Professional learning within our district is built around two major components that support an educators ability to grow themselves and others throughout a professional learning network (PLN). This includes professional development opportunities which may include conference style workshops, seminars, coursework from institutions of higher education (IHEs), and trainings provided through organizations that can provide certification (i.e., North Carolina Department of Public Instruction). Professional learning communities (PLCs) are consistently used throughout the district (school-based and district based). Most school-based groups occur on a weekly basis and school leadership ensures that teachers have protected times in order to engage in this valuable practice of analyzing data, developing common formative assessments and sharing best practices. Other PLC groups that ensure vertical articulation meet monthly and/or quarterly in order to support transitions from school to school, share best practices and design common events like our annual STEAM Showcase. Mount Airy City Schools believes in the impact of professional learning communities (PLCs) as a tool to develop our educators.
We also highly suggest that educators develop a strong professional learning network that encompasses strategies and practices that are personalized, self-selected and empowering through a broader learning base. A good example of this can be seen in the use of Twitter as a PLN platform that allows educators to learn from others within the state or across the country, whom also are facing the same common issues. Educators may also choose to follow educational experts within the field that exemplify certain topics like STEM, the Arts, problem/project-based learning or dyslexia. This form of professional learning allows educators to access at their point of need while also having the ability to utilize the learning when its most convenient to their schedule. Another example of the PLN is the ability or willingness to share during peer observations, which are promoted through the use of a school's Pineapple Chart. Through the use of the visible to all and open to all display of the Pineapple Chart within the school it allows others to share their knowledge, skills and resources. The ongoing support of this practice allows educators to develop new professional relationships and foster an environment that supports taking risks and growing through a judgement free zone. This kind of practice allows educators to grow together for the overall improvement of student achievement that is a direct result of teacher reflection and growth.