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Educators Study, Hear from Lane and Qarni at Popular VEA Conference

It's a Saturday morning, but VEA members are spending it working and have a Richmond hotel buzzing. In one room, educators are discussing how to best use technology in their instruction and comparing the merits of programs such as Kahoot, EdPuzzle, Quizlet, IReady, and BrainPop. Next door, the subject is managing behavior in elementary school classrooms and if point systems are a good way to go. Down the hall, they're wondering why African-American men are less than 2 percent of our public school teaching force and what can be done about it.
It's another day at VEA's popular Instruction and Professional Development Conference and, at the 2018 edition, a lot of learning is about to be passed along to students around the state.
"My principal is always glad I come to this conference," said Renee Beverly of the Spotsylvania Education Association, a middle school special education teacher who brought a new colleague to this year's event, "When I get back, we have a faculty meeting and I share what I've learned. There's always different topics and I always get a lot of very useful information to bring back to my school."
Among the other topics covered in breakout sessions were co-teaching strategies, gender equity, cultural competency, and creating effective rubrics.
The more than 200 educators in attendance kicked off the conference by hearing a glimpse of the future from State Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane. He spoke of moving away from a testing emphasis to one of deeper learning and acquiring the skills necessary to succeed in any field.
Because of the irreplaceable role educators play in the lives of young people, Lane said, “You’re not just shaping lives—you’re saving them.”
"I like the changes he's trying to make at the state department," said Dorothy Carter of the Henry County Education Association. Knowing that the state superintendent is typically changed with new gubernatorial administrations, she added, "I hope he's there for 10 years."
Atif Qarni, a VEA member who is also serving as Virginia’s Secretary of Education, also spoke at the conference, drawing roars from the crowd when he said, about educator salaries, “Maybe we should move away from focusing so much on the Standards of Learning and focus more on the Standards of Living.”
He also urged educators to contact members of the Virginia Board of Education as they prepare to vote on changing the number of continuing education hours required for a 10-year teaching license. Qarni, who supports VEA’s position of 180 hours, said, “It’s not about seat hours—it’s about having high-quality professional development that’s relevant to the needs of your students and your school.”
VEA President Jim Livingston fired up conference attendees, encouraging them to make plans for group trips to Richmond for Lobby Day on January 28 and underscoring the importance of elections as we gear up for voting next year, when every seat in the General Assembly will be up.
“We will be silent no more!” he told the crowd.
To see conference photos, visit


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