Baumholder teachers get in step at ‘in-service’ day
October 9, 2005
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — If you’ve ever wondered what teachers do during those mysterious “in-service days,” it’s probably best kept secret.
Especially in Baumholder.
Friday’s in-service training pretty much centered around the core subjects of eating, dancing and stealing, which at first may not seem like typical Department of Defense Dependent Schools pursuits.
There was, however, method to the madness as about 60 teachers came together from neighboring Wetzel and Smith elementary schools to enhance teaching skills and to bond in anticipation of tough times during an impending Iraq deployment.
Teachers began the day with a gigantic breakfast, cooked up by the hosting Wetzel faculty. The line-dancing/gym work was courtesy of Wetzel teacher Lydia Johnson. And stealing good teaching methods was precisely the point.
“Teachers are notorious stealers,” said Bill Rose, principal at Smith Elementary. “And I know my staff is busy ‘stealing’ ideas right now.”
In the Staff Development Day structure, “stealing” is known as “collaboration,” with the best teachers always open to new techniques to benefit students.
Helen Balilo, Wetzel’s principal, said her faculty volunteered — far more than she could accommodate — to create seminars both about scholastic topics and about their own interests. This is Balilo’s first year as Wetzel’s principal; she was Smith’s assistant principal last year.
Johnson’s line-dancing looked like pure fun, but addressed everything from physical education standards to problem-solving and comprehension, Balilo said. And students will be gratified to know their teachers were intensely tested by the long, complex step sequences.
Teachers selected between a smorgasbord of other events, ranging from Melissa Schoenfeldt’s “Edible Maps and Other Elementary Geography Fun” to Dorrie Meckes’ talk on auditory perceptual judgment and methods to help children discern sounds so they can “decode words.”
Teaching students is one thing; teaching teachers quite another. But each Wetzel instructor, including Meckes, used one phrase over and over: “They got it!”
Along with new techniques, teachers came away with new colleagues, said Jacqui Gustaferro, who gave a seminar on publishing student writing.
“Better contacts, better connections. People who can support you,” Gustaferro said.
“Teachers need to feed their souls,” Vickie Fergerson, Smith’s education technologist, said.
Though she’s taught less than two miles from Wetzel for 11 years, Fergerson said she met peers Friday she’d never seen before.
Friday’s activities also were meant to help teachers build bigger support networks as the deployment approaches. “Taking care of staff so they can take care of kids,” was the way Balilo put it.
The deployment — Baumholder’s second in two years — begins in November, and will affect all the schools’ combined 800-plus children, the sons and daughters of 1st Armored Division soldiers.
Expanding of horizons beyond the physical confines of a school may be most important for specialists, such as art and music teachers, who are the only ones in their school. It used to be teachers closed their doors and taught their lesson plans, Rose said. But, Balilo said, both she and Rose want to open that door and get teachers more involved in planning and collaboration, “to cultivate and empower.”
“Good leaders,” she said, “grow leaders.”
Later this year, Smith will host Wetzel. When that happens, “we’re going to out-do them!” Fergerson vowed.
Then, looking at tables of food running the length of Wetzel’s gym, she added quickly: “This is going to be hard to beat.”