Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Roser Salavert, Ed.D., has found her latest role as director of the Fordham Graduate School of Education’s Professional Development Resource Center (PDRC) for Religious and Independent Schools a truly fulfilling part of her long and distinguished career in education. Founded in 2019, the PDRC is part of the GSE’s Center for Educational Partnerships and has grown, under Salavert’s leadership, to serve 796 religious and independent schools with 238,800 students throughout New York City. Describing herself as a teacher and psychologist, her motivation has been to ensure the best education for all students, at Fordham GSE’s PDRC and throughout her career in education. Salavert’s life’s journey in education began during her childhood in Spain, where her mother was a teacher.
“I love the unique nature of the PDRC program,” shared Salavert. “It is exciting to work directly with teachers and administrators from all different kinds of schools and districts, with widely varying challenges, who come to the PDRC for professional development.” She emphasized, “Because we began our work just before the beginning of the pandemic, our biggest challenge in March 2020 became how to effectively build relationships, so we had to be creative and carve out our own niche.”
Anita Vazquez Batisti, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Partnerships in the Center for Educational Partnerships, added, “The PDRC is a very significant initiative of the Center for Educational Partnerships that extends our professional development work to teachers and administrators in all religious and independent schools throughout New York City, by leveraging multi-tiered collaboration between an institution of higher education and school systems.”
Given Salavert’s perspective, she realized that a focus on learning that recognized and celebrated students’ heritage languages and cultures was an ideal way to initially support the PDRC’s transition to online professional learning. Specifically, to continue accomplishing academic goals, the PDRC developed a webinar series, “Setting Up Students for Success in Today’s Distance Learning Environment,” facilitated by Rebecca Blouwolff, a master teacher and recipient of the 2020 National Teacher of the Year Award from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Blouwolff, together with a panel of master teachers representing the varied and rich diversity of languages and cultures in the schools, led discussions on learning-centered strategies that empowered and motivated students to further develop knowledge of their heritage languages and cultures, and/or acquire knowledge about a new world language.
Salavert noted, “The webinar series was a great success; ultimately, a total of 789 participants engaged in the NYS/NYC PDRC webinars offered in April and May 2020. While the pandemic has changed so much about how each of us approaches our lives, it has also helped us discover possibilities for how we can do our work that we hadn’t known before. The PDRC offers online – and soon also in-person – workshops that are geared to enrich educators’ knowledge, foster leadership, and build a professional community among non-public schools in New York City.” Our motto responds to this vision: ‘You ask, we listen, we deliver ‘”.
At the beginning of 2022, the PDRC continued with virtual training, but also visited schools and identified those whose principals were excited to become a host school for in-person professional development. As an example, the principal of a Catholic school has expressed his desire to invite professionals from neighborhood religious schools of other denominations to attend workshops that the PDRC plans to offer at his site.
The PDRC also instituted Chat & Network online events for school and organizational leaders. Principals and other administrators are invited each month to get together and talk about issues they’re facing, with one person presenting each month to initially frame conversation. These chats help raise awareness about issues ranging from housing and homelessness challenges to how to further expand in-school professional development for all schools. Salavert emphasizes that all of these PDRC professional development programs provide critical networking opportunities to a broad group of schools, in what she hopes is a long-lasting benefit for all of them.
On a personal level, Salavert finds her work for the PDRC “enriching and motivating; we offer forums where educators can share their different perspectives on teaching while learning from others. The Covid-19 pandemic has also pushed us to learn new technologies and thus broaden how we deliver professional development, such as a new on-demand summer program and a newly launched Chat & Network podcast. We think all of these initiatives are an important part of PDRC’s legacy.” As part of the ongoing professional development efforts, Gerald Cattaro, Ed.D., executive director of Fordham GSE’s Center for Catholic School Leadership and Faith-Based Education, will lead principals’ reflection sessions for all three of the New York PDRC’s in June and August of 2022.
Fordham’s PDRC is one of three in New York state, including one upstate and one on Long Island, initially funded through the New York State Education Department’s Commissioner’s Advisory Council for Non-Public Schools.