The Norman Transcript

March 23, 2010

Norman teachers ‘Get Fit’

By Aaron Wright
The Norman Transcript

Norman —  

Children are out of school again for what the district called “professional development days.”

While the term may imply a type of training, many parents are left wondering exactly what their children’s teachers are doing while their students are home for the day.

Generally, the teachers spend time at their school site getting caught up on education trends or changes. Sometimes the district will host guest speakers and large sessions for teachers.

This year, though, Norman Public Schools decided to take a different approach to training.

Instead of leaving it up to each school to do site-by-site training or even taking on the training just as a district, NPS partnered with the University of Oklahoma College of Education, The Oklahoma Writing Project and the Oklahoma Education Association to offer the “Get Fit” conference. “Get Fit” stands for “Gaining Excellence in Teaching Through Focused Instructional Tools.”

This 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. conference took place at three sites in the district: Roosevelt Elementary School, Longfellow Middle School and Norman North High School. More than 1,040 teachers and administrators registered or presented at the event.

“There isn’t one person, I bet, that didn’t get something out of it,” said Gary Gress, a geography/history/current issues teacher at Norman High School.

Dr. Shirley A. Simmons, director of staff development and student achievement for NPS, said that was the type of statements organizers were hoping to hear after the conference.

She said the NPS district administration meets twice a year with the College of Education to discuss professional issues and possible collaborations.

“Both groups particularly wanted to collaborate on professional development,” Simmons said. The groups decided to focus on a conference format where professors from the college could team with Norman teachers to present workshops on various topics.

These workshops included CPR classes, implementation of technology classes, education trends, cultural integration, presentation of education units and stress management for teachers.

Dawn Brockman, a leadership teacher at Norman High School, said she appreciated the broad range of subjects.

“Learning is a lot more genuine when it is something relevant to you,” she said.

Guest speakers were brought in to address each level of education. Elizabeth Breaux spoke to elementary teachers on “How to Reach and Teach ALL Students -- SIMPLIFIED.”

Dr. Sharon Faber taught middle school teachers “The ‘5’ Keys to Middle School Success.”

Joyce Divinyi presented “The Language of Motivation” to high school teachers.

Simmons said the timing of the conference wasn’t originally planned to be the day after spring break. The date was selected in conference planning sessions in December 2008 and just coincidentally happened to land after the break this year. She said having a professional development day the Monday after spring break hasn’t occurred in at least the last 10 years of NPS history.

In regard to a yearly continuation of the conference, Simmons said it would depend on feedback. The district will be speaking with teachers about the pros and cons of the conference.

Aaron Wright 366-3533 pop@normantranscript.com