Category Archives: Professional

More PD

As it turns out, in addition to the three days I’ll spend at TeachFest in New Orleans this June, I’m also going to a one day conference in Washington, DC toward the end of May.  This whole LearnZillion Dream Team thing has some perks.

Achieve2010LOGOThis training is being hosted by Achieve, Inc. and will focus on their EQuIP Rubrics and Student Protocols.  I don’t know much about the latter, but the rubric is a great tool to evaluate current offerings in textbooks and lessons to see if they are really “common core aligned.”  It can also be used to supplement/aid your own original curriculum and lessons to make sure you’ve covered everything in the right amount and way.


I’m Going To TeachFest!

An email I’d been anxiously hoping for arrived in my inbox on Friday night.

learnzillion_800_by_160Dear Kyle,


We are delighted to inform you that you have been selected to join LearnZillion’s 2014 Dream Team!

It was longer than that, of course, but all I really needed to read was the first line.  I’m one of 200 teachers selected from over 4000 applications to this year’s LearnZillion Dream Team, which means I’m headed to TeachFest, in New Orleans, LA!

So I know most of you are probably wondering what this means.  I’m going to let the official TeachFest website do the explaining for me.

teachfest_800_by_200What is TeachFest?

TeachFest is an event that celebrates great teaching and kicks off a powerful collaborative learning experience for teachers. TeachFest brings together amazing teachers, coaches, and school leaders, and provides the time, resources, and community necessary to collaborate, learn, and create.

What is the Dream Team?

The Dream Team is a group of talented teachers from around the country who are selected to participate in TeachFest. They represent district, charter, and private schools, and offer a wealth of experiences and backgrounds. This group is united in their goal to develop themselves and each other, through a collaborative process of creating, curating, and sharing high-quality resources.

Needless to say, I’m pretty amped up about it.  I don’t have many details other than that.  I know the dates, I know the city.  Webinar next week to become more informed.  It gives me an excuse to buy a new computer, because that’s a mandatory thing to bring.

You know what I’m most excited about?  The tagline of TeachFest is Scale Your Impact.  That’s been my issue this year.  I’ve really been feeling like it’s time for my voice to get louder, but I just didn’t know how.  This could be it.

Irons in the Fire: Update

Looks like I’ll be starting the process of National Board Certification next year.  Illinois offers a limited amounted of fee waivers with priority going to teachers from districts on the academic watch list (which mine is), and I got news on Monday that I made the list.  The whole process of certification is changing next year, if you haven’t heard, so I intend blog the entire process.  Should be fun.

It also appears as though I might be training with “experts” in the Illinois State Learning Standards (a.k.a. The CCSS).  Through some federal grant money, the state is training a number of teachers to go to back to their own districts and share expert knowledge and practice in the standards.  I don’t really know much about it the process, honestly.  It was just an opportunity I ran into through the many, many daily/weekly digest emails to which I subscribe.  More details later.

Finally, I haven’t heard anything about the LearnZillion Dream Team/Teach Fest just yet.  In the last email communication, the phrase “Mid-April” was used as a date in which they were planning to notify applicants.  That’s the big one to me really.  Damn, I hope that happens.

Another Iron in the Fire

Well, if everything goes as planned, I’ll be starting the process of becoming a NBPTS Board Certified Teacher next school year.

It’s something I’ve thought about before, but the timing and money never made sense.  At this moment, they do.  NBPTS is undergoing a fairly substantial shift in what is required to become certified, and one of the many changes is a reduction in cost to $1900.  This is great for me, because the scholarship (or fee waiver or something) offered by my state is exactly that amount.  Before now, even with the scholarship, the teacher still had a financial obligation of several hundred dollars to complete the program.  Now it might just cost me a $65 application fee.

I submitted my information last night to be eligible for this scholarship, and I could find out on April 7th if I’ve been accepted.  I’m pretty hopeful, because it’s awarded on a first-come-first-serve basis (it’s been open for two weeks and stays open until June 2) and because preference is given to teachers who work at schools with 50%+ students on free/reduced lunch (check) and are on the academic watch list (check).

I’m crossing my fingers.

I Finished My LearnZillion Dream Team Application

I’m not going to post my work for Part 2 of the application like I did for Part 1, because this is a competitive process, and there is still almost two weeks left to submit.  This step, unlike part 1, required much more than just typing answers to a few questions.

First, I had to design a PowerPoint presentation, LearnZillion style, to teach some lesson of your choosing.  I chose to teach a Geometry standard that LZ currently is lacking in its lesson portfolio.  There are a lot of restrictions to the formatting (font face, font size, colors, original graphics only, and others), but I’m hoping I did enough to separate myself from the pack.  I use Office 2013 on my home computer, and not having used PP in so long, I came away really impressed with how far the image creation tools have come since the beginning.

Next, I had to record a screencast of myself teaching the Core Lesson of the presentation.  That was a neat experience, but again, it has to be completely in the LZ mold.  The weird part about that is the teacher has no ability (at least to my knowledge) to use a graphics tablet and pen to actually *show* the math happening.  The text and images on the slides need to do that for you.  I’m hoping my design didn’t make that too awkward.  And I’m hoping my teaching style and tone of voice carry over acceptably.

Third, I had to give a critique of a fictional teacher’s learning task.  This was the easiest part for me, and I think my response was pretty strong.  I’m sorry I can’t give out a lot of details here, because I really think this was the one area when content and curricular knowledge was really displayed, and I want to keep my answer completely unique to me.

The last part was to make a 1-2 minute personal video to give the reviewers a face and personality to put with the digital works.  I practiced a few times before I did the recording, but I think it came off only semi-rehearsed.  They better not judge me too hard on that part.

Anyways, I’m not supposed to find anything out until mid-April, which seems like so long from today.  I went Google hunting to try to find out an approximate number of applicants, and I learned last year over 3,000 teachers applied.  Yeesh.  Assuming even more apply this year, I know better than to get too hopeful, but you never know, right?  I can dream.