Posted Date: 02/07/2024
Wantagh High School English teacher Heather Naughton’s commitment to education goes beyond her five classes per day with students. She also helps her colleagues hone their craft, and that commitment is why she was accepted into the New York State Education Department’s VITAL Educator program.
Ms. Naughton and colleagues from across the state participate in the year-long professional learning community. The Virtual Implementation of Teaching and Learning program give teachers the tools to support fellow educators in virtual and hybrid instruction. When she completes the program, Ms. Naughton will be certified to train other teachers in Wantagh and beyond using Education Department-certified content.
While nothing replaces the in-person classroom experience, Ms. Naughton said that a positive outcome of the pandemic was adding virtual learning as a resource for teachers and students. For example, she said, the virtual option provides a convenient means for tutoring sessions. Educational shifts during the pandemic also helped teachers become more technologically savvy and introduce digital tools that appeal today’s learners.
Virtual learning is also a great resource for teacher training sessions. Ms. Naughton is co-director of Wantagh-Seaford TRACT, a professional development center for teachers, by teachers. It is a partnership of the two neighboring school districts. Since the introduction of more virtual training workshops last year, Ms. Naughton has seen increased participation. One popular program is the Saturday morning “PD in your PJs” workshops.
As a VITAL educator, Ms. Naughton will complete three modules. The first two will be consistent for all teachers in the program, while the third unit will be based on each teacher’s area of interest. She is wrapping up work on the first module, which focuses on the shift to multiple learning environments. As part of her work, Ms. Naughton must take sample lessons and identify how to adapt those for multiple methods of teaching.
“I love teaching teachers,” Ms. Naughton said. “I love talking about education. This is a wonderful opportunity, personally as a teacher but also as someone who helps teachers grow their own practice.”
Ms. Naughton has long been an advocate for using technology in her classroom. Her Capstone classes have long used Google Classroom as a learning management platform. Other tools her students are familiar with include Canva, Jamboard and Padlet. Of course, she said, In English sometimes the best tool is a paperback book, a piece of paper and a pen.
“You can’t use technology in isolation,” she said. “It’s the best marriage of the learning goal, the tool and the students you have in front of you.”
Ms. Naughton has been a teacher for 24 years, including 22 at Wantagh High School. She teaches ninth grade English as well as both courses in the Advanced Placement Capstone program – AP Seminar for sophomores and AP Research for juniors. She has a bachelor’s degree in theater education from Indiana University, a master’s degree in secondary English education from St. John’s University from St. John’s University and a master’s degree in literacy acquisition for grades 5-12 from Dowling College.