Pennsbury Teachers Also Teach Themselves
The district's Demonstration Teacher Program continues with teachers helping colleagues.
Not all students in the Pennsbury School District are students.
Keeping with a two-decade tradition, teachers will be teaching teachers this school year under the auspices of the Demonstration Teacher Program.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for teachers to collaborate with others and learn by observing teachers who really stand out,” said Donna Dunar, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
Each year the district chooses its demonstration teachers from a pool of volunteers. This year, like last, eight teachers were chosen.
The teachers earn a stipend equal to 4 percent of their salary and can apply and serve in the role two years in a row before having to take a year off. And they specialize in different areas. For instance, some demonstrate how to create a standards-based classroom environment while others show how to best use assessment tools.
“Each has a unique skill set,” said Dunar.
Demonstration teachers make themselves available one day each week for observation by fellow staff members. They also be called on to present to groups such as PTOs and parent advisory councils and during teacher in-services.
Frank Mayo is in his 11th year teaching at Pennsbury High School and his second as a demonstration teacher. He says it’s a good fit for someone who also is a graduate teacher at The College of New Jersey and Gratz College.
Mayo teaches students business, computers and information technology. He teaches teachers classroom management and how to best utilize technology in the classroom to enhance lesson plans and student learning.
“That’s basically what I teach at grad school,” he said. “I try to use as much technology as possible. I utilize a lot of LCD projectors, active slate boards … It absolutely keeps students interested more. It also allows them to develop their skills. A lot of kids know technology but don’t know how to really use it.”
Pennsbury’s inexperienced induction teachers are required to attend at least one observation session with a demonstration teacher.
“We also try to encourage our more veteran teachers to take advantage of it,” said Dunar.
The assistant superintendent acknowledges the success of the program is largely based on simply talking to those who take part.
“They characterize such a feeling of satisfaction in helping others improve,” she said. “We need to be about continuous improvement, all of us.”
Mayo expressed a similar sentiment. “I really like to help teachers help out kids,” he said. “If I can teach adults, then I can definitely teach kids. It also helps me with my teaching methods.”
Mayo said 16 or 17 teachers stopped by last school year. He added that having other teachers in the room is more comfortable than having a principal or supervisor sitting in.
“It’s like a judge-free zone. … We’re just there to help, not judge.”