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School Staff Members Develop Ideas, Skills
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While students are out of class early on the upcoming minimum day on Jan. 27, the teachers will be still be working, learning new ways they can improve their knowledge and skills in the classroom.

Oakdale Joint Unified School District’s Staff Development Day consists of different two-hour workshops for teachers and other district staff. OJUSD Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Barbara Shook said that teachers choose which workshop they want to attend.

“We try to present a variety of courses and grade level options so teachers have more than one option for their grade level or subject area,” she said.

Shook said that along with learning new information or just adding to their current knowledge and using it in the classroom, development days also give teachers the opportunity to meet other staff members across the district who have training in common and they can support each other in developing lessons. She added that networking with other staff and the community is also an important aspect of these trainings.

In the past, the district has brought in motivational speakers to address district staff for staff development. Shook explained that two years ago, the district did a survey asking teachers what they’d like staff development to look like while also expressing concern about the costs associated with bringing in speakers.

“Many teachers mentioned fellow staff members who were using technology and programs in their rooms and asking if they could learn more about the technology and its use,” Shook said. “Others mentioned specific programs such as Edusoft and asked if we had in-house people who could provide more training. Many teachers suggested peers who had particular skills or were using academic programs with great results. Several teachers mentioned simply meeting as grade levels and having the opportunity to share successful lessons.”

Several teachers who had already conducted workshops or trainings were willing to provide the workshops for their peers, Shook said. She added that they discovered there were many more staff members who were willing to share their expertise, so district administration made a district-wide appeal this year and received a wide variety of options.

Also at the request of staff, Shook said the district added some local field trips including a tour of Guardian House so that staff can learn more about the services provided for children. There’s also a visit to the Pioneer Equine Hospital because the district has many students interested in veterinary medicine and working with animals. Another field trip is to the Stanislaus River Weir and Oakdale Rotary Screw Trap led by a hydrologist from FishBio, and another is a tour of parts of the OID tunnel system for science teachers. For some field trips, the teachers are encouraged to bring their cameras and their questions.

“Research tells us that teachers need time to collaborate,” Shook said. “We also know that we have a very strong staff with many talents who can share those abilities if given time. Staff development is included as a requirement from both the state and the federal categorical funding. As a district, we want to provide our staff time to learn new curriculum and research good teaching strategies.”

Some other workshops include making class work review time fun by turning it into a game show format where teachers learn how to create their own, unique reviews by using PowerPoint templates. There’s also a workshop on emergency intervention and reporting procedures with information on updated policy and procedures. Yet another includes incorporating technology into the classroom such as Brain Pop, a curriculum-based, animated educational website for kids, and California Streaming, a K-12 multimedia resource that has on-demand audio and video, images, and print.