Being a teacher today is harder than before. From keeping students’ attention to having the right tools to do the job, there are more obstacles now than in past years. And since COVID-19, that job has become even more difficult.
Getting advice and support from peers can be invaluable to teachers and is one of the goals of the 24th annual Impacting Student Learning (ISL) Conference at Augusta University.
This year’s conference will take place virtually from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11 and from 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Feb. 12.
The College of Education is expecting around 400 teachers to participate. As they found out last year, the virtual option opens the door for more attendees.
“We found out there was a far-reaching effect when the conference was virtual. We had educators from all over the country and even some international attendees taking part,” said Ashley Oleszewski, College of Education field experience coordinator.
Presenters include kindergarten through grade 12 teachers, faculty from the College of Education, graduate students and other faculty members from schools outside of Augusta.
The conference provides teachers with knowledge and insight they can use immediately to further the education of their students.
“Our goal is for teachers to leave the conference on Saturday with practical strategies that they can implement in their classrooms on Monday. Breakout session topics will include online tools, innovative programs and training on manipulatives that teachers can add to their daily routines and curriculum,” added Oleszewski.
There are various breakout sessions each day where teachers can hone in on a few particular areas of study. The conference is providing six strands for them to focus on: differentiation, innovative teaching strategies, instruction and learning in the digital age, personal growth, self care and STEAM.
The personal growth and self care strands were added last year, which Oleszewski says all teachers need. She’s hoping colleagues can give tips on how to avoid burnout while not adding to their workload.
“There are specific sessions addressing burnout, resilience, and building relationships. These are sessions that educators and practitioners created for their colleagues. I hope teachers will find this specific strand beneficial.”
Other sessions include collaboration and co-teaching between general and special education teachers, maximizing learner engagement in the mathematics classroom and how to hook students and win them over in the classroom.
Having a number of partner schools in the area, Oleswewski said Augusta University wants to show its support and help teachers as much as possible, especially with technological support. Teachers were thrust into using distance learning tools at the height of the pandemic, but many were not comfortable with it and had to implement it quickly. Now, there’s a chance for teachers to catch up.
“There is no doubt that teachers have carried a tremendous burden during the past few years. They have had to transition their classrooms online with little time to prepare. Throughout the conference, we want teachers to have the opportunity to enhance their knowledge of best practices, collaborate with colleagues, and be reminded that self care is a priority,” added Oleszewski.
This year’s keynote speaker is Casey Bethel who was named the 2017 Georgia Teacher of the Year. Bethel is currently the science, STEM and computer sciences coordinator for 35 schools in Douglasville, Georgia. He is also the interim principal at Factory Shoals Middle School.
Bethel earned his Bachelor of Science degree in general biology and biological sciences from Fort Valley State and then his Master of Science degree in agronomy and crop science from the University of Georgia.
In the past, high school students on a pathway to a career in education were also invited to attend sessions designed specifically for them. With this year’s conference taking place virtually, they have instead been invited to some of the virtual sessions.