Trine education student participates in Minnesota conferences

Samuel Miller isn’t from Minnesota — he actually hails from LaGrange, about 20 miles from Trine University’s main campus — nor does he have plans to teach there.

But when the sophomore social studies education major was offered the opportunity to take part in the largest professional development opportunity that state offers to educators, he jumped at the chance.

Miller made the drive to the St. Paul RiverCentre to attend the Minnesota Educator Academy from Oct. 20-21. Schools in the state do not hold classes during the two-day event so teachers can attend.

“Minnesota has a very good public education system, so I figured they’ve got to have good conferences,” said Miller “It was a good opportunity meet more people, too.”

Miller was invited to the event by one of the contacts he met this summer when he traveled to the National Education Association Student Leadership Conference (NEA-SLC) in Washington, D.C.

“She texted me, ‘Hey, we have this big conference coming up, do you want to come out?’ ” he said.

The event featured multiple breakout sessions, displays with vendors and keynote presentations, including one by 2016 Minnesota Teacher of the Year Abdul Wright. Miller said he picked up many useful tips from the experienced educators he met.

“That was one of the big things in talking to people: ‘Make sure you do this your first year; make sure you DON’T do this,” he said. “I think those sort of things are really going to help me out.”

Miller said he found sessions on integrating social studies better into the classroom, project-based learning and implementing a mentoring program particularly valuable.

“I want to start a bigger mentoring program here at Trine, because it’s what got me started with the Student Education Association,” he said.

On Oct. 22, Southwestern Minnesota State University, where Miller stayed, hosted a “Power of Performance” event with Dave Burgess, author of “Teach Like a Pirate.” A former teacher, Burgess specializes in providing professional development for teachers, focusing on students who are hard to reach or motivate.

“He spoke about how to be a more engaging teacher; how to go for the at-risk students — the ones that just don’t care anymore,” Miller said. “He gave me some really cool ideas on ways to make the class interactive while still getting the content across.”

Besides what he learned at the events, Miller said he also was able to make connections that will help with his future career. He hopes to run for a seat on the NEA Board of Directors next year.

“I’ll be able to have a say in public education and really advocate for it,” he said.