Tag: Professional Development

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Tennise Lucas

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Tennise Lucas

It is a big world out there, but I tell my students that they can do anything. In the words of Walt Disney, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” My job is not just to teach academics; but to help students navigate their lives while striving for their best.

I am a native Roswellite via Canada. I grew up between living in town and on my grandparents ranch in Lincoln County. This was my first classroom of sorts as I learned how to ride horses, brand cattle, and fix fences. Most of my education was in Roswell. After graduating from high school, several career changes, a bachelor’s degree, and the birth of my world; Echo, I decided to finally commit to teaching. This was not a decision I took lightly. I believe that the cornerstone of our country is our children, and the education they receive is vital.

My intentions were never to become a principal. One of my former superintendents once told me that if I didn’t like how things were going, I needed to be a principal. So, I was given an opportunity and received my leadership training through the National Institute for Student Leadership in conjunction with ENMU. This training was invaluable as it opened my eyes to the necessity for change in our educational system. I received a Master of Education from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. and my New Mexico Teacher’s Certificate from Eastern New Mexico University. Currently, I am a state representative for my district on the Secretary Teacher Advisory Council and one of the ambassadors for my school. My leadership roles include Superintendent Advisory Council, PD training, a mentor for other teachers, and school based leadership team. I am a fierce advocate for my students and passionate about their learning.

When not in the classroom, I am in a dance room. In 2003, I was an originating instructor of The Studio+. In 2005, I was certified in the discipline of Tap under board certification with the Texas Association Teachers of Dancing, Inc. I continue to work with children through tap and Irish dancing at the studio.

After fifteen years of teaching in both private and public school settings, I am not ready to leave the classroom. I will continue to work for teachers and my students in an attempt to help develop innovative, safe, and effective 21st century learning environments that will foster both academic and emotional well-being.

The Year That Was: Our Students, Our Progress, Our Voices

The Year That Was: Our Students, Our Progress, Our Voices

The 2017-18 school year was one of many milestones, celebrations, and achievements for public education in New Mexico.  It has been a year of unprecedented progress—from the Schoolhouse to the Roundhouse and everywhere in between.  Just last month, the largest Teacher Summit in our state’s history occurred with hundreds of educators coming together to equip, empower, and champion our profession and the new era of teacher leader voice in the Land of Enchantment.  That event featured the culmination of three years of work leading to the unveiling of the state’s first ever Teacher Preparation Scorecards and a giant push to ensure that more of our aspiring teachers are day one ready.  In May, we saw a first-of-its-kind $1 million grant to all of our districts and charters for teacher recruitment, record amounts of funding and students served in both Pre-K and K-3+, and final school turnaround plans established for some of the state’s most struggling schools backed by $2 million in additional support for each individual school.

This spring, the NM-True Straight-A Express Tour, an idea that came from a regional school board meeting in Tucumcari about a year earlier, made its final stop in Des Moines.  As that statewide tour of 60 districts and 122 schools came to a close, the launch of the first ever NM-True Excellence in Teaching Tour kicked off with early stops in Farmington and Bloomfield, where I witnessed high craft in Mr. Starr’s AP Physics class fueling the feeling of urgency that more and more students need to have access to that level of high quality, rigorous course content, and instruction.

Turns out we are on that path already.  In January, Governor Martinez announced record high numbers of students taking and passing Advanced Placement courses and exams.  And more ground was broken in April when five New Mexico teacher-leaders from Las Cruces, Shiprock, Reserve, Albuquerque, and Texico delivered the keynote address at the annual Spring Budget Conference.  At that conference, there was even more good news to report as just one month earlier the Governor had signed HB-2 (“The Budget Bill”) which contained $115 million more for public education, bringing the total to $450 million more state dollars for public education during this administration.  That amount included funding for compensation increases across-the-board, and to support the bipartisan Senate Bill 119, increasing minimum teacher salaries at every licensure level.

There were other major milestones in 2017-18: Federal approval of New Mexico’s top-rated plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the adoption of best-in-class national standards (now effective as of July 1!) in both the arts and in science, less time on testing, and ten more instructional days added to the academic calendar, the expansion of the nation’s largest and highest-performing school turnaround networks (Principals Pursuing Excellence and Teachers Pursuing Excellence), the trailblazing work being done by the Social Studies Dream Team, and the state’s inaugural Family Cabinet.  The ‘year that was’ saw more students taking the free PSAT exam and setting up their free individualized Khan Academy accounts and the Public Education Commission continuing to strengthen the state’s charter sector through difficult decisions around school closures, school openings, and the first-ever charter school replication.  None of this progress has been easy—it’s all hard-fought.

And high honors were bestowed upon some of our state’s best teachers: The Milken Award to Melanie Alfaro of Deming in December and – in one of my proudest moments on the job- the selection of Ivonne Orozco of Public Academy for the Performing Arts (PAPA) as the 2018 New Mexico Teacher of the Year in October.  Without their leadership, and your leadership, we would not be where we are today.

Even with all of those highlights, perhaps nothing is more important than our recent announcement about our students’ academic progress over the past four years.  All credit goes to New Mexico’s teachers and support staff, parents and families, Superintendents and Charter Leaders, and many, many more for ushering in an era of exciting progress for kids in New Mexico.

Last week we announced that New Mexico’s students are demonstrating unprecedented academic progress in reading and math.  We have focused on improving our instructional practices and measuring progress, and more kids are truly on path to college and career.

Nearly a decade ago, the previous administration adopted higher college and career ready standards. Our districts, schools, educators, families, and students have risen to the challenge.  New Mexico now owns the unique distinction of having stayed the course, being independently-minded, and building upon our strong foundation and conviction about what every student can achieve.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • New Mexico’s student achievement gains over the past several years are substantial—since 2015, the entire state is up 4.7 percentage points in reading and 4.2 percentage points in math.  Every grade level is up in reading, and almost every grade level is up in math.
  • This means something real for students and families.  Since 2015, 24,000 more students, 11,000 more in math and 13,000 more in reading, are at grade level or above. 9,000 of those students grew to that level just in the last academic year, which was New Mexico’s fourth year of administration of the PARCC assessment.
  • We are proving that our students from all backgrounds can grow and achieve at higher levels.  Native American students are showing the most academic progress statewide—up 8.2% in reading—with Hispanic students, students from low income backgrounds, and English Learners all showing major gains.  Overall, the achievement gap is narrowing, a testament to our collective commitment to equity and access for all students.
  • Many districts that have embraced change and seized new opportunities are showing the most dramatic student achievement gains. It’s no coincidence that districts such as Farmington, Gallup, Hobbs, and Gadsden are leading the way. They have embraced a data-driven culture, talent recruitment and development, and meaningful accountability and support.  Farmington, Gallup, and Hobbs were also early adopters of Principals Pursuing Excellence—one of the largest and most successful school turnaround networks in the country.  These are districts that put more money directly into the classroom and do not shy away from innovation or difficult conversations that need to be had.
  • Farmington is now the top-performing school district in reading amongst the state’s ten largest districts—up nearly 15 percentage points in reading since 2015.  Gadsden has shown the most growth in mathematics, up nearly nine percentage points since 2015.
  • Eighteen of the state’s 20 largest districts are up in reading. Over the last eight years, New Mexico made heavy investments and put a major focus on early literacy as the foundation for all student success.  Many students started their academic careers under more rigorous standards, participated in early literacy programs, and have grown over time.  There is promise for the future if New Mexico remains on this trajectory—if so there will continue to be new generations of rising readers.
  • Districts like Los Lunas, Central Consolidated, Lovington, Artesia, Texico, Clovis, and Roswell represent a second wave of districts following this same trend. They have embraced higher standards, individualized instruction through PSAT/Khan Academy, are investing more money directly into the classroom, and understand the power of regular formative and interim assessments at the local level.
  • And there is so much to learn from high-performing and fast-growing schools like Gil Sanchez Elementary in Belen, like Union Elementary in West Las Vegas, like Explore Academy and North Valley Academy in Albuquerque, like Mesquite Elementary in Gadsden. These are schools that have demonstrated double-digit gains through innovation and excellence in instruction.  There are dozens of other examples of schools that are “beating the odds”, myth-busting around what is possible for every child, and creating beacons of excellence from which we can draw inspiration and best practices.  Our student achievement results are on the rise because of schools like these…

It is clear; the student achievement data shows that New Mexico’s students are on the rise.  These examples across the state serve as a reminder of that.  We should be proud of the progress districts and charters across the state have shown—and celebrate them.

It’s also becoming more and more evident to all that we, as a community of educators, must keep momentum and a laser-focus on improving instructional practice:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1196483/student-gains-a-strong-reason-to-keep-parcc.html

It is an honor to work alongside all of you each day on behalf of our kids and an exciting moment to be working in public education in New Mexico.  Please stay tuned for more information on how we will continue to celebrate success and champion progress, while we also constantly look for ways in which we can better serve our students.  It’s BOTH/AND, almost never EITHER/OR if we want to ensure that New Mexico is the fastest growing state in the country by 2020 and beyond.

Meanwhile, we prepare for our students to arrive in just a few short weeks for 2018-19.

Congratulations.  Onward.

Secretary Ruszkowski

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Monica Nunez

New Mexico Teacher Spotlight: Monica Nunez

I walk into my classroom everyday with the drive to inspire my students to set high expectations for themselves. With hard work and dedication, they can dream big and find their own success.

Being the first high school graduate in my family was a major accomplishment. Without the support of teachers and faculty at Santa Teresa High School, I would not have been able to graduate at the top 5% of my class, with a full academic scholarship.  This is my purpose for teaching at the same high school that I graduated from. I want to be that teacher that inspires students to find their own future success.

At New Mexico State University I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum & Instruction. One of my goals was always to return to my community to help students like myself.   I have been working as a teacher for 12 years now.  During my time at Gadsden Independent School District I have provided not just the teaching of subjects, but I have also guided my students towards setting and achieving their own future goals.

Teaching has always been a passion. I taught fourth grade for seven years at Santa Teresa Elementary.  During this time, I was able to be a part of a strong community that involved teachers, parents, and students.  By working hard we received a National Blue Ribbon Schools Award in 2010 by former President Barack Obama.  We were the first school from Gadsden Independent School District to receive this distinction.

As a science teacher at Santa Teresa High School, I continue to challenge my students and help them set goals to graduate. I am always looking for opportunities to broaden my students’ experiences.  I want them to see the world that exists outside of our community.

Some of my recognitions for teaching have been a TRIO New Mexico State Alumni Achiever Award and a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship. As part of the fellowship, I worked with National Geographic by taking an expedition to Antarctica.  I was then able to share this experience with my students, school and local community.  This experience has broaden my own perspective of the world and how to teach my own students beyond our beautiful Chihuahuan Desert.

I always dreamed of going to the white continent. As a teacher, I was able to accomplish my dream.  My purpose as a teacher is to have students see me as a source of inspiration to accomplish their own dreams.  I always tell my students that if I can accomplish my dreams, they can, too.

2018 NM Teacher Summit: Call For Presenters

2018 NM Teacher Summit: Call For Presenters

2018 NM TEACHER SUMMIT

CALL for PRESENTERS PHASE 1

The New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) is seeking creative and innovative presenters for the Third Annual NM Teacher Summit which will take place at the Albuquerque Convention Center from June 18-19, with a projected attendance of 1350 participants. The 2018 Teacher Summit theme is Teaching with Purpose.

Phase 1 of the call for presenters will remain open until Friday, March 23, 2018. Applicants that are chosen for Phase 2 are required to submit presentation materials by Friday, April 20, 2018. The process is described below.

CLICK HERE TO APPLY TO PRESENT AT THE THIRD ANNUAL NM TEACHER SUMMIT!

Process:

February 10—March 23:

Phase 1 submission window

March 23—March 31:   

Phase 1 submission review

April 5:   

Notification of acceptance to Phase 2; request for presentation materials

April 5—April 20:

Phase 2 presentation materials submission window

April 20—April 30:

Phase 2 submission review

May 4:  

Notification of presentation slot(s)

May 25:  

Final presentation PPT and hand-outs (if applicable) due to NMPED

Presentation topics:

Applicants are invited to choose a topic within their skill set and area of expertise. The topic should be relevant and applicable to New Mexico teachers’ classroom practice. The NMPED will support presenters with data and expertise, as needed. Below are a few suggested topics* that presenters may choose from:

·         Your content area or area of expertise ·         Native/Tribal Students
·         Classroom Practice ·         Special Education
·         Education Policy ·         Family Engagement
·         Teacher Leadership ·         Planning & Preparation
·         Assessments/Data to Drive Instruction ·         Formative & Short-Cycle Assessment
·         English Learners ·         Creating an Environment for Learning
·         *Any other topic or area of expertise

Session formats:

Teaching for Learning Sessions 90-Minutes—PreK-12 classroom methods, strategies, and techniques. This format allows enough time to teach a unit, include a make-n-take or other hands-on activities, use grouping techniques, etc.
Moderated Panels 60-minutes—a moderated panel of experts focused on current public education topics, initiatives, or policy. This format allows for the presenter to interview or lead a Q & A of panel of experts. The NMPED will support the presenter with the selection of panel members, if needed.
Information Sharing 60-minutes—a presentation or mini-lesson with Q & A time. This format allows for a presenter to model teaching practices during a presentation or mini-lesson.
The Learning Lounge 10-15 minutes—informal teaching and sharing by community partners, district & school leaders, or teachers at tables and in lounge areas before conference begins on Day 1 & Day 2.

Instructions for completing & submitting your application:

  1. Review the Blooms-Taxonomy-Teacher-Planning-Kit resource and use it as a guide when framing your submission.
  2. Review the 2018 Teacher Summit Proposal Rubric.
  3. Complete the Google Form Call for Presenters Application. (Google form submits automatically.)

Please note: Presenters and facilitators accepted through the voluntary call for presenters Phase 1 & 2 will be provided hotel accommodations for night of Monday June 18th. Accepted presenters/facilitators will also receive complimentary registration and are welcome to have lunch/dinner when provided during the Summit.

 

Family Engagement with Gloria Ruiz

Family Engagement with Gloria Ruiz

We are excited to share the third in our series of podcasts related to educational issues.  Please listen in as we interview the movers and shakers in New Mexico education.  Our third podcast features Gloria Ruiz, Family Engagement Coordinator, where she provides an overview how parental involvement has evolved to family engagement and explains how teachers can make tweaks to their current practices to elevate their work with parents and families.

family_engagement_podcast_1.11.18

 

CTE and STEM Conferences Available to You

CTE and STEM Conferences Available to You

National Conference Comes to Albuquerque!

The Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE) Best Practices and Innovations Conference will be in New Mexico this year. It will be held at the Hotel Albuquerque September 27-29, 2017. If CTE leaders are unable to attend the entire event, there will also be a half-day New Mexico CTE Summit Friday afternoon.

ACTE Best Practices & Innovations Conference https://www.acteonline.org/bestpractices/#.WZHDAU32aUk

Learn about ACTE Professional Membership https://www.acteonline.org/

Engineering, Computer Science, & Biomedical Sciences…Oh My!

The 2017 Project Lead The Way (PLTW) State Conference will be held September 15, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa for current or interested PLTW educators and leaders. Learn more and register for this STEM/CTE learning event.

Register for the NM Conference https://engr.nmsu.edu/nmpltw/2017-nm-pltw-state-conference/

Learn about National PLTW Curriculum https://www.pltw.org/


For questions, contact Bobbi Eichhorst at Barbara.Eichhorst@state.nm.us.

 

Istation Professional Development for the 2017-2018 School Year

Istation Professional Development for the 2017-2018 School Year

To continue supporting districts and charters K-3 in the implementation and use of IStation data in supporting improving reading outcomes for students, PED will be hosting regional half-day trainings.  Training this year will be provided in two-strands, one supporting principals and district leaders, and one strand for educators focusing on how Istation assists in closing the achievement gap.

Teacher Professional Development –Round 1- August/Sept. 2017

Using Istation Tools for Effective Small Group and Differentiated Instruction

This session will incorporate a short refresher of ISIP assessments and then focus on progress monitoring and intervention. Participants will use data to form effective small groups and use Istation Teacher Tools to support differentiated instruction.  Please bring fully charged technology devices and your Istation username and password.

Each day will provide two sessions: 8:30-11:30am and 1:00-4:00pm.  To register, please click the link below for the training you wish to attend:

Date Location Registration Link
8.28, 29, 30, 2017 Albuquerque IStation for Teachers 8.28, 8.29, 8.30 Albuquerque
8.31.2017 Las Vegas IStation for Teachers 8.31.17 – Las Vegas
9.6.2017 Las Cruces IStation for Teachers 9.6.17 Las Cruces
9.7.2017 Artesia Istation for Teachers 9.7.17 Artesia
9.11.2017 Gallup IStation for Teachers 9.11.17 Gallup

 

Principals/Administrators Professional Development –Round 1- Sept. 2017

Using Istation Reports for Accountability and Instructional Decision Making

This session provides administrators an overview of Istation’s fundamental components as well as a basic working knowledge of key management reports, to get the most out of your ISIP implementation.  At the conclusion of this session, administrators will have had a chance to review reports for accountability and campus/district progress, as well as decision making.  Please bring fully charged technology devices and your Istation username and password.

Each day will provide two sessions: 8:30-11:30am and 1:00-4:00pm.  To register, please click the link below for the training you wish to attend:

Date Location Registration Link
9.6.2017 Albuquerque IStation for Administrators 9.6.17 – Albuquerque
9.7.2017 Las Vegas Istation for Administrator 9.7.17 Las Vegas
9.11.2017 Artesia Istation for Administrators 9.11.17 Artesia
9.12.2017 Gallup IStation for Administrators 9.12.17 Gallup
9.13.2017 Las Cruces IStation for Administrators 9.13.17 Las Cruces

 

Please share the information with your schools.  If you have questions, contact Michael Miller, Literacy Director, at michael.miller2@state.nm.us or at 505-827-6567.

Top 10 Highlights of the NM Teacher Summit

Top 10 Highlights of the NM Teacher Summit

In case you missed it, June 26th and 27th marked our Second Annual NM Teacher Summit. The event was huge success with 1,000 teachers from all over the state coming together to celebrate one another and continue to grow in their craft and career.

Check out the 10 Ten things about the 2nd Annual Teacher Summit:

  1. 1,000 attendees

    This year, the summit grew to 3x the size of last year. It was a true joy to see 1,000 teachers gathered full of positivity and excitement! Two years ago, the Secretary’s Teacher Advisory said they wanted a summer conference, we would never have dreamed that just two years later we’d be standing on stage looking at a crowd of 1,000 teachers!

  2. Improved Communication

    In my role, I often hear from teachers that they feel “out of the loop”. I had many conversations over two days in which teachers said they finally feel like they know what is going on and feel included in the path ahead!

  3. Acting Secretary Ruszkowski’s first keynote address

    It was great to see Acting Secretary Ruszkowski deliver his first ever keynote address as Acting Secretary during the Summit’s opening session and to learn more about his personal story and passion for education. Later, he spent time in small group sessions with teachers answering tough questions with finesse and commitment. Teachers really enjoyed meeting one on one.

  4. New Teacher Leader Opportunities

    We shared so many opportunities for teachers to be change agents for education in New Mexico at the Summit. Teach Plus shared their application for the 2nd cohort of the New Mexico Teach Plus Fellowship. The New Mexico Literacy Dream Team shared the 36 close reading lesson plans and announced the launch of the 2nd New Mexico Dream Team which will focus on Social Studies. Stay tuned for the application. We also announced the expansion of the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network and the 2nd Cohort of the Secretary’s Teacher Advisory. The 2nd Cohort of the STA will be selected by the end of the month and the application with for the expansion of the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network will be out this Fall.

  5. Empowered Teachers 

    Through the course of the conference we were able to see teachers realize that they have so much power to impact change for their students and schools. I really enjoyed watching teachers lean into their power as teachers and begin to empower others.

  6. Secretary Skandera’s Final Interview with Romy Drucker from The 74 Million

    Although her last day on the job was June 20th, Secretary Skandera was present at the New Mexico Teacher Summit and did a final interview with the CEO of the online education site, The 74 Million, Romy Drucker. Secretary Skandera reflected on her time in New Mexico, shared her lessons learned, and thanked the teachers for attending and creating so many opportunities for teachers to be equipped, empowered and championed.

  7. National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee 

    It was such an honor to have the National Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee, join us for the Summit. Sydney delivered the keynote address at our celebration dinner on night 1 of the summit. During her keynote, Sydney talked about the power of teacher voice and encouraged all teachers to get involved.

  8. More than 36 awesome break out sessions

    PED Staff and external partners came together to host more than 36 breakout sessions on everything form iStation and PARCC, to Teacher Evaluation and School Grades, small group sessions with Acting Secretary Ruszkowski and focus groups on new literacy programs. We also had sessions on Teacher Leader opportunities, Curriculum and Lesson Planning and so much more. All sessions were kicked off by a teacher leader, which was a great way to highlight their effort and commitment.

  9. #NMTeacherSummit

    We had a blast following teacher’s favorite moments and take-aways on Twitter. Participants were encouraged to interact using #NMTeacherSummit allowing others to follow along.

  10. Teachers Leading

    Our teacher leaders were in force at the Summit. They introduced every break out session, introduced every keynote speakers, led teacher shout outs from the stage and assisted their colleagues. Some of our teacher leaders even led break out sessions. This was truly our vision come to life. Teachers equipping, empowering and championing their peers. It was the highlight of my career to watch it unfold.

The NM Teacher Summit equipped, empowered, and championed our teachers, but don’t take my word for it. Check out what teachers had to say about the event:

Santa Fe Teacher

I had an amazing time these past two days! I truly believe that we are on a positive path in New Mexico! 

Las Cruces Teacher

The Summit made me realize I need to get out of my comfort zone after 28 years of teaching. I can’t wait to get the STA application in my hand, and if that doesn’t work out, I’ll apply for the School Liaison. There is so much work to be done, and I want to be part of it!!! 

Albuquerque Teacher

This girl is on FIRE! Based on two of the breakout sessions, I have revamped my first two weeks of lessons. Inquiry based life science with argumentation discussions based on Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning. I am so excited! Also, I’m hoping to take these ideas back to my site and share with my colleagues. Between the STEM Symposium and The Summit, I am fired up! Thank you NMPED and our teacher leaders! 

Artesia Teacher

It was so enjoyable to spend two days in such a positive atmosphere. 

Texico Teacher

I have of being a part of something so incredibly dynamic and motivating! From the beginning to the end, I felt that I was involved in something transformative and inspired. The general sessions were all inclusive and uniting, and the break outs supported so many varied personal interests. The two days were uplifting and affirming as an educator. I feel valued and respected, heard and recognized, and most of all, championed. 

We hope to see you at next year’s Teacher Summit! Date to come soon!

To find resources and presentations from the teacher summit click here.

GUEST POST: How the NM Teacher Summit Changed My Summer Plans

GUEST POST: How the NM Teacher Summit Changed My Summer Plans

I can’t seem to come down from the past few days. This is a strange feeling for me because June is usually a month characterized by lounging on the couch, starting (and hopefully finishing) house projects that have gone undone since Christmas break, and consciously releasing the stressful moments and memories of my teaching year.  No matter how wonderful the school year has been for me, I invariably need this complete break from it and from almost everything educational. At least that is how I have managed to get through the last ten years.

Granted, when I was a new teacher I had that eager, overachiever thirst for new knowledge. Over the past 26 years that “newness” has worn off and I have learned to pace myself, never teach summer school, and stay in my robe until noon. I am one of those teachers who needs the full 10 weeks of summer vacation to rejuvenate. Come Labor Day, I am back in full force and signing up for everything extra-curricular and then some. I push myself non-stop, just not in June. Let’s face it: I’ve been doing this a long time, and I only have so much energy to go around.

So imagine how surprised I was to return from the Second Annual NM Teacher Summit last night with an energy usually reserved for September. I literally couldn’t subdue the enthusiasm and joy I felt as I drove back from Albuquerque to Taos. The landscape looked crisper and the sunset brighter. What just happened to me?

I now realize how I have isolated myself professionally over the last decade. I admit, I have a good thing going. I love my school, my director, my colleagues, and my students. I have a fabulous view of Taos Mountain from my window, and my commute is 1-1/2 miles. Life is good….and easy. Online professional development and collaboration with brilliant coworkers is all I need. Or so I thought.

It’s easy to self-isolate in a large landmass state such as New Mexico. When I taught in New England states and even in coastal Virginia, there was always a district or city nearby where teachers shared information, conferenced, and supported each other. I didn’t remember until this week in Albuquerque how much I had missed that. To be in a convention center ballroom with 1,000 of my peers was exhilarating. To hear our New Mexico Public Education Department thank us for our work and inspire us to push ourselves to greater heights was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

I attended break-out sessions where I learned how PED is working to improve education in New Mexico, met old and new teacher friends, and celebrated accomplishments in New Mexico schools. I gained a better appreciation for the vision and efforts of former Secretary Skandera to effect change for New Mexico students, and for the energy of the new Acting Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski to continue to work to equip and empower teachers in order to make that happen. It wasn’t long before I remembered why I chose this great profession and how much I still love teaching. In my self-imposed isolation, I sometimes forget that truth.

The best part for me: seeing a friend and former colleague who I mentored when she was a new teacher. She was able to attend just part of the Summit because she attends MBA classes to  become an educational leader in her home city of Albuquerque. Oh, and one of my former third grade students performed for the teachers in an incredible display of her drama skills developed at New Mexico School for the Arts where she will be a high school senior. The rewards of being a teacher always come back to the kids!

So I’m back to my problem of figuring out how to come down from this unexpected high. While I honor my physical and emotional need to stay away from the classroom during the summer, I might sneak in some educational reading from one of the many titles shared at the Summit. My boss and I agreed to read Simon Sinek’s Start with Why next month, and I’m excited to reread Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. The Summit not only connected me to friends and specific strategies for furthering my practice, but it made me want to expand my big picture of education while I have the time to start and finish a book. This is the first June in YEARS where I actually look forward to thinking about educational topics and themes. Forgive me if I do it in my robe on the couch.

This guest post was written by Leslie Baker, a teacher at Taos Charter School in Taos, NM and member of the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network.

GUEST POST: Teachers as Leaders, Yes We Can!

GUEST POST: Teachers as Leaders, Yes We Can!

When I first heard the modern iteration of the term ‘Teacher Leadership’ at the National Board’s annual Teaching and Learning Conference, my first cynical thought was, “Here They go again… trying to get us to do more work for less money.”   Three years later, I’ve come to believe strongly that teacher leadership is the key to creating a modern, effective American educational system.

Like many experienced teachers, I was a teacher leader before that became a catch phrase.  Almost 20 years ago, I was lucky enough to be a part of a cadre of ‘Literacy Leaders’ in my district.  There were 12 of us.  Our mission was to disseminate the research on how to teach reading.  It was exciting to be a part of this cohort and it was exciting to bring the teachers at my school together for the first time to discuss our practice and how to make it better.  The week-long summer training I led changed the culture at our school from one of isolation to one of collaboration.

Teachers volunteer at their schools because they want to help their peers be the best they can be for the good of their students.  Often these leaders move on into administrative positions because that is the only opportunity they see to extend their reach.  Many feel the need to expand their impact by formalizing their authority. Unfortunately, too many of these teacher leaders are unhappy in their roles as administrators.  They miss the life of the classroom.  They don’t feel their new roles give them the access they hoped for.  And they are right.  Teachers are more often influenced to improve their practice by other teachers whom they trust and respect.

This is where the true power of teacher leadership lies. Great teachers who improve collaborative practices within schools impact instruction far more than the conventional professional development.  The support that is most needed to improve their teaching is much more involved and intimate than the typical teacher training session.  Strong teachers, who receive training in coaching and adult learning theory, as well as, leading collaborative teams, can help build a culture of ongoing collaborative learning and professional practice in schools.  In this way highly effective teachers can lead courageous change leading to remarkable improvement in student learning.

Since ‘teacher leadership’ has become a movement, there are now a variety of models of teacher leadership around the country.  One is the hybrid role, where teachers teach part of the day and mentor or coach the other part.  In Albuquerque Public Schools, some teacher leaders are full time school-based Instructional Coaches.  Recently, organizations such as Teach Plus and Educators for Excellence have recruited exceptional educators and supported them in influencing policy and school reform in their states.  Teach Plus Fellows recently and successfully advocated for changes to our evaluation system.  The Secretary of Education’s Teacher Advisory is another such advocacy group that the PED started last year.  Both programs will be seeking applicants for new cohorts this summer. Other teachers seek advanced training or National Board Certification and work to help others achieve the same.  Perhaps the most powerful example of teacher leadership has been in the ‘Teacher Led Schools’ movement that has so far been stunningly successful.

New Mexico started its own innovative teacher leadership initiative with the Teacher Leader Network. This network began with 50 high performing teachers who went through a rigorous selection process.  They are brought together in person for 5 full day leadership trainings.  They take part in monthly webinars so they are kept abreast of current information from the the Public Education Department so that they can share it directly with their peers.  The state Public Education Department plans to expand this program so that every school in New Mexico has a designated teacher leader as part of the network.  As a tool for communication, this could yield powerful dividends, especially if the people who lead the Public Education Department make it a venue for not only dispersing information but also as a way to find out what teachers really need and want from our education leaders.  As a way to improve instruction among the rank and file, this network could have profound impact if the teacher leaders are able build trust, and establish collaborative processes in their schools.

If you are a teacher who wants to see some changes in our system, get involved!  Stay on the lookout for opportunities to apply for fellowships and leadership positions.  These opportunities are becoming increasingly more common.  Become National Board Certified, our state is one of the few in which you can receive a healthy stipend for this important achievement.  National Board Certification can open other doors as a leader in our profession.  If you are already National Board Certified consider attending our spring Leadership and advocacy training that will take place in Albuquerque in early June.

My own journey as a teacher leader taught me that teachers in New Mexico still need way more support than they generally receive. They feel powerless to change some of the circumstances within which they work, which leads to increased stress and a too high attrition rate.  In the fall, I will be working towards a Master’s Degree in Educational Policy so I can increase the capacity of teacher leaders in New Mexico. Investing in teacher leaders who create more support for teachers is money well spent.  As teacher leaders we can and must raise our voices to influence public policy in support of our teachers and our schools.