Creating Your PD Playlist

I may be showing my age here but who remembers the art of the mix tape? Perfectly crafting the right order of songs to convey your message, bringing your party to a whole new level, or capturing your current mood. It was an art form. Dan Levy says it best in his article, How I Spend It: Dan Levy on the Joy of Making Playlists when he says, “They took the listener on a carefully curated journey.” Professional development for educators should be just like a playlist; a carefully curated journey that will promote growth, reflection, and conversation. As a school leader we have a tremendous opportunity to weave in instructional practices that align with our goals, our students, and our staff. 


Themes bring people together and open the door for fun elements that can be introduced at any time. Establishing a theme for your PD gives you a starting point. Themes allow ideas to flow and engagement to come naturally!

For example, this year our school theme is Come Together: No One Alone Can Whistle a Symphony. Everything is tied to the theme of music and song. Every time I present my content changes, but my design does not. Using a theme approach will allow my staff to know what to expect, discover things about each other, and feel a sense of unity.

At the end of the day, you have to pick something that is manageable and sustainable for you. That is the key. If the theme dies by September, then you might be communicating the wrong message. Getting ideas from staff for building needs will be imperative to choosing your theme. What does your school community really need? 

Set List

So now you have your theme. How do you curate and create engaging accessible content that promotes growth for everyone? 

Here is our set list:

  1. Weekly Staff Newsletter
  2. Bingo Challenges
  3. Choice Boards

1 – Weekly Staff Newsletter

Every week, I send an email to my staff. The email includes a link to Google Slides, what PD content they will find, important dates to remember, and my reflections. The Google Slide link contains bite-sized PD and deep dives for staff to explore what they need when and if they need it.  The link is the same every week with the top most slide being the most recent. It has the same layout and colors every week too. I focus on providing staff with instructional strategies, ideas, tips, lesson ideas, and templates that will support and challenge them. When it comes to curating ideas, I start with Twitter and my professional learning network. Prior to becoming an administrator, I was an instructional coach for 4 years. This position allowed me to visit various classrooms and see firsthand what they needed. If you are not sure where to start, reach out to instructional coaches, district committees, other administrators and teachers, or tweet out to your favorite educational hashtag such as #iledchat or #educoach. I also recommend learning walks throughout your building to find the pulse of your district’s/building’s culture. Being present will allow you to find the PD that will be the most beneficial. 

Example of a Weekly Staff Newsletter: LW Launchpad 2021-2022

2 – Bingo Challenges

You have to make PD fun and if you can throw in some prizes that is even better. Bingo boards allow teachers to choose what will best elevate their educational journey. Try to balance short challenges with more in-depth ones, so you have something accessible for everyone.

In order to show proof of their learning, Padlet is a wonderful tool. This will also give them practice interacting with a resource they could use in their classroom. 

Bingo Board Examples: 

  • Gratitude Challenge → promote positivity, build culture, and get familiar with Padlet
  • PD Bingo Board → created when I was an instructional coach with my colleagues Stefanie Crawford and Jodi Gordon

3 – Choice Boards

School or district wide institutes/school improvement days are a wonderful time to make sure you are incorporating choice. If we expect our staff to provide choice and voice with our students, we must provide the same for our teachers. Designing interactive choice boards gives a more focused approach, allows ownership, and increases engagement. 

This year, I started with 3 choices and then continually added to them. That way people have access to all the topics, but they can pick and choose what sounds most interesting to them. I love using Google Slides or Google Drawings so staff can interact with technology in a new way. Incorporating digital and nondigital items is also important. This allows you to meet everyone where they are, no matter where they fall on the technology continuum. I find carving out an hour to an hour and a half helps everyone focus better. People are more likely to implement ideas if they actually have been given the chance to try them. 

I also recommend having a Google Form where they reflect and share their learning. This builds evidence for their evaluation and allows them a chance to provide feedback. As a building administrator, this will then give you a pulse on staff learning.

Choice Board Example: What Do You Want To Learn

Curtain Call

As with any good playlist, the last song brings it all together. When curating and designing PD, I think the most important thing to remember is to put yourself in their shoes. While it is our job as school leaders to align instructional practices, it is also our job to have a pulse on what they need. We have to meet teachers where they are. Fun, choice, and time are important elements that cannot go overlooked. If our students deserve that, then our teachers do too.

Stefanie Pitzer is currently a K-8 principal at Limestone Walters School District #316 in central Illinois. Over the last 16 years she has also been an instructional coach and 2nd grade teacher. She has a passion for empowering educators to grow professionally and promoting book joy throughout her school community. Stefanie also wears the mom hat and has two boys who are 9 and 4.