Central Alberta teachers navigating innovation and changing landscape at regional convention

By Sheldon Spackman
March 14, 2019 - 4:07pm

Over 2,200 teachers have gathered at Hunting Hills and Notre Dame high schools in Red Deer to take part in the annual Central Alberta Teachers' Convention.

The two-day event sponsored by the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) has nearly 100 vendors in attendance and teachers from throughout the region learning more about the latest in teaching innovations from a long list of keynote speakers.

Convention President David Martin says the whole objective is teachers from all local school divisions coming together to get better at their profession.

“Learning on how to be well yourself, how to be mindful, how to embed technology better into the classroom or teach robotics better or even just be re-inspired or further inspired into their trade,” says Martin.

“It’s hard to meet the needs of all teachers because in this conference we might have only 20 robotics teachers, so how do we meet their needs, and at the same time meet the needs of hundreds of high school math teachers? So it’s anywhere from the break-outs here at Notre Dame to the big keynotes over at Hunting Hills where we’ll hopefully reach the edges for all teachers.”

Growing up digital in a technology-saturated world, student inclusion and having that ‘inventor’ mindset are other areas teachers will have a chance to explore according to Martin, in addition to adjusting and preparing for political change and uncertainty with a new economy moving forward.

“We don’t want to be reactive, we want to be proactive,” adds Martin. “We have already class sizes going through the roof, but what’s more interesting is the class complexity too. You put those two together with no increased funding, fear would be the word that comes to my mind.”

Martin admits the world of teaching is ever-evolving.

“When you have a class that is diverse as they are now and as big as they are, I think it’s easier to juggle flaming chainsaws than it is to teach elementary,” exclaims Martin. “The amount of stress that is going on teachers, these technology tools and digital reporting, well now parents want feedback on-demand, so how do we navigate all that?”

Martin says the collaboration that takes place at the conference is key for those who attend.

“Why I like the convention is it’s teachers choice, teachers get to choose, they get to choose from all the sessions, they’re not told to go,” explains Martin. “My job is that they have enough selection that meets their needs. We don’t do this where everyone has to go to this one model anymore, so morale is good.”

Ultimately, Martin hopes each teacher who attends the convention leaves inspired.

“Maybe they’ll get something that helps that one child that maybe they haven’t been able to reach all year,” ponders Martin. “Maybe a new technique or something new they can try. Teachers by trade are very much innovators and very much risk-takers, so hopefully they continue that trek because I think innovation leads to some amazing stuff in the classroom.”

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