Professional Development

The Professional Development Program at Birchwood is a key component for sustaining the school’s mission and ensuring its integrity. It is built around our four pillars of operation, and functions to integrate teaching and administrative professionals into the Birchwood system and method of education. It also provides pathways toward professional excellence. Our professional development program inspires teachers to become the best in their respective fields. We believe that when teachers and staff excel in their field, the school excels. When the school excels, teachers and staff further excel. The direct and immediate beneficiaries are the students and their families.

The school uses four tools to carry out its professional development program. The framework for all professional development lies in school-wide workshops. These occur at the beginning and end of the school year, and once per month during throughout the year. These are a springboard to introduce new teachers to Birchwood’s philosophy and method of education while fostering an ever deepening understanding of educational and character development issues among experienced staff.

From the school-wide workshops, individual teachers develop personalized professional development plans on a one-year and five-year basis. These plans are developed jointly with the head of school and director of curriculum. Their purpose is to explore and embrace the individual needs of each teacher as they intersect with their teaching responsibilities at Birchwood.

The school-wide workshops and the individualized professional development plans are supported by one-on-one mentorships and group collaboration that occurs at subject and grade levels. These mentorships match new teachers with experienced professionals and experienced teachers with other experienced teachers.

This collaborative professional development has three benefits. First, individual teachers receive extensive practical guidance on day-to-day classroom affairs, learning to become outstanding educators with the support of a true mentor. Second, each teacher learns the “Birchwood way” of education, thereby insuring the integrity of our mission both for academic excellence and character development. Third, all teachers benefit an intellectually stimulating environment that empowers them to grow as individuals as well as a professionals.

Four Pillars for Professional Development

Pillar #1:

Birchwood School provides academic opportunities that challenge all learners and academic expectations that help all students reach their highest level of achievement.

Teaching leaders know and understand the content area for which they have instructional responsibility. Accordingly they use their knowledge of content-area concepts, assumptions and skills to plan instruction, and they use content-specific instructional strategies to effectively teach the central concepts and skills of the discipline. As a content specialist, teaching leaders have a grasp of time-tested, research based, and benchmarked approaches to subject matter, and understand contemporary debates. Teaching leaders use technology to enhance instructional delivery and advance student learning. Assuming the role of content specialist, teaching leaders are able to meet the needs of a wide range of students including gifted learners. Teaching leaders understand and use varied assessments to inform instruction, evaluate and ensure student learning. Varied assessments enable teaching leaders to understand a learner’s place along the continuum of subject content and inform their instructional plan to ensure each child’s learning. The teaching leader is aware of, and readily uses, a variety of instructional methods to help students reach content goals, and then empower children to become independent learners and problem solvers.

Pillar #2:

Birchwood School creates an experiential framework for achievement that enables children to forge good work habits, productive attitudes and healthy relationships.

Teaching leaders create an environment that is physically and emotionally safe, and although each teaching leader is different, each is able to create a learning environment that supports the highest levels of academic achievement and reinforces behaviors that lead to productive habits. The teaching leader reinforces lessons that focused on achievement ethics, and they create a training atmosphere that shapes habits of industry. Their students work independently, responsibly and productively.

Pillar #3:

Birchwood School promotes home-school collaboration that insures student achievement and growth.

Teaching leaders seek support and collaboration with parents. They understand each child receives the greatest education when home and school have common objective academic and character objectives. Teaching leaders recognize that robust communication ensures such a productive relationship.

Pillar #4:

Birchwood School recognizes that if an institutional at-large is strong and healthy, all of the individuals in the institution will reap the benefits of their membership, therefore it is wise for each individual to consider what he or she can do to benefit the school at-large.

Teaching leaders understand their role in the bigger picture of school environment and ethos. They take responsibility for their own professional growth while supporting the growth of their colleagues. They recognize their classroom success both impacts the larger Birchwood experience while at the same time thrives within the Birchwood environment.

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“Teachers set high academic standards and provide the nurturing environment to achieve them … they are true partners … who helped us raise wonderful civic-minded, outstanding citizens.”

Srinivasan and
Jaividhya Dasarathy – Birchwood School parents