GVSU Offers Workshop for Michigan Teachers

A Charter Schools Office staff member works with a teacher on professional development.  Courtesy / GVSU CSO

A Charter Schools Office staff member works with a teacher on professional development.  Courtesy / GVSU CSO

James Kilborn

This September, Grand Valley State University will offer free training and workshops for Michigan teachers in efforts to bolster student achievement and improve public and private education within the state. 

GVSU’s Charter Schools Office is leading the initiative and will provide workshops for all Michigan educators in hopes that it not only saves school districts money in teacher education programs, but also enables teachers to learn new teaching techniques that are effective in capturing their student’s attentions by producing a more-enriching learning experience within the classroom.

Michael Cousins, Communications and Technology Specialist with the GVSU Charter Schools Office, hopes the program is well-received amongst Michigan school districts and ensures that those districts understand what the program can offer them, both in terms of teacher preparedness and improving student achievement. 

“We sent out a press release to all media members and education entities letting them know that Grand Valley’s Charter School office was offering free professional development to all teachers teaching in grades pre-kindergarten through high school,” Cousins said. 

GVSU has provided similar opportunities in the past for educating those enrolled in their teaching programs, but offering the program for all Michigan educators will allow districts that face tight budgets to allocate funds toward other needs, as free teacher training will benefit both teachers and their districts. 

With GVSU operating 78 charter schools, mainly in the Detroit and Grand Rapids areas, containing a total estimated student enrollment of 37,000 students, the university is directly invested in ensuring students receive the quality education and care they need to succeed in an academic setting. 

Rob Kimball, Associate Vice President of the Office of Charter Schools, sees that assisting teachers is one of the most effective ways of spurring change in Michigan education. 

“The biggest challenge that all schools face is how to better support the people who are doing the most important work for kids—teachers,” Kimball said. “All too often, teachers feel over-worked and under-loved. We can change that. What GVSU is offering through this professional education program is a cost-effective way for all schools to support their teachers so they, in turn, can best help students learn and grow.”

A major component of this success is coursework and ensuring that teachers are armed with the best curriculum and are educated in how to apply it. This will help create a classroom setting that nurtures learning. 

“With all of the professional development Grand Valley State offers, teachers cover topics that are extremely relevant today,” Cousins said. “What they’re learning can be very practical, they can go back into the classroom and use it almost immediately.”

Kimball sees the program as a way of ensuring teachers are on the same page in regards to teaching practices and assists them in developing methods for addressing needs in an ever-changing classroom environment. 

“Offering high-quality professional learning free of charge is a win-win for Michigan schools,” Kimball said. “It equips teachers with the skills they need to stay current with changes in technology, state standards and best practices in a way that’s accessible and cost-effective for all schools.”

Curriculum areas will focus on improving students proficiency in reading and writing as well as educating them in technological and computer applications. A recent statewide study found only 44 percent of students were proficient in English language arts at the end of the third grade, and GVSU hopes the coursework will help improve student performance within the subject. 

Similar to Grand Rapids Public School’s latest push to improve reading skills, the Charter Schools Office will educate teachers on how best to improve their students reading and writing skills, hopefully giving students a lifelong skill and desire to use these outlets long after they leave the classroom. 

With public education proving to be a contested topic, GVSU’s Charter School Office hopes to quell differences between public and private districts, instead focusing on educating and investing in teachers and educators across all districts in Michigan. The program will begin in September and will be offered in Grand Rapids and Detroit. By adopting a curriculum that is applicable both inside and outside of the classroom, the Charter School Office not only looks to improve student success across all districts but hopes to instill a desire for learning in their students.