In the constantly evolving field of education, teachers must often play the role of student.
“It’s really important to stay abreast of everything,” said Mary Nicks, a special education teacher at Flory Academy of Sciences and Technology in Moorpark. “I want to be a part of anything that’s going to make (learning) easier for the kids.”
Nicks was one of about 150 elementary and secondary educators to attend a summer literacy workshop at California Lutheran University last month.
The one- day workshops taught by teachers, for teachers, are put on by the universityhoused California Reading and Literature Project, a state-funded program designed to help educators update their teaching practices.
“It was exceptional,” Nicks said of the workshop. “ The presenters had research-based information and I learned strategies I could use in the classroom.”
The workshops, which are held each summer at CLU, cover a variety of topics, ranging from how to increase students’ reading and writing skills to how to incorporate new technology into lesson plans.
Elementary, middle and high school educators are encouraged to attend.
“Many of the participants (also) attended last year,” said Devon Dooley, an administrative assistant for the reading and literature project. “Others found out by our website, their principal or their district.”
While many districts encourage their teachers to attend, state budget cuts make it difficult for schools to foot the bill.
“We provided this summer workshop at a low cost so if teachers want to pay for themselves, they can . . . it’s over the summer so it’s not mandatory for anyone,” Dooley said.
Mandatory or not, the workshop links teachers with instructors who are extremely knowledgeable in helpful classroom strategies, Dooley said.
“All of our trainers are certified in one or more of our six programs for professional development,” she said.
Camarillo teacher Brittany Lucero said a reading comprehension workshop introduced her to the idea of thoughts bubbles.
“You cut out a big, comiclike bubble, and when you’re reading text (as a class), the students can stick their heads in the bubble to share what they’re thinking,” said Lucero, who will teach at Las Posas Elementary in the fall.
The bubble helps children express their thoughts and feelings on the material, Lucero said.
“It helps them . . . verbalize what they are thinking. It’s an important part of reading comprehension.”
Kirsten Walker, principal of Acacia Elementary School in Thousand Oaks, attended this summer’s workshop with four Acacia teachers.
Walker said technology’s heightened presence in the classroom makes attending educational workshops more important than ever.
“There’s a big learning curve for teachers to right now,” Walker said.
“(Educational) standards are changing and becoming more rigorous. There’s a shift in what students are expected to learn and what teachers are expected to teach,” she said.
The workshop was worthwhile, added Walker, who took a class on iPod literacy.
“We just purchased iPods for our first-grade classes, so it was good to learn more about the available apps.
“There are apps for number recognition, letter recognition, all sorts of things,” Walker said. “Rather than doing worksheets, the students can (sometimes) use those kinds of programs.”
Walker said she was enthralled by this year’s keynote speaker, Elfrieda Hiebert, founder of the online reading resource TextProject Inc.
“ I don’t think she ever sleeps,” the principal said. “She’s done so much research and has this wealth of knowledge . . . the audience was thoroughly entertained.”
Nicks is already looking forward to next year’s summer workshop.
“ If I could change something, I’d make it more days so I could attend more (classes),” the Flory teacher said. “It would be nice to be able to go to more.”
The California Reading and Literature Project will host a special training workshop for science and social studies teachers on Oct. 3.
To learn more about educational opportunities through the California Reading and Literature Project, visit www.callutheran.edu/ education/ institutes/crlp/.
--- Published in The Acorn on Aug. 2, 2012