The annual Standards Aligned System (SAS) Institute through the PA Department of Education was December 11 - 13, 2023, at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center. This year’s theme was “Successful Leadership: Shaping Your School’s Story.” Attendees were treated to several excellent keynote speakers, countless options for breakout sessions, and even the announcement of the 2024 NSTOY-PA (National Network of State Teachers of the Year) Teacher of the Year.
South Fayette Township School District had a tremendous representation at this year’s institute including conducting four breakout sessions, further highlighting our commitment to innovation in education. Additionally, Ms. Melissa Unger, as a 2023 Teacher of the Year finalist, participated in a session with the 11 other finalists from last year, “Personal Stories that Positively Impact Students and the Community from the NSTOY-PA Class of 2023 Finalists.”
Breakout sessions led by South Fayette faculty and staff included:
- “The Pittsburgh World of Work Journey” hosted by Intermediate School Assistant Principal Kristen Johnson with Ms. Ashli Detweiler, who oversees the Pittsburgh World of Work Program. They explained how students discover their strengths, interests, and workplace preferences through RIASEC and shared the journey toward successful implementation of the programming in four Pittsburgh-area districts with plans for further expansion.
- “Not All Tools Are Created Equal: Using Different Tools for Different Purposes” hosted by Director of Curriculum Cristine Wagner-Deitch with Ms. Jenn Ross from the Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System (PVAAS) of the PA Department of Education. Together, they introduced and explained six tools available to educators to support continuous improvement in schools.
- “Artificial Intelligence: Understanding Why and Exploring What’s Possible” hosted by Director of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships Dr. Matthew Callison and Elementary School Assistant Principal Pharlan Ives. Dr. Callison and Mrs. Ives showcased how South Fayette has embraced AI in our classrooms, led participants in hands-on AI exploration, and explained the impact AI is having on our world today.
- “You Can Grow a ‘Scholastic Esports Community’ in Your School!” hosted by Middle School Associate Principal Dr. Kevin Maurer and High School Teacher Stacey Barth. As leaders of our Esports teams, Dr. Maurer and Ms. Barth addressed the unique challenges and opportunities associated with developing a scholastic Esports program, as well as how Esports enriches education through healthy competition, team management, partnership development, inclusivity, and other benefits.
Each session was met with standing-room only attendance. Dr. Michelle Miller, Superintendent of Schools, stated, “I received texts each day of the conference from my colleagues who attended sessions hosted by our team just raving about the content of the presentations and the character of our presenters. I’m so proud that our peers in education from across the state had the opportunity to learn more about the amazing and innovative initiatives we’ve been carrying out in our district.”
Other topics at the event included educator effectiveness, strengthening relationships, supporting student growth, community partnerships, family engagement, preparing future-ready students, and so many more. The team from South Fayette enjoyed learning and networking with others from across the state and returned to campus bubbling with excitement to implement new strategies and strengthen the good work already taking place in our district.