1 You devote a lot of time to helping your colleagues pursue professional-development opportunities. What does winning the Milken Educator Award mean to you?
I mentor new teachers and remember, clearly, what it's like to be a first-year teacher … and feel like you're not doing enough. [As a teacher], you have to have a handle on behavior management and last year I was part of a group that mentored new teachers and coached them through difficult behavior issues. We would discuss current difficulties and talk through possible approaches and outcomes.
2 Why do you prioritize professional development?
Teaching can be an isolating job; you close your classroom door and do your thing, but you don't always have the opportunity to observe others or receive feedback from colleagues. It's important to continually learn new tricks of the trade. I'm constantly trying to better myself as an educator and I think we can all learn from each other.
3 What has been your experience with professional development and what opportunities have you pursued to better yourself?
When I began my career 10 years ago, I was able to attend numerous conferences each year, including a weeklong Responsive Classroom conference, which emphasized social-emotional learning. However, in the education industry now, school budgets are tight and, because of waning funding, I've pursued free seminars and school-based professional-development opportunities.
4 What are some of the better ideas you've learned at these staff meetings?
[In these meetings], I remember a colleague talking about incorporating games into elementary mathematics programs and our reading specialist coaching us through effective planning for guided-reading groups. It's great to hear about what has worked well for my peers, and knowing I can go to them for help is key.
5 When mentoring new teachers, what do you tell them about investing time in themselves and developing their careers?
My advice to new teachers is that … [professional development] takes a lot of time and dedication. … It's important to plan purposeful lessons, spend time reflecting often and have rich discussions with other educators. You also have to look at the students you have in front of you, they should guide you in your planning. •