Professional Development Transforms Faculty and Staff Learning

Continuous learning is at the heart of transformative teaching at Poly. The school offers robust opportunities for professional development annually, which many faculty and staff opt to participate in. This special round-up for PolyNews highlights experiences of community members who invested in their professional growth through recent conferences and speaking events.


Poly created a study group called “A Climate of Change” to explore how the school can integrate environmental studies and specifically climate education more comprehensively into the curriculum. Two members of this group, Middle School Spanish Teacher Marcela vonBreymann, and Manager of Environmental Sustainability Laura Fleming, participated in the Global Education Benchmark Group’s (GEBG) Climate Education Summit in late January in partnership with the Klingenstein Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. They joined other educators in a variety of positions to explore how schools are embedding climate education and climate action in their learning design. 

“Attending the conference was transformative. As an educator, I had the opportunity to explore and learn about trends, models, and tools that other educators are using to bring climate education to the forefront across disciplines and in a variety of school initiatives,” said Marcela. "The event fostered meaningful conversations around the topic of environmental education from diverse points of view, including history, ethics, social justice, policy, biodiversity, and economics.”

Laura was invited to be a panelist for a session discussing climate action in Middle and Lower Schools, sharing Poly’s approach to engaging Middle School students in climate action through immersive learning units. “I was honored to represent Poly and share the impactful work our students have been doing in Middle School during the past four years. They are identifying challenges Poly has that contribute to the climate crisis, conducting research, engaging stakeholders, and then proposing and implementing change. The agency that students develop motivates them to seek more ways to lead change, both at school, in their communities, and beyond.”


Student Community Engagement Coordinator Renée Pickering Larios presented at the National Network of Schools in Partnership in Washington D.C. in January. She spoke about Poly’s change from requiring Upper School students to fulfill an hourly requirement for community engagement to civic-minded impact through “significant experiences.”

She shared, “We've seen students volunteering more throughout the year, we've seen the reflections getting deeper, we've heard kids really enjoying community engagement more,” based on this shift away from mandated hours. Her presentation generated interest from schools who are also looking to make the same change to significant experiences. She also gave kudos to the Community Engagement Leadership Council, the US-SCEC, and student-led clubs, who have been integral to this shift.


Unlocking transformative impact for the community and unleashing joy through philanthropy was at the heart of the recent two-day Art and Science of Donor Development Conference attended by our Advancement team’s Major Gift Officer, Kristy McCarthy. The conference honed her craft philosophically and tactically, enabling her to bring back best practices in the area of major gift fundraising to the team. 

“Giving back, whether it’s $200 or $2 million, is an opportunity for our families to express gratitude, invest in passions, and ensure Poly’s legacy 100 years from now,” said Kristy. “Our families give through Poly to realize their philanthropic goals and dreams. When I remember that through philanthropy, we create and steward a unique opportunity for donors to do something deeply and personally meaningful; it really is an honor and privilege for our team and for our donors.”


Upper and Middle School Performing Arts Teacher Megan Foley attended the 2024 California All-State Music Education Conference (CASMEC). There were all-state student jazz, orchestra, band, and choir performances; numerous workshops and clinics; and opportunities to meet and connect with music teachers from all over the state. 

“In particular, the all-state jazz performances were outstanding; I learned about the Critical Response Process, an intriguing method to help give and receive feedback on artistic work that is in progress; modern band pedagogy, copyright compliance in the music classroom, and using sampling as a compositional device,” said Megan.


Upper School Mathematics Teacher Celeste Gonzalez will attend the OCMC Math Symposium 2024 in Orange County on February 26. The theme is "Every Student Matters: Developing Purpose, Understanding, and Connection in Math." Kyndall Brown will be the keynote speaker, and the evening will include dinner, networking, and two breakout sessions. She will lead a talk titled "Rehumanizing Mathematics: An Approach to Project-Based Instruction Enriching Learning Experiences in Pre-Calculus."

She will also attend the 2024 Deep Learning Conference in San Diego from March 26 to March 28. The theme is "Amplify Deeper Learning Practices for All Students." She will co-lead two workshop sessions titled "Joining the Movement to Rehumanizing Mathematics."


Congrats to all pursuing professional development at Poly! For those faculty and staff interested in learning more about opportunities and funding for conferences, please reach out to Jon Fay for more information.