In 2014, The Parkside School held a benefit at Del Posto honoring Al Roker and Deborah Roberts. It was a festive evening, featuring “A Night of Comedy” exquisitely crafted by Sherri Shepherd with comic Joy Behar, Judy Gold, Diane Neal, and Tammy Pescatelli. Leading up to the event, Parkside set the goal of creating a dedicated fund that would help our school attract, develop and retain exceptional teachers and offer outstanding professional development opportunities.
The event raised more than $3.1 million thanks to 64 donors and a generous leadership challenge from the Isenberg family. Today, the fund’s balance has grown to more than $3.5 million, and the impact of that support can be seen throughout our school. Parkside’s annual budget for professional development includes more than $65,000 specifically for teacher training, consultants, conferences and initiatives that strengthen our curriculum and allow our staff to be leaders among special education professionals in New York City.
There is exceptional work happening year round to support our teachers and therapists. The following is a representative sampling of the type of impact the Fund for Teacher Excellence has had on our school.
Next Generation Science Standards. Dr. Janice Koch is professor emerita from Hofstra University and a nationally recognized expert on Science education, having written a textbook “Science Stories” that is used in most graduate schools of education. She comes twice a year to meet with teachers and provide guidance and resources for our Science curriculum. She ensures a balance between Life, Earth and Physical Science and works to help us meet the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards.
Social Studies Learning Progression. Lisa Greenhut is an educator at the Museum of Natural History and at the Shefa School, a Jewish day school for children with special needs, as well as a former teacher and curriculum developer at the Churchill School. She meets with all teachers at the beginning of the year to map out the plans for Social Studies units, which move from a focus on self and family to learning about neighborhood and local community to studying other countries and United States history.
Writing Consultation Pilot. Kate Malone is a former Parkside teacher and Learning Specialist who has developed a writing consultation program that she is piloting at our school. Kate observes lessons, models best practices for teachers, and meets individually with staff members to help them develop the very best strategies for teaching writing to our students.
The Waldon Approach. For the second year in a row, Dr. Walter Solomon, founder of the Waldon Center in Jerusalem, conducted a two-part workshop on helping children learn through neurological feedback. His approach utilizes activities simulated from the play of typically developed children, and his “Learning to Learn” tools help children to develop cognitively through complex movements and sensory exploration of their physical environment.
In addition, Dr. Sima Gerber continues to consult with our staff to apply the application of developmentally-based theories and social-pragmatic approaches to language intervention, and Dr. Cathy Constable is integral in shaping our reading and language curriculum through her innovative approach to reading, literacy and language development.
SPECIAL EDUCATION CONFERENCES & INDUSTRY SEMINAR
Parkside was honored to be among the founding members of the first New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) Special Education Conference which was first held in 2015. Our entire staff attended this conference to share ideas and learn from our colleagues across the state, and several members of our staff helped to facilitate the conference workshops. We look forward to the continued growth of the conference, with its third installment scheduled for October 2017.
In addition, our staff has attended more than 36 professional development workshops, conferences or seminars on topics such as language, play and behavioral strategies, and self-regulation to name just a few.
Furthermore, Parkside has established itself as a leader among our peer institutions, with our staff facilitating the following sessions at various conferences:
- “Creating Space for Therapeutic Play and Relationships”
- "Strategies for Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders to Engage in Successful Conversations with Peers”
- “The Development of the Capacity for Pretending and Differentiating ‘Real’ from ‘Pretend’”
- “Developmental and Relationship-Based Precursors to Pragmatic Language”
- “Teaching the How and Why of Conversation to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders”
- “Welcome to Language Instruction and Strategies in the Classroom”
GUEST LECTURERS & TRAINERS
In addition to all-staff trainings conducted by our Occupational Therapy team on Language Strategies in the Classroom, and OT Tools and Adaptations by our Speech team, our teachers have benefitted from guest lectures and interactive trainings on Identity, Bias and Privilege by Sandra Chapman, Behavior Management and Teacher-Child Interaction by Dr. Steve Kurtz and Transference and Theory of Mind by Ron Balamuth.
TEACHER-CHILD INTERACTION TRAINING
Sparked by Dr. Kurtz’s training in 2015, teachers have since engaged in a rigorous small group training with Dr. Kurtz and his associates, which includes training in the approaches to be used, individual time spent with a TCIT trainer on specific issues related to specific students, and live coaching in the classroom. Three small groups of teachers, including 2 specialty teachers, have completed the training to date – Spring 2016, Fall 2016 and Winter 2017.
Parkside’s staff and students are well into their preparations for the conclusion of Parkside’s 30th year. In the months and years ahead, the school looks forward to continuing its focus on professional development and retention, and to further strengthening these programs and others, cementing Parkside’s legacy as a premier institution of learning for children with language-based learning challenges.