Meet the Education Junkies--TEACHERS EDITION -- May 1, 2015

The Teachers Edition

May 1, 2015  |  Sign up to receive THE TEACHERS EDITION.

teacher of the year

After the April 29 Rose Garden ceremony honoring the 2015 State Teachers of the Year, the teachers spontaneously broke out in song with President Obama and Arne Duncan. The last line of their ditty: “We are education junkies; it’s in our DNA!”


Education Junkies

This week, 55 State Teachers of the Year (and one patient service dog) converged in the nation’s capital to be honored by those in their profession. On April 29, they met with members of the President’s Domestic Policy Council, shook hands with the President and participated in a ceremony at the White House, and were honored at a black-tie gala at the Sphinx Club.

Shanna Peeples, a high school English teacher from Amarillo, Texas, was named the 2015 National Teacher of the Year. Peeples credited a teacher she had, Mrs. Belton, who taught her “it was possible to read and write my way into another life.”

In a Rose Garden ceremony, President Obama reminded guests that the nation depends on our teachers, whether they have children in school or not. “Every school has teachers like these and we don’t give them enough credit,” he said. “We probably don’t pay them enough either.”

After the ceremony, President Obama took advantage of the opportunity to lunch at a nearby restaurant with Shanna Peeples. Check out the great photo and the story (Superville, Washington Post).

Watch a video of Peeples on CBS Morning News describing her path into teaching and why her students mean so much to her. Read the President’s remarks.   


Paving a Pathway to Common Core

The Center for American Progress released a report this week about the role of teacher leadership in implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Based on interviews and observations of the teachers in the field, the report offers four important recommendations for systems aiming to get it right. 

1. Create teacher leadership roles at the classroom, school, and district levels.

2. Allocate time for teachers to collaborate.

3. Create systems for embedded teacher professional development.

4. Give teachers an active role in the selection and development of Common Core instructional materials.

The report also profiles the work of districts throughout the country that have taken collaborative approaches between management and unions to ensure that teachers have significant voice and leadership in implementation of the Common Core. 

In a companion video, Jerry O'Shea, assistant superintendent of instructional serves at Marquardt School District 15 in Glendale Heights, Ill., says about his district's implementation, "We are on the brink of breaking through. We are not there yet. If we stay the course, I have complete faith in teachers, teacher unions, and the administration...that we will reinvent education."

Shown below from video, San Diego, Calif., Principal Casey Currigan describes the critical role of teacher leadership in implementation of higher standards. "Teacher voice is absolutely necessary in making any change in education in the United States," Currigan says. "You can have directives until the end of time, but if we don't have buy-in from the people who are moving that in front of kids, it's just not going to happen." 


turnaround for children


Taking Aim at Poverty

Researchers are learning more about the effects of stress and poverty on development. One study by Pamela Cantor found that when kids feel insecure or threatened by inadequate housing, family loss, the addiction of a family member or depression—symptoms of poverty—students will not be as ready to learn and are likely to fall behind.

The good news is that schools can design environments where these problems can be addressed and even overcome. Cantor founded Turnaround for Children to help schools around the country design anti-poverty classrooms with caring cultures that free students to attain the highest possible levels of social and academic achievement.  

Read more about her organization’s whole-school approach and their work with high-poverty schools to reduce stress and increase student readiness (Bornstein, New York Times).

Teach to Lead update

TEACHER REFLECTIONS ON THE INTERNATIONAL SUMMIT.  At the 2015 International Summit on the Teaching Profession teacher leaders Jennifer Aponte (K1 Sheltered English Instruction teacher, David A. Ellis Elementary School, Roxbury, Mass.) and Gwendolin Bandi (4th grade math teacher, John J. Doran School, Fall River, Mass.) overcame their jitters by using social media to engage in the dialogue. Read their blog (Huffington Post).  

WHAT, WHY, HOW. A Teach to Lead supporting organization, ASCD, just released their Whole Child Symposium report, Teacher Leadership: The What, Why, and How of Teachers as Leaders. Watch the live stream of their spring symposium on Poverty and the Whole Child on May 6


Editor's note: The following is part of a series reporting on excellent African American educators. Educators were selected by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.


Celebrating African American Educators

 Clifton Hayes is the Principal at Delcastle Technical High School in Wilmington, Delaware. In 2013, he won the State Assistant Principal of the Year Award for Delaware.

Why and how did you decide upon a career in education?

The decision to pursue a career in education came about as a result of the many educators that both encouraged and discouraged me. During my matriculation through elementary school I attended five different schools. The multiple transitions initially presented academic challenges. However, I came in contact with some incredible teachers and principals who changed my life forever. They, along with my aunt, who was an educator, provided me with the support I needed to eventually excel. I felt that it was my duty to provide others with the same life-changing experience.

What is one thing you most celebrate about your students?

As the principal of Delcastle Technical High School my students are afforded the opportunity to compete with other students on the state and national levels through Business Professionals of America, Health Occupations Students of America, and Skills USA. These Career and Technical Student Organizations provide our students with an opportunity to demonstrate their skills. I am always astounded by their ability to excel despite the pressures incurred during competition. It is always an honor to celebrate the students’ success along with teachers, parents and business partners.

Did you know?


A diverse group of Massachusetts teachers recently made recommendations to improve access to effective teaching in their state.

Called The Equity EquationTeach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows recommended a number of specific actions that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can take to improve equitable access to a quality education. 

Noting that "the state's Highest Poverty Quartile Schools employ first-year teachers at almost twice the rate of low-poverty schools," writers of the report make a number of solid recommendations to attract, recruit, hire and develop great teachers.


Worthy Wages

In addition to the persistent teacher-retention crisis and chronic under-funding of early education, the impact of low wages earned by early childhood educators can also have damaging effects on young children. 

That's why AFT and the Center for the Child Care Workforce annually hold Worthy Wages Day on May 1. Read about ED's Early Learning priority. Read a blog about the importance of worthy wages for success in early learning education by ED's Deputy Assistant Secretary of Policy and Early Learning Libby Doggett.


When A Great School Gets a Bad Grade

The teachers at ED were scratching their heads last week when a school recently featured in an ED video celebrating the profession, Jones Elementary School (Springdale, Ark.), got a failing grade from the Arkansas Department of Education. 

The state was acting on new state legislation that requires each school to receive a letter grade. We think first grade teacher Justin Minkel got it right in his commentary about what happens when state legislators, data analysts and policymakers publicly shame schools that serve high-poverty students in an attempt to improve outcomes for the children who need high-quality schools most.

P Chat

Principal Chat

GREAT LEADERS IN ACTION. Follow 10 exemplary principals into their schools and classrooms so you can see first-hand how they are able to improve teaching and student achievement. 

WNET's 'School Leadership in Action' videos, filmed in schools in Hillsborough County, Fla., Gwinnett County, Ga., Prince George's County, Md., and New York City, focus on one of five essential practices central to shaping instructional leadership. Learn more about those practices in The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning (Wallace, January 2013). 

Will Miller, president of the Wallace Foundation, writes about some of these leaders in his New York Times op-ed that calls attention to the new role principals have to play. He knows that our schools need more outstanding principal candidates, and he asks lawmakers debating reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to make principals a priority.

MOVING SCHOOL FORWARD. New Leaders has some thoughts about how to make assessment and accountability work for principals. Read more about their recommendations that are grounded in research on effective practices. 

Common Core Connections


Students today are living in a different world than the one most of us grew up in. Watch the short video where Albany principal Christina Roberts tells parents about how higher standards will prepare students for college and careers and also to make good decisions that are best for themselves and society. 


"Media stories on teachers often isolate and amplify scandalous events to such a degree that an outside audience might perceive a war-like educational landscape. 

When the media is filled with stories of teachers cheating, engaging in inappropriate behavior with students, or wasting away in rubber rooms, it's easy to lose track of the many great things that are going on in classrooms around the country."

(D.C. elementary school ESL and special education teacher Flora Lerenman, "How the Media Creates a 'Perception Gap' on Schools," in EdWeek)

Quote to Note

the New Math

The Equitable Access Conundrum

Massachusetts data reveal that the schools in highest poverty quartile employ first year teachers at almost twice the rate of low-poverty schools (7.8 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively).

(From a Teach Plus Teaching Fellows report, The Equity EquationThe teachers found that data is similarly bleak when comparing schools with high percentages of minority students.)

reach higher


Show School Pride May 1

College Signing Day isn't reserved for athletes. On Friday, May 1st, First Lady Michelle Obama will celebrate the first anniversary of Reach Higher and wants educators, students, families and friends to wear their college gear all day to support National College Signing Day because everyone deserves to celebrate where they complete their education.  

Share pictures of you, your students, your schools, and your friends representing your alma maters with the hashtag #ReachHigher!  

rigorous DAP


Rigorous Recommendations


The abstract in Kappan by Christopher P. Brown and Brian Mowry delivers 11 recommended strategies for engaging the littlest learners. These young children learn differently than even the ones in primary grades, they say. 

Their "Rigorous DAP" (developmentally appropriate practices) roadmap offers principles of instruction to early educators so they can engage more effectively with their students. 

common student loan mistakes


Avoid 5 Common Student Loan Mistakes

Check out these helpful tips about how to prevent getting in over your head with college debt and how to avoid paying too much. The article includes links to helpful resources for figuring it all out.   


Good Stuff for Eduwonks


A new practice guide, Teaching Strategies for Improving Algebra Knowledge in Middle and High School Students, can help educators with tips and examples to help students analyze solved problems, recognize structure, and utilize alternative approaches to solving algebra problems. Learn more about how to get a free copy 

sticky notepad

Teachers' Notes

• DIGITAL TOOLS FOR LITTLE ONES. The most promising practices involve active participation and interaction when parents and educators are using ebooks, apps or digital devices with emerging readers. At the American Education Research Association meeting, four pending studies revealed similar findings. Read more (Herold, EdWeek). 

• IT TAKES A VILLAGE. Find out how Lindsay Unified School District  (Central Valley of Calif.) involved the whole community in ensuring personalized learning for all students and why it's a winning solution. Read more in Superintendent Thomas Rooney's blog.

• CULTURE OF CARING IS GLOBAL. Students at this Alberta, Canada school remind us that community service takes place all over the world. Watch the video, Warrior Paint: A Culture of Caring, which features a wonderful project at Glenbow Elementary School

• LESSON ON ENERGY. Teachers can receive professional development credit from this online webinar on how to incorporate energy into your classroom. Check out this short course to help understand the nature and role of energy in our lives. It covers how to teach about energy from the natural to the social sciences using the Energy Literacy Framework.

• PRE-K FLYERS. Aeronautics for 4 year olds? Absolutely! NASA offers six integrated hands-on science lessons for early childhood based on popular children's books. Super fun experiments using gliders, balloons, helicopters, air cargo, and other wonders loved by kids of all ages!

kid hitting tennis ball



Last Thursday, as a part of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, coaches from The College Park Tennis Club and Junior Tennis Champions Center came to ED to highlight how tennis helps children develop skills in perseverance and self-management needed for success in school and life.

Questions or comments about The Teachers Edition? Send them to ED's Teacher Liaison, Laurie Calvert:

teachers in Boston

Top 5 Quotes

Wisdom from educators heard by ED

5. “Teacher leadership can only work in a state where leaders are comfortable with teacher voice.” (Teacher, Conn.)

4. “There used to be an unspoken bargain: we aren't going to pay you much but we don't expect much... now one side has changed.” (Teacher, Charleston, S.C.)

3. “I got interested in teacher leadership because I got tired of sitting in meetings where obscure decisions were handed down on high without any of the teachers being part of the process.” (Teacher, Pa.) 

2. “A lot of teachers feel somewhat angry or apathetic until they are given opportunities to really contribute to policy. Teacher leadership helps us to keep some great teachers in the profession.” (Teacher, Mo.)

1. “When teachers are given a say in policy, it’s the students who really benefit.” (Teacher, Maine)