Professional Development

Professional Development is a top priority at St. Michael’s School.  With the guidance of the Head of School and the Curriculum/Professional Development Coordinator, faculty members are encouraged to participate in any conference, shadowing, or workshop that will encourage their growth as educators.  This page provides examples of how faculty members transform these educational experiences into engaging learning for their students.

Writing Workshop

On September 19th, six St. Michael's writing teachers from grades 2-8 and our Curriculum/Professional Development Coordinator Diane Williamson attended grade specific  workshops on the Writing Units of Study curriculum that comes from The Reading and Writing Project at Columbia Teachers' College. Although our graduates are always complimented on their writing skills, we have been concentrating on making our writing program even better over the past couple of years. The Units of Study program works best in a Writers' Workshop format and focuses on the genres of writing, narrative, informative/explanatory, and opinion/argument. Two of our classes are using it this year, and we will evaluate its effectiveness as an addition to our curriculum at the end of the school year.

Back-to-School Professional Development

The St. Michael's faculty and staff began the year with a two day retreat in beautiful Marin Headlands. How blessed we were that the usually foggy and cold weather was replaced with two beautiful sunny days!  Our time together was spent in a wonderful blend of hiking, laughing, reconnecting, spiritual nurture, a lively game of trivia and professional collaboration.The retreat was very well received by faculty and staff and may become an annual event!
Ginna Myers, the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Professional Development and Assessment for the Eureka Unified School District in Granite Bay, presented a very informative workshop on Project Based Learning for the St. Michael's faculty during the back to school work week. In Project Based Learning, students are pulled through the curriculum by a meaningful question to explore, an engaging real-world problem to solve, or a challenge to design or create something. Before they can accomplish this, students need to inquire into the topic by asking questions and developing their own answers. To demonstrate what they learn, students create high-quality products and present their work to other people. Students often do project work collaboratively in small teams, guided by the teacher. This summer, Rick Hauch, Stefanie Manolakas and Diane Williamson completed the Gold Standard week long training called PBL World put on by the Buck Institute. As we move into the school year, teachers are now collaborating and planning exciting project based learning units they will implement this year.

Visiting Other Schools

ECE Teachers to Shalom School

Ms. Deavers and Mrs. Fairbrook visited the Shalom School to observe another preschool/pre-k setting and bring back any ideas they might want to incorporate into our program. While in the pre-k program, they observed a letter recognition technique that would be beneficial to our pre-k program. They also observed when a child would have a difficult time staying focused during an activity, students would either excuse themselves or were asked to leave the group to a reading corner where they would stay until invited back to join the class. The faculty was very friendly and the teachers enjoyed their visit of the school.

Mr. Grialou Visited Arden Middle School for Observation

On Wednesday January 27, 2016, Steve Grialou, our middle school PE teacher, observed the Arden Middle School Physical Education program, led by John Aquino.   He had researched their program through their website and word of mouth, and was very impressed with the depth of curriculum that they provide their students.

All the classes were in their second dance unit, swing dance.  Mr. Aquino provided Mr. Grialou with their swing dance progression worksheet and the students were working on their third progression that day.  Prior to swing, the students had already participated in square dancing, and would later be introduced to ballroom and line dancing during the year.  Mr. Grialou was amazed at the participation of all students, and there were 3-4 classes in the gym at the same time, yet with 4 teachers working together, it was well organized and skills were being demonstrated.

Guided Reading

On January 14, Heidi Landis, our K-2 reading specialist attended a workshop by Judy Lunch entitled "Guided Reading: Differentiating Using Small Group Instruction (Grades K-2)".

Here is what she had to say:

 "Judy Lynch was a wonderful presenter.  She was quick, stayed on topic and on time, gave lots of examples by showing practical short video clips of either herself or colleagues in the classroom.  She is also the author of quite a few teacher books at Scholastic (word wall books, etc.) so it was fun to make the connection there.  I was reminded how important "word chunking" is when teaching young students how to read.  I came back to school Friday and promptly got out chunking flashcards, games and skills activities to do with high Kindergarteners and some first grade groups.  Fun!  I also liked the way Mrs. Lynch discussed read-aloud stories with her class, and sometimes does a small group version of literacy circles with second graders.  I plan to copy (on special color paper) and use her idea with second graders during workshop.  We are so very lucky in K, 1, and 2 to have workshop time as an added, very specific differentiated reading time."  

Writing Notebooks

Mrs. Dowdell and Ms. Manolakas both attended an Area 3 Writing Project session entitled The Writer's Notebook: A Two-Sided Approach.  The training focused on teaching the Six Traits of Writing using a two-sided student journal.  The journal includes a running record of teacher-directed mini-lessons on ideas, word choice, organization, conventions, fluency and presentation and, on the flip side, a student-created collection of work incorporating the traits.  Suggestions for mentor texts and online resources were also provided. 

Close Reading Workshop

In January 2016, third grade teacher Ms. Manolakas attended a close reading workshop, which provided a great strategy for teaching reading comprehension of informational texts. The presenter walked participants through the deliberate, systematic interaction with different complex texts just as teachers would with students. They learned how to create 'text dependent' questions to lead students to a deeper understanding of the content. Although this was specifically for informational text, the strategy can be applied to narrative text as well. To see what close reading looks like in action, you can watch these incredible students demonstrate it

Preschoolers and Autism

Our ECE teacher Mrs. Charamuga attended the Summit Professional Education Seminar called Preschoolers and Autism, led by Cindy Lee, M.S. Ed, a specialist in the field of developmental disabilities.  Mrs. Charamuga took this seminar to further her knowledge on the developmental disorder Autism and to learn how it manifests and impacts children’s development.  

She learned how to identify early indicators, learned about screening instruments and that early intervention and support is key to getting help for a child and their family facing emotional and behavioral challenges related to Autism.  She now has a greater understanding of how to manage the behavior issues connected with sensory processing and temperament in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Google Summit

In the fall of 2015, Dyan Carey, St. Michael’s Director of Communications, attended a two-day Google Summit training. This event, held in Marin County, was a hands-on conference that focused on integrating Google for Education in K-12 and Higher Ed learning environments. All presentations were from Google for Education Certified Innovators and Certified Trainers.

Mrs. Carey says, “This conference strengthened my understanding of the Google for Education platform.  It opened up a professional network from which I can ask questions and research best practices as well as learn about Google apps, add-ons and web extensions that assist teachers in accomplishing their teaching goals and enhance overall student learning.”


Ronin Habib Teacher Training

One of the highlights of our 2015 Back to School teacher meetings was a day spent with Ronen Habib. Roni is the founder of EQSchools, an organization dedicated to providing Emotional Intelligence training to teachers, students, and parents.  He leads Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness workshops for teachers and parents nationally and abroad.  Roni teaches Positive Psychology and AP Economics at Gunn High School in Palo Alto and is the director of the MERIT Institute at Foothill College.  He lived in Israel and Belgium before coming to the U.S. where he got his Masters of Education and teaching credential at Harvard.  He currently lives in Sunnyvale with his wife and two children.

Roni came back to spend an evening with St. Michael’s parents in October, where he was once again enthusiastically received. If you missed him, click on the link for a sample of his talk.


Teachers' Summer Reading

Last summer St. Michael's faculty and staff did some summer reading of their own. Given the choice of these four books (The Road to Character by David Brooks, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner, and A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink) people could choose one to read, and then broke into groups during the Back to School workdays to discuss. Although this was an optional activity, the vast majority enthusiastically participated, and many good ideas about how these ideas could be applied in the classroom were discussed.

Shakespeare at St. Michael's

In order to provide the best education possible for our students, St. Michael’s is committed to providing faculty with ongoing professional development. This usually means that teachers attend local or national conferences or visit other schools to observe master teachers in action. In 2012, middle school teacher Joe Monroe had a unique opportunity to participate in an intensive program called Shakespeare Works When Shakespeare Plays. This training took him all the way to the stage of the Globe Theater in London in pursuit of the best ways to enhance St. Michael’s student understanding of Shakespeare’s plays.

In January 2012, after attending a Shakespeare Workshop in Davis, Mr. Monroe was one of twelve local teachers invited to apply to the program, a unique partnership between UC Davis and the Globe Theater. His acceptance included the cost of the workshops and room and board in London for the participating educators.

Mr. Monroe first attended four workshops in Sacramento, two by himself and two with a group of St. Michael’s students. These early trainings provided him with tools he could immediately implement in his classes that spring. During the summer of 2012 he spent fourteen days in London participating in intensive workshops on subjects such as Elizabethan language, the text of individual plays, history, dance and movement, and teaching techniques designed to help students from Kindergarten through college better understand Shakespeare’s works. Before coming home, Mr. Monroe was given the incredible opportunity of performing a scene on the stage of the Globe Theater.

During the 2012-13 school year, Mr. Monroe immediately began to apply what he had learned in his middle school classes. In addition he was able to work with St. Michael’s Kindergarteners and first graders, teaching them about Shakespearean archetypes (king, warrior, caretaker, and jokester/fool). The students practiced walking and talking like Shakespearean heroes and villains. This exposure helped build the children’s understanding of literature and made them a more appreciative audience for the school’s spring Shakespeare Festival.

Mr. Monroe felt that the biggest impact from the Globe experience was with last year’s 8th grade class and their performance of Henry V. The students truly understood all aspects of the play and were very effective in communicating the story to the audience, allowing even the younger students, who could not always understand Shakespeare’s words, to appreciate the humor and action of the play. This was especially apparent after the first performance, when several of the first graders were able to explain what happened in a scene performed almost entirely in French. The future plan is for Mr. Monroe to expand the program to include working with additional classes in the lower school during the 2013-14 school year.

It is through the school’s commitment to professional development such as Shakespeare Works When Shakespeare Plays that the St. Michael’s Faculty is able to continue in their personal growth and curriculum development, providing students with exceptional education.


Science Best Practices

St. Michael’s teachers attend professional development workshops and trainings throughout the year in order to bring best practices in education back to their classrooms.  In October, Lower school science teacher Ms. Graffis and 7th-8th grade Math and Science teacher Mrs. Graffis spent three days at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Regional Conference in Portland Oregon and brought back some wonderful ideas.

NSTA conferences offer the latest in science content, teaching strategy, and research, and this experience afforded our teachers a unique opportunity to collaborate with science education leaders and peers. Over the three-day conference our teachers were able to attend twenty-six workshops and sessions ranging from “Connecting Students and Community in a STEM Focused School” and “Hands-On Science with Classroom Critters” to “Aligning Common Core with the Next Generation Science Standards”.

One fun workshop Mrs. Graffis attended was called “Engineering Excitement with STEM Challenges”, which she immediately applied in the classroom.  On Tuesday, October 29 the 7th grade experienced the excitement of designing and building balloon powered racecars based on information from this session. Without step-by-step instructions, students were challenged to construct a racecar out of simple classroom materials unknowingly using Newton’s Laws of motion and mathematic formulas to calculate speed.

After attending a session presented by the authors of Teaching Science Through Tradebooks, Ms. Graffis is excited to collaborate with our Librarian Mrs. Rowland in order to use children’s books to teach science in a hands-on way.


PE: More Than a Game

Mr. Buzzard attended the Sacramento State P.E. Workshop in 2015. Even with 20 years of teaching experience,he found this training to be a great opportunity to learn new things about different physical education activities he could do with his students, as well as a chance to discover the countless number of resources available to teachers through technology. His biggest takeaway was knowing that P.E. is not so much about teaching the kids how to play a game, but rather having them understand the strategies involved in the games and the life skills that are used while playing and being part of a team.

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The trustees are the school's governing board that partners with the Head of School to steward the mission of St. Michael's. This collaboration is a healthy and active part of our school community."

— Cathy Fobes, Board Chair/Parent

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