Special education staffers learn skills at conference

LAWRENCEVILLE -- There are still a couple of weeks before kids have to be back in the classroom, but some teachers are in school this week.

Special education teachers and paraprofessionals are participating in a professional development conference designed to equip them with more teaching strategies in the upcoming school year, said Keysha Robinson, a special education coordinator.

This is the third year of the conference for Gwinnett County Public Schools teachers and support staff, Robinson said. The event was created to provide special education teachers who serve students with interrelated disabilities with training.

"Because they didn't have a specialized program area, it was difficult for them to receive training," Robinson said.

This year, the conference expanded to include special education teachers in all program areas. Robinson said the training is being offered at no charge to the teachers. Attendees aren't receiving a stipend, but participation is not mandatory.

"We know from the turnout that people really want this type of professional learning," Robinson said. "We're offering it so they can stay sharp and find new strategies they can put in their tool belt."

Rubia Daniel, an interrelated resource math teacher at Collins Hill High School, said she wanted to attend the conference because she wanted to learn more teaching strategies. This will be her second year teaching in Gwinnett County.

"I'm learning a lot of information," she said.

Daniel said she really liked that the conference allowed her to choose which sessions she attends, giving her the freedom to focus on topics she would like to learn more about. She said she also liked that the conference is taking place at the end of summer.

"I'm getting back into the groove and into that mindset," Daniel said. "I'm easing back into that mode."

Terri Turner, who teaches third-, fourth- and fifth-grade interrelated resource classes at White Oak Elementary, said the sessions not only give her ideas she can use in her classroom, but equip her with information that she can share with her colleagues.

The timing of the conference allows teachers to start integrating what they learn into lesson and unit plans, which teachers are just starting to develop for the new year, said Tommy Welch, an assistant principal at Meadowcreek High.

"As professionals, we always want to stay up to date with the news techniques and the newest skills," he said. "We always want to stay fresh and new for students so they get the best education possible."