In October of last year, Educators Rising NH hosted its first fall TEACHERFEST on the campus of NHTI- Concord’s Community College as a way to expose students to NH colleges that offer degrees in education. Designed as a professional development day for high school students who attend CTE Teacher Education programs throughout the state, TEACHERFEST consisted of various mini-workshops on professional topics related to careers in education, curriculum areas, and teaching methods.
Noting approximately 350 Teacher Education students and teacher leaders from nine NH CTE centers were in attendance, Concord Regional Technical Center’s Valerie Koch, who helped organize it, said TEACHERFEST underscores a real need.
“Over 60% of teachers teach within 20 miles of where they went to high school,” she said. “We believe these future teachers understand the unique needs of our community and will be committed to serving children in their own region. We are hoping that Educators Rising NH will help to create a pipeline of quality teachers who earn degrees in our state and then stay in NH to teach and positively impact students and schools.”
Educators Rising NH is a organization that supports high school students who are interested in pursuing a career in the field of education. Educators Rising NH was officially approved by the NH Department of Education in June 2016 as a Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) and is an affiliate of the national organization, Educators Rising.
Sue Bergman, who coordinates the effort statewide for Educators Rising NH, said she wants students and teachers alike to know there is support for them. Our organization and website offer a ton of resources,” she said. “Educators Rising might be new in NH, but it is a terrific national organization…We want to continue to grow our membership here in NH.”
At TEACHERFEST, nine NH colleges and universities that offer degrees in Education were in attendance, while thirteen education professionals from throughout the state led thirty minute workshops on various topics. These topics ranged from Occupational Therapy, planning for college success, and effective parent communication to STEM education, connecting with students and more.
Other activities included voting for state officers, a selfie photo booth, a graffiti wall answering the question “What excites you most about becoming an educator?”, and “Education Rocks!” where students Zentangled™ (doodled) designs and words of inspiration on a rock to take home.
The event concluded with donated raffle prizes, students sharing their experience attending the National Conference in Boston last June, and the announcement of the first Educators Rising NH state officers. These offers are Laura Seymour (CRTC)- President, Jennika Mannesto (CRTC)- Vice President, Megan Coelho (PA)- Recording Secretary, and Emily Aham (PA) and Abigail Beaudoin (PA)- Public Relations Secretaries.
One of the highlights of the event, according to Bergman, was the keynote address by Ashley Preston, who was 2016 NH Teacher of the Year.
“We wanted her to speak at TEACHERFEST about why she is doing what she is doing,” she said. “We are losing good quality people in this state.”
For Preston, who is a preschool teacher at Parker Varney School in Manchester, NH, there is no career more rewarding–or perhaps overlooked–than as a preschool teacher.
“The biggest challenge I face as a preschool teacher is the lack of understanding about the value of early childhood education as well as what appropriate early learning actually looks like,” she said. “There is ample research on brain development that supports the importance of high quality early learning experiences. We need to provide these experiences and early academic support for our youngest students when their brains are naturally inclined to learn and grow so they are prepared for future success in school.”
Preston said the other challenge she faces as a preschool teachers is the lack of understanding by many as to what constitutes “a valid learning experience” for young children.
“Many see it as meaningless play and teachers are seen as glorified babysitters,” she said. “Preschool students should be playing because that is how they are learning,”
According to Preston, well-trained preschool teachers are able to use structured and unstructured play as learning tools to teach literacy, math, social skills, collaboration, language, and much more.
“Seeing play as invalid learning supports the idea that preschool is not important, which creates this negative perception for us to overcome,” she said.
In speaking on the experience of teaching and why it is so important for her, Preston said the students do more for her than she could ever possibly do for them. She referred to her students as “builders, creators, artists and more.”
“They make me laugh and sometimes they make me cry, but they never stop amazing me,” she said. “The things they can do, their ability to work and learn together despite their challenges or differences, it gives me hope every day.”
To learn more about Educators Rising NH, visit https://www.educatorsrising.org.