Teachers and staff at Dutchess BOCES promote lifelong learning. Part of instilling this mindset in students is setting an example by participating in continued learning themselves. While school was not in session on Friday, March 8, 2024, Dutchess BOCES teachers and staff spent Superintendent’s Conference Day growing in their positions and learning together. “These conference days allow us to move our common initiatives forward,” Deputy Superintendent Jodi Delucia said. “We are able to provide professional learning opportunities that promote collaboration with a focus on student success.”
These initiatives focus on multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS), diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), literacy instruction, and pedagogy, curriculum mapping and design. Aspects of these initiatives could be seen across a variety of sessions throughout the day.  
“We are a community of learners, and that's something we want to keep fostering and keep expanding,” Delucia continued. “When you have access to your colleagues and you have the time to spend together and brainstorm, that's when really great things can happen. I saw great engagement everywhere I went today and that shows the dedication of our faculty and staff.” 
Delucia also thanked the executive planning team for their hard efforts to make everything come together. 
Denise Dzikowski, the executive director for special and alternative education, was part of this team. “We have been soliciting input from staff for our Superintendent’s Conference Days more so than ever before through professional development committee meetings. In doing so, I think I can honestly say we had the highest number of positive comments Friday than I can recollect in all my years here,” shared Dzikowski. “We appreciate the staff’s input in planning meaningful and relevant presentations.” 

CTI teachers prepare for industry assessments, learn best practices 

Teachers from the Career and Technical Institute (CTI) started their day with a session on preparing for industry assessments, led by principal Nick Millas and assistant principal Brian Conte. Each trade has at least one industry assessment, from organizations such as NOCTI and YouScience, to earn industry certifications. 
“They develop the assessments in collaboration with industry partners, so it’s what the industry says they want from students coming out of this level of education,” shared principal Nick Millas. “Students can use it as part of the interview process to show that they graduated from Dutchess BOCES with full technical endorsement.” 
In addition to talking about how to set up the exams online, teachers shared their experiences with the exams, including troubleshooting, to help each other get ready for the end of the year. 

“Personally, I really enjoy Superintendent’s Conference Days and look forward to them,” shared Amanda Scoca, who teaches Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management at CTI. “I feel that being a new teacher, I didn't really have the background of what it's like working in a school. Coming here and having these conference days is helpful because this is my first year having a senior class. I didn’t know a lot about exams and the final testing for those students, and this session made it a lot clearer for me.” 

Just like their students, it is important for teachers to get up and moving while learning, and also to have fun while doing it. CTI teachers participated in five 15-minute speed rounds of professional development later in the day, going from classroom to classroom to learn from mini-lessons and activities taught by colleagues about best practices in the classroom.  

Teaching assistants, aides review IEP 

Teaching assistants and aides spent part of their morning reviewing and learning more about Individualized Education Plans (IEP) from Cara Braun, a professional development specialist at Dutchess BOCES. 
IEPs are legal documents and a written plan of action to help educate, monitor and communicate student growth and progress. The plan is developed, implemented and monitored by school staff. An IEP is a flexible working document that can be adjusted as necessary and are reviewed once a year. 
“It’s a snapshot of who that student is at every level, academically socially, emotionally, and it lets a TA know how to support them best so they can be successful in meeting their goals for the year,” Braun said.
Braun’s goal for the session: “I hope they have a better understanding of their students’ individual education plans and the role they play in implementing those plans, really helping support those students to meet those goals by the end of the school year.”
“I also hope they learn some tools for collaborating with special education teachers and other related service providers they may have to work with because the stronger those relationships are, the better they can support their students.” 

Co-regulation skills support students 

In-district teachers, 1:1 aides and teaching assistants participated in a session called “Assisting Students in Emotional Regulation,” led by Dr. Joshua Steinfeld from the Regional Partnership Center. 

Participants worked to hone their co-regulation skills to build relationships and create a nurturing environment for students. Regulatory supports help students regain composure when needed and over time build self-regulation skills. Co-regulation can take on many different forms. It could look like creating a calm or energetic classroom environment by adjusting the lights. It might also be validating a student’s emotions or reminding students of strategies or choices they could use to manage a situation.

“Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent. Whatever you practice grows stronger. If we can help students practice the right thing over and over again, they will get better at it,” shared Steinfeld.   

Participants went through a workbook together to reflect on their own self-regulation - since this is important when supporting students - discussed examples of dysregulated interactions and ways they could be handled more effectively and added strategies to their co-regulation toolbox. 

Mental, physical illnesses connected 

A session connecting mental and physical illnesses was offered to nurses by Salena Gray, deputy director of the day treatment program in the Hudson Valley for Astor Services. 

Gray shared facts such as someone may develop a mental illness as the result of a chronic illness such as asthma, cancer, heart disease and diabetes or a person may develop a physical condition from having a mental illness such as anxiety and depression. 

Gray also shared numbers such as more than one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness, over one in five children ages 13 to 18 have or will have a debilitating mental illness, nearly one in three people with a long-term physical health condition may develop a mental illness and less than a third of the people with depression seek treatment. 

“Depression is so debilitating," said Gray. "When you’re depressed, you don’t feel great mentally, you don’t feel great physically.” 

Regular exercise and eating a proper diet that is high in fruits and vegetables helps with mental and physical illnesses, Gray said.

Vocabulary creates exponential growth 

Teachers from the Resilience Academy attended a session on explicit vocabulary instruction, led by Ruairi Gribbon from the Regional Partnership Center. This collaborative session got teachers speaking with each other about the content that was presented along the way, and sharing out what thoughts they had on how to support instruction in the school.  

Gribbon shared the benefits of explicit vocabulary instruction; academic vocabulary can support understanding in multiple subjects, and vocabulary in general is connected to reading comprehension.  

“If you start teaching kids words, then they are going to be able to figure out other words based on the words you taught them,” shared Gribbon. “Then they’re able to read more, which means they encounter more words and are reading more sophisticated things, so it’s got this exponential growth curve to it when we’re teaching kids vocabulary on a regular basis.”  

The teachers also discussed how exactly to implement this in the classroom, from the selection and quantity of vocabulary to using AI to support planning. 

“I think one of the interesting things I got from the session was using ChatGPT to help you formulate not just vocabulary but also simpler definitions or ways to incorporate it into the lessons. I think I'm going to be using that more,” shared Spanish teacher Amy McCann. “I felt like everything we had today was something that I could use. It was all practical and there were good instructors.”