Patti Stewart (1st Grade)

This conference, Get Your Teach On, was probably the most useful professional development experience I have ever attended. Because the entire 2 day conference was geared specifically to kindergarten and first grade classrooms and teachers. For this reason, all the wonderful ideas shated, materials and activities are fully appropriate for every group of first graders I have ever taught or will teach. I have already used 3 of the many games we were shown and the section on writing in the K/1st grade class will be a model for my approach to writing with young children for the remainder of my career. Because this conference was not just focused on a single discipline, they shared wonderful ideas for curriculum across all disciplines in the early childhood classroom. Well worth the time and expenses, and so much fun to boot!

Sarah Jackson (1st Grade Teacher)

VSRA (Virginia State Reading Association)

I never have had the chance to go to the state reading conference and I couldn't pass it up this year.  A new requirement for teachers to renew their teaching license is that we must be trained in Dyslexia.  I was able to acquire this training on the first day of the reading conference and will now be able to renew my license.  In addition, I went to many sessions that will enhance how I teach reading and writing.  One session taught me the best way to teach vocabulary instruction, another session showed me how do "decoding webs" to make it easier for a child reading to decode words, another session showed me how to use STEM projects to promote writing, another session showed me how to use graphic narrative writing to teach beginning, middle, and end and various writing skills while making it appealing and doable for young writers.  The keynote speakers were celebrities in the reading and writing community, so it was nice to hear from all the people whose books I've read and use to teach with.  I walked away from this conference with a host of new ideas that I am already using in the classroom.

GYTO (Get Your Teach On)

As a first grade teacher it is hard to find conference that focus solely on the Kindergarten and first graders.  This conference was able to provide a level of understanding of young children that most conferences cannot.  At this conference I learned the cutting edge and hands on techniques to teach reading, writing, science, and social studies.  Deanna Jump was the main speaker for the conference and she is a legend for K and 1 teachers.  I was great to hear how she teaches writing and I no longer feel confused on the most effective way to teach writing to first graders who are typically are very needy writers.  Deanna Jump's reading techniques are also easily incorporated into my reading instruction.  I also loved that Deanna Jump brought in a speaker who was an expert in teaching science to K and 1 children and a speaker who was revolutionizing techniques on how to make social studies more relate able to young children.  I left this conference feeling valued for the work that I do and re-energized for my classroom.  I cannot wait to use these new ideas and techniques in my classroom.

Thank you for providing myself and my students this opportunity!

Sarah Jackson

Jenny Crocker (Special Education)

Creating mental imagery is extremely important for comprehension. The course I took, Visualization and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking, uses imagery stimulation and questioning to teach students to understand what they read. Students who have difficulty with language processing learn to visualize and comprehend language. Language comprehension includes being able to recall facts, understand the main idea, make inferences, conclusions and predictions, and evaluate what is read. Visualizing and Verbalizing is also valuable in teaching students to organize information in order to remember and discuss it. It does not just test separate details, but focuses on teaching the gestalt. Nanci Bell, one of the creators of Visualizing and Verbalizing, writes that gestalt is, "a complex organized unit or whole that is more than the sum of its parts. A weakness in creating gestalt interferes with connection to and interpretation of incoming language." I am very thankful to have taken part in this course so I can integrate this instruction into my teaching. 


-Jenny Crocker, 2017

Bonnie Carey (4th Grade Teacher)

Dear PTO,

The Elizabeth Berg Writer's Studio Weekend was an experience that surpassed even my highest hopes -- the intimacy of the setting afforded the other six attendees (now my friends and writing group!) and me exceptionally close interaction and engagement with Elizabeth and each other. The hours we spent together were joyful, intense, challenging, enriching, and affirming. I learned so much about myself as a writer, as a listener, as an encourager ... about writing ...about character, place and dialogue...about being an observer, a detail-gatherer, a celebrator and expressor of the grit and beauty of the everyday (note: read any of Berg's novels and see that I was at the feet of a master!). I experienced what it feels like to be in my students' shoes -- asked to write on command, to open myself up and take a risk, not only to pen my thoughts but also to share them aloud -- the vulnerability in receiving feedback from peers and from one who's immeasurably more experienced and accomplished than I -- the empathy in listening and giving feedback to others who've opened themselves up, as well.

I returned from the Writer's Studio filled to overflowing with all that I'd experienced and learned -- deeply moved, enriched, inspired -- excited to share with students and colleagues fresh ideas and insights -- and forever grateful to you, PTO, for your amazing generosity and support.

Heart full,
Bonnie Carey - 2017

Andrea Brewer (Speech-Language Pathologist): SHAV Annual Conference

Andrea Brewer attended the SHAV (Speech-Language-Hearing Association of Virginia) Annual Conference on March 16 - 18, 2016:

The annual SHAV conference often provides a wealth of evidence-based information on intervention strategies for the school-based clinician, and this year was no exception. The conference was kicked-off with a day-long pre-conference seminar led by Dr. Sylvia Diehl, titled, “Old News, New News: An update on evidence-based practice for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Dr. Diehl reviewed case examples of how to make real-life differences for children with autism spectrum disorder in school and home settings. Another valuable and favorite conference session I attended explored tips and strategies for introducing and encouraging use of core vocabulary on low-tech as well as high-tech alternative communication devices. Additional presentations included service-delivery recommendations for language-intervention in the general education environment as well as an update on evidence-based strategies for non-traditional articulation therapy. Furthermore, I always find the opportunity to network with fellow school-based SLPs regarding challenges and successes in therapy encouraging. Finally, these conversations also reminded me how fortunate I am to get to be a part of the Meriwether Lewis community. Thank you, PTO, for this awesome professional development experience!
— Andrew Brewer, M.S., CCC-SLP

Nancy Ealy (2nd Grade): VCTM Conference

Nancy Ealy attended the VCTM Conference in Fredericksburg on March 4-5, 2016:

I attended the Virginia Council for the Teachers of Mathematics (VCTM) conference in Fredericksburg. It was wonderful! I enjoyed the time with my teammates and I learned many ideas for math instruction I could take back to my classroom right away. I was so inspired, I was eager to share with fellow educators on my return. Thank you for the opportunity!
— Nancy Ealy

Kathryn DeAtley (Kindergarten): Ron Clark Academy Experience

Kathryn DeAtley attended the Ron Clark Academy Experience on Nov. 6, 2015:

Amazing, inspiring, engaging, eye opening, motivating, life changing and energizing are just a few of the words that can be used to describe the experience I had at the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, GA. I have been a fan of Ron Clark’S since I first heard about him from a movie on tv and always dreamed of having the opportunity to actually go to the school he opened with Kim Bearden. Even though the school is 5-8th, I was able to walk away with a great deal of new ideas and motivation that I then brought into my classroom.

Although I have always been passionate about teaching, I feel as though my passion for teaching and learning was heightened after my visit to RCA. Every classroom I entered was exciting and engaging. I wrote down page after page of new and different ideas for lesson and activities, vocabulary to use with my students, ways to really engage my students in school and the whole learning process. I have also changed how I present the information I teach based on what I observed in the different classrooms. I make sure my toes are always facing the students, even when working on the Smartboard. I break out into song all the time. I have students come up to lead a lesson and really encourage my students to show support for each other through compliments and cheering. I tried the whole jumping on tables while teaching, but have since stopped doing that after falling off a table while getting down. I was ok and my students learned a very important lesson as to why we don’t stand on tables.

Another important thing I walked away from RCA with was how respectful the students were towards their teachers and peers. This is partly due to the Essential 55 that are used as rules for both in school and in life. I want my students (a.k.a. the Ducklings) to be respectful human beings, so I have started to do my own version of these essential rules based on the needs of my students. So far we have done:
1. If someone is in your way or you bump into someone, always say “Excuse me. After you.”
2. Don’t take things that are not yours. Always ask.
3. No matter how hard a task, never give up. Practice makes progress.
4. When given something, always say, “Thank you.” If you do not want it, say, “No, thank you.”

Since starting to use these essentials, I have really seen a difference in my student’s behavior and attitude towards myself and each other.

I have been wanting to go to RCA for many years now, but was never able to due to funding. Thank you PTO for making this trip possible.
— Kathryn DeAtley

Steve Gissendanner (Gifted Resource): Twisted Math

Steve Gissendanner attended the Twisted Math conference on 11/19/15 in Charlottesville:

Twisted Math was a one-day conference here in Charlottesville sponsored by the Virginia School/University Partnership.

The premise of the conference was that students should be doing math problems, not math exercises. That means, problems that require students to persevere through difficulties and numerous setbacks, think deeply about mathematical concepts, collaborate with others, and perhaps spend multiple days on one problem.

Carefully designed twisted math problems are more than typical problem solving activities; they target specific conceptual weaknesses.

For example, students work with numbers automatically, and often reach the upper grades without a fully thought-out understanding of our place value system. This problem, recently solved by a third grader, was designed to focus on the structure and rules of our place value system:

Imagine you visit another planet and are translating their native number system to our alien system. Their system has the same structure and rules as our system. It includes only the symbols: #, *, @, &, ^, >

# is the placeholder, the other symbols are listed in ascending order. Count to 25 in this system. Add @ & > and ^ * #.
— Steve Gissendanner

Betsy Bell (Guidance): Wired Differently Conference

Betsy Bell attended the Wired Differently Conference on December 8, 2015:

The conference presented practical accommodations and strategies for working with students with emotional and behavioral difficulties. Information was presented to help kids coping with some of the most common disorders such as ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, Aspergers syndrome, Anxiety Disorder, PTSD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Strategies and resources were provided to address some of the common issues these students face, such as disorganization, perfectionism, trouble with change and transitions, social anxiety, and over- and under-reacting to adults and peers. I plan to share the positive behavioral support strategies with classroom and specials teachers to help make the school day a little easier for these students and the adults who work with them.
— Betsy Bell

Andrea Atkinson (Media Specialist): VSTE 30th Annual Conference

Andrea Atkinson attended VSTE 30th Annual Conference: Honor the Past Imagine the Future on December 6-8, 2015 at the Hotel Roanoke Conference Center:

I attended yet another amazing technology conference. This conference began with an inspirational keynote speaker. “Whatever Happened to Joy” was the topic spoken about by Dean Shareski. He provided reasoning and strategies, to make sure that students find joy in school. It was a very powerful reminder that all educators should keep in mind. I attended a variety of informational sessions, where I learned about Discovery Education, green screen technologies, coding tools, Google Apps and Extensions and much, much more. I also presented to a very large group of peers.

Networking is also one of the best benefits to the conferences I attend. I made many new friends, with whom I am keeping in contact through Twitter and other avenues. I have only been back in school for a few days, but have already shared some excitement and new ideas with students, teachers and administrators.
— Andrea Atkinson

Andrea Atkinson (Media Specialist): VMI Stem Conference

Andrea Atkinson attended the VMI Stem Conference, October 6-7, 2015 at the Virginia Military Institute:

I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to attend the 2015 VMI Stem Conference. The conference was opened by Dr. Jeff Goldstein, a NASA Astrophysicist and STEM educator. He was very informational and inspirational. He really helped me understand how important it is to break difficult concepts down for students. When we tell students the sun is a billion miles away, students are unable to comprehend, or visualize a billion. If we tell them it would take us 17 years to take an airplane to the sun, they can then do the math and figure out that they would be 44 years old if they were to take a trip to the sun and back. We are now friends on Twitter. I will continue to learn from him.

I went to a number of informational sessions presented by fellow educators, from whom I gathered many great ideas that I have already implemented with students. I also presented a session with Stephanie Passman. She shared information about using arduinos with students and I discussed information using Scratch in the elementary. The conference was closed by Dr. Arthur Benjamin, a Mathemagician! He was amazing. I learned that math can be fun. He has inspired me to maintain a more positive attitude towards mathematics in general. I have been infusing more mathematical thinking into my everyday teaching! Outside of the conference, I spent time with 3 teachers I hadn’t previously known. My PLN again increased and continue to learn and grow.
— Andrea Atkinson

Atkinson Discusses Upcoming Conference

Have you participated in the MLS PTO Annual Fund campaign? We are thankful that more than 70 families have already given to the fund to support our major funding initiatives at Meriwether Lewis. We hope you will join these families by giving online or by sending in an envelope via backpack mail or regular mail. These donations help support the MLS PTO Professional Development Fund and help teachers attend national conferences. Watch here as our Librarian & Media Specialist, Andrea Atkinson, shares her excitement about the conferences that she is considering.