By Dawn Howlen
One of the benefits of NJEA membership is access to the workshops provided by Professional Development and Instructional Issues (PDII) Division consultants and staff. These workshops are conducted throughout the state in collaboration with local and county associations. The East Windsor Education Association (EWEA), which has roughly 500 members, provides ongoing professional development through the services of PDII.
EWEA has hosted a robust number of workshop participants over the last few years, drawing a significant proportion of its members. NJEA’s PDII team was interested in learning EWEA’s strategies to keep members engaged in the work and coming back for more.
According to EWEA President Ellen Ogintz and Professional Development Chair Vanessa Rosa, their plan is simple. They help members understand that they can fulfill local and state professional development mandates through EWEA and NJEA programs. In addition to the state-mandated annual 20-hour requirement, East Windsor Public Schools require 10-hours of professional development beyond what the district provides.
When school buildings reopened after COVID closed them, EWEA found that members preferred virtual workshops over in-person workshops. When the professional development sessions are virtual, the association uses the funds that would have been used for dinner to give members a $5 Dunkin’ gift card as an added incentive to attend.
Local and county associations can gather data about their members’ preferences by surveying them via platforms such as Google or Microsoft Forms. Learning about member preferences when planning upcoming professional development opportunities is helpful and can increase member participation.
While a local association can do amazing work independently, having district support is essential. Every September, Ogintz and Rosa meet with their district superintendent to discuss professional development needs and how they align with district goals. This ensures that members receive quality professional development and creates a conversation around best practices for educators, which, in turn, means great opportunities for student success. Additionally, members can sign up for NJEA workshops on the district’s professional development page.
As we move into a new season of learning and engaging with our members, we look forward to hearing more stories like East Windsor’s. If your local or county association has been successful with your NJEA-hosted professional development sessions, please contact me below so we can share your story.