Located in Aurora, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, William Smith High School serves 300 students who seek a unique educational experience based on Project Based Learning and the deep exploration of academic content, along with extensive travel and service experiences. Teaching students well at William Smith requires a collaborative effort between teachers and administrators to create a professional development system dedicated to creating a world of discovery and learning. That professional development system has made William Smith High School a thriving educational institution.
Every Friday afternoon is allotted for developing the projects that drive student learning. Teachers use the time to collaborate with co-teachers and professionals “in the field,” or in whole and small group guided work. Additionally, days are built into the calendar to accommodate all-day workshops and retreats, and Wednesday morning meetings allow the staff to connect and discuss events and ideas.
William Smith knows that it does not have all the answers, and so teachers look without as well as within to hone their practice. Throughout the year teachers attend institutes offered through the Expeditionary Learning Education, Advanced Placement Institutes, outings at art galleries and museums, and travel to successful and innovative schools across the country. A connection to the Boettcher Residency Program brings in resident student teachers for an intense student teaching experience in this non-traditional school.
Constantly evolving and thinking to the future, and the time dedicated to growth and collaboration, are critical for the success of any school. William Smith High School provides an extraordinary example of what professional development in a School of Opportunity can be.