As parents prepare to send their children off to school they usually share inspiring words of wisdom. From have a good day, to be a good friend to learn something new today – parents try and set the stage for a good day at school.
Learn something new today – By nature teachers are curious and they are constantly learning, diving into professional development sessions and figuring out the new best practices as they conquer academic standards in the classroom.
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St. Vrain Valley is fortunate to be the professional home of more than 1,500 teachers who are spread over 411 square miles at schools with different schedules. Ben Kalb, one of St. Vrain’s Instructional Technology Coordinators and Becky Peters, Program Manager at St. Vrain’s Innovation Center wanted to give teachers access the great learning experiences while being mindful of various schedules across the district. The two brainstormed different ways to provide great learning experiences for teachers, in their classrooms, homes or even their cars, in addition to the current in-person and virtual learning opportunities available throughout the district.
“When I was in the classroom I didn’t have time to have deep discussions about pedagogy and innovative instruction,” explained Peters. “We wanted to bring those discussions to the teachers in our district who spend most of their work day with students.”
They worked to answer the question: How might we give teachers access to great professional development any time, anywhere.
The Vrain Waves team was developed to create buzzworthy podcasts for teachers in and out of St. Vrain, and helps busy educators learn something new everyday. Kalb explained that these podcasts provide an opportunity for learning sessions with nationally renowned professionals who St. Vrain would not otherwise be able to bring to the district.
“We want to be very deliberate in having something they can try the next day with kids,” described Kalb. “If we can help teachers grow and learn with these interviews, that might be the most important contribution we can make as district support personnel.”
So far, the podcast has brought 45 minute interviews on a wide range of topics. The Vrain Waves team has connected with educational giants on the art of giving feedback, ed tech gurus on personalized learning, digital classroom practices, and courageous edventures in the classroom, and countless other noteworthy game changers in education. These podcasts included transformative lessons they can teach and actionable strategies that listeners can put into practice the next day in their classroom.
The goal is for teachers and administration to use these podcasts as a jumping off point for conversations with each other. During our interview Peters shared, “The only way to learn and grow is opening ourselves to that possibility, new ideas and learning from other people.”
With over 15,000 downloads, Vrain Waves is making an impact on how teachers learn and receive professional development. And, a lot of the podcasts are teasers for books that are a great read for all types of professionals in education. Catch up on all of the past podcasts and uncover the best kept learning opportunity that many of your peers already know. These sessions are not just for teachers, many of the take always are relevant across many professions.
In addition to hearing from a diversity of speakers, teachers can earn professional development credits that count towards their relicensure requirements. These podcasts are open to teachers within St. Vrain, as well as teachers outside of the district. Earning credit has been streamlined to allow educators to access professional development opportunities from summer learning locations. After listening to a podcast, a teacher can sign into Schoology and write their reflection.
Another great way for educators to take advantage of these podcasts is to create a Professional Study Team. This is just one of the many ways credit can be earned in-district. St. Vrain teachers are encouraged to find a team of colleagues and dive deeper into topics that are of interest to them.
As the school year winds down, this season is just gearing up and Vrain Waves will host new sessions throughout the summer. Listeners can subscribe wherever they get their podcasts (Apple podcasts, Google Play, Overcast, Spotify, etc.) and can expect a new episode to be released on Monday mornings. Future podcasts will continue to feature interviews with education ‘giants’, consultants, and successful professionals in an attempt to make us all more ‘informed, inspired, and connected educators.’