A photo of two teachers at the 2015 California Teachers SummitElementary school teachers Raquel Stevenson, left, and Shannon Caldwell during the 2016 California Teachers Summit breakfast. More than 600 educators are expected at this year's event. (Sacramento State/Jayla Lee)

Preview story: The third Better Together: California Teachers Summit to be held at Sacramento State is shaping up to be the biggest and most innovative so far.

The summit, which will be held Friday, July 28, concurrently with dozens of similar gatherings across the state, is expected to draw more than 600 Sacramento-area educators, twice the attendance of previous years, for a day of networking and learning. This year’s summit also will feature the semifinals of the first ReinventEd competition, an event organized by the College of Education encouraging the use of innovation and technology in the classroom.

“A strong teacher workforce is essential to our state’s growth and development,” says Alexander Sidorkin, dean of the College of Education. “During the summit, teachers come together not only to learn from each other, but also to make a statement about upholding the values of inclusion, diversity, and equity. I am excited that Sacramento State will once again host the region’s educators for this wonderful and important event.”

Now in its third year, the Better Together: California Teachers Summit is a free event open to teachers statewide. The theme of this year’s summit is “Now More Than Ever,” which reflects the importance of bringing together teachers to listen and learn from one another. Sessions will focus on timely topics ranging from addressing bullying in the classroom to celebrating diversity, to teaching students to be open-minded.

This year’s keynote speaker is Jill Biden, a lifelong educator and the wife of former Vice President Joe Biden who has taught at community colleges, a public high school and a psychiatric hospital for adolescents over her 30-year teaching career. As second lady, she worked to highlight the importance of community colleges to America’s future while continuing to teach as a full-time English professor at a community College in Northern Virginia. With the February 2017 launch of the Biden Foundation, Biden and her husband will continue their commitment to public education.

Biden will speak at the headquarters site of Saint Mary’s College of California, and her remarks will be simulcast to 34 other sites across the state.

Sacramento State organizers moved this year’s summit from the Leslie and Anita Harper Alumni Center to the larger University Union Ballroom, increasing the number of educators who can attend from approximately 300 to more than 600. In addition to welcoming remarks from Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen and the keynote address, attendees will participate in “EdCamp” breakout sessions, which provide them with the opportunity to engage in conversations with their fellow educators on topics of their choice.

Organizers also are taking advantage of another new part of this year’s summit – a flexible afternoon schedule that allows local sites to plan a unique event or activity – to stage the semifinals of the ReinventED competition, which is aimed at encouraging and supporting innovation and ingenuity in education. Seven teams will pitch their ideas – a new educational project, a digital solution for learning problems, or a unique afterschool program, for example – to a panel of judges and a live audience. Winners will advance to the final round, to be held during the CelebrateED event taking place on campus in September.

Kieaira Haggins, a Sacramento State alumna and elementary school teacher who will attend the summit for the third year in a row, said taking a day to learn from other educators and be around a supportive community of her peers has been invaluable as she has begun her career.

“The things I learned at the summit really did help me get through my first and second year of teaching, and one thing that helped me most were ideas about how to get the school year off on the right foot,” she says. “I would encourage all teachers, student teachers, or anyone who is thinking about becoming a teacher to attend.”

The Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, the California State University and New Teacher Center are organizing the third annual summit. The event is free to all California pre-K-12 teachers, teacher candidates, school administrators and other educators. For more information, visit cateacherssummit.com. – Jonathan Morales

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