Faculty Professional Development

All summer long, Bernard Zell faculty and staff are engaging in a variety of professional development opportunities, conferences and workshops. Collected below is a partial list of these events and a reflections on what was learned at each convening. Check back as this list continues to grow throughout the summer.

EVENT: Two-year teaching/mentoring fellowship with the Jewish United Funds' Community Foundation for Jewish Education

ATTENDEES: Lindsey Elliot and Martha Weil

Junior Kindergarten co-teachers Lindsey Elliott and Marthe Weil recently finished a two-year teaching/mentoring fellowship with the Jewish United Funds' Community Foundation for Jewish Education. Upon being faced with the idea of graduating from the program this spring, they started to think-up ways they could continue their learning with JUF and bring knowledge to other educators in the early childhood field. Lindsey wanted to use her passion for writing and documenting children’s learning and Marthe wanted a more accessible way for people to engage in their own professional development. After a brainstorming session on what this could look like, The Reflective Teacher Podcast and Blog were born! 

Through The Reflective Teacher Podcast and Blog, Lindsey and Marthe hope to engage listeners in self-reflection on their teaching practices and keep them up to date on best practices in early childhood education. Beginning in late August 2019, they will be airing monthly episodes with corresponding blog posts on a range of inspiring and important topics in early childhood education. Teacher takeaways will be highlighted after each interview and easily accessible on the blog for review. They hope listeners will find this to be a helpful, usable resource that will motivate educators to bring elements of the learning to their own daily practice! 

Listen to the podcast here.


EVENT: Bookbinding Course at Oxbow School of Art in Saugatuck, Michigan

ATTENDEES: Jenny Einberger

I went to the Oxbow School of Art in Saugatuck, Michigan. I was the recipient of this year's Orloff Award and I chose to take a week-long course in bookbinding. I was amazed at all the different ways someone can make a book by hand using easily accessible materials. I bound books using several different stitches, learned how to wrap book board in book cloth, make accordion books, pamphlet stitch books and even created an 8-page book with one piece of paper! We used materials for covers ranging from standard book board to card stock and even old cardboard boxes. one of my favorite books I created was one made from a fig bar box, one of my kids' favorite snacks!

EVENT: CASEL Schoolwide Summer Institute

DATES: June 24-25, 2019

ATTENDEES: Abby Aloni, Stephanie Bloom, Lauren El-Mofty and Karen Leavitt

This Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) workshop focused on guiding schools through a process for systemic SEL implementation. The key foundations of this institute included developing an SEL team, building awareness, commitment and ownership, strengthening adult SEL and practicing continuous improvement in our implementation. Modeling best practices, proactively training staff, including parents as partners, using positive discipline and continuing to invest in resources both in and out of the classroom were pillars of the learning.

Being there as a divisional leadership team was amazing and allowed us critical think time and collaboration around this important and relevant topic.

EVENT: The UIC Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy (IRRPP) Summer Education Workshop

DATES: June 24-27, 2019

ATTENDEES: Rena Citrin, Lori Deradoorian, Kate Magnuson, Johanna Thompson and Andie Townhouse

Johanna: The UIC Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy (IRRPP) Summer Education Workshop is about bringing together Chicago's teachers and Chicago's leading thinkers on the racial issues that continue to deeply oppress some of our fellow Chicagoans. A large cohort of teachers from the Oak Park School District attended as well as other independent, religious and public schools. I found it invigorating to navigate the racialized social conditions that are specific to Chicago with other Chicagoland teachers and especially with my fellow BZ colleagues, who I am so grateful for!

There were so many incredible moments, but a question that continues to linger for me came from David Stovall, Author and Professor of African American Studies, Criminology, Law and Justice at UIC. We were asked to rethink what "safety" means: is it "safe" to ignore the conditions that are dehumanizing others? He asks: where are we interrupting these conditions and where are we, willingly or unknowingly, participating in them? This question is one I will continue to ask myself as I think not only about curriculum but how I walk through the world personally. 

Rena: The event was quite powerful and very well organized. We heard from premiere local scholars who helped us see how traditional views of U.S. history reinforce discriminatory behaviors in schools historically and today. My biggest takeaway involved creative and realistic strategies for service learning that we can incorporate at our school. Time well spent!

Kate: I will echo what Rena said and add that the professional development pushed us as educators to self reflect on moments where our privilege has impacted our teaching of specific students and to provide us with the tools to make sure that we are reaching all of the learners in our classroom. This is done by ensuring that students see themselves in what they are reading and explore history through multiple different lenses and not just the one our textbooks give them. 

EVENT: World Music Drumming Workshop 

DATES: June 23-28, 2019 

ATTENDEES: Charki Dunn

In June, I participated in the World Music Drumming Workshop in Waukesha, WI. It was a fantastic week of learning new drum and rhythm ensembles to teach to our students. This will help enhance children's musical skills. I am excited to share what I learned with our students.

EVENT: Jewish Songwriter's Retreat at Endicott College

DATES: July 7-10, 2019

ATTENDEES: Charki Dunn

I worked with other Jewish songwriters and learned new songwriting techniques. I actually wrote several songs this week and look forward to teaching them in the fall.

EVENT: Association of Jewish Libraries Convention in Los Angeles

DATES: June 2019

ATTENDEES: Rena Citrin

The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) convention in Los Angeles is a gathering of Jewish librarians throughout the country and around the world. Library Director, Rena Citrin attended as a member of the prestigious Sydney Taylor book award committee and presented on exemplary books that were considered this past year by the committee.

EVENT: Augmented and Virtual Reality in Education, Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL 

ATTENDEE: Andie Townhouse

I spent two days at Roosevelt University's downtown campus learning about the integration of AR/VR in the classroom and how to align those immersive experiences with learning standards to increase student engagement. Each day culminated in the creation of 360-degree "field trips" at Buckingham Fountain.

EVENT: The Scholastic Summit, Schaumberg, IL

ATTENDEE: Andie Townhouse 

Over 500 librarians and educators gathered for one day to hear authors Donalyn Miller, Kevin Henkes, Varian Johnson and Scholastic Ambassador John Schu, of the popular Twitter feed "MrShuReads," present research on independent reading best practices, as well as showcase new releases and forthcoming titles. I was fortunate to attend two workshops: "Revving Up Readalouds" and "Identifying and Evaluating Harmful Stereotypes and Tropes in Children's Literature." In teams, we took a deep-dive through culturally insensitive children's illustrations, as well as various picture books' content, to ensure we, as librarians, are being mindful, inclusive, discerning, and vigilant of toxic generalizations and untruthful assumptions with the titles we choose to select and keep in our collections. 

EVENT: Finalsite University in Chicago

DATES: June 20-21, 2019

ATTENDEES: Brian Barasch, Candace Chesler, Abby Spalding

At Finalsite U, we were able to explore the best school marketing, communications and fundraising strategies and tactics with industry experts. Through workshops, we explored best practices and left with new ideas for our school including strategies for website updates, admissions processes, information management and development.