Louisiana Teachers Attend Virtual Leaders Summit

According to a release by the Louisiana Department of Education, thousands of teachers who are leaders in their schools, districts, and communities gathered virtually over an eight day period at the start of summer to attend, present, and collaborate at the Eighth Annual Louisiana Teacher Leaders Summit.

On May 28th, the event officially kicked off with an address from the state’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, Chris Dier. Dier is a history teacher at St. Bernard Parish’s Chalmette High School, and he was also one of four finalists for national Teacher of the Year. Virtual participants all over Louisiana were encouraged by Dier’s inspiring message that reaffirmed how critical the teacher’s role has been in the lives of their students. “When schools close their doors, teachers open their hearts,” stated Dier in his opening day address.

Throughout the eight day period, the over 6,000 virtual participants attended valuable professional development sessions tailored to the unique role each teacher leader plays back in their respective school district. The sessions provide participants and presenters with high quality resources that can be scaled and adopted to fit a variety of diversified school systems across the state.

Teachers who attended the summit were encouraged to collaborate with colleagues from across the state to share best practices, cognitive strategies, classroom management techniques, and so much more. The individual learning sessions ensured teacher collaboration by limiting the size of their audiences, thus ensuring interactivity among leaders.

Highlighting the vital importance of the 2020 Teacher Leader Summit was the Louisiana’s Acting State Superintendent Beth Scioneaux, who said “this year’s event focuses on how schools can ensure meaningful growth for every child, every day. This theme is critical now more than ever, as school systems adapt their academic and operational plans to ensure high quality learning and to adhere to the latest health and safety guidelines.”

During the event, the Department of Education’s information hub, Louisiana Believes, posted a vast library of the most popular recorded broadcasts from the week, collaboration kits, and curriculum materials free to any interested teacher, regardless of registration. This open catalog of resources encouraged teachers to take what they wanted from the Summit to best fit the individualized needs of their students.

One week following the commencement of the full event, all recorded sessions, along with teaching materials will be posted to the Department’s Teacher Leader Library.

This year marks the Eighth Annual Teacher Leader Summit, which was originally founded by a group of Louisiana teachers who believed that classroom educators deserved a louder voice in state-wide academic decision-making. So, in April 2013, 2,000 educators attended the first statewide summit of Louisiana Teacher Leaders. Today, that participation has tripled through a blend of in-person and online trainings, which are held year-round, to fit the bust schedules of authentic classroom teachers. Professional developments offered at the summit cover a variety of topics related to English Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science, Early Childhood, and Special Education.

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Two Louisiana Educators Receive National Honors

According to Louisiana Believes, Steven Gamache and Jennifer Williams, two Louisiana educators, received the 2019-2020 prestigious, nationally recognized Milken Educator Award as well as the accompanying unrestricted check for $25,000. The two language arts teachers are among 40 educators nationwide to receive this year’s award.

Steven Gamache is an eighth grade language arts teacher at Paul Habans Charter School in Orleans Parish. He obtains a bachelors in English from Fordham University and a master’s in adolescent education from the College of Saint Rose. Aside from being the school’s lead ELA teacher, Gamache is also the coach to sixth and seventh grade ELA interventionists.

Jennifer Williams, a sixth grade language arts teacher at John Q. Adams School in Jefferson Parish, received her bachelor’s in elementary education from the University of New Orleans. She’s also the organizer of her school’s “Test Fest”, one of the schools biggest events.

Both Gamache and Williams were prepared for an assembly, celebrating their schools’ wonderful academic gains, when they were given the surprise of a lifetime as the Milken Educator Awards Founder, Lowell Milken, announced the true reason they were there.

“There are very, very few human beings walking the planet with the commitment, intelligence, sense of humor, thoughtfulness and integrity that Steve possesses. He’s the newest member of a very elite group and he deserves every accolade he received – and will receive – today and going forward.” said Tracy Blowers about teacher Steven Gamache in response to receiving the Milken Educator Award.

Watch the video for Steven Gamache receiving his award here.

Alena Alexeeva says about Williams, “Mrs.Williams is one of the best teachers. She is always thinking about the class and teaches her students well. She helps students understand a new topic easily and motivates her students to never give up. She also has very good methods in her class that make learning easy and fun.”

Watch the video for Jennifer Williams receiving her award here.

Winners of the Milken Educator Award are selected in their early to mid-career, with consideration of what they have already achieved, as well as the promise of what they will accomplish in their career. Aside from the $25,000 prize and public recognition, the award also includes being inducted into the Milken Educator Network, a community of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals, and specialists who have also received the honor of the award.

Winners of the 2019-2020 Milken Educator Award will also attend a Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis, Indiana on March 26-28, 2020, where they will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and peers and elaborate and exchange ideas with both state and federal on the future of education.

The Award’s “Why Not Us” program will pair each 2019 recipient to a Milken Educator veteran mentor so they can explore, collaborate, and prepare new ideas for expanded leadership roles that better and solidify education practice and policy.

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Louisiana Teachers Gather for Annual Summit

The Louisiana Department of Education held the 7th Teacher Leader Summit on Wednesday, June 26th through Friday, June 28th, 2019. More than 6,500 Louisiana teachers and educators, representing almost every school system in the state, gathered at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. This annual Summit was created in response to teachers who thought classroom educators should have a larger voice in statewide academic decisions.At the first statewide summit in April 2013, there were 2,000 teachers in attendance. Since then, the number of participating teachers has tripled with an approximated 6,500 teachers in attendance this year. They have since branched out to a blend of year-round-in-person and online trainings to expand the opportunities available to Teacher Leaders.

From Wednesday through Friday, these over 6,000educators spent their time at the Summit attending and conducting professional development training workshops, collaborating with one another as peers, and learning how they can best play active roles in shaping the future of up-and-coming Louisiana minds and the future of education in Louisiana. The collection of training and workshop topics vary from early childhood development and education to school improvement and Louisiana’s innovative assessment pilot, which was enacted to study how the state tackles issues of school accountability, student assessment, data transparency, and school improvement. In addition to these workshops led by Teacher Leaders, the Summit will host “Ed Talks,” which is a speaker series that featured the six national education leaders.

The 7th Teacher Leader Summit ushered in preparations for the 2019-2020 school year and those to follow. The summit overview listed its objectives as follows:

“This year’s event will equip educators in every level of the system with tools and training that provide all students the opportunity to:

  • Build knowledge of the world
  • Read meaningful texts
  • Express ideas through writing and speaking
  • Solve complex math problems
  • Attend a school that treats them with dignity and respect”

The State Superintendent John White stated, “Louisiana has a longstanding commitment to raising the bar, and as a result, more students than ever before are graduating in four years, earning college and career credentials, achieving eligibility for TOPS scholarships, and pursuing post-secondary education and training.” State Superintendent White continued, “During the 7th annual Teacher Leader Summit, we will celebrate those hard-earned gains, but more importantly, we will focus on how our collaborative efforts can make those opportunities accessible to all students, including our most vulnerable.”

Students from The Performing Arts Academy of St. Bernard Parish performed in the convention center’s theater for the inauguration of the event. Superintendent White addressed the current state of education in Louisiana and outlined the academic strategy moving forward into the future. The 2018 Louisiana Teacher of the Year and recipient of the inaugural Louisiana Public Interest Fellowship, Kimberly Eckert, announced the winner of the Fellowship for the 2019-2020 school year. Lastly, South Lafourche High School was honored with the title of 2019 Louisiana Teacher Leader Summit Premier School.

Watch a stream of the opening ceremony here.

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