Creating Sparks

How Donor Funding is Igniting New Approaches to Teaching

Eve Eaton has been teaching for nearly 25 years, so classrooms of students are familiar territory for her. Still, she is more accustomed to a younger audience than the one she faced on January 28 during the All-Faculty Teacher Workshops. Instead of her third-graders, Eve was leading her Sidwell Friends colleagues in a workshop entitled, “Building Global Competency Through Art: Using Thinking Routines to Uncover Perspectives.”

“It was a chance for teachers to be students for a moment: to experience look- ing at and talking about a piece of art,” Eve said. “Then, they could think about their own contexts and how they could implement this in their own classrooms.”

Eve was one of 16 faculty members who led hands-on activities and discussions on topics ranging from coding to coaching, Quaker testimonies to Quicktime Video projects.

The content presented in these workshops began in faculty collaborations and research projects made possible by Sid- well Friends donors. By funding venture and strategic plan grants through endowment and annual gifts, members of the Sidwell Friends community empowered teachers to explore new techniques, improve their practice, and serve students more effectively.

Because faculty and staff gleaned insights from one another as they shared the fruits of their grant-funded projects, January’s teacher workshops will exponentially magnify learning across divisions—and the impact of philanthropy on Sidwell Friends students. The donors who have funded faculty professional development—whether through endowed or Annual Fund gifts—will stimulate students’ growth for as long as teachers, coaches, and staff members use these new techniques and approaches.

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Likewise, those funding the real estate purchase and Upper School renovations are contributing to collaborations that elevate student learning between faculty members of different departments and divisions. The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL)—a hallmark feature of the new Upper School design—will be a dedicated space for all Sidwell Friends teachers to extend the work that begins in professional development sessions.

Eve envisions CTL as a type of laboratory for teachers, one where they can bring fresh perspectives from across divisions, plan and experiment together, and deploy new curriculum in classrooms. “It can be a creative space to fully imagine what you could be doing with kids,” Eve said.

Upper School Chinese teacher Xuan Wang sees the potential for inspiration in a dedicated space for workshops led by edu- cators of different disciplines: “I’m so interested in learning from this school’s experts and specialists—not just content, but how they present their materials. Learning isn’t linear, and who knows what new lessons or ideas may be sparked by these exchanges?”

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By investing in Upper School renovations that will lead to dynamic new spaces like the CTL, Sidwell Friends donors are facilitating new modes of engagement between faculty members. As teachers and coaches forge new connections in this space dedicated to their pedagogy, they will pass those “sparks” to their students.

The fires those sparks ignite in students, while at Sidwell Friends or as alumni, will enable them to assess and address real-world problems—to become the leaders of tomorrow. That is the true legacy that donors create by investing in new Upper School spaces like the Center for Teaching and Learning.

 

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