TCSS discusses Project Zero with Lions, Rotary

Published 8:23 pm Friday, October 19, 2018

Members of the Troup County School System gathered for a joint meeting of the LaGrange Lions Club and LaGrange Rotary Club Wednesday afternoon to give a presentation to both groups related to Project Zero, a week-long professional development course offered by Harvard University to educators from around the world. 

“This is one of the most challenging professional learning opportunities available to teachers from around the world,” said interim Troup County Schools Superintendent Roy Nichols. “Those who attend return with an entirely different philosophy on education and make immediate changes to their instructional practices.”

Project Zero, which began in 1967 and has developed greatly since then, focuses primarily on giving educators tools and practices to help students develop critical thinking skills. It is an intensive program that has a maximum attendance of approximately 450 attendees. 

The Troup County School System, however, was introduced to the program in 2016. At the time, the school system sent then-teacher of the year Michelle Ashmore to experience the program. Ashmore came back singing the praises of the program, the following year the school system was able to send five people to attend the program. This past summer, those five returned with five additional teachers, 10 in total. 

Those teachers were Shea Spencer and Laura Banks of Callaway High School, Mesha Cameron of Callaway Middle School, Hailey Montarella of Callaway Elementary School, Randy Hardigree and Lisa Skinner of LaGrange High School, David Diehl and Kayla Yeargin of Troup County High School, Debbie Cox of Gardner-Newman Middle School and Sara Proctor of Ethel Kight Elementary School. 

“My participation in Project Zero has been a life-changing experience for me, no doubt,” said Hardigree, who is currently in his 25th year as a teacher. “The Project Zero experience truly took my teaching ability to a new level.” 

“The program itself has given all of us so much that we have been able to take back to our students,” said Proctor. “This program stands out up against all other professional development opportunities.”

Spencer, the Troup County Project Zero team leader, spoke to the program’s intent to reveal teacher’s core motivations for teaching, and help educators return to the values that brought them to the profession originally. 

“This program puts your entire philosophy of teaching into perspective,” Spencer said. “This helps reveal what we truly value. Do we value test scores? Do we value growth percentiles? Or do we truly value creativity and understanding empathy and the individualized learning experience. This reinvigorated for us that we truly value the right things.”