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The Instructor Gathering: Passing on a culture of craftsmanship and camaraderie

The Gathering, Day One

Every two years, the Stone Trust holds a three-day Instructor Gathering and Certification event. Day one brings both new and experienced instructors together. The waller-teachers who got certified in 2011 have a lot to share with the wallers newly eligible to become Stone Trust instructors. The Gathering also provides the opportunity to pass on history and to present the inevitable changes that occur, as the Stone Trust extends geographically and grows as an organization. Day one creates cohesion among key stakeholders–professional wallers who also teach the art and craft of dry stone walling. It passes on a culture of craftsmanship and camaraderie that is infused with a commitment to welcoming all who come to learn and meeting each of you where you are.

So what happens at the Gathering? Of course, first we engaged in a meet-and-greet. Next, founder Jared Flynn presented a history of the Stone Trust on behalf of Board President Martin Beevers, who was unable to attend the event. Then each of the eight Site Champions addressed their training site’s evolution. It is important that the walling community understand where the Stone Trust has been and where each component is headed. You can learn about Stone Trust training sites here. To meet site champions, please visit the links in the thank-you message at the end of the post.

Next, Victoria Merriman inspired conversations among the wallers on the topic “How the Stone Trust has changed your life.” Victoria has long and deep experience of the ways stories enrich personal and organizational lives. After a brief presentation on why stories matter, she organized the twenty-seven attendees into small groups to share their experiences. Here are Victoria’s discussion prompts:

  • How did you first get involved with the Stone Trust?
  • How has the Stone Trust helped develop your skill, career, or business?
  • Which of the Stone Trust’s offerings have been most meaningful to you?
  • What connections and relationships have you made through the Stone Trust?
  • What’s one of your most memorable Stone Trust moments?
  • What would you tell a hobbyist friend who was thinking of taking a workshop?
  • What would you tell a contractor friend who was thinking of becoming a member or  getting certified?
  • If the Stone Trust ceased to exist, what would you miss most?

After the whole group came back together to hear several stories, Victoria offered to document them. Instructors who want to offer their stories to be shared by the Stone Trust can be in touch with her. You can read one of Victoria’s Stone Trust stories here: “From Pixels to Stone, or How to Strengthen Your Back,” Hearting 2021 

Our personal stories intersect with the story of the Stone Trust. So Executive Director Amy-Louise Pfeffer brought that story up to date in a presentation on organizational health–financials, operations, and governance. As the Stone Trust grows, our operational systems mature. In all respects, the board and the staff have a much clearer picture of the challenges that rapid growth has presented. A clear picture makes it so much easier to address those challenges.

Fortunately, growth has not affected the Stone Trust’s ability to provide high-quality training in dry stone construction. Morgan Loeffler, Workshop and Certification Manager, demonstrated that in her presentation “The Learners Tell Us: Workshop Evaluation Overview.” Morgan brings a research background to her position, which enabled her presentation. She shared a compilation of feedback from participants in the roughly 120 workshops offered in 2023. We discovered that, across the Curriculum in Dry Stone, almost everyone walks away feeling confident that they have learned what the Stone Trust intended to teach. We noted a few areas in a couple of workshops where we need to focus more explicitly on some learning objectives. Good to know. We’re on it!

Morgan also shared positive comments to inspire instructors, for example:

  • They were thorough, kind, patient, and great teachers. I was excited about the class and it exceeded my expectations. I was thrilled with the course.
  • It was so fun, even in the rain, because of the instructors and great teamwork from the group.
  • The Stone Trust empowers me to keep trying!

Morgan joined the Stone Trust fourteen months ago. Her focus on training and certification makes it possible to continue to improve the participant experience.

The Gathering ended with risk management, contract terms, and how to get paid. This 501(c)(3) educational  nonprofit is, after all, a business with four program lines: workshops, certification, membership, and merchandise. We aspire to run the Stone Trust with the highest level of organizational craftsmanship, just as Stone Trust waller-teachers aspire to increasing levels of craftsmanship on the wall.

Instructor Training, Days Two and Three

Over the next two days, new instructors learned how to teach for the Stone Trust. Eleven new waller-teachers came from across North America–from Canada, Colorado, New York, North Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. All of the wallers have accomplished DSWA Level 2 Waller Certification in the past two years. The Entry-Level Professional Waller Scholarship funded the accomplishment for four of them, including the instructor training certificate course. Notably, all of them live and work in places near developing Stone Trust training sites. (The scholarship is intended to help create greater demographic diversity and develop local-regional instructor pools.) Two of the four scholarship recipients are female. As certified instructors, these women increase the Stone Trust’s ability to offer workshops taught by women for women. Until now, only five women in North America were qualified to teach for the Stone Trust. Now there are eight! To read more about scholarship awardees, please see the Stone Trust Annual Report.

Steve Jonas, organizational consultant and facilitator par excellence, returned to teach theory and support practice. Steve facilitated the first instructor training event in 2011 and has returned ever since. During mornings in the conference room, Steve guided waller-teachers through the theory behind teaching and learning, leadership training, and group dynamics. From neuroscience to mindfulness, from learning styles to teaching styles, from how to give feedback to how to work well with your co-instructor, Steve shares his considerable expertise on how to effectively interact with adult learners. His expertise in training groups about how to lead and work together is invaluable to instructors who have a lot to keep track of during a Stone Trust workshop. Instructors who work well together will provide the best experience for participants coming to workshops. Many thanks to Steve for long years of collaboration and friendship.

After lunch, the group heads to the 1862 Barn at the Stone Trust Center to apply theory to practice, as they show each other how to teach what they know about building a dry stone wall. Along with the eleven new instructors, six experienced instructors stayed to provide a bit of mentoring. Master Craftsman and DSWA Certified Assessor Brian Post led two sessions, one on how to teach stringlines and batter frames and the other on cover bands and copes. Level 3 Certified Waller and Instructor Ben Sandri also taught the group how teach a skill versus how to teach a technique. Ben is a high school teacher who brings an extensive background in education to the wall.

All of this sharing of knowledge is so valuable for new instructors. Additionally, new instructors bring their experiences and energy into the mix. Overall, the three days were overwhelmingly positive and inspiring for all of us. Having so many new instructors excited to teach dry stone walling is contagious. Everyone wants to do the best they can to teach others and share their knowledge. What a delightful three days full of bonding, learning, and positivity!

Thank you to the following people who gave a day of their lives to the Instructor Gathering, demonstrating their historic, on-going commitment of the Stone Trust:

Thank you to each newly certified instructor, who gave the gift of time and travel to ensure that the Stone Trust can provide highest-quality training in the art and craft of dry stone walling as close to your home as currently possible: Ethan Bodin, Jen Corrigan, Ree Davies, Stew DeVaney, Pierce Edmiston, Sam Johnson, Renee Nadeau, Jordan Rowell, Daniel Ryan, Devin Sherwood, and Chris Uden.