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Cleveland teachers reflect on professional development

by Partnership Staff
4 minute read

Giving teachers the support they need to help students excel is at the heart of the Partnership’s reason for being. That support includes carefully chosen curricula—along with the training teachers need to teach it well. We certainly hope teachers respond positively to this investment in their professional growth, but we’ve been blown away by the positive feedback from Cleveland Partnership teachers who spent two days in our New York schools recently.

“I can’t stop gushing about it,” St. Thomas Aquinas first-grade teacher Shannon Altenbach volunteers.

From L to R: Carmen Valenzuela, K teacher at Sacred Heart, the Bronx; Shannon Altenbach, 1st grade teacher from St. Thomas Aquinas, Cleveland; and Maritza Minnucci, K teacher at Sacred Heart.

“I’ve never in my life had professional development like this,” Metro Catholic math teacher Carolyn Cutler explains. 

Along with five other teachers, a principal, and superintendent Christian Dallavis from our Cleveland team, Shannon and Carolyn observed their New York colleagues teaching, debriefed together with them, and analyzed strong instructional practices with the network team.

Both teachers observed specific strategies they want to replicate in their own classrooms. But what they took with them is far more complex than a few techniques. They got a glimpse of the excellence they and their colleagues are working toward. As Shannon explains, “We saw three schools, two of which have been in the Partnership for over ten years and have been using the curriculum that long. We are still getting used to it…but we also saw veteran teachers who are really making it happen. And we will be there in a few years.”

“We were a great school before,” Carolyn explains about Metro Catholic, but the curriculum and instructional practices she began learning from her first Partnership workshop almost two years ago “are putting us on a path to where education needs to be—” particularly, she adds because Metro’s ambition is to foster “human beings who are going to change the world.” 

On the journey—which Carolyn calls an “immersion trip”—the practices she observed intentionally built not just knowledge but a way for students to act around each other that reflects the aspirations of a faith-filled community. For example, she notes, “The way kids support each other when they make mistakes–they embody a culture of error that we are trying to teach. They are all carrying each other.” That culture is particularly important given the level of the curriculum she is now using. “I was blown by the depth and breadth of the content,” she recalls from her first Partnership training, and “The kids love it. They want to be challenged, and they are stepping up.”

MCS Teachers From L to R: Rachael Lash, Math/SS/Science Teacher, Carolyn Cutler, Math Teacher; MaryLou Toler, ELA Teacher.

In addition to a vision of excellence and strategies for building community and learning simultaneously, Shannon and Carolyn also found community—with their fellow Cleveland educators and with their New York counterparts. “They were asking us questions too. It is so nice to meet people who all want the best for each other, and we were able to collaborate with people we wouldn’t have met if the Partnership hadn’t brought us together.” Carolyn also notes the sense of community emanating from the Partnership network team. All trainings, including the trip to New York, are “based on what the deans and the network team are seeing in our classrooms,” she notes. “They are recognizing what we’re doing well and seeing where we can do better. It is a true growth mindset and a community; we are going to do better together.”

Fiona Palladino, the Partnership’s Director of Instruction, explains that the Partnership invested significant resources and staff time into bringing the group of Cleveland teachers to New York to acknowledge their zealous work for our shared mission by further developing their teacher toolboxes and expanding their picture of instructional excellence.  And according to Fiona, “the whole-hearted embrace of learning by our Cleveland colleagues inspires and energizes all of us.” 

“I’ve felt appreciated before,” Carolyn reflects. “But I’ve never felt so respected as a professional.” 

CLE teachers visiting Sacred Heart in the Bronx, along with SHS leadership.

 

Translating respect for our teachers into an investment in their growth has only been possible thanks to our philanthropic partners, and to them, Shannon and Carolyn have one simple message: “thank you!”