SSL Certificate

P.C.P.D. September 2017

Penn Charter Professional Development

September 2017

Published monthly by William Penn Charter School in the interest of our faculty and staff.


News to Know


The Eighth Grader and the Chop Saw: A Field Guide to Teaching in the IdeaLab

by Jim Fiorile

In the summer of 2016, I set a goal to incorporate IdeaLab projects into the Middle School Latin curriculum, and we did in fact spend the 2016-2017 school year working on a project about Roman aqueducts. Some reflections.

Thursday afternoon in the IdeaLab, late February.
The seventh grade Latin class is making the parts of the wooden aqueduct, supervised by the two eighth grade geometry students who have spent most of this year on the design. Some Latin students are using the drill press to bore holes in the wood blocks that have already been cut while others are glueing little magnets into the holes. One geometry student is using theorems to design the trapezoid-shaped pieces that join the individual arches of the aqueduct. The other, well trained and wearing safety goggles, is standing at the chop saw, wood beam in hand.  He takes one last look at his measurements, makes sure he is following the safety protocols, and while Mr. Brown looks on, pulls the trigger on the saw. The blade screams, but his hand stays steady, and he slowly lowers it to make his cut . . . . 

After a year of working on the project, I’ve come away with six big takeaways that teachers might find useful if they want to do a similar project.

Let students make as many decisions as possible. I was going to design and make the aqueduct myself, when I heard that two eighth grade math students were going to be in a geometry seminar where they would be studying lots of the math I’d need for my design. I decided to hand the task entirely over to these students. They made every single design decision.

The project presents a soft-structured and hands-on experience to seventh graders. One day they arrived to the classroom to find a pile of wood blocks sitting on the floor. I told them that these blocks could create a working aqueduct, and their job was to find out what the design of an aqueduct looks like, and to build the different parts in teams that I assign. The project tested their ability to work through challenges in a team setting as much as it showed what elegant builders the Romans are.

Your project is going to take longer than you think. My goal was to have this project completed by Spring Break. I hadn’t factored in the time it would take to coordinate with Corey Kilbane about the IdeaLab, my department chair about permission to spend money, Tague Lumber about the delivery of the wood, geometry teacher Charlie Brown about the required math, the geometry students about every design decision they made, Charlie again about the unforeseen consequences of actually trying to build the students’ design, and this was all before the end users—my seventh graders—ever got their hands on the project. We didn’t complete the project until late May.  Keep your expectations modest in the first year of a project like this.

Continued . . . 



This summer, Christy Cook led a professional development institute for teachers of the SEPUP middle school science curriculum.

Lisa Reedich and Marcy Sosa presented a breakout workshop session at the 2017 ADVIS MCRC Cheryl Irving Cultural Competency Institute held at Episcopal Academy on August 25.

In June, Joan Rosen presented a workshop entitled "Reggio Emilia Approach: Education Based on Relationships and Participation" to the early childhood teachers at Tower Hill School.

Congratulations and special thanks to PC colleagues who offered workshops during our opening meetings: Sarah Aguilar-Francis, Alice Bateman, Paul Blackwood, Karen Campbell, Julian Guindon, Corey Kilbane, Beth Menzie, Teodora Nedialkova and Tom Rickards.


Alice Bateman married Chris Kirchner on June 17.

Elizabeth Coombs married Chuck Hitschler on July 8.

Brooke Giles and her husband Jon Sgro welcomed a son, Ansel Ignacio Giles Sgro, on August 26.


News and Notes

Ed Foley attended a three-day workshop at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia in late June. The work centered around "Economic Forces in US History.”

Megan Kafer attended a conference held by the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was entitled “Early Childhood Education as Activism: Stewardship, Social Justice and Global Engagement.”

While at the Chautauqua Institution in July, Nora Landon attended an Educator’s Workshop on the Constitution led by the National Constitution Center.

Cory Moy participated in the National TPRS Conference this summer in San Antonio, Texas.

This June, Brooke Stratton spent a week in Boston at the Oxbridge Teacher Seminar. She participated in the study group “Issues in American History.” The group spent the week taking advantage of Boston's rich history, with activities including a number of walking tours, museum visits and cultural attractions.

Lisa Turner is creating a video on Darryl Ford’s art and memorabilia collections to use as a teaching tool for linking Black American history with American Literature, Civics, and other courses. The film includes photos of items from Darryl’s home collections as well as the objects he shares in classroom presentations.

Melanie Wills participated in the Delaware Valley ACCT-Dow Teacher Summit for a week in June. During the summit she created a resource for the ACCT website as well as participated in various PD activities, including a session on using demonstrations as a teaching tool, a session on the role of labs in AP Chemistry, and visiting DOW chemical to tour several labs.

Robert Wilson attended the 2017 Sweetwater GearFest in Fort Wayne, Indiana. This two-day clinic was filled with workshops, concerts and presentations led by industry pros. Sweetwater is one of the world's most renowned dealers in the music equipment, sound and recording industry.


Faculty and Staff Changes

Sara Perine, after being in our Lower School community for the past three years, has resigned to take a position as Director of Communications for a documentary film group. Sara led our Girls On the Run program in its inaugural year last year for our Lower School girls.


Welcome to New Faces!

Click here for a directory of new faculty and staff.



The Eco Corner
by Tom Rickards

Welcome Back, Friends!

The Eco Corner will continue as a regular feature in PCPD. This space will be dedicated to information and happenings related to stewardship and environmental practices at school.

Getting Outdoors
One fun(d) activity we will be involved in again this fall is the Friends of the Wissahickon All Trails Challenge (ATC). Starting now until the end of November (29th), we are encouraging you to connect with others and get out and explore as many of the 50 miles of the Wissahickon trails as you can. By asking generous donors to support you for around $1 a mile (or more), you can join our team: PC Hikes. This team is aiming to have 25 members who will help us reach our fundraising goal of $1000. All money raised helps support Friends of the Wissahickon in efforts to preserve and maintain the beauty of the Wissahickon Valley Park. There are lots of fun giveaways, and we will also be sponsoring PC “hikes and outings” as well. Please let me know if you are interested in learning more.

The following is from our Campus Learning Constable, Lisa Turner: I want to make known that there are four on-campus learning garden spaces. With the exception of the kindergarten, all spaces encourage adults to orient children toward harvest and "snacking." These are not precious or proprietary spaces. That means that adults should feel free to orient children and invite them to pick and taste what is growing. I will be continuing to work on permanent signage—it is the best way to engage with student curiosity and capacity for authentic learning.

It was a great summer for produce. The main message is that we had vegetables growing in spaces where children populate and could taste. Cucumbers were a big hit in the mornings at summer camp. I am hoping to identify more of these times throughout the year to create "snacking sessions" or "office hours," during which an adult or student can orient children to what is growing by encouraging them to pick and taste.

At Strawbridge, we had almost no loss of produce—two varieties of tomato, with a third coming ripe now—beans and squash. Jennifer Fiss helped coordinate parent involvement, so with the help of Debbie McIlvaine and parent-daughter duo Peguy Saintil and Vivienne (second grade), we ensured regular produce collection even with strong growth and heavy rains.

The kindergarten is growing wild and wooly with a fine blend of pumpkins, sunflowers and Empress trees, which are a huge invasive that masquerades as a sunflower. With the help of Garden Assassin Josie Wallmuth, I am working hard on a termination plan for the Empress infestation. 

Waste Choices
This year we are also moving away from the clear plastic "to go" containers and instead using these Bridge Gate hinged containers made from compostable and organic materials like sugarcane, bamboo, reed and other fibers. While our composting company, Organic Waste Diversion, is not able to take non-food products like this in our compost, our carbon footprint will be minimized with these new containers. These containers will go in the trash, but it is better than the single-use plastic ones, which we had been using and were largely thrown in the trash anyway. The BEST choice continues to be reusable plates and cups. If you and our students are eating lunch outside the cafeteria and are choosing reusables, please let me know if you need help finding ways to return them to our dish station.

If you are interested in keeping track of hikes, outings and other events, here is a Google calendar link: PC Outdoor Adventures. If you have other ideas or want to get involved, please contact Tom Rickards ( We have a great group of friendly colleagues who are ready to help support each other and our planet!!


Notes from the TLC

by Ruth Aichenbaum 

Welcome back to school! Thanks for the answering the TLC Quia survey during opening meetings. If for some reason you didn’t have a chance to fill out the survey, here’s the link. I look forward to using your feedback and collaborating with you to develop workshops and programming to help you reach your goals as learners and teachers.

Upcoming TLC sessions include

  • Back-to-School Night: Q & A for Upper School teachers
  • Hub Rubrics: A New Way to Grade
  • Learn about the VITAL Quaker Pop-Up Book Project
  • You Asked Me to Take Notes But I Don't Know How: Note-taking in the Digital Age
  • Classroom Management
  • The Workshop Model of Teaching
  • How to Clerk a Meeting
  • One-to-One Mac Help
  • IdeaLab Open Hours
  • Teaching Tolerance Webinars
  • Jefferson University, East Falls Campus weekly Talking Teaching
  • Mindful Meditation

Here is the link to sign up for a workshop. I’m still planning more sessions and will let you know about them in the weekly divisional weekend emails and in the Coming Attraction Posters I hang in the division mailrooms. If you see a session you’d like to attend, but the timing doesn’t work, please email me ( and I can set up a one-to-one session.

Each month this year, I’ll share resources from the prior month’s workshops so that you can learn about the topics even if you weren’t able to attend a session. Below are links to Presentations/ Resources from some of last May’s TLC sessions:

Once again this year we have access to professional development at Jefferson University, East Falls Campus (formerly Philadelphia University) as they do to ours. Each Wednesday from 12:00 to 1:00pm we are invited to attend their Talking Teaching. I’ll post the weekly educational topic of the talks on our Genius Signup a few days before the talk. The discussions are rich and conversations have led to exciting partnerships between our schools. 

As always, I am happy to meet with you to discuss specific workshops you’d like to attend or teach. I’m also available to facilitate a Critical Friends Group, arrange a classroom visit and/ or arrange a one-to-one session with a mentor on a topic of your choice. The TLC is ours to grow together! Please let me know if you have ideas for new ways to provide meaningful PD. You can schedule an appointment on the front page of our TLC website, stop by the TLC, or send me an email. While you’re on the TLC website, I invite you to explore its many online resources. Hope to see you at the TLC!


Professional Development News

Professional Development Funds
Penn Charter’s policy regarding the allocation of professional development monies is prioritized so that money will be awarded to those requests which present the greatest intersection of institutional, departmental and personal needs which focus on the professional growth of faculty members. Monies will be prioritized for projects which best meet the goals of the Strategic Vision, including excellence, innovation and collaboration. In general, requests for equipment (computer cords, iPads, charging cables, etc…) should be directed to department chairs. Such expenses are not eligible for professional development funds.

As in past years, each full-time faculty member is guaranteed, but not required to spend, $250 per year for professional development. If faculty find that they need funding beyond the annual $250, they may apply for additional monies. To apply for additional funding, faculty need to obtain approval of their division head in the Lower School or their department chair in the Middle and Upper Schools and then contact the academic dean to see if there is funding available. The academic dean must give final approval for additional funding. Please note that starting in the 2017-2018 school year, the $250 annual amount allocated for each full-time faculty member cannot be carried over to the next school year.

Please direct any questions regarding professional development to David Brightbill.

Professional Development Opportunities
Click here for more information on upcoming professional development opportunities. Please remember to fill out the Request for Professional Development Funds Form and attach it to your registration.

109 Online
Do you need tech solutions at your fingertips? Visit 109Online.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 11.56.21 AM.png


What I try to tell young people is that if you come together with a mission, and it's grounded with love and a sense of community, you can make the impossible possible.

—John Lewis









Penn Charter

A Friends School for Girls and Boys, Pre-K to 12

3000 West School House Lane Philadelphia, PA 19144 215.844.3460
powered by finalsite