By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Teachers are invigorated by energetic conference.
It's not often you see teachers skating around a room on paper plates, throwing cylinders and beach balls into the air, reciting the alphabet in sign language, and high-fiving strangers. But all of these things could be observed at CTA's 59th annual Good Teaching Conference the weekend of March 18 at the Hyatt Regency Orange County.
The event, attended by 1,100 CTA members who consider themselves lifelong learners, offered an array of cutting-edge classroom techniques in workshops taught by teachers, professional trainers and CTA staff. Workshop topics included strategies to help English language learners and close the achievement gap, how to stop campus bullying, techniques for increasing parent participation, helpful hints to improve physical education, science experiments from "Dr. Flubber," American Sign Language, and much more.
"I love this conference," enthused Andrea Davis, a sixth-grade teacher and member of the Victor Elementary Teachers Association. "It gives me immediate ideas so we can enhance what we're doing with new energy and new style. When you see what other people are doing and having success with, it adds value to what you're doing."
Among the workshops she attended was "Helpful Hints to Improve your Physical Education Program," where presenter Carrie Flint, an adaptive PE teacher and member of the Lawndale Teachers Association, scooted around on paper plates to show teachers one method of keeping students physically active and healthy in an exercise she invented called "glide and slide," before engaging participants in a toss-the-beach-ball game that incorporated the physical education standards.
Also being tossed by teachers were "flying cylinders of science" in the workshop "Easy and Exciting Science Experiments" conducted by retired educator George Lightholder, aka Dr. Flubber. Participants created the paper aircrafts and were shown how to toss them around "tubes of air" to demonstrate the concept of aerodynamics.
"I teach earth science, and little tricks like these are fun for kids at the beginning or end of a lab as attention grabbers," said Bill Gardenhire, a member of the Sierra Unified Teachers Association.
Meanwhile, in a session called "Rebels with Applause: Brain Compatibility Approaches for Motivating Reluctant Learners," education consultant Grace Dearborn demonstrated specific "brain-based" strategies for improving the achievement of students who have the hardest time paying attention and doing their work. Strategies included ways of making classes meaningful, engaging students and offering them encouragement with "gentle" high-fives, which teachers practiced on each other, gently.
"I have a few students who are not always engaged and not always listening," said Nora Ayala, a member of the Southwest Teachers Association and third-grade teacher, who high-fived Erin Arredondo, an Irvine Teachers Association member and high school science teacher.
Laura Parker, a Tustin Teachers Association member at the workshop, said it was exciting to receive the most up-to-date information on brain research and have the instructor link it to specific achievement strategies.
"I've heard wonderful things about this conference for years, and this is the first time I've come," said Parker. "It's very exciting and motivating."
Inside the "Basic American Sign Language and Games" workshop, teachers practiced letters of the alphabet and basic words like "nice" and "name," with the help of Breanna Andrews, a San Bernardino Community College Association member. Participant Michael Lee, a member of the Sulphur Springs District Teachers Association, said he planned to use sign language in his general education second-grade classroom to help students focus and increase their overall language comprehension while Katherine Jordan, a member of the Bakersfield Elementary Teachers Association, thought it might help her pre-kindergarten class of English learners become fluent.
New this year was a section called "Outliers of Love: Teen Dating Violence," conducted by Sheri Dorn, an English teacher and member of the Upland Teachers Association.
"It was a good session," said Rosario Cortes-Quiñones, a high school counselor and member of the Rialto Education Association, who decided to take the workshop because she has encountered victims of teen violence at her school. "There were many things talked about that I could relate to, and it's important to recognize the signs of teen violence and understand how to deal with it."
The conference, held annually in Northern and Southern editions, allows teachers to earn professional growth hours and university credit for participation. You can find registration info beginning in September at cta.org/conferences. You can also apply for a grant (limited number available) or apply to be a presenter.
"It was a very well-organized conference," said Gardenhire, the science teacher from Sierra Unified. "It's nice to get treated like the professionals that we are, and I feel positively rejuvenated by the experience."
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