In a setting intent of fostering life-long learners, it should come as no surprise that we encourage our staff to continue learning. Themes are of course an opportunity to do just that, as teachers need to research new topics and how to integrate them in their curriculum, to familiarize themselves to new ideas and get ready to teach them. Last year, several of us also took online classes on Instructional Practices and Differentiated Reading and are still in the process of implementing new ideas and procedures into our classrooms. This year we are having a focus on Conscious Discipline. Even though all of us have received some training in the past, not all of us are as successful as we wish we were with the approach, and we felt it was time to consolidate our foundation and harmonize our practices to provide more clarity and consistency to our students. Teachers are being trained through the workshops that the school has sponsored for the wider community with local consultant Nicole Mercer; Nicole is offering her time in the classrooms for direct instruction to the students and consultation with the teachers; and, as announced in March, Sharon, Sunshine, Pam and Katy will attend Dr. Bailey's Summer Institute in July.
Other professional development opportunities this year included Sunshine and Sophie attending a one-day training by Carol Schall titled "Strategies for Educating Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder" in March. Last but not least, Sophie became a proud member of Leadership Tallahassee Class 30, thanks to Sarah Wilson's suggestion and generous incentive and to Mark Baldino's warm recommendation. This year-long experience has allowed Sophie to meet and work with a very diverse group of established and emerging leaders of the community, ranging from government officials to environmental attorneys to big and small business owners to heads of non-profit human services agencies. It has also allowed her to meet and hear many more local professionals during monthly theme days, focused on issues such as government, business, education or law enforcement. And it has allowed a large number of new people to hear about The Magnolia School. This was a demanding but at the same time very invigorating and worthwhile experience.