Learning the ETFO/Drake Way

Elke Bau MGartner, Sandra Himann and Ali Stickland

Professional  learning  matters.  It reinforces what we know, teaches  us  what  we  strive to  learn, and challenges us in unexpected ways. As instructors in the ETFO/Drake  University  credit  course  program, we not only deliver professional learning, we take part in it ourselves. For us it’s a win-win situation.

ETFO and Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa maintain a  partnership that  allows  ETFO  members  to  take credit courses close to where they live. Founded in 1881, Drake University is ranked  among  the top American universities  for  educational  quality  and student achievement. Its 70-plus academic programs include a  School  of Education through which the courses are made possible.

Through the ongoing training that ETFO and Drake University provide, we  are  all  constantly  learning.  Each ETFO/Drake course is updated regularly and  offers practical ideas based in current research. As instructors  we learn new strategies and improve our own practice every time we are trained in a new course. We also get  a  first-hand  look  at  how  other  instructors present the same content and benefit from their years of  experience. When we teach, we benefit from the know- ledge and experience of participants.

“Adult learners have many unique experiences to  share  in  class  discussions.  Not  only  do  the   participants learn  from  the  class, but  so  do  I  as an instructor,” says Elke Baumgartner. Adult learners are  more reflective and are there because they want to improve their   professional  practice.   ETFO/ Drake courses  are not subject-specific but are focused on methodology that can be applied to any subject at any grade level. As a result, a teacher’s skill base increases. As well, since the courses are offered in a relaxed environment, participants are more willing to practise the skills and strategies that make for good teaching. A true professional learning community develops.

We each followed a slightly different path in becoming ETFO/Drake instructors. “In teachers’ college I experienced professors who were passionate about education. their knowledge and ability to teach captivated me. Their material was  practical and fun…  Like them I wanted to motivate teachers to become the  best  possible educators,” says Ali Stickland. Sandra Himann got her start by organizing and presenting an ETFO math workshop for Junior teachers: “It was  a  great  experience!  From  there, things   snowballed   and   I’ve   never looked back.” After getting her master’s degree, Elke  Baumgartner wanted  to combine her love for teaching Intermediate  French  Immersion  students with her  desire to help other teachers become better educators.

Although  ‘golden’  most days, instructing  ETFO/Drake courses  can be  challenging. Adult  learners,  especially teachers, are a tough crowd. They know good teaching and are critical of other teachers. “I feel a pressure to be on,” says Stickland. “Adult learners pick up on your mistakes and are cognizant of time.” With their different learning styles, adult  learners also require differentiation.

ETFO’s  relationship  with  Drake University provides significant leadership opportunities for members. “My affiliation with ETFO and Drake University  has  provided  important  networking opportunities,” says Stickland. “I  have  developed  life-long  personal and professional relationships. Becoming  an  ETFO/Drake  instructor  has allowed me to explore and expand my horizons.” When  given  the opportunity teachers  will  pursue  the  professional development  that  matters  to  them. ETFO/Drake courses are one of a number of professional learning opportunities and a good option.

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Teacher using computer in classroom

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