The new academic year has kicked off beautifully thanks, in part, to the effort that Brooks School faculty gave to honing their craft in the months leading up to opening day.

"This was a terrific summer for professional development and growth for our faculty," said Dean of Faculty John McVeigh about the 27 teachers who undertook nearly 20 different programs this summer. "We're trying to maximize the impact and scope of this work so that it benefits our students and their experience here, and I feel great about how many different things our faculty members did."

Advanced Placement teaching institutes, leadership training and writing retreats: The range of topics that faculty explored ran the gamut. One subject that five Brooks educators explored for the first time is the topic of competency-based education.

"Since our school is heading in that direction with our curriculum and assessment, [professional development this summer] offered us a chance to hear from leading experts from around the country and to begin to position us to roll out competency-based education here at Brooks over the course of the next few years," said McVeigh.

A full list of faculty's professional development this summer: 

  • Diversity Directions: Dean of College Counseling Andy Campbell, Dean of Teaching and Learning Mary Jo Carabatsos, Associate Director of Admission and Financial Aid Pat Foley, and Chair of World Languages Department Lucy Hamilton attended the 23rdannual weeklong national program for school leaders and educators hosted on campus at Brooks.
  • Stanley H. King Counseling Institute: Spanish teacher Chelsea Clater and Assistant Dean of Students Ashley Johnston participated in this annual program, also hosted at Brooks, that offers a model of teaching counseling and listening skills to teachers, advisors, administrators and other school personnel.
  • The College Board's AP teaching institutes: History teacher Joanna McDonough, French teacher Julia Sinnott and Spanish teacher Peter Neissa participated in the training designed to strengthen how educators teach Advanced Placement courses.
  • Sanborn Competency Design Studio: Associate Head for Academic Affairs Lance Latham, Lucy Hamilton, Mary Jo Carabatsos, Joanna McDonough and Chelsea Clater attended this three-day workshop focused on teaching competency-based learning.
  • Teaching Contemporary Mathematics conference: Chair of Mathematics Department Dave Price attended this event at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and also visited the Cate School Math Department in California.
  • Women in Leadership Certificate program: Associate Director of Admission Lori Charpentier participated in this offering from Cornell University.
  • Mastery Transcript Consortium site meeting: Mary Jo Carabatsos and Lance Latham joined this event to explore the first steps in the initiative to create a new high school transcript.
  • Racial Empowerment Collaborative Summer Institute: Director of Diversity Initiatives Shaunielle McDonald '94 joined in this seminar at the University of Pennsylvania centered on increasing racial literacy.
  • Landmark School workshop on learning differences: Director of the Learning Center Moira Goodman attended a program centered on developing classroom-tested strategies to meet the needs of all learners.
  • Teachers' College (TC) at Columbia University: Mathematics teacher Tote Smith participated in a seven-week program at TC, the largest graduate school of education in the United States.
  • Individual writing retreat: English teacher Leigh Perkins '81 spent a month on a writing retreat in Mexico.
  • Teaching Proficiency workshop on Reading and Storytelling in Chinese: Mandarin Chinese and history teacher Reid Wyatt attended this two-day workshop and also spent three weeks traveling the Silk Road in China.
  • Academic summer camps: Spanish teacher Stefan Dinescu organized English language academic summer camps in Italy, and led a workshop in English as a Foreign Language in Slovenia. The Brooks School yoga teacher also spent seven weeks in Spain, where he lived at a yoga school and continued his yoga training.
  • Photography expedition: Visual arts teacher Tabitha Sherrell coordinated a photographic and outdoor adventure expedition to Norway for beginner photographers.
  • Society for Values in Higher Education Conference: History teacher Eddie Carson attended this event, and also presented workshops at the National AP Conference. He presented three weeklong AP History institutes for United States and European History for new and experienced teachers in New York and Seattle.
  • Excursion focused on poetry and history: English teacher John Haile used one of Brooks School's annual grants to teachers for 14 days of hiking in Northern England, where he focused on poetry, writing and the history of the region.
  • The American Classical League conference: Latin teacher Deborah Davies attended this annual gathering that promotes the study and teaching of the Classical Greek and Latin at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • Three-day meeting about Brooks' Self in Community (SIC) program: Director of Psychological Counseling Judith Werner, Self in Community teacher and Wellness Educator Lindsey McDowell, Health and Wellness Center Director Tracey Costantino, Director of Athletics Bobbie Crump-Burbank, Dean of Students Willie Waters '02, School Minister and Director of Spiritual Life Julie Mavity Maddalena, Shaunielle McDonald, Moira Goodman, Associate Head for Student Affairs Andrea Heinze, and Ashley Johnston gathered on campus to craft the 2017-2018 SIC curriculum and approach.

In addition, other faculty members continued teaching this summer — Visual Arts teacher Lynn McLoughlin ran an art camp out of her home for about two months; Director of the Robert Lehman Art Center Amy Graham taught a design thinking and leadership class at the Cate School in California — and learning online. Mandarin Chinese teacher Huiying Zhao took part in a STARTALK online Chinese teacher workshop, as well as a four-day AP Chinese workshop.

The College Counseling office was busy too. Assistant College Counselor Christine Jackson attended the Quest Bridge National College Admissions Conference at Yale University.

"In a 24/7 environment like we have during the school year, it's difficult for our faculty members to get off campus and to work on their craft," said McVeigh. "Summer is the perfect time for teachers to either pick up new skills or to refine the ones they've been using so effectively here already. It's also a chance to connect with colleagues at other schools and to grow as professionals."

Spanish teacher Stefan Dinescu embraced the opportunity for exactly those reasons. "This summer I coordinated EFL summer camps in Italy and taught an EFL Youth Learner course in Slovenia as a part of professional development workshop on young learners that I teach to teachers across Europe," he said. "I also spent six weeks at a yoga ashram in Spain continuing my practice and my studies to help with the yoga afternoon activity and Winter Term class that I teach."

Leigh Perkins '81, P'14, P'18 discovered that through her experience, on a month-long writing retreat in Mexico, the English teacher not only grew as a writer, she grew in understanding of her students.

"To take time to explore my own writing — a craft I teach every year but have not dug into deeply myself, journalistic and legal writing excepted — that was an extraordinary thing," the former lawyer said of her time in Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo. "It was exciting and nerve-wracking."

Perkins used her time off campus to work on a collaborative project (for which she's writing backstory vignettes to love letters for an exhibition and possible book) as well as to begin penning a memoir. "I've lived in and around Brooks School for 50 years, and many times I have told a story from life here and someone has said, 'You should write a book!'" she said. "While my standard response has been, 'No one would believe it!' the experience has been so wide-ranging and extraordinary that I have thought for a long time there's something there worth exploring in writing. This summer was the first time my personal schedule and situation gave room for the possibility."

Exploring that project during the writing retreat "tested me," Perkins added — just as she tests her students. And the benefits for her and her English classes will continue throughout the academic year and beyond. "It exhilarated me," she said. "And it left me with so much more empathy for my students around the writing process."