Hundreds of teachers from across Orange County and the region came to Cal State Fullerton for the first-of-its-kind “Better Together: California Teachers Summit” to hear messages of resilience, persistence and, most of all, how to be inspiring and engaging in their classrooms.
NASA astronaut and STEM educator Leland Melvin, who delivered the afternoon keynote address at the July 31 event, perhaps summed it up best:
“If you are not inspired, you cannot inspire,” he said during his telecast talk to teachers at 33 sites across the state, including CSUF. Melvin, who shared his personal story of how failure taught him to work even harder to achieve and reach for the stars, told teachers that they must band together to advance the next generation of explorers.
“Spark passion,” said Melvin, who came to campus for a reception following the summit. “If kids see you are inspired and passionate, kids will follow.”
An estimated 15,000 California teachers came together statewide for the free, daylong event and shared best practices to teach the new California Standards in math and English language arts.
High school math teacher and CSUF alumna Sohayla Lajevardi ’13 (M.S. education-secondary education) facilitated one of many of the day’s EdCamp sessions — a model of professional learning featuring breakout sessions of teachers sharing ideas and innovative strategies — on how student success begins with them.
“It starts with the teacher; if you welcome challenges, learn from criticism and don’t give up, you can motivate your students to have that same mindset,” said Lajevardi.
Three “Ed Talks” were presented, including one by alumnus Richard Torres ’97, ’04 (B.A. English, M.S. education-educational administration), a sixth-grade teacher at Cambridge Elementary School in Orange, who shared a lesson on teaching his students to become resilient, while implementing the new state standards.
“No matter the obstacles, [students] need to know that quitting is not an option,” said Torres.
Actress and teacher advocate Yvette Nicole Brown gave a heartfelt morning keynote address, sharing how teachers gave her the confidence to never give up on her dreams. “Teachers can change the trajectory of lives, with just little things,” she said.
Special guest Kid President offered an inspirational and humorous perspective on the important role of teachers. He called the educators a “roomful of awesome” and that each of them “is shaping the world.”
CSUF President Mildred García offered closing remarks and thanked the educators for the positive impact they make in children’s lives.
“The success of the state is in your hands. You are the ones preparing the leaders, the people who will move California forward to once again be No. 1 in education,” said García. “Thank you so much for the dedication you have for our children. You are, really, the she-roes and heroes of our nation.”
California State University, New Teacher Center and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities and its member institutions partnered to organize the event. The summit was co-sponsored by the California Department of Education and supported by grants to CSUF, New Teacher Center and Loyola Marymount University from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the S. D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation and the Silver Giving Foundation.
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