Two weeks ago, over 65 Martinez Fellows gathered for a four day professional development conference full of workshops and seminars held every year at IslandWood.
The newest cohort joined veteran Martinez fellows, and this mixture of perspectives allowed many conversations regarding challenges and overall experiences as teachers of color.
As always, a wide range of professionals joined our cohorts as guest speakers. Among them included State Superintendent of Public Instruction Candidate Erin Jones, Federal Way Public Schools Superintendent Tammy Campbell, and Washington State Middle Level Principal of the Year from Aki Kurose Middle School, Mia Williams. Our final guest speaker was Superintendent Carla Santorno of Tacoma Public Schools, winner of the 2016 Women in School Leadership Award.
With a strong voice of influences, the Martinez fellows were able to delve deep into topics that are close to them and their identity within the public school system as it relates to meeting student and personal needs.
For many, it served as a reminder of why they began their work as a teacher of change in the first place. “I have only been teaching for a couple of years but due to a strained relationship with my aggressive team lead, I was already on the verge of burnout,” says one fellow at the conference. “I feel like a reset button has been set for me and I’m excited to begin a new year.”
This sentiment of feeling burnt out is nothing new. It’s something that TAF has recognized as a real problem and that more often than not, teachers and particularly teachers of color fail to receive the support and professional development and direction to tackle the challenges that arise from trying to meet student needs, district standards, and staying true to themselves.
Some of the key themes that arose included the value of balance and self-care, and recognizing that in order to serve others well, educators must tend to their needs as well.
With challenges unique to being a teacher of color in the workplace, Fellows voiced their concerns about how they can find ways to build a sense of community amongst one another.
Other themes included strategies and tools for differentiation and increased student voice and choice in instruction, as well as the the importance of learning to engage networks of support through partnerships for students. General support around optimal classroom management model, curriculum development and lesson planning, and community and family engagement strategies helped to arm the Fellows with additional information they would be able to implement into their teaching style for the coming school year.
At the close of the conference, Fellows felt recharged. “As always, this is another successful and safe place to talk about real issues that matter to teachers, students and families of color,” one fellow shared. With a community of individuals including change-making industry leaders, TAF’s education team, and the Fellows themselves sharing their experiences and knowledge with one another, the conference provided a full synapsis of where teachers of color stand, and the work that’s still to be done for students and the public school system at large.
Luckily, IslandWood isn’t the only opportunity where Fellows are able to recharge and connect with other educators. TAF offers support year round, and the Fellows are continually exposed to leading experts in education and other teachers experiencing the same difficulties as them.
View more pictures from 2016 IslandWood below: