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California teachers summit attracts 20,000 educators statewide

Mike Szymanski | August 3, 2015

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California Teachers Summit at Pasadena Civic Center

California Teachers Summit at Pasadena Civic Center

In what organizers call the state’s largest teacher training ever attempted, more than 20,000 educators gathered for the California Teachers Summit at 33 sites across the state on Friday.

“It’s so exciting to bring teachers teaching teachers in this unprecedented collaboration,” said Ellen Moir, of the nonprofit New Teacher Center who helped organize the Better Together campaign.

Among the educators speaking were math instructor Andrew Stadel (see his speech below) and Pepperdine professor and poet Thema Bryan-Davis along with actress Yvette Nicole Brown from the TV shows “Community” and “The Odd Couple” and NFL player-turned-astronaut Leland Melvin.

As part of the agenda, teachers sat in groups talking about issues such varied issues as how to punish students using cell phones in class and where to get cheap supplies for the classroom. They discussed Common Core, school gardens, new technology and troubles with principals. A few of them came for the Professional Development points that add to their salary.

“It gives me goosebumps to see so many teachers coming to this on a nice summer day when they could be doing anything else on their last free days,” Moir said. “But we hope this will prevent isolation and burnout among teachers, because it’s such a problem in our profession.”

The summit was organized by the New Teacher Center along with California State University, the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities and its member institutions. It was paid for by $3.5 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a group often condemned by teacher unions for its education reform efforts.

More than 2,000 teachers attended at the Pasadena Civic Center, from where keynote speeches were broadcast live to other sites, from Humboldt to San Diego counties, from Fresno to Palm Desert. Each event was free.

“This is a first of a kind in event in California, happening simultaneously across the state,” said one of the organizers, Shane Martin, dean of Loyola Marymount University School of Education. “I’m very pleased with the turnout and the feedback. It’s a great partnership of college administrations, teacher groups and Hollywood celebrities.”

Among the video presentations were shout-outs to teachers from movie stars such as Harrison Ford, John Hamm and Meryl Streep.

Among the programs were separate EdCamp Model Sessions, in which no one leads the discussion, but teachers bring up issues and help other teachers. If they’re not getting anything out of the discussion, they can get up and go to another table and join that group.

Brown, the actress, said she wanted to become a Kindergarten teacher before becoming an actress. She went through a funny and poignant history of her favorite teachers, recalling their names, their smiles, and how one even sent her a postcard over the summer while on vacation and how much it meant to her.

“You guys are magicians,” Brown said to the teachers. “You use sleight of hand, too. But I know many of you feel unappreciated, unsupported, and unseen, which breaks my heart so much because what I am is because of you.”

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