New NW BOCES professional development project takes off | SteamboatToday.com

New NW BOCES professional development project takes off

Teresa Ristow

Educators met in January as the first step in a Teacher Learning Communities pilot program created by Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services as part of the i3 System for Educator Effectiveness project.

— A new professional development project for rural teachers created by the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services has launched, and local teachers have offered positive feedback so far.

NW BOCES' System for Educator Effectiveness, or SEED, was funded through a $2.9 million federal i3 grant, in addition to more than $440,000 in private-sector matches, including $152,000 from the Steamboat Springs Education Fund.

The program aims to introduce new opportunities for education and professional development to rural teachers, who otherwise often have to travel for the same opportunities as teachers in more populated areas.

In January, after a year of program development, NW BOCES launched an inaugural group of three Teacher Learning Communities, or TLCs, geared toward professional development on assessment and rigor in the elementary classroom, assessment and rigor in the secondary classroom and formative teaching strategies — a community specifically for teachers in their first three years of teaching.

TLC groups met in person for an all-day session after winter break and have since continued training online and through communication between teachers who met during the first in-person professional development day.

"Just seeing my colleagues gathered in one space and being able to talk to them was very powerful for me," said Elissa Chapman, a Soda Creek Elementary teacher.

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Teachers spend 15 weeks total reading articles, watching video and participating in online discussion boards to continue learning and refining their teaching skills before reconvening together in June.

Last week BOCES also launched the SEED Personalized Accessible Knowledge website, which allows any teacher to participate in personalized online professional development on their own schedules.

After teachers review resources on the site and try out new ideas in the classroom, they are able to complete reflection questions, with the time spent on the questions applied toward Colorado Department of Education required recertification hours.

"They are trying things out in their classroom and reflecting on how things went," said Beth Melton, i3 SEED lead innovation coach and coordinator for NW BOCES. "We're really trying to build something that has more of an effect on teachers' practices."

Melton said teachers have provided positive feedback for both the first TLCs and the new SEED PAK website.

"(The website) is great. Personalized professional development at your fingertips, on your schedule," said Liz Meissner, Hayden Elementary School teacher. "Can't get better or easier than that."

Three new TLCs will be launched late this summer for interested teachers in any of NW BOCES’ seven service-area districts.

The five-year SEED project aims to provide rural teachers with expanded professional development opportunities, particulary to improve educator skills that are evaluated by their administrators.

Other private-sector grants that made the project possible came from the Gates Family Foundation, RANDA, Daniels Fund, East Grand School District, eNet Colorado and The Colorado Education Initiative.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow