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PET: Professional Development Makes Great Leaders of Good Teachers

Opinion by JC Bowman, Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee; June 12, 2012: 

Educators are leaders who should be valued and respected. In an era of transformational change across Tennessee, there is a well-timed debate over how we define achievement and success both in and out of school, as well as the proper role of federal, state and local policy. Nobody disputes that the path forward is the presence of quality teachers in Tennessee classrooms. However, quietly unnoticed is a startling fact: there are 3.2 million teachers in the United States according to the U.S. Department of Education. By 2020, it is estimated that 1.6 million will either retire or leave the profession. This pending impact will be felt across many Tennessee classrooms.

Of even more concern is that the data reveals 46% of public school educators leave the profession within their first five years. The attrition rate is highest among science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers, who can command higher salaries in the private sector. The book (and now movie) “Teachers Have It Easy” by Dave Eggers, Nínive Clements Calegari and Daniel Moulthrop has produced a compelling discourse that accumulates data to give readers a blunt and unforgiving portrait of American education which raises questions about the sustainability and desirability of the teaching profession in the 21st Century.

As an education association, Professional Educators of Tennessee understands that the debate over what essential preparation and skills individuals should possess before entering a public school classroom has largely been decided before educators join any professional organization. The additional skills that are necessary, and how they are acquired, can also be debated. Historically, the body of knowledge and skills needed to be an effective teacher has been too unstructured, unclear, and not backed up by the necessary research. That is changing across the state, as well as the nation.

That we are failing as a state and nation to encourage recruitment of the teachers we need is also concerning. For example, 90% of high-minority districts report difficulty attracting teachers prepared to teach math and science. Education organizations can fill a critical role in assisting school districts and teachers to come together and meet their different needs. This includes not only addressing students from assorted cultural backgrounds in the state, but also students with disabilities or with limited English proficiency. The war drums for compulsory unionism and collective bargaining are growing silent in the face of the urgent need to recruit, retain and support effective educators who can meet these difficult challenges.

The discussion over teacher quality and preparation often neglects to address the issue of professional development. Professional Development (PD) has traditionally been connected to, and included in, the initial attainment of permanent certification; for school improvement plans, especially to low performing schools; tying specific topic-professional development to funding (often math, science, and reading); and, improving results as related to teacher evaluation. Professional development opportunities provided on both the state and local level are where leadership begins to take root for most educators. Professional Development allows for educators to create a professional career continuum and lays a solid groundwork for the future of Tennessee classrooms.

By engaging in collaborative networks we are building the capacity for all educators to make a positive influence in the classroom, become leaders in their schools and school district. In 2012 education associations must take the lead in providing high quality, relevant professional learning for pre-service, and novice and career educators. Professional Educators of Tennessee provides Professional Development for all Tennessee educators, both members and non-members, so we can improve classroom instruction, strengthen leadership capacity, recharge our batteries and empower educators to be more effective leaders in Tennessee schools and communities.

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Press Releases

Tennessee Residence To Host Continuing Education Program For Architects

Press Release from Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration, March 10, 2010:

Program Will Focus On Restoration Of The Residence, Design Of Conservation Hall

NASHVILLE – Members of the Tennessee Society of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) will have the opportunity to earn professional development credits for a program focused on the restoration of the Tennessee Residence and the design and construction of Conservation Hall on Wednesday, March 24. Participants will gain three hours of AIA continuing education system (CES) units relating to health, safety and/or welfare (HSW).

The Tennessee Residence, located in Nashville, was originally called “Far Hills” because of its beautiful view. The home was built for the William Ridley Wills Family in 1929. Wills was the founder of National Life and Accident Insurance Company and his success is displayed in the home’s structural grandeur. It became the third residence for Tennessee’s governors when the state purchased it after Mr. Wills’ death in 1949. Eight former governors and their families have since resided in the home.

Decades of playing host to the affairs of state and civic organizations and the passing of time took their toll on the Residence. Numerous inadequate, failed or failing systems and building components had plagued the home for many years. Heating and cooling systems used long-outdated refrigerants containing chlorofluorocarbons, lead-based pain peeled from window sills, walls and ceilings, and the 1930s era Georgian home, built before the Americans with Disabilities Act, was not ADA-compliant.

When Phil Bredesen became Governor in 2003, he and First Lady Andrea Conte saw an opportunity to allow for the extensive restoration project. They challenged state architects to make the historic home as green as possible and to address the long-recognized need for additional functionality to host larger groups.

Today, the home has been renovated and restored using sustainable design and construction to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. ADA-compliant restrooms and elevators have been installed, as well as a wheelchair ramp that blends seamlessly into the home’s exterior.

Functionality was added with the underground addition named Conservation Hall. Previously, state dinners for more than 22 people could not be accommodated inside the home. Conservation Hall accommodates up to 160 people for a seated function. The facility’s design honors the historical significance of the Residence, preserving its neighborhood setting and conserving natural resources. Its underground construction uses the natural insulating properties of the earth to contribute to low-cost operation while an atrium fills the facility with natural light.

AIA members interested in attending the March 24 professional development program may contact the AIA Tennessee Society at 615-255-3860 or visit the AIA-TN Web site to register.