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Better Together: CA Teachers Summit—an Inspiring Day for Educators at CSULB

Published August 3, 2018

Why do you teach? The question was a familiar one at this year’s Better Together: CA Teachers Summit at CSULB, but the responses were always unique, usually inspiring, and sometimes even extraordinary. Michelle Simon, a sixth-grade teacher from The Prentice School in Orange County, shared how growing up with dyslexia shaped her future as an educator. For Simon, it wasn’t until she reached community college that she finally met a teacher who could reach her. With a son of her own with learning differences, Simon, moved toward a path in Education where she could make an impact on students with learning differences. “It was like a whole new world had been opened up. And I wanted to be able to validate my students and show them that we can work together, and we can be successful even with a learning difference.”

Better Together: CA Teachers Summit is a single-day simultaneous state-wide event organized at over 30 locations across California. Held at colleges and universities on July 27, 2018, the event offered a full day of programming for area educators, teachers, school administrators, pre-service teachers, and anyone with an interest in Education. This year CSULB welcomed hundreds of attendees with presentations, panel discussions, conversations and direct peer-to-peer dialogue allowing guests to engage with others and leave with tools and classroom-ready resources.

Selfie with Nat Hansuvadha and Audience
Better Together Selfie! Dr. Nat Hansuvadha and Better Together Audience at the USU Ballrooms

The event at CSULB was spearheaded for the fourth consecutive year by Associate Professor Dr. Nat Hansuvadha and Associate Dean Dr. Cindy Grutzik, both from the College of Education. The livestreamed keynote presentation, delivered by creativity and innovation expert Sir Ken Robinson, started the day with positivity and inspiration culminating with the words, “If you work in education, you are in the miracle business.”

TED-style “EdTalks” were presented by local educators Kenneth Fisher and Erin Jett. Following this year’s event theme, “It’s Personal” Fisher and Jett shared in their separate presentations, strategies and stories about connecting and breaking down barriers with their students. Fisher is a high school mathematics and engineering teacher from Long Beach Unified School District and CSULB alum. He also received the 2013 Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year award and the 2017 Carlston Family Foundation Outstanding Teacher of America. Erin Jett teaches elementary General Education and Special Education in the Orange Unified School District. Jett was Chapman Hills Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year in 2018, where she currently teaches.

Ken Fisher, Shireen Pavri, Nat Hansuvadha, and Erin Jett
From left to right: EdTalk speaker Kenneth Fisher, Dean Shireen Pavri, Dr. Nat Hansuvadha, and EdTalk speaker Erin Jett

Edcamp sessions, casual and interactive discussions where attendees have agency over content, were facilitated by local teachers. Session topics varied widely, from “becoming a connected educator”, to “math in 2018”, to “avoiding teacher burn-out”, giving attendees a chance to drop in and out of sessions that most piqued their interest.

Edcamp Session Board with session topics
Edcamp Session Board

Edcamp facilitator, Mari Saade, a teacher at Paramount Unified School District led an Edcamp session on how to survive the first year of teaching. The session was packed with first-year teachers hoping for tips of the trade and veterans in the field sharing their experiences. Saade shared why she wanted to cover that particular topic, “…I still feel like a new teacher. I’m going into my fourth year so I’m right in between feeling like I have it together and feeling like I’m still learning…It was really exciting that so many people wanted to come…because you keep hearing about how we have a teacher shortage and no one is going into education…and then to be in a room full of people who are excited to be jumping into it is really cool.”

Edcamp facilitator Mari Saade and her Edcamp session audience
Edcamp facilitator, Mari Saade leading a session on surviving the first year of teaching

Through presentations, panel discussions, and lectures, Better Together: CA Teachers Summit offers a forum for educators to come together, network, be inspired by others in their field, and take ready-to-use classroom tools and strategies back to their classrooms and districts. Its unique approach allows for thousands across the state to come together, learn, and be part of a day where education and educators are celebrated and supported.

Better Together Attendees Between Sessions
Better Together Attendees between Sessions

To see additional coverage of Better Together: CA Teachers Summit, please see the article published by the CSU Chancellor's Office.