By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
As educators, Dr. Jimmy Sullivan believes teachers and administrators need to focus on academic standards.
Sullivan is beginning his first school year as assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, but he is a longtime attendee of the annual Rutherford County Schools Summer Conference.
Educators, by nature, are driven to learn more -- "you feel like, 'Oh, I have to constantly be learning'" -- when, in fact, the key is to get better at what they are already doing.
Sullivan said the conference offers teachers -- newcomers and experienced alike -- a reminder of what their purpose is.
"Time to reflect on what worked," Sullivan said, "and did not work and then just to have a reinvigoration of what your purpose is as you begin the school year."
The summer conference is a two-day event specifically developed to go in-depth with a range of ready-to-implement ideas and strategies to support every grade level in boosting student growth and achievement.
As part of the conference, Rutherford County teachers learn from a hand-picked team of highly knowledgeable, motivating and innovative presenters who focus on encouraging growth and achievement for both students and educators. The conference features in-depth sessions on vocabulary, hard-to-handle students, student engagement, questioning, technology, writing, math and STEM.
More than 1,100 preregistered attendees combined with walk-up registrants for this conference, which featured Ron Clack Academy co-founder Kim Bearden and author Adam Dovico.
Sullivan described the conference as "pretty phenomenal."
While other conferences advertise attendees can learn best practices, Sullivan said the RCS Summer Conference is about getting back to the basics: know the students, know the standards, know the content that needs to be covered and ensure students are engaged in the process.
"Quite frankly, I think we overcomplicate teaching," said Sullivan, who added the importance of recognizing teachers have the heart to do what is best for kids. "There are all kinds of different strategies ... but when we think about different ways of doing best practices, I do feel like educators need to kind of simplify the process and focus on what works instead of trying to go and find the next big thing."
Sullivan added, "What works for one teacher is not going to work for another teacher. Knowing yourself, knowing your craft and knowing how best to relate to your kids is the most important part of your role."