Miami-Dade Educators Take Part in Synergy Conference

It's summertime, but school was back in session on Wednesday for 1,800 educators.

Miami-Dade's teachers, principals and other administrators filled the seats usually occupied by students, who took courses with one overall goal in mind.

"How to bring us to a world-class standard. What does it mean to be a world-class education district?" said Marie Izquierdo, Curriculum Director for the Miami-Dade School District.

The educators took part in a professional development conference called Synergy. The district is holding three, three-day sessions at Jackson High School in Miami. The first one opened Wednesday with a speech by Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

"Yes, the standards are more rigorous and tougher, FSA is upon us, end-of-course assessments are here, but there is nothing that you cannot conquer," Carvalho told the teachers.

He sees the Synergy conference as part pep talk, part idea exchange, "This is an opportunity to connect, to learn, to learn best practices, to then replicate them in the classroom."

The educators broke up into sessions, covering topics including rigorous material, science success and improving standards, and it all goes back to teaching kids how to think in every class. Critical thinking skills, and how to foster them among children, were emphasized over and over.

The conference is also a way to get teachers excited about stepping into classrooms again, a shot of adrenalin and enthusiasm.

"School leaders, teacher leaders within a school, need to be invigorated, to be energized, and to kick off the new year in a fun, engaging way," said Scott Saperstein, Principal of Virginia Boone Highland Oaks Elementary School, who took part in the conference.

Everyone knows technology gets kids engaged with learning, and it's a major topic at Synergy.

"We'll deploy over 100,000 devices this year," said Carvalho, showing off a laptop computer. The district started providing laptops last year for kids whose families can't afford them. 

"So there is an expansion of our digital convergence," said Izquierdo. "It's tricky, right, how to use that technology to personalize learning, to differentiate what's happening in the classroom, and to really be able to meet the needs of every single student in the classroom.

It's a big challenge in a huge school district. There's no sense waiting for school to start to tackle it.

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