Around 100 local kindergarten to grade 12 teachers were back in school this week participating in the Williams Lake Summer Institute held at Williams Lake Secondary School Aug. 27 and 28.
Organized by six School District 27 teachers — the two-day event focussed on literacy and numeracy, featuring local teachers presenting as well as two major presenters from out of town.
It was the first summer institute in a few years, said one of the organizers, Lori Kelly.
“In September of last year we said we needed to do a summer institute. We looked at who we wanted to have present.”
Literary presenter Adrienne Gear had been sought after to come to Williams Lake for four years, so when she was able to confirm coming on Aug. 27, organizers booked her. They then looked for a numeracy person to match the direction the district is going in, and found Carole Fullerton.
“We contacted Carole and she was able to come the next day and that’s what started the plans moving forward,” Kelly explained.
Because the organizers wanted to offer session for K-12, the days were split up into K-5 and 6-12 strands.
“While the K-5 teachers were with the keynote speakers, the 6-12 teachers were in other pods working with local presenters. When the 6-12 teachers were with the keynote speakers, the K-5 teachers were in other pods. That’s the way we worked it,” Kelly said.
Feedback on the institute was positive.
Claudia Bauman, teacher at Voyageur Elementary School in Quesnel, described the presenters as “great.”
“I think the institute has been helpful to a lot of teachers because our eyes have been opened up to different ways of teaching. It’s hard to get professional development opportunities in the Cariboo, so it’s been nice to be able to attend something local,” Bauman said.
Marie Sharpe Elementary School teacher Cecilia Harry was filling out her evaluation of the morning session and said she was going to tick off “outstanding.”
“It’s been really well organized and I think the fact they split it up between K-5 and 6-12 was great.”
The Tribune sat in during Fullerton’s K-5 presentation Tuesday afternoon, as she encouraged the teachers to create math questions that engage a diversity of learners.
Touching her belly she said math is that thing that sits in your belly, often bringing back childhood memories of struggling with math.
She challenged the teachers to bring students into “thinking” about math, not just “playing with math.”
“We’ve graduated kids for decades who can’t think about math. We haven’t thought about math enough,” she said.
Engaging the teachers, she encouraged many conversations amongst the teachers.
They talked about what’s working well and what the challenges are. Teachers said games work well for teaching new concepts, but keeping math tools in control is a challenge.
When it comes to good math questions, the teachers agreed they are meaningful and relevant, they engage diversity, or require thought.
“The challenge of the question is the engaging part. Good questions support diversity and engage more learners,” Fullerton said.
Fullerton told the Tribune the teachers were “rabid” for professional development and she noticed they are coming from such a variety of classroom situations.
Kelly admitted people wanted more time with the major presenters, but they also understood organizers were trying to cover everybody in a short amount of time.
On Monday four booksellers were there.
James McCann from Kidsbooks in Vancouver did book talks on books that matched with presentations made by Gear and Fullerton.
Vernon Teach and Learn, United Library Services from Vancouver and Scholastic were also there.
“Monday was the big day. The literacy day was the bigger of the two, just by nature of the beast because I think literacy is broader than numeracy,” Kelly explained.
Timing worked well because teachers were already back in the classroom setting up and thinking about the year ahead.
“Monday, Aug. 27 was the only day that Adrienne had free and Carole happened to have the next day free. The stars were aligned — so that’s how it all worked.
“We’re actually meeting today to talk about next year because it went so well,” Kelly said Wednesday morning.
Joining Kelly on the organizing team were Tanis Stewart, Sandra Stokes, Frances Bisaro, Tammi Varney and Tracy Walton.
It was the first time the group had worked together as a team — and Kelly said they learned a lot.