This summer I had the opportunity to participate in the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) biannual professional development conference, TEACH, in Washington D.C. TEACH stands for Together Educating America’s Children. I am so grateful that I was able to attend this professional development conference thanks to the support of the AFT’s National TEACH Scholarship, my school district, and my local union office. TEACH allowed me to meet with classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, and school nurses from across the United States while learning about the ever changing roles American educators play as we support our students, their families, and the communities we serve.
TEACH allowed me to walk away with a new wealth of knowledge on how I can continue to support my students and share with my colleagues to make our school and district a stronger, more vibrant learning community. Each TEACH conference session and keynote speaker was passionate, informed, and accessible. I attended sessions such as “The Current Events Classroom: Teaching About Bias, Diversity, and Social Justice” led by Michelle Magner, the assistant education director of the Anti-Defamation League and “How Schools and Communities Can Support Immigrant Students and Families” presented by Lydia Breiseth, director of Colorín Colorado and a panel of educators at included a district level ELL director, a principal, and a classroom teacher are examples of just a few sessions that really resonated with me and my school’s needs.
The notion that I am most awestruck by as I reflect on after attending TEACH is how excited I am to bring the ideas and experiences into my school. TEACH was such a positive and realistic conference. I was able to walk away from the conference empowered with a plan of how I will use my knowledge from the session “Empower Your Students with the Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards” in my classroom to spark student engagement and activism as my eighth graders explore topics for their argumentative writing assignments. I have already presented to my district colleagues at a summer professional development about how we can to embrace teaching current events using lessons from the Anti-Defamation League in an inclusive and supportive manner to build academic and civic engagement for all students in kindergarten to eighth grade. I have a wealth of new resources available to share with my colleagues as we continue to work to support our increasing English Language Learner (ELL) population and their families thanks to the incredible, informative videos and print resources from Colorín Colorado.
We know that American education is at a pivotal point in shaping the next generation, and yet we, as educators, rise to that call to make a difference for each child in our care everyday. If you have the opportunity to attend TEACH 2021, I highly recommend it. The ability to collaborate and network with proud union members from around the Nation while learning from top-notch, quality organizations that have a wealth of resources ready to support you and your students was second to none.
Notes about support given to me to be able to attend TEACH 2019:
AFT’s National TEACH Scholarship: This scholarship was for teachers within their first five years of service and helped me by providing my flights to and from the conference and my hotel room during the conference. My school district, Orland 135, helped cover the registration for the conference at the reduced price given by my TEACH Scholarship. My local union office, Local 943 – Southwest Suburban Federation of Teachers, helped to cover transportation and meal expenses during the conference. Without these three organizations, I would not have been able to have easily experienced TEACH 2019, thank you.