Education

California Teachers Summit has Brandman participants focusing on the needs of every student

Better Together teachers
Educators take a minute to pose for picture during the California Teachers Summit session held at Brandman University.

IHow do you empower teachers to meet the needs of every student? You put them together with inspiring speakers for a morning of collaboration. 

For the fourth year, Brandman University’s Irvine campus played host to a portion of the California Teachers Summit, a program, in the words of School of Education Dean Christine Zeppos, is “developed by teachers, led by teachers, supported by teachers.”

The keynote address, streamed from an auditorium at Cal State Fullerton, to 30 sites throughout California, including the Brandman site, by Sir Ken Robinson focused on the need for collaboration among teachers and within classrooms. Robinson is a teacher, writer, research and advisor on education issues whose TED talk video is among the most viewed.

Isla Jacome
Isla Jacome talked about the need to empower all students to pursue higher education during the in-person talks following Ken Robinson's address streamed from Fullerton.

He started by reminding his audience that children want to learn. The problem, as he sees it, is an emphasis in schools on curriculum, compliance and process over diversity, creativity and collaboration.

Robinson, whose references to his new granddaughter helped illustrate several of his points and drew appreciative laughs from his audiences, expressed his admiration for both teachers in general and the kind of approach taken by the teachers summit with the theme “Better Together California.”

“What you do is not rare. It is a miracle,” Robinson said. The role of the teacher should be to facilitate learning by building a relationship with each student. “It is not a mechanical system. It is deeply personal. It’s an art form, and it transforms.”

Christine Olmstead
Christine Olmstead talked about removing barriers and creating opportunities.

He also urged them to continue learning, both from each other and from their students.  When asked about how to prevent burnout, particularly among new teachers, he reminded them that “this is not the only thing you do. Develop your own talents. Feed your own spirit. Don’t stop being a student. See it as a conversation and not a monologue.”  

Similar themes about the need to reach and support all students in a variety of ways were echoed by the Southern California educators who also gave short presentations. 

Isla Jacome from James Monroe High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District and a California Teacher of the Year, talked about her arduous journey, as a child in Ecuador followed by numerous years in foster care in the United States. She said teaching is a social justice movement.

“We empower our students to see the possibility. We are agents of change. Change your world, your family, your community.” 

Greg Gardiner
Greg Gardiner talked about getting students fired up about science.

Christine Olmstead, associate superintendent of Orange County Department of Education, said she sees teachers as obstacle removers. Teachers, she said, need to think about what they can do to help students grow, not just in knowledge, but socially and emotionally. 

“Academics can never thrive until you create the opportunity to function.”

Greg Gardiner, a 2018 Orange County  and California Teacher of the Year, focused on getting students fired up about hands-on, minds-on, project-based science by providing real-world problems to solve.

“Always be open to ideas which can foster creativity and innovation in the classroom.”

The bulk of the morning continued in small group sessions with teachers sharing information and ideas about everything from classroom management to technology to curriculum development to social/emotional learning.

Among those helping facilitate the sessions were Brandman Assistant Professor Leticia Rojas, Ed.D.; alumna Christina Portillo, who earned her Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership as a member of Brandman’s first Ed.D. class; and Poly Zeigle, who earned her master’s in leadership and early childhood education and is currently working on her dissertation as part of the Ed.D. program.

Adam Coughran
Adam Coughran's presentation, a bonus offering from the School of Extended Education, walked participants through some of the techniques he teaches for dealing with an active threat.

Brandman‘s School of Extended Education offered a bonus session after the main program that focused on helping teachers recognize and respond to active threats. Brandman alumnus Adam Coughran, president of Safe Kids Inc. and creator of the H.E.R.O. program, explained his work creating plans and drills for schools when threatened with an active threat.

- Lindsay Racen contributed to this report.

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