Keeping track of all the developments in the District has become a big challenge in recent years, said Spring Garden School kindergarten teacher Tricia Fussaro.
But once Fussaro got familiar with the Notebook, she found a resource that gave her the explanation and analysis she needed.
Now, she checks out the Notebook's website as part of her daily life.
"It helps me stay connected to what other teachers are doing and makes me aware of opportunities I wouldn't otherwise be informed about," she said.
Fussaro believes these opportunities help shape her as an educator.
Fussaro, 30, grew up attending public schools in the North Penn School District. She earned her undergraduate degree in elementary education from Shippensburg University in 2003 and a master's degree in reading at Gwynedd-Mercy College in 2006. She has been teaching at the Spring Garden School since 2003, though she is now on extended maternity leave, having had a baby boy last fall.
Last November, Fussaro was named a National Board Certified Teacher, an honor from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, given to teachers who have met strict standards through intensive study, expert evaluation, peer review, and self-assessment. Fussaro was among the 23 District teachers honored last year. There are only 100 teachers with that certification in Philadelphia.
"It's a rigorous process and it helped me to focus on the needs of my students and give them the kind of instruction they needed to grow as learners," she said.
At Spring Garden, Fussaro started receiving a copy of the Notebook in her mailbox.
"I would occasionally read an article that seemed interesting and that related to me," she said.
But as her interest in District news grew, she became a constant reader, and last year decided to become a member. She has also volunteered on the Notebook's editorial board.
"It's become a critical part of my understanding what's happening across the District and with other teachers, so I wanted to become a member to support that kind of information being widely available to whoever wants it," she said.
Fussaro said the older students at her school use the Notebook Fall Guide: Spotlight on Choosing a High School.
"I know they're always interested in getting that information, and the counselors use it to present new opportunities," she said.
Fussaro is a founding member of Teacher Action Group (TAG), a Philadelphia-based organization that works to "strengthen the influence of educators within schools and over policy decisions." Members are interested in District policy, structure, and funding, as well as how it all affects what happens inside the classroom.
Currently, TAG is focusing on drafting alternatives to scripted curriculum to present to the District.
Fussaro said that the organization considers the Notebook a crucial resource to carrying out its work and understanding issues facing teachers.
"The Notebook asks the questions that I want the answers to — but I can't do the work" to find out, she said.
She said her favorite coverage has been of the Renaissance Schools initiative, especially when the plan was new. Fussaro said she followed the updates in print and online "with wide eyes."
"It's really difficult to find honest reporting about what's happening in the District from people who don't have an agenda about what they want you to believe or how they want you to perceive what's going on," she said.
"So being able to find that is critically important."
To join the Notebook, visit the membership page.