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Leading and planning for quality professional development

This is an excerpt from Organization and Administration of Physical Education With Web Resource by Jayne Greenberg & Judy LoBianco.

Leadership in Action

Learning Can Never End for a Great Teacher


Georgi Roberts

Director, Health and Physical Education, Fort Worth Independent School District, Texas


Focused, tiered professional development has been a key to any and all successes that have occurred in the Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) in our health and PE programs. The FWISD has about 350 teachers and paraprofessionals, and they come from a variety of backgrounds and experience; our turnover averages 10 to 15 percent a year. It is critical that these folks keep up with changes in science, pedagogy, and new research. How better to do that than quality professional development?


We plan our training calendar scope and sequence over a three- to five-year span, review topics and priorities regularly throughout that time, and then modify as needed to reflect new state or district mandates, revised curriculum, or needs that come to light as we work day to day with our teachers. Some days comprise six hours with our total cadre of teachers in attendance, some have two or three teachers shadowing a master teacher, and some bring in an expert to observe a teacher in the classroom and then follow up with a conversation about positives and negatives. The overarching question is how any training we do will improve our student learning.


We begin each year, before our veteran teachers return for the fall, with two days of training just for our new teachers. These sessions are for people right out of university, those who are new to our district, and those who are changing grade levels or disciplines. The group is small, with about 35 to 40 teachers, and this time allows not only for my department to really develop relationships with the new teachers but also for the attendees to establish their own peer group as they grow as teachers.


This is followed by two days with all of our teachers. I give my “State of Health and PE Address” to set the goals and agenda for the year, talk about successes, and finally circle back to why it's important that our students are learning and our role in that learning. After this there are multiple sessions to better address the individual needs of the attendees. As best we can, we tier the smaller presentations so that teachers can select based on their needs. The new teachers at this point feel very comfortable with the veterans as the “New Teacher Academy” has provided some background information as well as a friend to participate with.


Then, throughout the balance of the school year, we work on more focused needs. Often we do small-group activities with, for example, our first- and second-year teachers in high school health or our brand-new PE teachers in elementary. This can include observing a model lesson provided by the department. We also try to include state and local conferences in our long-term planning; the consideration is always value versus cost and time. But for teachers who have demonstrated a certain level of mastery, their attendance at a large conference can ultimately provide the district with a local expert—who can then provide the training to the entire group.


We always work to hire teachers with a strong background in the science and the pedagogy and a good university program including student teaching. But regardless of the preparation, all teachers need to keep up with advances in the science and evolution of their field and actively stay learners. Who better to provide this than the district? We know our students and facilities, we create our own curriculum, and we support our teachers in their growth.


Reprinted by permission from Georgi Roberts.