Once a month, Normal Park teachers become students.
They put away their lesson plans and red pens and pull out their course catalog and start scheduling classes.
Some of their options: Art Therapy, Kinesthetic Classrooms, Power of Pre-Tests and Is National Board Certification Right for Me?
The monthly hourlong classes began at Normal Park's upper and lower school as an alternative to the school's faculty meeting, and now serve as hyperspecific professional development.
"With pre-k-8, you can never meet everybody's needs," Principal Jill Levine said. "This raises the level of professionalism and recognizes the strengths of our staff."
Many classes are taught by fellow teachers, but some are offered by guest lecturers or the school's administrators.
Robin Cayce, site principal at the upper school, taught a session last week on modifying lessons to suit the needs of visual learners.
"The goal is for all our teachers to have this leadership," she said. "We thought, 'How can school be a place where students learn, but teachers learn, too?'"
Cayce, who is in charge of Normal Park University -- where teachers must apply for each class and maintain a "transcript" -- said she gets class ideas by noticing a teacher with a particular strength, or she'll see a need for a certain type of instruction. Sometimes, she said, teachers volunteer to teach classes.
Sixth-grade science teacher Mark Neal recently taught a class on differentiated instruction. He said the wide variety of professional development options is better than a monthly faculty meeting to discuss logistics.
"We've known there's great stuff going on all around us but wondered when we'd get to see it," he said.
Jessica Carlton, the school's museum liaison, said she appreciates the variety in the classes.
* Test Prep? No prob!
* Organization to the Max
* Model Drawing
* Helping Kids with Anxiety and Stress
* Autism Inclusion
* Travel Journal How-Tos
* Characteristics of Gifted Students
Source: Normal Park Museum Magnet
"We've learned a lot of practical stuff. I went to one on iMovie, one on Google Docs," she said. "Sometimes it's teaching strategies; sometimes it's on student behavior; sometimes it's on more practical things."
Levine said she considers the teacher training, which comes at no cost to the school, to be a big success.
"I'm a big believer that all professional development should be school specific, teacher specific."
Contact Kelli Gauthier at email@example.com or 423-757-6249.
Follow Kelli Gauthier on Twitter by following this link.