Something for Everyone
Teachers learned how to be better educators. Parents discovered new ways to engage their children in education. Administrators explored successful collaboration strategies. Kids experienced hands-on science and reading activities. There was something for everyone at the 2013 UEA Convention & Education Exposition.
“The UEA Convention helps me be a better teacher and I look forward to going every year,” said one teacher. “I attend (the UEA Convention) because I think it is important as an educator to do this. I always find many things that are useful to me,” said another.
For well over 100 years, Utah educators have gathered at the UEA Convention to share best practices. The 2013 Convention featured not only professional development for K-12 educators, but also compelling keynote speakers, a New Educators’ Workshop and hundreds of vendor booths – all this in addition to seminars and workshops for parents and a hands-on learning area for children.
Here is what a few teachers had to say:
“I loved that it was open to families because even though we are teachers, we still have families. I also loved knowing that I could attend the conference and let so many others know about it.”
“I love UEA convention and I attend every year. I always find workshops that are valuable for me. I really want more teachers to attend.”
“I liked that families were invited. Thank you for a great convention.”
“I loved the interactive activities for kids. I also liked that we could pass out tickets to others. We had a good time.”
“The pampering stations were so awesome. I loved feeling like I was valued.”
“I have been going to UEA with my mother since I was about 7. I love seeing more involvement and wider range than years past. There really was something for everyone.”
UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh opened the Convention with a message about teachers taking the lead in their profession.
“In our ongoing national dialogue on school reform, there are few voices from the front lines that matter,” she said. “We are missing the unmediated voice of practitioners. (Teachers) must step up, speak out, and take ownership of this very complex profession.”
As the front-line experts, teachers understand the best practices that make a difference for a child, Gallagher-Fishbaugh explained. “There are no silver bullets. No single grade and amount of standardized testing will paint a complete picture of what makes a great school, what a student knows or how a teacher performs.”
“It is time to stand up and be candid about the power of working together,” she said. “Superintendents, school boards, administrators, parents and teacher’s associations…our working together makes a difference for our students.
“(Teachers) have an unprecedented opportunity right now to come together as education stakeholders to engage in positive conversations around the teaching profession, student learning and public education. We cannot be content to quietly hide in our classrooms and hope for someone else to lead the way. We must take the lead for our students. We must take the lead for our classrooms. We must take the lead for our communities. We must take the lead for excellence and elevate our profession,” Gallagher-Fishbaugh concluded.
At a time when the non-English-speaking student population more than doubled and enrollment tipped toward low socioeconomic demographics, Jerry Weast led Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools—16th largest school district in the nation—to achieve both the highest graduation rate among the nation’s largest school districts for four consecutive years and the highest academic performance ever.
Weast spent the years between 1999 and 2011 as superintendent, where his success at improving student outcomes drew national attention. In his address to Convention-goers, he explained how the school district's successes were achieved.
One key to success, Weast said, is for the superintendent and district office administrators to “learn to give up power” and to have “everybody working together toward a common goal.”
“It’s about distributing power. Doing fewer things better, working together, training each other. We had to put our ‘brand,’ if you will, ahead of our egos. We had to work together to elect politicians who would support stability…support building a trusting relationship,” he explained.
Weast described his district’s effort to create what he called ‘deliberate excellence.’ “We reverse-engineered our college graduates all the way back to kindergarten. We found out they had to read at a certain level in kindergarten in order to graduate. We looked at early childhood education. We discovered predictors at each grade level and found that there was a pathway to graduation.”
“What CEO of any Fortune 500 company have you seen get up and criticize their own employees in public,” Weast asked. “You don’t see it in business, but we see it in education every day. We’ve got to stop criticizing and start working together.”
“What I caught onto is that the most underutilized tools in the education toolbox are the educators. Before, they were never brought into the equation, and that broke a lot of trust. You can’t run an organization well if you don’t have the trust of the employees. We had to diffuse the power, slow down and stay a steady course.”
Weast described the education reform ideas currently being promoted in America such as competition, standardization, privatization, test-based accountability and reliance on technology. He then compared those to the lessons learned from high performing education systems in Finland, Sweden, Shang Hai, Singapore and others. Those strategies include collaboration, individualization, equitable opportunity, trust-based professionalism and reliance on pedagogy, he said.
“One of our biggest blockers was us, in administration. Our principals thought they were mayors of little cities. And they didn’t share much with one another because they were competitive. We need to get over that,” he said.
“It’s time (teachers, administrators and staff) got back together and re-professionalize and take back our profession. It’s time that we show this country we can still educate all children at high levels.”
SPECIAL EVENT: ‘Utah Classroom Realities’
Legislators, superintendents, school board members, educators and parents listened as seven Utah teachers shared insights into how laws and policies impact their classrooms. Topics discussed included the Utah Core Standards, assessment requirements, technology in the classroom, attracting and retaining teachers, and Utah’s new ‘grading schools’ law.
Teacher panelists included Gay Beck, Alpine School District; Jennifer Graviet, Weber School District; Signé Balluf, Davis School District; Kathleen Riebe, Granite School District; Anna Williams, Park City School District; Dan Rozanas, Canyons School District; and Judy Mahoskey, Murray School District. UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh facilitated the discussion.
A Q&A with those attending followed the panel discussion. The event and luncheon were sponsored by the University of Phoenix and the UEA Political Action Committee.
Day-Two Keynote Address
“I know that teaching is rocket science. I know that teaching is honorable and noble. I know our students and our parents appreciate and value what we do each and every day. I know teachers inspire, motivate, encourage, love and exhort students on to greatness,” said UEA President Sharon Gallahger-Fishbaugh as she opened the second day of the UEA Convention.
“I know that the Utah Education Association is my professional organization whose mission is to create a great public school for every child and I will not apologize for advocating for students and their teachers and improving their working conditions in order to do make a difference in their classrooms.”
Gallahger-Fishbaugh was followed by educator and behavior specialist Dan St. Romain. He shared proven techniques for effective instructional practices and a success model for teaching.
“We can’t give all the content at once, so we break it into manageable chunks,” he said, stressing the importance of sharing information visually, auditorily and kinesthetically.
“If I just teach auditorily, how many ways does it enter the brain? One. But If I say it and show it to you, how many ways does it enter the brain? Two. If I say it to you, show it to you and physically do it, how many ways? Three, and its physically wired,” explained St. Romain.
Speaking about his school district, St. Romain said “it is not nor will it ever be one of our goals to have higher test scores. If it happens, great. We are about engagement. We are about meaningful learning, we are not about test scores. And if we do our job around engagement and meaningful learning, then the natural consequence of that is that our scores will rise.”
Professional Development Workshops
Professional development opportunities included breakout training sessions on both mornings and sessions throughout both afternoons in conjunction with the Exhibit Hall. Thursday’s professional development focused on veteran teachers while Friday’s focus was on new educators, including the New Educators’ Workshop. (See the complete workshop descriptions. To request re-licensure points, complete the License Renewal Credit Form).
The Exhibit Hall area featured more than 100 vendor booths, two stage areas with hourly education-related workshops and entertainment, and a variety of other activities (see the complete Thursday schedule and Friday schedule), including:
Stage Areas: The Exhibit Hall featured two sponsored stage areas where parents and educators participated in workshops and kids enjoyed educational entertainment. The stages were sponsored by Integra and RebateState.com/New Millennium Realty.
Book Giveaway: The Utah Jazz Bear and the Cat in the Hat made appearances as kids and adults shot free throws to win a book at the “Book-A-Basket” event. Hundreds of books were available for all age groups thanks to generous donations from Horace Mann, Utah Idaho Supply/Map World, Barnes & Noble and KUED. The Utah Jazz also sponsored the event.
Interactive Kids Learning Area: Kids, parents and teachers alike joined the fun in the KUED Kids Learning Area. Hands-on experiences were provided by KUED, Discovery Gateway, Ogden’s George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park and Museum, Mad Science of Greater Salt Lake, the Salt Lake City Library, Mike Hamiltion’s: The Magic in Learning, Salt Lake County Libraries and Thanksgiving Point. Lesson plans featuring the activities were available for educators and parents.
Pampering Station: Convention attendees relaxed and enjoyed massages, haircuts and manicures at the Pampering Station. “The Pampering Station was definitely a highlight for me,” said one attendee. The stations were free for UEA members.
Health Screenings: EMI Health provided health screening exams – including cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and body fat percentage for UEA members.
UEA Membership Booth
The UEA hosted a membership booth where UEA members could gather information and learn more about their Association. The booth, located in the main foyer this year, featured representatives from membership, U-PAC and UEA-Retired.
SPECIAL EVENT: Identifying and Preventing Bullying
A panel of Utah experts shared information about how to identify bullying and, more importantly, ways to prevent it. Panel members included Brent Burningham, Wasatch School District; Julie Scherzinger, Jordan School District; Jennifer Slade, USOE Education Specialist; David Parker, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Community of Caring; Victoria Gomez, high school student; and Saundra Stokes, Inclusion Center Executive Director.
Education Awards Banquet
The Superstars in Education banquet included comments from former Utah Governor Olene Walker and Lt. Governor Greg Bell, dinner and awards presentations. The UEA presented ten educators with $1,500 as part of the Excellence in Teaching Awards. The UEA also presented the UEA Honor Roll Award for outstanding service to public education and the Charles E. Bennett Human and Civil Rights Award. (View award winners and event details.)
Gifts and Prizes
Each educator who attended the Convention received a free welcome bag, courtesy of RebateState.com/New Millennium Realty. In addition, each UEA member could enter to win prizes:
Grand Prize Drawing: Nearly 1,000 members entered the “Golden Ticket” prize drawing for a Bose® stereo system (courtesy of Access), Utah Idaho Supply/Map World gift certificates (courtesy of Utah Idaho Supply) or $100 Donors Choose gift cards (courtesy of Chevron). Here are the winners:
Bose® Stereo System: Trudy Henderson, Retired
$100 Utah Idaho Gift Certificates: Lynda Tierney, Granite and Lauralee Roberts, North Sanpete
$100 DonorsChoose.org Certificates: Shelly Johnson, Granite; Jen Paige, Duchesne; Angela Stone, Davis; and Burke Becklund, Davis
Early Bird Prize Drawing: The Early Bird prize winner is Audrey Kearl from Granite School District. Educators who attended the Thursday morning sessions were eligible to enter the drawing. Kearl won a $100 Visa® gift card.
An advertising grant from the NEA allowed the UEA to promote this year’s Convention on television, radio, billboards, in the newspaper and online. “With its new format, the UEA Convention has become a place for the entire community to come together to celebrate public education,” said UEA Director of Public Relations Mike Kelley. “Our advertising campaign helped promote this concept and generated a great deal of interest throughout the state.”
As always, entrance to the UEA Convention was free to all UEA members. The regular admission cost for all others was $10. Each UEA member was provided with a supply of free tickets to share with students, parents, neighbors and friends. Advertising directed anyone wanting free Convention tickets to contact a public school teacher.
Future Convention Dates
The vast majority of Utah school districts and charter schools continued to schedule a recess to allow teachers to attend their professional convention, but a handful did not. Not scheduling a recess for the days of UEA Convention is “a tremendous loss, not only for the teachers, but also for parents and students in these districts,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “We are hopeful school districts with conflicting schedules will adjust in future years so teachers, parents and students can take advantage of the training and learning opportunities available at the UEA Convention.”
Future UEA Convention dates are October 16-17, 2014 and October 15-16, 2015.