Last week, hundreds were on hand to discuss education and alternative ways to teach our children at TEDxCharlotteED, an event highlighting innovative partnerships that are strengthening the community and enriching the lives of students in the Charlotte region.
TED is a nonprofit devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” It began in 1984 as a conference bringing people in the fields of technology, entertainment and design together. Its scope has widened and now includes, among other off-shoots, TEDx – a series of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.
TEDxCharlotte began in 2010. One of this year’s events (TEDxCharlotteED) focused on education and was sponsored in part by MeckEd, one of the institute’s Regional Indicators Data Partners. Bill Anderson, executive director of MeckEd, expressed his excitement: “MeckEd was so glad to be a part of the first TEDxCharlotteED event last week. It was an unprecedented beginning to connecting the many interested stakeholders together in one room to talk about what can be done, what is being done, and what will be done in the future when it comes to collaborating to improve educational opportunities for students, families, and our community in general.”
Speakers shared their success stories surrounding education and alternative learning methods and talked on a range of topics, from bringing learning to sick kids outside the classroom to bringing children out of the classroom and into the workplace through apprenticeships with local businesses. Among the many speakers, a handful are highlighted here.
Barb Pellin, former assistant superintendent for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Pre-K-12 Support Services, spoke about an innovate initiative at Reid Park Academy. In this collaborative, holistic approach, a handful of organizations are working together to provide wrap-around services in the neighborhood surrounding Reid Park Academy to reduce the needs and increase educational outcomes of children and families living there.
Amy Daniels, director of service and outreach at Christ Lutheran Church, discussed involving faith communities to help children in their own backyard. She talked about a partnership between Christ Lutheran Church and McClintock Middle School called McClintock Partners in Education, which offers after-school tutoring and summer programs and hosts weekly family nights.
Tom Warshauer, community and commerce manager for the City of Charlotte's Neighborhood & Business Services, spoke about a partnership between the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Winterfield Elementary School, and the surrounding neighborhood. Through this partnership, the students at Winterfield have been introduced to the violin and music has been integrated into after-school programs and students' lives outside of school with great success. Winterfield is a diverse school with children coming from many different cultural backgrounds, but music has proven to be a common language that is bringing the student body together.
Views from the inside
Frederico Rios gave his perspective as a Latino in the education system and how the small number of Hispanic and African-American teachers, principals and administrators has left a scarcity of role models for Hispanic and African-American kids. As a Latino, he has been able to connect with Hispanic students and become one of these sought-after role models. He described the transformation he has seen in his students, when they observe his success and raise their expectations for their own futures and careers.
India Gregory, an honor student at Olympic High School, spoke about how the nontraditional environment at her school enabled her to understand theories and concepts, by applying what she learned rather than regurgitating facts on a written exam. She explained that learning to apply concepts builds problem solving skills and focuses on teamwork, two things employers seek in their employees.
Another student, Emily Serenius, shared her story, in which art classes helped her find the creativity other required courses stifled. She lamented the fact that many students will miss the opportunity to find what inspires them because arts and music classes are not required.
Other speakers discussed the ever-growing role of technology in education and how new tools are allowing students to learn in more creative ways, increasing test scores and confidence in students who are eager to learn.
In addition to the many speakers, participants spent the afternoon talking in small groups about how the community can do more to improve the state of education in Charlotte. Discussion about how to turn ideas into action filled the room. At the close, everyone was challenged to do their part and find their own way to make a difference in this critical facet of the community.