Semester Schools Teachers' Conference
Eleva Potter, Stewardship in Action Teacher

Teachers from CityTerm, High Mountain Institute, Maine Coast Semester, Outdoor Academy, Oxbow, and the Semester for Global Ethics and Leadership attended. Organized by Conserve School teachers Leanna Jackan and Eleva Potter, the three full days of the conference were jammed packed with presentationations, discussions, adventures and lots of delicious food! Presentation topics ranged from diversity and inclusion to student life to deep and transformative learning. Participants also had the opportunity to go on a six lake paddle and portage on Conserve School's campus or travel to the Porcupine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

One of the best parts about this conference was meeting staff from other semester schools who understand our job, why we do it, and the challenges and joys of this work. It was refreshing to encounter this community of other people who get it. I felt so supported when talking through topics that come up at most of our schools, like the model for teaching fellows/ apprentices, supporting students' mental health, and the struggles of creating a successful residential life schedule. This conference was an effective platform to network, talk through problems and potential solutions, and learn best practices from other semester school models. Unlike most conferences that I've attended, I left this one feeling energized, hopeful and rejuvenated. I can't wait to share the fruits of this conference with the full Conserve School staff. (Hannah Barg, Stewardship Teaching Fellow, Conserve School)

I am grateful to be a part of a network of people and schools that intend to support students and their interests for one semester. I especially enjoyed learning about the missions of the other semester schools and how staff work towards challenging, inspiring, and guiding students through academics, residential living, as well as outdoor exploration in wild and urban settings. There were many highlights from this conference but the two that stand out most are the topics on compassion and reverence for the natural world shared by guest speaker, John Bates and transformative learning facilitated by Erik Johnke from CITYterm semester school. Both of these sessions made me think deeper about what I can do better to connect students to their education. (Emily Hayne, WIlderness Fellow, Conserve School)

We are accustomed to being pretty isolated in what we do - there are no teachers around our individual schools who can relate to our unique issues, so we are limited to our own small staffs. Having the chance to talk deeply about common themes with other semester schools' faculty is invaluable. Problems I thought were unique to Chewonki turn out to be "normal" in the semester world, and the brainstorming that happens at this conference is enlightening, fun, and inspiring. The formal sessions from 8:00 to 4:00 were well-planned and useful, and the organic conversation that happened outside of meeting time was also great. My circle of resources as a semester school teacher just expanded exponentially. Thank you! (Liz Burroughs, Math Teacher, Maine Coast Semester)

Thanks to Conserve School for hosting this wonderful conference! It was reaffirming to see and hear that although we work in many locations (literally from coast to coast) and in many contexts (from the most urban to the most rural), we are doing very similar work. All of us are facilitating deep learning that profoundly connects students to place and to themselves, and helps them to understand the world around them. That is transformational and important work! (Erik Johnke, Math Teacher, CityTerm)

 

Semester School teachers at Lake of the Clouds

Photos contributed by Eleva Potter