Empowered Teachers Power Virtual Learning Outcomes

How GOA’s professional learning programs inspired Garnet Valley School District educators to transform students’ online learning experiences

The Question

How can school districts encourage teachers to expand their skills and adopt new practices while centering educators’ unique needs?

From teaching, to learning emerging theories, to staying current with technology, today’s educators have pivotal, complex roles that extend beyond the classroom—and these shifting requirements often create a gap between teacher skill-set and student needs.

As educational best practices and student expectations evolve, how can schools support teacher growth without adding undue burden to their already overextended roles?

This was the question Pennsylvania’s Garnet Valley School District grappled with as it looked to elevate its E- School online learning program, which was getting critical feedback from families.

The public school district knew its educators needed expert training in order to deliver high-caliber virtual education, yet it was wary of past professional development experiences.

“In the past, the majority of our teachers gave us a failing grade in professional learning,” said Samuel Mormando, Director of Technology, Innovation, and Online Learning. “It was one-sized-fits-all on a single topic, it wasn’t personalized, and it wasn’t meeting their needs.”

In order to balance both educator needs and program growth, Garnet Valley turned to GOA’s Center for Professional Learning.

Left: Samuel Mormando, Garnet Valley School District Director of Technology, Innovation, and Online Learning; Right: Julie Devine, Garnet Valley School District Supervisor of Online and Digital Learning.

The Answer

Teachers deserve personalized professional development and intentional support as they take on new roles.

Garnet Valley chose GOA as its professional development partner to help cohorts of educators design high-quality online learning experiences and gain confidence teaching in a digital learning environment.

“GOA brought an expertise to our district that we didn’t have. Their facilitators had been teaching in an online and blended learning environment for years, so we learned a lot based on their personal experiences,” said Mormando.

“They stressed that good instruction is good instruction, no matter what learning environment students are in,” he continued. “That was important for me to hear, and important for our teachers to hear as well.”

Through both in-person sessions and virtual trainings, GOA facilitators demonstrated how educators could transfer their existing teaching skills online, while providing new insights on students’ virtual learning experiences.

“GOA’s training provided a really personalized, intentional experience,” said Julie Devine, Supervisor of Online and Digital Learning, who was part of the initial cohort. “Participants felt they had a voice in the outcome — it was a ‘guide on the side’ feeling where GOA gave us all the information we needed but prompted us to come to our own conclusions.”

The program encouraged Garnet Valley teachers to look at their own work through a different lens, and to build their collective skill-set as a team.

“It was eye-opening,” said Devine. “We learned how to build interactions and present content from the student’s perspective, which really helped us grow and evolve.”

Garnet Valley educators dive into online course design with GOA.

The Outcome

Empowered teachers took ownership of their online learning program, transforming it “from mediocre to awesome.”

At the conclusion of the program, GOA trained more than 100 Garnet Valley teachers, providing them with the skills and confidence to design virtual learning programs and teach in an online format that supports best teaching practices.

“The training really turned around our asynchronous program,” said Devine. “It went from being mediocre to being awesome—and I think it’s because we all felt extremely empowered.”

Garnet Valley educators were also prepared to train their colleagues using GOA’s best practices. “Our goal from the beginning was for our district to ultimately own this professional learning and enable our teachers to administer the training,” Mormando said. “GOA helped us get there.”

This ability was essential during the COVID-19 shutdowns. “When we were closed, so many of the teachers who went through the training reached out and offered to help other teachers feel successful and supported with digital instruction,” said Devine.

Because of the program’s success, Garnet Valley partnered with GOA again in May 2021 to deliver training in competency-based learning.

“The great thing about partnering with GOA is that we know the type of training we’re going to get, we know we will have expert facilitators, and we know we’re going to get fantastic outcomes,” said Mormando. “There’s not much more you can ask for with a professional learning program.”

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