Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The Power of Teacher Collaboration: ECET2

October 31, 2014

Something really special happens when more than 300 teacher-leaders from across the country gather in New Orleans to share knowledge.  Over three days at the ECET2 convening—Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers—teachers learned from each other in formal sessions, over meals, and even along Bourbon Street. At this conference organized by teachers for teachers, they shared their visions, trials, and tribulations, and spoke confidently about the power of teacher voice. 

The event kicked off with a Bourbon Street parade to celebrate teachers, led by the local Lake Area New Tech Early College High marching band, complete with police escort. Tourists and locals on the sidelines cheered for the teachers as they marched by.  

Back inside, teachers led breakout sessions on culturally responsive teaching, collaborative lesson planning, flipped classrooms, and other topics. In “colleague circles,” teachers with a mix of backgrounds and expertise shared real problems of practice, such as how to engage more teachers to take on leadership roles and how to deal with colleagues’ negative attitudes. They brainstormed practical solutions that they could take back and implement at their schools.

“Cultivating a Calling” keynote addresses featured teachers speaking from the heart about what inspires them. Former attorney turned classroom teacher Anthony Marshall described the students he influenced in his classroom and how they went on to influence others.

Matt Keefauver talked about his cancer diagnosis and treatment, and how being away from the classroom during recovery made him realize that he loved and missed his students, that teacher-student relationships are “important, vital, and messy—but then so is love.”

Dwight Davis spoke about how making home visits gave him a greater understanding of where his students come from and the obstacles they face, and helped him to retool his teaching.

A former student’s suicide had a humbling influence on Anna Baldwin, and she talked about how it prompts her every day to think about what more she can do for the students she serves.

The enthusiasm throughout the three days was palpable. “This is the best professional development,” said Gina Hutchinson, a 15-year veteran elementary school teacher and instructional coach in New York. “It’s collaborative and actionable. I’m learning from fellow teachers who know what the demands on us are.” Other words teachers used to describe their experience at the convening: Inspiring. Transformational. Life-changing. Fired up.  

Regional ECET2 Convenings

Several sessions brought teachers together who had already held or were planning regional ECETconvenings to share practical tips for making such events a success. ECETis now a growing movement, fueled by teacher-leaders.  Massachusetts teacher Suzy Brooks claims there is an “ECET2 magic.”  New Jersey teacher Barry Saide refers to his ECET2 colleagues as “family.”  Illinois teacher Christopher Bronke and numerous other teachers on social media call ECET2 a “movement, not an event.” 

Here at the foundation we feel honored to support the enthusiasm for ECET2.  Over this past year, there have been more than 35 regional and state ECETconvenings and the number of involved teachers is growing exponentially.  Over the next five months, 33 more events events are scheduled, with more to come in the future.

Here’s a look at just a few of the recent regional convenings and what teachers are saying :

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