- Mr. Lance Brinkman, 4th grade teacher
- Mr. Marty Gordon, 1st grade teacher
- Ms. Wynn Holzinger, 4th grade teacher
- Ms. Jessica Jackson, Kindergarten teacher
- Mrs. Nicole Levitan, Enrichment Coordinator
- Ms. Donna O’Neal, 4th grade teacher
- Mrs. Marci Shrull, TAG teacher
- Ms. Elizabeth Toewe, 4th grade teacher
- Mrs. Jessica Trejo, 4th grade teacher
- Mrs. Jody Wenum, 2nd grade teacher
For the past 37 years,The University of Connecticut, has attracted more than 20,000 educators worldwide for this highly acclaimed, enrichment-based program sponsored by the Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. It blends educators interested in gifted education, differentiation of instruction and curriculum, and creativity and innovation in education.
Confratute started in 1978, when Dr. Joseph Renzulli and Dr. Sally Reis decided to host a summer conference focused on Enrichment Teaching and Learning. They didn't want it to be just any conference, though. They wanted to combine the best qualities of a CONference with a summer instiTUTE and add a whole lot of FRAternity in between. Confratute was born and focuses on the 3 E’s, enjoyment, engagement and enthusiasm for learning.
As always, Confratute offered a jam-packed schedule of events to engage, inspire and rejuvenate educators. Some of the sessions our staff attended included “Books as Hooks for Creating LIfelong Readers”, “Mentoring Mathematical Minds”, “Understanding and Responding to the Needs of Twice Exceptional Learners”, “How to Organize and Coach Students for Outstanding Type III’s”, and “Untangling Technology”. For the second time, Mrs. Levitan presented a Special Topic Session titled “Implementing SEM: It is All About Baby Steps...”. She was thrilled and proud to share Laurel Mountain’s successes and challenges implementing and sustaining SEM over the past eight years.
Through exposure to differentiation, talent development and enriching learning experiences, the community of adult learners at Confratute are able to share similar interests, as well as foster professional growth. Our staff members returned home energized, excited and ready to enrich the lives of our students at Laurel Mountain Elementary. Teaching from a strength-based model is the best way to educate our children. Confratute enforces our mission at Laurel Mountain to develop world-class talent.
Below are reflections from the ten Laurel Mountain staff members who attended.
Lance Brinkman: Confratute was a wonderful experience. I was excited to see all the different opportunities to learn and grow this summer. It was a great chance to take some week long courses to learn more about enrichment clusters, and to problem solve with the professionals . It was a neat experience to work with more experienced educators, as well as teachers who were just starting their journey with the SEM. I thought it was a great chance to learn some new hands on experiences that I could bring back to Laurel Mountain Elementary.
Marty Gordon: Attending Confratute was a great experience. We were surrounded by people who were the best of the best. I attended classes that my students will benefit from in the years to come. I’m looking forward to implementing what I learned at Confratute. We were at Confratute for a week, and there were plenty of learning opportunities. One course I attended was the Twice Exceptional Student, I felt that was a very validating class. I also gained more ideas to bring back to the classroom. I am thankful that I was able to attend Confratute 2014.
Wynn Holzinger: Having the opportunity to travel across the country to attend workshops taught by the experts in education isn't something I will soon forget! The teachers offered research-based practical strategies that can be used to engage students in the classroom. Attending the strands and making new friends invigorated my spirit. I’m looking forward to implementing more creativity in the classroom!
Jessica Jackson: I had such a wonderful time at Confratute this year. I absolutely loved going to the same class everyday. I have been to conferences where we went to different classes each day and I felt that it was very beneficial to have the same classes every day. I choose to learn about the twice exceptional kid so I had the privilege of listening to the same instructor all week twice a day. I learned so much and really enjoyed hearing about the experiences she had. I also enjoyed meeting and talking to all the teachers from different parts of the United States and the world. I am so glad I went to Confratute and hope to go back again!
Nicole Levitan: Even though this was my fourth time attending Confratute, I was still excited and energized by the experience. It is powerful to be surrounded by professional educators from all over the United States and the world who hold the same educational beliefs as we do at Laurel Mountain. We believe in the importance of teaching from a strength based model, which provides our students with an education like no other in Round Rock. It was also amazing to learn from the experts in education and the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM). It is an awesome experience to participate in week long classes about twice exceptional students or enrichment clusters, taught by the people who wrote the books on twice exceptional children and enrichment clusters. It is very validating and ensures me that we are on the correct journey with SEM. This is something that I am VERY proud of!
Donna O’Neal: Attending Confratute was an amazing experience, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to go. The energy and enthusiasm that flowed from each of the presenters made a huge impression on me. It’s amazing to me that after 35 years of teaching there is still so much to learn. I came back revived and excited to share with my fellow teachers and my students. I can’t wait to begin this year with all the new ideas that I learned. Thank you so much!
Marci Shrull: I am so very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend Confratute at the UCONN campus. We attended classes throughout the day from 8:30 am to 8:30 pm and found ourselves excited about each and every one. The classes I attended focused on reading, math and technology for all students, including the gifted. I have quite a few new ideas to bring to the classroom for all grade levels. I very much look forward to working with the students and helping them reach their potential. Again, thank you!
Elizabeth Toewe: UConn!!! What a wonderful learning experience it was!!! It was very inspiring to see 700+ teachers all gathered in Connecticut to talk about, share about, and learn about teaching and how to engage students in their learning. I attended Dr. Math’s week class about how to teach math for those that “think” they can’t do math. Here we learned COOL math games, simple tricks, and how to use language for math to help with children’s mathematical understanding. I also attended workshops for challenging talented readers and writers and also one about how to relieve stress. Thank you, thank you, thank you for providing us with the opportunity to attend this inspiring week!!!
Jessica Trejo: I was so honored to be able to attend Confratute 2014. I was giddy with excitement when I looked through the packet at the classes and experts. So many great topics and experienced presenters. I wanted to attend so many sessions, I had a hard time narrowing it down to a few a day. The experts were just that…..Experts. I was energized, inspired, and encouraged through practical strategies and hands-on experiences. There were so many great ideas that were worthy of sharing, that we spent time every afternoon and evening in the dorm sharing with each other and expanding those ideas to LME. And to top it off, those experts confirmed so much of what we stand for here at LME. I would go to Confratute every year, if given the chance!
Jody Wenum: Confratute 2014 was an energizing experience. It was a week-long E-slot for educators. A variety of classes offered morning to night, keynote speakers and opportunities to explore other interests and talents from line dancing to the Confrature Choir. How fantastic to be in a collegiate environment for a week surrounded by enthusiastic peers and passionate experts who have written the books, teach the classes and opened schools with the purpose of spreading the SEM philosophy and providing students with the best learning opportunities. Confratute was not only a great learning opportunity but, a validation of all the wonderful things we continue to do at LME to promote a successful educational experience for all children through enjoyment, engagement and enthusiasm. The week long training was definitely an opportunity for me to fill my tool box and come back with several new ideas to help all students reach their full academic, social and emotional potential. I’m thankful for this awesome opportunity and look forward to an new and exciting school year.
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