It’s Thursday- Thank a Teacher: Gay Beck Edition

Another Thursday, another teacher to recognize for all her amazing work! Mrs. Gay Beck is a great teacher, in fact she is an incredible teacher. That’s why she was the Utah State Teacher of the Year in 2011.

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Here are Gay’s answers to a few questions I sent to her:

Where did you do your teacher prep?  I graduated from BYU in early childhood education and elementary education.

Where have you taught in your teaching career? I have taught kindergarten in Washington County School district and also worked with the district as an early childhood specialist. I have taught 2nd grade and kindergarten in Alpine School District. I am currently a full time kindergarten teacher at Highland Elementary.

What is the funniest thing a student has ever said? I love teaching 5&6 year olds.They always amaze me. I have had several funny responses in kindergarten especially during show and tell! Recently during it a student told the other kids to give her a call during the summer and handed out her mother’s business cards for them to contact her! I loved her creativity!

What one piece of advice would you give to new teachers? I was recently talking to my husband about all the demanding aspects of my job and then I teared up and said “,but it’s only July and I am already excited to meet my new batch of kinders and bond with them and make a difference in each of their lives”. So, my advice is to always remember why you choose this profession and enjoy your students. Laugh with them, get to know them and be present in the moment! I love this saying- “When you question your decision to Go On Teaching, look into the eyes of a student who needs you, that’s where you’ll Find Your Passion Again” . It’s the relationships we build with them and the time we invest that makes the difference!

What is your favorite teacher resource? My favorite teacher resource is other teachers!! I always find I get the best advice from other educators. I learn the most from visiting their classrooms. Just this week I met with 4 Kindergarten teachers and we went through our new literacy program. We all shared resources and it was so helpful. Talk to colleagues and find out what they are reading, what classroom management they use etc. Follow educators on twitter! I also get ideas from teacher pay teacher. It saves valuable time.

Describe any experience you have had in education policy- I have had some great experiences in education policy this past year. I have learned we cannot just stay in our classrooms, we must let our teacher voices be heard where policy is being created.  Recently I had the opportunity to speak at the Senate Education Committee hearing on a Kindergarten bill. One Senator said it was the most compelling testimony he had heard in all his time on the hill. I realized I must speak for students who cannot speak for themselves. I also spoke along with 3 other educators to the House Education Committee on another bill concerning teacher evaluation. This bill ultimately passed and I realized we made a huge difference for all educators in our state. I was even invited to the signing of the bill with Governor Herbert! I believe teacher voice is needed to make the necessary changes in education. I love being a teacher leader and hope I can make a difference for the students of our state.

What’s the biggest change you would like to see in education? I would love to see lower class sizes, more aide help for student interventions and more time for professional development!

Mrs. Beck, you are the best! Thank you for all you do for the students in Utah.

Cheers!

Tabitha

The USOE is Now the USBE

As all teachers know, there are many education acronyms. In order to talk to talk, it’s important to keep up with the professional lingo. The most recent change in terminology comes straight from the State. The Utah State Office of Education, also known as USOE, has officially changed its name to…drum-roll please…. the Utah State Board of Education or USBE.

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So, as you’re casually talking with your friends about SAGE and IEPs, and how your PM is due by COB, make sure you don’t slip up and call the USBE the USOE, that’s just so passé.

It’s Thursday- Thank a Teacher: Liz Eaton Edition

Teachers, in general, are not shown enough appreciation for the critical role they play in society. My tiny way of giving back is to publicly thank a Utah teacher each week on this blog. To start off this weekly tradition, I would like to feature Mrs. Liz Eaton.

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Here are Liz’s answers to a few questions I sent her way:

Where did you do your teacher prep? I did my teacher prep at Brigham Young University.

Where have you taught in your teaching career? I have taught at Noah Webster Academy located in Orem, Utah since the fall of 2006.

What is the funniest thing a student has ever said? Over the years I have heard some hilarious thoughts and stories from students.  One that stands out came from a very upset student.  I was talking to the student about how everything he was learning was important and it would help him in his life.  He responded with “Math doesn’t matter.  Reading doesn’t matter.  Spelling doesn’t matter,  the only thing that matters is onion rings!”  He was very sincere and serious about this fact.  I still get a smile on my face just thinking about how passionate this student was about onion rings.

What one piece of advice would you give to new teachers? My one piece of advice I would give to new teachers is find a way to love and care about all of your students.  Some students will make this hard but if they know you love and care about them they will respect you and you can accomplish a lot!

What is your favorite teacher resource? My favorite teacher resource is other teachers.  We all have great ideas and it’s so easy to go talk to another teacher for 5-10 min and peel back the layers of knowledge that they have!

Describe any experience you have had in education policy? Education policy is very important and it’s one reason I choose to continue to work at a charter school.  My voice is heard on the local level and I get to teach and help my students learn instead of be bogged down by outside influences.

What’s the biggest change you would like to see in education?  The biggest change I would love to see in education is to see more parent involvement with education.  For parents to really know what their child is learning and how they can help their child internalize the content. skills, and knowledge they are learning about.

Here’s to you Mrs. Eaton! Thanks for all your hard work and dedication to students in the state of Utah. You are an incredible person.

Cheers!

Tabitha

There is so Much More to Teaching: Why Passing a Content Test isn’t Enough

Welp, I guess in Utah anyone can teach now. I am shaking my head in dismay that Utah legislators, the state school board, and society at large, undervalue the skills and expertise of educators. The State Board recently passed a new policy that will allow anyone with a bachelors degree who can pass a content exam and an ethics test to be a teacher. There is SO MUCH MORE to teaching than understanding the content. Understanding the subject area is the easy part. The challenge comes in presenting the content in an age appropriate learning manner, in using the effective teaching cycle, in having strong classroom management, while fostering a environment of safety and well-being.

I am not opposed to alternative routes to licensure, I myself decided after I finished my bachelors degree, that I wanted to be a teacher. However, I then completed a 2 year teacher prep program with a year long internship before I was issued a Level 1 teaching license. I took courses on pedagogy and behaviors and working with diverse students. Even with a strong teacher prep program, it still took years of working with an amazing mentor, attending outside professional development, and lots of trial and error before I truly became an expert in my craft.

I understand that Utah is in MAJOR teacher shortage. However, I do not think this is the long term solution to the problem. Here are the concerns I see:

1- I have been on many hiring committees. If I was given a resume of a potential teacher who had not completed a teacher prep program and had ZERO teaching experience, I probably wouldn’t even call that candidate in for an interview.

2- If a content test “teacher” was hired, I would be very concerned for the mentor/master teacher they were assigned to. Most mentor teachers I know are still teaching full time in their own classrooms. Having to mentor a teacher from scratch would be a significant amount of extra work for the master teacher. I worry that this will lead  to burn out from assigned mentor teachers, and burn out from co-workers who have to pick up the slack.

3-This new policy is adding insult to injury. Teachers across the nation are already feeling undervalued and in the state of Utah, teachers also feel underpaid. If lawmakers are now saying, “Teaching is so easy, anyone can do it!” what message is this sending to seasoned, effective teachers, who spent tens of thousands of dollars on a teacher prep program. I predict many teachers who were already feeling overworked and underpaid,  will leave the profession.

4- What about the students? Is school turning into a glorified babysitting program? As a parent with children in the Utah public school system, I would be very upset if my child was placed in a classroom with a teacher who had zero training or experience. Are schools only looking for warm bodies to fill the open spots?

5- This is not a long term fix. I believe that many of these content test teachers will feel overwhelmed and unsuccessful in their first year(s) of teaching and will leave. Their school and district will have undoubtedly invested time and money into this teachers professional development and training. That money will have been wasted.

We much take a different approach to teacher retention and recruitment. As petty as this may sound, the truth of the matter is that teachers HAVE to be paid more. It is hard to recruit college students into the teaching profession when there are Utah school districts with starting wages under $30,000. That is not enough money to support a family. When I was sitting in a required seminar before I took out my student loan, the presenter said something along the lines of, “If you are going into a low paying career such as TEACHING, taking out a student loan may not be a wise investment.” Utah also needs a plan for retaining quality teachers, such as offering various leadership roles–with corresponding pay increases. School districts and stakeholders can also do more to raise the profession by asking teachers to present at conferences, be invited to discuss education policy, and publicly recognizing teachers for a job well done.

There is a lot of chatter on this topic on twitter and other local media and news outlets. I would encourage teachers to voice their opinion on this topic.

Cheers!

Tabitha

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!

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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.

Cheers!

Tabitha

 

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.

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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.

Cheers!

Tabitha

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.

Cheers!

Tabitha

Why Every Teacher Should be on Twitter

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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

Cheers-

Tabitha

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.

Cheers-

Tabitha

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