by Thomas Rompf,
Head of Information Services, Colegio Bolivar
Teachers Teaching Teachers: Innovation, Inspiration and Investigation
In 1995, Colegio Bolivar took a new approach to professional development. Instead of bringing in “experts” who would fly in for a day of conferences and then fly out the next day, leaving everyone with more questions than answers, the school developed a relationship with Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, to provide an ongoing professional development program over a three year time frame. This affiliation began with a needs assessment which resulted in several modules that both the university and the school felt were important to Colegio Bolivar’s professional growth. As a direct result of the needs assessment, 20 teachers at Colegio Bolivar volunteered to enroll in a Masters of Education program which would focus on those modules previously identified and allow for sharing their knowledge with the rest of the community. The cohort between Queens and Colegio Bolivar ended in 1998, when the final project was developed to create a Forum where both the newly graduated teachers, and the rest of the Bolivar staff, could develop and share workshops with each other in the spirit of Teachers Teaching Teachers. That spirit lives on in the Forums that continue today.
The Colegio Bolivar Forum on Teaching and Learning was and continues to be the only place in Colombia for teachers to get together and learn from each other in this type of context. Between 1998 and 2007, Colegio Bolivar carried out 10 Forums, offering over 500 workshops to 2,500 attendees. Always successful, the Forums provided a unique place for teachers to share what they were doing in the classroom. One of its kind, Professional development and the workshop format are, of course, a common strategy in many forums and conferences, but most of these are too far away and too expensive, especially for the smaller schools in Colombia. The Colegio Bolivar Forum on Teaching and Learning is our own conference, easy to access and meaningful. Teachers Teaching Teachers is our mantra; we want everyone to share something and take back with them knowledge to share again with their own staff. The 2014 conference clearly demonstrated this once again.
After several years of inactivity, Colegio Bolivar resurrected the Teaching and Learning Forum again in March of 2014 with the theme: Innovation, Inspiration and Investigation. The turnout was, as always, amazing. With over 270 attendees, 55 presenters, and 52 workshops, it was a full house. In addition, we were happy to have Dr. Deanne Magnusson, currently faculty and administrative staff member in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development at the University of Minnesota, and Brian Hartman, Director of International K-12 Initiatives at the College Board. Finally, we were very pleased to have Rodrigo Guerrero as our keynote speaker. Rodrigo is a Colegio Bolivar graduate, with a B.A. in Film and TV Production from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where he graduated within the top 5% of his class (Dean’s List). Rodrigo has worked on 23 feature films that include one Oscar nomination and two Audience Awards from the Sundance Film Festival. The workshops this year included everything from technology to classroom management, from Pre-K to High School, from English to Spanish; there was literally something for everyone. And, after a day and a half, everyone came away a little tired but very pleased with what they had learned as an attendee or what they had shared as a presenter. Colegio Bolivar plans on making the Forum on Teaching and Learning more regular now, by offering it every other year. As mentioned above, it is a unique event in Colombia that fosters a synergistic exchange, besides being an opportunity in which teachers share with their colleagues to become better teachers, and actively contribute tools to the forefront of teaching and learning of our children and adolescents. We hope to see your school presenting or attending in our next event.