SEBRING - "Life changing, inspiring and energizing" is how Lake Placid Elementary teacher Jennifer Raimondi described a training conference she attended in May to her fellow teachers.
Raimondi and other teachers who attended the conference are helping Superintendent Wally Cox with his annual back-to-school talk he is presenting to teachers this week at every district school.
Raimondi and Lake Placid Middle teacher James Ashley were among a group of Highlands County teachers who attended the conference in St. Petersburg titled "Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (ECET2)," which is sponsored by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The effort focuses on "teacher leadership, networking and collaboration," Raimondi said.
Ashley spoke to Lake Placid High School teachers Monday morning about the ECET2 conference that "re-energized him in the last month of the school year.
"We know that great teaching is happening all over our county every day," he said. "We want to find a way for teachers in our district to collaborate and share the amazing things that they are doing."
The teachers were shown a video of Woodlawn Elementary teacher Jerry Lee Wright speaking about the important impact teachers have on their students.
"I am a teacher because of a teacher," he said.
After the presentation, Lake Placid High teacher Yvette Scholl said she liked Wright's enthusiasm in the video.
"We need so many positive things because we hear a lot of negativity; It's the nature of the game as a teacher, you have to have a tough outer coating on you," she said. "But, when you see somebody like that [Wright] who is a product of what we are trying to do ... ."
From time to time Scholl hears from her former students telling her that they earned a degree or are going to college or making a difference in the military. "That's why you teach, because you know that you have made a difference," she said.
The school district is planning to hold an ECET2 training session in Highlands County in late October or early November with about five to seven teachers from each school and some teachers from neighboring counties.
After his talk at Lake Placid High, Cox said, "I can't think of anything more important than to let teachers talk to teachers. I am very excited about the school year; we have got a lot of new teachers; a lot of new administrators; I can't wait to get started." The district still has about 15 to 20 teacher vacancies, he noted.
"We are going to continue to work on that," Cox said. "But, we have what we think are very qualified people to fill in. We are using some of the retired teachers to come in and make sure the quality of instruction is there until we can recruit and hire another teacher."