Parents Association & Parents Council
The Durham Academy Parents Association supports the school's academic, social, fine arts and athletic objectives. Parents Association encourages volunteerism, raises and disperses funds, promotes communication and cooperation, and provides input to the school on issues of concern and interest to parents. All Durham Academy parents are members of the Parents Association.
The Durham Academy Parents Council is the governing board of the Parents Association. This group comprises members of an executive committee; division representatives; members of schoolwide committees on matters such as diversity, wellness and athletics; and parents who organize both community-building and fundraising events. See a list of the parents who serve on Parents Council.
Parents Bulletin Board
You wouldn’t think the words “professional development” would have educators literally jumping up and down with excitement about sacrificing part of their weekend. But Edcamp inspires that kind of reaction.
On Saturday morning, Durham Academy welcomed 122 teachers from across North Carolina to participate in what’s billed as the “un-conference.” Think of it as a free, crowdsourced discussion, with in-person and social media components, completely driven by the attendees themselves. Teachers show up and decide that day what session topics will be, based solely on the interests in the room. No presentations, no keynotes. Everyone in a session is both leader and learner, collaborating and sharing their expertise. And if one session doesn’t deliver, you vote with your feet and head over to another.
“I love the fact that no one’s in charge,” said DA Preschool/Lower School librarian Michelle Rosen. “You get up and walk out if you’re not getting what you want. You own the learning that day. That’s the great thing about it. … I think that’s what’s so appealing about it — you have a voice. We want to give children a voice and a choice every day, so let’s give teachers a voice and a choice.”
What began as an initial experiment in Philadelphia in 2010 gained momentum as those initial attendees shared their experience online. Since then, more than 1,500 Edcamps have been held in 35 countries. And it was thanks to Rosen that DA played host to the Bull City’s inaugural Edcamp.
The seeds of DA’s un-conference were planted about five years ago, when Rosen was looking for new inspiration as a library and information science teacher. She decided to use social media to connect with others in her specialized field and launched a Twitter account.
“Twitter changed everything,” Rosen said. “I got on Twitter, and I was like oh my god, there are all these librarians!”
Through Twitter, Rosen met a colleague who would become a mentor: Wake County librarian Christine Tuttle.
“We went to a Starbucks in Fuquay-Varina, and I took a notebook and wrote down everything she said,” Rosen recalled. “And I still have that notebook, and I still go back to it and check off what I’ve done and look at what I haven’t done.”
Attending an Edcamp was at the top of the list. Rosen only had to attend one to know she was hooked — and that she had to bring it to DA.
On Saturday, teachers started the morning in Brumley Performing Arts Building, sitting in groups and getting to know each other over coffee. About half were Edcamp veterans, but most had never experienced the format before. Teachers used laptops, iPads and smartphones to generate a session board that listed the topics they were interested in talking about that day. A sampling of the topics included Tech for Littles, Blended Learning, Hooked on Phonics, Makerspaces, Readers and Writers Workshop, Empathy and Equity and Google Tools. The exercise generated a sense of excitement before the un-conference even began.
“I like the ability to customize the experience, and that’s what I’m looking forward to most,” said Randi Harrison, a new Durhamite who teaches first grade at Central Park School for Children. “I’m really excited to learn more about everything and to meet these awesome people.”
McDougle Middle School counselor Aveni Patel agreed. “I’ve never been to a professional development day like this,” she said. “Usually it’s already been laid out, like this is what we’re doing and nothing else, so I like the flexibility of this a lot.”
Between 16 and 18 sessions ran until about noon, giving teachers a wide variety to pick and choose from during that timeframe.
Several teachers from across DA’s four school divisions participated. Second-grade teacher Caroline Petrow and Upper School English teacher Naa-Norley Adom — neither of whom had attended an Edcamp before — appreciated the variety of content, which included both topics and tactics.
“I think hearing the diversity of perspectives and the varying ideas and thoughts and seeing how in some ways it’s very convergent [is appealing],” Petrow said. “So almost that sort of validation of ‘oh, you are also thinking along the same lines’ but also hearing people’s questions or experiences that are different and being open to that.”
“I like the opportunity to brainstorm and think with people from different school environments because I think that makes for a richer experience,” Adom said. “That’s what I was really excited about.”
“Seeing all the different pieces of education coming together — public school, private school, we had child care people — and all different facets of education coming together in one place” was gratifying, Rosen said. “Where else does that happen? Conferences, I guess, but that’s more prescribed. … Lyn Streck, who came with her daughter [Jessica Streck Ortolano ’01, a school librarian], was actually in tears when she was talking to me about the energy in the room. She said, ‘This is just amazing!’ ”
And the connection doesn’t end there. Each session has a shared notes feature in Google Docs, so if teachers aren’t able to attend a session, they can access the Google Doc, which also contains contact information for everyone participating in that session.
“So if you want to get in touch with that person because you were interested in something they said or some program they talked about or something they’re doing in their classroom, you just go and tweet them or email them and you have a conversation. … And probably some of the most beneficial things happen afterward, after you make that contact with people. Your network just gets bigger and bigger,” Rosen said.
Rosen says her Edcamp planning committee (listed below) and DA’s support were instrumental in the event’s success, and a post-event survey indicated Edcamp generated enough interest that she plans to repeat it again next year.
“I heard so many good things about our school,” Rosen said. “Everybody was so excited to be with other educators on a Saturday talking about education. Everybody [at DA] asked me how Edcamp went, even ones who didn’t come. … If everybody starts talking about it, you plant that seed and next year they come. That’s how you get there.”
Durham Academy Edcamp Bull City Planning Committee