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Unique Learning Experiences for Teachers in Mystic

From left are

Teachers spent three days participating in workshops and hands-on activities at Mystic Seaport this week. From left are Jennifer Paul, Southington; Kristina Kiely, Wallingford; Blaise Messinger, Cromwell; Beth Horler, Groton; and Deborah Sanders, Cromwell.

More than a dozen Connecticut Teachers of the Year (TOY) wrapped up a three-day trip to the Mystic Seaport today. The TOY finalists and semi-finalists were not vacationing, but learning. The teachers spent their days in educational workshops and participated in hands-on activities and guided tours of the Seaport, learning how to improve lesson plans and bring history and science alive for their students in the classroom.

“This is the best professional development program that I’ve experienced in my 27 years of teaching,” said Groton teacher and local Association president Beth Horler.

Horler wasn’t alone in her proclamation. The teachers all had rave reviews for the unique professional development program.

The teachers of the year tried their hand at carving ornamental parts for a ship out of wood.

Sandra Nichols, Glastonbury; Cheryl Iozzo, Greenwich; and Angela Jones, Rocky Hill tried their hand at carving ornamental parts for a ship out of wood.

“It’s been amazing,” said New Fairfield teacher Ed White. “The best part is being around amazing, positive, and informed educators and the collaborative learning is invigorating.”

The high school social studies teacher says he plans to bring all he has learned back to his classroom and share the information and resources with his colleagues as well.

During the three-day program, the teachers learned about object-based teaching strategies, navigated the new museum website for educators, utilized exhibits as a forum for interdisciplinary investigations, and developed lesson plans for their classrooms.

They also had time for some fun activities aboard the Charles W. Morgan, the last remaining wooden whaling vessel in the world, and the Joseph Conrad, a teaching wooden ship, where they climbed the ship’s rigging, sang shanties, and hauled up the yardarm.

The teachers had the opportunity to car leaves out of wood. Above is what the project looked line when finished and painted.

A sample of the teachers’ wood carving project.  The finished and painted leaf is above.

“I was the first one to climb the rigging,” said Greenwich teacher Cheryl Iozzo. “It gave me a better sense of the hard work and strength the crew needed to maintain the ship.”

The Connecticut Teacher of the Year Council organized the Mystic professional development program, as well as learning sessions at the Mark Twain House and Pequot Museum earlier this year.

Cromwell teacher Blaise Messinger, the 2013 TOY and a member of the TOY Council, said the program is an effort to raise the status and visibility of the teaching profession and promote the exceptional educators teaching in Connecticut.

“The course elevates professional development for the TOYs and others,” said Messinger. “It gets TOYs more involved and gives them real experiences to improve their own teaching strategies. It also allows them to form lasting relationships and make connections with colleagues from across the state.”

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