Kelly Pearce
Photo Amy Byres/Observer

My media literacy students ended our weeklong unit in mid-September on social media by designing their own Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook post.

Their middle-school imagination and ability to showcase their evolving digital citizenship skills made my teacher heart proud.

In these days of distance learning, I usually type my feedback to them in Google Classroom. But based on an idea I learned in a New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) and Central New Mexico Community College-sponsored teacher training session in August and again heard in a Cult of Pedagogy podcast later in the month, I decided to record it instead.

I often grade on Saturdays and do not expect student responses until the following week. Yet within minutes of posting the 30-second Screencastify video links, my inbox pinged.

“That was really personal,” Jill wrote back.

“Good point. I never thought about that,” typed James.

Not only did the professional-learning nugget inspire me, but it also inspired students to give me feedback about my feedback. And, it was overwhelmingly positive.

During the subsequent Google Meet learning session, another student told me she has never had a teacher give her video feedback.

Still another asked me to video my feedback on future assignments. He admitted he does not always read written feedback.

These are the moments that make teaching the best job in the universe, whether back in the brick-and-mortar world or in the virtual sphere. These days, especially when I feel isolated and detached from students, I look for anything and everything that builds communication, relationships ― and success.

So much of what I read and see in the media these days focuses on the challenges of our current education delivery systems. But there are triumphs, too.

So, I have two words for NMPED: Thank you.

Not only are you improving your professional-learning opportunities and delivery, but you have committed to creating a director of professional learning position in the department, as well as being interested in constructing a website around teacher training. As part of the Teach Plus Fellows team that urged you to do so, I am grateful.

Knowing that the state department overseeing education in New Mexico supports our needs is more than reassuring. It is the catalyst to keep us moving in the right direction. As I reflect on what tools I need to continue to evolve as a teacher who embraces learning, professional development tops my list. For example, I would want to acquire fresh ways to build organic bonds with students, increase my technology prowess and confidence, and find ways to ensure skills I am learning now stick around long after the novel coronavirus is only talked about in history classes.

The director of professional learning can focus on creating such learning opportunities and much more. I challenge the department to pick a professional-learning leader who is organized, willing to learn and energized to brave new waters and inspire courageous conversations.

And, I want to send the message that filling this position is urgent. There is no time like the present.

(Kelly Pearce is an educator in Rio Rancho Public Schools and a Teach Plus New Mexico Teaching Policy Fellow.)