‘Dear first-year teachers’: Listen to great advice from these veteran educators

In this short video, veteran educators provide valuable – and inspirational – advice for first-year teachers who are about to enter the classroom, starting with “Welcome to the best profession EVER.” … “There’s so much that you’re not going to be prepared for, and that’s OK!” … “Believe in yourself and believe in the impact that you bring to your class and to your students every day.” … “Find an amazing teacher to mentor you. No one gets through this alone.” … “If you hang around positive teachers in the school building, you’re going to be a positive first-year teacher.” … And finally, they all agree, “You got this!”

WEAC mentors provide invaluable support to National Board candidates

National Board candidates and renewal candidates attended a support session on Saturday, April 7, at the WEAC building in Madison. The event was free and open only to WEAC members, who served both as mentors and students. Attendees said the support and guidance they received was invaluable as they progress through the demanding and rewarding National Board process. Find out more about WEAC’s National Board resources at weac.org/NBCT.

Below are comments posted by some of the mentors on the Wisconsin National Board Certification group on NEA edCommunities.

Now’s a great time to join the free NEA edCommunities!

Have you been looking for a great online community where you can collaborate with colleagues both in Wisconsin and throughout the nation? NEA edCommunities is the place for you! At NEA edCommunities, you can:

  • Collaborate with school and community stakeholders.
  • Join groups on specific education topics and  issues – or start your own. Dozens of groups already exists in categories that include: Professional Practice; Bargaining and Advocacy; Leadership; Organizing; Politics; and Social Justice and Issue Advocacy.  Each category includes multiple groups, such as these examples from the Professional Practices category:
    • K-12 Science
    • K-12 Social Studies
    • Common Core K-5
    • Elementary Math
    • Digital Tools & Learning
    • ESP Hot Issues
    • Retired Educator Issues
    • Work4Me
    • And many, many more.
  • Share and access free, high-quality curricula and mashable resources to use as you wish to create customized learning tools.
  • Expand your professional opportunities with virtual learning events.
  • Improve student learning.

NEA edCommunities is, of course, geared to NEA members, but you actually don’t have to be an NEA member to use it. Although some of the groups are private, many are open to all educators throughout the nation.

What does NEA edCommunities do?

  • Connects all educators to virtual groups by interest topics.
  • Provides a safe means to collaborate with colleagues through discussion and file sharing.
  • Facilitates collaboration – at national, state and local levels.
  • Shares resources and materials helpful to educators and students.
  • Surfaces recommended resources, collaboration groups, and people to follow and get inspired in your professional practice.
  • Provides access to online events, webinars and meetups.

To join NEA edCommunities:

  • Register at mynea360.org. Registration is free and open to all educators – just click on the Sign Up link!
  • Complete your profile.
  • Join a group – or create your own group.

Read more:

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NEA edCommunities is part of a new nationwide Member Portal call MyNEA360, which gives members and prospective members a simple, secure and useful way to engage with the Association – on any device. NEA 360 is being rolled out state by state beginning this summer. We expect it to be operational for WEAC members in late winter/early spring 2018. Watch for announcements. (In the meantime, you can get started by using NEA edCommunities, which is already up and running.)

With NEA 360, members will be able to:

  • Manage your membership data online or, if you’re not yet a member, sign up for membership online, using any device. You will be able to view your financial and membership information at any time.
  • Subscribe to e-newsletters.
  • Access your personal contacts, including colleagues and friends from NEA edCommunities and your association representatives.
  • Submit questions and requests.

Celebrating Read Across America!

WEAC President Ron Martin joined staff and students at Viking Elementary School in Holmen on Thursday to celebrate Read Across America, the nation’s largest reading event. The National Education Association’s Read Across America, which is celebrated in schools throughout the nation on March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss, is designed to motivate students to read. The event helps students to master basic reading and comprehension skills and develop a life-long love of reading by making it F-U-N. Read more about Read Across America.

NEA Foundation highlights Milwaukee urban farming and aquaponics grant program during Earth Week


The NEA Foundation is celebrating Earth Week by highlighting grants that fund special Earth-friendly grant projects such as an urban farming and aquaponics program in Milwaukee.

This NEA Foundation case study and related e-book include valuable insights from two successful STEM projects it funded, in partnership with AT&T, in Milwaukee and New York City. These resources are designed for all educators, whether their districts are rural, suburban, or urban, to grow urban farming or aquaponics programs in their own schools.

Students produce their own food (everything from kale to fish!) and learn about not only science but also social justice, business, healthy eating, and sustainability. These programs have taken root in young minds across each district.

“Once the kids showed up and saw what the class was about, they kept showing up,” says Rochelle Sandrin, a science teacher at Bradley Tech in Milwaukee.

In the spirit of the season, and just in time for Earth Day, you are encouraged to find out more and share these resources. Click these links to post on Facebook and Twitter.

And view this video about the Milwaukee urban farming and aquaponics grant program:

Find out more about NEA Foundation Grants.

Deadlines for applications are
February 1, June 1, and October 15.

NEA Foundation also highlighted these recent Wisconsin grants:

Community Schools put students’ needs front and center

Community schools are an outstanding model for public education in the 21st century because they put students’ needs front and center. These schools can include partnerships with health care and social service providers, mentors, and others who offer a range of services, from medical care and counseling for students, to job resources and emergency assistance for parents and others who live in the neighborhood.

Community Schools exist or are being developed in several communities throughout Wisconsin, including Madison, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Sun Prairie and Milwaukee. Recently the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel featured the impressive accomplishments of the Community School program at Auer Avenue School in Milwaukee. It is one of four schools involved in the Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership.

What defines a Community School?

  • No two community schools are exactly alike. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach that treats all neighborhoods – and all students – the same, community schools are as unique as the children they serve.
  • Successful community schools are built on six pillars:
    • They provide a rich curriculum that includes culturally relevant, robust, and challenging course offerings.
    • They emphasize high-quality teaching instead of testing, including time for educators to collaborate.
    • They provide support services before, during, and after school.
    • They rely on extensive parent and community engagement.
    • They focus on positive discipline practices, resulting in fewer school suspensions and harsh punishments.
    • And they feature inclusive leadership and shared responsibility among the school principal, the Community School Coordinator, and a Community School Committee that includes parents, partners, school staff, youth, and other stakeholders.

The community school concept is not new; it actually dates to the turn of the 20th century when educators and philosophers such as John Dewey advocated a curriculum that was relevant to the lives of students. These educators argued that the school should be the center of neighborhood life and they wanted the building open and accessible well beyond the school day.

The concept fell in and out of favor over the passing decades. At some points, federal grants have supported the creation of community schools. But the emergence of No Child Left Behind put testing and top-down notions of reform in the driver’s seat.

With ESSA, educators – the ones who know students, parents, and neighborhoods best – have the opportunity to advocate for what we know works, and community schools should be at the top of our list.

Today’s community schools recognize that meeting our students’ needs inside the classroom means recognizing that the unmet needs they have outside the classroom affect their ability and desire to learn.

Read more:

Community Schools: As Unique as the Children They Serve – Lily’s Blackboard

Imagine a school that not only provides rich classes and challenging opportunities for students, but also builds the skills of parents who need help learning English or preparing for the GED. A school that has an inviting, cozy resource center where families who need clothing, emergency housing, or even immigration lawyers get help.

Imagine a School…

Each community school is unique, responsive to and reflective of the needs and aspirations of the students, families, and communities within its reach. However, the most successful of these schools are built on Six Pillars. Listed by @neatoday.

Community Schools

A Community School is at the center of the community – open all day, every day, to everyone – that brings together academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement under one roof, leading to improved learning, stronger families, and healthier communities.

Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership

The Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership (MCSP) is a collective strategy to transform schools into a place where students, families, staff, and the surrounding community can work together to ensure every student is successful. Community Schools is a proven model to increase a school’s capacity to better engage and align partnerships centered on the self-identified, real-time priorities of schools and communities.


Veteran educators and educators-to-be celebrate the profession, learn and network at WEAC Professional Issues Conference

Some of Wisconsin’s best teachers and education support professionals joined dozens of future educators over the weekend to share their knowledge and insights at WEAC’s annual Professional Issues Conference in Wisconsin Dells.

The inspiration came from both camps as active educators shared their experiences and future educators – college students who are members of the Student WEA / Region 9 – shared their excitement about entering the profession and making a difference in the lives of students.

The conference featured sessions that ranged from classroom management to tools for helping students create and learn to creating Professional Development Plans, and much more.

At one of the joint sessions, three recent Wisconsin Teachers of the Year shared their advice for future educators but were reminded that these young people just about to enter the profession have a lot to offer as well.

“I’ve been so impressed with the young teachers who come into the profession that I’m going to tell the experienced teachers out there that my advice to you is to talk to the young teachers. They are amazing,” said Rick Erickson, of Bayfield, a 2014 Teacher of the Year.

Also part of the conference was an ESP Academy for Education Support Professionals, including paraeducators, school secretaries, custodians, bus drivers and food service workers. National ESP of the Year Janet Eberhardt from San Francisco reminded the ESP that they play a pivotal role in children’s education and in making a difference in their lives.

“Keep tapping into the gifts that our children bring to us,” she said. “From the time they set foot on our campuses, walk through those doors, they come with special gifts and special needs that need to be addressed. And we as ESPs know how to build relationships and build rapport with students. I tell you, it’s so important in making a difference in children’s lives.”

Here is additional coverage of the 2016 Professional Issues Conference:

Be passionate, caring and dynamic, Teachers of the Year tell future educators – WEAC

Be passionate, get to know your students, and always go the extra mile. That was just some of the advice offered Saturday by three recent Wisconsin Teachers of the Year who spoke to a roomful of teachers-to-be at one of the dozens of sessions at the 2016 WEAC Professional Issues Conference in Wisconsin Dells.

National ESP of the Year says Education Support Professionals play pivotal role educating the whole child – WEAC

Education Support Professionals play a pivotal role in children’s education and in making a difference in their lives, National ESP of the Year Janet Eberhardt told Wisconsin ESP Friday at the WEAC Professional Issues Conference in Wisconsin Dells.


Briana Schwabenbauer wins WEAC award for member activism – WEAC

Student WEA / WEAC Region 9 President Briana Schwabenbauer – who WEAC President Betsy Kippers says is a “true treasure in our association” – was honored Friday as winner of the 2016 WEAC Tenia Jenkins Award for member activism.

Teachers feeling overloaded and stressed, according to Baraboo survey

TimeToLearnTimeToTeach_250pxImplementation of new educational requirements from the federal, state and local level, combined with the loss of collective bargaining rights, has teachers feeling overloaded and under growing stress, according to a survey of Baraboo teachers.

“There’s initiative fatigue,” Baraboo High School teacher and Baraboo Education Association President Kari Nelson told the Baraboo News Republic. “That is the sense we are getting from our members. It is initiative overload.”

Examples of initiatives cited by teachers as contributing to the feeling of being overloaded are the Educator Effectiveness teacher evaluation system, the Charlotte Danielson Framework for teaching, the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program and the Bring Your Own Device initiative which requires teachers to work with students on learning to use Chromebooks and new software.

“These initiatives demand a lot of time on the teacher’s part,” Nelson said. “A lot of the staff worry it is taking time away from the student-driven things teachers want to be doing. They want to give students more timely feedback and create highly engaging lessons and that takes time.”

WEAC Region 5 Executive Director Bill Froelich said the 2011 state law called Act 10, which limited public employees’ abilities to collectively bargain on anything other than base wage, has negatively impacted communication between teachers and administrators. However, there is nothing to prevent the administration and school board from engaging teachers and education support professionals in conversations and working toward joint solutions to problems such as teacher overload. The union continues to represent members in efforts to influence those decisions and make sure that educators have the time and resources to meet the needs of all students.

“We’re just saying we want to have more of a voice,” Froelich said.

Read the Baraboo News article:

‘Initiative overload’ stresses Baraboo teachers: Union survey points to disconnect with administration

Retired teacher Victoria Wiegand noticed big changes in workload and communication between administration and teachers during her last few years with the Baraboo School District. “I just think there were more initiatives,” Wiegand said. “It seemed like every year I taught, there were changes, new things that had happened.”

Teacher Workload Video:

This video focuses on the impact of growing teacher workload in Milwaukee Public Schools and the role Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association members are playing in working to ensure that educators have the time they need to meet the needs of all their students. But the concepts of teacher overload and the important role of the union in advocating for students and educators certainly apply to school districts statewide.

Find more resources at weac.org/workload

What is a paraeducator?

This blog was written by Menomonie School District Administrator Joe Zydowski, with help from Menomonie Middle School Paraeducator and WEAC member Lynnn Goss. It was posted on the Menomonie School District website. The graphic was posted on Facebook by Teresa Kwant, who manages a teacherspayteachers.com site

What is a paraeducator?

Paraprofessionals_400pxEducating the children of the Menomonie Area is a responsibility shared by parents, the school district, and our community.  In our school district, many employees have a tremendous impact on teaching our students and providing each of them with a well-rounded educational experience. Teachers are probably the first employee group that comes to mind when thinking about schooling, but custodians, cooks, clerical staff, administrators, and other support staff members play a very important role in School District of Menomonie Area’s success in educating our kids. This column will discuss the important role that paraeducators have in our school district.

What is a paraeducator? Paraeducators (paras) are school employees that work under the direction of a licensed staff member to assist in providing instruction and other services related to students. There are federal and state laws regulating the use and qualifications of paraeducators, including the new federal law entitled The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). According to regulations, paraeducators are to be “highly qualified” and receive proper training to fulfill their role in our schools.

Just like teachers, paraeducators wear many hats throughout the day, especially in the critical areas of special education and intervention programming. The roles and responsibilities are different for virtually every para in the district, varying from classroom to classroom and from school to school, based on the particular needs of students. In addition to providing support in many undefined ways, paraeducators in the School District of the Menomonie Area (SDMA) may be observed:

  • Implementing teacher-planned instruction (supporting all subjects throughout the day and providing accommodations to enhance the learning process).
  • Supervising students.
  • Providing behavioral supports (following behavior plans set up for students, which may include data collection, prompting, re-teaching, and reinforcements).
  • Building & maintaining effective communication and relationships.
  • Building a safe and healthy learning environment.
  • Supporting individual student needs (assisting with transitions, organization, or curricular needs).
  • Providing small group teacher-planned instruction (may include re-teaching, or small group support for learning and testing).
  • Providing personal care (assisting with hygiene and medical care).
  • Providing information to teachers, principals, and other staff regarding student academic or behavioral needs.
  • Assisting with data collection.

Paraeducators are critical partners in meeting the needs of the whole child. In addition to supporting teachers and the curriculum being taught, paras build relationships with students and staff in an effort to best meet the needs of students.

Should school stakeholders have any questions about becoming a paraeducator in the SDMA or about anything else in our school district, I invite you to visit the Administrative Service Center on Pine Avenue or contact me at 715-232-1642. More information about our schools can be found on the school district website (www.sdmaonline.com) and on Twitter (www.twitter.com/sdmaonline).

Acknowledgment: Thank you to Menomonie Middle School Paraeducator Lynn Goss for contributing to this article.

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Teacher tech training is a key focus of the 2016 National Education Technology Plan

From the U.S. Department of Education

Technology_Tablet_250pxThe U.S. Department of Education Thursday released the 2016 National Education Technology Plan and new commitments to support personalized professional learning for district leaders across the country working to improve teaching and student achievement through the effective use of technology.

Updated every five years, the plan is the flagship educational technology policy document for the United States. The 2016 plan outlines a vision of equity, active use, and collaborative leadership to make everywhere, all-the-time learning possible. While acknowledging the continuing need to provide greater equity of access to technology itself, the plan goes further to call upon all involved in American education to ensure equity of access to transformational learning experiences enabled by technology.

“Technology has the potential to bring remarkable new possibilities to teaching and learning by providing teachers with opportunities to share best practices, and offer parents platforms for engaging more deeply and immediately in their children’s learning,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “It can change the experiences of students in the most challenging circumstances by helping educators to personalize the learning experience based on students’ needs and interests—meeting our students where they are and challenging them to reach even higher. This year’s update to the National Education Technology Plan includes a strong focus on equity because every student deserves an equal chance to engage in educational experiences powered by technology that can support and accelerate learning.”

The plan calls for schools and districts to:

  • Redesign teacher preparation programs to shift from a single technology course to thoughtful use of technology throughout a teacher’s preparation and minimum standards for higher education instructors’ tech proficiency.
  • Set an expectation of equitable access to technology and connectivity inside and outside of school regardless of students’ backgrounds.
  • Adopt high-quality openly licensed educational materials in place of staid, traditional textbooks.
  • Implement universal design principles for accessibility across all educational institutions and include these principles within teacher preparation programs.
  • Improve technology-based assessments to allow for embedded delivery within instruction and making near real-time feedback for educators possible.
  • Establish a robust technology infrastructure that meets current connectivity goals and can be augmented to meet future demand.

“Today we set a new vision for technology to support learning and have assembled an unprecedented coalition of partners dedicated to making sure that vision becomes practice to transform the learning of all students,” said Director of the Office of Educational Technology Richard Culatta.

In addition to the release of the plan, the Department celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Future Ready initiative with the announcement of new commitments including the launch of 17 statewide Future Ready initiatives. Since the launch of Future Ready in 2014, more than 2,000 superintendents across the country have signed the pledge and committed to foster and lead a culture of digital learning in their district and to share what they have learned with other districts. More than 44 national and 12 regional partner organizations have committed to helping states, districts and schools become Future Ready.

The Department’s Office of Educational Technology also unveiled a set of professional learning resources to help district superintendents and their teams to effectively lead the transition to digital learning. These resources include personalizable video playlists for district leaders that highlight exemplary, peer-based stories and practices from districts across the country.

“Through collaboration, a robust infrastructure and personalized learning, Future Ready district leaders are shaping the vision for how technology can transform learning for all students,” said Delegated Deputy Secretary of Education John King.

Future Ready commitments

  • The Alliance for Excellent Education  has launched a new, independent entity called Future Ready that will lead the charge for ongoing Future Ready work.  The new Future Ready website features a one-stop resource center for ongoing professional learning opportunities including partner events, workshops, online chats, mentoring and topic conversations all aligned to the Future Ready Framework. These high-quality, curated Future Ready resources, are provided by the Alliance, the Department and coalition partner organizations. A free online planning tool called the Future Ready Planning Dashboard helps district leadership teams assess readiness, identify gaps, choose research-based strategies, and create a customized digital learning action plan.
  • The Future Ready coalition includes 44 national partner organizations and 12 new regional organizations. In addition to supporting Future Ready, coalition partners have also been specifically asked to contribute resources that align to the four key Future Ready focus areas: Collaborative Leadership, Robust Infrastructure, Personalized Professional Learning, and Personalized Student Learning.
  • Future Ready partners are launching extension programs such as toolkits, webinars, courses, workshops and mentoring programs to provide support for districts and states as they transform teaching and learning in their schools. At least four in-person workshops and monthly virtual dashboard training sessions will also be available. These implementation support programs can be found at FutureReady.org.
  • Seventeen states are launching Future Ready statewide initiatives designed to capture and harness the momentum of the national effort. The states are: California, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin. With the exception of California, all statewide initiatives are sponsored by the state departments of education. The Future Ready California Initiative is co-sponsored by CUE, TICAL and CALSA.
  • The Department will hold five regional Future Ready summits in 2016 in Austin, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; Madison, Wisconsin; Seattle, Washington; and Tampa, Florida. The summits are open to district leadership teams from districts where the superintendent has signed the Future Ready District Pledge. Corporate partners Apple, Google, Microsoft and McGraw Hill have committed to provide support for 2-day regional summits and 1-day dashboard training workshops.

For more on the work of the Department’s Office of Educational Technology, visit http://tech.ed.gov.

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Teacher training is a key focus of U.S. Education Tech Plan