Feature stories

‘Teachers teaching teachers’ drives PD at Lincoln HS

Miller Photography

In a work session titled Red Flag Interventions: Strategies for Defusing Conflicts Before They Begin, Lincoln HS history teacher Jackie Arellano (left) and English teachers Kelly Ritchie and Michael Keaney compare notes.

On a recent Friday afternoon at Abraham Lincoln HS in Coney Island, living environment teacher Sarah Fanning headed up a crowded professional development work session on practical strategies for proactive classroom management. In groups of three, teachers listened intently to their peers as they described challenging situations and shared effective practices.

“The best thing that comes out of this is that people feel supported,” says Fanning.

Dana Nurse, an English teacher, agrees. “The teachers who lead our professional learning sessions actually have the students that we have and understand the culture and the climate of the school,” she says. “They understand what the needs are here.”

The teachers had chosen the session on proactive classroom management from a professional learning “menu.” Once a month on Friday afternoons, up to 12 different 45-minute work sessions are offered, each of them designed and facilitated by Lincoln teachers.

“We think strategically about how to offer workshops to help teachers meet our schoolwide goals — things like 100 percent graduation rate or fostering a respectful culture,” explains Wayne Gagnon, the school’s UFT Teacher Center staff person. “But the best thing is that the menu is really responsive to teacher needs.”

For the other three weeks of the month, the 125 Lincoln teachers meet with their grade teams, department teams and content teams.

Gagnon, who has headed up the UFT Teacher Center at Lincoln for two years, started out by identifying teachers on Lincoln’s large staff who had good practices to share with their colleagues. In a few short years, since the introduction of the professional learning block in the UFT-DOE contract in 2014, the school’s professional development evolved from being directed entirely by assistant principals to being wholly teacher-driven.

“Teachers teaching teachers has been the driver for everything,” says the school’s principal, Ari Hoogenboom.

“Teachers at Lincoln know that what they know is respected by other teachers,” says Gagnon. “We believe the teachers are the gold that we’re mining.”

That same afternoon, teacher Stephanie Edwards was facilitating her first work session on activities for English language learners. In small groups, teachers discussed how to modify a particular graphic organizer to use with their own students and subjects.

“There’s so much cooperative learning that goes on in the classroom with students,” says Cara Refano, an English teacher. “Why wouldn’t we learn from our fellow teachers?”

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