In late January, 300 teachers from 40 states and Washington, DC gathered in San Diego for three days to tap into the intellect and passion that drives their work. The convening, called ECET2: Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers, serves to harness the power of teachers to lead, deepen connections between teachers, and celebrate/elevate the profession as a whole.
Over the course of those three days, teachers were encouraged to share their stories of what is and isn’t working in their classrooms at home. They reflected on what they were learning from their peers, recognizing that good teachers are lifelong learners. As a former teacher of 15 years in Lancaster, PA, I understand the profound difference that teacher collaboration can have on professional development. I would never have grown as a teacher without colleagues like, Frank Gray, Donna Couy, and Val Perry. That’s why teachers are the heart of ECET2 . I sat in on sessions and conversations over the dinner table, where teachers’ infectious excitement to be part of ECET2 translated to their commitment to transform the lives of their students. Here are two stories that were shared:
“What strikes me as a teacher is realizing how much kids persevere, and how so many of them are much stronger than I’ll ever be.
For example, one of my students used to be a phenomenal athlete with all A’s and B’s. One day I gave him a ride home school but he said he didn’t know where I should take him. He used my cell phone but none of his family members were picking up. We drove around for at least an hour that day.
That hit me.
I later learned the student’s house was sold and in September they were forced into homelessness, and have been living in a hotel since then. He hasn’t been the same student and regularly falls asleep in class. A lot of our students have a similar story.
The ECET2 sessions on teaching for social justice and empowering African-American males equipped me to address those issues with my kids. A lot of times we wait for people to show us the way. ECET2 gives us permission to do great things for our kids on our own initiative. When you believe in yourself and in your students, so much is possible. The best opportunities were the 1:1 meetings with other teachers. Networking is free and easy professional development. I’ll have friends for life that I met this weekend. My advice to teachers who have never attended ECET2 is to take time to take in everything you’re learning. Know that you’ll leave refreshed and inspired.”
Jarred Amato, High School English Teacher
Maplewood High School, Nashville, TN
“Teaching is a legacy in my family. Both of my parents went to Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, FL, and taught elementary students. And like them, I started teaching the day after I graduated.
Students at my school come from diverse backgrounds. I can have a classroom of kids, half living in the projects and half from affluent families, all at different academic levels. When you have such a mix, it’s hard to match the content to the instructional and attention needs of each student.
My biggest challenges are when I want resources to do something creative for my students who are labeled as low-performing. Most of the resources in the school go to the high-performing AP students, so I personally apply to grants to afford the right tools to teach students who need them most.
At ECET2, I learned about tools and instructional practices that I hadn’t heard of in my 22 years of teaching: Plickers, LDC, blended learning, and discovery education. Knowing these exist will help make my own teaching more efficient. It’s nice to see what other teachers from your state are doing. This is the best professional development. ECET2 has made us feel that all of the work we do is not in vain. And teachers don’t always get that recognition. It’s wonderful because we’re not just getting professional development but we’re also getting rejuvenated, renewed, and restored.”
Valencia Robinson, High School English Teacher
Atlantic High School, Port Orange, FL
The connections and sense of empowerment that were cultivated at ECET2 goes far beyond the national convening weekend. As of today, 111 regional ECET2 convenings have been held in 27 states, reaching 25,000 teachers. I look forward to ECET2’s continued expansion this year, as attendees like Jarred and Valencia take the energy from ECET2 back home with them to share with colleagues at their schools and in their districts. I encourage you all to stay connected to this powerful #ECET2 phenomenon by connecting with us on Twitter at @gatesed and @ECET2natl.