Gillispie teachers reaping benefits from endowment

By Jeanie Scott


A group of teachers at the Gillispie School recently benefitted from the Gillispie Endowment for Excellence in Teaching.

When the endowment was funded earlier this year with a $4.5 million gift, the donor wanted 20 percent of the funds to be used for professional growth, including attendance at educational conferences and workshops as well as support for teachers earning advanced degrees and certifications.

In the past few months multiple teachers from the toddler through kindergarten classrooms at Gillispie attended several programs on early childhood education. The school’s early childhood program is just one part of the curriculum offered at the school on Girard Avenue, which serves ages 2 through sixth grade.

An example of how the endowment is being used can be seen in Julie Brackbill, lead teacher in the toddler class, who was one of only 100 educators who attended the fall Reggio Emilia conference in Italy in October. Hailed as one of the best programs in the world by Newsweek magazine, the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education has attracted the worldwide attention of educators and researchers.

When asked about her trip, Brackbill stated, “The conference was an amazing opportunity to extend my knowledge of emergent curriculum and bring new ideas into the toddler classroom. Studying in Reggio Emilia was an intense experience that included lectures, school visits, and small group discussions. In the States, there are very few study groups or conferences where the focus is almost exclusively on infant and toddler emergent curriculum. The municipal schools of Reggio Emilia have been using the emergent curriculum approach for 40 years, making them experts on a curriculum philosophy that Gillispie embraces.”

Then in November, one teacher from each of Gillispie’s early childhood through kindergarten classrooms, along with head of school Alison Fleming, attended the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) conference and expo in Anaheim. The event is one of the largest gatherings of age 2-8 educators in the world and offered more than 900 lectures workshops and lectures.

The Gillispie group sat in on more than 110 diverse workshops. Among them was Kristen Pace, an assistant teacher in one of the preschool classrooms, who earned early childhood credits through Portland State University by attending two extended workshops on emergent curriculum.