School district staff educated with a diverse assortment of presentations

School district staff educated with a diverse assortment of presentations

The informative sessions covered a wide range of subjects—from Multilingual Education to Phonics curriculum to Special Education to Counseling to Physical Education and Health.

And throughout the productive day, staff members snacked on a sweet gift from the Council of Schools—tables of tasty candy were stationed through the various buildings in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District.

The Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District staged its third and final In-Service Professional Development day of the school year on Tuesday, February 20.

While the students enjoyed a day off from classes, numerous classrooms throughout the various buildings in the school district were stocked with teachers absorbing knowledgeable lessons from both Bridgewater-Raritan supervisors and fellow staff members as well as outside experts.

The busy day kicked off at 8 a.m. with three sessions being held at Bridgewater-Raritan High School, Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School, Eisenhower Intermediate School, Hillside Intermediate School and Van Holten Primary School.

Karen Jones, the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for the school district, reviewed this highly prolific event.

“The day was organized in three sessions, during which staff participated in curriculum and building-based initiatives and planned with grade level and or department teams,’’ Ms. Jones reported.

She first touched on the sessions that focused on Multilingual Education.

“During the 2023-2024 school year, ESL (English as Second Language) services were expanded into all schools, and many K-6 general education teachers are working with multilingual learners for the first time,’’ Ms. Jones explained. “ A consultant from Up the Bar worked with K-6 general education teachers from buildings where the program is new. Throughout the session, teachers reflected on the experiences of multilingual learners and practiced four core strategies, including total physical response (TPR), sentence frames, visuals and peer collaboration.”

Up the Bar Education Achievement provides tailored solutions for school districts that want to take a holistic approach to student growth and achievement, according to its website.

Up the Bar’s founder, Susana Matos-Kruk, a veteran and highly regarded educator, presented during the multilingual presentations at Bridgewater-Raritan High School on PD day.

LeighAnn Matthews, the school district’s Supervisor of World Language and English as Second Language for Grades K-12, reflected on the program, which included her own session at the high school with staffers in her area of concentration.

“It was a great day at the high school for ESL and World Language departments. We always love when we can all get together from the different schools,’’ Ms. Matthews said. “ESL teachers worked together in various focus groups and World Language teachers shared strategies with one another that can help increase the use of the target language in the classroom for all students.’’

Ms. Jones was pleased with the lessons learned by staffers from the primary and intermediate schools 

“Most primary staff attend workshops at the high school, offered by content area supervisors, elementary Teaching Specialists and district coaches on a variety of topics. Kindergarten teachers learned about updated Math standards and Math routines, while teachers in Grade 1 and 2 had choices to attend sessions on Math and Science,’’ Ms. Jones stated. “Teachers in Grades 3 and 4 came together to a session based on bridging Phonics instruction with their spelling program. Intervention specialists learned how to administer and score the DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills). Math teachers in Grade 5 and 6 attended a session to learn more about the updated Math standards and what this will mean for instruction. Grade 5 ELA (English Language Arts)  and Grade 6 teachers of ELA, Science and Social Studies participated in the scoring  of performance tasks.’

Candy Mulligan, the K-4 supervisor of Language Arts for the school district, directed the vital Phonics curriculum meetings.

“Our 3rd and 4th grade teachers had the opportunity to gain a better understanding of our K-2 Phonics curriculum. Our K-2 teachers have been working so hard to learn about and implement our new Phonics curriculum over the past three years,’’ Ms. Mulligan explained. “It feels like the right time to start thinking…’What’s next?’  “How can we bring some of our explicit instructional routines and our consistent Phonics language into our 3rd and 4th Grade classrooms.”

Ms.  Mulligan felt that the teachers are learning as well.

“Once the teachers had a better understanding of how students have been learning about Phonics in K-2, they had time to look more closely at their own Spelling Connections resource through a new lens,’’ she said.

Ms. Mulligan added:

“Really, our biggest goal is to ensure that students are continuing to use the skills they bring with them to 3rd and 4th Grade.’’

Ms. Jones provided a positive review as well with the sessions that shared the programs in Special Education and Counseling.

“Special Education staff attended several meaningful professional development sessions in support of students with disabilities. An attorney provided a professional development session reviewing the legal requirements for manifestation determinations,’’ Ms. Jones said. “Additionally, many of our  Special Education teachers and instructional assistants received neurodiversity training, which focused on meeting the wide spectrum of needs of our students, district-wide. Finally, our educational specialists (behaviorists, occupational, physical and speech therapists) participated in a number of online training sessions specifically related to their work supporting students.”

She reported that “the Counseling Department staff attended two workshops during the morning sessions. The first workshop reviewed the 504 process, expectations for writing plans and expectations for case managing students. The second workshop included a presentation from Rutgers Behavioral Health and focused on trauma and supporting students who have presenting symptoms.

There were other workshops that presented educational advice at both the high school and middle school, according to Ms. Jones..

“Middle school staff attended training in support of the building goal to “ensure a healthy and safe learning environment by providing opportunities that foster the social and emotional well-being of students,’’ she said.

 “Specifically, staff participated in discussions centered around building knowledge of individual students and addressing bias. Additionally, administration reviewed the counselor push-in lessons that students are receiving.’’

 Ms. Jones continued with her assessment.

“At the high school, a director of college admissions facilitated a workshop for staff that focused on writing strong letters of recommendations for students.”

Another productive gathering occurred in the high school’s media center where Dave Guglietti, the school district's Supervisor of Health and Physical Education, held his workshop that attracted teachers from all of the district schools.

“Health and Physical Education teachers worked on building scope and sequence for topics and activities for the 2024-2025 school year,” Mr. Guglietti revealed. “Every teacher worked collaboratively to ensure the best possible plan was put  forth.”

Ms. Jones concluded her robust summary.

“Overall, it was a productive and successful day.’’