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White River to play host to hundreds of educators
School’s out for summer, but not for more than 200 educators from Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho who were expected to converge on Buckley Monday and Tuesday to watch White River School District teachers, administrators and support staff in action.
The White River School District is joining forces with Solution Tree, which offers resources and professional development to educators, and the Washington State Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, to present a two-day workshop titled District Implementation of the Professional Learning Community Concept.
“It’s going to be a chance for our team to showcase what a learning team looks like and what it does,” White River Deputy Superintendent Janel Keating said. “This is a terrific regional event for our educators.”
Bob Eaker, who is nationally recognized for his work in the field, has been working with White River for the past three years. He is a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at Middle Tennessee State University, where he also served as dean of the College of Education and interim vice president and provost. He is a former fellow with the National Center for Effective Schools Research and Development and has written widely on the issues of effective teaching, effective schools, helping teachers use research findings and high expectations for student achievement.
He said White River’s reputation for Professional Learning Communities (PLC) is gaining regional and national attention.
“It is such a compliment that so many people have responded to the invitation to come to White River,” said Eaker, who returns to Seattle later this summer, and will be joined by Keating, to speak to 1,500 attendees at a national institute. “This is a terrific thing for the community of Buckley.”
Eaker said White River’s workshop will be different than others because there will be less lecture and more learning in action.
“Typically teachers go to workshops and have people talk at them,” Eaker said, “We’re taking a different approach. They’ll be watching teachers actually do the work they do.”
He said as participants watch how White River teachers put what they learn and do in their Professional Learning Communities into action, they will be able to ask questions, take home materials and interact at levels that are usually kept at a distance. And, in White River’s case, it isn’t just about teachers. Those participating in White River’s program will see PLCs at all levels – elementary, middle and high school – as well as the support staff’s and district staff’s role at each of those buildings.
The event developed out of necessity, Keating said.
White River sets aside Monday mornings for teachers, and other staff, to come together to discuss students. The program hinges on what kids are learning and how teachers know they are learning.
Keating said she and staff were inundated with educators who wanted to watch PLCs in action on late-arrival Mondays. She said groups of seven to 50 were scheduling visits with frequency. In a conversation with Eaker one day, Keating said they dreamed up the conference.
The response has been overwhelming. Keating said the district has been scrambling to help outsiders find nearby hotel rooms.
Eaker said educators in Washington are on the leading-edge.
“It’s a remarkable thing to watch the transformation of this school district in such a short time,” Eaker said. “They’re doing great things in that school district. I’d be remiss not to say across Washington. In Enumclaw, and Sumner, and other districts. I’m not sure people understand what great school districts there are in Washington.”
None of this happens, Eaker said, without leadership. He cited the support and encouragement of the White River School Board, the foresight of Superintendent Tom Lockyer and Keating and the hard work and positive attitude of the faculty and staff.
“It takes people,” Eaker said. “They are the heart and soul.”
In addition to letting the staff shine, money raised from the workshops will go back to support teacher training in areas like math and reading and to continue PLC work.