COLUMN: Winter Break – a time of renewal for teachers

By KRISTI LEE NORDIN, Four Points Contributor

In the face of a compelling need to prepare our students for a global workforce, I believe we need classrooms where teachers are energized and empowered to teach. The Leander ISD February Conference enables this to occur.

In a recent Site Base Committee meeting at Steiner Ranch Elementary, I gained a new appreciation for LISD’s February Conference. The faculty and staff conveyed an excitement and enthusiasm that was simultaneously captivating and contagious.

For those unfamiliar, this annual event is three days at the beginning of February that the district has set aside for training. In practice, the first two days are comprised of seminars and sessions with speakers and subject matter experts while the third day is spent back on the home campus.

Many families traditionally use this time to travel or do things locally taking advantage of favorable pricing and reduced crowds as this time off is unique to LISD.

Each spring when the next school year’s calendar is published many look to see if the February Conference, or Winter Break, is still there. Why? Because there is always a concern that it may be eliminated.

The challenge the district faces is from lost revenue due to students who don’t return to Thursday and Friday classes. In 2013, these absences cost the district $292,181 with more than $91,00 or 30% attributed to the Four Points area schools.

I believe the February Conference is an invaluable time of education and renewal for our teachers. In the face of increasing scrutiny of our educational system, it affords them an opportunity to be taught.

At the SRE meeting, I heard of plans to use computer apps to introduce more writing experiences for 1st graders and strategies to integrate language arts, science and social studies with 5th graders. But, most of all I saw excited and enthusiastic teachers eager to implement new things in their classrooms. In short, they were energized and on fire for their students!

Former Texas congressman Solomon Ortiz said, “Education is the key to success in life and teachers make a lasting impact in the lives of their students.” Our district recognizes the value of educating teachers which ultimately affords immeasurable benefits to our children.

So I, for one, will hope the February Conference is still there when the 2014-2015 calendar comes out later this spring. After all, what’s good for our teachers is good for our children, their families and our communities.