Dillon Valley principal publishes book on professional development | SummitDaily.com

Dillon Valley principal publishes book on professional development

Cathy Beck, principal of Dillon Valley Elementary, spent four years working on this book, called “Easy and Effective Professional Development: The Power of Peer Observation to Improve Teaching,” which was released in early September.
Special to the Daily |

Dillon Valley Elementary principal Cathy Beck co-authored a book that was released in early September and targets school principals, district superintendents and other education leaders looking to improve teaching methods or strengthen what is working in the classrooms.

The method discussed in “Easy and Effective Professional Development: The Power of Peer Observation to Improve Teaching” is built on Beck’s belief that professional development should be an ongoing process that provides feedback and is embedded within the job.

“This model puts teachers in charge of their own professional development,” she said.

When she first introduced the method at Dillon Valley, a dual language school, she told teachers to focus on strategies for teaching a second language. She divided teachers among four teams, and then every two weeks each team meets and chooses a teacher to observe.

The other teachers have until the next meeting to unexpectedly visit the chosen teacher’s classroom and watch before the group reconvenes and offers feedback.

“You get a really good look,” Beck said, especially because the observations aren’t evaluations with attached consequences.

They are simply supportive, she said, and the method benefits new and experienced educators teaching every subject.

The technique is a cheap, effective way of rolling out big changes, she added, like this year’s switch to the state’s new mandatory online test aligned with the national Common Core standards.

The method was born out of a need to turn around a school fast.

Six years ago, Beck was the principal of Lake County High School in Leadville, where she realized her background in elementary education didn’t lend itself to coaching every high school teacher.

She gathered the school’s star teachers, and together they created the peer observation method.

“We really were just creating it by the seat of our pants just trying to meet the needs of our building,” she said.

They started using the technique in the fall of 2008, and a year and a half later, the school won the Governor’s Award for Growth.

Beck’s book pulls data from Dillon Valley Elementary, which has seen strong academic growth in recent years, test scores and teacher surveys from Lake County High School and research from other schools that she later found also use the method.


Summit High School recently received a number of building and grounds improvements.

Workers replastered the high school’s pool during the February break, said Woody Bates, school district facilities manager, to the school board at a meeting Sept. 9.

Over the summer, his crew replaced a broken partition wall in the gym, overhauled the auditorium rigging with 3.5 miles of aircraft carrier cables and a fire curtain and did drainage work on a sidewalk notorious for flooding and ice issues.

Also at the high school, Bates went several stories into the air to replace the stadium lights, and his workers plowed off the turf field rubber, originally installed in 2009, and added back tons of rubber.

At Breckenridge, Dillon Valley and Frisco elementary schools, workers removed asbestos.

“We’re slowly chipping away at our known asbestos in the district,” Bates said. He aims to make Summit one of few districts in the state that is asbestos-free. “We’re close.”

At Breckenridge Elementary, construction crews redid the parking and parent pick-up area in hopes of easing congestion, and at Summit Cove Elementary, the district hired a plumber who spent six weeks fixing leaky pipes.


Monday, Sept. 29

Summit Middle School, Volleyball vs. HPS, 4:45 p.m.

Summit High School, JV Football vs. Eagle Valley, 4 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 30

Summit High School, Soccer vs. Steamboat, 4/6 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 2

Summit High School, Volleyball vs. Steamboat, 4:30/5:30/6:30 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 3

Summit High School, Homecoming, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 4

Summit Middle School, Volleyball vs. Lake County, 9 a.m.

Summit High School, Rugby vs. Northside, 11 a.m.

Please send education news to Alli Langley at alangley@summitdaily.com

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.