Stephen P. Robinson Collaboration Grant Report: The Master's Academy
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Posted by: Christina Mimms
Central Florida Math Educators
Practical Professional Development through Communication and Collaboration
Deanne A. Gordon
The Master’s Academy Oviedo, FL
Author Note: Innovative teaching is the result of passionate educators and visionary leadership. The administration at The Master’s Academy fosters an environment where educators are free to dream, experiment, and develop new ideas. The CFME program started in a discussion of an ideal PD program and through the encouragement and motivation of our superintendent, Dr. Mitchell Salerno, became a reality. I am grateful for the educators in CFME who have given their time and shared their talents to benefit the math education of all of our students.
Development and Rationale
The Master’s Academy is an independent Christian school in Oviedo, FL. Our mission is to pursue spiritual and academic excellence with Christian families by going the second mile. This pursuit of excellence has led us to recently apply for accreditation with SAIS. In the fall of 2014, The Master’s Academy achieved accreditation through SAIS. As a result of the self-analysis our faculty completed, the faculty and administration recognized a desire for increased professional development programs.
View their video presentation from the 2015 SAIS Annual Conference here.
Educators choose to teach at an independent school because they feel a calling into education and a commitment to the mission of the school for which they teach. This passion for pursuing a mission drives independent school educators to pursue improvement and growth independent of the requirements placed upon them for certification or employment. They are self-driven to provide the very best education to their students that they can offer, and they recognize the need for continued self-reflection, professional development, and growth. Professional development can be found in a variety of methods including book studies, workshops, professional learning communities, courses, and conferences.
As we considered the options for increasing our professional development offerings at The Master’s Academy, our goal was to ensure that the programs we developed or offered were efficient, effective, and practical. A common complaint from math educators in regards to professional development programs is that the content is often not very practical to apply in a math classroom. Math educators will attest that many conferences and workshops have been attended where terrific pedagogy was presented, but the math educators find that few practical ideas presented were able to be applied in the context of a mathematics course. In response to this dilemma, The Master’s Academy Math Department Chair began to discuss and brainstorm ideas for a faculty development program that would specifically benefit the math educators at TMA and would provide our math team with practical professional development, support, and growth in an efficient manner.
Our faculty believes strongly in the power of collaboration to pursue excellence in the area of professional development. Our self-study process was incredibly collaborative, and the professional development and growth that we experienced from this self-evaluation and collaborative writing and documentation process was profound. Through this process, we have determined that our greatest resource for professional development is collaboration with other quality math educators.
The Master’s Academy has a team of five to seven math educators who work collaboratively, and we gain a great deal from sharing ideas and strategies with one another. However, as a small team, we recognized that we would benefit from the knowledge and experience of the math educators at other quality independent schools in our area. As a result of this realization, the TMA Math Department decided to develop a collaborative team of math educators from area independent schools and call the team Central Florida Math Educators.
CFME is simple in its mission. We believe that by promoting relationships and connections between math educators, we will benefit from the shared knowledge, guidance, and support of one another. CFME, at its core, is a group of educators that share a common desire for excellence in math education and have decided to work together to achieve that goal. CFME publishes a bimonthly newsletter with event information and updates on the successes we experience. Math educators at any grade level or curriculum are welcome to join. We meet four times a year to build relationships and to share best practices, strategies, get guidance from each other and brainstorm new ideas. The meetings consist of sharing a meal together and having open dialogue on topics that we can all benefit from and then participating in a workshop on relevant topics in math education. The vision for the group is to continue to collaborate and share pedagogy through our newsletter, local meetings, and continued relationships with one another. We desire to continue developing a team of math educators who will benefit from the expertise and experiences of one another. New math teachers will be able to reach out to a group of experienced math educators for ideas and guidance. Veteran math teachers will benefit from the fresh perspective and innovative ideas of the newer teachers in the field.
CFME was founded in January 2015. Emails were sent to area independent schools’ math department heads describing the plans for the program and inviting their math teachers to reply if they were interested in participating in our collaboration. Correspondence was initially sent to ten Central Florida independent schools. Five area schools responded with interest. The teachers who responded to the initial invitation were sent the first newsletter on March 27, 2015. The newsletter is authored through mailchimp.com and includes a registration link. Teachers were encouraged to forward the email invitation to any math educators that may be interested in joining CFME. Since then, we have sent out four newsletters and have a total membership of 28 local educators, representing nine area independent schools.
Our first meeting was held on June 16, 2015, and nine area math educators attended. Our first meeting was a luncheon, hosted at The Master’s Academy and included discussion on the development of CFME, our mission statement, and our plans for the future. Connections were made at the initial meeting that has driven the collaboration plans for this school year. Our second meeting was held on September 15, 2015, and was hosted at Trinity Preparatory School. We had a dinner discussion on alternative assessment strategies, SAT/ACT prep plans, student course placement, and intervention programs. After our dinner, Lynn Wilbur, a member of CFME and respected teacher at Trinity, presented a workshop on implementing a flipped/blended classroom approach in a mathematics classroom. Ten educators were present for our second meeting and we all benefited greatly from the practical guidance and experience Lynn shared in her presentation.
Our next meeting was held January 19 at The Master’s Academy. Dinner discussion focused on intervention strategies, parent communication, vertical alignment, and curriculum development. The professional development workshop will consist of several short presentations on best practices in hands on or engaging lesson ideas. Each person brought one strategy, game, lab or activity idea to share with the group.
Teachers who have attended our meetings have benefited from the relationships formed through CFME between our sessions as well. Teachers have shared ideas, counselled one another on intervention techniques, and emailed new activities, labs, and assessment strategies. Through discussions at our CFME events, teachers have discovered that they use the same technology tools and have decided to get together to share training and ideas on use of that technology in class or for particular lessons. The premise of CFME is that professional growth is most effective when it takes place through relationships, and this is evident in the relationships formed in the CFME collaborative group.
The vision for professional development through a collaborative network of math educators, CFME, is still in its initial growth stage. The network of educators in CFME membership is consistently growing. With continued growth, we anticipate the need to develop a board of officers, grade/content level specific meetings, and we hope to develop an annual Collaboration Workshop and a local math competition program. While growth and increased impact is part of our vision, CFME recognizes that the effectiveness of our program is partly due to the personal and practical nature of the small team of educators we have developed.
As CFME grows, we feel that a board of officers will be necessary to help with the future planning, event development, government, and organization of the group. The quarterly meetings of CFME have been an incredible resource to the members. Currently our membership is around 30 educators, many of whom teach upper school math courses. As membership continues to grow and as need arises, we would like to have our group meetings differentiated by grade and content level to ensure that the professional development remains relevant and practical. The annual Collaboration Workshop will be a full day workshop where local math educators can experience a variety of professional development break-out sessions that focus on math education and provide practical strategies and activity ideas.
The current members of CFME have discussed the desire to develop an annual math competition for our students to participate in together. We believe strongly in the power of relationships and community. In connecting our student bodies, we can encourage similar relationships and collaborative teams between students. These teams will not only provide students with increased development of math skills, but they will also enhance their interpersonal skills.
Ultimately, we have seen the evidence of the power of community and collaboration and have experienced the immediate and profound impact of CFME in our classrooms. Without the funding provided by The Stephen P. Robinson Collaboration Grant, this dream of practical, professional development would not have been possible. The CFME team provides the low cost, time-efficient, practical professional development that passionate educators are searching for. We would love to see other subject areas develop this type of professional development community, and encourage this type of networking for all educators.