Huntington County educators share experiences at national conference

More than 30 local teachers and administrators attended a conference in Blount County, TN, last month, providing them with information about new methods of teaching and networking among the nation's educators.

The conference also served as a springboard for next year's event, which takes place in Huntington County.

Those attending the Schools Exceeding Expectations (SEE) Conference from the Huntington County Community School Corporation included Chuck Grable, assistant superintendent for instruction; Kelly Renier, assistant principal at Huntington North High School; and Paul Roth, principal of Roanoke Elementary. They were on hand Monday night to share information about the event with the Huntington County Community School Corporation's Board of Trustees.

The SEE Conference is the brainchild of Susan Kovalik, who along with her associates created The Center for Effective Learning, based in Federal Way, WA. The center has been training educators since 1984 using its Highly Effective Teaching (HET) Model, a comprehensive school improvement model designed to increase student performance and teacher satisfaction.

"It's all about school improvement initiatives," Grable said. "All her (Kovalik's) stuff is tied to the brain and how it learns."

The use of Kovalik's model has increased since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which periodically raises the bar for student, school and school district academic success.

"It helps with achieving AYP," Grable added. Schools and school districts are required to meet AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) standards as set out in NCLB or face consequences that increase each year they are not met.

HET, formerly known as Integrated Thematic Instruction (ITI), is a brain-compatible instructional model grounded in the biology of effective instructional strategies and the development of conceptual curriculum. The model has been implemented in thousands of schools across America, Europe, and Asia. The model has been used in some Huntington County schools for a number of years and local school officials hope to expand its use throughout the district.

"It's been in our elementary schools for several years," Grable says, adding it has also been introduced in the upper grades. "We're not as far along at the middle and high schools."

The conference in Tennessee included a number of speakers, breakout sessions, classroom visitations and a host of literature and other information for teachers and administrators to take back to their districts.

Local speakers were:
• Grable, who presented "Response To Intervention" (RTI) - how HET allows districts to meet many of the academic and behavioral expectations of RTI.

• Adam Drummond, assistant principal intern at Lincoln Elementary and middle school professional development coordinator, who presented "Teacher Leader Prep and Facilitation Strategies for Leadership - Cohorts and Committed Collaboration."

• Brandy Aschliman and Kari George, professional development coordinators and teachers at Northwest Elementary, and Janette Moore, professional development coordinator and teacher at Lincoln Elementary, who presented the "Demonstration Classroom Professional Development Model," which focuses on the history of professional development at the HCCSC, the development and structure of the HET model, and the benefits of HET for students and teachers.

• Cari Whicker, Jill Spenner, Rochelle Kennedy and Marta Waldfogel, teachers at Riverview Middle School, who presented "Gender, A Piece of the Puzzle," which explored how brain research shows how boys and girls learn differently in the middle school classroom.
During the closing session of the conference, HCCSC representatives were given time to invite other attendees to Huntington County for SEE 2010.

"Mr. (Steve) Parks from Riverview and his students made a DVD set to music," HCCSC Superintendent Tracey Shafer said Monday. Parks is a science teacher at Riverview.
The DVD provided a glimpse into some of the attractions of Huntington County - Huntington University, the Quayle Center, Parkview Huntington Hospital and the Parkview Huntington Family YMCA, Sunken Gardens, Salamonie Reservoir, the Forks of the Wabash Historic Park, the Wabash River Trail and various schools throughout the district. It was set to the song "Small Town" by Indiana native John Mellencamp.

"It is a good product of our work - good attractions and good examples of what Huntington County is all about," Shafer noted.

The 2010 conference will be similar to this year's event and will include speakers, breakout sessions and visits to local schools. The conference generally draws around 200 educators, and local school officials are looking forward to hosting the event.

"We're excited about bringing it here," Grable said.