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Educators Expand Repertoire, Have Fun at VEA Instructional Conference


Intensely serious issues and light-hearted comedy combined to create two days of learning, growth and good times for some 250 educators at VEA’s Instruction and Professional Development Conference in Richmond this weekend.

Preventing violence, promoting diversity, analyzing the Standards of Learning, adapting to the global nature of education, and promoting the teaching profession were among the serious topics delved into in a full lineup of breakout sessions, and the much-appreciated levity was provided by teacher-turned comedian Micah “Bam-Bamm” White during Saturday’s lunch.

Anne Holton, Virginia’s Secretary of Education, kicked things off Friday night by congratulating attendees on their apparently successful efforts to get ESEA revamped. “No Child Left Behind is going to be left behind,” she said. “And that means that the primary responsibility and opportunity and authority is coming back to our educators at the state and local level.”

She also warned of both budget opportunities and struggles ahead, urging educators to make their voices heard loud and clear.

Virginia Department of Education Assistant Superintendent Cynthia Cave, Washington Post reporter Laura Vozzella and VEA’s Director of Government Relations Robley Jones were panel members for an education policy discussion after Secretary Holton’s presentation. During the discussion, which was moderated by Renee Serrao of the Chesterfield Education Association, they urged educators to do a better job of publicizing everyday school success stories and to be diligent in contacting legislators.
              
Terri Tolliver Butts, a South Carolina teacher and the winner of the 2015 NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence, also addressed attendees, focusing on a “garden” image and the importance of educators tending and nourishing the seeds given them each year.
              
“When children begin to trust us and each other,” she said, “they will exceed their expectations for themselves.”
              
Members gave the event outstanding grades. “I got some resources that will be awesome both for the classroom and for some learning centers we help with out in the community,” said Felecia Christian of the Chesterfield Education Association, after attending a breakout session.
              
Speakers at those sessions included teachers from around the state, state education department officials, and a duo made up of an assistant principal and school resource officer from Amherst County.

“The ‘Dealing with Difficult People’ session was phenomenal,” noted VEA-Retired member Henrietta Russell, chuckling when asked if it she’d be called upon to use the workshop’s skills often.

Conference attendees also heard from VEA President Meg Gruber, who praised educators for their twin commitments to building their skills and advocating for their students, and VEA Executive Director Philip Forgit, in addition to hearing from the Three Mo’ Tenors, made up of VEA members Toney McNair of Chesapeake, James Fedderman of Accomack and Ramon Moore of Richmond.

Conference photos are posted at https://www.flickr.com/photos/veacomm. Download any photo by clicking on the photo filename and then clicking on the download icon.

The video show Friday evening is posted on out Vimeo site. VEA’s videos are housed at and the specific video can be accessed at https://vimeo.com/146294796

There is a download option that you can use to download to your own device for playback.

To learn what VEA and conference attendees were posting on social media, go to VEA’s Facebook account, https://www.facebook.com/VirginiaEducationAssociation, and also search Facebook for #PutKidsFirst. Likewise, access VEA’s Twitter account, https://twitter.com/vea4kids, and/or search for #PutKidFirst or @VEA4Kids.

 


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