Empowering Education: Norwood Teachers Engage in Diverse Range of Summer Professional Development Initiatives

Professional development is highly valued at Norwood and an important part of growing as an educator. Many of our faculty members use the summer months to develop new skills and knowledge through innovation grants and by attending a wide variety of conferences, trainings, and workshops.

Reading & Language Arts

Grade Phonics, Reading, and Writing – First grade homeroom teachers Sara Cali, Julia DiTillio, and Holly Simpson used their Summer Innovation Grant to partner with our lower school reading and language arts coordinator Tyffany Mandov to more closely connect the phonics, reading, and writing curricula.
Fourth Grade RLA – Fourth grade homeroom teachers Virginia Murphy and Thenthia Taterway, along with our lower school reading and language arts coordinator Tyffany Mandov, used their Summer Innovation Grant to adjust RLA curriculum pacing, identify new teaching tools for reading and writing, and enrich the signature fourth-grade poetry unit, while at the same time develop activities and resources that reflect our DEI initiatives.
Fifth Grade RLA – Fifth grade advisors (and reading/language arts teachers) Kirby Mahoney, Sally Morsy, Tara Reilly, and Imalka Senadhira gathered to refine the scope and sequence of the RLA curriculum. Their work included researching a new book to add to the curriculum and closely reviewing the writing expectations in fourth grade to ensure a smooth transition to fifth grade.
Sixth Grade RLA – Using a set of grade-level benchmarks, sixth grade advisors (and reading/language arts teachers) Carole Freret, Jack McCune, and Victoria Wilbur identified the skills most important to master in sixth grade and then created an original grammar workbook for students to use throughout the year.
Orton-Gillingham Training – Kindergarten teacher Sarah Lee and second grade teacher Alleyne Aiken attended training for the Orton-Gillingham methodology through the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education. Orton-Gillingham is a structured literacy approach that incorporates multisensory, sequential, incremental, cumulative, individualized, and phonics-based instruction.

Social Studies

Fourth Grade Social Studies – Fourth grade homeroom teachers Bridget Donofrio, Hannah Ingram, Virginia Murphy, and Thenthia Taterway worked together to create new lessons and activities focused on the geography of each ancient civilization studied during the year. The goals of this work included enhancing students’ understanding of how geographical features affect civilizations, improving their ability to read maps and understanding where ancient civilizations were located, and to deepen their knowledge of these civilizations’ connections to modern countries.

Fifth Grade Social Studies – Fifth grade homeroom advisors (and social studies teachers) Kirby Mahoney, Sally Morsy, Tara Reilly, and Imalka Senadhira used their Summer Innovation Grant to expand and enrich world history lessons, restructuring them a bit to create equal time for the study of the Middle Ages, African and Islamic empires, and ancient Greece and Roman empires. Lessons are focused on ancient civilizations, world religions, and the origins of democracy.

Sixth Grade Social Studies – Sixth grade homeroom advisor (and social studies teacher) Carole Freret used her Henderson Grant to travel to Florence, Italy, where she explored the city’s rich history as the center of medieval European trade and finance and the birthplace of the Renaissance. Carole will use her newly acquired knowledge and experiences to deepen and enrich the sixth-grade social studies curriculum.


Lower School Math – A team of lower school math teachers (Emily Bramowitz, Julia DiTillio, Hannah Ingram, Virginia Murphy, and Esther Stanton) partnered with lower school math coordinator Janice Graves to study Building Thinking Classrooms, a book by Dr. Peter Liljedahl, professor of mathematics education at Simon Fraser University, focused on ways to build more resilient problem solvers in math classrooms. Teachers will be incorporating many of Dr. Liljedahl’s practices—such as using vertical non-permanent surfaces, visible random groupings, and selecting tasks with evolving complexity—to lift the level of cognitive demand expected in lower school math classes.

Updated Math Curriculum for Grades 5 & 6 – Math teachers Joelle Chall, Kirby Mahoney, Neelam Minera, Mimi Mulligan, and Imalka Senadhira spent time this summer reviewing and evaluating the Reveal Math program to update the fifth- and sixth-grade math curriculum. Their work ensured that the updates are consistent and in alignment with the existing Bridges and Glencoe programs, but with enhanced resources.


Space Academy for Educators – Science teacher Karen Saxe attended the Space Academy for Educators at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The weeklong program included authentic astronaut training simulators and activities developed to promote learning in a classroom setting. The curriculum featured NASA-inspired lesson plans and is correlated to the National Science Education Standards.

Teacher Institute for Watershed Science and Conservation – Science teachers Taylor Small and Chris Ward were accepted into the third annual Teacher Institute for Watershed Science and Conservation hosted by The Ecology School in Saco, Maine. During this four-day experience, teachers were immersed in field-based ecology lessons designed to explore water’s connection to human systems and its impact on the environment. Teachers accepted into the Institute attend free of charge, thanks to sponsor Poland Springs.

Ecology Project International – Sixth grade science teacher Casey Kunkel received a Henderson Grant to participate in EPI’s Galapagos Educator Course in partnership with the Ecuadorian nonprofit ECOS. With an abundance of uniquely adapted species, the Galapagos Islands are an ideal natural laboratory to inspire new teaching methods.

Exploring European Outdoor Education Models – Lower school science teacher Taylor Small used her Henderson Grant to travel to Finland and Estonia to explore incorporating the outdoor education programs (sometimes known as “forest school” education) of northern Europe into practice at Norwood.

Eighth Grade Science – Science teacher Claudia Logan used her Summer Innovation Grant to enhance the eighth-grade science curriculum with more project-based, design-thinking orientated lesson plans.

World Languages

Lower School and Middle School World Languages – World languages coordinator (and Spanish teacher) Vicky Masson led a team of teachers, including Carmen Alvarez (Spanish), Nancy Harvey (French), Lan Jin (Mandarin), and Rosine Riachi (French), to bring together knowledge, skills, understanding, resources, and technology to create a stronger and more cohesive world languages program, PK to eighth grade.


PK-8 Information Literacy – Media resource specialists Kelly Dickinson and Liz Gray worked together to develop a comprehensive scope and sequence for library information literacy skills to more closely align with and support Norwood’s reading/language arts curriculum, library professional standards of practice, and the School’s DEI goals in grades PK-8.

Physical Education & Athletics

Athletic Director Training Camp – P.E. teacher and assistant athletic director Collin Danielson attended a three-day intensive program in Charlottesville, VA, to deepen his knowledge and expertise on a wide range of topics relevant to education-based athletics, including equipment management, communication, legal issues, budgeting, and hiring.

Cross-Curricular Work

Kindergarten Social Studies and Science – Kindergarten homeroom teachers Sarah Bickart, Sarah Lee, Andy Morgan, and Wendy Wilson completed a comprehensive review of the kindergarten social studies curriculum and worked with lower school science teacher Chris Ward to identify cross-curricular opportunities.

Second Grade Social Studies and Science – Second grade teachers Alleyne Aiken and Emily Bramowitz worked with Director of Curriculum and Instruction Fielding Winters to update the social studies curriculum, particularly its focus on water and how it connects people to places, and then worked with lower school science teacher Chris Ward to develop a cross-curricular unit with science.

Third Grade Math, Social Studies, and RLA – Third grade teachers Bridget Donofrio, Hannah Ingram, Esther Stanton, and Terri Woodard used their Summer Innovation Grant to further integrate math, social studies, and RLA. Specific goals of their work included increasing the depth and breadth of student understanding of social justice topics throughout history, developing critical literacy skills, and deepening students’ understanding of themselves as empowered citizens of the world with a sense of community responsibility. In addition, they enhanced the “Dear Data” unit that uses math and art to build different ways of seeing the world.

Sixth Grade Science and RLA – Science teacher Casey Kunkel and RLA teacher Victoria Wilbur worked together to align the sixth grade RLA endangered species project with the sixth grade classification and geologic time scales unit in science. Specifically, they explored areas where Casey could teach science topics to support the students’ research on their species, such as species classification, evolution, ecological niches, mass extinction events, and the environmental impact that occurs when a species is removed from its ecosystem.

Seventh and Eighth Grade English and History – Teachers Craig Hollander (history), Janet McDermott (English), Susan O’Connell (English), Risa Seidman (history), and Victoria Wilbur (RLA) gathered to codify writing standards for grades 5-8, then developed rubrics to be applied consistently in seventh- and eighth-grade English and history classes.

Middle School Advisory

Sixth Grade Overnight Experiences – Sixth grade advisors Carole Freret, Jack McCune, Neelam Minera, and Mimi Mulligan spent time reviewing the goals and activities of the current overnight experience and researching other options that would more closely align with our mission.

Advisory Curriculum for Grades 7 & 8 – Seventh- and eighth-grade lead advisors Kelly Dickinson and Risa Seidman reviewed and solidified the scope and sequence of the advisory curriculum. During this process, they developed new anchor lessons and optional drop-in activities to enrich the student experience. Their work resulted in an updated yearlong calendar and an advisory binder of resources and lessons plans.

Building a Culture of Thinking

Washington International School Summer Institute for Teachers (WISSIT) – Emily Bramowitz (second grade), Liz Gray (lower school library), Sandra Gobar (art), Craig Hollander (history) and Holly Simpson (first grade) participated in the 10th annual WISSIT, which brings together educators from all types of schools, as well as community-based early learning centers, museums, and other educational settings, for the purpose of exploring ideas, pedagogical tools, and frameworks developed at Project Zero (PZ), a research group at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. This intense (and fun!) week of professional learning introduces educators to effective strategies for cultivating deep thinking and understanding at all grade levels and across subject areas.

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

National Diversity Practitioners Institute – Third grade teacher Hannah Ingram attended the 9th annual National Diversity Practitioners Institute, a three-day program designed for educators who want to sharpen their skills and deepen their practice around creating equitable and inclusive school communities.

Student Assessment

Pre-Kindergarten Report Cards – PK teacher Diana Hashem received a Summer Innovation Grant to assess the current PK report card and refine the standards to better communicate student progress to PK families.

Visit Norwood’s Instagram account (@norwoodschoolbethesda) to see photos of many of our teachers engaged in summer professional development work.
Located in Bethesda, MD, Norwood School develops students in grades PK-8 into confident lifelong learners who have the academic, character, and leadership skills to succeed in high school and beyond. Recognizing that children are multi-faceted, Norwood provides many opportunities for safe risk-taking, exploration, discovery, and growth in a nurturing, supportive, and inclusive school community.