Summit on Nevada Education Celebrates Collaboration
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the third annual Summit on Nevada Education hosted by the College of Education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). I was invited to attend the gathering by Dean Kim Metcalf, a member of the AACTE Board of Directors, and was delighted to witness the excitement of participants who shared and discussed their work to improve education across the state.
As I entered the student union on the UNLV campus, I followed the laughter and energy to find the ballroom. The excitement and synergy was palpable among attendees as they gathered, grabbed coffee, and greeted one another. The introductions began, and I was impressed with the numerous video greetings from Nevada senators and representatives as well as from Governor Brian Sandoval. These dignitaries were teeming with pride over the collaborative efforts under way to elevate education in Nevada. They recognized the ongoing work and articulated future directions for preparing teachers with the “next, best practices.”
The celebratory, cooperative tone provided a framework for the day’s discussions of common “problems of practice” experienced by educators. One such topic was trauma and how it manifests in the school environment, discussed in a keynote by Karen Gross. This riveting and candid presentation explored educators’ responsibility for addressing this issue as an academic concern. Her keynote was followed by a profound performance from the “Toe Tag Monologues,” an education-based youth theatre group, which brought the conversation into our hearts as a human issue.
Members of the audience, spanning a variety of educational roles, clearly shared a strong sense of purpose for the quality of teachers and teacher preparation in the state. This combined agency laid the foundation for dialogue and relationship building around the issues facing Nevada educators. Several moderated panels allowed for further engagement in compelling topics familiar to every educator, such as inadequate funding, declining enrollment, and poverty. While speakers defined the problems forthrightly, the celebratory air endured, creating a sense of hope that, indeed, we can address these issues together.
Mike Taake, a middle school teacher at Fremont Middle School, noted in his comments that he loved his job because of the challenges. “I get a front row seat to changing the future,” he noted.
In his address, Dean Metcalf shared his vision for continuous renewal fueled by constant attention to what could be done better – what he calls “next” rather than “best” practice. He said it is a moral imperative to give every child the very best teachers we can produce, and the job of teacher preparation programs is to deliver on that promise. He described the necessity of cooperative school-university partnerships to achieve the best outcomes for students.
It was an engaging day, filled with reflection, celebration, and charting courses for the future. The summit struck me as a great way for a college of education to engage its colleagues and community in the work of preparing the best teachers for the next generation of students. Perhaps it is a model that others will emulate!
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