Teacher Training: SMA Takes the Lead

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Teacher training is something San Marcos Academy takes very seriously. To ensure the the quality and professionalism of faculty members, SMA has created and is now implementing a unique teacher training course that utilizes proven materials developed by AdvancED, the parent organization of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Of the 34,000 AdvancED educational institutions that enroll about 20 million students nationwide, SMA is the only school to develop a full state-of-the-art professional development training course using ELEOT material. The Effective Learning Environments Observation Tool (ELEOT) is a process used to train AdvancED classroom observers during accreditation visits.

Although a handful of schools have used the AdvancED training videos to train their teachers, none has developed a full training course using those videos as part of a program specifically designed for classroom teachers.

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About one month ago, San Marcos Academy teachers began the seven-week online training course. They will complete the training at about the time of the school’s SACS accreditation site visit in March. Unlike typical teacher training programs that show staged examples or abstract bullet points of what good teachers should or should not do, this course shows live K-12 classrooms. Then, it provides immediate feedback as to whether or not the teachers have met the standards for best practices.

Teachers revisit the standards for establishing equitable learning environments, such as setting high expectations, providing supportive learning, moving students from passive to active learning, providing monitoring and feedback, conducting a well-managed learning environment, and fostering digital learning. Once the teachers are shown what it means to accomplish these standards, the teachers are required to complete a survey and reflect on areas in which they may improve. That information is then passed on to their administrator-evaluator, who uses it for further improvement discussions.

There is an even bigger picture, however, and the ELEOT training is but phase two of professional development being offered at SMA. The entire process began last spring, when SMA sent Dr. Brian Guenther to receive training on the new teacher evaluation system being implemented by the Texas Education Association. He was then tasked to update and merge the new system with standards already approved by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. As a result, the academic deans approved and began implementation of the redesign this school year to increase teacher effectiveness.

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Research shows that there are increasing results in professional development when the process is embedded in actual classroom practice. As part of our new evaluation system, named Christian Teacher Evaluative and Appraisal System (CTEAS), staff have increased the number of both informal and formal visits into the classroom. Although still a work in process, it is evident that improvements are occurring throughout the campus.

To top this off, while the students take a day off on Feb. 16, the faculty and school staff will spend the entire day in San Antonio at the Texas Association of Baptist Schools Regional Conference. The faculty will attend workshops and sessions taught by college professors from Baptist universities to improve their professional practice.

Most parents only know of a teacher’s performance by hearing snippets from his or her child or their friends. Rarely do they get a sneak-peak of all that goes into the profession. I am pleased to work with such a dedicated group of professionals who enthusiastically embrace growth opportunities. They are indeed living the Academy experience.

–By Dr. Bob Bryant, SMA Academic Dean

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