator, you are committing to being a learner for life,” Dr. Cardillo explained. 

Critical Thinking Committee Expands in Second Year - Lulu Mubarak '20  

Regional PD; photo credit: Rae Allex In its second year, the Critical Thinking Committee has been working on improving lessons to extend beyond simple memorization and understanding to inspiring genuine curiosity. S.T.E.M. Supervisor Mr. Michael Carlucci, having been a Math Teacher for 28 years, understands the importance of this. “My big thing is that just giving people information is not really teaching, you want to help them think,” he said. “You have to require them to make predictions and connections to things.”

Ms. Lori Kelly, the Professor-in-Residence from William Paterson University, says the main goal for the committee is to evolve students' thinking from “what” & “when” to “why” & “how”. Ms. Kelly has been visiting classrooms and debriefing teachers on how to elevate student interest levels and ask more probing questions. “Part of my job is to encourage teachers to make it a safe place for students to learn and ask questions,” she said.

Regional PD; photo credit: Rae Allex The Critical Thinking Committee, made up of roughly 15 teachers, has been meeting 2-3 times a month. Members present lessons to the committee that they believe utilizes critical thought. Once the lesson is demonstrated, the members of the committee discuss the lesson, provide constructive criticism, brainstorm how to apply the lesson to various subjects, and share thoughts and feelings. The committee was created by Superintendent Dr. Cardillo, Mr. Carlucci, and Ms. Kelly, who provides support to the team. 

Since its inception last year, the team has organized multiple activities throughout the school to get more creativity and curiosity flowing. “Fun Friday” is a weekly game held in the cafeteria that rewards students with snack coupons answering riddles correctly. This idea has been very successful with students and has given them plenty of motivation to think deeper and more abstractly.

Algebra PLC Seeks to Improve Mathematics Standardized Test Scores - Lulu Mubarak '20  

Regional PD; photo credit: Rae Allex The Algebra PLC, like the Critical Thinking Committee, was designed to better the educational experience of students. The team consists of Dr. Cardillo, Mrs. Kelly, Algebra I teachers, and Mr. Carlucci. This was put together in an attempt to increase math scores and improve the teaching skills of teachers. The Algebra PLC is currently observing the data of students’ math test scores and working to realign the curriculum for successful learning.

Mrs. Francis Attends Passaic County Leads Conference on Co-Teaching - Kristina Martir '20

Mrs. Ashley Francis, Special Education Teacher, attended the Passaic County Leads Conference representing PV. Co-teachers from schools throughout the county learned new content, classroom management, instructional delivery and more.

Regional PD The conference was held at Little Falls School #1, where visitors were greeted and escorted to their PD by students. “I walked into School #1 and immediately felt a sense of order, belonging and pride throughout the building,” said Mrs. Francis. “I was excited to visit one of our sending schools for the first time in the nine years I have been a loyal PV Hornet”

At the beginning of the day, Mrs. Francis and other visitors visited three classrooms to observe co-teaching pairs in action and then returned to the workshop to view a presentation and have a group discussion. 

In the first class, students were working independently with a teacher circulating and others were in two small groups, each working with a teacher. The inclusion of all students and flexible seating arrangements created a comfortable environment for students. 

Visitors then observed an English class. Mrs. Francis was impressed by the fact that there didn’t seem to be any student or teacher desks. The students separated into groups to complete a chart, based on the characters in the current novel being studied. Student engagement was high, and the co-teachers shared roles fluidly.

Regional PD; photo credit: Rae Allex In the last classroom, students and teachers discussed direct and indirect characterization. Two teachers alternated presenting the PowerPoint leading the discussion. Both checked in when the students were sharing ideas with each other.

Closing out the day, Little Falls Superintendent Lisa Marinelli and Director of Special Services Dawn Daura shared their journey implementing co-teaching into the school, a process that began four years ago. 

One element of Little Falls’ methodology that stood out to Mrs. Francis was “Hornet Walks”. It is a program that mandates all non-tenure and first-time inclusion teachers observe a co-teaching pair at least twice throughout the year. It allows teachers to open their minds and find new ways to teach and help students understand curriculum to the best of their ability. “Teaching is a profession that allows you to develop year after year, and, in my opinion, one of the best ways to do that is to learn by example,” said Mrs. Francis, who hopes the practice may be adopted by Passaic Valley. “Where there are strengths, there can be growth, so why not showcase strong teachers right here in our building?”

Mrs. Francis described her experience as “insightful, uplifting, and it reinforced the inclusion settings PV provides”. She is proud to be a part of such a powerful program that truly puts what is best for all students first. “If your children are placed in a co-taught class,know they are at an advantage,” said Mrs. Francis.