Teachers rely on center for materials and professional development

As teachers in local school districts get ready to break for the summer, many will take advantage of classes offered by the Delaware Teaching Center.

An estimated 800 teachers rely on the center’s resources during the school year for their lesson plans and to obtain necessary workshop hours for recertification.

 “As teachers, we have to keep learning, too,” said Kristen Zeman, a teacher at Lake Forest High School. 

Many express concern that the center, which has become a staple in the teaching community, will not get the funding it needs.

Educators are worried that the General Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee will eliminate funding for the center.  It costs the state an estimated $450,000 a year.

“We’re always on the chopping block, almost every year,” said center manager Sharon Moran.

 According to Delaware Teaching Center Director Jessica Jackson the center was in danger of losing its funding back in 2011, but enough teachers reached out to their legislators and it was taken off the list of cuts.

“We keep our fingers crossed that it [the center] continues to get funding each year,” Jackson said. “We hope that the legislators see the value in what we do and what we offer to the teachers.”

 The center started in 1981 as the Kent Sussex Teacher Center. Three years later, New Castle County joined and it became the Delaware Teaching Center.

Teachers use its nine different locations for making posters, laminating, and taking the many workshops it offers throughout the year to improve their teaching skills.

 Elise Neild, a teacher at South Dover Elementary School, has been teaching for 15 years. She said the center makes looking for classroom materials easier. It cuts down on the time and money she’d spend doing it herself.

 “It’s time convenient,” she said. “I can bang it [lesson planning] out really quickly.”

For many teachers, including Neild, the workshops are crucial professional development component. The workshop classes serve to enhance a teacher’s knowledge of certain subjects. Teachers can sign up for classes in the arts, environmental education, language arts, and math.

“I feel professionally in order to advance yourself you really need to have a variety of opportunities offered,” Neild said. “You’ll see something [a workshop] that catches your eye and you can find a way, professionally, to make that have impact inside your classroom.”

The center helps teachers maintain certification at lower prices, said Jackson.

In order to get recertified, teachers have to accumulate 90 workshop hours every five years, she said. Without the center’s help they would have to find different avenues, such as pursuing an advanced degree, looking to individual districts for possible credits, and searching for workshops themselves.

“Without us they have to go searching for them,” Jackson said. “We’re kind of like the clearinghouse for state agencies that reach out to us to help get the word out and then we handle the signup and give out the clock certificates.”

Zeman, who has been teaching at Lake Forest High School for three years, said the center is an important asset for new teachers.

“If you’re a veteran teacher of 20 years and you’ve kind of learned all you can learn and made all the decorations for your classroom, that’s great,” she said. “But for a new teacher like me, I wouldn’t be able to laminate my student work, create posters or signs, and I wouldn’t be able to attend workshops that would benefit me as a new teacher.”

Neild admits she’s nervous about the future. She says she thinks some legislators might not understand its importance.

“I don’t think education is valued,” she said. “But I think it [cutting funding] would be a huge detriment to the professional community of teachers.”