Alcoa conference shows local educators can run community schools
Alcoa City Schools didn’t have a point to prove with its systemwide professional learning conference held Friday. But they made one anyway.
In the process, the system posted an education exclamation mark: Local people can manage their local schools just fine without interference from Washington lobbyists active on Capitol Hill in Nashville — thank you very much.
More than 150 certified employees attended the professional learning conference.
State officials attending the conference said they were impressed by the number and variety of sessions that included 45 separate breakouts for educators to select from to enhance their teaching skills.
Participants could learn about topics ranging from data-based formative instructional practices, differentiated instruction, interactive whiteboards, math strategies for students with disabilities, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) resources and whole-brain teaching.
The bottom-line goal was simple: to promote high-quality professional development. But educational achievement is impossible if not prompted by expertise and enthusiasm, common sense and creativity.
Organizers of the conference accomplished their task by providing professional development opportunities that teachers can use. Teachers learned how to better integrate topics and activities in ways that enable students to achieve the fundamental goal of education. In a word: learn.
The conference that the Alcoa school system and its teachers conducted was a showcase for state education officials, who reacted with comments such as:
• “It’s very rare for a district this small to do something on this scale. ... In my opinion, it’s a sign of forward-thinking leadership.”
• “I’m very impressed that they’re offering this type of conference in January. ... It sends a message to staff members about the ongoing nature of professional growth in their school district.”
A teacher who participated in the conference made a point about the value of the experience:
“It was one of my favorite PD (professional development) opportunities. ... I like being able to choose my own sessions, because I can tailor the conference to my own needs. It’s a much different experience than being mandated to do something.”
That’s a message that needs to be heard both in Washington and Nashville.
Local public schools need support from federal and state governments. They don’t need mandates that interfere with local schools that have proven their ability to educate their students in their own communities.