Marcos Navas was going to quit his profession as an educator in Union City to work on Wall Street, but after he went to an EdCamp meeting, he was inspired to start his own.
He and four other local teachers – including North Bergen resident, teacher and former North Bergen Children’s Librarian Krista Welz – have been inspired by EdCamp, a global network of teachers and administrators banding together to teach one another tips and tricks for the classroom.
EdCamp was created by teachers in Pennsylvania in 2010. The first EdCamp informal meeting for teachers was held in Philadelphia. Each meeting is independently organized and hosted by teachers or administrators who create an account with EdCamp, and the meetings are free to participants.
EdCamp has different sections for different types of teachers, like EdCamp Urban for those in urban areas, EdCamp STEAM for those involved in science, technology, engineering, and the arts and math, and many others. Teachers who attend the meeting get five hours towards their Professional Development Plans which is part of teacher training.
The meetings are meant to keep teachers from all over connected with each other and with upcoming techniques, and that’s why Navas wanted to start hosting EdCamp Urban meetings. The conversations are all interactive and highly participatory. Suggestions could include teaching techniques, active classroom designs like a makerspace, or keeping in touch with other teachers on Twitter.
“Teachers are experts in their field, and that’s what we share.” – Dan Borghoff.
Bibiana Prada, a West New York educator for eight years, said, “I would like the experience to reach teachers here. That’s why we decided to bring it to Hudson County for those who normally don’t have connections outside of the urban area.”
The group met on Twitter, and after individually attending EdCamp meetings, they wanted to bring the meetings to Hudson County in order to connect with other educators. Navas has been teaching in Union City for 15 years.
Prada lived in West New York for over 25 years. EdCamp Urban has slightly reached outside of Hudson County because one of the members, Dan Borghoff, teaches in Paterson.
“Other traditional conferences charge thousands of dollars out of the school budget,” Burgoff said. He’s been to nine other EdCamp meetings. “I started going to them in Philadelphia, but I think New Jersey has the best network of teachers,” Borghoff said.
Traditional teacher conferences are usually presented by a business professional, not a teaching professional. “This way, teachers are a little removed from business,” Navas said.
“It’s teachers all together, no businesses and no companies,” Welz said.
Navas added, “There are a huge number of teachers that are not connected.”
“Teachers are experts in their field, and that’s what we share,” Borghoff said.
What to expect
“In these meetings everyone has a choice, and everyone chooses what to learn,” Welz said.
The use of technology is often considered at the meetings, since most classes are using computers, and other forms. Welz said, “Some teachers are set in their ways, and avoid technology.”
“Most are veterans, or anti-technology, and the new teachers are trying to break that gap,” Borghoff said.
Other topics include Do-It-Yourself techniques to provide students with interactive learning like a makerspace. “We’re also trying to teach them ways to be more sustainable by making as much stuff as you can without wasting much money,” Welz said. “Instead of buying something, you can make it.”
After this meeting, EdCamp Urban can expect at least one more during this school year.
“We’re open to public schools, charter schools, those going to become teachers, and all educators of any level,” Welz said.
“We all support each other,” Prada added.
The group members also said that these meetings have changed their lives as educators, and for Navas overall. “The meetings have helped me grow as an educator, and I was exposed to an array of opportunity,” Prada said.
“It reenergizes you,” Prada added.
Welz said, “EdCamp has brought me to further promote libraries and schools. I push books in my class. My classroom has a half-and-half ratio with half books and half technology, and I want to keep it like that.”
Borghoff said, “We want people to come out to meet motivated educators, and to grow as teachers. They can find people who are locals, and ask questions too, because they’re interested in sharing what’s there. Sharing information is amazing.”
The EdCamp Urban free meeting is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 2500 Kennedy Blvd. in Union City. There will be free food and drinks provided. Free parking is available in the high school parking garage one block south of the school.