“I 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 over 50 Rowan-Salisbury high school students who led a professional development day for their teachers on Saturday called Edcamp Rowan. Students on Dr. Lynn Moody’s Student Leadership Team have the most respect and admiration for their teachers, and they wanted to do something special for them. After brainstorming different options, the team decided on hosting Edcamp Rowan.
“I can honestly say that working with the Student Leadership Team is the highlight of what I do as a superintendent,” says Dr. Lynn 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.”
This event was made possible through a Salisbury Community Foundation grant. Teachers received breakfast, lunch, and snacks, in addition to “I am That Teacher” coffee mugs, and Edcamp Rowan t-shirts.
But the greatest benefit of this grant was the opportunity for students and teachers to spend the day in open dialogue sharing their ideas and views on topics such as:
- Class size
- Do grades matter
- Differentiation in the math classroom
- Communication and life skills
- Standardized testing
- Improving education
- Student & teacher relationships, and
- High school students mentoring middle and elementary students
…just to name a few of the topics discussed.
Middle school math teacher Becky Goddard summed up her feelings about the experience after the morning sessions using these words, “An entirely student planned/delivered Edcamp Rowan -Amazing! Students were so prepared and well spoken! Great morning and can’t wait for the afternoon.”
What is an Edcamp?
Edcamps happen across the country and are traditionally led by teachers – teachers teaching teachers. What makes Edcamp different from other conferences is that the sessions are created by the teachers at the beginning of the day.
And, what makes Edcamp Rowan so innovative and unique is the fact that this event was led by Students.
The student leaders began organizing the event last fall. They held monthly meetings with Dr. 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 to creating a photo booth – because learning can also be fun! Most importantly, however, the students personally reached out to invite their current and prior teachers.
Angie Fleming, teacher at North Rowan Middle School said that, “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.”
Through the Edcamp design model, teachers begin the day by choosing topics of interest to create the sessions for the day. These ideas were written on ‘sticky notes’ and then placed on a large bulletin board. While the majority of educators and students attended the opening keynote addresses, a few students along with a few staff members remained behind and categorized the topics to create the day’s schedule that consisted of three back-to-back sessions led by students.
Several student leaders delivered keynote addresses on topics like:
- Inspiring teachers
- Learning spaces
- 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. 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.”
The day concluded with students and teachers sharing their favorite apps. “Special Books by Special Kids was shared at our App Smackdown by high school senior Jessica Driver,” said West Rowan Middle Principal Derek McCoy. “I’m going to share this with every teacher at our school! This is beyond special.”
Thanks to our community partners for providing additional items and door prizes: Cheerwine, F&M Bank, Patterson Farms, Novant, Achieve3000, Nazareth, and the Transportation Museum.
“Thank you to those who came to Edcamp,” said Ada Wong, a student at Jesse Carson High. “It was a great learning experience to hear the teachers’ opinions, and I appreciate those who I spoke to during the day. I thoroughly believe that teachers and staff should be recognized for their love and support for students. Thank you all!”
Teachers, if you ever doubt the impact that you have on students, just spend a day with them at Edcamp. It will change your life and reassure you of your career choice of just how much you impact the life of a student.
As one educator said very simply in a tweet, “Edcamp success!”
– Amie Williams, Assistant Principal at South Rowan High School.