The End’s the Beginning for TQP Director Peggi Zelinko

Peggi Zelinko (center, in red) is joined by current and former staff of the Teacher Quality and i3 Fund Programs and other ED colleagues to celebrate her retirement. (Department of Education photo by Paul Wood)

Peggi Zelinko (center, in red) is joined by current and former staff of the Teacher Quality and i3 Fund Programs and other ED colleagues to celebrate her retirement. (Department of Education photo by Paul Wood)

Last month, OII said a fond farewell to Director of Teacher Quality Programs Peggi Zelinko. Peggi retired at the end of November after 19 years of service at the Department of Education.

Peggi was named the Director of the Teacher Quality Programs (TQP) in OII in 2005. In that role, she oversaw a number of discretionary grant programs focusing on teacher quality and school leadership. These programs have included Transition to Teaching, Troops to Teachers, Teaching American History, the National Writing Project, the School Leadership Program, Supporting Effective Educator Development, and Teacher Quality Partnerships. She also served for a year as acting director of the Investing in Innovation (i3) program, while maintaining her leadership role of TQP. Before her leadership role with TQP, Peggi served as a program officer for the Transition to Teaching program and team leader for the School Leadership Program in OII, and as the program officer for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education’s teacher quality initiatives.

Peggi was a practitioner as well as a policy maker. Formerly a staff member with the U.S. Department of Labor and the West Virginia State Department of Education, she also worked as a teacher educator at the collegiate level and as a high school marketing teacher. Her work at ED was defined by this background in education. One of her chief goals as a program director was to ensure that programs show results. “To what end?” was one of her signature comments when assessing grant program activities.

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OII Grant Invigorates Partnerships with History and Humanities Organizations

The late Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who himself made history as the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate, was passionate about the importance of the U.S. Constitution — he carried a copy in his suit-coat pocket — and about American history. He believed strongly that students need a deep understanding of the significant events and turning points in our Nation’s history. Under his legislative leadership, important opportunities were created for teachers of American history to strengthen their knowledge and improve their pedagogy, notably OII’s Teaching American History (TAH) grant program.

Authorized in 2001 to improve student achievement in American history by providing high-quality professional development to K-12 teachers, TAH grants have supported hundreds of school districts. The grant program supports professional development programs that put a premium on teachers engaging with primary sources via partnerships with a wide variety of cultural entities — from humanities programs of colleges and universities to museums and libraries to state and local historical societies.

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Teaching American History Veteran is Teacher of the Year

Meet Jill Szymanski, a 4th/5th-grade teacher at Red Clay Consolidated School District in Wilmington, Del., who was recently named the 2013 National History Teacher of the Year.

Ms. Szymanski, a 16-year veteran of the classroom, credits her growth as a history teacher in part to her participation for three years in the Delaware Social Studies Education Project, a grantee of ED’s Teaching American History program. Teaching American History grants support professional development in American history content by stressing the importance of making history engaging and helping students to think like historians. James G. Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, said Ms. Szymanski has an “ability to push her students to think critically through the use of primary and secondary source documents and visits to historical sites, and her boundless energy.”

The National History Teacher of the Year Award is co-sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, The History Channel, and Preserve America to honor outstanding K–12 educators of American history. The honoree receives a $10,000 prize as well as a trip for her and two students to New York City for an awards ceremony. Click here to read the full article about this year’s awardee on the Gilder Lehrman Institute website.

 Cross-posted from Teaching Matters, ED’s newsletter celebrating teachers and teaching.

Department Awards $30 Million in Grants to Support Teacher and Principal Development

(Sept. 18, 2013) U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan today announced nearly $30 million for six grant awards to improve student achievement by increasing the effectiveness of teachers and principals.

The national non-profits funded under the Supporting Effective Educators Development (SEED) program, will enhance preparation of pre-service teachers, provide professional development to in-service teachers and leaders, and disseminate best practices, ultimately serving approximately 27,000 teachers and principals, reaching a significant number of students across all 50 states.

“Effective teachers and principals play a central role in improving student achievement and producing better outcomes for children,” Secretary Duncan said. “These grants provide resources to support teachers and school leaders and develop the next generation of world-class educators.”

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OII Staff Shadow Teachers to Appreciate Their Work

The U.S. Department of Education celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-10) with a variety of events and outreach. The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) kicked off the week with a Google+ Hangout. At the end of the week, the Department’s Teaching Ambassador Fellows organized ED Goes Back to School Day. More than 60 staff from the Department visited schools and shadowed teachers across the D.C. metropolitan area on Thursday, May 9, 2013. OII was fortunate to be hosted by eight teachers in schools in D.C.

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Assistant Deputy Secretary Helps Kick-off Teacher Appreciation Week

Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement, participated in a Google+ Hangout on Monday, May 6, 2013, as part of the kick-off to 2013’s Teacher Appreciation Week. The panel discussion, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and moderated by Tamron Hall of NBC News, celebrated African American educators and explored issues in education pertinent to all teachers, including the challenges they face in preparing students for college and careers.

“One of the things we have to recognize overall is that in order for teachers to be successful, the context has to be right for them to do their best work,” Jim Shelton observed. The discussion, he said, is about “what kind of support and resources we can give them, what kind of school environments they operate in, … as well as what the individual teachers do.”

To read more about and watch an archived version of the Hangout, click here.

Teaching American History Program Participants Receive National Honor

The more than 85,000 participants in OII’s Teaching American History Program are winners of the 2013 Friend of History Award from the Organization of American Historians (OAH). The award, which is given in recognition of outstanding support for historical research or the public presentation of American history, was presented to two representatives of the TAH program at OAH’s 106th annual conference on April 13.

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Leading in a Diverse Workplace: ED Staff Learn How From Award-Winning Teachers

“In an increasingly diverse world, it is important for teachers to have the skills to reach every student in the classroom and close the achievement gap,” said the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello, at the Department of Education to help lead a conversation about diversity. The Department invited Costello, along with the 2012 Teaching Tolerance Excellence in Culturally Responsive Teaching Awardees, who were in D.C. to receive their awards. They engaged employees in an extended conversation on diversity, helping employees to understand their effective classroom practices and to translate their experiences and insights into lessons about leading, whether in classrooms, schools, or federal agencies.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a storied “nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.” For 20 years, Teaching Tolerance has worked to reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations, and support equitable experiences for the nation’s children. “This awards program recognizes teachers who excel at teaching students from diverse backgrounds in a way that promotes student achievement,” said Costello. The five awardees are:

Lhisa R. Almashy
Park Vista High School
Lake Worth, Fla.

Anna E. Baldwin
Arlee High School
Arlee, Mont.

Darnell Fine
Atlanta Neighborhood Charter Middle School
Atlanta, Ga.

Robert P. Sautter
Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School
San Francisco, Calif.

Laurence Tan
122nd Street Elementary School
Los Angeles, Calif.

Putting terms like “tolerance” and “diversity” into action

Costello acknowledged that it is very difficult to say what “tolerance,” defined as culturally responsive teaching and curriculum by the Teaching Tolerance project, looks like. Out of this difficulty grew the teaching awards program. The four teachers who led the conversation gave the audience powerful examples of teachers who turn differences to an advantage for learning. One said teaching is beyond a job—it is not something you do but rather something you live. To be successful at it you have to know your constituents as individuals, build connections with their families, and come to know the neighborhoods where they live.

Describing the value of knowing students’ families, another of the teachers posited that, in addition to learning so much every day from his students about how to teach them well, this learning is multiplied 10-fold when he has a relationship with their parents. His effort to accomplish that is a model with a high bar: He calls every family before the start of the school year to invite them to school to talk about how they can work together; he tries to connect with them every day; he calls their homes; and he makes home visits to families who want him to come. His purpose is centered by this challenge: Be a road block to our students’ learning in our school, or help them get on board. He is now a trainer for “educators of equity” at his school, which means, for example, that he helps to raise awareness among the staff about what white privilege means.

Taking that goal as a cue, another of the teachers defined “diversity” as defining identities in relation to a dominant culture and giving integrity to difference in order to equalize it. As an example, he asked “What is ‘intelligence'”? and pointed out that standardized testing privileges certain populations over others. Under that parameter, someone who is intelligent could be defined as not so. This led to the question of what diversity contributes to integrity, probably the highest value in any workplace. The answer: Meet people where they are, recognize each person comes to the table with something different, and raise people’s consciousness about the different people at the table.

Tomorrow’s great teachers are in today’s classrooms

The conversation turned to the key issues of teacher education and attracting potentially great teachers to the profession. All of the teachers agreed with Costello’s summary of the discussion: To create the next generation of great teachers requires that the current generation of students have great experiences in school now—exactly like these award-winning teachers ensure their students will have every day in their classrooms.

ED staff who participated in the discussion took with them valuable lessons for paying attention to both the gifts and needs their colleagues bring every day to the workplace.

To read more about the individual awardees and see videos of them in their classrooms, click here.

OII Grants Support More than Half of Race to the Top-District Winners

Ten grantees of the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) are also 2012 Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) grant-award winners. On Tuesday, December 11, 2012, the Department of Education announced 16 RTT-D applicants that competed successfully for the first-time district-level grants that will support reform efforts in 55 school districts across 11 states.

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Teaching American History Participant Named National History Teacher of the Year

Students in Stacy Hoeflich’s fourth-grade classroom at John Adams Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., don’t just learn American history, they live it through encounters with primary sources and historical reenactors, participation in “Colonial Day” fairs, field trips to historical sites, operas about historical figures such as George Mason and Thomas Jefferson that are written and performed by the students, and more. Ms. Hoeflich’s efforts were recognized last month by the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History, which awarded her the prestigious 2011 National History Teacher of the Year Award. Co-sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute, HISTORY®, and Preserve America, the award was presented in a ceremony at the Frederick Douglass Academy in New York City and is accompanied by a $10,000 cash prize.

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