Sunday, March 31, 2013

Inspired by Monarchs

NCAEE-It's Elementary! is a place for NC elementary teachers to connect and share experiences. In today's blog post, Dr. Nancy Betler shares a special trip she took earlier this year and how the experience inspired her both personally and professionally.  

Inspired by Monarchs
by Dr. Nancy Betler

The Monarch Teacher Network (MTN) is a growing network of teachers and other education professionals that use monarch butterflies to teach a variety of concepts and skills, including our growing connection with other nations and the need to be responsible stewards of the environment.

This past January, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to California with the Monarch Teacher Network. The previous summer I participated in their two day workshop and was amazed. This workshop inspired me to be a better educator as well as a better advocate for the environment.

The trip was an incredible whirlwind that started in San Francisco and headed down towards Monterey. The themes of change and friendship prevailed as the relationship between Ed Rickets and John Steinbeck was explored.  Our first stop was the John Steinbeck Museum in Salinas. The museum shed some light on the life of Steinbeck and his friendship with Rickets.

Moving onward we headed to one of the largest (they claim to be the largest) monarch colonies in California at Pismo Beach. It was unbelievable to watch the monarchs as they hung in clusters. There were over 28,000 monarchs at the wintering area. This was one of the highlights of the trip and something off my bucket list. The monarchs were awe inspiring in their clusters and as they flew (it felt like they were floating) around our heads.  I did not want to leave this magical place!

The next day our lightening tour continued as we headed along Route 1 with its rugged (and sometimes scary) California coast. We explored tidal pools at San Simeon and had out first gray whale sighting. I was overwhelmed by this connection to the natural environment and to the other people on the trip. After San Simeon we traveled to Piedras Blancas to observe the elephant seal colonies.

The northern elephant seals were another highlight of the trip. This event was magnified as we witnessed a baby being born. I was astonished by these mammoth creatures and I found it fascinating that the elephant seal population almost became extinct back in the 1800s.  By 1892, only 50 to 100 individuals were left with the only remaining colony on the Guadalupe Island off the coast of Baja California. The Mexican government protected the only elephant seals known to be in existence. Since then, the population of northern elephant seals has recovered at an average rate of six percent per year. Today, thanks to government protection and the seals' distant lives at sea, the worldwide population has grown to an estimated 150,000 seals.

Our group then headed to Sand Dollar Beach and a walk along the “Jade Coast”, which  gets its name from the rock that is deposited all along the beach. I enjoyed the quiet moments on the beach as we took in the breathtaking views.

Big Sur was our next stop. The group explored a towering forest of giant redwoods and I met my first banana slug. The banana slug is a bright yellow slug that is the second largest species of land slug in the world!  The color of the banana slug allows it to blend in with the Bay Laurel leaves as they fall onto the forest floor. One tradition is that you must kiss a banana slug for good luck! I kissed the one that I found and was blessed with good luck the rest of the trip!  From Big Sur we headed to Monterey.

The whirlwind tour took us to Butterfly Town, USA also known as Pacific Grove. There we toured their fantastic natural history museum and sat on a whale!  We were then off to Point Lobos, with its amazing trail that shared sea life and an old growth Cypress Forest.  I can tell you that I was in almost a daze but enjoying every minute.

Our trip also took us to Andrew Molera State Park, another butterfly habitat and we were able to walk along the coast. The highlight for me this day was the trip to the Monterey Aquarium.  They had an amazing display of jellyfish, showing the different varieties of jelly fish and the differences in their structures and habitats.

The sea lions at Moss Landing were so cool!  Do you know the difference between seals and sea lions? Both animals are called pinniped which means “fin footed” in Latin, but they have some definite differences. Sea Lions have small flaps for outer ears while seals are earless. Sea lions are noisy while seals are quieter. Sea lions can walk on land while seals have to crawl. These were just a few of the facts I learned.

It was hard to believe how fast the trip was almost over. On our last day we headed to Muir Woods.  I was overwhelmed by the ancient redwoods. The importance of old growth to butterflies, other animals and people were shared by our guide.  The Point Reyes Lighthouse that we visited at the end of the day was a true highlight.  It was located on the bottom of a steep cliff.  The steps were the equivalent of climbing up a 30 story building but I didn't let it stop me. I was going to get to the bottom and (slowly) back up.

This experience inspired me to stretch my limits as a person and as an educator. I completed tasks and overcame obstacles that I never would have thought I could have accomplished. I want to inspire my students to the same level.  I also want to help them understand the delicate balance of the world around us. There is a quote from Bradley Miller that “teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as the caterpillar." Children will never love nature unless they understand it. Through this adventure, I learned more about nature and its interrelationships than I would have ever dreamed. I want to teach my students the same thing.

Dr. Nancy Betler is the Region 6 Director for the NC Association of Elementary Educators. She is a Talent Development Facilitator at Eastover Elementary in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Betler will be hosting the Region 6 Conference in Charlotte on May 4th; you can learn more and register from the NCAEE website.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Get Energized at a NC Elementary Regional Conference!

The NCAEE has gained a reputation for hosting an outstanding Elementary School Conference each fall, but did you know that we also offer one-day regional conferences in each of the eight regions in our state?  Each session offers the opportunity to explore new teaching strategies, network with other educators, and earn CEU credit. Some sessions are on Saturdays, others are full-day workshops during the week, and others take place in the evening. Attendees also have the chance to win great door prizes like a Kindle fire or sets of math manipulatives. Registration fees are minimal and include refreshments and in some cases a meal. Our regional conferences are open to anyone; if you are interested in a conference that’s being held in a different region from where you live, feel free to attend. If you aren’t sure which region you’re in, click on the regional map in the sidebar.

Region 3 Conference – 2nd Annual RTI Forum
Earlier this month the Region 3 Conference co-sponsored the 2nd Annual RTI Forum, "Responding to New Standards." This event was held March 5th at Campbell University and was sponsored by Barton College, Campbell University, and NCAEE. It was a packed day, starting with Response to Instruction (RTI) updates related to the Common Core Standards.  Dr. Angela Hinson-Quick and Dr. Marie Petre-Martin from North Carolina Department of Public Instruction were the keynote speakers.

Over 100 attendees took part in 4 breakout sessions ranging from RtI strategies and best practices to Common Core implementation.  We were so proud to have not only the NC Department of Public Instruction, but also teachers and administrators to present throughout the day.  A network luncheon provided opportunities for participants to make connections and debrief from their sessions.  Lunch and door prizes were co-sponsored by NCAEE and Vendors. Congratulations to the Grand Prize Winner for the Kindle Fire, Vicky Temple-Rains from Johnston County Schools. Thanks to NCAEE Board Members Angela Gurganius and Jennifer Roberts who worked diligently with our co-sponsors to pull off this exciting event!

Upcoming Regional Conferences 
We have two more regional conferences scheduled this coming month and one in May. Click the title of each April session below to visit a page with more information and registration details:
  • Region 1 Conference: Instruction in the Common Core
    Thursday, April 11, 2013 – Full day session to be held at the Vernon James Center in Plymouth, NC.  Lunch included.
  • Region 5 Conference: Common Core across the Disciplines
    Tuesday, April 16, 2013 – Evening session to be held at High Point University in High Point, NC. Dinner included.
  • Region 6 Conference: Teaching & Learning in the 21st Century
    Saturday, May 4, 2013 – Morning session to be held at Irwin Elementary in Charlotte, NC.– More information and registration details will be coming soon!
If your region is not listed above, check the Regional News page on the NCAEE website in a few weeks to see when yours is scheduled. Some regional directors are planning their conferences to take place in late July or early August.  Also, make plans now to attend the 10th Annual Elementary School Conference to be held at the Koury Center in Greensboro. Registration is now open and plans are in full swing. We look forward to connecting with NC elementary educators at one or more of these events!

Laura Candler
2013 NCAEE President

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Welcome to NCAEE - It's Elementary!

Welcome to the North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators blog! This is our first official blog post using our brand new blog name. A few weeks ago we launched our blog and announced a Name the Blog contest to help us find the perfect name. We had over 80 entries, but one name in particular stood out above the rest. "NCAEE - It's Elementary!" immediately captured our attention because it's short, snappy, and it fits our organization perfectly. Our mission is to serve elementary educators and students across the state, and we hope this blog will become a place where educators can connect and share ideas. Please visit our website at to learn more about us and what we have to offer NC teachers.

Thanks to Diann Baer for submitting the winning blog title. Diann is a 4th grade teacher in Grandville, Michigan. She loves teaching 4th grade and actually decided to become a 4th grade teacher when she was in 4th grade...and she started teaching in her old 4th grade classroom. Sounds like destiny to me! Diann won a $25 gift card to for her inspiration. We would love for her to visit us this fall and attend our Elementary School Conference. She would definitely be an honored guest!