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Unique Academy Helps New Teachers Get Ready for Classroom

New Teacher Academy

WEAC President Mary Bell
discusses role of the union

WEAC President Mary Bell
discusses WEAC's
Strategic Priorities

Three participants talk about
the New Teacher Academy

Co-organizer Teresa Lien
talks about Academy goals

Trainer Jackie Drummer
summarizes key messages
for new teachers

As Kristin Solberg prepares for her first year of teaching this fall in Fall Creek, she wants to be sure she is as prepared as possible.

That is why she joined about 60 other new and nearly new teachers at the New Teacher Academy August 11-12, 2008, at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County, to learn new strategies, strengthen skills and build confidence.

She says she is looking forward to "getting the kids excited and motivated" and seeing "those lightbulbs go on."

Nick Karls, who is entering his third year of teaching in Baraboo, said he is fortunate to have a mentor who has helped him in his first two years and is still there for occasional help this year.

"The mentoring program has been extremely valuable to me," he said. "It's done an excellent job taking those new teachers coming into Baraboo and keeping them there, because they do feel their needs are being met ... and it also builds a sense of community in the school."

Ellen Caskey, who has been an aide in New Glarus for 12 years, now has her teaching license and is ready to start a new career. She picked up some tips at the New Teacher Academy that she can put immediately into action. "It really helps to be reminded to be kind of silly and engage kids in any way you possibly can," she said.

This is the second year of the New Teacher Academy, and some of the key organizers are the Baraboo School District, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and UW-Sauk County, Baraboo. Topics included Student Engagement, Issues in Grading, Using Literacy Tools in the Classroom, and Building and Maintaining Respectful Relationships with High School Students.

WEAC Teaching and Learning Consultant Ron Jetty led a session on how to use the online Quality Educator Interactive to help with licensing issues, and WEAC President Mary Bell discussed the role of the union. She recalled the time, as a new educator herself, when a respected colleagues asked her to attend a union meeting.

"Because I trusted her, I went to that meeting, and I've never stopped being a union activist ever since," she said. "Part of it is who I am, but most of it is what I was able to find there, and that was people who cared as desperately about my colleagues and about the kids in my classroom as I did ... and who were able to provide me things that helped me do that job more effectively and advocate so others could their jobs more effectively as well."

She discussed WEAC's five priorities and how they relate to new teachers:

  • School funding reform.
  • Health care reform.
  • Professional development.
  • Achievement gaps.
  • Member engagement.

Teresa Lien, an instructional facilitator in the Baraboo School District, said the New Teacher Academy is designed to offer authentic tools that teachers can take into the classroom immediately. She said new teachers come away from the Academy with "some authentic tools on classroom management, and a better understanding of building the relationships they need to have with their students, with the parents and with other colleagues."

Jackie Drummer, of South Milwaukee, president of the Wisconsin Association for Talented & Gifted, spoke to teachers about motivation and engagement both in their careers and in their own lives.

"The first thing is that students do expect us to know our stuff," she said. "They want us to be challenging, they want us to know what we are doing, how to teach, what to teach and why we're teaching.

"The second thing that students demand of us is a safe classroom where everyone is respected physically and emotionally. And the third thing is that students want us to know them as individuals, not just a sea of faces out in our classrooms, to know where they're at, what they need, what their next step is, how to stretch them in their learning..."

Posted August 13, 2008