Three days before all of Westerville City Schools opened its doors to students, the district’s administrators, educators and support staff got some class time together.
As part of this year’s Westerville Education Day, educators and support staff spent Monday collaborating with their peers; learning about new initiatives, programs and textbooks; and connecting with speakers on topics such as equity, mental health, instructional strategies, classroom management and data assessment.
The annual event dedicated to professional development for all staff brought speakers from across the district and the central Ohio community.
Dr. Christopher Travers, director of young adults at New Salem Baptist Church in Columbus, who has taught classes at North Carolina State University and Ohio State University, talked about growth and resiliency among Black boys as well as his research on Black boys during his session, “ When Do Black Boys Feel Smart?”
“I believe love offers a way of thinking, an approach to help educators unlock the gifts, passions and brilliance that already exists in the spirit of young Black boys,” Travers said during his session. “It is not your responsibility to give brilliance. These things already exist in the spirit and in the souls of young Black children, Black boys. The magic, fire, passion is already present...Your responsibility is to open it. To develop it. To put the necessary positions in place, the platform for these things to manifest.”
In the “Getting to Know Your Somali Families and Students” session with Lula Abdulle Mohamed, the district’s community outreach liaison with Somali families, staff dove into Somali culture, the local Somali community and how they can help support families and students.
“My mission is to help parents hear your voice,” Mohamed said to the educators, educators and support staff attending her session.
Staff could attend a similar session focused on Bhutanese/Nepali culture.
Several sessions focused on supporting students’ social-emotional needs, including one called “QPR: Question, Persuade, Refer: Tough conversations regarding student mental health,” which is an integral part of the Hope Squad peer-to-peer suicide prevention program. Hope Squad will be implemented in each of the district’s high schools this year.
The session, hosted by the district’s mental health team, provided staff with an understanding of what steps to take when a student shares they are struggling with challenges affecting them on an academic or personal level.
Many sessions provided time for educators to connect, discuss plans for the coming year or share best practices, whether by grade or content levels or both.
Meanwhile, support staff could attend sessions on a range of topics, including PowerSchool; an update from the Treasurer’s office; positive behavioral interventions and support for students; and SafeArrival, a new student absence reporting system that launched this year.
Westerville Central High School hosted WE Day for educators while Westerville North High School housed sessions for support staff. Cheerleading squad members from both schools greeted staff as they entered the building.