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Seeds Are Sewn for Faculty on First Day of Spring

In 2017, some faculty and administrators came together to discuss how to integrate the teacher evaluation system and the professional development system to complement one another.

One thing became clear: “We wanted to share and celebrate all the work being done; however, in our busy lives it is hard to find the time to do that,” said Rachel Nisselson, an associate director of the Kravis Center for Excellence in Teaching.

Thus was born the idea for a dedicated time and space “for people to share things that are motivating them and inspiring them and to sew some seeds for other people’s professional development,” Rachel said.

On the first day of spring this year, seeds were sewn in the Hubbard Music Center and Chaffee Hall. In the hallway between the buildings, many posters were displayed about professional development endeavors undertaken by faculty with each faculty member there to answer questions, and several workshops took place in Hubbard and Chaffee classrooms.

Adam Alsamadisi and Sarah Griggs held a session titled “Transforming Education: AI-Powered Place-Based Learning.” They talked about an AI-generated persona called Alvord, designed with the help of students in the Global & Environmental Studies Certificate (GESC) program. GESC certificates are awarded at Commencement and recognize the Alvord Center’s mission of developing globally- and environmentally-engaged citizens.

The digital assistant, Adam and Sarah said, can help create a curriculum that leverages the campus and local community. This was an opportunity to learn about the tool and for teachers to think about how they might be able to use it in their courses.

A tool such as this needs input before its output can become valuable, and that is where seniors Kayla Anderson, Lily Magliacano, and Michael Hoffman came in, providing content regarding the Loomis Chaffee campus, the school’s history, and the Windsor community to be fed into the model as part of their GESC capstone projects. 

When Adam asked the faculty members at one of the sessions how they might use it, Dance Director Kate Loughlin described a project she is undertaking. Her students are participating in the National Water Dance, a nationwide event on April 20 that brings attention to water issues with performances around bodies of water. Loomis Chaffee is a natural site since the Island sits at the confluence of the Farmington River and the Connecticut River.

The LC dancers will perform outside on campus. The opening and closing of the dance are the same for everyone across the country, unifying the participants, according to the National Water Dance website. Between the opening and the closing, “we sandwich our own movement inspired by our unique location,” Kate said.

When Adam put a query about this event into Alvord, out came all sorts of ideas, such as “incorporating natural sounds recorded from the confluence area, such as flowing water, wildlife, and ambient noises into the performance’s soundtrack.” The AI-generated persona also suggested partnering with the Visual Arts Department to create “backdrops or projections,” including “artistic representations of the rivers’ confluence, including maps and historical images.”

In another workshop, faculty members Courtney Doyle, K.C. Lawler, and Rebecca DiSciacca led a conversation about supporting students as they encounter the challenges of learning. They are among the faculty members who are participating in discussions based on the book Outsmart Your Brain: Why Learning Is Hard and How You Can Make It Easy, by Daniel T. Willingham.

“The book was written to help students figure out how to do their best,” K.C. said. “We don’t always take the path that makes the most sense for our brains; we often take the path of least resistance and do what is easy.”

The book offers tips for students, ranging from to-do lists to being around people who care about learning, and speaks to unlearning habits that aren’t successful.

Across the hall faculty members Freddi Dupré and Jen Solomon talked about their participation in a Leadership+Design Fellowship, which in part focused on how to become an effective leader and work with people in a collaborative, transformative manner.

“Working with other humans is complicated and hard,” Jen said. “We want to work with other people, yet that is sometimes challenging.” Participants, Freddi and Jen said, will discover a bit about themselves and will gain understanding of group dynamics.

Professional development celebration 2024

Teachers are lifelong learners, and that was celebrated on March 19. Faculty members shared some professional development opportunities through multiple workshops and posters. 

Other workshops with abbreviated descriptions:

Jeff Dyreson and Will Eggers: Practicing What We Teach: A Practical Guide to How and Why to Present at Professional Conferences — Jeff and Will discussed sharing research or experiences in the classroom with others at professional conferences, either in one’s academic field or in teaching.

Karen Parsons and Eric LaForest: Pedagogical Opportunities and Challenges of Slavery and Loomis Chaffee: An Ethical History Project — Karen and Eric discussed this student-faculty co-facilitated summer research project that began in 2021. Now in its fourth year, the project continues to challenge participants to imagine new possibilities for the community and their own learning.

Scott Purdy and Andrew Matlack: Reflections from Loomis Chaffee’s Sabbatical Program — Scott and Andrew talking about their recent sabbatical projects, and Andrew, who is the dean of faculty, offered an overview of the Loomis sabbatical program.


Allison Beason — A reflection on Learning and the Brain

Michaela Chipman — Gardner Carney Leadership Institute: Fostering Leadership and Cultivating a Culture of Feedback

Jo Dexter — SEED: Summer Sharing Sessions

Mike Donegan — Application of Positive Psychology Principles at Loomis Chaffee

Sam Higgins — Crisis Sexual Assault Training

Emma Lange — TABS: Foundations of Care & Practice credential

K.C. Lawler — Belongingness: Reflections, Intentions and Actions Inspired by Summer SEED Training

christian.ryan — The Mercy: directing a teaching gallery

Laura Schulte — Takeaways from the USA Festival of Education

Jane Wanninger — Trusting the Process: Process Writing and Student Agency



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