PAA Hosts Professional Learning Community for Teachers Citywide

December 14, 2015 | Liesl Vistaunet

Every month, Portland Adventist Academy hosts language teachers in a Professional Learning Community (PLC), the only one of its kind in the Portland metro area. The PLC supports educators using an innovative teaching method called Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS).

The 20 language teachers in the PLC teach Spanish, Korean, French or American Sign Language. They come from 14 different elementary, junior high and high schools, including Columbia Adventist Academy in Battle Ground, Wash., and Livingston Adventist Academy in Salem. “[We’re from] public, private and parochial schools, as well as two new teachers who teach at an after-school language program,” says Rita Barrett, head of PAA’s language department who founded the PLC in 2011. 

The PLC meets for a few hours one Sunday a month and provides teachers the environment to discuss, model and practice TPRS. “The positive energy and enthusiasm makes this a safe place to practice and improve my skills,” says Lynn Ingraham, Vancouver (Wash.) School of Arts and Academics French and Spanish teacher.

“We make time for discussion of specific teaching skills, new ideas and to brainstorm solutions for specific problems teachers face,” says Barrett. “We make sure that each teacher has an opportunity to be heard to practice and that everyone goes away feeling supported and ready to return to class with stronger skills.”

The PLC is especially helpful for teachers new to TPRS. Angelica Dull, Kalama (Wash.) High School Spanish teacher, lost her husband suddenly and had to return to her teaching career after a 20-year absence. “Rita reached out to me about the PLC, and so I attended,” she says. “I was impressed that teaching language had changed so much. Through TPRS, students are engaged in acquiring language and are active in learning instead of the traditional way of memorizing information.” 

“It’s great to know that PAA has a level of rigor in its instruction that attracts teachers from Portland and beyond,” says Dan Nicola, PAA principal. “We’re known to others in our city as a place that encourages and seeks out empowering professional growth.”

“I'm always looking for a good teaching idea,” says Ingraham. “But of course I cannot just mimic. I have to integrate it and make it my own. Our group is a safe place for me to explore ideas with professional colleagues.”

Positive learning relationships with professionals from the greater Portland area strengthens PAA’s academic reputation as well as its emphasis on Christ-centered, character-driven values. “We have bonded so much with the passion that we have as language teachers,” says Dull. “The excitement that this group has given me has helped me regain a passion for teaching after the loss of my husband. This is priceless and forever appreciated.”