Professional development opportunities take TASIS teachers all over Europe
Posted 12/10/2015 02:00PM

Teachers at The American School in Switzerland are lifelong learners who are constantly looking for ways to hone their crafts and introduce their students to innovative new ideas. Below are some of the exciting professional development opportunities that have recently taken TASIS teachers around Switzerland and beyond.

TASIS High School Science teacher Dr. Jill Sawyer-Price organized and led an Introduction to Bioinformatics workshop at the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB), which is based at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and is at the global forefront of this new frontier, on December 10-11. Fellow Science teacher Amy Bloodworth attended the workshop.

Dr. Sawyer-Price had received a Lighthouse Project grant to organize the Bioinformatics workshop for area Biology teachers, who will soon be expected to teach this cutting-edge interdisciplinary field that brings together the expertise of many areas of Life Sciences. Bioinformatics involves the application of computer technology to the understanding and effective use of biological data—the means by which “big data” is converted into “smart data”—and is applicable and useful in many aspects of Life Sciences, from medicine to improved understanding of evolutionary processes.

“The Lighthouse grant provided the funding platform through which IB Biology teachers from TASIS and other IB schools throughout Switzerland could benefit from a custom-made program, provided by world leaders in the field and tailored to the specifications of the International Baccalaureate syllabus,” said Dr. Sawyer-Price. “The connection established with the outreach division of the SIB should enable ongoing educational collaboration between TASIS and the SIB.”

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High School Science teachers Claire Thomas and Ms. Bloodworth attended a workshop on November 9 in Manchester, England, to learn computer programming with the Python language. The workshop covered programming concepts and helped educators determine the best way to teach coding to learners of varying abilities. In support of the Hour of Code global movement, Ms. Bloodworth and Ms. Thomas are currently using class time to teach all sixth grade and ninth grade students how to code in Python. Many other teachers in all three divisions at TASIS have also built in time over the past few weeks to provide students an introduction to coding.

Ms. Bloodworth also received a Lighthouse Project grant for a Raspberry Pi kit and recently learned that TASIS has been selected as one of 1000 schools around the globe to participate in the Oracle Raspberry Pi Weather Station experiment, in which students will build and commission a weather station. This exciting work will commence after the Christmas holiday.

TASIS teachers Valerie Carlson (High School Drama), Keith Isza (High School History and Economics), and Greg Lemoine (Fourth Grade) were among a group of 96 teachers from 14 schools to attend the inaugural Milan International Teacher Association (MITA) Conference on Saturday, November 21. The event included workshops, job-alike sessions, and a keynote address from Frances Watson and Charlie Gilderdale, members of the NRICH organization from the University of Cambridge Millennium Mathematics Project in the UK.

Ms. Carlson attended a session on Theory of Knowledge (TOK), shared resources with other teachers in the Fine Arts field, and led a workshop entitled “Building a Collaborative Intra-School Theatre Community.”

“My intention in attending the MITA conference was to build relationships with other theater and arts teachers in the area so that we can support each other’s programs through attendance at events, sharing of resources, and conversation,” she said. “The beginning of this process has already been achieved! Additionally, I wanted to learn more about TOK, a subject I don't teach but am deeply interested in and need to make connections to in my IB Theatre courses.”

Mr. Isza participated in workshops on the new IB History curriculum and Google Drive and collaborated with other high school History teachers in a job-alike session. “I learned a lot about enhancing US History lessons with technology and learned how to construct a Symbaloo page,” he said. “Also, the Google Drive presentation showed ways to improve research, help EAL students with voice recognition, and easily add citations to writing assignments.”

Mr. Lemoine shared resources and ideas with other elementary school teachers, learned about teaching coding to young students, and picked up some new tricks from the Google Drive workshop. He also credited the keynote speakers for helping him add a few math games to his classroom repertoire.

High School English as an Additional Language teacher Andra Yount shared research and content from her dissertation-in-progress—Writing Without a Page: Documenting Dance in the Digital Age—at an international symposium on screen dance in Limerick, Ireland, on November 22. The subject of her talk was, "The Digital Archive and App as Alternative Dance Spaces."

Ms. Yount is researching and piloting a study on how digital publishing may affect future academic publications, particularly within the field of dance, as it is a visual medium rather than a textual one. “The most exciting aspect of the symposium is that I generated significant interest in the idea of publishing dance video, images, and text together in digital format,” she said. “And I may have found some avenues for funding the publication of my dissertation work as an app book in 2016.”

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Elementary School teachers Cecilia Origoni (Italian Section, Third Grade) and Tanya Holmes (Second and Third Grade Assistant Teacher) attended the ECIS Annual Educators Conference in Barcelona from November 18-21. This year’s conference was based on the theme Designing on Purpose and aimed, through a vibrant exchange of ideas, to achieve a shift in focus to intention, impact, and implementation, enabling teachers to return to their schools and begin to make a change right away.

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Greg and Carroll Birk of the College Counseling Department journeyed to Edinburgh, Scotland, in November for the Council of International Schools (CIS) Forum, which was attended by more than 800 international university representatives and university counselors from 115 different nations. The two-day forum offered an informative and intensive program that focused on post-secondary admission and university counseling while providing an excellent venue in which to meet, exchange ideas and information, and further develop relationships with university admission and school guidance professionals from around the world.

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In late September, four Elementary School teachers—Lemoine, Eva Kirilova (3rd grade), Sarah Bearden (4th grade), and Kim Goldsworthy (5th grade)—and Middle School English and History teacher Marcus Hill attended the European Google for Education Summit in Zumikon, Switzerland. The two-day summit provided the teachers concrete uses for Google tools in the classroom and helped them build a network with other forward-thinking educators.

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Next up will be a January trip to London for a day of innovation, leadership, and educational excellence at the Apple Education Leadership Summit. The excursion will also include a stop at the BETT Show to experiment with the latest in educational technology and hear from inspirational figures and experts in the industry. Theresa Cullen Hill (ES Head), Dr. Bo Green (MS Math), Frank Long (HS Photography), Dr. Price (HS Science), Kerry Venchus (HS Math), Tim Venchus (Instructional Technology Coordinator), and Matt Walker (HS Math and Science) will represent TASIS.

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