About 500 people descended upon Crestwood High School and downtown Sumter this week for Sumter School District's second-annual professional development conference.
Learning topics at E3 for teachers and administrators ranged from STEM (science, …
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Learning topics at E3 for teachers and administrators ranged from STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Google applications and technology and cultural diversity to teacher leadership for today's ever-changing learning environment.
David Laws, one of the district's "Swiss army knives," carrying the hats of director of instructional technology and career and technology education, presented to school principals and other administrators on Thursday morning about preparing students to be college- and career-ready.
On the career-ready side, Laws emphasized the importance of soft skills - showing respect for others, getting to work on time and other personal characteristics - and implementing that training throughout all grade levels.
He said business and industry has placed a priority on those skills, and it's a key area where people lose their jobs.
"In this skill area, we have to really, really start with our children," Laws said, "modeling those behaviors in a positive way. It starts in elementary, then the middle and high school levels."
Down the hall, district Director of Teacher Recruitment and Retention Trevor Ivey, a former district teacher of the year, led a session titled "Teach Like a Champion."
He said the three main characteristics of an engaging teacher are passion, purpose and perseverance.
Ivey said it's important for teachers to build trust through relationships with students' parents during the first two months of the school year.
"We only have the children one hour per day in middle school [per teacher] and seven-and-a-half hours in an elementary school setting," Ivey said. "You cannot do what you do without getting the parents on your side."
Before the final session of the conference, new Pocalla Springs Instructional Coach Renee Ward said she found the three-day event to be uplifting.
She said she started her teaching career in Sumter's public schools and served about 20 years before teaching the last six years in Spartanburg.
Now, Ward has moved back to Sumter this year.
"This conference is encouraging," Ward said. "I'm very excited to see Sumter bringing something to this level for our education. We had lots of great presenters who brought lots of encouraging words to everyone that's here."
E3 featured three keynote speakers - one from California, another from St. Louis and one from New Hampshire - and about 80 overall presenters. Some work in the district, and many are from outside Sumter.
The conference concluded Thursday night with a block party on Main Street in downtown Sumter.
Interim Superintendent Debbie Hamm, who will conclude her two-year term in the district at the end of the month, was part of a team that brainstormed and created the conference last year.
She said one of the things she likes most about the conference is seeing teachers lead sessions.
"I think the thing that warms my heart the most is when I walk into the classrooms where our teachers are teaching their fellow teachers, and they are doing it extraordinarily well," Hamm said. "They do it like professional presenters. Their workshops are amazing, and that makes me so proud of them."
Presenting sponsors for E3 were the Thompson Family of Companies - which includes Thompson Construction Group, Thompson Industrial Services and Thompson Turner Construction - the Sumter Economic Development Board and the Sumter Smarter Growth Initiative.
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