Professional development is one of those things that many of us put off even though we need the hours to recertify every few years. In Arizona, I need to tackle 180 clock hours of professional development every six years to keep my teaching certificate active. The Department of Education allows teachers to mix and match hours between professional development and university coursework. In fact, my last recertification was based solely upon the classes I took to finish my master’s degree—a double whammy!
Many teachers I know put off taking those professional development hours, mostly because they can’t find quality programs to attend. My school district offers hours for some of our required meetings and workshops, but I don’t always feel like I’m getting the most out of my time when I attend these. In fact, I often feel as though my district is simply filling time with meaningless activities and meetings, just for the sake of filling time.
There are many experienced, expert teachers in my district with toolboxes filled with fantastic, fresh ideas. But the presenters at my district-level professional development opportunities are often the same district-level personnel that haven’t seen the inside of a classroom since the 90s. And my district does not offer enough hours to recertify. So I started looking for other opportunities to learn, gather new ideas, and get the most out of my valuable time.
For me, the trick was to do some research. Already holding a master’s degree, it wasn’t cost-effective for me to continue taking pricey graduate-level courses. But after a little research, I found that I didn’t have to spend a lot of money to earn those recertification hours. A local children’s book distributor offers free monthly workshops during the school year, each focusing on a different topic. A locally-owned teacher resource chain holds a low-cost summer teacher expo every year, where I can attend hour-long workshops and browse booths showcasing the latest in educational materials. And the state Department of Education, in conjunction with Arizona State University, offers free online courses via an eLearning platform.
The possibilities are out there for low-cost, quality professional development opportunities. Ask at teacher resource stores, craft outlets, and anywhere you frequent to get teacher supplies. It might take a little extra time to initially find the resources, but once you do you’ll always know where to go!
I’d love to start a conversation about other resources that are available out there. Where do you go to get your recertification hours? Your school district? A local college? An online resource? Please share!