Hundreds of Schenectady teachers and staff will gather in Albany on Tuesday for the district’s third annual Urban Schools Conference.
The conference, which is also open to staff in other districts, doubles as a mandatory teacher training day for district staff and a professional conference focused on the challenges of teaching students in urban districts.
The event, which will be held at the Albany Capital Center while students are out of school Tuesday, features a handful of speakers from across the country and about 15 workshops and seminars on a variety of topics.
District officials sought a wider variety of breakout sessions this year, aiming to provide sessions that teachers across grade levels and subjects would find interesting. Some of the sessions are organized by Schenectady teachers and staff, while others will be hosted by outside experts. The superintendent of Ossining schools will discuss how that district has approached some of its challenges, similar to those faced in Schenectady.
Other sessions range from how to recognize a pattern of behavior in students to working with students on digital portfolios. A Schenectady art teacher will discuss how art can be used to teach kids how to be mindful, while a group of Schenectady behavior specialists, social workers and school psychologists will deliver a presentation about the best way to address micro-aggressions and disparaging comments toward students of marginalized groups. A pair of concussion experts will host a panel on caring for students who have suffered from concussions.
“I noticed in this year’s offering more of an effort to reach the different (groups) of the organization,” said Juliet Benaquisto, president of the Schenectady teachers union.
The district budgeted around $120,000 to hold the annual conference, which includes the cost of the venue, food and guest speakers.
The conference’s keynote speaker will be Jamila Lyiscott, a researcher and activist focused on urban education and racial justice. She has spoken at previous Schenectady events and was invited back to keynote after drawing large crowds and high enthusiasm in earlier years, Superintendent Larry Spring said.
“She’s a linguist, she talks about the power of language and the way in which we talk with kids and the way in which we talk about race and the power of that language,” Spring said. “She is also a spoken word poet and has a way of talking that’s compelling.”