Richard Cash, an educational consultant, stopped by Denison Independent School District Thursday to deliver a professional development workshop that encouraged teachers to change their frame of thinking.

Richard Cash, an educational consultant, stopped by Denison Independent School District Thursday to deliver a professional development workshop that encouraged teachers to change their frame of thinking.


The topic of the workshop was based on his book "Advancing Differentiation: Thinking and Learning for the 21st Century," which guides teachers to develop a concept-based curriculum that is differentiated for all levels of learners. The curriculum also helps build the thinking skills of their students.


Denison High School math teacher Stephanie Daniel said she enjoyed learning about the differences between the minds of a male student and a female student. She said it was also interesting to compare the minds of children, adolescents and adults.


"We learned different strategies to help the kids remember, store information and connect it to previous learning," Daniel said. "We learned ways to help kids on different levels to come together and learn at the same time."


One of the examples Daniel was able to take away from the workshop is that teaching is a like a puzzle: You first have to look at the box. She said you must teach students the big concept before teaching them the skills to build the puzzle.


"I’m hoping to get teachers to start reframing the way that we do instruction … to where the student becomes responsible for the learning rather than the teacher controlling it," Cash said. "Rather than trying to teach kids what to think, what we should be doing is teaching teachers to show kids how to think."


Cash said the three most important elements of professional development for teachers are sustaining, supporting and evaluating. Teachers need to be able to sustain their professional development through the support of workshops and resources. Then, they need to evaluate the benefits of their professional development which cannot be identified overnight.


"We can’t just give teachers this one shot wonder then expect there to be changes in the classroom," Cash said. "It takes time for that to have an impact where you can actually see it."


When it comes to evaluating a teacher and their professional development, Cash said it is important to see changes in a teacher’s behavior and an increase of motivation and engagement of the students.


"What is the magic potion for increasing student achievement? There ain’t none!" Cash said. "We want students to have increased test scores immediately, and it doesn’t happen that way. That’s one of the biggest failures in education is that we look for instantaneous change.


"It’s all about helping teachers to release control of the learning so that students start taking responsibility for their own learning."


Cash’s professional development workshop was only one of 100 opportunities Denison teachers could attend this summer. Shonda Cannon, Denison ISD director of instruction, said she believes that professional development is the "backbone of improvement" and there has been high attendance at the workshops this summer.


"We’re in the business of learning, and if we’re not learning then we can’t produce lifelong learners," Daniel said. "It’s just important every year to move yourself forward so you can move the students forward in the world."


Denison ISD has three compensated days built into the calendar for professional development. If a teacher does not have a master’s degree, Cannon said, the district requires the teacher to log 60 hours of professional development over five years. She said it’s about 10 days of professional development over the five-year period.


"One of the things he started with today is that if we teach the way we were taught, we are robbing our students of tomorrow," Cannon said. "We have to continue to improve as educators and we have to be visionaries to kind of break the mold of what’s happening in our classrooms, so that we are preparing kids for a tomorrow that we really don’t know what it looks like or the jobs that exist."