The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation selected six teachers from the Long Beach Unified School District to attend the national Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET²) Convening in Snowbird, Utah last week. Ashleigh Ferguson of Millikan High School was one of only three teachers from throughout the nation chosen to offer a keynote address.
The foundation hosted the event to celebrate extraordinary teachers, to honor their work as mentors and advocates, and to acknowledge teachers’ efforts to engage with students in deep, meaningful ways. The agenda featured workshops on teacher leadership development and collaboration to support great teaching.
Ferguson delivered her keynote address to more than 350 teachers, focusing on the topic of foster children. Having completed her master’s degree research at Cal State Long Beach on the educational attainment of foster youth, she proposed a model for working with foster children in schools, emphasizing mentoring and the cultivation of a community of support for students. The math teacher noted that the average foster child switches schools eight times, and of the nearly 400,000 children in public foster care nationally, more than 100,000 are ready to be adopted. Since conducting her research, she has decided to begin the process of adopting her own child.
After Ferguson’s speech, many teachers and a few potential funders lined up to chat with her. Several others used Twitter to praise her presentation.
“All of the teachers in that room loved kids and want to see change happen,” Ferguson said. “It was very rewarding. They began sharing stories, including one about a student who asked a teacher to adopt him.”
The other five local teachers participating in the event were Mary Massich from Millikan, Whitney Gomes from Jordan High School, Rebecca Burns from Jefferson Middle School, Sylvia Mulvehill from Stanford Middle School, and Jagesh Patel from Franklin Middle School.
The Gates Foundation covered costs for the conference. The school district also is using a $5 million grant from Gates, along with major grants from other funders, to support professional development during the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.