While students relax during their last moments of summer, faculty have begun preparing for the upcoming year. Last week, 14 faculty members joined Dean of Teaching and Learning Amanda Lucas and Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni for the 5th-annual Sigety Summer Institute. “The institute is such an incredible opportunity for faculty,” explained Mrs. Lucas. “Once the school year gets underway, it can be difficult for faculty to carve out time to dive into their own learning. The Sigety Institute offers our faculty that time: time to step away from the grading and prepping and instead delve into learning they care deeply about in a collaborative environment where they can explore along with their colleagues.”
Historically, these institutes have provided Blair faculty with the opportunity to join together, whether intra- or inter-departmentally, on a common topic or goal. This year, three teams developed, each with their own proposed product. They took advantage of the myriad spaces in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration to work both in groups and independently. They heard from nationally renowned presenters Dr. Liza Talusan and Dr. Laura Link, both experts in secondary education, during morning sessions early in the week. In the afternoon, colleagues engaged in deeper conversations and explorations and reflected individually on their takeaways. The week ended with each team presenting to peers, administrators and the entirety of this year’s new faculty cohort. Each group demonstrated the time, care and knowledge that went into developing their product, sharing with a larger audience that could also benefit from their work.
Team One: Working Effectively with Peers from Different Backgrounds
Mrs. Mantegna & Ms. Randhawa
Science teacher Shelly Mantegna and Assistant Dean of Admission Misha Randhawa presented first on a three-day lesson plan they developed for the LEADS curriculum. LEADS, Blair’s sophomore leadership seminar, pushes students to reflect on their own identities, perspectives and personal values. Mrs. Mantegna and Ms. Randhawa created a three-day sequence designed to deepen students’ understandings of their own and others’ identities and cultures while building in space for them to reflect on their perspectives, strengths and weaknesses. The exercise will help students better appreciate, communicate with and work more effectively with peers from different cultures, backgrounds and perspectives.
Team Two: Nurturing Future Scientists
Dr. Abascal, Ms. Booth, Ms. Chamberlain, Dr. Sayers, Mr. Termidor, Mr. Thatcher & Mr. Wagner
Seven members of the science department joined together in an effort to more closely align the department’s broad curriculum goals. As Biology teacher Joseph Wagner explained, once the school year begins, it can be easy to get “stuck in your discipline” without considering what’s happening on the other floors of Bogle. Together, these colleagues identified six tenets of a Blair science graduate; Blair science students are: powerful communicators, effective collaborators, thoughtfully skeptical, intellectually adaptable and self-sufficient, ethically concerned citizens and curious. Participants not only identified these skills as essential to being a successful science student at Blair, but also developed a timeline of implementation that unifies the department’s focus on nurturing these traits in students.
Team Three: Prioritizing Clear Communication with Effort Marks
Ms. Castillo, Ms. Doldoorian, Mrs. Hadden, Ms. O’Neil & Ms. Schulman
The last group brought together five faculty members from five different departments. Together, they affirmed the strengths of Blair’s 6.0 grading scale in the context of available research. They discussed effort marks at Blair and how to improve community clarity, understanding and communication of those effort marks. As a final product, they developed a prototype of a more formalized effort mark rubric that could be used as a tool to better communicate with students how they’re performing currently and where they can improve. The team’s work will be shared with the entire faculty later this week as part of Blair’s opening-of-school meetings. The faculty’s time together last week prepared them to lead the full community in ongoing professional learning throughout the coming school year.
The Faculty Summer Institute has existed as an invaluable professional development resource for Blair teachers since 2017. The Sigety family has generously ensured that this unique opportunity will continue to enrich Blair’s faculty for years to come by endowing the program. In its fifth season the program continued to offer unique learning opportunities for our faculty that will directly benefit Blair students this year.