Mobile County Public Schools presented its first-ever Learning Launch conference in downtown Mobile this week for 4,000 teachers from all 90 schools. Teachers smiled and hugged and gave each other high-fives as they greeted each other and the 2023-24 school year.
Together, they are all #AimingForExcellence.
"It's a good energy," Baker High theatre teacher Eric Browne told Fox 10. "I'm excited for the new year."
Browne said it was great seeing his school colleagues that he hadn't seen all summer as well as friends from other schools. He said he also appreciated learning new instructional strategies that can help his students.
The conference featured national education experts, practical tips on how to engage students in their learning, strategies for increasing student achievement, updates on state academic standards, and more.
"It's about being intentional about your teaching," Causey Middle School math teacher Janeka Eades told WKRG.
The professional development sessions took place in the Convention Center, Riverview Plaza Hotel, and the Battle House. The keynote sessions focused on “The New Art and Science of Teaching” by Robert J. Marzano, a book that offers research-based instructional strategies to help students learn effectively. Administrators and teachers were bused in from each school for the two-day conference.
Superintendent Chresal D. Threadgill wrote in a note to all 4,000 teachers that he was thrilled to kick off the year in a conference setting in beautiful downtown Mobile.
"We have a growth mindset in our district, and we believe that positive progress is the goal for everyone - students, teachers and administrators," he wrote. "Regardless of our position or title, there is always room to grow.
"I am so excited to begin this school year with YOU!"
The Learning Launch conference had been in the works for nearly a year, according to Dynette Ballard, the district’s Coordinator of Professional Learning and Assessment. MCPSS added four additional professional development days to the academic calendar at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year, Ballard said. Conference planners evaluated feedback from throughout the district before deciding to focus on student engagement.
“We looked for things that were applicable to teachers and administrators,” she said.
The Learning Launch conference was also an opportunity to familiarize principals and teachers with the newly implemented Alabama Teacher Observation Tool, which is conducted by principals and intended to be a source of support, Ballard said. “Teachers weren’t aware of the purpose; it’s meant to support them and their work in the classroom,” she said.
The training also included details about the district’s Problem Solving Team process, and assistance with data analysis. MCPSS teachers may access two different platforms, Performance Matters and iReady, in which they may evaluate student data to help them improve their instructional techniques.
School staffs were kept together during the sessions, and principals were encouraged to use the event as a chance for team-building. Many school staffs wore matching T-shirts with their school’s logos and mottos. The conference organizers wanted school staffs to work together, but they also wanted them to interact with schools from all over Mobile County, Ballard said.
“There are not a lot of opportunities for our teachers to collaborate in that way on such a large scale," she said.
Ballard said she had already heard from several principals who enjoyed the opportunity to learn alongside their teachers and to be active participants during the professional development experience.
“A lot of them used the time riding the buses from their schools here to do some team-building and to start establishing those relationships and set goals for the upcoming school year,” she said.