Letter from the Utah State Board of Education Superintendent of Public Instruction

If you couldn’t tell from my previous post on Syd Dickson, I am a big fan. Today she sent out a letter to all the Utah educators. If you aren’t are her mailing list, you should be! Here is what she had to say:

Dear Education Colleagues,
As the school year begins for most of you, I want to take the opportunity to thank you for your dedication to ensuring Utah students are prepared for their future.  The work of teaching and leading in schools is both daunting and joyful.  I can think of no other profession that is as impactful as that of teaching and am proud to be counted among you.  The Utah State Board of Education and their staff want to personally thank you for choosing this profession.
Much attention has been given to the recent Board passage of the Academic Pathway to Teaching (APT) license.  The intention of this license is to respond to education leaders in the field who want another tool to be able to fill hard to staff positions, as well to create a way for potential effective teachers to enter the profession having come from other professions.  This is not meant to be a slight to those of you who have come through a traditional route.  The hiring and support of APT candidates is left to local discretion.  We expect the hiring district or charter to support APT candidates by working with teacher preparation programs, professional development providers, and local experts to provide professional learning opportunities targeted at the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to be effective in the classroom.  Effective mentoring is critical for all new teachers and we have to find better ways to support mentors with time and resources.
The Utah State Board of Education will be establishing a task force to study educator licensing and determine policies to improve licensure practices for all educators.  In addition, we are engaged in the Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (NTEP) project.  This is a three-year project, working with education preparation programs, to impact recruitment, preparation, and retention practices.  Focus groups with educators have been held around the state to get input and ongoing stakeholder engagement will inform these Board projects.
Educator voices are very important to me.  One of my personal goals is to promote your positive stories about public education.  I specifically want to ensure your classroom success stories are being heard while getting clear about the conditions that make your job more challenging than it needs to be.  To aid in this process I will have an interactive corner on the State Board website at http://www.schools.utah.gov.  There you will find social media accounts and an email address where you can reach me directly.  I wish you the best for a successful year.
With appreciation,
Sydnee Dickson, Ed.D.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Utah State Board of Education
250 E. 500 S.
P.O. Box 144200
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-4200

I think this letter was much needed, as many teachers are feeling undervalued in the state. I have had the chance to participate in the NTEP focus groups in Utah and can attest to the good work happening in our state. Diana Suddreth the State Director of Teaching and Learning is a champion of quality teachers and has been collaborating with stakeholders in Utah and nationally to make need improvements to teacher preparation. I know our State Superintendent is fighting the good fight and will make sure the students AND teachers are successful in our state.




It’s Thursday- Thank a Teacher: Amy Merritt Wood Edition

I am excited to feature Mrs. Amy Merritt Wood this week and thank her for all her hard work. I admire Amy for all of the work she does in Utah for National Board Certified Teachers. If you are looking to take your teaching practice to the next level, I would recommend becoming a National Board Certified Teacher. Becoming a Board Certified Teacher was a game changer for me. Adding NBCT to my signature opened many professional doors and has allowed me to further my influence in the world of education. But enough about that–this post is about Amy!


Where did you do your teacher prep? I did my BS in Elementary Education at BYU-Idaho. I then completed my ESL and Masters of Education with Southern Utah University. I also earned a National Board Certification in the Early Childhood Generalist Category. I have completed a reading endorsement with BYU and I am currently working on an administrative certification with Utah State University.

Where have you taught in your teaching career? I have taught in Jordan School District my whole career. I taught for first grade at Foothills Elementary in Riverton, UT for 8 years. I have worked 3 years for the Curriculum Department in Jordan School District as a Mentor Teacher Specialist. I am currently on sabbatical this year to complete administrative internships.

What is the funniest thing a student has ever said? Teaching first grade, I have had many. One of my favorites was during a lesson on chunks. We were studying the -ell pattern and I had a student raise their hand and say “hell” for our list we were generating. We talked briefly about the word, that hail–like the ice chunks, has a different ending -ail. We briefly mentioned there’s another version of the word that we don’t talk about at school. As I was trying to move along, a student raised his hand and said, “Miss Merritt, it’s like the song (and he began to sing)… ‘Highway to Hell…’ ”

What one piece of advice would you give to new teachers? It is never to late to retrain your students on a routine or procedure. Routines or procedures make or break your classroom. If something isn’t working, reflect on it. You are the teacher–you can make changes! The kids will adjust just fine!

What is your favorite teacher resource?  I can’t think of just one! I read so much–staying on top of current learning and trends is important to me. Most recently I have been reading a lot on instructional coaching. One of my favorite sites for information here is the Teaching Channel. I also love studying Arizona K-12.
Describe any experience you have had in education policy: I have worked with the Utah National Board Coalition as the VP of Policy to host a Hill Day each year for the past 5 years up at the state capitol building. At this event, we present new teachers to the House of Representatives and the Senate. It’s an honor for these teachers to be recognized for their hard work. I have also worked with UEA and NEA on their Teacher Leadership Initiative and have been involved with helping to spread National Board Certification in the state of Utah.
What’s the biggest change you would like to see in education? The biggest change I would like to see is a more positive outlook on education. It seems that education stories hit the news when bad things happen. My desire would be that teachers would be brave and share more of the positive things that are happening in their classrooms because they are seeing miracles everyday. As educators, we have the power to create change by sharing our stories of why we teach and the little miracles we see.
Thanks Amy for all you do for the students and teachers in Utah. Your efforts are greatly appreciated!
And because she looks so beautiful in this photo- I had to share:

How to Make a Public Comment on the Academic Pathway to Teaching (APT) Rule


Attention teachers and community members, this is your call to action. The Academic Pathway to Teaching will become a rule on August 30th unless the board hears enough compelling comments from the public on why this is a rule will negatively affect education in our state. You can read the rule in its entirety here.

There is so much more to teaching and the idea  that anyone who can pass a content test can teach completely minimizes the training teachers received in their teacher prep program. Those who are pro APT teachers argue that principals and district hiring teams will still ultimately have the say on who they hire, and can chose not to hire  Academic Pathway to Teaching teachers. However, I fear that the incredible damage to current teacher morale will be irreparable. The message will have been sent that teaching is easy, training isn’t needed, and there is no need to focus on educational pedagogy. With already low enrollment in Utah’s 10 current teacher prep programs, I worry that college students will stop choosing education as a college major altogether. You can read my full thoughts here.

Teachers- your voice can be heard and can make a difference. If you are like me, you may not have made very many public comments, but I promise it is easy. Simply submit your comments to rule.comments@schools.utah.gov