Teacher Ambassador Resources
Follow the journeys of 5 classroom teachers working for PBS to improve professional development for teachers in rural schools
Finishing the School Year Strong!
Updated May 2, 2018
No one can truly appreciate the expression “time flies” like a teacher in the final 4-6 weeks of the school year. As soon as that calendar turns to May teachers all over the country begin that final countdown of the school year. In so many ways it is an exciting time of the year for teachers because the fruits of our labor are truly showing. They “get” it! The classroom runs like a well oiled machine, all that work poured into establishing routines and building a classroom community has paid off! But it is also a time of great stress as we begin to close out the year, finishing up units, grading final projects, attending data meetings, planning field trips, guest speakers and various end of the year milestone celebrations. I remember going to staff meetings in May where all we did was compare calendars to make sure everyone was on the same page and that nothing was lost in the planning! It can be the most exciting and the busiest time of year. That is why I'm launching these quick bite-sized PD segments to help you get the most out of these final weeks with your students. These are tips, tricks, strategies and words of inspiration from me to you based on my experiences in the classroom, blog posts I’ve read online and suggestions from my network of teacher friends. Here are my five tips for today!
Routine is key!
The structures that keep your day organized are crucial this time of year. The sun is out, the snow is gone and students need structure to help keep them focused. It can be so tempting to wrap things up and spend the rest of the year “winging it” but teachers who do this often regret it. I taught right up to the last day of school. We still had reading workshop, writing workshop, math centers--all of it, everyday. I sprinkled in lighter content and summer themed activities where it was appropriate but the schedule, the routine, it all stayed the same. This helped my students to stay focused and kept behavior issues to a minimum and helped me feel more calm as well. We didn’t celebrate the last day until the LAST day.
Not Everyone is celebrating the end of the school year
Most of your students are already dreaming about summer days spent at the pool with their siblings, family vacations and enriching summer camps. But some of your students are dreading the end of the school year. Home isn’t the safest place for all of the kids in our schools, sadly. For many of your students you and your classroom provide the structure and security they don’t get at home. It is not uncommon to see these kids acting up this time of year while they prepare to re enter the chaos at home for two months. It’s important to check in with these students, give them “a little extra” if you can. While there is very little we can do to fix this problem for our students we can be mindful of how they are feeling and resist the urge to “over-celebrate” the conclusion of the school year.
Bring the Great American Read to your Classroom
PBS has launched a new series called The Great American Read in which a list of 100 books has been released for America to determine the most beloved book in the country. This would be a wonderful project to take on or modify for your students. Giving students time to reflect on things that they have learned this year is a great way to sum up the school year and get their feedback about the work they did in class. What if you made a list of all the projects, guest speakers, field trips, books, math centers, you did this year and had to choose the best one? What if they had to defend their choice to to their classmates either in a live debate or using some digital responce tools like Flipgrid or Seesaw? These ideas were shared with me by Darcy Bakkegard a fellow PBS Teacher Ambassador and former HS English and Theatre teacher in North Dakota. The best part of this project is that it gives students both VOICE in how they felt about their learning experiences and CHOICE in what they choose to reflect upon as the year closes.
Makerspaces and Design Challenges
If you have not tried giving your students Makerspace time or Design Challenges, this time of year is a great time to get started. I set aside every Friday afternoon for my students to participate in Makerspace time. We used supplies from the classroom or items we could get donated from parents. Trust me, if you ask families to bring you cardboard they will deliver! One year I challenged my K-1 students to work in teams to create something--anything, using only cardboard and masking tape.While the room was quite crowded with cardboard sculptures, all students were engaged in their work. When everyone finished each group presented their project to the class and talked about the process making it. I did something similar for my 4th and 5th graders too. Each student used diy.org to help them find a project they wanted to do over a period of time. Kids created memes, homemade lip gloss, original videos using clay sculptures as characters and Lego Stop Animation videos. PBS LearningMedia has some great resources for teachers to do Makerspace and Design Challenges with their students. These projects can be as complex or as simple as you make them. Check out the Makers collection on PBS LearningMedia or the PBS Kids Design Squad Global activities. These are recommendations from Kari Wardle, the PBS Teacher Ambassador for Idaho Public Television.
Be kind to yourself and ENJOY the final days of the school year!
Remember that you are human and to take care of yourself. While there is alot going on this time of year keep telling yourself that “this too shall pass.” It is tempting to work late, stay up too late, and skip lunch this time of year because there seem to be so many other things that need your time. Resist the temptation to let all of the end of the year activity take over all of your time. Treat yourself to a latte on the way to work or a cookie on the way home. Stop and take in the spring air, the blooming flowers and the green grass. And breathe! In no time you will be sending those students off to their summer vacation. They will leave with backpacks stuffed with the remnants from their lockers, final report cards and various awards. They may remember some of the activities you led them through these final weeks and talk about them with their families and they may not. But they will always remember how you made them feel those final days you spent together.
CoffeeEDU Coming to Bozeman
Updated March 23, 2018
In an effort to bring Montana educators together, MontanaPBS and EdCamp Big Sky are proud to host a series of CoffeeEDU meetups this spring. CoffeeEDU is a 1 hour, un-conference event for teachers to get together with colleagues to talk about issues and ideas that are interesting to them. There is no agenda or official theme for these discussions. Come with some ideas you would like to discuss with fellow teachers!
Coffee EDU will be held at Cold Smoke Coffee at 64 Willow Peak Dr. off of Huffine Lane in Bozeman, MT on the dates below. All educators are welcome to join the conversation! Come to just one event or join us for them all–it is up to you! OPI Renewal units will be provided to those who attend!
Learn more about CoffeeEDU events by visiting the official CoffeeEDU website.
Upcoming Dates | Cold Smoke Coffee (Huffine Ln.)
- Tuesday, April 10 from 4:30-5:30 PM
- Thursday, April 26 from 4:30-5:30 PM
- Saturday, May 5 from 10:00-11:00 AM
Nuggets from NETA
Updated February 12, 2018
I spent a week in Washington DC attending the NETA (National Educational Telecommunications Association) conference. This conference is a gathering place for those involved in public media to connect with one another and learn about creating educational content for television and radio. In typical national conference fashion, there were amazing keynote speakers, great food and hundreds of people from all over the country excited to share the work they do working for public media. As I sit in the Minneapolis airport waiting to board my flight home to Bozeman, I am reflecting on all the good things I learned while at NETA this week. A good friend and respected colleague, Anne Keith, always says that if you can come away from a professional development experience with at least one nugget of new information to take with you back home then the time was well spent. Not to be an over-achiever but I have compiled my top 5 “nuggets for NETA” for you here.
1. PBS EdCamp
I was asked to help spread the word about EdCamp at NETA by participating in an EdCamp simulation for the public media folks. It was incredible to see the EdCamp model work outside of the educational venue. Just like an EdCamp for teachers the participants in our simulation collaborated to choose the topics they were interested in discussing and then engaged in thoughtful conversation sharing ideas and stories about their work. I’m excited to share that MontanaPBS has been chosen as a pilot station to host a PBS EdCamp this spring! PBS EdCamps will have a PK-3 focus for early childhood teachers. We plan to have one in Bozeman and one in Billings this April. Stay tuned for more information!
JD Vance was the speaker at the dinner reception the first night of the conference. He shared stories from growing up in poverty in Appalachia. His book is about generational poverty and how difficult it is for kids who have been exposed to childhood trauma to function outside of their home environment. He shared about his relationship with his grandmother and how she influenced his life as a child and as an adult. He told us that every child deserves to have a “fiery advocate” in their corner because that will be the key to their success. We were all given a copy of his book and I am eager to read it and learn more about his story.
I attended a session presented by PBS Newshour about a nationwide project called Student Reporting labs. This project gives schools the curriculum and tools to teach high school students about broadcast journalism. Two students from the DC area attended the session and shared their experiences learning in the reporting labs. Both of them talked about how they were challenged to move out of their comfort zones as they practiced interviewing skills. They credited their work with the reporting labs with giving them confidence and exposing them to a new passion. The most exciting part about the work students do in these labs is that their video footage is submitted to PBS Newshour. The news team at the station chooses pieces to feature on the national broadcast. Schools in Billings are currently participating in the Student Reporting Labs project. It would be great to have more schools in Montana take part.
Stations in Massachusetts and Wisconsin shared some new resources they created for PBS LearningMedia. These interactive lessons combine media with hands on tasks that students and teachers can use to learn about a variety of topics. The lessons are all high quality, aligned to standards and are very easy to navigate. There are lessons for K-12 posted right now. More resources will be added in the months ahead. There will be a webinar about a collection of Interactive Lessons created by NASA on January 30. If you would like to learn more consider tuning in!
Sesame Street has launched a new platform with resources to support parents and early childhood teachers as they practice developing social emotional skills with young children. This free resource provides a highly searchable database of activities, games, videos, digital storybooks, articles and printables to support the learning of children ages 1-6. Share this resource with parents and teachers of young children!
Martin Luther King Jr. Day Resources
Updated January 9, 2018
Looking for some good resources for Martin Luther King Jr. Day? PBS LearningMedia has an abundance of resources for all grade levels. Many of them have support materials for teachers and are aligned to Montana state standards. The grade bands attached to each of these is merely a suggestion. Please feel free to explore each resource and find the one that will be of most interest to your students. Please let Nikki know if you used any of these resources with your students and how the lesson went. We love hearing your classroom stories!
- All About the Holidays Winter Holidays Collections on PBS LearningMedia
- This is a quick video with an overview of the life and work of Dr. King. It is fast paces and full of visuals. Perfect for the primary classroom!
All About the Holidays iBook Lesson Plan Collection
- This iBook features lesson plans for a variety of holidays including MLK day. The lessons are intended to go along with the video above.
- March on Washington: Fair or Unfair Lesson Plan
- Make issues of fairness, justice and discrimination personal to your students with this lesson plan, which includes an activity with Dr. Seuss!
- Primary Source Lesson Plan “Reaction to the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
- This activity features the original footage from a rally held in Boston, MA after the assassination of Dr. King. The lesson plan and suggested activities are featured under “support materials.”
- Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.
- This mini-collection of photographs were individually selected from the prestigious Getty Images collections to help PBS LearningMedia teachers and students discuss the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the broader Civil Rights Movement.
New to PBS LearningMedia: Great States Montana History Collection
Updated December 28, 2017
Calling all Montana History Teachers! A brand new resources has landed on the PBS LearningMedia website just for you! This collection of videos, lesson plans and primary sources was created by PBS Education and MontanaPBS to help teachers implement state standards for teaching Social Studies. While these materials were created with fourth graders in mind, they would be useful in any classroom learning about Montana’s rich history and traditions. Click on the link below and start exploring these resources! Stay tuned for more information about FREE training for teachers using these materials in 2018.