Teacher Professional Development

Harker offers many professional development opportunities to its faculty to encourage them to continually hone their skills and keep their classroom experiences fresh and innovative. In 2015 Harker parents Raju and Bala Vegesna founded the Teacher Excellence Program, which is very popular with faculty. The program’s mission is to enhance and further teachers’ abilities in a manner that has a direct and demonstrable impact on student learning.

Faculty apply for the grant by submitting an application detailing what enrichment project they would like to complete. Teachers have studied in groups, by themselves, in the U.S. and abroad, and each has returned with a fresh perspective on their subjects and lots of stories to tell! Harker provides several ways for returning grant recipients to share their knowledge with their colleagues, so it is not just the student who benefit from the learning that the teachers bring home.

Vegesna Recipients: 2019-20

  • Kristen Morgensen, middle school biology teacher, participated in week-long sessions at the San Diego Safari Park’s Institute for Conservation Research and studied Sea World’s conservation efforts.
  • Middle school teachers Mark Gelineau (English), Sharmila Misra (computer science), Kathy Pazirandeh (math), Samantha Salfen (physical education), Ramsay Westgate (history), attended the summer 2019 Institute for Social and Emotional Learning at the Nueva School in San Mateo.
  • Bernie Morrissey, middle school librarian, traveled to Alexandria, Va. to attend the National Association of Independent Schools Diversity Leadership Institute.
  • Scott Paterson, upper school Latin teacher, attended a two-week Caesar in Gaul program run by The Padeia Institute for Humanistic Study.
  • Physical education teachers Samantha Salfen and Walid Fahmy went to Hong Kong for the Asia Pacific Physical Education Conference.
  • Andrew Irvine, upper school chemistry teacher, attended a workshop at Alan Alda Center for Science Communication.

Vegesna Recipients: 2018-19

  • Rebecca Williams, middle school English teacher, taught a course on the Holocaust at the Mariposa Foundation Volunteer Institute in the Dominican Republic.
  • Lower school teachers Kate Shanahan (English), Heather Russell (English), Andi Bo (English) and Mike Delfino (physical education), and lower school dean of students Mary Holaday, attended the National Forum on Character in Washington, D.C.
  • Ann Smitherman, lower school English teacher, took part in a two-week session of Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Institute in New York.
  • Smriti Koodanjeri, upper school chemistry teacher, attended six-month Academic Life Coaching Program, became certified associate life coach.
  • Charles Shuttleworth, upper school English teachers, studied the Beat Generation and developed the “Jack Kerouac Experience” learning plan.

Vegesna Recipients: 2017-18

  • Clifford Hull, upper school Latin teacher, attended a classical study program in Rome.
  • Katy Rees and Julie Wheeler, upper school history teachers, went to New York for a series of seminars at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and participated in a United States Exploration program.
  • Maryloie Espinoza, middle school music teacher, attended the Delaware Choral Academy in France, where she was part of a choral and conducting scholar track.
  • Diana Moss, upper school Spanish teacher, took classes at Universidad de Deusto-Bilbao in Spain, a program sponsored by the Embassy of Spain’s education office.
  • Ellen Austin, upper school journalism teacher, took part in a three-week documentary photojournalism program in London taught by award-winning photojournalists from Magnum Photos.

Vegesna Recipients: 2016-17

  • Scott Kley Contini, middle school learning, innovation and design director, coordinated with the at Stanford University to hold a Design Thinking Boot Camp for Harker teachers.
  • Robyn Stone, preschool STEM specialist, and Enni Chen, lower school science teacher, attended an early childhood workshop held by the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Galina Tchourilova, upper school French teacher, participated in a French immersion program at the CAVILAM-Alliance Francaise in Vichy.
  • Andrea Milius, upper school history teacher, explored Greece and delved into its history via the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.
  • Katherine Schafer and Chris Spenner, upper school science teachers, researched the effects of climate change during an expedition to Alaska.

Vegesna Recipients: 2015-16

  • Ruth Meyer, upper school history, presented and served as a panel facilitator at Yale University’s annual “Psyche, Spirit, and Science: Negotiating Contemporary, Social, and Cultural Concerns” conference.
  • Susan Nace, upper school music, attended a 10-day symposium in July at the Choral Conducting Institute at St. Stephen’s House, a college of Oxford University.
  • Roxana Pianko, upper school history, traveled to Los Angeles to attend an in-depth, weeklong class on the Holocaust, run by a nonprofit organization called Facing History and Ourselves.
  • Seven English teachers from grades 2-8 attended the Center for Teaching & Learning, a K-8 independent demonstration school in Maine created for the purpose of developing and disseminating effective classroom practices.
  • Several lower school math teacher participated in a Greg Tang Math conference, held in Kansas City, Mo.

Harker firmly believes that an inspiring and informed teacher is the most important school-related factor influencing student achievement. Ongoing professional development is crucial in that it keeps teachers up-to-date on new research on how children learn, emerging technology tools for the classroom, new curriculum resources, and much more.

Joe Rosenthal, Executive Director of Advancement

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