Another Hoop for Utah Teachers

Have any of you read the article “Lawmakers consider creating board exam for teachers in effort to keep standards high” posted on KSL over the weekend? While I like the idea of holding all teachers to a high standard, it is seeming less and less like traditional teacher prep programs are valued. Having all teachers be board certified does make me feel better about the recent   Academic Pathway to Teaching rule, but it doesn’t increase the value of completing a college degree in education. With so many alternative ways to become a licensed teacher, getting a degree in education seem like a very pigeon holed emphasis that limits career opportunities. The newest generation of potential teacher candidates may feel it is a better use of their time, money, and effort to get their degree in a broader category, since they can always decide later to become a teacher by completing a 6 week program or passing a couple of tests.

I can speak to the benefits of becoming a Board Certified Teacher. In 2014, I pass my National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, and became a National Board Certified Teacher. I am a better teacher because of this process and would encourage any teacher to pursue National Board Certification whether it becomes a Utah rule or not.

The teaching crisis is real. We are in a drastic shortage of teachers requiring creative solutions such as the APT rule, yet at the same time we are expecting all teachers  to be highly effective and have struggled to find a consistent way to measure to teacher effectiveness. Attempts to measure teachers have come in the form of extensive evaluations, using student scores on standardized tests, teacher portfolios, and now additional testing and certification. Everyone is trying to find the silver bullet to fix the education system and right now teachers are the target. If teachers are tired of felling like rules and initiatives are happening to them, it is time to speak up. I know so many quality teachers who are effective! These are the voices lawmakers need to hear. These are the stories that need to be shared.



Letter from USDOE Secretary King

Sometimes as a teacher I feel so small, and that my one voice can’t make a difference in the large world of education policy. Over the past year, as I have worked as National Teacher Fellow for Hope Street Group, I have learned that I, yes little ol’ me, can make a difference. Today I received the following email in response to a group letter I submitted:

Dear Educator, 

You may recall signing this letter from Teach Plus to U.S. Secretary of Education John King earlier this year.  The letter urged the Secretary to ensure that federal Title I dollars are used in ways that will do the most good for the students they are intended to help. To do that, federal funds need to supplement (rather than replace) state and local funds for high-need schools.  

We wanted to let you know that Secretary King heard you and he regulated on this issue in ways that are aligned with your request.  More information is available here. We also wanted to let you know that a leading member of Congress, Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, was compelled to insert your letter and signatures into the official hearing record when the U.S. House of Representatives looked at this issue at hearing this morning.  Thank you again for making your voice heard on behalf of students!

Teach Plus Policy Team

P.S. If you haven’t done so already, please continue to make your voice heard by taking this Flash Poll about what you think should be included in the new State Report Cards that will inform parents, policymakers, and the public about progress in schools. Teach Plus will share the findings with leading Governors.  

I strongly believe that if we unite as educators we can start to change the tide of the current education climate. We can empower teachers and empower our students.



It’s Thursday- Thank a Teacher: Audryn Damron Edition

Of course I think all (well most) Utah teachers are the cream of the crop, the best of the best, but Audryn Damron is truly one of my favorite educators. I am slightly biased because Audryn was a para-educator in my class during my beginning years of teaching. Since then, she has become a Special Education teacher and recently finished her Masters in Special Education.  She is now ready to tackle National Board Certification. She is amazing! Here is a little more about her educational journey:

Where did you do your teacher prep? Brigham Young University: Bachelor’s degree (2011), Master’s degree (2015)

Where have you taught in your teaching career?
Centennial Middle School in Provo District, starting my 6th year in the same classroom (and still loving it).
What is the funniest thing a student has ever said?
Out of the blue, I had a student look at me very seriously and say, “You know what’s not fair? Girls get to wear make up. So if they’re ugly, they can just cover it up. If boys are ugly, they have nothing to help them.”
On a more serious note, I had  a student tell me once that he wished he could be put in a body that could read well. I thought that was a profound statement. This teenage boy knew he was different. He felt different. He looked at others as people that could read better than he could and he wished he could be like them. That statement opened up my eyes to what it is like to be a child with a learning disability.
What one piece of advice would you give to new teachers?
Talk to other teachers! Ask questions. Share stories. Get lesson materials and ideas. Talk to your neighbors, your PLC, your administrators, your mentor, etc. Don’t go through hard times alone! Most importantly, do not talk to negative people. They will bring you down and make you question why you chose education. Surround yourself and find comfort from people who still believe in education and love what they do.
What is your favorite teacher resource?
TeachersPayTeachers is fantastic. I love that teachers have put so much effort into their lesson plans and are willing to share them with others. Yes you have to pay for most of the materials, but it’s worth my time to pay a few dollars to not have to make them myself! Those teachers also get paid for their hard work, which I fully support.
Describe any experience you have had in education policy?
I haven’t had any experience in education policy, but I am interested in changing that. I do receive updates from my PEA (union) representative about laws and changes that affect me. I know I could do a better job being more involved. I follow our state superintendent, UEA, and a few other forums on Twitter. That helps me stay up-to-date and involved.
What’s the biggest change you would like to see in education?
I would like to see teachers treated and viewed as professionals. Teachers in Utah seem to get the short end of the stick for just about everything. Recently, a law was passed that says any individual who passes a content exam can become a teacher. That seems like a slap in the face to those of us who have worked hard (or are currently working hard) on a collegiate education program or alternate licensure program. I understand that Utah is desperate for teachers, but please respect the process it takes to become an educator.
I would like to see Utah Board of Education recognize teachers as professionals by increasing our pay, providing solid benefits and retirement, and recognizing our value through reasonable expectations and frequent celebrations for progress and growth in schools!
Thank you Ms. Damron for all you do for students in our state, and for elevating the teaching profession by being such an incredible educator!