Oregon teachers gather in Bend -- to learn

'Leadership conference' three days of sharing ideas

BEND, Ore. - Teachers urge people to never stop learning - and they're taking their own advice in Oregon. This week, more than 400 educators are gathering in Bend for three days of sharing ideas.

Topics range from dealing with difficult people and responding to pupil violence to how Oregon's tax system works and how to decipher a school district's budget.

According to Hanna Vaandering, the new Oregon Education Association president, many districts have been forced to cut professional development activities for workers, so OEA is filling part of that gap with its Summer Leadership Conference.

"Meaningful professional growth and evaluation are really important for all of us to be successful," she said. "And to have these 420 members come together and bring all of their energy and dedication to the students of Oregon is just going to be an amazing activity."

Among the guest speakers at the conference is a longtime fifth-grade teacher from Wisconsin, Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, who founded a national magazine called "Rethinking Schools," about education reform.

He said teachers' unions across the nation have realized the need to look beyond the classroom to prioritize social-justice issues in order to help kids.

"We recognize that the welfare of our community - whether it's minimum-wage jobs, whether it's housing, racism, health care - directly affects our entire school, our entire student population that we want to do a better job serving," Peterson said.

At the conference, participants also will examine the problems of racial inequality and poverty that make it tough for some Oregon pupils to learn. And they will hear from Oregon House Speaker Rep. Tina Kotek of Portland.

The OEA Summer Leadership Conference runs through Thursday.

Conference information is online at

Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service prepared this story.

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