by Lois Browne
Jan Stetic and her partners in Teachers 4 Teachers have found a special niche among Professional Learning Program (PLP) providers. While the majority of approved PLP courses are offered by large employers or institutions, smaller organizations like Teachers 4 Teachers find they can offer many interesting options and specialized services to College members both online and in a variety of unique learning environments.
Stetic has been interested in the possibility of being a provider since the College announced that the PLP was operational in September 2001.
"I thought, Gee, this would be an interesting job. As a retired teacher I'm always looking for connections to education and the PLP certainly provided an interesting link. I knew I would enjoy working with other teachers," she says.
But it was the Individual Learning Option (ILO) that especially caught her attention.
"Teachers don't seem to realize how many credits they can get for a lot of the work they do in the natural course of being a teacher," says Stetic. "Often the things teachers are doing are more complex than an Additional Qualification. They spend a great deal of time and research developing curriculum for their students."
The ILO allows College members to present this kind of job-embedded learning for credit. Of course, this learning must meet the same criteria as other PLP-approved courses and must be submitted to the College by an approved provider. Many teachers making their first application require some support. This is where Stetic helps.
"Learning how to present the work you're doing in a course application can take quite a few hours so I've even developed a course, for which you can get credit, on how to make an application for PLP credit," says Stetic.
Stetic works with individual teachers to help them describe their learning in a PLP application form. The course application form is available on the College web site and must be submitted electronically, so a lot of the work that Stetic does with members is also online.
Elizabeth Vanderwater of Barrie, a Grade 3 teacher at Ferndale Woods Elementary School, contacted Teachers 4 Teachers after being referred to Stetic by the College.
After reading about the ILO, Vanderwater was sure that her Travelling Teddy Bears project, which she uses to teach various aspects of the Grade 3 curriculum, would qualify for PLP credit.
Teddy bears are donated and named by the students. Each bear goes into a bag with a journal and a student takes it home to give to a friend or relative who is going to be travelling - or the children themselves may keep it for a trip. The travelling companion records the bear's travels in the journal and sends postcards home from the bear.
"I tie it into the Grade 3 curriculum in terms of reading, writing, social studies and science," says Vanderwater, an 11-year veteran of Ontario classrooms. "The children have to write thank-you letters to the donors of the bears and any other contributors to the project. We learn about different parts of the world as postcards arrive. As children read their postcards to the class we put pins on the world map in the classroom. The children have become very comfortable with the map as they track where their bears have been. Last year our bears covered six continents."
Vanderwater has other projects in the works that she will be presenting for PLP credit - a curriculum conference where she made a presentation on her Travelling Teddy Bears and a trip to Paris during which she collected materials on the Eiffel Tower for her social studies lessons.
Doug McManaman, who has been teaching for 16 years, is also very happy with the help he has received from Teachers 4 Teachers. He currently teaches religion at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy High School in Markham where a philosophy course he designed is part of the curriculum.
When he learned about the PLP, McManaman looked on the College web site for information and realized that he could receive credit for a lot of work he was already doing - designing curriculum, writing articles and mentoring. But applying for credit was a bit confusing at first.
McManaman found that Stetic was a big help. "Once I got a handle on it, it was fine. I think it's great." He has already received two credits for mentoring a first-year colleague (who was teaching a philosophy course that McManaman designed).
Helping College members with their ILO applications is not all that Teachers 4 Teachers offers. The organization also has nearly 20 online courses taught by Gail Lennon, a qualified teacher, and Stetic is enthusiastically looking for other PLP opportunities. She's particularly excited about building professional learning courses that involve travel.