DES MOINES, Iowa — Before the new school year starts, teachers from across the nation are learning some new skills to take with them into the classroom.
Hundreds of educators from 27 different states are expected to attend the Summit on School Climate and Culture.
“The focus here is really how do teachers, how do principals, how do counselors deal with issues, set up an environment in their classrooms to be more aware and more responsive of all the different needs and sometimes challenges that students bring to school with them,” Des Moines Public Schools Director of Communications and Public Affairs Phil Roeder said.
Educators say this conference creates a safe space to learn and discuss difficult topics.
“At their school they may not feel as safe to share some of those biases that they have experienced in their past because they’re working with their colleagues. Those are the people they have to work with all the time, and they don’t want other people to think differently of them. And it’s important that we struggle with those issues and that we really tackle them in order to improve. If we don’t, then we are not going to get the results we need in our schools,” Des Moines Education Association President Joshua Brown said.
Teachers say they deal with all sorts of issues including, race, gender identity, mental health and trauma on top of the curriculum.
“What kind of trauma is going on in their life, what kind of things are happening at home, and just bridging that gap between the expectations and standards at home versus those in the school building and in the classroom,” McCombs Middle School Associate Principal Sarai Tillinghast said.
One teacher says she has always tried to create a safe space for her students, and she will keep learning how to make it even better.
“So that they can come to you if they need help. They can come to you with problems and school is not scary but a place where they feel comfortable and have hope,” Hoyt Middle School teacher Sara Earleywine said.
The conference has one more full day of speakers and workshops. By next Friday, many of those teachers will be back in school putting what they learned into practice.