A group of Blue Ridge School faculty recently participated in The Association of Boarding Schools annual conference November 29-December 1, 2018, in Washington, D.C. One faculty member facilitated a discussion about the role of coaches at boarding schools and two others presented a session about the use of project-based learning in the classroom.
Associate Headmaster for Co-curricular Activities Vinton Bruton moderated the session “Intentional Athletics: How to Bring Balance to Your Athletics Programs,” which included panelists from Virginia Episcopal School, Mercersburg Academy, and The Masters School of New York. Mr. Bruton says, “It’s always good to share ideas with peers from similar organizations. Despite different geographic settings, facilities, and students, boarding schools have a lot in common. We can learn a lot about from one another about building athletic programs, hiring and evaluating coaches, and meeting the expectations of students and parents.”
Following the panel discussion, attendees broke into smaller groups for roundtable discussions. BRS Headmaster Trip Darrin and Director of Athletics Bryan Puckett participated in the discussions such as the increased pressure to allow student-athletes to specialize in one sport, the difficulty in finding qualified multi-sport coaches, and the challenge of integrating outside coaches into the school’s community and culture.
Media and Technology Teacher Michael Burris leads Blue Ridge School’s Project-Based Learning (PBL) Faculty Cohort, faculty members who meet regularly to discuss the successes and challenges of implementing PBL into their curriculum. He and Dean of Faculty Pete Bonds presented the session “Increasing Student Engagement Through Project-Based Learning.”
Bonds says, “The philosophy underpinning PBL is anchored in the fundamental truth that students learn best by doing. We have always found that to be the case at Blue Ridge, and we are equipping all of our teachers with the training and support they need to create meaningful and engaging projects for their students. At the conference, we explained how we trained our teachers to incorporate PBL in their classrooms by partnering with the Buck Institute and creating our trimester long PBL cohorts for faculty. We also explained how a PBL culture can thrive in boarding schools where teachers and students have more opportunities to work together on projects driven by student inquiry.”
Burris and Bonds’ presentation included a video with a wide range of BRS faculty sharing how they have implemented PBL in their classes. Burris says, “Some teachers have difficulty seeing how PBL can be used in their particular field, so a variety of real-life examples can provide additional context and inspiration.”
Providing professional development for faculty allows Blue Ridge School at attract and retain outstanding educators and is a core component of Blue Ridge School’s 2020 Strategic Plan.