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AFT urges teachers to use resource-swap website

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- David Sherman, a national representative for the American Federation of Teachers, is urging West Virginia teachers to take advantage of a new online resource center to help alleviate their everyday workload.

"With budget cuts, no raises, increasing class sizes and new standards to follow, teachers are expected to do more and more. We need to develop different ways of teaching so that you can get the support you need," Sherman told the state's teachers at the AFT-West Virginia conference Friday in Charleston. "This is for teachers, by teachers."

Share My Lesson, a website launched this summer, is a free resource that allows teachers to share lesson plans, swap strategies and access up-to-date multimedia tools.

Registered teachers are able to rate the quality of each lesson plan, which adds up to a total score for users to view.

The site also coincides with the Common Core State Standards, which are federal guidelines set to help prepare students for college and careers. West Virginia adopted the standards earlier this year.

The site is the result of a partnership between AFT and Tes Connect -- the world's largest connection of teachers. While the site cost about $10 million to develop, Sherman promises the resource will always be free for teachers.

"It is and always will be free. There are no hidden costs. We made a commitment," he said.

Since the site launched in July, more than 70,000 people have registered and downloaded nearly 600,000 resources.

West Virginia's AFT president, Judy Hale, said she hopes the site will help lessen teachers' burdens and ultimately decrease the turnover rate. Fifty percent of teachers leave the profession within their first five years, according to Hale.

"Low pay, stress or frustration from lack of support and respect causes many teachers to leave," she said. "Share My Lesson will help retain teachers by offering them support for one of the more challenging parts of their job: planning inspiring lessons for their students."

Christy Gill, a traveling art teacher based in Fayette County, said she's already seeing the benefits of the site.

"The most important part of this is the new life it can give a project that a teacher already teaches. I have taught for years, and I've found things I've never thought of before. It has already become very important to me," she said.

Gill uses the site to help others too.

"We've all taught. We've all experimented and have our pet projects. Once you become a part of Share My Lesson, other people get to try them out, too," she said. "It takes 30 seconds to find a new, effective idea."

Terry Cunningham, a special-education teacher at Hurricane High School, said she's fascinated by the program.

"I think it's one of the most terrific things I've ever been involved with. It's an invaluable resource that I try to share with my colleagues every chance I get. It's just marvelous," she said.

Sherman said the site has the potential to help turn around struggling schools in the state.

"All of the problems I've seen in urban areas across the country are minimal compared to the challenges we have in places like McDowell County," he said. "When we ask teachers what they want this union to do for them, their No. 1 response -- ahead of salaries -- is resources. The one thing we can guarantee is to help provide you with the tools to succeed, and this one is a great tool."

For more information, visit www.sharemylesson.com.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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