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PAA Hosts a Professional Learning Community for Teachers City Wide


The 20 teachers in the group teach Spanish, Korean, French, or American Sign Language and come from a variety of schools and teaching backgrounds.

Every month, Portland Adventist Academy hosts 20 language teachers from the Portland area in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) which supports educators who use an innovative teaching method called Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS).

The teachers teach Spanish, Korean, French, or American Sign Language. They come from 14 different elementary, junior high, and high schools, including Columbia Adventist Academy and Livingston Junior Academy. “

[We’re from] public, private and parochial schools, as well as two new teachers who teach at an after-school language program,” says Rita Barrett, head of PAA’s Language Department and host and co-founder of the PLC.

Since 2011, the PLC has met one Sunday a month. It provides teachers the environment to discuss, model, and practice TPRS. “The positive energy and enthusiasm makes this a safe place to practice and improve my skills,” says Lynn Ingraham, a French and Spanish teacher from the Vancouver School of Arts & Academics.

“We make time for discussion of specific teaching skills, new ideas and to brainstorm solutions for specific problems teachers face,” says Barrett. “We make sure that each teacher has an opportunity to be heard and to practice, and that everyone goes away feeling supported and ready to return to class with stronger skills.”


Angelica (seated right) acts as a student so her colleague, Lynn (standing), may practice a TPRS method.

The PLC is especially helpful for teachers new to TPRS. Angelica Dull, a Spanish teacher from Kalama High School, lost her husband suddenly and had to return to the teaching career after a 20 year absence. “Rita reached out to me about the PLC and so I attended,” Dull said. “I was impressed that teaching language had changed so much. Through TPRS, students are engaged in acquiring language and are active in learning instead of the traditional way of memorizing information.”

“It’s great to know that PAA has a level of rigor in its instruction that attracts teachers from Portland and beyond,” says Dan Nicola, PAA Principal. “We’re known to others in our city as a place that encourages and seeks out empowering professional growth.”

“I’m always looking for a good teaching idea,” says Ingraham. “But of course I cannot just mimic. I have to integrate it and make it my own. Our group is a safe place for me to explore ideas with professional colleagues.”

Positive learning relationships with professionals from the greater Portland area strengthens PAA’s academic reputation as well as its emphasis on Christ-centered, character-driven values. “We have bonded so much with the passion that we have as language teachers,” says Dull. “The excitement that this group has given me has helped me regain a passion for teaching after the loss of my husband. This is priceless and forever appreciated.”

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