Making a Difference:
KET Professional Development

KET equals the visual element. You can’t overestimate the value of actually seeing what excellent teaching looks like.

Starr Lewis

Kentucky Authority for Educational Television

Have you ever tried to make a change? Starr Lewis poses this question. Lewis says she knows all too well that pit-in-your-stomach feeling when you need to make a change—even want to—but have little instruction on how best to do it and have never actually seen it done. Think of trying to learn a computer software program with no manual or painting a landscape with no instruction.

That is precisely the situation many Kentucky teachers find themselves in today, says Lewis, associate commissioner of the Office of Teaching and Learning in the Kentucky Department of Education and a member of the Kentucky Authority for Educational Television. Changes in content and teaching methods continue to come at educators in rapid succession, but professional development options come much slower.

Lewis, a teacher for 17 years, is part of a partnership between KET and the KDE that is changing this dynamic by greatly expanding professional development options for teachers, helping them keep pace with today’s swiftly changing classroom.

KET professional development covers virtually every subject, including reading, writing, science, mathematics, social studies, and foreign languages.

Often it comes in the form of authentic classroom videos showing teachers using new teaching methods. The CD-ROM project Literacy Strategies in Action is a good example. It addresses the skills literacy experts agree are essential to learning to read in more than 100 video clips illustrating lessons organized around the five key early reading skills.

“If writing about professional development were enough, we would be there,” says Lewis, noting that there are many books available. “If desire were enough, we would be there. There isn’t a teacher or a school system out there without the desire to support every teacher and every student. But it’s hard to do something that you’ve never seen done.

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“KET equals the visual element. You can’t overestimate the value of actually seeing what excellent teaching looks like.”

Other professional development efforts provide content-rich resources that allow teachers to cover more subjects.

The KET Arts Toolkits exemplify this approach. They include lesson plans, glossaries, classroom ideas for different grades, information on periods and styles of art, lists of resources in Kentucky, videotapes or DVDs, CD-ROMS with teaching resources, and a wealth of other materials. The kits are further supplemented by online resources with materials on music, dance, visual arts, and drama.

“Teachers do not have time to develop these resources while teaching all day, grading papers, and tackling a host of administrative duties as well,” Lewis says. “The Arts Toolkits are a marvelous example of how we bring partners together to provide resources for teachers in the classroom. This is helping teachers change what we do in the classroom.”