Educator team brings Theory back to Aurora school

The Colorado Education Association completed its latest series of Theory into Practice professional development training in Loveland. Weekend workshops held in September, October and November engaged educators from across the state to discuss curriculum, assessments, school improvement, student skills, and other topics that continually change and re-define the education landscape in Colorado.

Linda and Peg start the initial Theory discussion at the Sep. class in Loveland.

Linda Barker and Peg Portscheller begin the initial Theory discussions at the first Loveland session in September

This round of training brought a group of 120 school teachers and administrators together over the fall to reflect on their professional practice and find ways to improve the school experience for students. The training was led by Linda Barker, CEA’s Teaching and Learning Director, with on-site coaching from national education consultants Peg Portscheller and Dr. Janet Alcorn.

“When you’re in the building, it’s so quick and you’re down to business,” said Shannon Haney, an Aurora Education Association member who attended the Theory training with a team from Fulton Academy of Excellence. “We’re down to business here too, but we’re thinking more broadly that just what’s happening in the classroom right now or in the next few weeks. We can ask, ‘Where are we as a school and how will we get to 21st century skills with our students?’ and do that as a team, not just as ourselves.”

Fulton’s team of seven educators at Theory was led by Principal Jill Lliteras, who shared with Barker how the school is now applying the training concepts to the classroom.

“We were able to work through and identify our greatest needs to continue our momentum. The leadership team has resolved to map out the remainder of the year for professional development, focusing of feedback,” Lliteras said. Her staff is now focused on how to facilitate student learning and examining feedback at all levels: teacher-to-student, student-to-student, student-to-teacher and teacher-to-teacher.

“I want to thank CEA for the opportunity to work with my team in order to advance student learning at Fulton. You are helping us make a difference,” Lliteras added.

Shannon Haney talks about Fulton's team learning together at Theory into Practice

Shannon Haney talks about Fulton’s team learning together at Theory into Practice

Haney, a second-grade teacher of nine years, echoed the training helped her school narrow down improvement to items of critical importance, particularly in working through the Colorado Academic Standards.

“As a school, we decided on the power standards that were going to be deeply taught. I really latched onto that because my students leave knowing those things very well. I’m not trying to teach a million things but concentrating on those big things and how to get my students proficient.” Haney said her students appreciate having that focus as well.

“Instruction isn’t just about the activity but knowing why we are doing it and where we are going as a second-grade class,” Haney added. “One of my students was talking about his math problem and he referred back to why we were doing this and I got goose bumps. This is why I’m here.”

Theory into Practice reminded Haney that going slower is sometimes faster, and that it helps to go back to why she became a teacher in the first place. “Things get passed down, and passed down, and passed down, and pressure builds, and builds, and builds upon administration and teachers,” Haney observed. “We all have the same goal of helping kids and making things equitable, with social justice, but let’s ask, ‘Why are we choosing to do these things to meet that goal?’ More reflection is needed on the changes we’re making rather than having us continually try new things.”

theory class

Theory into Practice brings teachers and administrators across Colorado together for a series of weekend workshops to examine and improve professional practice


Thank a teacher today

We appreciate America’s public school educators who educate, believe in, care for, and protect their students. Who are they? Classroom teachers, specialists, interventionists, paraeducators and teacher assistants, counselors, nurses, speech and language therapists, preschool teachers, music teachers, art teachers, PE teachers, media specialists and librarians, school psychologists and social workers, and faculty at colleges and universities…

We join America in thanking ALL educators – and all school staff who support students, their families, and our schools – for all they do for students.

Public school employees give selflessly. They work long hours, including evenings and weekends outside of school, to mentor, tutor, and coach students, plus plan and prepare for their work with students. They reach into their own pockets, spending nearly $1,000 on average every year to pay for things their districts do not provide.

Public school employees believe in every student’s abilities and potential. They inspire self-confidence and lifelong learning in their students. They strive to provide a safe learning environment, and they collaborate with peers, parents, and the school community to support students and their families.

During the National PTA’s National Teacher Appreciation Week, we salute America’s teachers and all the school employees who dedicate their lives to helping our students thrive.

We encourage you today, on National Teacher Day, to change your Facebook status to thank a teacher who made a difference in your life.

Boulder Valley teacher to tour Brazilian schools with national educator group

Kristin Donley

Kristin Donley
Boulder Valley EA

The NEA Foundation has named Kristin Donley, science teacher at Monarch High School in Boulder Valley School District, as a 2013 Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellow. With this honor, Donley joins a unique class of 36 award-winning public school educators who will build their global competency skills, or the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance. Donley was Colorado’s nominee for the NEA Teaching Excellence Award last year.

“In order for students to be prepared for the global age, their educators must be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and disposition to teach in the global age,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. Our Global Learning Fellows program has an intentional focus on supporting educators as they strengthen their global competencies: investigating the world beyond one’s immediate environment; recognizing multiple perspectives; communicating ideas effectively with diverse audiences; and taking action to improve conditions.”

The fellowship expands on the NEA Foundation’s mission to advance student achievement by investing in public education that will prepare all students to learn and thrive in a rapidly changing world. It is designed to help educators acquire the necessary skills to integrate global competence into their daily classroom instruction, and prepare students to thrive in the interconnected  global age, and thus contribute to the closing of the global achievement gap.

The Fellowship builds a structured and collaborative learning experience that supports educators as they acquire global competence skills.  Over the course of one year, Fellows are supported by the NEA Foundation staff, partners, and other field experts, as they work through:

  • Readings and webinars to introduce global competence and country specific concepts;
  • Online coursework on global competence, country specific concepts, and interactive language learning;
  • A two-day professional development workshop with sessions led by leaders in global competency and country-specific knowledge; and
  • A study-tour designed to focus on the themes of global competence, education (both practice and issues of international, national, and state policy) and economics.

The tour of Brazil, June 19-27, includes visits to schools in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to provide educators with structured opportunities to observe classroom instruction and to interact with Brazilian teachers and administrators. It also includes opportunities to investigate Brazil’s rich historical and cultural landmarks. The tour is sponsored by the Pearson Foundation and the NEA Foundation and is designed by Education First.

In preparation, the fellows will complete an online course to provide them with a framework to contextualize their experiences in Brazil by examining the impact of its historical and cultural legacies on contemporary Brazilian society and educational system. The NEA Foundation has also partnered with Rosetta Stone to provide the fellows with basic Portuguese language training. “As we know, language is the road map to other cultures, and therefore an important tool for building global understanding,” Sanford said.

Together with the Pearson Foundation, the NEA Foundation will share the fellows’ experiences and observations through blog posts and photos as they travel.

At the conclusion of the Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellowship, educators will begin working on a final project to create a lesson plan, unit plan, or full curriculum integrated with global competency skills. By creating this plan, and then sharing with educators around the world via an open source platform, the educators are contributing to an increasing field of knowledge on this topic. Further, they are positioned to lead their profession by advocating for global learning and global competence within their schools, communities, and districts.

The NEA Foundation is a public foundation supported by NEA members’ dues, corporate sponsors and others interested in public education.

TELL Colorado Survey extended to March 11

The TELL Colorado Survey partners have extended the survey to next Monday, March 11. Whew!

More than 27,000 teachers or about 44 percent of all Colorado public school teachers have taken the survey since it began February 6. Now it’s time for the rest of you to take it.

Your school get its own data about the teaching and learning conditions in your school, based on your survey responses, if your school gets to 50 percent participation in the survey. Why not? What do you have to lose? It takes only 20 minutes to complete the survey.

Sure, that’s TIME, but time well spent on behalf of teaching and learning. As Erin Wagner, a kid, says in her poem titled “Moving Time” –

Time is going, always going
Never stopping, never slowing.
Say it now, please don’t wait
For tomorrow might be too late.
Hold on as it flies, be still as it slows.
Because… you never know.

(Found at the Poetry Zone)



Celebrate Read Across America Day, March 1

You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild
To pick up a book and read with a child.

You’re never too busy, too cool, or too hot
To pick up a book and share what you’ve got.

In schools and communities, gather around,
Pick up some books and pass them around.

There are kids everywhere who really need
Someone to hug, someone to read.

Come join us March 1 in your own special way,
and make it Colorado’s Read to Kids Day!

Friday, March 1 is Read Across America Day, an Association celebration observed by parents, students, elected officials (the Colorado Legislature), and educators across the U.S., maybe even around the world. Read Across America Day is not a fancy celebration, or one that costs a lot of money. It’s pretty simple: Pick up a book and read with a child.

Need some ideas? Parade Magazine has idea and tips for everyone. NEA has dozens of Resources to Get Reading, from a wide array of booklists to summer reading ideas. Get the facts about children’s literacy. SchoolTube has a Read Across America channel where you can share your Read Across America videos.

Check out Read Across America on the NEA web site too.

Join us – we’re reading to students and reading with students of every age, not just on Read Across America Day. Every day!

MLK Day and Presidential Inauguration: Historic occasion to stand up for economic and social justice

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel issued a statement in honor of today’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.

“On Monday, our nation’s first African American President will take the oath of office, the same day we honor Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., our most impassioned and celebrated civil rights leader. This convergence amplifies the importance of both events, and carries special meaning for National Education Association members who have stood up for social and economic justice throughout the organization’s proud 155-year history.

“As President Obama begins his second term, the National Education Association is committed to restoring hope and bringing about change in our country by fighting for greater access to opportunity for all Americans. For too long, opportunity has been the province of a select few, while average Americans have been left behind. It’s time to address these inequities and restore fairness.

“Our democracy is built upon the notion of opportunity, which rests upon the foundation of public education. We must work together to strengthen that foundation so that all students—no matter their zip code, race or social class—have access to a high quality education, a learning environment that is healthy, safe and secure, and a community that supports them and their families, both on and off school grounds.

“Recently, we’ve seen firsthand how our educators have so dramatically given their whole hearts to their students. In addition to caring how well their students learn, they also care about their students’ well-being and the well-being of their families. The personal commitment we’ve seen in our educators, from the school bus drivers who rescued victims of flooding after Superstorm Sandy to the classroom teachers who sacrificed their own safety to protect the lives of their students at Sandy Hook Elementary, will be reflected in NEA’s renewed commitment to educational excellence, social justice, and economic fairness.

“We know that the pathway from poverty to America’s great middle class runs through the classrooms of public schools and institutions of higher education. We will always fight for the educational opportunities that erase achievement gaps. We will always stand side by side, students, parents, and educators, to make sure our voices are heard in the places where policies are made and jobs are created.

“Along the way, we will be guided by a George Bernard Shaw quote that continues to inspire me: Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.

“On this important historic occasion, and on behalf of public school students across the nation, the National Education Association remains committed to dreaming and asking ‘why not?’ so that every public school student can look forward to a future filled with hope, prosperity and opportunity.”

Classroom Resources for Martin Luther King Day

NEA video celebrating Dr. King’s life and contributions to public education


TELL Colorado Survey begins February 6

As educators know, there is a clear connection between teaching conditions and student learning. This is why CEA is working with statewide partners for the third time to offer the TELL Colorado Survey to teachers from February 6 to March 6. We want to find out more about Colorado’s K-12 schools from the people who know them the best.

The TELL Colorado Survey is an anonymous, online survey which gives teachers and other licensed school-based educators the opportunity to tell their perceptions of the teaching and learning conditions in their schools. The survey data will provide educators, schools, districts, the Legislature, Colorado Department of Education (CDE), and CEA and its partners with information we can all use to improve our schools and support pro-education policies.

The TELL Colorado Survey (TELL stands for Teaching, Empowering, Leading, and Learning) was offered in 2009 and 2011, supported by funding from the Legislature. State-based versions of the survey are offered in a dozen other states in partnership with The New Teacher Center. CEA is working with CDE, CASE, CASB, the League of Charter Schools, and the Colorado Federation of Teachers on this year’s survey.

The TELL Colorado survey takes about 20-30 minutes and addresses issues of time, empowerment, leadership, resources, student conduct, community engagement, professional development, and mentoring. In their schools during the last week of January, educators will get individual letters with personal codes for taking the survey. After the close of the survey on March 6, The New Teacher Center will analyze data from all the schools that have sufficient participation for a written, school level report. Through this analysis, each school will have its own data to use in school improvement planning. The initial data will be available beginning in April.