COMMUNITY STORIES FOR 20 YEARS
Founded by Janet McGarvey in the early aughts as the Bay Area Teacher Development Collaborative with 58 Bay Area independent schools, the organization has expanded to Southern California and Central California and now boasts 140 member schools. Over the years CATDC has seen many changes, yet our transformational approach to professional development remains steady: whether you are a classroom teacher, an aspiring leader, or an experienced administrator, our programs provide you with the opportunity to develop to your full capacity and build sustaining relationships with peers from other schools.
Brittany Berriz has been a member of the History Department at Windward School since 2014. In her seven years at Windward, she has taught and written curriculum for a wide range of history classes, including World History, AP European History, AP United States History, and a foundational course taken by all ninth graders entitled “The Habits of Historical Thinking.” Brittany received her B.A. in History from UC Santa Barbara, her M.A. in Art History from the University of Southern California, and her M.A. in History from Stanford University.
Brittany Berriz’s engagement with CATDC stretches back to before she officially began as an independent school teacher. Participating in Teaching Foundations the summer before she entered Windward School as an Upper School History Teacher, Brittany experienced first-hand the unique learning and networking opportunities that a CATDC program offered. Since Teaching Foundations, Brittany has been a frequent face at CATDC offerings, attending Women + Leadership, Mastering Group Facilitation, and the year-long Professional Learning Community for History & Social Science teachers. In the spring of 2021, Brittany decided it was time to partner with the CATDC in another way - this time, as a workshop leader, sharing her experience using Inquiry-Based Learning as a pedagogical tool to increase student engagement and to develop students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Recognizing that educators in our California independent school community are often leading the way with innovative and best practices in teaching and learning, CATDC’s model of workshop development invites teacher leaders to share their expertise with a broader community, serving as mentors and guides as they facilitate the learning of educators beyond their own school. Along with her colleague Cielo Botello-Williams, Brittany proposed a two-session workshop that would invite history teachers from throughout the state to develop strategies and tools to use inquiry-based learning (IBL) in their classrooms. Ultimately, the program kicked-off in early March with almost 20 teachers from upper elementary grades through high school. Now that the sessions have finished, Brittany has had a chance to reflect on what her experience was like as a facilitator of a CATDC program.
Why did you want to facilitate a workshop with CATDC?
I have benefited tremendously from CATDC workshops in the past and always wanted to return the favor and to share what I have learned with fellow teachers. I was particularly vested, as a classroom teacher, in sharing frameworks and tools that could, ideally, offer both long-term ideas and immediate, practical benefits in our classes.
What was most surprising to you about the workshop planning and/or facilitating experience?
I was most surprised by how much fun I had. It was a tremendous amount of work, but I found myself truly living in the "flow," or that space of deep engagement that we strive for in the learning experiences we design for our students. I loved digging into IBL and thinking about how we as history teachers can make historical thinking visible to our students, and provide the spaces and frameworks for them to learn how to do our discipline. I was also incredibly inspired by my co-facilitator, Cielo Botello-Williams, and benefited tremendously from the resources she curated and the work she has done with IBL. The opportunity to think deeply about my practice and to get feedback from fellow educators was also very powerful.
How did facilitating this workshop help you grow as an educator?
I'm passionate about both IBL and curriculum design, and I came away with an even deeper understanding of the connection between the two. I feel like my own practice benefited tremendously, and that I am much more intentional with how I'm using IBL to develop my students' skills as historians. I also have a lot of new ideas about how to use IBL in my classes and feel more confident and empowered in experimenting with the various stages.
CATDC is always looking for passionate educators looking to share their craft with others. If you have a strategy, tool, or practice that you think others may find useful, please reach out to us! Together, we can collaborate to develop meaningful learning experiences by and for California’s independent school community.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.