Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Teacher of Year Works to Connect Educators Worldwide

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

May 6, 2009 - The project has been brewing since January, but within a month, the first 400-plus volunteers will begin to provide feedback to the creator of the Department of Defense Education Activity Teacher-to-Teacher project. "It's a virtual networking, learning, growth and development community," Dorothy Goff Goulet, DoDEA's 2009 Teacher of the Year, said. "It's primarily through our Blackboard Academic Suite, but there are a number of external resources that we are making available to teachers DoDEA-wide."

The project has been Goulet's full-time focus since she started her semester-long sabbatical in January. The sabbatical is granted to the teacher of the year to pursue such endeavors.

In light of the interest in the project from the other 54 teachers of the year from school systems throughout the United States and its territories, some of the resources will be made available to any educator, Goulet said. The project has a Wikipedia space and a Google group to help it meet its goal of being a virtual learning community.

Goulet is asking teachers, administrators, school nurses and psychologists to contribute content and ideas, as well as suggestions on how to present the information.

When the site goes live by the end of the month, she expects to have more than 400 volunteers offering feedback and swapping ideas and resources.

"It's like having keys to a supply room," Goulet said. "You can go and use it if you want, and if you see something you could leave behind and contribute, then go right ahead."

Goulet said she'll continue working on the site for the rest of the school year and through the summer before it officially opens to the DoDEA education community in the fall.

The Council of Chief State School Officers, which runs the Teacher of the Year program, brought all 55 teachers to Washington for an education recognition week that began April 27. During that week, Goulet and her fellow teachers of the year attended the ceremony announcing the national teacher of the year in the White House Rose Garden. They also got to have their say with the policymakers at the Education Department.

"We met with policymakers. They actually wanted to hear our opinions on the stimulus money ... the portion of that that's set aside for education," Goulet said. "It was nice to have a voice in that. I think that discussion could have gone two or three days.
"We discussed how ... we would inform reauthorization of the ... No Child Left Behind Act," she continued. "What would it look like if we had our wishes? What changes would there be in terms of college readiness standards and career readiness standards?"

Graduating high school seniors today aren't lacking technological knowledge; that's embedded at this point, Goulet said. Rather, she said, they lack what she describes as "21st century skills," including critical thinking, collaboration, initiative and financial literacy.

This is compounded by the fact that a million high school students will drop out of school this year; the equivalent to one every 26 seconds, she said, citing data from America's Promise, a collaborative network that facilitates volunteer action for children and youth.

Facts like that influenced her message as DoDEA's 2009 Teacher of the Year that real transformation needs to take place, Goulet said.

"I believe that we need transformational leadership," she said. "We're going to be in a lot of trouble in several years if you think about the statistic of dropouts. If our economy is really hurting now, what's it going to be like when it's burdened with millions and millions of people who did not finish high school? We cannot sustain that kind of pressure on our economy."

That transformation has to start in the classroom, she said.

Goulet, a 13-year teaching veteran, taught French and U.S. history at Germany's Kaiserslautern Middle School last semester. She's married to Air Force Lt. Col. Wayne Goulet, who's stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

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