Saint Leo University recently offered education professionals a unique way to take charge of their own professional development. Saint Leo's Ocala Education Center hosted EdCamp Teach 2019 on April 6. EdCamp is a national organization that promotes personalized learning. 

Anyone involved in education was invited to attend the event in Ocala, and campers built their own sessions at the beginning of the day. Often referred to as an "un-conference," those attending identified topics they would like to learn more about and topics in which they could offer their expertise. Participants were able to get up and move to a different session if they found one wasn't meeting their needs, said Dr. Tammy Quick, assistant professor of education in the College of Education and Social Services. Unlike some conferences where participants get stuck listening to a speaker they may find boring or a topic that does not apply, "You can get up and go to the next conversation," Quick said of EdCamp Teach. "You're not offending anyone. If it's not beneficial to you, go find another topic."

The camp drew more than 75 early childhood teachers, school administrators, literacy coaches, guidance counselors, and classroom teachers. "This provides a holistic look into the field of education where participants draw from the expertise of others," Quick said. "That's my favorite part of it. You have so many different viewpoints attending a session. They bring their background to it."

Topics selected by participants included classroom management; parent involvement; social and emotional development; Flipgrid; writing instruction; working with students in poverty/trauma; first year of teaching; and classroom tech tips, among others. 

Quick's class that meets on Tuesday evenings uses Flipgrid, a social learning platform that allows educators to ask a question and then the students respond in a video. She encouraged her Saint Leo students to share their knowledge with other campers and discuss how Flipgrid can be a great tool to use with kindergarteners through fifth-graders.

EdCamp participants shared experiences and advice about developing classroom routines, which provide students with structure. One suggestion was to hold a morning meeting and focus on a schoolwide topic such as leadership. Another suggestion was to incorporate fun activities during a morning meeting: "A Post-it with a student's name is picked by the student, they write two things about that student that are positive. The teacher shares it with the student who it is written about by placing it on their desk during recess."

Another suggestion was to use music as a signal to transition to a different classroom activity. "Music can be used for transitions and students know what to do when the music is playing. Music is played in the morning and students do their morning work with the music on."

Those attending another session offered suggestions about the social and emotional development of students. "Be a role model to your students. Talk to your students. Give them support. Teach by example. Speak adult to adult even, not always just teacher to student," were some of the recommendations. "Don't be afraid to apologize to your students. Build a trusting environment. The heart of [social and emotional learning] is building relationships, so build relationships with your students. Relationships will keep the kids wanting to come back to your class."

Students pursuing their first teaching jobs and those already in their first year of teaching gained some solid advice: "Pair yourself with someone who has knowledge beyond your years and that person will support/mentor you. Don't find a know-it-all; you have good information, too."

Saint Leo University will host EdCamp Teach 2020 at its Gainesville Education Center. The event will be held from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 28, at 4650 N.W. 39th Place, Suite B, Gainesville, FL 32606. For information, email