2014 UEA Convention Summary
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia started off the UEA Convention October 16 and 17 with a message about the importance of teaching and a warning about misuse of test data. “I’m not afraid of tests, I’m not afraid of data. I’m afraid of pretending that this test score means something that it doesn’t mean,” she said. She encouraged teachers to “do what you have to do Monday morning to bring joy back into your school.”
The 2014 UEA Convention & Education Exposition at the South Towne Expo Center delivered much more than just professional development for educators. Parents discovered new ways to engage their children in education. Administrators and policymakers discussed local, state and national education issues. Kids experienced hands-on science and reading activities.
“Education is such a critical issue in our state and across the nation,” said UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “At the UEA Convention, we wanted to provide a place where educators can hone their teaching skills, families can explore new learning opportunities, and the entire community can come together to share ideas and celebrate public education in Utah.”
For well over 100 years, Utah educators have gathered at the UEA Convention to share best practices. The 2014 Convention featured professional development for K-12 educators, compelling keynote speakers, a New Educators’ Workshop and hundreds of vendor booths, seminars and workshops for parents, and a hands-on learning area for children.
Opening Session with Lily Eskelsen Garcia
UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh kicked off the Convention followed by a video welcome from Utah Governor Gary Herbert. Newly elected NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia provided the keynote presentation.
“I have never, ever feared anyone evaluating me,” said Garcia. “But now it terrifies me, because we are getting it all wrong. If we get this wrong, systems will fail, institutions will be corrupted, the teaching profession will wither, students will be cheated of their futures. It cannot be overstated.”
“Data is not student learning,” Garcia explained after sharing examples of how testing data is being misused for high-stakes decisions around the country. “Data does not show the importance of whether or not we were given equitable resources to make sure every kid has what every kid needs, the support staff that every child needs, a decent library with a professional educator in that library, decent learning environments. None of these numbers hold anyone else accountable for how well these students are doing.
Garcia described what she called a “testing obsession” and warned that the misuse of standardized test scores for high-stakes decisions is corrupting high standards and educator professionalism and narrowing educational opportunities to only things that will fit on a standardized test.
“Why would a school district, with fewer and fewer resources, be tripping all over itself to throw money at every salesman who had a sales pitch about getting standardized test scores to go up, when a standardized test score gives us such limited information about the progress of the whole child? Why are they so afraid, that they are making bad decisions…Because that limited measure, by law, will force some high-stakes, critical life-changing decisions that will impact an individual student or an individual educator.”
The alternative to focusing on a single test score, said Garcia, it to measure what matters to the whole child…“a creative, critical, collaborative mind, a healthy body, an ethical character.”
Garcia concluded by telling educators “it’s in our hands. Do what you have to do Monday morning to bring joy back into your school. The UEA is doing everything they can do on the state level. Your local association is working with the policies on the local level. NEA is meeting with Secretary Duncan and the President of the United States. On every single level of this association, including you as a member of this association, we are all doing whatever it takes to turn this around. I cannot imagine better hands for this generation of students to be in than yours.”
Garcia was the 1989 Utah Teacher of the Year and UEA president from 1990 to 1996. She began her career as a school lunch lady before earning her degree and teaching in the Granite School District.
Friday Keynote with Ted Murcray
Long-time educator Dr. Ted Murcray shared proven brain-based strategies that engage students and generate positive improvement in learning. He pointed out how understanding the brain can help improve teaching and student learning.
Understanding how the brain works, how people learn and why people react to certain situations, can help teachers adapt teaching and classrooms for success, he said. He noted that the reasons students who live in poverty tend to have a difficult time in school is related to how the brain works. “When people live in highly stressful situations, such as poverty, it has the same effect on the brain as someone staying up all night three nights in a row. Your brain is in basically the same state.”
Murcray encouraged teachers to build an atmosphere that helps kids engage in learning that might be difficult. Some things teachers can do include the following:
- Create a sense of safety in the schools and in the classrooms. “We have to create places that are free from sarcasm and put-downs…There are messages that we accidentally send kids all the time that we have to be careful about.”
- Adopt inclusive and supportive language. “Use ‘we’ rather than ‘you’ when defining solutions to problems…Create an inclusive, challenging, friendly environment where we are all going to be good at the end of the day.”
- Use the 3:1 ratio. “Brains develop best when there is a 3 to 1 positive to negative correction ratio…When kids hear something about them positively three times for every one correction that they hear that is the healthiest for brain development.”
- Develop strong, positive relationships. “Kids learn best when they have a positive relationship…When they feel like they have a relationship with you, they know you are not going to hurt them on purpose. When they don’t feel like they have a relationship with you, you could hurt them at any time.”
“Every time you get a new initiative, think back to what you know about the brain and how the brain works, because all these initiatives are doable if we use what we know about the brain to bounce it back and forth,” said Murcray. “Knowing about the brain helps us to be successful.”
Murcray taught for many years in California, and is currently the principal at I.T. Creswell Arts Magnet Middle School in Tennessee.
The session ended with three educators new to the profession sharing their thoughts on teaching. Denise Ulrich, second-grade teacher Foxboro Elementary in Davis School District, Mindi Layton, fourth-grade teacher at Woodrow Wilson Elementary in Salt Lake City School District, and Sara Brough, American Sign Language teacher at Springville High School in Nebo School District, talked about the importance of belonging to their professional association.
SPECIAL EVENT: Education Policy Panel Discussion
A distinguished panel of educators and policymakers shared their thoughts on how federal, state and local education policies impact classrooms and student learning. The discussion was moderated by KSL-TV anchor Nadine Wimmer. Panel members included:
- Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser,
- Governor’s Education Advisor Tami Pyfer,
- President-elect of the Utah School Boards Association Kristi Swett,
- Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the U.S Department of Education Ruthanne Buck,
- NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, and
- UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh.
Responding to a question about where education policies are best created and implemented, Niederhauser said, “the further up you go the less that government should micromanage education policy. Every classroom is not the same and the school is the nucleus of the community.” He added that “the principal is the key to the outcomes of the school.”
“There is appropriate role for the federal government, special education for example,” said Pyfer. “We should make some minimum expectations so that students get at least a minimum education across the state from Bluff to Bountiful.”
Asked about funding, Gallagher-Fishbaugh explained that we no longer have a paradox in Utah where we have too many children without enough money to fund their education. “This is a hollow argument. They are our children. It is a cop out, it is an excuse. Our teachers can’t do any more with less and our students deserve better.”
“When we hear that growth has been funded completely, it hasn’t when K-3 reading has stayed constant at $15 million for 10 years while we have added more than 100,000 kids,” added Swett. She noted that policymakers have made unfunded mandates and added new programs without funding training for teachers and staff.
Niederhauser said most important thing the state legislature does is to fund public education. “If you want change in the legislature, then you need to change the people in it. We have road needs and water needs (in addition to public education). We took $630 million from the Education Fund for higher education last year alone.”
“Data shows that the teacher is the most important in-school factor in a child’s education,” said Buck when asked about improving teaching. “But what about addressing some of the out-of-school factors like poverty and abuse?”
Gallagher Fishbaugh pointed out that schools are facing a teacher shortage. “We have people leaving the profession because of salary and other issues. Teachers hands are tied by policy.” She shared a story about teachers and students negative reaction to school grading and how this is an example of a policy that discourages people from wanting to teach.
“It is interesting that we are talking about the same things in Utah that we were when I was a teacher…low funding and high class sizes,” said Garcia. “I have the same message to everyone – we are being bombarded by bad ideas and ‘it’s the teacher’s fault.’ I don’t accept that faulty premise.”
“Teacher voices are the most powerful voices at the legislature,” said Swett as she explained what teachers can do to have more influence. “Tell them your authentic experiences.”
Pyfer encouraged teachers to invite legislatures and State Board of Education members into their classrooms right away. “Don’t wait until January, then they are too busy.”
“Vote,” said Garcia. “Be informed and take people with you to vote.”
Niederhauser noted that the best time to get to know your legislator is in the next three weeks before the election. “People will make the difference. You will have more influence if you are assertive but not barb-laced. Don’t let an emotional tone overshadow your message. You will have more influence with a good tone.”
“Be active in your union,” said Buck, emphasizing the importance of a collective voice.
The panel discussion was sponsored by Prosperity 2020, a business-led effort to enhance education in Utah. Twenty-one chambers of commerce and industry associations from throughout the state of Utah support Prosperity 2020.
SPECIAL EVENT: New Educator Panel Discussion
“What I Wish I Had Known! Tips for Surviving and Thriving in Your Early Years” featured elementary and secondary educators new to the profession sharing their best advice and tips for getting a new teaching career off to the right start. UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh moderated the discussion. Panel members included:
- Brian Baldwin, social studies teacher at Vernal Junior High School in Uintah School District;
- Sara Brough, American Sign Language teacher at Springville High School in Nebo School District;
- Mindy Layton, fourth-grade teacher at Woodrow Wilson Elementary in Salt Lake City School District;
- Elliot Lof, a first-year teacher at Bennion Elementary in Salt Lake City School District; and
- Denise Ulrich, second-grade teacher at Foxboro Elementary in Davis School District.
The discussion was part of the New Educators’ Workshop, designed especially for education students or those in their early years of teaching. Available workshops covered a variety of topics such as classroom management strategies, ethics and professionalism, iPad multimedia projects and special education solutions.
Meet the Candidates Event
Education is a hot topic as candidates vie for seats in the upcoming election. Convention participants had the opportunity to mix and mingle with state and federal candidates as they addressed educator concerns at the Hot Topics and Hot Dogs event. About 30 education PAC-recommended candidates from throughout the state participated in the informal hot dog lunch.
Workshops and Seminars
Learning opportunities included professional development sessions designed for educators, as well as seminars and workshops to help parents with children in public schools. While both days featured training opportunities on a variety of topics, Thursday’s professional focus was on veteran teachers and Friday’s emphasis on new educators, including the New Educators’ Workshop. (See the complete workshop descriptions.) Teachers: to request re-licensure points, complete the License Renewal Credit Form (PDF).
The Exhibit Hall area featured more than 100 vendor booths, two stage areas with hourly education-related workshops and entertainment, and a variety of other activities (see the complete Thursday schedule and Friday schedule), including:
- Stage Areas: The Exhibit Hall featured two sponsored stage areas where parents and educators participated in workshops and kids enjoyed educational entertainment.
- Book Giveaway: Curious George and the Cat in the Hat made appearances as kids and adults shot free throws to win a book at the “Book-A-Basket” event. Hundreds of books were available for all age groups thanks to generous donations from Horace Mann, Utah Idaho Supply/Map World, Barnes & Noble and KUED. The Utah Jazz also sponsored the event.
- Kids Exploration Corner: Families and educators alike joined the fun in the KUED Kids Exploration Corner. PBS Kids characters like Curious George and Cat in the Hat wandered the halls while KUED Kids, The City Library, Ogden’s George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park, Discovery Gateway children’s museum, Mad Science of Greater Salt Lake, Mike Hamilton’s: The Magic of Reading, Ready to Learn, Salt Lake County Library Services, Thanksgiving Point and the Utah Education Network provided hands-on learning experiences, curriculum guides and take home activities.
- Pampering Station: Convention attendees relaxed and enjoyed massages, haircuts and manicures at the Pampering Station. “The Pampering Station was definitely a highlight for me,” said one attendee. The stations were free for UEA members.
- Health Screenings: EMI Health provided health screening exams – including cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and body fat percentage for UEA members.
Education Awards Banquet
The KeyBank Superstars in Education banquet included comments from KSL-TV Anchor Nadine Wimmer, dinner and award presentations. The UEA presented the following educators with $1,500 as part of the Excellence in Teaching Awards:
- Alaina Allred, eighth-grade English teacher at Centennial Jr. High School in Davis School District (sponsored by Education First Credit Union);
- Glen Carpenter, drama teacher at Stansbury High School in Tooele County School District (sponsored by GBS Benefits);
- Kelly DeHaan, vocal music teacher at West Jordan High School in Jordan School District (sponsored by KeyBank of Utah);
- Bruce Elliott, kindergarten teacher at Park Elementary School in Nebo School District (sponsored by Deseret First Credit Union);
- Bruce Gunn, district math specialist in Jordan School District (sponsored by Jordan Credit Union);
- Jill Major, resource teacher at Taylor Elementary School in Davis School District (sponsored by Horizon Credit Union);
- Lynn Meek, school counselor at Lehi Junior High School in Alpine School District (sponsored by UEA Children At Risk Foundation);
- Kelly Peterson, science teacher at North Sevier High School in Sevier School District (sponsored by EMI Health);
- Cindy Skillicorn, first-grade teacher at Sego Lily Elementary School in Alpine School District (sponsored by Alpine Credit Union); and
- PJ Steele, technology specialist at Stansbury Elementary School in Granite School District (sponsored by Granite Credit Union).
The Excellence in Teaching Awards were sponsored by Alpine Credit Union, Deseret First Credit Union, Education First Credit Union, EMI Health, GBS Benefits, Granite Credit Union, Horizon Credit Union, Jordan Credit Union, Key Bank of Utah and the UEA Children At Risk Foundation. The UEA also presented 2014 UEA Honor Roll Awards for outstanding service to public education to University of Utah researcher Pamela Perlich and State Representative Carol Spackman Moss. A Charles E. Bennett Human and Civil Rights Award was presented to State Board of Education member Kim Burningham. (View award winner profiles and event details.)
Other Convention Activities
- UEA Booth: The UEA hosted a booth where UEA members could gather information and learn more about their Association. The booth, located in the main foyer this year, featured representatives from membership, U-PAC, UEA-Retired, the Children At Risk Foundation and the NEA GPS Network.
- Gifts and Prizes: Each educator who attended the Convention received a free welcome bag, courtesy of Chevron Fuel Your School. In addition, nearly 1,000 UEA members entered the “Golden Ticket” prize drawing for a Samsung Tablet (courtesy of NEA GPS Network), a Bose® stereo system (courtesy of Access), $100 Utah Idaho Supply/Map World gift certificates (courtesy of Utah Idaho Supply) or $100 Donors Choose gift cards (courtesy of Chevron). Here are the winners:
- Samsung Tablet: Julie Foley, Salt Lake Teachers Association
- Bose® Stereo System: Judy Ann Lee, Alpine Education Association
- $100 Utah Idaho Supply gift certificates: Amy Maldonado, Granite Education Association, and Karla Moosman, Canyons Education Association
- $100 Donors Choose gift cards: Sherri Smithee, Nebo Education Association; Jennifer DeSpain, Granite Education Association; Christie Canfield, Davis Education Association; and BreAnn Russell, Grand Education Association
- Free Tickets: As always, entrance to the UEA Convention was free to all UEA members. The regular admission cost for all others was $10. Each UEA member was provided with a supply of free tickets to share with students, parents, neighbors and friends. Advertising directed anyone wanting free Convention tickets to contact a public school teacher.
Future UEA Convention Dates
- October 15-16, 2015
- October 20-21, 2016
- October 19-20, 2017
UEA Convention Archive