Professional Development Schools Celebrated

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Fairmont State University/ Professional Development School Celebration will be held Monday, May 1, at 5:30 p.m. at Muriale's Restaurant in Fairmont.

The PDS initiative is a school-university partnership that integrates professional teaching practice in schools with professional teacher preparation programs in colleges and universities to enhance the quality of both. Fairmont State faculty are currently involved in PDS collaborations with four Marion County public schools: Dunbar Middle, Miller Junior High, Jayenne Elementary and Fairview Elementary schools.

FSU Director of Clinical Experiences Barbara Owens coordinates the PDS partnership between FSU and the four schools. Prior to assuming the position at Fairmont State last fall, Owens worked for 27 years as a language arts teacher at Bridgeport Middle School.

The PDS concept evolved in West Virginia from initial funding from the Benedum Foundation. In addition to funding from Benedum, the project also receives funding from the West Virginia Legislature. In PDS schools, teachers and principals work together in collaboration with university faculty to determine the curricula framework and instructional strategies that would be most successful in helping students to learn.

Public school teachers who are involved in the project take part in professional development opportunities, such as conferences and teleconferences, and then bring ideas gained through these experiences back to their schools. For example, Jayenne Elementary and Fairview Elementary teachers visited Fairmont State to take part in a teleconference, "Four Square Writing Training," and they will share that training with their colleagues. Efforts at Dunbar, a fifth- and sixth-grade school, and Miller, a seventh- and eighth-grade school, have focused on their future together as a new middle school, which is now under construction in West Fairmont.

"The results we are beginning to see thus far are that teacher candidates are reaching new levels of competence and confidence. Current public school teachers are demonstrating renewed expertise and enthusiasm," Owens said. "Ultimately, the beneficiaries of the effort will be the public school students in kindergarten through high school. The students are the ones that matter most."

The FSU/ Professional Development School Celebration will serve as a first annual showcase of FSU's efforts in working with the PDS concept. During the event, educators will have the opportunity to meet Dr. Van Dempsey, who will be assuming the role of Dean of the FSU School of Education, starting in May. Dempsey is currently an associate professor of Social and Cultural Foundations at West Virginia University and Director of the Benedum Collaborative and the Benedum Center for Education Renewal.

"This will give everyone an idea of where we are and where we are going with the partnership," Owens said of the PDS Celebration.