MOUNDSVILLE - While politicians and educators across the nation debate the pros and cans of a 12-month school year, many local teachers are doing some studying of their own.
Even educators who favor an extended school calendar acknowledge that many obstacles stand in the way of a year-round schedule for public schools. And perhaps one of those obstacles is the need for working teachers to continue their own educations.
All last week, groups of Marshall County Schools teachers were in class at Central Elementary School in Moundsville. Jennifer Lipinski, technology integration specialist for the district, offered a series of professional development workshops for staff members.
Photo by Jennifer Compston-Strough
Sherrard Middle School art teacher Rosetta Epifana sharpens her computer skills during a professional development training session at Central Elementary School in Moundsville.
"We offer professional development opportunities throughout the summer," said Dr. Bonnie Ritz, director of curriculum and instruction for the school system.
Sessions recently offered by Lipinski involved teachers learning to integrate technology into their classrooms and lessons. Lipinski said teachers of all subjects and at all grade levels took part.
Workshops also focused on use of virtual white boards and operating software such as PowerPoint and Excel. Digital storytelling also was studied, along with the availability of resources through the West Virginia Department of Education. These include the Teach 21 Web site and Thinkfinity - a free Verizon Foundation initiative that provides both content and professional development resources.
Teachers are compensated for their time during the training sessions offered by Marshall County Schools.
"We have offered paid professional development in the summer months for many years," Lipinski said.
But teachers present for training Tuesday said they weren't there for the paycheck.
"I'm here to keep sharp, keep my skills up," said Bob Triveri, a computer teacher at Moundsville Middle School.
Others, such as Sherrard Middle School art teacher Rosetta Epifana and science teacher Jeff Mauck of Moundsville Middle, agreed that the workshops provide a chance to learn new skills and review those previously acquired.
Lipinski said each session had a good turnout, with about 30 staffers participating each day.
But teachers from throughout the Ohio Valley are taking other steps to further their educations. Educators commonly take graduate-level courses during the summer months as required to renew their teaching certificates or to obtain their master's degree or doctorate.
Sheryl Sonk, a language arts teacher at Union Local Middle School, plans to register today at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, for July classes to renew her teaching license that also will apply toward her master's degree.
Sonk said she always has opted to take classes during the summer rather than in the evenings during the school year. She pointed out that for those with a full-time job and their own children at home, it is challenging to find the time to complete their own studies.
"It can be very difficult to do both to the best of your ability," Sonk said of teaching and fulfilling family responsibilities. As a result, she has found her summer break from work to be the ideal time to complete required coursework.
Marie Compston teaches reading at Union Local Middle School, and she already is taking summer classes at Muskingum. Compston is pursuing a master's degree plus a reading endorsement that will allow her to teach kindergarten through 12th grade.
Compston, who previously taught music, said due to cuts in the arts and other fields, teachers need to be certified in multiple areas in order to have job security. She noted some sessions she has enrolled in this summer have been filled with teachers from all over the eastern half of the Buckeye State.