Katherine Muelling, Kodiak, AK firstname.lastname@example.org
Thirty-two educators from twenty states gathered for five days of life-changing professional development in August. We came – mostly – as strangers, but we left as life-long colleagues, supporters, and friends. Such was the impact of the CPM Academy of Best Practices (ABP). Hosted in Seattle, ABP was built for teachers who had been in the profession for five years or less. Even so, the leadership team valued and respected the experiences and expertise each of us brought to the table. The sessions did not focus on our weaknesses as educators, or what we had not yet learned; rather, each session validated our starting points, and offered concrete steps for moving our teaching practice forward. As we learned new skills and sharpened old ones, we had the unique opportunity to practice the new strategies we were learning in a safe, supportive environment, continually offering feedback to our peers and gratefully receiving it in return. Through nightly readings, the solving of interesting math problems, and a lot of self-reflection, each participant developed their sense of leadership, camaraderie, and confidence in their teaching abilities.
By the end of the week, many of us were left with full notebooks, and even fuller brains. Even so, I did not want our time of learning to end. As much as I valued the tangible resources I had gained, I knew I would miss the intangibles – teamwork, positive collaboration, and mindset – I had found at ABP. Thankfully, the leadership team built in a structure for our learning, growth, and collaboration to continue into the coming school year and beyond. As a result, we not only gained numerous strategies and techniques to further our practice, but also a comprehensive support system to answer questions, commiserate failures, and celebrate successes.
Of course, we also had some shenanigans along the way, which contributed even more to the sense of community developed at ABP. Baseball games, falling off of electric bikes in downtown Seattle, touring the underground tunnel; the evenings were as packed as the days. Even the evenings contained some math – just how on earth does it take an Uber 55 minutes to go 3.5 miles? You will have to come to Seattle to find out!
If you are a teacher and have been teaching for five years or less, you cannot pass up this opportunity. ABP will not cost you or your administrators a dime, but will pay in dividends in what you – and your students – will gain. I learned that I did not have to wait until I have been teaching thirty years to become a teacher leader, and now I cannot wait to step back into my classroom better than I was last year.