The Piedmont Unified School District and Piedmont Adult School’s Education Speaker Series has started up again for the 2016-2017 school year. There will be seven speakers this year and one screening of a documentary from Sept. 13, 2016 to March 21, 2017. All speakers will present at the Alan Harvey Theater from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. Admission is free for all PUSD staff and students.
A major goal of the Speaker Series is to encourage collaboration between parents and teachers to help select the topics and speakers that are relevant to the community as well as related to what is being taught to students in the classroom, said Education Speaker Series coordinator and founder Julie Moll.
In addition to teachers and parents, those who purchase memberships for the Speaker Series are given surveys that allow them to voice their input on what topics they want to hear spoken about in the future. The Speaker Series also receives a large amount of emails with suggestions from community members on specific speakers and topics, Moll said.
“We have an advisory committee that consists of parents and teachers from each of the school sites,” Moll said, “We meet in the spring and review all the suggestions and come up with a lineup that we feel is balanced.”
The Speaker Series is supported and funded by private contributions and ticket sales. For any others seeking to attend the event who have not previously bought a subscription, or are a PUSD student or staff member, admission is $15 at the door, Moll said.
The Speaker Series has connected with the Challenge Success club that hopes to give PHS students more input on the speakers and topics for next year, Moll said.
Senior Grady Wetherbee received credit for his economics class by attending the first Speaker Series event, which was “Talking With Your Kids About Race” by Dr. Alison Briscoe-Smith. Wetherbee will probably attend another session out of interest in the subject, not just because he could receive credit in his classes, he said.
“I was just interested in learning more and hearing from on expert on this [“Talking With Your Kids About Race” talk], so that is why I went,” Wetherbee said.
Social studies teacher Alli Cota always goes to at least a few Speaker Series events each year. Cota lets her personal interest or what she teaches in class guide which ones she attends, Cota said.
“I think this opportunity to see these people who are so strong is really special,” Cota said. “So to anything that we [teachers] can do to encourage students to attend I think is really well placed.”
The ideal model of the Speaker Series is to have speakers speak at student or parent education assemblies in addition to their regular speaking event, Moll said.
“Some nights we get up to 30 students, which is a great turnout for student participation,” Moll said.
Speech and Language Pathologist Sarah Ward spoke about developing executive functioning skills on Oct. 3. Executive functioning is the set of mental processes that allow the brain to manage time and organize and plan, among other mental functions. Ward highly reccomended that students come to the talks, because there is a lot to learn.
“I think first of all, students have the opportunity to understand how brains work,” Ward said. “And to really understand how they plan and how to organize. Then it’s not just mom and dad nagging them to do stuff. They can actually learn some tools for themselves.”
Ward says many high school students she talks to refuse to use visualization because they feel it is not effective.
“The reality is, you might think a schedule jails you and locks you into something, but it actually frees you. Because if you can finish things and manage that time, all of a sudden you have free time and you can do all the things you want to do.”