Regional Office of Education event to strengthen collaboration between teachers

October 6, 2017

MALTA – Jay Streicher, superintendent of Somonauk District 432, said teachers can sometimes have tunnel vision when it comes to professional development.

He said chances are rare to collaborate with with educators from other school districts.

That’s why it’s important to have events such as the DeKalb County-Wide Institute, which was held at Kishwaukee College on Friday to bring teachers together and help them share insights. More than 800 area educators were in attendance to participate in workshops and presentations aimed at strengthening professional relationships between teachers across the county.

“The most important thing that I hope happens is that this open doors and relationships with other districts,” Streicher said. “Sharing resources and lessons is how we’ll all get better.”

The event began in 2015 and received overwhelmingly positive reviews from attendees. Regional Superintendent of Schools Amanda Christensen said feedback from the event had indicated attendees wanted to see more social and emotional learning workshops as well as an overall increase in the number of sessions.

“I think a lot of what they were looking for was motivation and reinvigoration,” Christensen said.

The 2015 event featured around 80 sessions, but this year, around 120 were offered. Topics of new sessions included fine arts, foreign language, English language learning, physical education and agriculture.

All but two school districts in DeKalb County – Hinckley-Big Rock District 429 and DeKalb District 428 – participated in the institute. Christensen said DeKalb has been doing its own in-house professional development, but was invited.

Margaret Jankauskis, coordinator with the Regional Office of Education, said there were two nationally recognized speakers as well: author and educator Jim Burgett, who offers insights to educators at each grade level, and Laurie Guest, a local certified speaking professional with 20 years of experience in the healthcare field.

At the end of the day, attendees evaluated their experience, which the event’s planning committee will use to organize another event in two years. Christensen said it is important that the event is biennial, in order to secure high-quality keynote speakers.

“It takes a lot of planning, and it’s also so there’s a balance between district-run [development] events they do on their own and a county-wide event where we’re all together,” she said.