NAIS: ‘The pinnacle of professional development for independent school professionals’

Pictured, from left, are Shonda Vargason, Mary Claire Hancock, Vicki Wilson, Katie Ramer, Beth Vise, Elizabeth Orr, Cindy Bell, and Judy Sanderson.

USJ sent a delegation to the 2015 National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Annual Conference in Boston — and they came back with new ideas for their classrooms.

Attendees included Head of School Stu Hirstein, Upper School Director Ben Murphy, Junior Kindergarten Teacher Vicki Wilson, Fifth Grade Teacher Cindy Bell, Fourth Grade Teacher Elizabeth Orr, Middle School Math Teacher Mary Claire Hancock, Middle School History Teacher Shonda Vargason, Upper School English Teacher Katie Ramer, Upper School Science Teacher Judy Sanderson, Upper and Middle School Librarian Beth Vise, and Chief Financial Officer Mark Burden.

The theme of the conference at the Hynes Convention Center was Design the Revolution: Blended Learning, Leading, and Innovation. The conference included speakers and workshops led by accomplished education professionals, including past university presidents.

“We went because it gave us a chance to spend three days with 5,000 of our colleagues from around the country learning new things that we can bring back to USJ,” Hirstein said. “The opportunity for professional development is one of our top priorities, and our national conference is the pinnacle of professional development for independent school professionals.”

“The sessions that I attended at the NAIS really focused on blended learning, incorporating technology into the curriculum, and strategies to help students use higher order thinking skills to solve problems and think outside of the box,” said Orr, a fourth-grade teacher. “I also heard some great motivational speakers who challenged us to emphasize the importance of creating a classroom environment where teaching character and respect for others is integrated into the classroom curriculum.”

USJ will continue to focus on professional development because the most critical element in education is the teacher, Hirstein said.

“Professional development is important because we want to ensure that, at USJ, our faculty and administrators continue to strengthen their practice. We also do this because we owe it to the families and students we serve to be the best we can be … every day.”