|It was a full house at the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City last month during|
the 2015 Summer Leadership Academy.
The Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City was packed with nearly 265 administrators and teacher
For more than 10 years, the Summer Leadership Academy has offered educators from small, rural communities the opportunity to learn from nationally- and internationally-renowned speakers. This year’s featured presenter was Dr. Eric Jensen, a leading authority on the science and applications of brain research in education. The former middle school teacher and author of 26 brain-based books facilitated his interactive session around the theme “Teaching and Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind.”
Dr. Jensen set the stage with statistics depicting the ever-increasing poverty rates, the subsequent stress factors on families, and the impact these stressors have on physical brain function. “There is an element that the education community is powerless to control – poverty,” he said. “In the past two years, the rate of poverty has grown at an alarming rate and now even traditional middle-class schools are feeling the pressure that comes with the stress of poverty.”
Dr. Jensen went on to explain that despite poverty’s presence, there are practices that schools can put in place that can reverse its detrimental impact such as developing strong relationships and family connections, actively pointing out how students’ daily actions connect to their long-term goals, and building academic optimism so kids hear and believe every day they can and will succeed.
Following each full-day session, school teams spent up to four additional hours reflecting on the presentations and discussing how to incorporate the strategies and ideas explored into their school’s improvement plan.
“Too often, in the midst of the daily operations of schools and classrooms, local superintendents, principals, and teacher leaders don’t have time for an extended collaborative inquiry into these topics to the depth that is facilitated by the Academy’s presenters and ISD committee members,” said Deb Snyder, Clare-Gladwin RESD Assistant Superintendent for General Education. “Local district leaders value this time and professional learning to plan for their continued work in the district for the following school year.”
According to Snyder, each year’s theme builds on the focus areas of the previous Academy.
“The conference planning committee members always consider districts’ needs when selecting topics and speakers for the Academy,” she said, referencing past Academy presenters such as Charlotte Danielson, Jim Knight, Anthony Muhammad, and Randy Sprick. “The Academy has gained a reputation of high quality in all aspects of the conference.”