Some local teachers are provided opportunities to travel out of town to attend education conferences that are all about the content area that they teach. There are conferences for pretty much any curricular area.
The large, out of town conferences do have their advantages: inspiring keynote speakers, vendors exhibiting the latest wares, and lots of workshop opportunities to learn from peers.
However, the cost of these conferences are often prohibitive. When you take into account lodging, meals, travel and the cost of the conference itself, it is not unusual for a school district or an individual to spend upwards of $2000-$3000 per teacher to attend a three or four day event.
Because of those costs, most educators are not able to attend these conferences and have to make due with local or district provided professional development opportunities.
That is why it is important to provide local educators with high quality professional development opportunities that can compete with the “big boy” out of town conferences. Even out here in the vast wastelands of far west Texas, good Professional Development is available for our educators.
For several years I have been associated with the team that organizes and produces miniCAST, a local education single day conference that is designed to mimic the look and feel of a large, out of town conference at a fraction of the cost.
miniCAST has all of the trappings of the large out of town conferences: Keynote speakers, exhibit floors, workshops, networking opportunities and more, all at a crazy low price that almost any school or district could afford to send teachers to.
This year’s miniCAST features a local hometown science hero as the keynote speaker: Dr. Thorne Lay. You may not have heard of Dr. Lay,but the El Paso High School grad is THE preeminent seismologist in the United States and is a Fellow of the National Science Foundation, the highest honor awarded to American scientists, just shy of a Nobel Prize.
He will be speaking on how Hollywood just does not understand geology with his talk “Geology of the Movies.” In the past we have had keynote speakers that ranged from National Geographic explorers, to Hollywood stuntmen, to Charles Darwin, resurrected from the dead!
Along with Dr. Lay, there will be over 50 workshops, including the coveted “6 Hour GT” update training that so many districts struggle to get teachers to take. Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math are all covered at miniCAST.
Attendees can also attend the Friday evening pre-conference event at UTEP’s Centennial Museum. Along with free food and drinks, attendees can watch UTEP professors battle each other in a lightening lecture series, where 10 of UTEP’s top researchers have to present, in the language of non-researchers, in five minutes an with 20 Powerpoint slides or less, their work. The audience will vote on the best presentation.
For many years, miniCAST has been held at a local middle school, but this year, it will be held at UTEP’s Student Union and the Tomas Rivera Conference Center, and will with the UTEP Department of Geology’s Earth Science Week celebrations. Workshops, keynotes, vendors, networking opportunities, and more are all a part of miniCAST. And did I mention that every participant gets a free one year membership in TCEA and STAT, the Science Teachers Association of Texas. That is an $80 value, just for showing up!
miniCAST is only $100 for a full day of professional development. It is held Saturday, October 20, and starts at 7:30 AM at the UTEP Student Union.
Registration is now open. Find out all about it here.
If you are a teacher, tell your fellow teachers about it.
If you are an education administrator, you need to send some of your teachers.
If you are an education supporter, like a PTA president, why not sponsor a few of your teachers?
If you are a local “supporter of education” business, why not put your money where your mouth is and sponsor a bunch of teachers? Send 10 teachers and be out a total of $1000. Chump change! Come on, show us that you REALLY support our teachers!
miniCAST, and other conferences like it only exist because of a group of dedicated volunteers and the support of the local education community. We all win, even if we are not educators, by helping these events succeed.
Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.
Feel free to leave a comment. Read his previous columns here.