Talking to Rob Leichner and Joanna Schimizzi after they returned from the NBC Education Nation summit this week was like gulping a 5-Hour Energy drink with a chaser of espresso. The two Charlotte-Mecklenburg high school teachers were so jazzed from spending a few days with some of the nation's top educators that they practically crackled.
Leichner, 30, teaches math at West Meck. Schimizzi, 28, teaches science at Butler. Both were chosen by America Achieves, a New York-based group that works to tap the expertise of front-line educators, to join about 60 teachers and 40 principals for a televised town hall and a series of discussions and workshops.
Their big takeaway: Teachers need to push to get their voices into policy decisions and to share their energy and ideas. Elected officials who attended the sessions said they'd love to be invited into classrooms, but acknowledged their time is tight. The solution? Make videos illustrating important classroom work and share them with officials.
"The public perception was that the iPad money was a waste," she said. "We're not using it to look up things on YouTube."
Before she left for the summit, she used her iPad to create five video lessons for her substitute to use. "A good instructional teacher is not going to leave Bambi for them to watch," she said.
The two batted ideas back and forth: What if there was a teacher exchange day, where all the Butler teachers went to West and vice versa? What if CMS held professional development sessions where successful teachers talked about what they were doing, rather than listening to experts talk about what they ought to do? What if North Carolina or CMS created their own versions of Education Nation to bring dynamic teachers and interested community members together to solve problems?
At the summit, Schimizzi said, the president of the National Education Association talked about turning campfires of excellence into wildfires of excellence. She and Leichner came back ready to fan the flames.