Advancing Classrooms and Careers
Teacher experiences success through ACP program
Imagine advancing three lanes on your district's pay scale at no cost to you.
Pequot Lakes teacher Michele Zeidler has done just that by utilizing the Alternative Career Pathways program through Sourcewell to not only advance her career but to also bring new and innovative tools to her classroom – all without spending a penny out of her own pocket.
As its name implies, the Alternative Career Pathways (ACP) program is an alternative to traditional graduate-level coursework, providing personalized professional development. With the help of ACP specialists at Sourcewell, educators can create self-directed learning opportunities to complement their interests, experiences, and skills.
ACP projects can earn educators anywhere from 1-3 credits. These credits can transfer as credit hours or a monetary stipend, equating to $500 per credit.
Zeidler, now in her 21st year of teaching, shared her success and how she has gone from a Master+0 to Master+45 on the teaching pay scale – all by doing what she loves.
Zeidler is an expert educator that views professional learning through a lens of continued improvement. When Pequot Lakes Superintendent Chris Lindholm first approached Zeidler with the ACP idea in the spring of 2015 she was quick to embrace the concept.
“Everything about it piqued my interest,” Zeidler said. “I believe that we must continually grow as educators and I have spent years refining my craft, knowing that it is a never-ending process.”
Q: How many ACP projects have you done? Do you remember your first?
A: I think I am currently working toward completion of my 13th ACP project. My very first project was actually a combined project that consisted of three components: Using the Classroom as the Third Teacher, Blogging, and Pedagogical Documentation. To this day, that is the one that has been the most impactful in terms of growth for myself as an educator.
Q: Would you recommend ACP to other educators? Is it just for elementary or would you recommend it to secondary levels, as well?
A: I would most definitely recommend this program to other educators, and I have.
There is no magical fit in terms of grade level or departmental focus. The beauty of ACP is that it is truly an equitable pursuit. It doesn't matter who you are or what you teach, the only limit to what an ACP project can be is yourself. And, you do not have to go it alone. In fact, collaborating with other educators adds another dimension to the level of learning and growth that can be achieved through this process.
To continue to improve as an educator, I believe we must never lose the passion for learning that led us into the profession in the first place. ACP allows us to do that.
Q: What difference has it made in your classroom? Any specific examples?
A: Perhaps the real question is: Where is the difference not felt in my classroom?
Everywhere I look in my classroom, I see the impact of an ACP project. Most noteworthy is the design of my classroom. When I decided I wanted the classroom to function as the third teacher (along with teacher and the curriculum), I read a book called Inspiring Spaces for Young Children, which focuses on seven principles of classroom design. This book transformed the way I think and set up my room.
Blogging was another big one for me. Through my weekly blogs, I was able to reflect on my craft, which in turn, allowed me to be more creative and thoughtful about the daily choices I make. Unfortunately, as life became busier and busier, the blog was set aside but still serves as a great resource and opportunity for me to look back at my research.
The biggest take-away for me, however, is how the ACP program has taught me the importance of purpose. I have become very intentional about my time, the focus of the lessons I teach, the experiences I provide, the role I play, and the attitudes and beliefs I hold close to my heart.
ACP has not only changed who I am as a teacher, it has changed who I am as a person.
Oh, and the fact that I was able to move from a Masters+0 to a Masters+45 all through ACP projects is an added bonus, too.