October 11, 2018

Educators gather to "Encounter Jesus and Experience Excellence" at teachers' convention

Lake Union — More than 300 Lake Union educators gathered together with 6,000 teachers from across the U.S., Canada, Bermuda and Guam-Micronesia for professional development and spiritual nurturing at the North American Division’s Teachers’ Convention, August 6–9 at Chicago’s spacious McCormick Center. 

The preschool, elementary and secondary school teachers were excited to attend and tried to cram as many of the 400 breakout sessions as could fit into their schedules, while finding time to catchup with old friends and make new ones.

For Yanina Jimenez, multi-grade teacher at Illinois Conference’s Downers Grove Elementary School, this was her second time attending this national conference, and she wasn’t disappointed. She gained invaluable information from the breakout seminars, especially one conducted by retired educator in the Lake Region Conference, Patricia Flagg-Poole. Jimenez explained that Flagg-Poole has developed an innovative STEM curriculum, S2TEM, which creatively connects Scripture with the African roots of science, math and technology. “Realizing we can combine the latest research, Scripture and diversity was an uplifting experience,” said Jimenez. She further said she was already incorporating what she learned by intentionally integrating faith and learning in all aspects of the school day.

This was the fourth conference for Ruth Murdoch Elementary School kindergarten teacher, Denise Curnutt, who led a workshop for kindergarten teachers. The workshop was a popular pick as the room was packed with teachers hanging on to her every word as she described practical ways to engage wiggly kindergartners. “I was multi-grade teacher for 10 years and understand the struggles and demands of keeping everyone engaged in meaningful activities,” she said. “Keeping kindergartners busy is especially challenging because their attention spans are shorter, and they need to move, and they need to use as many senses as possible in their experiences.” 

For years, longtime Lake Union Education department registrar and now Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) coordinator, Sue Tidwell, said she watched as Lake Union administrative assistants labored long hours in preparation for the every-six-year convention, wondering how it could possibly be worth the extensive effort. Having had the opportunity to attend one she now says, “I am convinced it was worth it all!” Tidwell was able to meet the NAD and other union ECEC directors and was grateful for the opportunity to experience the unique SDA curriculum from the writers and developers, as well as those who are using the materials. “I’m so glad I was able to start my new position with such an amazing orientation,” she said.

Curnutt said, “It’s a huge expense and an even bigger job, but we teachers come away feeling refreshed and energized.” Many teachers shared her sentiments and are appreciative of the North American Division investing so much into ensuring successful outcomes in the classroom.