- Sponsorship -

Teachers Share Expertise to Improve Learning, Their Own Teaching


Crestwood Middle School psychologist Kathy Lennon was feeling surly. She was not about to listen to social worker Cathy DeHaan lead a session at the EKConference 2015.

Lennon sat at her desk and picked loudly at the cardboard on her coffee cup. “How are you doing?” DeHaan asked as she approached Lennon to see what the problem was.

“Fine!” Lennon said.

East Kentwood physical education teacher Tom Topolski looks at a GoFit Heart Sensor to possibly use in class
East Kentwood physical education teacher Tom Topolski looks at a GoFit Heart Sensor to possibly use in class

“It looks like maybe you’re stressed out,” DeHaan said.

“It looks like maybe you’re stressed out, and you’ve got a class to teach so you might as well teach it!” answered Lennon.

The professionals were reenacting how a student escalates into defensiveness, and how best to respond to their behavior in the workshop titled, “Mental Health Issues in School and Verbal De-Escalation.” It focused on how a student’s mental health impacts success in school, touching on depression, anxiety, marijuana use and related behaviors.

Playing To Their Strengths

The EKConference allowed DeHaan to share her knowledge with other East Kentwood High School and Crestwood Middle School teachers. Educators chose from 74 workshops spread over five sessions.

Co-created last year by teachers and academic coaches Luke Wilcox and Tracey Kooy, the purpose of the conference is for staff members to tap into one another’s knowledge. Sharing expertise ultimately leads to better teaching, they said, and educators are carrying what they learn into the classroom.

“It’s great for the teachers because we are learning from each other and we are able to hear from different areas of specialty,” Lennon said. “There are so many different subjects to hear about.”

Counselor Jennifer Bailey shakes a pop bottle, symbolizing growing stress which leads to an explosion during a workshop on mental health
Counselor Jennifer Bailey shakes a pop bottle, symbolizing growing stress which leads to an explosion during a workshop on mental health

Throughout the day, educators covered topics on technology, art, history, writing, leadership, special education, reading, test preparation, speech, fundraising, math, science, teaching, English-language learners and new teaching approaches.

Workshops were as diverse as exploring ways to use GoFit heart sensors in physical education, and how teenagers use American music and pop culture to establish voice, identity, craft and civic responsibility.

The goal is to give teachers a place where they can easily collaborate, follow up and feel comfortable doing so, said Kooy, an English teacher who has been involved in a research project with the University of Toronto for three years based on professional development needs. Traditional professional development sessions are led by visitors on a one-time basis.

“When teachers can choose their learning, they are more invested,” Kooy said. It’s not everyone learning the same thing, because that marginalizes learning and it doesn’t allow us to seek out where we have a weakness. If we can visit sessions where we feel we can learn the most, it’s empowering.”

CONNECT

EKConference

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

LATEST ARTICLES

Related Articles

- Sponsorship -

Issues in Education

Today’s classrooms look more like the world

Kent County schools are experiencing substantial change in the racial and ethnic makeup of their students, with classrooms looking more and more like the society and world around them...

SNN Editorial

Getting resources to classrooms: the critical importance of the state school aid budget process

The support from the federal government represents a rare, one-time allocation of funds to aid pandemic recovery. Long-term progress requires continued, annual advocacy at the state level around the School Aid Budget...
- Sponsorship -

MEDIA PARTNERS

Maranda Where You LiveWGVU

SUSTAINING SPONSORS