As a young teacher, Krista Herrera realized that lesson planning was not her strong suit. So instead of spending nights and weekends agonizing over this task and making her students suffer through her learning curve with her, she did something that is rarely done in education, but which could be more effective than the last intervention or any AI technology: She got help from a colleague.
“I was super good at building relationships with my kids, managing my classroom, and making the content fun,” Herrera says. But she noticed a teacher down the hall was fantastic at creating lesson plans. She asked him to share and then offered ways to enhance those lesson plans with class activities, enhancing the experience for students in both classes. “Together we could kind of create this super teacher,” she says.
Herrera is now the professional learning and student support administrator at the Kern County Superintendent of Schools. Recently, she received an Innovative Leader Award for Best Digital Curriculum Implementation in a Tech & Learning Regional Leadership Summit (opens in a new tab) in California. She received the award in recognition of her efforts to intensify the kind of collaboration she enjoyed early in her career with that teacher down the hall through the Ministry of Education’s High Quality Education Materials Initiative. California Education.
Thanks to the efforts of Herrera and his colleague, the California Educators Together website (opens in a new tab) offers approved, high-quality and relevant professional learning and lesson plans. While these resources are designed for California educators and designed with state education standards in mind, they are all freely available to educators around the world.
How California Educators Came Together
Like many recent innovations in education, California Educators Together’s online resources and lesson plans were inspired by the pandemic. When the shutdowns began in early 2020, teachers in California, like much of the rest of the country and the world, needed high-quality online educational resources. “Our county superintendent called and she said, ‘I think we need to provide teachers with a ready-to-use curriculum,'” Herrera says. She recruited more than 100 educators to help create turnkey courses that other teachers could turn to in the turbulent early days of the pandemic.
From that experience, Herrera began to see the potential for these types of educational resources even beyond the pandemic. She began working with other educators to create high quality lessons that take learning variability into account and are designed to serve all learners.
“For me, it was really interesting in terms of fairness,” says Herrera. “No matter what zip code you were in, especially in our county, you would have access to this high quality program.”
How Teachers Can Use California Educators Together
California Educators Together currently has many resources, although the goal is to continue to expand to eventually include a model unit for every subject at every grade level. This would serve as an example for educators who could then base other units on it.
“We’ll eventually go around the state and get videotapes of teachers actually demonstrating these lessons in our classrooms to help people look better,” Herrera said. This initiative was designed after realizing that new teachers might need to see “teacher moves” in action to understand why a certain lesson worked.
The initiative also offers course design institutes that California educators can attend. Once they’ve been trained in this type of course design, they can earn money by offering their own courses to California Educators Together.
The resources featured on the site are available to educators everywhere, and Herrera hopes to expand the model beyond the state.
“Right now we’re focused on California, but the goal will be for it to eventually nurture educators across the country, and everyone kind of speaks the same language and we’re working together to build that wonderful repository,” she says. “But we are only in the early stages of realizing all of this.”
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