In just a few days, I’m going to hop in my car and drive down to Peoria, IL to learn from colleagues at the Illinois Reading Council Conference (IRC). The first time I presented at this conference was in 1992 when I was 7 months pregnant with my daughter (who began her third year of teaching this year!) Yes!
It takes a lot of preparation and planning to write sub plans, organize everything at home, and get ready to present to my colleagues, but I do it every year to give back just a smidgen of the knowledge that I’ve gained at IRC over the past two decades.
I have my NIU professor, Pam Farris, to thank for introducing me to IRC. Over the years, I’ve tried “pay it forward” by inviting many of my colleagues to join me on my trek to the middle of our state. Once they’ve been there, they are hooked and return year after year.
What makes IRC special is the energy and enthusiasm. When you gather thousands of teachers who want to improve their craft, you find professional conversations happening everywhere. You meet colleagues from across the state and get a chance to hear what they are doing.
Over the past several years, I’ve had the opportunity to present at other state reading conferences, including SoMIRAC (Maryland), MRA (Michigan), and CCIRA (Colorado). Each time I go, I am inspired by the knowledge and wisdom shared among the passionate, dedicated teachers who attend. In my mind, state reading conferences offer some of the best, most cost-effective and practical professional learning opportunities around, and I highly recommend that all teachers participate in their own state conference.
Just imagine—long before Elephant and Piggie books were in every primary-grade classroom library, I saw Mo Willems draw the pigeon in a room with less than fifty people in it! You never know what amazing experiences await at these gatherings, but I can assure you that you will leave refreshed and revitalized.
So, once again, I’ll be sitting together with my fellow Illinois teachers in packed rooms to hear Nell Duke talk about project-based learning, and discover new writing strategies from Ralph Fletcher and Jeff Anderson. We’ll add to our “to be read” stacks when Becky Anderson Wilkins and Mr. Schu share the latest and greatest children’s books. Authors like Jason Reynolds and Joan Bauer will tell us their stories. Now, that the conference has moved to October, I will have more time to implement the teaching strategies I learn about and read all the new books I’ll buy from Anderson’s Bookshop while I’m there. Shhhhh! Don’t let my husband know that part!
This post has been adapted from an earlier post.