Atrium School

Excellence with Joy

Professional Development Enhances Teaching and Learning

At Atrium, our community never stops learning. In the words of Assistant Head of School Kathy Hanson, “In order to be a place of learning for every child, every adult in the community needs to be learning too. When every adult is learning (parents, teachers, and neighbors), children learn more.”

For Atrium teachers, the act of learning is inseparable from the act of teaching. For this reason, Atrium faculty participate in extensive professional development that keeps teachers learning all year long. This year’s theme for professional development is Wondering Together: Cultural Sensitivity, Diversity & Inclusion.

This year’s professional development is broken into five distinct groups:


• Faculty and staff are exploring the relationship between wonder, learning, and teaching. The Science Committee, led by Laura Page, is in charge of wonder, sharing wonderful and wondrous things with the community in several faculty meetings.


• Faculty and staff are participating in professional development with Ellen Pinderhughes, Tufts University Professor of Child Study and Human Development, during August work week and half-day work days, journaling and genogramming during outside hours. ABE Committee members Jill Ferraresso and Susan Jacoby helped to lead this programming.

• Jaleesa Anselm is hosting a book club for parents and/or teachers on the book Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, which will meet twice this year.


• In monthly faculty meetings, all faculty engage in a number of talks led by the Math Committee. Most recently, Liz Caffrey and Connie Henry lead staff discussions on number talks, nurturing productive struggle, and raising the level of math discourse.


• Faculty will deepen their expertise in learning as part of a partnership with the Institute for Learning and Development. In four faculty meetings, faculty will come to better understand executive function, working memory, and anxiety. Merry Murray Meade and Bob Dowling are leading follow-up meetings with faculty and parents. Merry Murray will be advising faculty committees with the continued goal of relating learning diversity to the work of every committee.


• As part of a partnership with the Boston Writing Project, writing teachers are learning more about Writing & Thinking in monthly staff meetings. The Literacy Committee, led by Liz Perekrests, will be focused on the writing process and developing a learning continuum with students.

In addition to participating in professional development at school, faculty and staff are expected to consider the topics of wonder and diversity on their own. Kathy has compiled a list of books about wonder for faculty and staff to read if they wish, including: Wonderstruck, Wonder, The Soul of an Octopus, and Wonderfull Education. All faculty were asked to read the book Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People. Blindspot’s goal is to increase awareness of biases that well-intentioned people might not know even exist. With that awareness, we are able to adapt our beliefs and behavior to become fairer to the people around us.

Atrium’s speaker series is intended to further consider the topic of inclusivity with our school community and the public. Our first speaker, Tessa Charlesworth, will come to Atrium in December to examine implicit stereotypes and how they manifest in educational settings. On January 18, licensed psychologist Judith Stein will speak about executive function and anxiety. Discussions about the societal importance of hair, bilingualism, anxiety, and successful playdates are also scheduled this year.

Atrium teachers also commit to professional development opportunities off campus. All faculty members attended the Progressive Education Network Conference in Boston in October, with Liz C. presenting with a number of present and former students. Later in October, some teachers went to the Curiosity and Learning Conference at Wheelock College, while others will attend the AISNE Diversity Conference and AISNE People of Color Conference. Teachers plan to attend other conferences during the year as well.


At our Wine & Sushi and Community Forum evening in October, three teachers spoke about professional development and how it informs their teaching to help enrich the lives of their students. Liz P. spoke about attending Columbia Teachers College’s Reading and Writing Project and the ways she was able to implement the lessons she learned in her own classroom. Laura discussed attending Cape Cod Sea Camps as a student and returning with her class as an educator, as well as her time spent at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the UConn DaVinci Program, and the PTC StemCert Program. Liz C. shared her experience as an educator on Twitter, and the importance of Twitter as a tool for sharing information. For every teacher at Atrium, learning is a continuous experience that helps to enhance their students’ understanding.