Professional networks are vital for educators. Here’s why. Building a professional network with teachers across your district — and the state — can improve your practice in ways that might surprise you. Here’s how. You’ll add to your “toolbox.”Professional organizations offer access to resources tOct 21, 2019
Professional networks are vital for educators. Here’s why.
Building a professional network with teachers across your district — and the state — can improve your practice in ways that might surprise you. Here’s how.
You’ll add to your “toolbox.”
Professional organizations offer access to resources that support teachers, from news and research to educator discounts.
Lee Ann Howell — 7th grade science teacher, 2018 Cochise County Teacher of the Year and 2019 Arizona Ambassador for Excellence — is part of the Arizona Science Teachers Association and the National Science Teachers Association. “To stay on top of current events or changes being made to the standards in your practice, you need to be involved,” she says. “These organizations are a resource for professional development, workshops and lessons. I’m working on a yearlong program with three teachers from three schools writing curriculum that uses the new science standards for the state. It is an incredible opportunity to be at the forefront of my standards.”
You’ll find support.
Not only do professional networks connect you with educators who celebrate successes or commiserate about missteps, you’ll also gain powerful mentor relationships.
“You don’t realize how important mentors are,” Howell says. “You’ll have a trusting relationship with someone with whom you can let your guard down and say, ‘The lesson I taught was a mess and the kids didn’t learn what I thought they would.’ Your mentors will give you ideas for how to change it or tell you it’s OK.”
“They’ll also guide you through the requirements of your district,” Howell adds. “It can be something simple, such as getting your technology up and running, to navigating evaluation requirements.”
You’ll become a leader.
Without the right opportunities, you might never tap into latent leadership skills. Professional organizations provide educators with the chance to grow and develop, becoming pioneers in their practice.
Howell credits the District Instructional Leadership Team (DILT) for helping her find her leader voice. “I never dreamed I would help make decisions for my district or that my voice mattered,” she says. “DILT helped me realize it was important to voice my opinions about what was right for students as someone who was in the classroom.”
Ready to join?
A good starting point to build your professional network is to ask your district if they have a mentorship program. Then look into leadership opportunities or educator groups, and reach out to other educators in your area to see if they belong to any groups. And be open-minded. “This won’t be one more thing you have to do,” Howell says. “This will be the best thing. You will grow and learn in ways you haven’t done before.”
Start your search with one of these professional networks:
- Arizona Science Teachers Association
- Arizona English Teachers Association
- Arizona Art Education Association
- Arizona Rural Schools Association
- Arizona Association of Teachers of Mathematics