A new, $7.5 million partnership will help the state’s K–12 teachers deliver quality instruction and support for online and blended learning environments as Arizona grapples with the challenges of starting a school year during a pandemic.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, Helios Education Foundation and Arizona State University have announced a collaboration to provide training and professional development for every teacher in Arizona. With financial support from the governor’s office, the Arizona Department of Education and Helios, ASU Prep Digital’s Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute will provide both group and personal training to help Arizona teachers succeed in delivering online instruction.
Free training programs for schools and teachers begin Aug. 11 with a three-day program, “Thriving as a Digital Teacher.” Topics are relevant to all digital learning tools and include best practices in online instruction, Web 2.0 tools, setting up a virtual instruction plan, pace charts, monitoring student progress, teaching time and stress management and more. Synchronous and asynchronous sessions will be available through the school year.
“Arizona teachers have demonstrated dedication and creativity in remaining present in the lives of their students through distance learning,” Ducey said. “With funding from the state and both the financial support and expertise of the Helios Education Foundation, we are putting one of the state’s strongest assets during this pandemic, Arizona State University, to work to support teachers in elementary schools and high schools from across the state.”
The training will get teachers up and running quickly and build their expertise incrementally. After-school sessions, available Monday through Thursday, along with a Saturday morning session, provide tremendous flexibility. Leadership tracks will support school and district leaders in managing instructional programs and supporting teachers at a distance. Professional Learning Communities, facilitated by ASU Prep Digital, offer an avenue for educators to work through specific challenges throughout the year.
“At present, it is unlikely that any Arizona school community will be in a position to begin the new school year in the traditional, in-person, on-campus setting,” Hoffman said. “As schools look to begin the fall semester in a distance learning mode, they face different challenges. We want to give all schools and teachers access to the tools and training that they need. ASU Prep Digital already excels in this work and this new partnership will expand it.”
ASU Prep Digital, already in partnership with more than 150 schools across Arizona, offers a flexible menu of training options to maximize opportunities to participate in multiple sessions each month. School leadership can specify requirements for their staff, allow teachers to make their own choices, request special sessions for their school or offer a combination of required versus “choice” sessions. These trainings were thoughtfully designed to increase confidence in every teacher, regardless of digital competency level, as they continue to personalize education and raise academic achievement for every student — even with the uncertain school environment variables that will define the upcoming school year.
“We have always known that the quality of any ed-tech implementation depends on resourcing and preparing great teachers and leaders to steer the initiative effectively,” said Amy McGrath, chief operating officer of ASU Prep Digital. “This training stems from years of work with districts across the globe in a wide variety of implementations. Over the years, we have identified common practices and principles around effective online and blended environments. We are eager to share what we’ve learned but also to welcome new teacher and leader insights into this growing pool of knowledge for future generations.”
Ducey and Hoffman shared the sentiment that the partnership would not have occurred without the engagement of the Helios Education Foundation, a philanthropic organization best known for its work in creating opportunities for success in postsecondary education.
“Arizona teachers are facing an unprecedented challenge but their determination, resilience and commitment to their students is extraordinary,” said Vince Roig, founding chairman of Helios Education Foundation. “This institute will help equip teachers to provide instruction in a virtual environment while also ensuring all students — including those in rural and underserved communities — have access to high-quality educational opportunities.”
Thanks to the Helios investment and the state funding, training through the Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute will be provided at no cost to Arizona’s K–12 public schools and teachers.