Professional Development

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, SBS faculty and staff engaged in COVID-19-related, DEI-centered, and virtual learning-focused webinars through PBS LearningMedia, NAIS, AISNE, AISAP, NEMNET, state departments of education, and Utica National Insurance Group, among others. Read on to learn more about their experiences.

SBS administration, faculty, staff, parents, and guardians were among the 9,000 participants on the Wednesday, March 3rd event hosted by AISNE in partnership with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi: Go Beyond an Awareness of Racism. If you would like to learn more about Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at SBS, please contact Student Life + Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Coordinator Sam Sattin Torres ’08.

Middle School Dean Bill Ivey attended the Multicultural Educators’ Forum hosted by the Fenn School. Speakers and facilitators included Dr. Nicole Christian-Brathwaite, an expert in mental health in communities of color and school psychiatry, Kerri Redding, an expert in inquiry-based media dissections, and Essential Partners, who works with communities on facilitating more complex and inclusive conversations. There were breakout rooms for discussion and opportunities for reflection, and participants were asked to consider: How do the identities you hold inform the actions you will take after today’s sessions? What are you going to do? What are you willing to risk?

On Saturday, January 30, faculty member Karen Suchenski attended the 4th Annual “Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action” virtual curriculum fair hosted by Teaching for Change and the Howard University School of Education in collaboration with D.C. Area Educators for Social Justice. The virtual curriculum fair was designed for “educators to collaborate on curriculum, professional learning, and activism”. The Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action campaign promotes a set of demands grounded in the Black Lives Matter guiding principles. The virtual curriculum fair included workshops on a far-reaching range of lessons designed to help educators introduce students to the thirteen principles of Black Lives Matter and to support teachers in centering class lessons around those principles. Begun in 2016, the Black Lives Matter at School movement is a movement of educators working “to challenge systems of oppression through anti-bias, anti-racist, and multicultural education” and who “work with students, families, and other educators in and outside of our classrooms to create a more just and equitable world.” At SBS our curriculum is situated within a Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion framework. To learn more, please contact faculty member Karen Suchenski or Student Life and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Coordinator Sam Sattin Torres ’08.

Visual Arts Department Chair Hannah Richards, Performing Arts Department Chair Cat Wagner, and Bill Ivey in his roles as Middle School Dean and Rock Band teacher recently facilitated “Job-Alike” sessions for the New England League of Middle Schools. The Visual Arts session was on January 19 and the Performing Arts session was on January 26. In each session, participants discussed what is going well in their schools, what they’re struggling with, how to handle assessment and facilitate participation during a pandemic, and how to prepare for hybrid teaching.

Head of School Stephanie Luebbers and Student Life and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Coordinator Sam Sattin Torres ’08 participated in AISNE’s “Build an Inclusive Hiring Process at Your School”, a two-part workshop in advance of the upcoming independent school hiring season.

In the first week of the new year, Karen Suchenski and Bill Ivey attended a meeting sponsored by the Association for Middle Level Education. Participants reflected on the school year so far, self-care, and goals for the remainder of the year. They also took time at the end of the meeting to discuss what AMLE might do to support middle level educators in light of the events at the Capitol.

Both Ellen Carter and Bill Ivey attended an AMLE roundtable discussion. The discussion included short presentations by Dr. Arshya Vahazadeh, MD, a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist, Joe Welch, a history teacher and the 2019 AMLE Educator of the Year, and Dr. Phyllis Fagell, a school counselor and noted author and speaker. These were followed by general discussions of what people already back in classes were seeing in their own schools, what students needed and how to support them, and participants’ own thoughts and feelings (a necessary precursor to supporting students).

Head of School Stephanie Luebbers, Assistant Head of School for Enrollment Kristen Mariotti, and several members of the Board of Trustees participated in the Association of Independent Schools of New England (AISNE) Governance Conference.

Assistant Head of School for Community & Program Shawn Durrett and Student Life and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator Sam Sattin Torres ’08 attended a 3-hour training presented by the New England Minority Network (NEMNET) on “Overcoming Obstacles to Recruiting Faculty of Color.”

The Admissions team (Sharon Weyers, Brittany Weiss, and Liz Vollinger) participated in a DEI session for enrollment management best practices sponsored by the Association of Independent School Admission Professionals (AISAP).

Assistant Head of School for Community and Program Shawn Durrett along with faculty and staff members Karen Pleasant, Hannah Richards, Karen Suchenski, and Brittany Weiss attended a virtual workshop offered by the Association of Independent Schools of New England (AISNE) titled: “So You Think You’re an Anti-Racist? Shifts of Consciousness and Action for Well-Meaning White Independent School Community Members.” In this workshop, as explained by AISNE, participants “explored the knowledge and skills that help white faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees who see [themselves] as committed to racial equity walk [their] racial equity talk.” The workshop discussed “common racial equity detours among white people and the basic commitments needed to engage in deep and transformative ways.”

History Department Chair Karen Pleasant, in her role as Educational Ambassador for PBS LearningMedia, attended and presented at the virtual National Social Studies Conference December 4-6. The event included keynote speakers such as Chelsea Clinton, Ken Burns, Chuck Todd, George Takei, Yamiche Alcindor, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and many others, as well as over 200 workshops by educators around the country, and documentary film screenings. Karen’s session was in the law-related education track of the conference, which was coordinated by the American Bar Association’s Division for Public Education. Titled, Teach Women’s Suffrage Movement with American Experience and PBS LearningMedia, Karen co-presented with Carolyn Jacobs and Susan Wilkins, staff from GBH Education. You are invited to watch a recording of Karen’s session.

Director of Counseling Ellen Carter participated in several workshops sponsored by the Smith College School of Social Work focused on health & wellness: Using a Neuro-Developmental Framework in Child Trauma Treatment; When Worrying Takes Over: Helping Kids Overcome Anxiety and Build Resilience; Brave Conversations in Safe Spaces: A Relational/Attachment Approach to Applying an Intersectional Lens in Clinical Practice.

Faculty members Ellen Carter, Kara Fagan, Hannah Richards, Karen Pleasant, Karen Suchenski, Andrea Tehan Carnes, and Bill Ivey enrolled as a team in the Back to School Camp organized by the Association for Middle Level Education. A week of topic-oriented chats and one-on-one planning time with AMLE experts preceded three in-depth days of sessions on remote learning, building relationships, assessment, smoothing transitions, social-emotional learning, and much more. The experience also included follow-up check-ins and ongoing access to resources.

Faculty members Karen Pleasant, Sara Gibbons, Andrea Tehan Carnes, Cat Wagner, Karen Suchenski and Student Life and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator Sam Sattin Torres ’08 participated in American University’s Summer Institute on Education, Equity, and Justice entitled, “Uplifting Women & Girls of Color Through Antiracist Pedagogy, Practice & Policy.” This three-day virtual conference consisted of workshops that focused on how racism affects the education, health, and legal status of our students of color. The conference provided practices and tools to help us develop equitable educational and social-emotional programs for our students of color at SBS.

Middle School Dean Bill Ivey enrolled in a six-week book discussion on Gholdy Muhammad’s Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy. The online chat was hosted by anti-racist educator Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price. The book draws on the tradition of Black literacy societies to build a four-part framework for equity teaching: identity development, skill development, intellectual development, and criticality. Bill said, “I’m about halfway through the book and can already tell it will add a critical layer to my Humanities 7 work.” Bill also guest-facilitated a session in the NENTS 1.0 seminar for beginning teachers, on being white anti-racist educators. Bree Wisniewski ‘12, who will be teaching fourth grade at The Bement School, was in the group. Bill is also a staff member for NENTS 2.0, designed for teachers with 1-4 years of experience. This seminar runs from August 12-15 and also deliberately and intentionally incorporates an equity lens into the work of education. Both seminars are co-sponsored by AISNE and CAIS.

In addition to attending many professional development sessions, Assistant Head of School for Enrollment Kristen Mariotti has given several professional (virtual) presentations this summer on enrollment management in our current climate for the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), The Independent Educational Consultant Association (IECA), and the Enrollment Management Association (EMA). She also recently recorded a Podcast with EMA discussing SBS’ remote learning plan.

Marketing & Communications Manager Maeve Ryan attended the 2020 National Coalition of Girls’ Schools Virtual Conference June 22-24. She also participated in AISAP’s three-part series of webinars called “Run High-impact Search Engine Marketing Campaigns” to learn more about best strategies for digital marketing campaigns.

Cat Wagner will participate in two online courses by the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) : “Integrating Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in Dance Curriculum” and “Building an Online Dance Course: Process and Product.” 

Director of International Admissions Brittany M. Weiss enthusiastically participated in Carney Sandoe & Associates Women’s (Re)Institute. CS&A (re)imagined their annual Women’s Institute and (re)invented the way CS&A supports women in education. For the month of June, CS&A (re)developed the formerly in-person weekend event into a dynamic online learning and networking tool. Brittany was able to network with educational leaders stateside and abroad, most of whom were women in the field, about topics relating to COVID-19, social justice, admissions, and beyond. Each week of June was focused on a relevant theme: flexibility and adaptability, fundamentals, knowing yourself, and laying the groundwork for success. One-to-one advising was provided throughout the month as fresh virtual content was delivered each week, offering a unique opportunity to become a student again!

Last spring, Associate Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Sharon Weyers participated in a number of webinars delivered by industry partners including Enrollment Management Association (EMA), National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), Association of Independent School Admissions Professionals (AISAP), and School and Student Services (SSS). Several of the webinars focused on supporting students and families financially through COVID-19 and beyond, dedicated to equitable and inclusive financial aid practices.

Mathematics Department Chair Ravi Pillalamarri, Director of the Academic Center Apple Gifford, Visual Arts Department Chair Hannah Richards, and Student Life and Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Coordinator Sam Sattin Torres ’08 attended the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference (PoCC). Read on to learn from Ravi & Apple about their personal experiences with the conference.

Mathematics Department Chair Ravi Pillalamarri: “I was at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference (PoCC) to help host the South Asian affinity group. Our three sessions had about 85 participants from across the South Asian diaspora. As hosts, we mostly created space for the participants to talk to each other without our involvement. This allows the participants to talk to each other rather than give up space and conversation time for us because they perceive us as leaders. So, it’s a different kind of feeling than participating in the affinity group. Topics included fun stuff like culture and other smaller affinities (shared language, queer + South Asian, etc) and some heavy stuff like the boundary between self-care and complicity with white supremacy. Asians can often excuse ourselves from talk of race because we’re white-adjacent. Personally, I enjoy being able to provide this experience for others even though I have the same affinity needs and feel the same isolation that any other South Asian would at a school like SBS. Because hosting requires a lot of planning time and that means meetings, I only got to go to a little bit of the conference itself.”

Director of the Academic Center Apple Gifford: “I attended the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference (PoCC). The conference was held virtually this year which allowed more people to attend. I missed the social buzz of an in-person conference, but logistically, this was a lot easier, and the virtual workshops were excellent. I had a hard time choosing which workshops to attend but decided to focus on ones that would directly impact my own teaching. I attended sessions on trans-racial adoption, equitable grading practices, how to decolonize history curriculum, and the experience of multi-cultural and multi-racial students at independent schools. In addition to the workshops, I also attended a White Awareness Accountability Group each afternoon. This was my first time participating in an affinity group for white people and it was both challenging and inspiring to focus so completely on my own accountability and responsibility as a white educator in anti-racism work at SBS. Overall, I came away from the conference with a sense of urgency and a renewed commitment to continue the work of making SBS a safe, equitable, and joyful school for every student.”