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Linn-Mar Hosts Professional Development PLC Event


Tim Brown speaks to Linn-Mar staff at Professional Learning Community event

Tim Brown presents the keynote address The PLC Journey – Creating a School of High Expectations to Linn-Mar staff.

After two years in the making, the Linn-Mar Community School District hosted a two-day Solution Tree Professional Leadership Community (PLC) experience for more than 575 teachers, administrators, and staff during the district’s October professional learning days.


The event featured a keynote address entitled, The PLC Journey – Creating a School of High Expectations, breakout sessions (led by one of five conference presenters), an expert panel, and team time for each school.

According to Solution Tree, PLC helps schools create a collaborative culture, sustain successes district-wide and align resources and time to focus on results. PLC is also focused on increasing student achievement. The basics of PLC principles are outlined in four critical questions that each PLC team meeting focuses on:

*What do students need to know and be able to do?
*How will we know when they have learned it?
*What will we do when they haven’t learned it?
*What will we do when they already know it?

“Linn-Mar was first introduced to PLC during a conference attended in Minneapolis around eight years ago,” said Associate Superintendent Shannon Bisgard, one of several administrators who helped bring the event to Linn-Mar. A few years later the district began sending a group of teachers and administrators to conferences held regionally each summer. Bisgard estimates that at least half of certified staff had been able to attend a conference in the past.

Bringing the conference to Linn-Mar provides multiple benefits to

the district including all teaching staff gaining the ability to use a common language and knowledge base. “This allows our buildings to move forward in a unified fashion since everyone has had the same training,” Bisgard said. “There is also a substantial cost savings to the district without travel, food, and lodging expenses for staff. The state provides school districts with funds designated specifically for professional development,” he added.

Ken Williams speaks to Linn-Mar staff

Kenneth Williams gives a presentation entitled, Starting a Movement, Moving Students To and Through the BAR in a PLC.


“Another benefit is that all of our students get what they need, whether it’s extra support or more academic challenges,” Bisgard said. It also ensures the district is always looking at data to make sure no student falls in between the cracks. “PLC really takes teaching from being an individualized, behind closed doors, classroom approach to more of a collective effort between teacher teams and the building overall.”

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Numerous teachers have commented on the high quality of presentations and appreciation for the chance to spend time together with their PLC teams during the two-day session. “There’s a real optimism regarding where we can go next,” Bisgard said in closing. “I’ve heard that teachers are very excited to go back to their buildings and put what they’ve learned to work to help our kids.”

Indian Creek Principal Marilee McConnell added, “this was the first time that our entire district staff could learn and grow together around the concepts of becoming a Professional Learning Community.” The recent institute has landed all of us in a great place. “We can re-assess our current reality and take thoughtful steps to improve our practice and enhance student learning,” she stated.

Novak Elementary staff meet to discuss Professional Learning Communities

Novak Elementary staff meet to discuss Professional Learning Communities during team time.

Attending the PLC sessions with colleagues, across curricular areas and grade levels, enhanced the experience and learning for Sue Krause, a teacher librarian at Oak Ridge Middle School. “I appreciate the effort that went into making this professional development a reality and was impressed with the speakers, sessions and logistics of the PLC conference.”

Linn-Mar High School Teacher Danielle Patterson agrees saying the PLC conference opened her eyes to what a professional learning community can really look like. “I had the ‘a-ha’ moment,” she said. “It really pushed me to look at how I teach and what I can do to be the best educator I can be; utilizing the resources we have in our school district as well as growing together is key.”