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Members Recharge, Hone Skills at VEA IPD Conference


“Proceed until apprehended” is one of NEA President Dennis Van Roekel’s favorite expressions, and he used it in a rousing keynote address to open the VEA Instruction and Professional Development Conference this weekend, giving educators “permission” to flex their creative muscles. “We wait too long for someone to give us permission to do the things we know need to be done. Let’s use our good ideas to make a difference.”

He also urged members to move out of defensive mode and begin stepping up on behalf of students and schools. “It’s not enough to play defense,” he said. “It’s not sufficient to speak out against bad ideas. Even if we make all the bad things go away, we’re not moving forward.”

Instead, Van Roekel would like to see Associations taking the initiative. “We have to create an offense—let’s put on the table what we believe ought to be done for our students. We ought to determine what should to be done for that child.”

After his keynote, Van Roekel was joined for a panel discussion by Joan Wodiska, a member of the State Board of Education; Alan Seibert, superintendent of Salem schools; and Delegate Steve Landes. They fielded questions from conference attendees on subjects ranging from the policy of giving letter grades to schools, meaningful professional development, teacher career ladders, assessment and accountability.

“That was one of my favorite parts of the conference,” said Sandra Barnstead, a member of the Spotsylvania Education Association and a geometry teacher at Courtland High School. “I enjoyed the diversity of having a school board member, superintendent, union president and legislator.”

During the rest of the two-day conference, some 250 members could choose from among breakout sessions on topics including bullying, cultural competence, early literacy, integrating technology into instruction, and VEA training programs MODEL Teacher and iTeach.

Melissa Warren, an instructional technology resource teacher and member of the Bristol Virginia Education Association was impressed with the offerings taught by her colleagues. “Usually, if you come to a conference that’s not specifically about technology, you don’t learn much,” she said, “but the technology sessions here were amazing.”

View a video of Dennis Van Roekel’s remarks here.

View conference photos here.


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