Educators connect, learn from each other at statewide conference

| August 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

Webinars, podcasts and video conferences are among ways for educators to keep up on what’s happening in the field of education without leaving their schools.

The new technology, however, doesn’t replace the value of coming together to learn from and support colleagues in ways that can’t be done online.

To that end, about 800 educators from around the state gathered in Rochester Aug. 20 and 21 for the Minnesota Cath­olic Education Association Convention.

The biennial event brings together Catholic school principals and teachers, along with directors of religious education, youth ministers and other Catholic educators for professional development, faith formation, personal enrichment and networking.

“It’s the cultural experience of coming together,” said Peter Noll, executive director of the MCEA. “We are committed to this kind of event because it’s a community-building experience, and that’s very important to us. Community is the core of who we are as Catholics. You can feel it here.”

Variety of workshops

Participants heard three keynote speakers during the conference, including Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, who is chairman-elect of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church. (See story, above.)

Educators had time to network and attend workshops with topics that ranged from the renaissance of classical education and the childhood obesity epidemic, to revised social studies standards and praying with multiple intelligences — an approach to prayer based on a student’s learning style.

There were also a variety of vendors in an exhibit hall, where educators could learn about everything from books for early readers to Lego activities for after-school programs. They could even sample chocolate that can be used for fundraising.

Lynelle Kocher, an art teacher at St. Stephen School in Anoka, said one of the most important things she will take away from the convention is what she learned in a workshop about standards-based reporting by Mary Kane, assistant superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The workshop focused on the purpose, steps and questions for developing the new reporting system — which grades students on mastery of the topic instead of points earned on homework and tests.

“Its something I’ve been thinking about changing in my classroom for the last few years, and it would be great to implement some of her ideas,” Kocher said. She said learning more about it during the workshop was the nudge she needed to make the change.

A workshop on enhancing emotional intelligence — the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions — that was presented by Craig Sundberg of St. Mary’s University resonated with Deb Jaworski, a second-grade teacher at St. Pascal Baylon School in St. Paul.

“If you’re in a negative state of mind you’re not going to focus on learning,” she said. “So I’m going to pay more attention to my students’ emotions and try to help them be positive.”

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