Each teacher creates an individualized professional development plan based on the age of students in his or her classroom, the subject taught or any specialized knowledge he or she desires to learn, such as instruction techniques for special education students. These personalized plans usually detail the teacher's goals, the resources necessary to gain these new skills and the expected outcome. Often, the professional development plan must align with district, state and national standards, as well as fit within the framework of the National Staff Development Council -- the largest nonprofit professional association that deals with educator development [source: NSDC]. A supervisor, such as the school principal, or the local school board approves each teacher's plan. Because the plan can vary from teacher to teacher, there isn't one clear-cut path to professional development.
In addition to individualized professional development plans, many school districts create staff development plans designed to enrich the careers of teachers and other employees, including paraprofessionals who assist in the classrooms. This means administrators bring in special speakers or trainers, on the district's dime, to instruct school staff as a group.
Either way, all this training costs money. In fact, the expense per teacher for district-wide training can cost up to $6,600. Local school districts generally foot the bill, while the state and federal government kicks in a portion through grants and other funding [source: New Teacher Center].
But what about the cost of a teacher's individualized professional development plan? Who pays for this series of outside-the-classroom workshops, seminars and trainings? Most of the time, teachers pay out of pocket for their own professional development. In many states, the costs aren't even tax deductible [source: Hatch].
Teachers fulfilling their own personalized development plans also have to identify where they're going to find the training they need. These resources are often found through interest-based associations, such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, or through broad-based professional organizations, such as the National Education Association. Plus, more teachers than ever are furthering their careers through training -- without ever leaving home. Read on to the next page to find out how.