Mari Edwards and Elizabeth Karl sat on a bench sharing notes Friday about what they’d learned during the first half of the California Teachers Summit at Sacramento State.
The women were among 15,000 pre-kindergarten to 12th grade current and future teachers who met at 33 locations around the state to share strategies for teaching the Common Core – California’s new standards in English and math.
In rooms across the CSUS campus participants talked about what first-year teachers need to know, including how to get parents more involved in their child’s education, and how to use positive behavior interventions to guide discipline.
“This is phenomenal. It’s amazing. It’s fantastic,” said state schools chief Tom Torlakson, during a break in the program. “Teachers are gathered together eager to learn, eager to improve their profession.”
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CSUS President Robert Nelsen offered encouragement. “We are glad you are here,” he said in opening remarks. “You are part of the most noble profession in the world. You are teachers. You care about students. You care about the future of California and the future of America. And you are securing that future. We are incredibly grateful for that.”
The event continued in an upbeat vein when keynote speaker Yvette Nicole Brown of NBC’s “Community” fame, teared up as she recalled how teachers improved her life when she was growing up in a poor neighborhood. The actress, in a video broadcast, said that teachers feel unappreciated, unsupported and unseen.
Pleasant Grove High English teacher Rejeania Brown called the summit inspiring. The Elk Grove teacher said she felt drained at the end of last school year, her first year of teaching. “Now I feel like I’m ready to go back to school.”
Torlakson said the teachers needed the support after years of “teacher bashing,” budget cuts, and layoffs. He said retirements have led to a statewide teaching shortage.
“We are going to need to inspire more new teachers and career changers to come into the teaching profession,” he said. “What teachers are thirsty for and eager for is professional development, the chance to be the best they can be.”
The schools chief hopes the event can be replicated next year to focus on the state’s new social studies and science standards. The summit was sponsored by the California Department of Education, California State University, The New Teacher Center and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities.
Edwards, a high school social science teacher at the School of Engineering and Sciences in Sacramento, said she didn’t mind spending one of the last days of summer at the summit.
“If you go into teaching and you don’t continue learning, you shouldn’t be a teacher,” she said.