Teaching and Learning Resources by Peter Pappas

How to Become a Teacher: Resources for Certification and Interviews

It’s been 40 years since I set my goals to become a teacher. (You might be amused by my blog post on the 1971 evaluation of my student teaching) Fortunately today there are some great online resources to assist you. Here’s two that impress me.

certification map-featured

Teacher certification requirements vary greatly by state and are often difficult to understand. A new website, CertificationMap informs future teachers about the requirements for certifications in every state.  It’s sponsored by MAT@USC, a Master of Arts in Teaching program delivered online from the University of Southern California. I tried it out and found it to me much more user friendly than the individual state Department of Education websites.
Click on a state link and you’ll find salary statistics, prerequisite coursework, steps to teacher preparation, testing, and useful links for teaching in that state. If you would like additional information, you can input your email and phone number. I tried it out, expecting not much more than to be solicited by USC.
I did get a very welcome surprise when I was called two days later by Nicole Dillard, a counselor at the USC’s Rossier School of Education. She was more than willing to use her state-by-state database to supply me with additional information not found on CertificationMap regarding certification requirements. Of course, she also explained the merits of USC online certification program and noted that in the site’s first two months it had generated nearly 300 interested leads for the program. Bottom line – try CertificationMap and feel free to give your contact info without fear of the hard sell.
Road to Teaching
A second site I’d like to recommend to folks interested in a teaching career is: Road to Teaching: Resources for Aspiring, Student, and Beginning Teachers. It’s a site written by teachers for new and aspiring teachers. Here’s their overview:

A cadre of dedicated educators, known as star contributors, have committed to providing support to student teachers. These star contributors will answer your questions, address your concerns, provide advice, and give encouragement. There are several ways to connect with a star contributor. You can (anonymously) post a comment or blog by joining Road to Teaching. If you prefer to email a specific question (e.g. content related question) to any of our star contributors, please feel free.

One of their most popular posts is Teacher Interview Questions. It contains an impressive array of questions, many with sample answers. It’s well worth a visit before that next interview. Road to Teaching also includes valuable links and the chance to dialogue with others who are starting their teaching careers.

A Guide to Designing Effective Professional Development: Essential Questions for the Successful Staff Developer

All considerations for professional development (PD) should flow from the premise that staff development should model what you want to see in the classroom. We strive to offer our students engaging, relevant, and rigorous instruction that supports students who will, over time, take responsibility for their learning. PD should apply those same goals to training teachers, staff and administration.

I’ve seen PD from a variety of perspectives – as a 25-year teacher receiving staff development, as a teacher offering PD courses at our district teacher center, as a K-12 director and Assistant Superintendent planning PD, and as outside consultant / trainer. Viewed through those lenses, I’ve developed few questions for consideration by professional development planners.

Design and planning:

1. Did your teachers have a meaningful role in deciding what PD is being offered? (You’re in trouble if the training is merely based on a tip from someone who saw “this really cool presentation.”)

2. If it’s a school-wide inservice day, have you provided appropriate training for all faculty and staff? (“OMG! We forgot about the librarians! Do you think we can get away with putting them in with PE?)

3. Is there a clear alignment between how the session is promoted to teachers and what the trainer is prepared to deliver? (Before my session begins, I usually ask a few attendees what they expect. When no one has a clue, I’ve got work to do.)

4. Have you prioritized your PD objectives to bring focus to your initiatives? (It’s easy to turn people off with the perception of “just another reform du jour.”)

5. If you are implementing PLC’s or action teams, do the participants see their value? (Or do you have groups of “PD prisoners” who only see it as busy work?)

6. Do you offer appropriate training for all staff? (Don’t forget, the entire organization can support instruction.)


7. Have you considered internal expertise, before turning to outside trainers? (PD is about building capacity.)

8. Will the trainer be utilizing the strategies being advocated? (If not, at least modeling them.)

9. Do you differentiate PD by instructional method? (Or is that something you only expect teachers to do with their students?)

10. Will teachers leave with ideas they can immediately put to use? (Not everyone is fascinated by the implications of new brain research on student achievement.)

11. Will appropriate administrators be in attendance? (It sends a powerful message when they are.)

Follow up

12. What is your plan for follow up to the training? (No drive-bys allowed!)

13. If you are offering technology training, will teachers have immediate access to the necessary equipment? (Use it, or lose it!)

14. Do you have a mechanism to gather and act on participant feedback (Learning is about experience and reflection.)

15. Have you clearly identified an instructional outcome you hope to see as a result of the training? (Or are you doing it, just because it’s in fashion?)

A high-functioning professional development program considers these questions and many more. The best programs are guided by a tacit “reciprocal accountability.” If administration is holding teachers accountable for student performance, then administration is accountable to engage teachers in the design and implementation of meaningful PD. Likewise, if teachers have an active role in shaping their professional learning environment, then administrators should expect to see the strategies utilized in the classroom, followed by an honest appraisal of what’s working.

I disagree with the notion that teaching is kind of innate “gift” that only some are born with. Teachers are nurtured with experience, training, and reflection.

If you’ve read this far,  you might also like a few other posts:

Teacher-Led Professional Development: Eleven Reasons Why You Should be Using Classroom Walk Throughs

Lesson Study: Teacher-Led PD That Works  

The Reflective Teacher: The Taxonomy of Reflection 

How To Use Twitter to Virtually Network at the ASCD Conference 2009

I couldn't attend this year's ASCD conference currently going on in Orlando. That's a shame, since conferences are such a great place to meet new people and share ideas. So I thought I use Twitter to see if I can virtually meet folks and share thinking.  

First here's my elevator speech introduction – conference attendees pretend we just met over coffee…

Great to meet you… My name's Peter Pappas, from Rochester NY. I taught high school social studies for over 25 year, became a K-12 coordinator and then finished the last 5 years of my career as a assistant superintendent for instruction. Since then, I've been able to devote myself, full time, to expanding my role as a staff developer and consultant.

I've had the chance to work with districts across the country with a focus on literacy, technology, document-based instruction and student engagement. Staff development should model what we want to see in the classroom, so I bring an audience response system and we actually use the techniques I'm promoting!

Follow me on Twitter – hope you have a great conference!

Oh .. and … have you heard of any good sushi restaurants nearby? …..

Note: As of 4/26/09 the TwitterCloudExplorer seems to have disappeared.  Here's a screen shot of what it looked like during the ASCD conference. Notice my Twitter name edteck was the 4th most Twittered word when I took the screen shot.


Technical Specs

1. Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They're like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol: #hashtag.  I sought out the relevant hashtags people are using for the ASCD conference. Note: It seems this year both #ASCD and #ASCD09 are being used. For more on hashtags 
2. I used a Twitter Search to look for people using the #ASCD OR #ASCD09 hashtags. Search results here.

3. Then I sent out Tweets to people using either hashtag with a link back to this post. Hopefully their replies will follow.
4. I'm a big fan of quantitative display of information, so I used one the many new Twitter visualization tools – Twitter Cloud Explorer to generate this embedded query. Note: As of 4/26/09 the TwitterCloudExplorer seems to have disappeared.  There are many new Twitter visualizations coming along every day.

Teaching with Historic Photographs: The Google LIFE Photo Archive

Google has posted ten million photographs from the LIFE photo archive on their online gallery of images. It's a great source of material for teachers and students who support a document-based approach to teaching history. 

While I wish that Google had done more to curate the collection with robust search tools and more specific categories, I think that teachers will find it to be an invaluable resource to enable students to "be the historian."

I've put together this quick guide to help you get started.

1.  If you are unfamiliar with the document-based approach to teaching history, you might want to start with a quick visit to my web site Teaching With Documents. There you find many resources including Document-Based Questions (DBQ) for  students grade 2 – high school. Of particular interest are these Student Analysis Guides and for more detailed analysis – my Reading a Visual Document: Guiding Questions. (55KB pdf)

2.  If you are interested in how historic documents can be used to support literacy and critical thinking, visit my sample:  Homefront America in WW II.  It shows how to improve content reading comprehension with source documents framed around essential questions that link the past and present. 

3.  Now that you have some instructional background in using historic photos – it's time to visit the LIFE photo archive hosted by Google. It's organizes images by era and subject. Once you click on an image you get a brief description and some labels (tags) that allow you to find similarly tagged images. 

Lange For example here's one of the archive photos taken by Dorothea Lange in the Migrant Mother Series. It makes a great contrast to the iconic photo she took that day that is more commonly reproduced in textbooks. (You might ask your students which of the five photos they would choose, and why?)

The LIFE archive includes this description with the photograph: Migrant mother Florence Thompson & children photographed by Dorothea Lange.
Location: Nipomo, CA, US
Date taken: 1936
Photographer: Dorothea Lange

And LIFE archive uses these labels for this photo: Lange, Dorothea, Mothers, Fsa Photographers, Us, Tension Or Worrying, American, Poverty, Florence Thompson, Photography By, Migratory, Farmers, California, Expressions, Agriculture, 1930s
4.  If you don't already use Cooliris, I suggest you download this free browser plug in. It presents the photos in a broad panorama that  allows you to scroll through many images.  I've embedded a short clip below of Cooliris in action, so you can see how it can transform your browser when searching for images and videos on Cooliris supported websites.

5.  And remember that all Google image searches allows you to specify image size with this drop down box in the upper left of the screen. 

Picture 2

How to Embed a Prezi Presentation in Your Blog


Please note that Prezi’s embed options have changed.
I updated this post on July 16, 2011.


Prezi is a great presentation software that replaces the lineal PowerPoint style with the ability to present text, videos and images in a unique zooming style. Here are samples of how I use Prezi in a variety of settings.

Here’s How to Embed

1. Open your online Prezi presentation and look for the Share tab (lower right in this screen shot.) Click share.

prezi embed 1

 2. You will get the dialog box below. When you choose “</> Embed” tab the dialog box expands and reveal your embed settings. You may want to adjust the pixel size to fit into your blog columns. Copy and paste the html code into your blog.

prezi embed 3

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