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Teachers gather for summit at Cal State Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — Nearly 500 educators and school administrators filled the Golden Eagle Ballroom at Cal State L.A. Friday for the Better Together: California Teachers Summit.

Cal State L.A. was one of 33 institutions to host the statewide summit, which focused on building networks, sharing successful classroom practices and accessing effective resources to implement the California Standards.

The one-day event also offered pre-kindergarten through 12th grade teachers an opportunity to share innovative strategies that empower them to impact students.

“Better Together: California Teachers Summit was a first-of-its-kind event where teachers learn from other teachers,” said Cheryl Ney, dean of the Charter College of Education at Cal State L.A. “Teachers came away with concrete tools and strategies and built a network of colleagues from their home region to support future collaboration,”

Beginning at 9 a.m., 15,000 teachers throughout California listened via Skype to keynote address by actress and teacher advocate Yvette Nicole Brown and then later by astronaut-turned educator Leland Melvin. Each spoke about the potential of teachers to spark curiosity, creativity and a love of learning in their students.

In a moving tribute, Brown shared stories of the teachers who changed her life. She also discussed her conversations with friends who are currently teachers. They told her of feeling “unappreciated, unsupported and unseen.”

“[It] breaks my heart because so much of who I am is because of you,” Brown said. “I am here with you because I believe in everything you guys do.”

In a surprise video message, special guest Kid President offered an inspirational and humorous perspective on the important role of teachers.

The Cal State L.A. site also hosted presentations by Local Ed Talk speakers and university alumni Latosha Guy, who is a reading and language arts teacher at King/Drew Magnet High School in Willowbrook, and Lovelyn Marquez-Prueher, who is an English-as-a-second-language teacher at Dodson Middle School.

Wearing a red cape and a Wonder Woman shirt, Guy talked about “the super human expectations that are often placed on teachers” and the importance of teachers asking for help.

“Help is not a dirty word,” she told the audience.

Guy discussed potential sources of assistance and the benefits to teachers and students.

“The speakers offered inspiring and poignant perspectives about their successes with implementation of the California Standards,” Ney said. “California is grabbing national attention and standing apart for our ability to bring diverse groups together to effectively implement the California Standards, including the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy.”

The summit was organized by the New Teacher Center in partnership with California State University, the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities and its member institutions. The summit was also supported by $3.5 million in grants to the New Teacher Center, Cal State Fullerton and Loyola Marymount University from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Today is just a first step towards building a stronger network of teachers across the state,” said Kristen Soares, president of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities. “Through this collaboration, teachers are gaining invaluable lessons and tools they can take back to their classrooms, their schools and their communities.”

“Collaboration is a cornerstone of continued growth and learning,” said Loren Blanchard, executive vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs for the California State University Office of the Chancellor. “The CSU [system] recognizes the value of providing professional development opportunities for CSU’s teacher graduates and for all teachers. Their continued advancement has a direct and positive impact on the lives and success of future students of the CSU.”