Blind Spots in Teacher Professional Development

Free Online Event: Blind Spots in Teacher Professional Development

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Professional development happens every year for every teacher, and yet there’s broad agreement among educators that it very often misses the mark. In some places, teachers are turning their districts’ attention to longstanding blind spots in PD, and helping make training more targeted and meaningful. In this virtual event, Education Week reporters and their expert guests will look at some of the most prevalent problems with and oversights in PD, and offer ideas for fixing them.

Thank you to those who joined us for this event, which took place on Oct. 24, 2019. Below, you can watch the reporter wrap-up we streamed at the end of the event.


Oct. 24, 2019
1-3 p.m. ET*

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Event Video

Blind Spots in Teacher Professional Development: In Conversation With Education Week

  • 1:00–2:30 p.m. ET | Discussions Open
    Education Week journalists and their special guests provide practical takeaways on teacher professional development

    Room 1: Implicit-Bias Training: What Is It and Why Do Teachers Need It?
    Moderator: Sarah Schwartz, Staff Writer, Education Week
    Guests: Rachael L. Coleman, Principal, Roxboro Middle School, Cleveland Heights, Ohio; Lisa M. Hunt, Family Engagement Specialist, Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District, Ohio
    ‣ Diversity training asks teachers to understand their students’ backgrounds. But implicit-bias training goes a step further and asks teachers to look at themselves. Hear what this kind of training entails and why some districts are making it a priority.

    Room 2: Bouncing Back From Failure: How to Help Teachers With the Constant Struggle
    Moderator: Madeline Will, Staff Writer, Education Week
    Guests: Jason Jowers, Principal, Eno Valley Elementary, Durham, N.C.; Sarah Brown Wessling, Teacher Leader, Johnston High School, Johnston, Iowa
    ‣ Every teacher will experience a lesson gone wrong at some point, but few receive professional development that centers around “failing forward,” or using the experience as an opportunity for growth. Education Week reporter Madeline Will and two award-winning educators discuss ways to help teachers develop strategies to bounce back after a bad lesson.

    Room 3: Making PD Work for Teachers of Students With Diverse Needs
    Moderator: Corey Mitchell, Staff Writer, Education Week
    Guests: Janet Eichenberger Hiatt, ESL/Diversity Consultant, Heartland Area Education Agency, Johnston, Iowa; Jennifer Flores Samson, Associate Professor and Chair of Special Education, Hunter College, School of Education
    ‣ Many English-learners and students with disabilities spend most of their days in general education classrooms. But the teachers there often lack training in how to meet their needs. In this session, we’ll discuss the ways teacher training falls short for ELLs and students with individualized education plans, and what schools can do to improve.

    Room 4: Too Many PD Requirements, Too Little Time
    Moderator: Evie Blad, Staff Writer, Education Week
    Guests: Kate Field, Teacher Development Specialist, Connecticut Education Association; Patrice McCarthy, Deputy Director and General Counsel, Connecticut Association of Boards of Education
    ‣ Schools are feeling more pressure than ever to train their teachers on a host of non-academic issues—from suicide prevention to food allergies to sexual assault. And that’s in addition to the regularly scheduled academic PD. So what happens when the training mandates are too steep, and teachers are struggling to comply? How can schools prioritize trainings that will help teachers and students the most?

    Room 5: Bringing ‘Surprise and Delight’ to Teacher Training
    Moderator: Alyson Klein, Assistant Editor, Education Week
    Guest: Dyane Smokorowski, Technology and Innovation Lead Teacher, Andover Public Schools, Andover, Kan.
    ‣ A former Disney World employee who now trains teachers outside Wichita, Kan., aims to give professional learning “elements of surprise and delight.” She’ll explain how she designs can’t-miss PD sessions that teachers both love to attend and find useful once they return to the classroom.

    Room 6: How will you inspire your teams to succeed?
    ‣ Solution Tree partners with the brightest minds in education to develop the services and tools you need to grow the expertise of your teams. Download our free Educator’s Guide to Professional Development to browse our results-driven professional development services.

    Room 7: Identifying the ‘Blind Spots’ in Literacy Professional Development for Today’s Teachers
    Moderator: Carrie Doom, Vice President of Implementation—Western U.S., Voyager Sopris Learning
    Guests: Louisa Moats, Literacy Expert, Researcher, and Author of LETRS® Professional Development for Literacy Educators; Lucy Hart Paulson, Educational and Professional Development Consultant, and Author of LETRS® for Early Childhood Educators Professional Development
    ‣ As more districts realize a large percentage of their students are not succeeding in reading, teacher preparation is at the forefront of industry discussion. Where are the gaps in professional development for literacy educators? How can concerned educators make a difference for teachers and students alike? Join this eye-opening discussion where respected experts will review the “blind spots,” discuss the importance of a structured literacy approach, and share ways administrators can fill the gaps and prepare their preK–8 teachers to help every student learn to read and reach new levels of lifetime literacy success.

  • 2:30–3:00 p.m. ET | Final Reporter Wrap-up
    Blind Spots in Teacher Professional Development: In Conversation With Education Week
    Led by the Assistant Managing Editor Liana Loewus, the Education Week newsroom will close out the day with insights from the discussions they’ve had with you, the readers.

Guests, Speakers, and Moderators

Evie Blad
Staff Writer
Education Week

Blad is a reporter for Education Week who covers education policy and politics at the state and national levels, including those who make, implement, and influence that policy. Before coming to Education Week in 2013, she was a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she covered K-12 education at the state and local levels, higher education, as well as health issues.

Kate Field
Teacher Development Specialist
Connecticut Education Association

Field was a teacher and school administrator for 18 years before joining the staff at the Connecticut Education Association, where she specializes in professional learning and teacher evaluation. A 2007 finalist for Connecticut Teacher of the Year, she was also recognized as UConn’s Outstanding High School Educator of the Year in 2015. A two-time Fulbright Scholar, Kate has visited schools around the world, including South Africa, Japan, China, Hungary, Germany and Finland. She has presented for numerous national organizations, including ASCD, Learning Forward, National Council for Social Studies, National Association of Biology Teachers, and the College Board.

Janet Eichenberger Hiatt
ESL/Diversity Consultant
Heartland Area Education Agency

Hiatt is an ESL professional who currently serves as an ESL/Diversity Consultant at Heartland Area Education Agency in central Iowa. Janet has also taught ESL at the K-12 level in the Des Moines Public Schools for over twenty years and has served as an EL teacher leader and professional development provider for several years during her K-12 teaching tenure. In addition, she is currently an adjunct instructor for the Drake University ESL Endorsement Program and is developing EL-specific professional development courses through the University of Iowa Baker Teacher Leadership Center. Her current interest is in providing a focused approach to professional learning for pre-K-12 educators of ELs.

Lisa M. Hunt
Family Engagement Specialist
Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District, Ohio

Hunt serves as a member of the district's Leadership Team and of the Equity, Discipline, Grading, and Family Engagement Task Forces. She also currently serves as the vice president of the County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Jason Jowers
Eno Valley Elementary, Durham, N.C.

Jowers began his career in education as a teacher at the Southern School of Engineering in Durham, N.C. After four years of teaching, during which he was named Durham Public Schools Teacher of the Year, Jowers became an assistant principal at Hillside High School. While at Hillside, he also served as the dean of the students for the newly developed Freshman Academy, which he eventually directed and rebranded the Hornet Academy.

Jowers was named North Carolina Assistant Principal of the Year in 2015, the same year he became principal at Fayetteville Street Elementary. He also spent two years at Global Scholars Academy before moving to Eno Valley Elementary, where he is in his second year as principal.

Alyson Klein
Assistant Editor
Education Week

Klein is a veteran education writer who has covered K-12 schools for more than a dozen years. She covers the latest developments in educational technology, including topics such personalized learning, data privacy, digital curricula, cybersecurity, and teacher professional development. She is also the lead writer for Technology Counts, Education Week’s annual report about the state of educational technology.

Liana Loewus
Assistant Managing Editor
Education Week

Loewus is an assistant managing editor for Education Week who oversees coverage of the teaching profession. Since joining Education Week in 2010, she has covered curriculum, instruction, state standards, and teacher policy issues as a reporter, and served as the associate editor for Education Week Teacher. Previously, she worked as a health-care reporter and an editor for a website on learning disabilities. Loewus also spent several years as an elementary special education teacher and a reading specialist.

Patrice McCarthy
Deputy Director and General Counsel
Connecticut Association of Boards of Education

McCarthy has served at the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education for over 30 years. She has served as Chairman of the National School Boards Association Council of School Attorneys and is a Past President of the Connecticut School Attorneys Council. McCarthy is an evaluator of American and International schools abroad for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. In 2007 she received the Federation Member Distinguished Service Award from the National School Boards Association. She has been a frequent presenter at national, regional and state conferences, and has represented school boards on numerous task forces.

Corey Mitchell
Staff Writer
Education Week

Mitchell writes about the challenges and opportunities in teaching students with distinct needs, including English-language learners, students with disabilities, children who are homeless or incarcerated, and gifted students. Before coming to Education Week in 2014, he was a Washington, D.C., correspondent for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where he covered federal politics and policy.

Jennifer Flores Samson
Chair and Associate Professor of Special Education
Hunter College

Samson also serves as faculty associate at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. Her scholarship is focused on culturally responsive teaching with a specific interest in the literacy outcomes of English language learners and students with disabilities. The main question that motivates her work is "How can teachers be more effective when working with students who are culturally, linguistically, and ability diverse?" Samson is intentional about considering the research, policy, and practice implications of her work particularly as it pertains to diversifying the teaching profession and assisting all teachers to work with diverse learners. Some publications that have featured her work include Journal of Learning Disabilities, Reading and Writing, Teachers College Record, and Teaching Exceptional Children. At Hunter College, she teaches courses on education policy, culturally responsive teaching, research methods, reading difficulties, assessment, and learning disabilities. She also supports pre-service and in-service teachers New York City Schools and beyond to be more effective with all students.

Sarah Schwartz
Staff Writer
Education Week

Schwartz is a reporter for Education Week who covers curriculum and instruction. Before joining the staff, she was as an Education Week intern, covering education technology. She has also worked at a middle school in East Harlem, New York.

Dyane Smokorowski
Innovation and Technology Lead Teacher
Andover Public Schools, Andover, Kan.

Smokorowski is a 2019 National Teacher Hall of Fame Inductee, 2013 Kansas Teacher of the Year, and is currently serving as an innovation and technology lead teacher in the Andover Public Schools. “Mrs. Smoke”—as she’s known to her students—believes in a project-based, student-centered classroom that helps students build skills in communication, planning, research, and project implementation. Additionally, she thrives on the mission to create active and engaging teacher professional learning opportunities. She wants her students and teachers to develop a love for innovation, communication, and technology, but also to understand how to use that love and passion to advance their own futures, as well as that of the global community.

Sarah Brown Wessling
Teacher Leader
Johnston High School, Johnston, Iowa

Brown Wessling is a 21-year veteran of the high school English classroom. As a member of the faculty at Johnston High School in Johnston, Iowa, she has taught courses ranging from at-risk to Advanced Placement and has served the department and district in a variety of leadership roles. Brown Wessling has been a National Board-certified teacher since 2005, and in 2010, she was selected as the National Teacher of the Year. In that capacity, she worked as an ambassador for education, giving more than 250 talks and workshops in 39 different states, as well as internationally. Currently, Brown Wessling maintains a hybrid teaching position which keeps her in the classroom and allows her to write, speak, and work on teacher-leadership initiatives around the country.

Madeline Will
Staff Writer
Education Week

Will is a reporter for Education Week who covers the teaching profession. She joined the staff in 2016, initially as the assistant editor for Education Week Teacher, a section dedicated to the firsthand perspectives of teachers. Before joining Education Week, Madeline was the publications fellow for a legal nonprofit, the Student Press Law Center. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science.