Friday, July 18, 2014

Teacher Summer Camp

I just returned from a week-long professional development AP Summer Institute at St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont! It...was...AMAZING!! I was in the US History seminar and learned so much about the newly revised APUSH exam as well as many quality social studies instructional strategies and lesson ideas. I met and connected with educators in a variety of disciplines from all over the country.

Each day the seminars ran from 8am-3pm during which the focus was on how best to teach an AP course as well as how best to prepare students for the AP exam. In the case of APUSH (AP US History), the exam format changed pretty significantly so there were many teachers in my seminar who have already taught APUSH but were there to learn about the new exam.

The institute was hosted by St. Johnsbury Academy, which is a small private prep school. The campus is adorable and the facilities are top-notch. We were housed in the dorms which were nice and brought back memories from college! I snapped this picture of one of the charming buildings on campus (I really loved the colors and architectural features)...

St. Johnsbury is a small, quaint little town in the mountains of Vermont...the surroundings are breathtaking!

(Main Street, St. cute are those buildings?)

After each day's work, we were offered a variety of afternoon and evening activities in which to participate that highlighted the region's geography and culture. The first activity I participated in was skeet shooting! I'm not really a 'gun person' or a hunter but I think it's important to try new activities and get out of your comfort zone every now and then! It was actually pretty fun and most of the people who participated in this outing were first-timers, too!

On Tuesday we went to the nearby Milarepa Tibetan Buddhist retreat center and had a lesson and Q & A session about Buddhism from a gentlemen who has been practicing the faith for over 30 years. It was informative and made me realize I need to practice more of 'quieting my mind'!

On Wednesday the weather cleared up, thankfully, and we went on a hike up to an old fire tower on the top of Burke Mountain. It was pretty steep but the views at the top were spectacular!

On the last afternoon I went on the excursion to Dunc's Mill, a local man's distillery, where he uses Vermont products, like maple, to infuse and produce rum. He gave us a tour and a run down of the basic distilling process, which the chemistry teachers in the group loved!! And the whole group loved the fact that he gave us samples of each kind of rum! Delicious!!

After we left the distillery we headed to a farmer's market where the rum and a variety of other local Vermont products were being sold. Fresh baked breads, cheeses, ice cream, and produce were among the goodies. I was able to pick up a beautiful bunch of sunflowers, which are brightening up my kitchen counter since my arrival back home!

On Thursday night there was a 'farewell' cookout complete with a DJ, dancing, and a bocce ball tournament. The cuisine being offered all week for every single meal was incredible. Steak tips, crab legs, omelets made to order, and dessert...dessert...dessert, among other culinary delights! I'm sure I've gained at least 5 lbs despite being pretty active all week!

Our APUSH seminar teacher, Jerry (with the baseball hat), was not only able to provide us with first-rate instruction all week during our sessions but is also apparently an expert balloon artist! He busted out the creations above during the farewell bash!

I just can't speak highly enough about this experience and the first rate facilities, cultural experiences, and instruction! It's really important for teachers to be able to participate in professional development opportunities to not only connect with other educators but to be able to take new instructional strategies and lessons back to their classrooms. I was really able to look at my current curriculum, and not just the honors/AP course but all of my courses, and find ways to introduce more analytical thinking skills and historical documents, both primary and secondary. I always feel refreshed and excited to get back into the classroom and practice what I've learned whenever I come back from a professional development conference! I HIGHLY recommend this particular AP institute as it was an incredible experience...teacher summer camp is awesome!!

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