The Better Together California Teachers Summit gathered 20,000 K-12 educators for a one-day collaborative conference at universities across the state last week, with 200 teachers meeting at Sonoma State University to watch simulcast keynote sessions and participate in localized "Ed Talks" on classroom and curriculum innovation.
"The value of something like this is really bringing experienced and new teachers together," said Pam Van Halsema, dean's strategist for the School of Education at Sonoma State and organizer of the on-campus event. "Teachers are isolated in their profession. This event was set up to get them to talk together, plan together and collaborate."
The simulcast keynote sessions featured actress Yvette Nicole Brown (of the television show "Community") and NASA astronaut Leland Melvin. Glen Corey of Novato High School, Nathan Dawson of the California Teachers Association Leadership Group from Santa Clara County, elementary school teacher Ruth Moore and Caitlin Tucker of Windsor High School were the local speakers at Sonoma State.
Through Ed Talks, teachers offered funny, inspiring and poignant perspectives about their successes with implementation of the California standards. Teachers came away with concrete tools and strategies, and built a network of colleagues in their region to support future collaboration. The day also featured "unconference-style" EdCamp sessions, with attendees at each site signing up to give informal talks on a subject of his or her choosing.
New Teacher Center, the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities and California State University partnered with a wide range of California education groups to organize this unprecedented event. Funding was provided by a $3.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The CSU serves 460,000 students at its 23 campuses. One in 10 employees in California hold a degree from the CSU, and the university has conferred the largest number of education degrees and multi-subject credentials to California's teachers.