Educators from 19 schools in Northern Italy—with TASIS the lone representative from Switzerland—gathered at the American School of Milan on February 11 to participate in a conference devoted to teaching and learning in international schools. Five TASIS faculty members and one administrator participated in the Milan International Teacher Association’s (MITA) full day of workshops, keynote speeches, and job-alike dialogues—and took home more than just their certificates for five hours of professional development.
Theresa Cullen Hill, Elementary School Head, both attended workshops and presented one of the five "mini" keynote presentations to the more than 100 educators in attendance. Her speech “Keeping it Kind” reflected her work to bring to TASIS the foundations of The Responsive Classroom, wherein all are welcomed, all are known, and all feel they belong.
"The opportunity to network with other international schools and discuss ideas, opportunities, and curriculum was fantastic,” said Ms. Cullen Hill. “I attended a session on Mindset and gained valuable resources that I will translate into our faculty summer reading and next year's professional goals."
High School History Teacher Keith Isza attended the conference for the second straight year. He presented a workshop entitled “Differentiation of Instruction with Alternate Assessments” and also joined the history job-alike to discuss curriculum and resources.
"I had a great time at the MITA Conference," said Mr. Isza. "It is always fun to share ideas with other teachers. This year I had the opportunity to be a presenter, and I believe that the attending teachers now have resources, materials, and strategies they can put into their teaching practice right away. Differentiation of instruction puts the focus on the students, and finding new and different ways to instruct and assess our students is key."
Also participating for the second consecutive year was High School Theater Director Valerie B. Carlson, who spearheaded the focus of an arts job-alike, “Becoming an Arts Resource for Your Colleagues.” Ms. Carlson has been working on increasing her collaborative, cross-curricular teaching at TASIS, particularly as it relates to the multidisciplinary nature of theater and drama. She has guest taught in several English and history classes this year and gotten her IB Theatre students involved in all-school assemblies and presentations.
Middle and High School Science Laboratory Technician Olymar Marco Brown signed up after reading the extensive list of workshops, job-alikes, and keynote topics that were being prepared for the conference. The workshops she chose—“Be Careful,” “Play Nicely,” and “How Do I Teach THAT Kid”—addressed student behavior and how to improve our communication skills depending on each child’s temperament.
High School Math Teacher Kerry Venchus and her husband Tim Venchus, Instructional Technology Coordinator for grades Pre-K through eight, made their first trip to the conference. Ms. Venchus, who is always looking for ways to enhance her already excellent classroom teaching, reported, "My first session was on Google Classroom. The instructor was very knowledgeable and went through most of the features Google Classroom offers. It seems like a wonderful platform!" Ms. Venchus was also pleased to discovered later that she was in a workshop with Ms. Cullen Hill and Ms. Carlson—one exploring the power of “Growth Mindset” to guide teaching strategies and improve student learning.
Mr. Venchus, meanwhile, attended workshops on facilitating an in-depth, collaborative inquiry project with upper-primary/elementary students and Coding in the Primary Classroom.
"For me, there were two main benefits from attending the MITA workshops,” he said. “The first was seeing how teachers are cultivating curiosity and facilitating student growth in problem solving, creativity, and collaboration through student-chosen projects and incorporating computational thinking in other subject areas like language arts and geography. The second benefit was having time and space to talk to other educators about how they are approaching student research, information literacy, and normalizing the use of computers in all subject areas. Furthermore, I always find it worthwhile to travel with colleagues I don't work with on a regular basis and learn from their reflections about the workshops."