This weekend, I had the privilege of attending, helping to facilitate, and presenting the KCTE Annual Conference in Lexington, KY. We hosted upwards of 200 educators and administrators who value literacy instruction and professional learning. We got literal chills listening to readings from Frank X Walker, poet laureate of KY. We were entranced by Brent Peters (KCTE High School Teacher of the Year), his colleague, and his students from Fern Creek High School’s Food Lit Program. We applauded the efforts of the SLATE winners, Jessica Andrews and Gregory Quenon for standing up for intellectual freedom in the high school English classrooms of Henry Clay High School. We soaked up amazing knowledge and ideas from so many incredibly talented professionals.
But, you know what the most impactful part for me was? I took two of my best Journalism students, 12th graders, to cover the conference in pictures and videos, and two pre-service teachers and two first year teachers I work with attended. They wandered from room to room listening to the presentations, conversations, and observing the learning of the educators. I asked them to take note of any interesting instructional ideas that I may miss so we can take them back to the classroom. The two high school students were blown away by the fact that teachers had to pay to learn, to lobby for time away from their regular duties. They thought it was fun to see the new ideas, but they were more affected by the topics being discussed, like technology integration, cultural-competence, diversity, and barriers teachers face. My ELL student, Daniela, was so moved that it caused her to think of Mexican teachers who recently went on strike and eventually rioted because they are unhappy with educational policy in Mexico City. She wrote a reflection about how the teachers she saw this weekend used professionalism to fight their barriers, and it embarrassed her to think about the rioting Mexican teachers. I encouraged her to start a blog, we discussed the necessity of putting it out there in both languages. She made the comment that it would be a lot of work, but if one person was moved to make changes and move education in Mexico in the right direction, it was worth it to her. Wow!
So, the conference was a success in many ways, big and small. I am completely and totally thankful for my position on the board in this amazing organization. I encourage every educator to find that network, to take back ideas and share them with others. It is the only way to change education for the better!