Melissa: I’m here in Los Angeles, California at the ECET2 conference, which stands for Elevating, Celebrating, Effective, Teaching and Teachers.
This conference was hosted by Lauren Maucere and Heidi Givens with grant money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They give grants for hearing teachers all over the country with 200 conferences to date, this is the first ever for deaf teachers. Deaf teachers from all over California gathered to elevate and celebrate each other.
How do you feel seeing this conference finally happen?
Lauren: I’m really inspired. The committee and I have been working on this for awhile, and to see it become a reality, seeing everything come together, it’s beautiful. I’m inspired seeing teachers inspired.
Heidi: I’ve worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a teacher advisory council helping plan national ECET2 conferences. When I met Lauren 2 years ago in Seattle, we immediately started talking about having a Deaf education conference so that this type of inspiration is shared.
The Gates Foundation gives out grants every year for ECET2 conferences all over the US, you have to apply every year.
Nancy: Teachers are the highest profession of all kinds of careers. When anyone becomes a teacher, it’s a very honorable profession because you have a tremendous impact on children’s lives, not just one, but thousands and thousands of children and students all over the world. We need to have an in-depth discourse on this topic because many teachers work alone. Finally we can come together, share our thoughts and ideas while their passion increases, and they’re ready to return to their schools and give more.
Melissa: Your fight song performance about Deaf Culture was beautiful.
Girl: Thank you!
Melissa: How do you feel?
Girl: Uhh...nervous! That was my first time performing in front of an audience! Thanks to all for showing me what being deaf is like, I enjoyed that. It’s important because deafness is a huge part of ASL, the feeling and expression of signing is something I am SO proud of.
Lauren: Deaf education and general education are very different. In Deaf education we’re bi-lingual, we sign, we have different teaching methods, so it was important to do this so teachers can share.
Melissa: So, when teachers leave this conference, what do you hope they do?
Heidi: I hope they go back to their schools and share their experiences and develop ways for them to continue the momentum that they got here.
Melissa: One example of people elevating each other is this pin that I’m wearing here. There is a basket full of pins at this conference, and if you see someone doing something good or saying something positive, you put a pin on them to applaud their efforts and allow them to soar!