Rowan-Salisbury teachers spend Saturday learning from students
CHINA GROVE — “Really enjoyed spending my Saturday at Edcamp Rowan,” says Lauren Yousey, a student at Jesse Carson High School. “It was awesome to interact with teachers and to learn from them. Really grateful for the opportunity.”
Lauren is one of more than 50 Rowan-Salisbury high school students who led a professional development day for their teachers Saturday called Edcamp Rowan. Students on Superintendent Lynn Moody’s Student Leadership Team wanted to do something special for their teachers to show their respect and admiration.
After brainstorming the options, the team decided to host Edcamp Rowan.
“I can honestly say that working with the Student Leadership Team is the highlight of what I do as a superintendent,” says Moody. “These student leaders from across our district worked together to plan a day with teachers so they could share their thoughts on how they best learn in the school environment.”
The program was made possible through a Salisbury Community Foundation grant. Teachers got breakfast, lunch and snacks in addition to “I am That Teacher” coffee mugs and Edcamp Rowan T-shirts.
But the greatest benefit was the opportunity for students and teachers to spend the day in open dialogue sharing ideas and views on topics such as class size, whether grades matter, differentiation in the math classroom, communication and life skills, standardized testing, improving education, student and teacher relationships, and high school students mentoring younger students.
Middle school math teacher Becky Goddard was impressed.
“An entirely student-planned/delivered Edcamp Rowan — amazing,” Goddard said “Students were so prepared and well-spoken.”
Edcamps happen across the country and are traditionally led by teachers — teachers teaching teachers. What makes Edcamps different from other conferences is that the sessions are created by the teachers at the beginning of the day.
But Edcamp Rowan was innovative because it was led by students.
The student leaders began organizing it last fall. They held monthly meetings with Moody and her team, while smaller groups would communicate with each other between regular meetings to be sure that they were ready.
Students did everything from creating logos, to deciding on the location, to planning how the day would unfold and creating a photo booth. Most important, the students reached out to invite their current and former teachers.
“I was honored to receive a personal invitation to this event by a former student of mine, Jessica Driver, who is now in her senior year at Rowan Early College. This was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday — a day sharing innovative ideas to improve the future for our education,” said Angie Fleming, a teacher at North Rowan Middle School.
Through the Edcamp model, teachers begin the day by choosing topics of interest. These ideas were written on sticky notes and placed on a large bulletin board. While most educators and students attended the opening keynote addresses, a few students and staff members remained behind and categorized the topics to create the day’s schedule of three back-to-back sessions led by students.
Several student leaders delivered keynote addresses on topics like inspiring teachers, learning spaces and “What I wish my teacher knew.”
Ben Zino, a student at West Rowan High, surprised one of his former teachers during his keynote presentation.
“This is my childhood hero and fifth-grade teacher Mr. Rockwell,” he said. “I can honestly say that his passion for teaching about the environmental sciences inspired me to be the person I am today. Thank you for being an amazing teacher, leader and friend.”