08/09/06 — WCPS sponsors educators conference

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WCPS sponsors educators conference

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 9, 2006 1:45 PM

The challenge for educators in the 21st century is to teach so that all students can learn, state schools superintendent Dr. June St. Clair Atkinson told a contingent from Wayne County Public Schools Tuesday.

Dr. Atkinson was keynote speaker at the school system's curriculum and instruction summer institute at Wayne Community College. The three-day event runs though Thursday.

More than 400 new and returning teachers enrolled in the staff development training designed to equip them for the new school year that starts in two weeks.

First-time teachers were required to attend, said Dr. Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent for instruction and one of the conference's organizers, but veteran educators also responded well.

"With the changes that are before us, staff development is going to be a prime (target) to get the job done," said Dr. Steven Taylor, schools superintendent. "They're coming on their own time to retool and better prepare them to enter the classroom."

The theme for the first-time summer institute is "Focus on Success -- Literacy: Rigor, Relevance, Relationships." Some educators are calling them the "new 3R's."

"It's important to have the three Rs at the top of our list as we go about serving all of our students," Dr. Atkinson said. She noted that all students must graduate from high school prepared to work, further their education and live in the 21st century.

Calling those students born at the end of last century and the beginning of this one "Generation M" or "Millennials," Dr. Atkinson said the slate of students are different from the Baby Boomers or even Generation X-ers.

"They embrace technology. They can download to their iPods and learn to speak Spanish or Mandarin Chinese," she said.

Learning today can happen 24/7, she added. The next generation will also compete with a global economy.

"We're depending on teachers like you to take us to the next century," she told her audience Tuesday.

That means a heightened focus on literacy, making learning relatable and having engaging instruction in every subject, she said.

"Our charge is to look at 21st century content in a 21st century context," she said.

And while many things have changed, some things haven't, she said.

"One thing that has not changed is the importance of a teacher working with students every day," she said. "It's very important that teachers provide clear expectations and objectives and that they give samples of the work expected."

Calling teachers the "hub of learning," Dr. Atkinson boiled it down to one question --helping youths understand "What difference does it make?"

She encouraged teachers to work toward improving and increasing reading and writing skills, as well as caring about each student they are entrusted to serve.

"I know that you can continue to be a lighthouse in student achievement in North Carolina," she said.