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The Teacher’s Academy Expands To Massachusetts

 Now Massachusetts teachers can have convenient, affordable and relevant professional development!

How it all began…

In 2012, a group of established teachers formed a company in Pennsylvania called Act 48 Academy in honor of a Pennsylvania law that requires all staff to maintain a high level of rockblogprofessional development. Act 48 Academy struck a chord for many teachers, and these services were needed outside of PA. Hence, The Teacher’s Academy was born.

We help teachers across the country…

Since then, we have been providing an affordable, convenient way for teachers to maintain their professional licenses.  In 2013, we expanded into our neighboring states of New York, New Jersey and Delaware.

In 2016, we were approved by IACET.

“The Teacher’s Academy is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and is authorized to issue the IACET accreditedCEU.”

This approval opened doors to all states accepting IACET CEUS, including Massachusetts.

Today, our internationally recognized company, The Teacher’s Academy, reaches across the nation to support all teachers. We are extremely proud to share the same vision with the amazing teachers in Massachusetts.

Renewing Your MA Teaching License

Every 5 years, teachers in Massachusetts need to renew their professional teaching licenses by obtaining 150 Professional Development Points (PDPs).

1 Hour = 1 PDP
1 CEU =  10 PDPs

Here are a few examples of courses offered by The Teacher’s Academy and the PDPs earned for each:

The Teacher’s Academy offers a variety of courses worth 3, 6, 15 and 18 PDPs.

The Teacher’s Academy Courses

Because the founders of The Teacher’s Academy are teachers, we believe professional development should be convenient, cover relevant topics, provide choices, and, above all, be affordable.

Not only are our courses affordable, they’re also convenient.  The team of teachers that reviews your completed work will present your Certificate and professional development hours within 5 – 7 business days of submission.  Our process is faster and less expensive than community colleges or other private companies.  There are no administrative or extra costs for materials because everything you need to complete the course is emailed immediately.   We have a tech team and support staff ready to assist with any questions.

Since our courses are downloaded to your computer, the course, along with all of the great web resources and teaching tools, are yours to keep!

Check out our course topics:

Teacher Resources

Look for more courses like these under Teacher Resources

Music and Art

Look for more courses like these under Music and Art

Technology

Look for more courses like these under Technology

We are honored to bring our services to the excellent teachers of Massachusetts!The Teacher's Academy

Check out The Teacher’s Academy website and Course Catalog, for a listing of all of our courses.

A New Angle on Teaching Math with Ms. Zakuto

Teacher Feature, March 2016: Ms. Tammy Zakuto

What does it take to be a teacher today?

We expect a lot from our teachers these days. We want them to be… kind, but structured; Caring, but firm; Funny and smart. And a vibrant personality is only one Zakutocomponent of great teaching. We also expect our teachers to teach with passion and differentiate their lessons; Address different learning styles and teach the whole child; Teach, but guide students to make their own discoveries; and do this all for every child in the class.  Add to these great expectations a dash of never-ending curriculum content, and the ever-present standardized testing and you’ve got a recipe for a high-pressure, demanding public service. Teaching is not for everybody. It takes patience, self-discipline, personal drive, creative thought and a little sense of adventure. This month’s Teacher Feature, Ms. Tammy Zakuto, embodies these qualities of a great teacher and more…Just ask her third grade class!

zakuto quoteMs. Zakuto was nominated for a Teacher Feature by a peer that claims Tammy’s innovative teaching style, ability to differentiate lessons and desire to constantly challenge her students are what makes her worthy of celebration. By the end of my visit to Ms. Zakuto’s beach-themed classroom, I wholeheartedly agreed!

Is it possible to make math fun? Tammy thinks so! (And so do her kids!)

Measuring angles was today’s topic. Since I’m a Social Studies geek at heart, admittedly, I was a little worried that I might not find a good “angle” for this blog. I was skeptical that a lesson about teaching angles could showcase all of the wonderful things I had heard about Tammy and her teaching methods. I imagined I’d spend most of my time watching students breaking out protractors and measuring lines- the way that I was taught all those years ago. Simply put…things have changed. Math is cool. Measuring angles is fun. And I was wrong!

zakuto raise handsUsing Applied Learning to Tackle New Concepts

The students know it’s time for math when they see the three color-coded questions on the SMART® board. The green question indicates a review of their 3rd grade knowledge. Today’s question simply asks the students to identify the degree of the angle shown (90). The room is abuzz…everyone can do this one! They move on to the yellow question which is a bit harder and requires the students to apply what they already know (90 degree angles) to determine the size of another angle- one they haven’t seen yet. Ms. Zakuto remains encouraging, but does not reveal how to solve it. Most of her students have it and she still hasn’t given any instruction on how to do it. Next, everyone tackles the red question: Find the outside angle. Students are applying their knowledge to new situations- a few have the answer (without protractors) and their teacher still hasn’t told them how!

protractorAssociate and connect, and then associate some more, and then connect again…

Now, she will finally break out the protractors and tell them how to measure the angles- even those tricky outside angles, right? Wrong. Next is a lesson in understanding the degrees of the circle…without a protractor. Students understand the math right away. They pick up that 90 plus 90 is 180. But to bring it home, she takes it outside of math. With a little prodding, students start identifying elsewhere they hear these degrees. One sweet voice chimes in, “In my dance class, if we only turn half way around, we call it a 180.” Then another, “If I go all the way around on the bars in gymnastics, they call it a 360.” Then Tammy starts to jump and do ¼ turns and half turns so the students can see the degrees of a circle in a physical sense. “Who skateboards?” Ms. Zakuto asks. One boy raises his hand. “What do you call some of your tricks?”

“Well, on a skateboard, we do a 360. And if you can do it twice, it’s a 720.”

I could practically see the little neurons bouncing and connecting in these brains. She wasn’t really giving any answers. She was instead constantly building on previous knowledge, helping them connect the concepts to the world around them and watching them come to their own conclusions. It was beautiful! With this new understanding, the kids were able to figure out all sorts of angles now…and still no protractors!

Guide. Facilitate. Explore. Repeat

With a few more class examples, something special was happening. Students were beginning to see patterns. “Look! Every other one ends in a 5.” And, “I think it looks like a clock.” Or, “It looks like that thing we used in Art…a compass!” Finally, it was time. They were ready…Ms. Zakuto brought out the protractors. No longer a mysterious tool, or “rounded ruler thingy.” These guys understood the lines and the little numbers before she had to explain it. But to really get it and to go further with measuring different angles, a small-group instructional on the topic would’ve been ideal.


zakuto kidsSeparating into groups of 3 or 4, students spent the next 15 minutes in their math centers. Some were working on their choice of carpet-friendly math games, others explored an zakuto studentsintuitive math program on the Ipad. Another group worked playing Angle Kung Fu on the computer, and the rest were huddled around their teacher with protractors in hand in that coveted small-group instructional session. So this is how she does it! Differentiated instruction, addressing multiple intelligences and small group instruction were all rolled up into one lesson.zakuto laptop

What it takes to make the difference and affect student learning…

Great teachers have strong intuition. They need to read their students’ needs in that moment and make adjustments when situations change. I think it’s Ms. Zakuto’s passion for thrills, pushing limits and sense of adventure that foster her unique teaching methodologies. Students in Ms. Zakuto’s class are regularly pushed to challenge their minds and often given work that they may not see until next year. “If I sense they can go further, then I push them. I mean, why not?”

It takes a lot of prezakuto quote2paration to pull off this kind of learning experience and she does it…every day. It’s why her students love her classes, the parents see growth in their children, and her peers think she should be recognized by The Teacher’s Academy. Her daily lessons look seamless, and to the zakuto pickids it’s just another day at the beach. But to those who understand the depth of this craft and what it takes to make a difference in today’s education world, Ms. Zakuto is teaching at its best. Bravo, Tammy Zakuto. And thank you for surpassing today’s expectations of what every parent, child, administrator and colleague want in a teacher.

The Teacher’s Academy provides continuing education courses that meet Pennsylvania Act 48 requirements for busy teachers. Our online professional development courses are written by teachers so the content is relevant and the process is convenient.

 

January 2016 Teacher Feature: Brian Blair

“Life is the hardest teacher, she gives you the test first and the lessons after.”

-Anonymous

 Hey teachers!  The Teacher’s Academy is excited to kick off 2016 with an introduction to a high-tech, innovative 9th grade modern American history teacher from PA.  (Yes, I used high-tech and history in the same sentence!)  You’ll be inspired by his out-of-the-box approach to teaching and motivated to create your own digital lessons.  It doesn’t matter what subject you teach or even the age, grade or ability level of your students.  Mr. Blair’s custom learning experiences are cross-curricular, engaging and adaptable to a variety of academic levels.

Get ready, because this is not your typical history class and Mr. Brian Blair from Bucks County, PA has no interest in being a typical history teacher…

Teacher Brian BlairThrough innovation, experimentation and communication, the lucky students in Mr. Blair’s classroom are obtaining the skills necessary for success in college and career while having a blast… in the past!  Images of modern American history cover the walls of classroom 501.  Louis Armstrong plays soft jazz music over-head as students file in and get settled.  The 1920’s culture is the theme for today, and to bring them back in time, Mr. Blair begins class by allowing students to observe and discuss a political cartoon from that era.  Even though they are separated by almost five generations, these savvy students are able to quickly observe striking similarities in the 1920’s culture and politics with our own 21st century society.   Students are given time to discuss the fear and symbolism in the cartoon while connections are made to a current events article.   The feel in the classroom is easygoing, safe and positive.  His students seem to know what is coming and are excited to begin their exploration of the 1920s.

 Innovation

Exploring history does not happen merely in books in this classroom, rather learning occurs in a digital realm.  Mr. Blair and his team of teachers have worked together to create digital learning experiences for students in grades 7 through 9.  Using Web 2.0 tools, students have access to the “Course Site” where videos, advertisements, pictures, articles and teacher-created questions related to the content have been posted.  (Teachers can also post questions or additional information while the students are working.)  There is a “comments” section for student responses, and they can also access the videos and articles from a home computer.  Students now have the freedom to review on their own or spend more time on an area they found interesting.

Creating an online curriculum takes planning and collaboration, but once the process is in place, the content comes to life.  This method is certainly a major change in the way teachers can deliver curriculum, but it in no way diminishes the role of the teacher.  In fact, the teacher becomes a crucial piece of the learning process by creating an environment that supports and challenges all students.  In this environment, the teacher has more time to coach one-on-one or clarify misconceptions and enrich learning.

Back to the ‘20s…

As his students gather their laptops and head-phones, Mr. Blair directs them to digital “stations” that he created so his students can experience history in a whole new way.  In Station #1 students are able to witness the popular roaring ‘20s dance craze “The Charleston.”  A picture of the actual dance steps is posted in this station for adventurous students who want to get out of their seats and try a few steps.  (Several do, to the delight of the rest of us!)

Station #2 introduces the dynamic changes in transportation that occurred in the ‘20s by allowing students to watch and/or read about Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight and understand how the assembly line allowed Henry Ford to build his Model T at the rate of 1 every 93 minutes!

“Oh my gosh!  There is a kid doing The Charleston on the wing of a bi-plane!”  Click on Station #3 and you get to see “barnstorming” the very real and death-defying entertainment of the 1920s.  (Thank goodness for Steven Spielberg!)

As the students begin to immerse themselves in the videos, the classroom becomes more vibrant and exciting.  Mr. Blair encourages the excitement by posting a few new pictures and tempting his students to check them out.  “I think I just found my favorite barnstorming image and I’m posting it on the Course Site.”  Frantically, the students search for the image.  It’s a picture of a few men playing cards while flying on the wing of the plane.  Hilarious?  Well, his students think so!

Experimentation

Since 2011, Mr. Blair has been the department coordinator and catalyst for introducing Web 2.0 tools into the classroom.  This has encouraged digital collaboration between teachers.   He is a proud member of a talented team of 7-9th grade teachers also possessed with the ambition for creating amazing learning experiences for their students.

“I work with an incredible team of teachers in my department, in my building and in this Mr. Blair's studentdistrict as a whole.  They are all great collaborators and expose the students to high quality teaching and learning daily.  We even have a member of our department here that is getting published and has a fledgling career as a historical rapper on iTunes.”

His decision to become the department coordinator did not come without some apprehension.  With the support of his principal, his new roll allowed him to completely redesign curriculum delivery using the latest technology which has had lasting effects on the department and, more importantly, the students.  He has incredible confidence and does not hesitate to take risks or experiment with ideas outside of the teaching “comfort” zone.  He is aware that things will not always go perfectly, but taking risks is important for growth and change.

“I think the best advice for anyone in this profession is to not be afraid to try new ideas or experiment with new technology.  I know at times we have a tried and true approach and we may not want to deviate from the norm, but some of my greatest moments as a teacher have evolved from trying a new digital platform or creating a screencast of content I used to stand in front of a class and deliver.  We sometimes need to refine who we are and what we do.  Sometimes it works and sometimes… it is dynamic…”

Communication

Mr. Blair has a natural read for middle school learners.  He has an easy smile and makes Brian Blairthe whole class feel comfortable communicating with each other.

“The students need to be comfortable talking in this class,” he says with a wide smile.

I know exactly why he’s smiling.  Student chatter can be quite uncomfortable for some teachers to accept, but learning to communicate effectively is a key skill that students will not learn by staying quiet.  Of course, anyone who works with 13, 14 and 15 year old students can also understand the challenge to get any kind of valuable response!  No doubt, these students were very comfortable discussing ideas with Mr. Blair, but most of the discussion happened between the students.  Discussions about the political landscapes, the differences in the cultures, and the similarities in our hopes and fears were happening in small groups all around me.   Mr. Blair supports students just enough so they are able to succeed independently and challenges others to dig deeper.  Some students formed strong opinions based on the new information gathered from the videos but also from listening to their peers’ reactions.    Many were practiced in the art of persuasion and used those skills to change minds.  His students are expert communicators already.

Mr. Blair mentioned his team of teachers more than once and, to an outsider looking in, it is clear that this team of teachers has created an effective, fun way to accomplish many academic goals.  Through collaboration and effective communication with each other, no one loses site of the end product.

History in the Making

Mr. Brian Blair began creating his own history in his junior year of high school.  As a teenager, he would sit in his favorite class (social studies) and imagine ways of using different types of visuals or primary sources to make the lessons even more interesting.  After graduating from Penn State, earning a Masters degree from Villanova and years of teaching experiences, Mr. Blair still imagines news ways to make his social studies class even more interesting!

He has been awarded by his district for in-house assessment services, worked for ETS, The National Board and currently contributes to Learning Bird.com.  (As part of Learning Bird, he creates short educational videos to increase student engagement and keep education moving in a digital direction.)  He runs a Claymation Camp with a fellow teacher at Bucks County Community College and has coached tennis and track for years.  Like any respectable Pennsylvanian, he is an avid participant in fantasy football and could be considered an originator of that great pastime considering his family involvement since 1972.  (Respect.)

Most importantly, Brian is the proud father of two little aspiring rock-star girls and a brand new baby boy!  I must mention that he happens to be married to another fantastic teacher who was featured in our 2015 line-up of amazing teachers. J

Back to the 21st Century

The time flew by and I seemed to have been lost in the super fun, “roaring” ‘20s, because class was about to end and I was not prepared.  I jumped to get my notes and continue my observation, but most of the students had filed out.  So, I thanked Mr. Blair and started to leave.

Just before I walked out the door, I had a chance to ask one of Mr. Blair’s lingering students about the class.

“What do you think about your history class?”

“It’s pretty cool,” she responded.

“Well, what do you think about your teacher?”

She too gave me a wide, easy smile, “He makes class really fun!”

I’d have to agree, Lexi!

Thanks Mr. Blair, for being The Teacher’s Academy January 2016 Teacher Feature! You are truly making history!

For more information about technology courses, social studies courses and professional development in your state, visit The Teacher’s Academy. It’s where teachers go to learn!

 

 

 

November 2015 Teacher Feature: Kerry Black

“I don’t do anything special. I just love what I do!”

-Kerry Black

 From the moment you walk into 4C (Mrs. Black’s Pre-K classroom), you get the feeling Mrs. Kerry Blackyou’ve stepped into a special place.  Books and supplies are neatly organized, walls are filled with colorful projects, and there is a warmth in the room that reflects the philosophy of the teacher.  When I reach my hand out to introduce myself formally and thank her for allowing me to spend the morning in her room, she coyly replies, “I don’t do anything special, I just love what I do.”  After spending the morning with Mrs. Black, I realize that is exactly what makes her so special.

Kerry approaches her day with a focus on “creating wonderful individuals.”  She and her partner, Ms. Marianne, create lessons each day that might seem daunting (considering the time restraints of a preschool day) or even impossible (due to the fact that they are teaching 4 year olds). Yet, with proper preparation, support from each other and the will to do the impossible, they find a way to execute even the most demanding lessons… And then they clean up and do it again! Kerry admits that without Ms. Marianne, the prepping, executing and sharing in the joy of accomplishment wouldn’t be possible. Having support is the key to success in learning, and life in general.

Teaching Letter FormationKerry’s ability to infuse learning with play promotes a love for learning in her young students. For example, to teach students how to form letters, they create “Mat Man.”  Students construct a figure using lines and curves (all of the shapes we use to form letters).  Of course, the students are so interested in creating their figure; they don’t realize that they’re learning.  As Kerry explains, “They’re just having fun; they don’t realize I’m teaching them.” 

It’s an ideal environment for preschoolers.  Students learn academics and real-world skills through play.  Kerry explains, “I try to create a warm, caring environment.  We’re a family here in 4C.  We love and take care of each other.”

Warm and Fuzzies are Contagious!

As the focus of Kindergarten becomes more academic, students often struggle socially as they enter the early elementary grades.  They don’t always get the opportunity to practice the skill of working as a group or team, something children typically learn through play.  Kerry emphasizes the importance of being kind and taking care of each other.  In her class, students receive a “warm and fuzzy” (a colorful, soft pom pom ball) when they demonstrate positive, nurturing behavior. It’s fascinating to see how hard students will work for this reward.  There are no toys or small trinkets, just the acknowledgement that you are taking care of and helping a classmate.

Clearly, it is working.  Kerry tells the story of a little boy who was out sick one day.  During morning circle and after they prayed for the boy who was out for the day, two classmates asked if they can make cards for him.  When the absent child received the cards, he asked Mrs. Black if his classmates can receive a warm and fuzzy for making him feel better!

Character and Community Development begin in Pre-K

The children of 4C also embrace the practice of being “bucket fillers.” It is a concept popularized by Carol McCloud’s book, Have You Filled a Bucket Today?  Children are encouraged to examine their actions toward others.  Are you helping someone, are you filling their bucket?  They realize through practice that by helping someone else, they end up feeling better about themselves.

These practices serve to enhance Kerry’s behavior management style.  Kerry explains, “I’m not interested in controlling their behavior.”  There is no chart, there is no public acknowledgment of which student is making good or bad choices.  “I simply reward good behavior and help them to make good choices.”

Kerry is an educator first and foremost.  She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Have You Filled A Bucket Today?Education and a Master’s Degree in Reading.  She worked for eight years as a reading specialist in secondary education and saw firsthand how difficult it can be to remediate students. She felt compelled to reach these students before remediation was their only hope. That’s when she turned to early childhood education. Kerry believes she has more influence on character development and forming good habits if she can reach students in the early stages of development.

“Teaching preschool is my escape…”

When Kerry was called to teach at Good Beginnings Preschool, she had young children and wasn’t looking to jump back into a professional role so soon. Kerry’s faith in God and His plan helped guide her to accept the position and she has since never looked back.  Kerry tells me, “This is now my passion, my happy place, my escape.”  If “escape” isn’t the word that comes to your mind while in a room full of excited 4-5 year olds, you’re probably not alone.  But for Kerry, designing rigorous lesson plans for this age is her passion.

Academia + Creativity + Fun = Learning

Kerry’s rigorous academic background, attention to detail, and high expectations set the stage for a preschool class that focuses on learning objectives and performance outcome. However, meeting performance objectives is not what drives her teaching practices. Yes, the students are held to a high standard. Yes, she peppers in advanced vocabulary. And yes, they do a LOT of hands on projects each day. But, it’s more important at this stage for the kids to love school, take care of each other and demonstrate good choices through play. Kerry realizes that when kids are having fun, there’s almost no limit to what they can learn.

Kerry designed a lesson on the human body that gives her students hands-on learning in a Human Body Projecctfun and impressionable way.  In her human body lesson, students create a “body” from a large paper shopping bag, with holes cut out for their head and arms.  Next, they attach balloons and straws to represent the lungs (that actually expand when the kids blow into the straws)!  There’s even a “piece of food” that travels down the esophagus through the intestine and into the stomach!  Bones (macaroni) are glued onto the back to represent the spine. Kerry doesn’t shy away from using medical terms like esophagus and vertebrae when teaching her students. This lesson is an excellent example of Mrs. Black’s ability to plan and execute an advanced concept lesson that 4 year olds (and their parents) will remember for years to come!

Mrs. Kerry BlackThank you, Kerry Black, for being an amazing inspiration to our children, their parents, your community and now teachers worldwide! The Teacher’s Academy proudly supports and congratulates your creativity, work ethic and genuine passion for developing character and a love of learning in our youth. Congratulations on being The Teacher’s Academy November, 2015 Teacher Feature!

Do you have a Rigorous Classroom?

Take this Teacher’s Academy quiz to find out if you teach with rigor.

Introduction

There’s a lot of buzz lately about integrating rigor into the classroom. There are workshops, webinars, articles and even blogs that define rigor for students and teachers. You’ve probably started to hear about rigor in your latest staff meetings, and if your state has adopted the hotly debated Common Core Standards, rigor is the new cornerstone of your lesson planning. But are you really infusing rigor into your curriculum? Are your students actually working rigorously? Take this quiz and see if you truly understand rigor in the classroom, and if your lessons and your students perform at a higher, more rigorous level!

1. Which of the following classes is an excellent example of a rigorous classroom?

a. An Honors Science class that requires a 20 page research report as their final exam.
b. An AP History class that coaches students to pass a college entrance exam.
c. An Algebra class that teaches students to use problem-solving strategies to analyze world hunger data they received in their social studies class.
d. A 4th grade class that assigns the most homework in the school.

“Rigor is the ability to solve complex problems and develop strategies to other content areas (Bogess 2007).” Since the adoption of No Child Left Behind in 2001, more attention is given to the way and the depth that teachers teach and students learn. It’s vital for us to compete in the global community, and according to test scores, the United States is falling behind. The quick fix for some teachers might be to assign more work. In the question Rigorous studentabove, all but one class focused on the amount of work the students had to endure. The correct answer is C. In the algebra class, students are using strategies taught and applying those strategies across the curriculum and to real world problems. Do you teach strategies that help students solve problems outside of your classroom? If so, you are teaching with rigor!

2. Which of the following teaching philosophies lends itself to incorporating rigor into the curriculum?

a. I believe all students can learn.
b. It is more important for students to respect than like their teacher.
c. I have high expectations for my students.
d. Fostering student effort is more important than high grades.
e. Both C and D.

High expectations are important and must include effort on the part of the learner (Wasley, Hampel and Clark , 1997). Most teachers believe all students can learn, and that’s a great teaching philosophy, but it doesn’t reflect the intent to teach with rigor. B is surprisingly a debatable topic to be discussed in another blog! The correct answer is E.students raising hands

Teaching with rigor requires the teachers to have high expectations of their students, and it requires effort on behalf of the student. It is up to the teacher to ignite that fire, so the student is compelled to work at a higher level, use more brain power, think harder and be ok with making a mistake. Do you have high expectations for your students? Do you celebrate effort over test scores? If so, you are teaching with rigor!

 3. Which of the following lessons is being taught with rigor?

a. After the science experiment, students will use primary sources to defend their findings.
b. Working collaboratively and utilizing the trends provided by NASDAQ, students will determine the best stock companies in which to invest for the next quarter.
c. After reading a passage from the classic Robinson Crusoe, students will refer to other literary texts and draw comparisons.
d. All of the above.

“Rigor would be used to say something about how an experience or activity is carried out and to what degree. Specifically, a ‘rigorous’ experience would be one that involves depth and care as, for example, in a scientific experiment or literary analysis that is done thoughtfully, deeply with sufficient depth and attention to accuracy and detail (Beane, 2001).” Memorizing facts is definitely an essential skill needed to get to deeper level thinking. Math facts, for example, must be drilled through a variety of practices until they become second nature. But this is not rigor. Once facts are established, what you and the students do with them sets the stage for rigor in the classroom. All of the lesson samples are examples of students using information that they comprehend and applying it to alternative situations. Do you give your students opportunities to deepen their understanding of basic concepts by analyzing data, comparing text or utilizing primary sources? If so, well done…that is a rigorous lesson!

 4. Which combination of classroom skills is considered “rigorous”?

a. memorize, explain, paraphrase
b. communicate, recall, comprehend
c. identify, paraphrase, solve
d. lead, collaborate, adapt

 “Rigor for the 21st century includes a focus on skills for life: critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration and leadership, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurialism, effective oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, and curiosity and imagination (Wagner 2008).” Perhaps options A, B and C look familiar to you. They were taken straight out of Bloom’s Taxonomy. As mentioned earlier, the foundational skills of learning are important, but too many students, teachers, and districts stop there. The correct answer is D. Students must be given opportunities to utilize the concepts they’ve learned and apply them to other situations. Do your students get to lead, collaborate, adapt, initiate and analyze to stimulate their curiosity? If so, you’re providing a rigorous environment.

5. Which of the following is true about rigor in the classroom?

a. Teaching rigor does not require supporting the students. At this level, students should be able to adapt to a rigorous lesson.
b. When students demonstrate understanding of rigorous material, they should all come to the same answer using the same methods.
c. The best way to assess rigor is through testing.
d. A student may have to sit with a problem longer than others to develop deeper understanding of applying the concepts.

In a rigorous classroom, the teacher is the support, the motivation and the key to success for students. Rigor is higher level thinking; teachers must support students and guide them through questioning and analyzing material. Therefore, the answer cannot be A. If students are being guided to come to their own conclusions, it’s highly likely that they come to their solution through different means. Rigor includes providing a variety of ways that the student can comprehend information. Therefore, the answer cannot be B. Rigor cannot be assessed through standardized tests, unless these tests offer a variety of stacked booksopportunities to demonstrate comprehension. Rigor is best assessed through creative projects, discussion, and application. Therefore, the answer cannot be C. Rigor can be taught at all levels. If a student’s mental capacity requires them to sit with a problem longer than their peer needs to, the student sitting and working through the problem is experiencing rigor. Do you support your students as they work through difficult problems? Do you teach and encourage a variety of methods that lead to the same findings? Do you vary your tests and assessment strategies to incorporate analysis? Do you encourage students to sit with a problem until they get it? If so, you’ve got a pretty rigorous classroom!

So, what have you learned about rigor and your own classroom? As a teacher and life-long student, I believe there are always areas to grow and learn. Taking a good hard look at our own teaching philosophy, curriculum, lessons and methods can only put us on the path to being a better teacher.

Do you need more ideas? Check out our professional development course Inspiring Ideas for the 21st Century Classroom.  Or check out how to integrate rigor in Teaching Math using Common Core Standards and Teaching Science using Common Core Standards.

At The Teacher’s Academy, we are always updating our courses to be the most relevant, affordable and convenient professional development option. Check out our entire course catalog and get started renewing your certificate right away.

Top 5 Teacher Recommended Websites for Fall

Image

The leaves are falling, the air is crisp and Pumpkin Spice Lattes are in the hands of teachers everywhere.  It’s fall, and for teachers it’s the beginning of a new school year.  A time to spruce up the classroom and experiment with new strategies.  Here at The Teacher’s Academy, we’ve been searching the web for new, inspiring ways to help celebrate the fall season in the classroom.  We’ve compiled some tried and true fall ideas from teachers from all over the country who are generous enough to share their ideas for free! Take a moment and check out some of the best ideas from around the web to see if there are any that you can implement in your classroom today.

1.   Pinterest

Of course Pinterest is a go-to site for teachers looking for new (free!) ideas.  At the

Teacher’s Academy Pinterest page, we have an entire board devoted to September ideas!  We’re always in search of new ways to help teach those classroom rules and routines, as well as ways to learn about our new students.  Amy at milkandcookiesblog.com has a great getting-to-know youactivity.  Trace each student’s head for a silhouette, and let them fill the space with all of the things they love.  It’s a great way to find out what your students like, and it’s an activity they’re excited about.  Bonus: it can be used as an art piece to hang for Back to School Night that parents will enjoy too!

2.   Storyit.com

Story It is a website designed to make creative writing easier for students and more convenient for teachers.  One of the many features of Story It are story starters where students can log-on, choose their story starter, and either print or start typing.  Story It offers a few great fall themed story starters.  There is a Thanksgiving story starter where students write about an adventure they have on their way to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving dinner.  Students can get creative, and teachers have access to themed story starters any time of the year.

3.   InstructionalTechTalk.com

If you are using Google Apps for Education in your classroom, the folks at Instrumental Tech Talk have put together a step-by-step guide for Getting Started with Google

Classroom.  The easy to follow instructions will walk you through how to set up GAFE for you GAFE newbies.  If you’ve been hesitant to explore all of the features of GAFE, the experts at Instructional Tech Talk will give you the confidence you need to get started.   Interested in learning more about all of the features Google Apps for Education offer?  Check out one of our Google for Educators courses and discover all the ways GAFE can streamline your administrative responsibilities.

4.   LemonLimeAdvenures.com

Because STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) is one of the hot educational topics right now, teachers are always on the lookout for affordable, exciting STEM projects.  Lemon Lime Adventures has a great fall STEM project that can be used in just

about any elementary classroom – and it only requires two materials!  Just provide your students with candy sugar pumpkins and toothpicks and instruct them to build a tower or object.  Students can make them as complex or straightforward as they want.  Students will love the freedom they have while learning basic principles of engineering and building.

5.   Bitstrips.com

This app allows you to create comics using an avatar of your own design.  Students will love creating their own avatars and customizing comics for presentations, e-chats or just for fun.   Teachers can also get in on the fun by creating avatars and comics to use in their own presentations.  Even better, it’s free!  Warning: you may find yourself investing more time than you planned creating your avatar and comics, as I learned while researching this app. If you’re interested in learning more about BitStrip, StoryIt, or other great educational websites, check out our course at The Teacher’s Academy – Website Review for Teachers 2015.  Here you can learn about great websites and get professional development credits while doing it!

Hopefully these websites will ease your transition into fall and the new school year.  Check us out at The Teacher’s Academy for all of your professional development needs!

Act 48 Courses for New PA Education Expectations

In a continuing effort to improve PA Schools, the US Department of Education has approved the request for a waiver for the nation’s No Child Left Behind Act. Now, the state has the flexibility to direct funds where they are needed most. Academic achievement and career readiness are paramount for PA students, but the funds will also be directed towards tracking public school progress as well as support for administrators and teachers.

Starting in the 2013 school year, citizens will be able to easily access performance information on any public school using the “School Performance Profile.”  The profile will post the progress of schools based on a variety of measurements of student performance. Our schools will also benefit from the “educator evaluation system”, which provides information on the effectiveness of PA teachers and provides support for the improvement of education instruction.

Transparency in the schools will no doubt help filter out some ineffective teaching methods and bring the instruction models that work into the forefront. Unfortunately, budget cuts (among other influences) may continue to impact the ability of our students to reach their fullest potential. For example, some arts and physical education classes have been dropping from the curriculum of many PA schools because of budget cuts. Philadelphia schools, specifically, have been suffering for some time now because of “insufficient” funds, causing multiple closures and the layoffs of many effective teachers. The new initiatives will help track progress and provide some support to PA teachers, but how can we best help the children who may be negatively affected by these changes? Expanding what we know about teaching methods and applying new strategies in the classroom, will give teachers an edge on helping their students rise to new challenges. Just because a program gets cut does not mean teachers cannot finds ways to weave parts of that program throughout the curriculum. There are a lot of ways to incorporate a program that has been cut. Art could be incorporated in language arts by using creative projects to explain literary concepts. Music could be incorporated into social studies by researching musical history or the cultural impact certain types of music have in specific regions. Students that play an instrument could play in class.  Physical Education could be incorporated into math by developing a game with teams, calculating scores or completed passes and then go play! Until the political atmosphere recognizes the impact these programs have on our students’ achievement, PA teachers may need to think creatively and improvise.

College and workforce readiness is the goal for our graduates, so our teachers need to be able to apply what they learn in a lesson, with connections to real-life situations. For some teachers, technology may be what they need to develop those lessons.  For others, learning how to set up a workshop or redesign the curriculum to differentiate more effectively may be a more immediate need. Learning to use new, effective tools to improve instruction are just a few of the ways teachers can continue their own educational development while having an immediate impact on their students.

How Do I Check My Act 48 Credits?

 #1: How Do I Check My Act 48 Credits?

1. Go to the PA Department of Education website.

2. Type your Professional ID in the box and click GO. You will see Accumulated Credits and those that are Still Needed.

3. Click View CE Details to view the list of classes that you have taken.

#2: How do I get my PA Professional Personnel ID?

1. Go to the PA Department of Education website.
2. Click the Get your Professional Personnel ID.
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3. Type your personal information in the spaces provided. Click Get Professional Personnel ID.

#3: How can I fulfill my Act 48 Requirements Quickly?

You must obtain 180 hours of professional development every 5 years. If your certificate is in danger of being inactive or you need to reactivate it for an upcoming job opportunity, your fastest option is online learning. The fastest way to obtain affordable Act 48 CEUs so that your certificate does not go inactive is The Teacher’s Academy. This new service for educators allows you to choose a course from a variety of growing topics and download the material to your computer instantly.

#4: What if I don’t satisfy my Act 48 Requirements?

If you don’t complete 180 hours of professional development in five (5) years, your certificate will be considered “inactive.” You will not be able to be hired or employed by any public or charter school in Pennsylvania. The certificate will remain inactive until you fulfill the 180 hour requirement.

#5: How can I update my contact information with the PA Department of Education?

Perhaps you recently moved or changed your name. It is important that the state has your most current information so that they can keep you informed of your certificate status and any other changes or news regarding your Pennsylvania teaching certificate. If you want to check that your information is current and that you are receiving any and all communication from the state, you can manage your contact information via the Teacher Information Management System (TIMS). NOTE: You must be a registered user of the PA Department of Education Website.

6. The Teacher’s Academy- The newest online provider of Act 48 credits recognized the problem that teachers need a source for managing and accumulating their Act 48 hours. This company was created by a group of teachers who have reached out to other teachers to write courses that have been approved by the state for Act 48 credits. As a result, you have a wide variety of affordable courses that you can download to your computer and complete at your convenience.

Use the chart for a visual comparison of these common vendors of Act 48 Hours.

The Teacher's Academy- Act 48 Credits

#7: Isn’t there a moratorium on obtaining Act 48 credits right now?

Yes…but that grace period expires at the end of June 2014. Check the status of your certificate online to see if you are in danger of becoming inactive. If you want more information on the moratorium, you can check out our last blog post.