High school ELA teacher; Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Gardner-Webb University, NC

The Importance of Continuing Education for Teachers

The education field is constantly in flux with new policies, emerging research, and evolving populations, all transactional spaces where change takes place. To say that keeping abreast of all that is new and coming is a challenge is an understatement. Yet, this growth is even more reason for teachers to continue their education.

Why is it Important to Continue Your Education as a Teacher?

When I first began my career as an educator, I honestly didn’t know what I didn’t know. I needed a few years in the classroom to identify and understand where to develop my skills more fully to address and overcome pedagogical challenges. According to a Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) report from 2018, “more than 44 percent of new teachers in public and private schools leave teaching within five years of entry.”

Although the reasons for this level of attrition vary, the data suggests that one-third of those leaving were not satisfied with the circumstances of the profession (CPRE, 2018). Even with an education degree and state licensure, I found myself feeling unequipped to meet the needs of a diverse population with an equally diverse set of needs. Continuing my education improved this, improved my pedagogy, my understanding of student needs, and my ability to mentor other teachers and advocate for the profession as a whole.

Continuing education is not just for beginning teachers, although support systems that include continuing education help reduce the attrition rate in those early years. Even veteran educators can grow and further develop their skills. From improving lesson planning to content delivery methods, veteran teachers can refine their craft and increase their efficacy.

Ways to Continue Your Education

Thanks to more expanded remote learning options, continuing your education is easier than ever. Opportunity and affordability make continuing education pathways more accessible.

Higher Education

Graduate programs offer innumerable growth opportunities for educators. Whether you are interested in deepening your understanding and knowledge in your certification area or developing in an altogether new area, a graduate degree provides the opportunity to formally participate in course work that allows you to level up. A graduate program also allows you to collaborate with your peers. Whether those peers are long-time educators or new to the field, these interactions offer new perspectives and reflective discourse that we often lose in the day-to-day grind of the classroom.

Many graduate programs offer pathways to advanced licensure. When I decided I needed help in the classroom, I enrolled in a master’s in reading education program. As a high school English teacher, I really had no grasp on what I was about to learn.

Diving deep into the reading brain and taking coursework that focused on early literacy and reading completely changed my approach to meeting the needs of struggling high school students. The graduate pathway also led me to a K-12 licensure as a reading specialist, allowing me to be a resource for my colleagues.

Maybe you want to move beyond the classroom and assume a leadership role. Many graduate programs offer pathways specific to educational leadership roles, from administrator to specialist. Even if you’re not interested in leaving the classroom, many graduate courses build leadership capacity, equipping you for whatever may arise, such as a Ed.D. in Curriculum & Instruction or Educational Leadership degree.

Professional Development

Professional development comes in many packages. The formats vary in delivery and time commitment but offer a unique opportunity to work towards targeted learning goals. Many districts offer professional development throughout the school year, but you can also seek professional learning independently.

A few years ago, I helped develop a mini conference for my district. We asked teachers, district-wide, to submit presentation proposals focused on topics targeted to our district’s needs. The conference day included sessions developed and presented by our teachers and was an excellent way for us to learn from each other on a broad scale. My district still continues with this professional learning day and it’s a hit among our staff. This type of learning format can be scaled down to collaborative groups, teams, PLCs, or departments.

Professional development from an outside source is also a great learning opportunity. Many companies specialize in continuing education for educators and the areas of learning are targeted to specific needs. Consider what you want or need from the course or session when seeking outside professional development opportunities.

Conferences

Educational conferences offer a valuable learning experience where you can get bang for your buck. Not only do conferences provide numerous sessions throughout the day or multiple-day events, but they also provide networking opportunities. Meeting educators from different school districts is a great way to expand your growth opportunities, whether it’s sharing lesson plans or brainstorming new curriculum delivery ideas methods. There are many conference formats ranging from content specific to general educational practices and policies, which provide educators a variety of options.

Additional Benefits of Continued Education for Teachers

Beyond the desire to grow in your field and achieve more tremendous student success, continued learning offers other benefits. Many states require licensure renewals tied to continuing education credits.

Additionally, many states and districts offer salary incentives and licensure levels based on educational levels. Teachers can combine continuing education credits with years of service to ensure salary step increases. Who doesn’t want to make more money?

Educators can also improve their advancement or promotion opportunities through continued education. Many leadership positions require advanced degrees or licensure in addition to experience. Leadership roles are not the only opportunity for advancement or transition. Developing new skills can open doors to mentor responsibilities or leadership in school initiatives, for instance, managing a new literacy program implementation or becoming a curriculum leader in your school.

There are no disadvantages to learning more. Whether you want to improve as a classroom teacher or you want to help write education policy, continuing your education as a teacher can open pathways to growth and movement in any direction.