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How Professional Development Can Forever Change a Classroom

Teachers tell us all the time: Professional development makes them soar. It helps them stay up to date on educational best practices and pedagogy, connect with other teachers, and learn new techniques to help their students learn.
Ms. Krieger teaches AP English in Upstate New York, and among her 177 (!) DonorsChoose.org projects she received funding for several incredible professional development opportunities. They range from writing workshops at Bard College to a learning trip to Nepal. We talked with Ms. Krieger about her projects, how they changed her teaching practice, and her advice for other teachers. Below is a condensed version of that interview.
Why should people support Professional Development for teachers?
Creating my projects, I was quite worried about that. Like, “People aren’t going understand the importance of Professional Development.”
You know how you hear over and over that the most important resource that we have in the schools are the teachers? They’re right. It’s the people, it’s the relationships, it’s the teachers who make the connections and who set the scene and who inspire students. It’s the teacher that has the most influence.
And so that’s where the investment should be made for funds and opportunities. Even just something as simple as collaborating with my colleagues, just spending time talking with them and working things out, that synergy of different ideas, different backgrounds, different angles. High-quality Professional Development just makes all the difference and gives me opportunities, that in turn turns into opportunities for my kids.
The world is changing. You know one of the things that makes me grit my teeth is when people will say, “It was good enough for me in 19-whatever, so therefore it still works.” Well, no.  The world is changing so much faster now with so much technology. You have to update your knowledge.
What was your most valuable Professional Development experience?
Last year, we got out the last Friday in June, and the next day I flew to New Hampshire. I went to Phillips Exeter Academy to the Diversity Institute. One week a year, they do teacher training, it’s always the last week of June, people come from all over the world to go to their training.
The Diversity Institute was focused on two areas. Half of the day was gender identity issues, the other half was racial literacy. They asked all of, “Why did you want to come to this?” And my response was, “I feel like my school is about to explode, there’s just so much tension.”
What advice do you have for teachers creating a Professional Development project on DonorsChoose.org?
Be concise. It’s the same thing I tell my students: I want to hear your voice. Why do you want to go to this? What will you do? I think that’s so much more compelling when it’s personal as opposed to just the boilerplate, “This will allow me to be a good teacher.”
I think I’m super sensitive to writing because that’s what I do all day. Some teachers when they write, it’s just pulses with energy and enthusiasm, and others not so much. Be yourself and tell the donors why it matters.
Teachers, learn how to create a professional development project.

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