For UEA Teachers, Being Better Educators is a Year-Round Job

Settling for being an adequate teacher is never the goal of educators who strive to be great. And for a number or Utica Education Association teachers, that goal is a year-round effort that runs through the summer months.  For two teaching partners at Duncan Elementary School in Shelby Township, MI, the summer has become a time for inspiration, learning and encouragement in new classrooms. 

Duncan Elementary’s Nancy Troyanovich, an 18-year 2nd grade teacher at Duncan and Jill Erforth, a 16-year 2nd grade teacher at Duncan have embarked this summer on two inspiring events which they feel will not only help them become better teachers, but better motivate their second graders to be better students. 

“For me, I feel like I have to reinvent myself as much as I can. We (teachers) can’t stay stagnant in an ever-changing society and have to be relevant for these kids,” said Troyanovich, who just completed her fourth annual two-day “Nerd Camp’ for educators.  

Left to right: Carmie Cerrone, Christa MacGregor, Dina Passarelli, Nancy Troyanovich

Left to right: Carmie Cerrone, Christa MacGregor, Dina Passarelli, Nancy Troyanovich

Nerd Camp is as an "un-conference" for educators dedicated to creating lifelong book lovers. It's also an opportunity for educators to meet and learn best practices from literacy educators and book authors. The event, held annually at Western High School in Parma, MI, drew 1,600 teachers from across the state, including 13 UEA educators who paid for their own hotel rooms and travel expenses to participate.  It’s a far cry from the first Nerd Camp event which drew only 100 participants. 

“We get new ideas, materials and learn different ways of doing things in our classroom.  It’s very collaborative,” said Troyanovich. “Personally, it’s given me ideas I can used for my students and has helped me learn new things I can do to help them emotionally, socially and personally. Basically, it’s ideas on new ways to keep the children engaged and get them excited about reading and learning.”

UEA educators pose during the MISD Literacy Instruction Seminar

UEA educators pose during the MISD Literacy Instruction Seminar

Another 16 UEA teachers spent a week on their own time at the Macomb County Comprehensive Approach to Effective Literacy Instruction Seminar held at the Macomb Independent School District offices in Clinton Township, MI.  It’s a full 7 days of training, focused on a deeper understanding of a comprehensive literacy approach in the classroom. The literacy event was also attended by Erforth, who also said for many UEA teachers, summer is great opportunity for training. “We (UEA) had 16 people spend the first week of their summer in literacy training.  We have another training coming up in August. Even though it’s not required or promoted by the district, our teachers give up their own time to learn and grow and collaborate,” she said.   

These are just two examples of UEA educators dispelling old myths about the supposed “part-time” teaching profession, according to UEA President Liza Parkinson. “Our teachers are dedicated to growing in their profession and because of their obligations in the classroom during the school year, they have to use their summer months to attend events like the Nerd Camp and MISD Literacy Program. I sincerely don’t understand the continued thought process out there that teaching is a part-time job, just because the kids are home for the summer.”