On Saturday, Sept. 22, educators from across metro Atlanta gathered at The RISE Schools for a GCSA teacher symposium entitled “Creating a Culture of Engagement.”
Breana Wofford, GCSA’s 2018 Georgia Charter School Teacher of the Year, kicked off the symposium with an inspirational speech. Wofford told the educators gathered at the symposium that teaching is much more than they learn in classroom studies or theory. She recalled a day at the beginning of her teaching career where she became visibly frustrated when her students did not live up to the high expectations she had for them.
Wofford said a loving parent who had been observing the class gave her some simple but key feedback, ‘“Ms. Wofford, you need to smile more.”’ She said while lesson plans and teaching standards are important, a huge part of being successful in the classroom is laying the groundwork by getting to know the audience teachers serve: students.
“Always be their biggest cheerleader even if it takes a smile during the toughest times,” said Wofford. In that moment, they needed me to remind them that through their mistakes, I still believed in them.”
Wofford recalled additional advice she received from a school leader who told her even research and adapting the best practices, ‘“There is no magic, but only love and hard work.”’
Following Wofford’s keynote presentation, symposium attendees had the opportunity to take part in several educational workshops led by Keith Jackson, a fourth grade teacher at Centennial Academy and the 2017 Georgia Charter School Teacher of the Year; Patti Atkinson, a first grade teacher at Amana Academy and Patrice Meadows, an aspiring school founder participating in the current cohort of the GCSA Charter Incubator.
Jackson delivered an engaging workshop for elementary school teachers. He focused on how teachers can use pacing strategies to increase the engagement of children in the classroom. Teachers collaborated and shared as they dove into teaching techniques from the book Teach like a Champion.
Atkinson brought her interactive workshop to the middle school teachers attending the symposium. Teachers were immersed in a workshop experience of Interactive Learning Structure as well as purposeful activities that give students opportunities to engage with content in active and interactive ways.
Meadows facilitated a workshop for the high school teachers looking at the possibilities of a Differentiated Classroom. Teachers worked together as they explored various types of differentiation and proven strategies to engage students in their learning and by meeting them where they are.