Columbus Academy sends its staffers around the globe to grow professionally.
Having summers off might sound like an easy life to workers outside the education industry, but during the school year, teaching is emotional and demanding. What better way to rejuvenate than by visiting the fjords of Norway?
One Columbus Academy teacher did just that, and it wasn't a family vacation. It was a school-sponsored side trip during his time in the Scandinavian country for a mathematics conference. That kind of support earned the institution high praise in the annual Columbus CEO Top Workplaces survey of employees, leading to a special award for training. Teachers who are centered and personally fulfilled are better able to craft learning experiences that prepare children for the challenges ahead, says Melissa Soderberg, head of school at Columbus Academy. “Teaching is not a 9-to-5 job. ... It's very important that they have a sense of renewal after the intensity of the year,” Soderberg says.
As a top private school in central Ohio, Academy has dedicated uncommon resources to developing its staff in the form of grants. Funds can be won for classroom-related travel or completely personal journeys. For example, a grant sent one English teacher to take in Shakespeare productions at The Globe Theatre in London. Another faculty member who was raised by adoptive parents pursued her Polish heritage on a school grant, tracking down the town where her birth family originated—and finding a community of people who looked like her.
Suzanne Ritter, the school psychologist for the middle school at Academy, has studied positive psychology since last fall using an Academy grant that sent her to Washington, D.C., for seven weekends and to Australia for two weeks.
Ritter received training in Australia from the Institute of Positive Education at Geelong Grammar School, the birthplace of positive psychology in education. During her time in Washington, she participated in 240 hours of training leading to a certificate in applied positive psychology from the New York-based Flourishing Center.
She's taking that learning back to school to share with the administration and teaching faculty, but it changed her personal outlook as well. “It's really helped me try to slow down and take a look at how I'm feeling and have more gratitude and more mindfulness,” Ritter says. “I think generally speaking I was a pretty positive person to begin with, but you know like the rest of us, there's a lot of comparison [to others] in life and worry about what's down the road. Positive psychology doesn't get rid of those things, but it helps you manage them better. It's made a huge difference on a real, personal level.”
Katy Smith is a freelance writer.