Every Utah Teacher Should Know Their State Superintendent, Sydnee Dickson

I have a confession. When I first started teaching I had no idea who the state superintendent was. In fact, for my first several years of teaching I had no idea who they state superintendent was. I was only aware of my school and my school administration. I had no idea there was a whole hierarchy of educational leadership. My first baby steps into  understanding educational roles in the state was getting to know the staff at the Utah State Office of Education. I would see them at various state meetings, and made a point of introducing myself and beginning to form relationships. I quickly learned that the state staff were incredibly nice and always willing to help when I had questions.

At my first convening in Washington DC as a National Teaching Fellow  for Hope Street Group, all of the DC natives kept asking me if I knew Syd. Everyone kept telling me I was lucky to be an educator in Utah because Syd was so great to work with. Syd? Who was Syd? Of course I immediately began researching. I couldn’t be “caught” not knowing all the big names in Utah education. At that time Syd Dickson was the Utah State Deputy Superintendent. I did know who the state Superintendent was, so that was good, but I am embarrassed to admit I didn’t even know there was a Deputy Superintendent. Now that I am learning more about education policy and teacher advocacy, I make sure I know who all of my bosses are…and their bosses…and their bosses bosses. If I want my voice to be heard, I need to know who all the key stakeholders are.

If Sydnee was even remotely as great as everyone was telling me, I knew she was someone I wanted to work with. I sent her an email and a tweet, and guess what? She immediately got back to me. I am fortunate to know teachers all across the nation and I know that this sort of relationship with a state deputy or superintendent is rare. Sydnee is kind, professional, and she immediately put me to work! She put me in touch with several state education committees where I could act as a representative for teachers across the state.

Since my first virtual meeting with Syd and several in person run ins since then, Sydnee was made State Acting Superintendent, and then State Interim Superintendent. This month, Sydnee Dickson was appointed the official Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Congratulations, Superintendent Dickson!


As a state public education official there are MANY stakeholders to collaborate with. Parents, policy makers, teachers, administrators, community members; all while making sure the best interest of students are being met. In my experience in working with Sydnee, she is a true advocate for teachers, and has mastered the art of working with all stakeholders. I reached out to Superintendent Dickson and asked her if there is anything that teachers specifically should know about her. This was her response:

“I am an educator and therefor, understand the complexities of being a teacher. I want to hear their voices. Teachers need to be better about telling their stories; both the challenges and the successes. Knowing local and state Board members as well as their legislators, and engaging with them in ways that lead to positive outcomes, can make all the differences in education policy.”

Well said superintendent.




Presenting at an Educators Conference: just do it!

I have been teaching for over nine years year, and I still love it. However, I have found that simply being in the classroom is not enough for me anymore. I want additional challenges and I want to help more students than just those in my class. After completing my second year of teaching I had the opportunity to present at my first teaching conference. I co-presented with my Special Education Coordinator on the basics of creating a special education program at charter schools. It was a big success.The thing is, I didn’t have a PhD, I wasn’t presenting at the culmination of years of research, I wasn’t even sharing a ground breaking experience. I was speaking as myself. I was sharing my teacher voice and I learned that my story mattered. If you are a teacher, and you have ideas and opinions you want to share–just do it!

I have since had the opportunity to present at many webinars, professional developments, and other local conferences. In fact—I will be presenting tomorrow at the 4th Annual UMTSS conference. You should come. Because I tend to fall in the overly-ambitious category, I actually submitted two presentation proposals. Both were selected.

I will be doing a poster session in the morning and sharing the Hope Street Group report, “On Deck: Preparing the Next Generation of Teachers.” This report is full of data gathered by the National Fellows through in person teacher focus groups and online surveys. The report was created by teachers for teachers in regards to teacher preparation. I wanted my poster to by eye catching and easy to read. So instead of doing a typical scientific method layout, I opted for an info-graphic style poster. Hopefully it will draw some traffic.


My afternoon session is an actual presentation. My co-worker and I will be sharing tips and tricks on using technology in transition planning. To keep the audience engaged we are keeping our session very interactive. It should be a riveting hour.

The point of all this rambling is: if I can do it, you can do it. Next time you see a “call for presenters” just do it! Submit a proposal.



Teacher Licenses and Levels in the state of Utah

In the State of Utah there are three levels of teacher licensure. Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. For a detailed explanation of the licensing process, you can refer to the Utah State Office of Education Licensing page, OR, just keep reading and I will give you basic overview.

First things to know. There are 3 ways to get a license in Utah.

  • Move into Utah with a current out of state teaching license. Depending on the states reciprocity with Utah licensing system will determine how easy or difficult of a process this is.
  • Work on an Alternative Route to Licensure. The Utah State Office of Education explains that. “Utah’s ARL Program is a teacher preparation program for individuals who wish to earn an initial Level 1 teaching license or are currently licensed teachers who wish to earn another type of teaching license. ARL allows participants to teach in an accredited Utah school on a temporary license for up to three years while they are fulfilling licensure requirements.”

Level 1- this is the license teachers receive after they successfully complete their Teacher Prep Program, including the required student teaching hours, and passing the mandatory Praxis test. Teachers are also generally considered a Level 1 teacher if they are working on a Letter of Authorization or are a teacher going through the Alternative Route to Licensure (ARL) process. Teachers can only work as a Level 1 teacher for 3 years as they go through the Entry Years Enhancement (EYE) process. If a teacher is unable to upgrade to a Level 2 after their first three years as a Level 1 teacher, the individual must pay a fine to extend their Level 1 license for an additional year.

Level 2- after successful completion of EYE as a Level 1 teacher, a teacher can apply to upgrade to a Level 2 license. A Level 2 license must be renewed every 5 years. Most teachers in the state of Utah remain a Level 2 teacher for the entirety of their career.

Level 3- the only way to become a Level 3 teacher in the state of Utah is to complete a Phd in an education related field or, to be a National Board Certified Teacher. This is one of the reasons I chose to become a National Board Certified Teacher, so I could have a Level 3 license in my state. A Level 3 license must be renewed every 10 years.

I think Utah is a wonderful state to live and teach in. If you have more questions about becoming a licensed teacher in Utah, please refer to the State Office of Education.



Why Every Teacher Should be on Twitter


I know, I know, none of us need another social media feed, but I would like to take a minute of your time to argue why every teacher should have a Twitter account. Until a year ago, I swore I would never have Twitter. I just didn’t get it. I ignorantly thought it was just a forum for celebrities to post deep thoughts such as “I love my new skinny jeans.”

However, since creating a Twitter account focused on my professional interests, I have learned that Twitter can be a powerful networking, and informational resource. I have formed several lasting relations with state education power players via Twitter. My first contact with our state Deputy Superintendent was through Twitter. I have been asked to join committees, write opinion pieces, and even apply for jobs due to other educators reaching out to me on Twitter.

The professional learning network(s) I belong to on Twitter are much bigger than my school based PLCs, or even state work groups. I am able to learn from and collaborate with teachers across the nation. Individuals with far more educational and policy expertise than I have post links to articles and web resources I would have never known about. I can honestly say I feel more informed and connected with state and national policy makers since becoming an active Twitter user. This is why every teacher should use Twitter as a professional tool.

A few pieces of advice I would give to teachers new to Twitter is to create a separate account specific to your professional interests. That way all of your posts are on topic and appropriate for a professional environment. Although it may be tempting to post pictures of your puppy and share the funny meme you found on Pinterest, save those posts for your personal social media. I would also advise that you keep your user name appropriate and easy to search for. If you use your Twitter account as place to micro-blog your thoughts on education and policy, and as a networking tool, you can proudly include your Twitter handle on your business cards (more thoughts on why every teacher should have business cards on a later post).

If you would like to follow me on Twitter, you can find me at @tabitha_pacheco



Creating your first blog: the basics for a teacher blog

I am here working in Denver at a We Work office learning the basics of creating a teacher blog. Many of my amazing Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellows have incredible blogs, so I am a little late to the game.

First step to creating this blog- informative training from pro-blogger, Meghan Everett. I know not everyone has access to a successful scholastic blogger, but before you start your own blog, I would recommend doing research on how to be an effective blogger.

Second step- I had to pick a blog hosting platform. There are many to chose from, such as blogger, medium, square-space, but I chose to go with WordPress.

Third step- start designing. This is the fun part, but can also be time consuming. I spent far to much time playing with color choices and layout options.

Fourth step- write my first post! Yay me–this is my first post (thanks so much for reading).

Final step- create a plan for maintaining my blog. Meghan suggested I create an editorial calendar so I have an ongoing list of what and when I plan to post. She also taught me how to automate posts so I can write them in advance.

I can do this.

As I have spent the last year working on national and state education policy, I have realized that there is not a strong teacher voice in my state of Utah. I plan to change that. There are so many talented educators in this state, and I want their ideas to be heard by local policy makers. This blog is just one platform to help teacher across the state of Utah to connect with each other and learn about local education issues.

Thanks for following along as I work to elevate teacher voice in the beaUTiful state of Utah.