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Sandy Creek staff development day proves to be a valuable learning experience

With students out of school for the day, staff members in the Sandy Creek Central School District participated in several workshops on Tuesday to discuss everything from the Common Core to classroom technology.

Sandy Creek literacy teacher Jennifer Gestwick (left) discusses the English language arts curriculum with teacher Teresa Crast during a staff development day workshop Tuesday afternoon.
Sandy Creek literacy teacher Jennifer Gestwick (left) discusses the English language arts curriculum with teacher Teresa Crast during a staff development day workshop Tuesday afternoon.

As part of staff development day, teachers met to review current standards and best practices, talk about their goals and develop ideas to improve student achievement.

At the elementary level, Pre-K through second-grade teachers joined speech, special education and reading teachers to review the English language arts modules and examine ways to use the English curriculum in other academic areas.

“We’ve done a pretty good job of keeping the standards in mind,” said Sandy Creek literacy teacher Jennifer Gestwick, noting that Core knowledge and expeditionary learning have been a primary focus. “We’re now adapting those programs to meet student needs. We’re evaluating the curriculum, how to use it cross-curricularly — especially at (grades) three to five. What can we cover in social studies, what can be done in science?”

Under the guidance of Katie Brousseau, educational coach at Amplify Education (the company that creates digital educational products and services that are used in Sandy Creek classrooms), staff members also examined different components of the curriculum to see how all those components fit.

They cited the most critical areas that deserve immediate attention and how the curriculum would be utilized as the students progressed from grade to grade.

During Tuesday’s staff development day at Sandy Creek Central Schools, seventh-grade science teacher Galen Fellows reviews the Link It assessment platform with ninth-grade biology teacher Kathleen Heck.
During Tuesday’s staff development day at Sandy Creek Central Schools, seventh-grade science teacher Galen Fellows reviews the Link It assessment platform with ninth-grade biology teacher Kathleen Heck.

“Sitting with grade levels, we can share our experiences, our frustrations … ask the questions together. We’re able to build that camaraderie so that we can see not only at individual grade levels but progression from kindergarten through second grade,” Gestwick said. “We can rely on each other. Everybody in the room now has a common language and a common starting point. We can help each other because we are able to learn how the foundation and skills at each grade level (correlates with the next).”

According to Gestwick, it was important to have Brousseau on-site because she is from the publishing company — the creator of the actual curriculum.

“It’s critical (to have her here) so that we can see that balance so that we’re not cutting out anything critical; that we are being true to the curriculum by keeping those standards in mind while closing the gap for our students,” she said.

While elementary teachers concentrated most of their afternoon on the English language arts curriculum, other Sandy Creek educators participated in workshops ranging from utilizing Link It – a Web-based assessment platform with reporting and data analysis tools – to analyzing Regents data.

Regardless of the workshop, one common theme emerged: staff development day was a success.

“This has been excellent to come together and see where we can make adjustments but keep those standards in mind,” Gestwick said. “And that’s really our focus. We’re always keeping the data in mind. How are the students mastering the skills? How are they handling those standards?”