Teachers’ Voices Matter

By Sheryl Gasque'

I recently experienced one of the proudest and most poignant moments of my career as an educator during the Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET2) convening, a teacher-inspired, teacher-led conference held Nov. 7 and 8 at the Mid-South Convention Center in Robinsonville, Miss.

About 100 of Shelby County Schools’ top-performing teachers gathered to celebrate and elevate our profession, one that touches the lives of virtually every child in our society.

Sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the conference was tailored especially for educators, offering acts of appreciation, gifts and inspirational and motivational workshops to support their continued excellence in the classroom.

Everyone wants to feel appreciated, and during the event, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson addressed attendees and commended them for their commitment to rarely celebrated, but such life-changing work.

“I know you all do not hear it enough … thank you, thank you, thank you for what you do every single day,” he said.

The most unique aspect of the conference was that it stemmed from the collaborative work and vision of a group of legacy Shelby County Schools and Memphis City Schools teachers, who participated last winter in a national ECET2 Conference hosted by the Gates Foundation in San Diego. I had the pleasure of serving as chairperson to this team of phenomenal educators.

The planning committee maintained their high standards of effective teaching in the classroom while working diligently late nights and early mornings to design the conference even during the district’s transition into unified Shelby County Schools. Our goal was to keep our profession innovative and vibrant by providing tools to attendees from other esteemed educators across the country, as well as our qualified district administrators.

Vicki Phillips, director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said that the conference gave teachers access to their most valuable existing resource: each other. It’s true that no one understands teaching better than teachers.

The feedback from ECET2 attendees was phenomenal. Our teachers felt celebrated, elevated and inspired. The conference was wrapped up with a hunger to carry that momentum back to their students.

It’s critical that we continue to work together to support every teacher in every classroom. We owe it to them, and we owe it to our children and community.

Sheryl Gasque’ is chairperson of the Shelby County Schools ECET2 Conference.