From literacy and project-based learning to teacher leadership initiatives, 120 educators in Northeast Tennessee learned from one another at the Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET²) convening.

Six different school districts were represented at the event organized by Sullivan County Schools held on September 29-30, 2017 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The active collaboration on display between educators of different districts was one of the highlights. Participants talked about the “power in the invisible lines between districts,” and there truly was power in the collaboration at Sullivan County’s ECET². Northeast Tennessee students will benefit from the stronger relationships their teachers have built with one another.

SCORE, which is helping facilitate this convening and others this fall, asked three attendees at the Sullivan County ECET² to share their reflections from the conference and ways they plan to put their learning into action.

What is your biggest takeaway from ECET² and its benefit based on your current role?

David Timbs, Supervisor of Secondary and Instructional Technology for Johnson City Schools: My takeaway, as a district-level person, was watching our teachers come to the realization that we have much in common and much to learn from our region’s educators. Having six districts together focused on celebrating excellent teachers, and helping those teachers build the networks that district-level staffs enjoy was the perfect way to continue ensuring students’ achievement improves.

Heather Hobbs, Associate Principal at Kennedy Elementary School in Kingsport City Schools: As an associate principal, I never want to forget the work and dedication required to be an effective teacher. ECET² provided a reminder about the incredible privilege and power we have as educators.

Tiffany Floyd, fourth-grade teacher at Church Hill Elementary in Hawkins County Schools: No matter where you teach, all teachers are faced with the same issues. Teaching is the most challenging profession, but we face it every day with grace and humility. This event reminded me why I teach, and it inspired me to empower teachers to feel the same way.

What is your biggest takeaway from the collaboration opportunities at ECET²?

DT: We collaborate in ways with many of the districts, but this event showcased further opportunities for us to continue learning together. This event has already kick-started several conversations among teachers and administrators that will carry the collaborative spirit beyond ECET2 and into new conversations, visits, and joint projects.

HH: I think the most important takeaway is that great things are happening in education across Northeast Tennessee. Our teachers are leaders and our students are loved. I am humbled to be in a selfless profession that is making our world a better place.

TF: I appreciated the way we were able to collaborate with teachers from other districts. The colleague circles provided a platform for teachers to speak openly and honestly, and I met teachers from four neighboring school districts that I, otherwise, never would have met. We talked about everything from technology in the classroom to how our students inspire us every day.

What is one tangible step you plan to take back to your districts from ECET²?

DT: I’m going to implement the format of the event. We want to incorporate “lightning rounds” into our current approach to full-day professional development sessions, which will allow us to spotlight many more deserving educators and give them a platform from which to share their incredible work for their students.

HH: ECET²was a nice reminder to take time to show appreciation for one another and our students. Teaching is one of the hardest professions, but it is also the most important. Sometimes we just need to stop and celebrate the incredible work happening each and every day.

TF: On the car ride home from ECET², I sent one of my district supervisors a thank-you text, and I told her that I would love to see an event like this for our teachers in our district. Her words were “Great! Run with it.” I want my fellow teachers to come together in my district to realize that we are all in this together. We are all here for a purpose—to guide students to see their full potential and achieve their dreams.Dr. David Timbs is currently the Supervisor of Secondary and Instructional Technology for Johnson City Schools. Prior to joining Johnson City Schools in July 2015, he served as the Executive Director of Instructional Leadership Support for the Tennessee Department of Education. He has also served as the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning for Sullivan County Schools as well as in teaching and administrative roles in Johnson County. Follow him on Twitter at @davidjtimbs.

Heather Hobbs is an Associate Principal at Kennedy Elementary School in Kingsport City Schools. Previously, Heather was a fifth-grade teacher at Andrew Johnson Elementary School in Kingsport. She believes in high expectations, and she thrives to help each student fulfill his/her dreams. Follow her on twitter at @Live2Learn5.

Tiffany Floyd is a fourth-grade English language arts and social studies teacher at Church Hill Elementary in Hawkins County Schools. She has worked as a teacher in Hawkins County Schools for the past 11 years. As a Hawkins County native, she is proud to be giving back to the community that instilled a love of learning and serving in her at a young age.