A Week at the Summer Institute

By Sydney Knight
College of Education Student, Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education (Emphasis in Math)

man speaking in public

When the last school bell rings, what may sound like a door closing is actually the sound of a window opening. Summer, for teachers, is a window of opportunity.  It is a time when they can soak up not just the sun, but also knowledge.

Having been raised by a teacher and practically co-parented by the teachers at my elementary school, I knew this to be true and was thrilled to be given the opportunity to join some current educators in learning about various aspects of teaching.


Near the end of May and the beginning of June, I was fortunate enough to attend the Summer Institute, a conference organized by the Arizona Education Association (AEA), the Arizona affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA). While at the conference, I had the opportunity to participate in many interesting and relevant breakout sessions.

As the treasurer of Educators Rising of GCU as well as Alpha Epsilon Gamma (Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education), one session that was of particular interest to me was the SPARKS session. The goal of this session was to spark interest in the association and develop leaders from the new generation of teachers.

I learned strategies for working with people from various generations (Traditionalist, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y), discovering leaders, managing student loan debt (consolidation and loan forgiveness) and staying organized. At another session, I learned about professionalism in regards to social media, attire and interactions with students and colleagues.

Before attending the Summer Institute, I had only thought of NEA and AEA as teachers’ associations. Going to the Institute gave me the opportunity to learn about the history of the NEA and the benefits of being a part of the AEA.

The establishment of the NEA has allowed educators to have more of a say in the government and is a support system for all public education teachers and educational support professionals. This support comes in a variety of forms, including legal assistance, school supplies, protection of due process rights and answers to any questions educators may have.

I collected a multitude of pamphlets full of useful information that I am certain will come in handy when I have to prepare one of my upcoming research papers for theory and/or methods courses! One very exciting resource that I discovered within AEA is eSWAG (Educators Soaring with Aspiring Goals), a group for newer teachers, who are 35 years and younger.

This event also afforded me with a variety of networking opportunities. I became aware of other terrific events the AEA organizes, including an Education Bazaar where members of the AEA can pick up free supplies for their classroom. The items have all been donated and are available on a first-come, first served basis.

Furthermore, I met local teachers who have taught only a few years, AEA regional directors, AEA officers and even a few leaders of the NEA. Not only did I get to hear the officers address those of us attending the conference, but I also had the opportunity to talk with them as well as some of the regional directors and NEA leaders individually.

Through this amazing opportunity, I met some fantastic people who truly care about every aspect of our education system.

While I may not have been sipping iced tea by the pool during these few days, I had an amazing experience honing my skills as a developing leader within the classroom and within my educational community.

Get more tips and resources for learning all year long in our recent blog post. Think teaching may be the right career for you? Learn about earning a bachelor’s degree in education by visiting our website.

More about Sydney:

Ever since she was a little girl, Sydney has wanted to be a teacher. She enjoys math and helping others. Currently, she is the treasurer of GCU’s chapter of Kappa Delta Pi and Educators Rising Club. Additionally, within the College of Education, she works as a student worker at the front desk. In her spare time she enjoys running/working out and volunteering at her former elementary school. She is a second-generation Arizona native and a member of the Arizona Education Association. During summer 2015, she attended the National Education Association Student Conference and was the Arizona student delegate at the Representative Assembly.  Ideally, she would like to teach fifth or sixth grade. She is working on a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with an emphasis in math and plans on graduating within two years.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.