Palliser teachers celebrate a year of collaboration

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Dorothy Dalgliesh School teachers Mitchell Van Dyk and Shantel Mohrmann created writing mini-lessons with colleagues from Trinity Christian School during this year's collaboration days.

Monday’s division-wide PD day was an opportunity to share resources and ideas

Wondering whether Palliser’s four, division-wide collaboration days positively impact students? The school division’s music teachers can provide a finely tuned example.

Their group spent Monday’s professional development day putting the final touches on Palliser Music Festival, an event for 280 students from Coaldale to Calgary, May 4 in Vulcan. The event will provide a showcase for individual school bands and choirs to perform for their peers and will culminate with mass performances by a 99-member choir, 105 junior high band musicians and 176 senior high musicians. The junior and senior high bands will also unite for a massive performance.

Tanya Conrad, music teacher from Picture Butte High School, said the benefits for students will be many. Students from small, rural schools will have opportunity to hear instruments such as bassoons and oboes that their bands don’t have. While a school band may have only one tuba player, the combined band will have many.

“It will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in a group like that,” said Travis Conrad, R.I. Baker Middle School’s band teacher. Many students may never play with such a large group again.

The morning will begin with each individual band and choir performing a “Show and Tell” session. Just listening to bands or choirs of different levels will be a learning experience, said Amanda Rodgers, Champion School’s music teacher.

The performances will be held at County Central High School, where teacher Brian Rodgers will serve as host, and it’s been supported by Music Direct, which provided music at a discount, and TNT Instrument Maintenance, which has provided some instrument repair.

This festival is the first to bring together both Palliser bands and choirs. A choir day was held in May 2015; and the last band day was in May 2013.

This event will feature: junior high bands from Calgary Christian, Champion, R.I. Baker and Master’s College; senior high bands from Heritage Christian Academy, Master’s College, Kate Andrews, Picture Butte High and County Central; and choirs from Master’s, Noble Central, PBHS, Calgary Christian, KAHS, and HCA. Students from Milo, Arrowwood, Champion and Vulcan Prairieview Elementary schools have been invited to be the audience for the mass performances.

While the music group can point to a tangible, single day of shared musical performances as an outcome of the collaborative work this year, other Palliser teachers were developing unit plans, building online resources, and testing new technology as part of their time spent together.

Their work was summarized for sharing with the nearly 500 teachers in Palliser.

Monday afternoon, teachers gathered in elementary, middle or high school groups for quick presentations of what they learned in their groups. Each division then selected two groups to present to all teachers, who gathered back in the Cultural Recreational Centre at County Central High for a celebration of professional learning.

Jason Booker, a teacher at Brant Christian School, presented on behalf of his group which used their collaboration time to explore Google Classroom. His group consisted of teachers from four different schools, who shared how they use Google tools in their teaching. Google Classroom gives teachers control over who can access assignments and other resources online. For example, students in a Google Classroom can be given simultaneous access to quick quizzes, have text read aloud to them, or see how they were assessed on an assignment and get feedback from their teacher either in text or an audio recording.

The tools are free and easy to use, Booker said.

One collaborative group created about 20 videos of simple classroom activities to help students learn the sounds letters make.

Physical education teachers across the division created resources for using a common language in gym class to help students learn the difference between a volleyball “attack” and a “spike” or a lacrosse player’s “cradling” or “cramping” of the ball.

Sam Lam, who is in the first full year of teaching at Heritage Christian Academy, spent Monday in the Teacher Induction Program in Palliser (TIPP) group with other teachers new to Palliser. He said he appreciated the choice TIPP members had in deciding topics for discussion. He attended other Palliser collaboration days in two previous years as he filled in on assignments, and he appreciated learning from more experienced colleagues, who had answers to his many questions.

Associate Superintendent Education Services Pat Rivard thanked Palliser teachers for their work during this year’s four, division-wide collaboration days. He said while teachers do critical work during site-based PD days, their work with colleagues from other schools offers a unique opportunity to gain a different perspective on literacy or assessment work.

More than 400 teachers from across Palliser attended Monday’s professional development day in Vulcan.