If you are a grade school teacher, you are part of a league of professionals that must adhere to continuing education requirements. But with so many options ranging from local classes to webinars, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. How do you keep pace and choose a course that suits your needs? Read these tips to maximize your options and reach your career goals.

Statistics for Professional Development for Teachers

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) “Continuing learning is particularly important because the nation’s schools have been increasingly challenged by policy initiatives to ‘do better,’ and to do differently.” A highly qualified teaching professional is motivated to pursue continuing education.

Consider this:

Participation is more likely with courses focused on classroom management. Teachers with experience do not engage in this type of instruction. In 1998, involvement in professional development lasted 1-8 hours, or one day. Today’s results-oriented format consists of a combination of online learning and on-the-job collaboration.

Now that you have an understanding of continuing education, you can develop a strategy that meets your specific needs.

1. Assess Your Needs with the State Board

Besides the Department of Education, every state has an organization that governs the standards for teacher certification. The Georgia Professional Standards Commission for Educators provides teachers with guidelines and sources for “job-embedded” continuous learning that has replaced the traditional workshops and conferences. Follow the mandates of the national organization Learning Forward which governs new methods and standards for continuing education.

2. Research the Trends

Classes for continuing education reflect the most in-demand trends. Subjects are based on the needs of the school district and are indicative of the Common Core State Standards. Low-cost courses can include A to Z Grantwriting, Dreamweaver, Math and Writing for Children. Consider enrolling in free online CEU courses.

3. Evaluate the Format and your Learning Style

Self-paced continuing education is available in most states. In Georgia, the Georgia Department of Education has a Statewide Longitudinal Data System that allows teachers to access online courses. The comprehensive system allows you to use any device to track every phase of your studies through completion. You can even print transcripts.

Ask your school administrator about courses offered at your school. Local colleges and universities offer classroom and online courses.

4. Consider Your Resources

Discuss your concerns with an experienced teacher. Seek guidance from a mentor or member of a teaching associations like American Federation of Teachers or National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Reading a book about the teaching profession can keep you inspired and equipped with practical tips. Amazon has hundreds of listings for books for teachers for every phase of your career. Popular titles include The Skillful Teacher by Jon Saphier and Teach Like a Champion 2.0 by Doug Lemov.

5. Stay Up-to-Date About Federal and State Laws

While enrolling in a continuing education course may not be mandatory, it can be to your benefit. No Child Left Behind is funded by the federal government and entails specific standards. According to Teach Tomorrow, “For example, language in the No Child Left Behind legislation sets out standards for professional development activities that state government and local school districts must adopt in order to receive funding…”

As school districts limit their budget for training certification, you will be responsible for your education. The key to success is pinpointing your needs, identifying affordable, time-saving methods and implementing your plan within a realistic timeframe. As a grade school teacher, you have the skillset to accomplish this objective as a top-notch academic professional.