A teacher-inspired, teacher-led conference drew about 100 of Shelby County Schools' top-performing teachers to the Mid-South Convention Center in Robinsonville, Miss. last week.
The Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET2) conference was sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It offered workshops and tools designed to inspire and motivate teachers and support their continued excellence in the classroom.
Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson addressed the attendees – all high-performing teachers selected for their passion for education and desire to elevate their profession. He commended them for commitment to their transformative-yet-rarely celebrated work.
"You all represent everything that's right with public education ... standing up here today, I see a clear picture of what effective teaching looks like," Hopson said.
The conference stemmed from the collaborative vision and work of a group of legacy Shelby County Schools and Memphis City Schools teachers. Last winter, the group participated in a national ECET2 conference hosted by the Gates Foundation in San Diego.
A planning committee worked late nights and early mornings to design the conference, even as the district transitioned into the unified Shelby County Schools district.
"As a project manager, this experience has been rewarding," said Sheryl Gasque, chairperson of the Shelby County Schools ECET2 conference. "The group of people with whom I work have been able to go into their classrooms every day and maintain high standards of effective teaching, and then come to planning meetings and continue to be creative and excellent as we planned this event for other teachers."
The theme of the conference was "Teachers' Voices Matter," and Vicki Phillips, director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said the event gave teachers access to their most valuable existing resource: each other.
"They finally understand that they can benefit from your experience and expertise – that nobody understands teaching better than teachers," Phillips said.
According to Gasque, feedback from ECET2 attendees was overwhelmingly positive. Teachers said they enjoyed the opportunity to connect with one another and to be recognized for their hard work.