Like a teacher at the front of a classroom full of students, Katherine Fisher stands straight and still, commanding respect, her posture calm but open as she looks expectantly out toward those she's speaking to.
"Any other ideas?" she asks, then waits.
After a brief pause, an answer is offered, followed by another from across the room, then another. Fisher takes it all in, affirming the group's efforts and then recapping the morning's lesson before giving the class a break. But Fisher's students don't need to swing by their lockers, or check to see whether they remembered to bring lunch money. Fisher's students are Spring ISD campus principals and other leaders attending a three-day Administrator Bootcamp at the district's recently opened TeachUp Spring Learning Center.
One of those principals, Todd Armelin of Winship Elementary, was grateful for the chance to get back to basics during the summer session, saying the lessons he and his fellow administrators were covering would guide their work with campus staff in the 2019-20 school year.
"We're covering our 'Teach Like a Champion' strategies," Armelin said, "and we're covering things that are a part of the SpringWay system that will be reinforced this year with all of our teachers and our instructional staff."
The center has been open just a few weeks, but already has training sessions scheduled throughout the summer months for new and returning teachers, administrators and other district staff. Located along the I-45 corridor just south of Richey Rd. in the old ITT building, Spring ISD's new professional development center is a visible sign of the district's expanded commitment to staff development.
"We're really looking forward to getting more teachers in, getting more administrators, paraprofessionals - all of our staff - so they can see the facility and embark on the training that we have here," said Fisher, executive director of strategic coaching for the district.
Spring ISD acquired the property last year, opting to save money by working with the existing structure rather than build from scratch. The 30,873-square-foot interior has been renovated extensively, with a large central training space at the heart of the building, branching out to a series of classrooms and meeting spaces for smaller groups and breakout sessions. A dedicated computer lab will allow group trainings on software and other district technology systems, while the on-site library and break areas will provide additional learning resources and spaces to relax between sessions.
One of the most significant new features, according to Fisher, is the pair of state-of-the-art simulation classrooms. The two rooms - modeled after Spring ISD primary and secondary classrooms - offer an opportunity for practice and coaching in a realistic environment, right down to the modular desks and classroom furniture. A two-way mirror separates each simulation classroom from an adjacent observation room, complete with a microphone-and-earpiece system allowing instructors in the observation room to offer real-time coaching during classroom simulations.
"The practice piece is what's so powerful," Fisher said, "because you're actually able to be coached on ways to improve the implementation of the technique, and also identify what might go wrong."
Clark Primary Principal Cynthia Gomez was among the campus leaders attending the three-day Administrator Bootcamp at the center last week, learning concepts and techniques to help support her teachers.
"Actually having a room that's set up as a classroom - so you can put into practice some of the things that you're learning - is awesome," Gomez said.
That idea was echoed by the district's executive director of professional development, Dr. Robert Lundin, who said the new center would serve as a training hub for the district, focused on incubating and developing talent from within Spring ISD.
"It's about building capacity and expertise among all members of the Spring ISD team," he said.