The Chalk Blog

Keely Swartzer

Keely Swartzer is the Director of Professional Development for Learners Edge in Lakeville, Minnesota. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Special Education from St. Cloud State University, a Master of Arts in Education from Hamline University and additional Director of Special Education and Principal Licensures from the University of Minnesota. Throughout her career, Keely served students with special needs and subsequently served as a Special Education Coordinator in a suburban Minnesota school district. She teaches as an adjunct instructor at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and has been developing trainings and providing face to face and online professional development for seven years. Professional development is Keely’s passion.

Recent Posts

Solving the Puzzle of Reading

Overcoming reading challenges with students

“In every problem, there's a concealed solution…locking itself underneath…unlock, peruse, find and solve.” - Michael Bassey Johnson 


As a child, I was an avid reader. It came easily and I enjoyed it, often finding myself lost in stories when I should have been cleaning my room or playing outside. As a teen, I continued to read for fun and was also able to learn by reading. Even attacking the piles of reading necessary in college was not a struggle for me. I read fast and had discovered comprehension strategies that ensured I understood. Reading was a puzzle I had solved quite easily with little effort.

Then, I became a special education teacher, and I realized that job included teaching children to read. At first I thought, “This can’t be hard. Reading is simple.” I was wrong! The more experienced I became and the more I learned about the complex process of learning to read, the more I panicked. Not only is reading a cognitive challenge, but the students that I would be working with had disabilities making this challenge even more intense. My students faced struggles like dyslexia, low cognitive ability, language disorders, and visual processing deficits. It was at that point that I realized teaching a student to read is like solving a puzzle and assessment held many of the necessary clues.    

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Topics: Literacy, Courses

10 Ways to Build Relationships With Students Who Challenge You

Building a rewarding relationship

Ever think that students behave better for teachers they like? Rita Pierson agrees! 

Ever heard of the relationship bank account? The concept is simple, to take something out of said account, you need a balance from which you can withdraw “funds” when you correct behavior! There is only one way to get that…positive deposits! 

Ever heard of the praise ratio? Experts disagree as to whether it’s 4:1, 5:1, or 6:1, but either way, you should be praising (building the relationship bank account) at least five times as often as you make a withdrawal.   

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Topics: Instructional Strategies, Positive Behavior Supports, Teacher Burnout

Avoiding Teacher Burnout [VIDEO]

What is Teacher Burnout? "Psychology Today describes burnout as "a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment." Teachers are usually high achievers who like to work hard and are always looking for ways to improve. These traits are commendable but can mean that educators fall prey to perfectionism and don't leave enough time for rest and recuperation." (Source: www.wgu.edu/)

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Topics: Video, educator wellness, Teacher Burnout

Professional Learning Series: Reflection

5 FUN Ideas for Getting Your Professional Learners to Reflect

John Dewey once said, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” Mr. Dewey understood the importance of reflection, and we know you do too! For example, after you teach a lesson, you probably analyze, re-analyze, and then reflect on your analysis. But if you are on the fence about reflection, consider the research on adult learning and reflection. 

Transformational Learning is described as a form of adult “…learning that changes the way individuals think about themselves and their world, and that involves a shift of consciousness.” (TEAL, 2011) A key component of Transformational Learning is provision of opportunities for participants to think critically and reflect. Additionally, Self-directed Learning, where adult learners take the initiative in learning, includes important components like self-evaluation of work and reflection. Finally, Experiential Learning, where participants experience the learning vs. memorizing information, ensures learners have a chance to observe situations related to the topic reflectively. 

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration, Professional Learning Model

Must Read Books for Teachers in 2019

Stay up-to-date with the best books this year!

There are three things we know well at Learners Edge - books, learning, and choice. 

  1. Teachers LOVE books. I have a team full of former teachers who now write content for Learners Edge as part of the Curriculum and Instruction Team. And guess what…we still love books! From my desk, I can see about fifteen books on one team member’s desk alone and between the four of us writers, there are 64 books for an average of 16 each! That’s a lot of books! 
  2. Teachers LOVE learning…always have and always will! The Curriculum and Instruction Team loves writing courses on new topics because as we read the text, we learn. When we design the course and develop assignments to ensure you fully comprehend key concepts and can apply new ideas in your classroom, we learn even more. We love learning just like you! 
  3. Teachers want CHOICE. While this has been a more recent revelation for us, it’s clear: Personalized professional learning combined with choice on topics is more motivating, more engaging, and more fun for educators. It increases ownership and provides opportunities to grow in areas of need and/or interest identified by the learner! You! For that reason, we have five courses in our Personalized Continuing Education category. We are the only online continuing education company to offer these types of courses. Two of these courses allow you, the learner, to choose the book. iCourse is meant to be completed independently while Text Seminar is meant to be done in a group of two or more! Your learning, your topic, your way! 
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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration, Literacy

Professional Learning Series: Application

Make Professional Learning Applicable to Your Participants

What would Ben do? (WWBD)

Ben (Franklin) was just down right smart. He once said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” This quote is often used when discussing educating children, but when you have a room full of adult learners, how do you get them involved?  

Well, WWBD? Ben would probably offer opportunities for adult learners to apply their learning. This is one excellent method to involve the learner.  

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration, Professional Learning Model

Climbing Behavior Mountain

Challenges and Rewards

Hardest thing I have ever done (physically): Hike from Wild Basin Trailhead to Ouzel Lake Campsite and back again in Rocky Mountain National Park with a 40 lb. pack.  

Most rewarding thing I have ever done (physically): Hike from Wild Basin Trailhead to Ouzel Lake Campsite and back again in Rocky Mountain National Park with a 40 lb. pack. 

Hardest thing I have ever done (professionally): Teach students with emotional and/or behavioral disorders. 

Most rewarding thing I have ever done (professionally): Teach students with emotional and/or behavioral disorders. 

When I sat down to write a blog on classroom management, I started thinking about experiences I have had in my life that were similar to changing challenging student behavior. The hike referenced above came to mind. I was surprised at the number of parallels. Take a look!

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration, Classroom Management

Professional Learning Series: Investigation

Using Investigation Strategies in Professional Learning

One of my favorite things to do in my free time is to watch ANY show about criminal investigation. Popcorn…check! Heavy blanket…check! Total control of the remote…check! I’m happy! 

Documentaries like The Making of a Murderer or The Staircase and other fictional TV shows like Criminal Minds are quite popular these days. There are an abundant number of podcasts on these topics as well. But why are these my favorite and why are they so popular? Here is my theory…people like problems and we like to work toward solving them which is, in essence, investigation. 

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration, Professional Learning Model

Professional Learning Series: Awareness

What is Awareness?

Merriam-Webster’s Definition of awareness: 

the quality or state of being “aware”: knowledge and understanding that something is happening or exists 

The Learners Edge Professional Learning model describes awareness as, “Analyzing prior knowledge and experiences related to the topic.” If we meld this idea with Merriam-Webster’s definition of awareness, we can begin to understand the importance of knowing and understanding that the learner already has knowledge or experience that exists specific to the topic at hand. Why is that important? Well, let’s check out the research! 

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration, Professional Learning Model

Professional Learning Series: It Starts with Intention

Establishing Learning Goals and Exploring Motivations

Learners Edge, founded by teachers for teachers, is passionately committed to providing fellow educators with continuing education coursework, materials, and tools that will help them succeed in the classroom and in their careers. With that, Learners Edge has completed a meta-analysis of research on adult learning theories, online education trends, and professional development best practice. This allowed for the creation of the Learners Edge Professional Learning Model. 

The model includes five elements to ensure adult learners experience quality personal and professional development and carry new knowledge into their classrooms. This will ultimately have positive impacts on their students. The components are as follows: 

  • Intention: Establish learning goals and explore motivations 
  • Awareness: Analyze prior knowledge and experiences related to the topic 
  • Investigation: Examine relevant, research-based resources to build personal and professional connections to the topic 
  • Application: Apply new learning through practical design, implementation, and collaboration 
  • Reflection: Consider the impact of new learning to influence and transform future professional practice 

While these elements are specific to Learners Edge professional learning, the same steps can be used to improve any adult professional learning opportunities and increase positive outcomes. This blog series will discuss the five components of the model specific to professional learning for teachers. Let’s start by digging into the first component, intention.  

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration, Professional Learning Model

Learners Edge is passionately committed to providing you with continuing education coursework, materials, and tools that will help you succeed in your classroom and in your career.

Offering more than 100 print-based or online courses for teachers, you can earn the graduate credit you need for salary advancement and meet your professional development needs. Contact us today to get started!

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