Teachers have spent hours researching and implementing new tools to make the shift to distance learning for their students. MREA recommends school districts to issue Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for the eight days of statewide planning in March as well as those planned for May 1 and May 4.

In addition to recognizing the recent effort, this would give educators credits needed for the renewal of their licenses. “Educators across Minnesota rolled up their sleeves, dug in and quickly created plans to implement new tools and techniques to engage students,” MREA Executive Director Fred Nolan said. “They did it because of their commitment to put learners first. But it definitely constitutes quality professional development.”

The Board of School Administrators (BOSA) already has recognized the work of school administrators with an Administrator Distance Learning CEU certificate for 20 hours for all administrators.

Teacher CEUs are issued by district re-licensure committees. Each committee can set the number of hours for teachers in the school district.

Unprecedented Development

Teachers had eight days in March to retool school and deliver distance learning to over 800,000 students in Minnesota public schools. The professional development work needed to continue to implement and improve distance learning far exceeds that time.

“The planning that has gone into this distance learning is nothing like I have ever experienced,” said Michelle Rinke Koch, an elementary teacher and speech coach at Menahga Public Schools. “E-learning has nothing on this.”

During e-learning at the elementary level, teachers often create a day of fun academic activities such as math bingo, word searches and hunts to keep students engaged. At higher grade levels, it’s often the continuation of previous work from in-person instruction and activities.

“Distance learning is discovering and presenting curriculum over an extended period of time in a way that enables students to meet standards,” said Rinke Koch, a MREA Board member who ignited discussion on the topic of continuing education.

New Skills

“Distance learning includes presenting new material, developing lessons and new processes for us to teach, and finding ways for students to demonstrate and share understanding – all in a virtual environment,” Rinke Koch said. “We are developing all new methods of reaching and teaching our students through distance learning.”

Distance learning required teachers to learn and implement new sets of skills that varied by grade level and discipline. “The scale was immense,” Nolan said. “As a professional development event, its size and scope was unprecedented.”