Tag: STA

Going the Distance

Going the Distance

When my nine-year-old son recently ran his first cross-country race, he joined a long line of long-distance runners. My entire family is obsessed with running—from my sister, who coaches a high school cross-country team, to my niece, who is a state champion long-distance runner. I’ve run my fair share of 5Ks and even trained for and completed a half-marathon! I guess you could say running just runs in our family.

My family also is full of teachers. My mother is a teacher, my sister and I used to teach in neighboring classrooms at Volcano Vista High School, and my son just finished the third-grade with my cousin as his teacher. We even have a few college instructors among us!

In a way, it isn’t surprising that our family is passionate for both long-distance running and education. Jogging thirteen miles and teaching a classroom of kids are similarly exhausting—but rewarding—activities. Both often involve waking up way too early in the morning. Both require a huge time commitment and determination in the face of discouragement. And both revolve around aiming high and working toward a distant goal: either making it to the finish line or helping students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and beyond.

But while a half-marathon has always been 13.1 miles, the definition of success for our students today is markedly different than it was when I was in school years ago. To be a smart citizen, consumer, and competitive in the workforce in 2017, you have to be able to think critically, understand other perspectives, and clearly explain your own ideas. The bar is higher now, and the race to reach it is more fast-paced and competitive than ever. As a teacher, I know we need to help students today be prepared for that race by challenging them to meet higher academic standards.

Higher expectations for students translate into different expectations for teachers, too. This notion fuels my work with the Secretary’s Teacher Advisory, a committee of teachers from around the state who have the ear of Acting Secretary of Education Christopher Ruszkowski on topics like school grades, standardized testing, and NMTEACH summative reports. There is no question that this is hard work and we certainly don’t agree on everything. As a group of dedicated teachers, we are focused on equipping and empowering teachers in order to, in turn, do the same for our students. We believe that when teachers reflect on how they teach and shift their practice to better support their students in meeting the standards, students will be more likely to succeed.

And the good news this is exactly what’s happening: New Mexico students are making gains and increasingly meeting the higher expectations that we’ve set for them with the New Mexico Common Core State Standards.

Despite this fantastic progress, we still have a long way to go. Only 19.7 percent of New Mexico students are proficient in math, and about 28.6 percent are proficient in reading. If we want more of our students to reach the finish line of graduating high school ready for college and careers, then we need to stay the course with our high standards and aligned assessments. We also need to ensure that teachers get feedback and support to help their students meet the standards. We’re on the right track here in New Mexico, and with some perseverance and renewed energy, we can truly help our young people go the distance.

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: 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.

ICYMI: Roswell Daily Record: Morales says education is path to change

ICYMI: Roswell Daily Record: Morales says education is path to change

After nine years in various teaching assignments in Roswell, Hope Morales has a new role this year.

She is a “teacher on special assignment” at Military Heights Elementary School, training to become a principal for the Roswell Independent School District.
“As much as I love working with students, I absolutely adore working with teachers. And I know that the collaboration I have with teachers is helping students. The strategies that we are talking about, the data we are sharing are going into classrooms to help students. … Rather than working with 25 students, I work with 400, and rather than working with three teachers, I work with teachers throughout the building.”

Morales might be a familiar name to some in the city. She was one of the public faces of the New Mexico Teach Plus Teaching Policy fellows who helped craft the new state Public Education Department rule announced April 2 by Gov. Susana Martinez. The rule, to be in effect five years, will double the sick leave days allowed for teachers from three a year to six before they are penalized in their evaluations and will reduce the weight of student test scores from 50 percent to 35 percent. Now classroom [auth] observations and student scores each will account for 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. Martinez had vetoed a bill that would have allowed teachers to use all 10 sick days permitted by their contracts before being penalized.

Selected for the one-year fellowship from hundreds of applications statewide and after a process that involved screening of applications, interviews and questions regarding educational policy, Morales was put on a team that studied teacher evaluations, including conducting polls of educators in the state that provided data to help formulate a proposed policy. (City Councilor and University High School math teacher Natasha Mackey is also a fellow this year.)

Although teacher evaluation policy was not Morales’s personal top priority, it was among the top three and one she thinks is vitally important to education. “I think the evaluation system overall has impacted the culture of education as a state,” she said. “I think that teachers need accountability and our teachers want accountability. And I think that students deserve that. But I also believe there needs to be balance and accuracy. And I think our changes help bring better balance to the system while maintaining that accountability. “As soon as no evaluation bills had passed involving evaluations, I asked Teach Plus leadership, ‘Can we go back to PED leadership and see if we could get our recommendations into the current rule?’ … So there was always a back-up plan so that, some how, some way, we were going to get the changes.” Morales said she has heard mostly positive feedback about the changes, but she recognizes that some educators were critical of the changes as insubstantial or insufficient.
“We knew we had to compromise and get numbers in there that would be an improvement,” she said.

A Roswell native and Roswell High School graduate, Morales said that she knew early on that she wanted to be a teacher. She earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in education and has worked at three local schools as a substitute, a reading associate, a first-, second- and third-grade teacher, a seventh-grade language arts teacher and a Title I teacher.
She has been at Military Heights for four years and said she appreciates its “positive” culture. It’s also a perk that she gets to be at the same school as her second-grade daughter. Her son attends Berrendo Middle School.

Military Heights principal Heidi Shanor commented on Morales’s contribution as a teacher advocate. “She has become very involved with the New Mexico Department of Education over the past two years, especially, Shanor said, “lending her voice to help make positive changes for our educators and education system.”

Morales said that she could get a principal position as early as the fall, but she said she has learned that she can’t control the outcome. “I don’t go by my plans anymore,” she said. “That does not work out at all, so I kind of say that I will go for it all and what works out is right for me.”

Morales serves on many other education committees, including the New Mexico Secretary of Education’s Advisory Council, the RISD Superintendent’s Advisory Council, the RISD School Leadership Team and the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network. Her ultimate aim, she said, is to utilize education to help the community and its citizens succeed. “I was the first in my family to graduate high school with honors, to get my bachelor’s degree and my master’s degree. Education was my opportunity to change the cycle, and I want to make sure that I provide that opportunity for others,” she said. “I want to do my part to contribute to the overall success of our children.”
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Reposted from RDR Online Roswell Daily Record by staff writer Lisa Dunlap

GUEST POST: REFLECTIONS ON THE 2016 TEACHER SUMMIT

GUEST POST: REFLECTIONS ON THE 2016 TEACHER SUMMIT

There is no question that the last few years in education — with their myriad of changes in standards, testing and teaching evaluations, and all the debates that went with them — have sometimes made teachers feel hard pressed to stay on top of everything being asked of them.

Through it all, we used each other as sounding boards for ideas on how to adopt Common Core, how to prepare kids for PARCC and for how to upload those NMTeach artifacts. And we also did plenty of griping about those responsible (read Secretary Hanna Skandera).

So when I found out about the recent New Mexico Teacher Summit and that it would provide the opportunity to ask some of the burning questions that have come up over the last few years, I jumped at the chance. And I was not disappointed.

No, I didn’t convince Secretary Skandera to dump the evaluation system or get rid of EOCs. But I did find out that she and her staff are open to, and actually want, feedback from teachers in order to improve those systems.

In every session I attended, from NMTeach 101 to an introduction to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, our presenters invited questions and did their best to answer them honestly. And they didn’t sugarcoat the problems or why they chose their solutions. I also got the chance to hear from tons of smart, talented teachers from across the state. It was clear they care about kids and want our schools to serve them better.

I also learned more about the Secretary’s Teacher Advisory, a group of 17 teachers from across New Mexico who are doing their best to present our perspective to Secretary Skandera and report back to those of us on the ground. There are also plans to form a larger group of teacher leaders who will hopefully translate all that state policy to those of us who are too busy planning lessons to pay attention to every change coming our way.

It would be a lie to say that I came away completely convinced of every move Secretary Skandera and her staff have made recently. I still think we can get better at helping kids and supporting teachers. But I can say that as teachers we can’t sit idly by complaining. We need to jump in there with our own ideas and solutions, from policy on down to classroom practice.

The New Mexico Teacher Summit was a valuable first step in empowering teachers to be a part of the process. I wait eagerly to find out what becomes of all the opinions and ideas that teachers shared over the summit’s two days. And I can’t wait until next year.

John Sena is an English teacher at Española Valley High School

Recap of the 2016 Teacher Summit

Recap of the 2016 Teacher Summit

Coming into this new role directly from the classroom, I knew one thing to be certain. Teachers like me must feel valued as professionals and have access to the information needed to best serve our students.

On July 19 and 20, I, along with, the teachers who make up the Secretary’s Teacher Advisory and the Public Education Department, hosted the inaugural New Mexico Teacher Summit. This two-day event equipped, empowered, and championed over 300 teachers from around the state bringing to fruition that which I knew to be certain; teachers must feel valued and have information.

Through 4 general sessions and 39 break-out sessions, the Summit left teachers feeling like their voices were heard, afforded them access to meaningful professional development, and elevated their spirits by being celebrated as professionals.

Thanks to the outpouring of support, you don’t have to take my word for it. I want to share a few words from my peers who attended this powerful event.

“I learned so much and I feel empowered to move forward this next year. Thank you so much for the NM Teachers Summit. I was awestruck by the shift in the narrative surrounding education. I am excited to be a part of what is coming.”
Michelle Baber, Middle School Teacher in Farmington, NM

“Thank you for the Summit! I feel so energized and excited by all the connections I made there and all the GREAT workshops.”
Gretchen Vanketesh, Middle School Teacher in Santa Fe, NM

“Thank you for insisting that the NM Teachers Summit take place. The conversations have started, and thanks to your work, the doors of communication are now open.”
Jenifer Hooten, High School Charter School Teacher in Santa Fe, NM

“I just wanted to thank you for the opportunity to attend this first (of hopefully many) New Mexico Teacher Summits. Everyone there agreed that as a whole the teachers finally felt like we had a voice and were being heard.”
Tina Hudson, Elementary School Teacher in Bloomfield, NM

“I was super impressed that our vision of getting teachers to start the school year off on a positive, energizing way seemed to work! Secretary Skandera has really listened to us, and I, personally, feel valued.”
Kevin Balder- Secretary’s Teacher Advisory Member & High School Teacher in Albuquerque, NM

The Summit was met with resounding enthusiasm and positivity. Teachers who attended the Summit left with excitement and energy to begin the upcoming school year.

As the Teacher Liaison for the Public Education Department and a teacher straight out of the classroom, I had a vision for this event as a pivotal step in elevating the teaching profession. Going forward, I will remind teachers of how valued and important they are. I will work to improve the communication between the PED and teachers around the state. I will share opportunities for teachers to feel equipped, empowered, and championed in our profession. The inaugural New Mexico Teacher Summit was just the first step in this mission to further support teachers in our state.

But, I know that I can’t do it alone. I will need the help of teachers across the state to help and I’m thrilled that I had the opportunity to meet so many of you at the Summit. I look forward to our continued collaboration as I move forward in my mission to Equip, Empower and Champion.

To all those who attended, thank you! We look forward to seeing you next year!

Alicia Duran
Secretary’s Teacher Advisory Member, High School Teacher in Albuquerque