Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Taste of Educon 2.6

Post by Mark Pisel: This is Mark's 4th year in teaching HS Business courses, the last three years at Bettendorf. Before going into teaching, Mark worked as an account executive. You can follow Mark @mpise12

It took nearly $20 in cab fare and twenty minutes in the driving snow to arrive at Pat’s King of Steaks in Philadelphia.  Nine of us had made the trek from the Science Leadership Academy, host to Educon 2.6, to this famous cheesesteak restaurant.  From what we heard, Pat’s is a staple in the city, a place we simply couldn't pass up.  We had spent the morning learning about SLA’s mission, sitting in on classes, and conversing with students, teachers and other educators.   We were excited and hungry.  But, our excitement upon our arrival quickly turned to laughter (or concern for some) when we realized Pat’s is an outdoor restaurant and it was roughly -147 degrees outside (or so it seemed).  By the time we noticed, we saw only taillights from our taxis.  There was no turning back now.  So we did what any group would do – we ordered our cheesesteaks with wiz, unwrapped the foil packaging, huddled in a circle, and began devouring our new favorite food in the single digit, winter cold!

                        Frozen Bulldogs, but the cheesesteak with wiz was obviously worth the frostbite

Since being hired in 2011, I feel lucky to be a Bettendorf Bulldog.  Looking back on this trip solidified that view in more ways than one.  First, I work with great people.  It had been the first time that I had spent time with some of the teachers that I traveled with.  Working with students, lesson planning, extra-curricular activities, etc. fill our days with little time left over for conversations with teachers in the departments that sometimes seem miles away from my classroom.  I hear about great things other teachers are doing with their students at BHS and it continues to push me to be better each day.  But this trip allowed me to see their greatness in action.  I felt a lot of pride observing our staff members spark new ideas and ignite innovation within their breakout sessions at the Educon conference.  I enjoyed watching my colleagues communicating with students and other educators, asking questions and seeking ways to improve their craft.  And, it was awesome getting to know many people that I have worked with for nearly three years on a more personal level.  It was great knowing that there are people that I work with that, like me, have an unhealthy obsession with sports, think that pizza AND cheesesteak with fries and ranch is a perfectly fine option for lunch, felt the number one tour attraction in historic Philadelphia was the Rocky Statue, and who are willing to hop aboard a random tour trolley without asking any clarifying questions about where exactly we were headed.  The more time I spent with my colleagues, the more I recognized how great they are at their jobs and what a talented, diverse, and fun group of people I work with.

 Second, I work at a school with great community support.  I can’t imagine there are many school districts out there that would send twenty teachers and administrators half way across the country for a site visit and conference.  I think that type of support for our staff helps make Bettendorf the school we are today.  In the short time I was in Philadelphia, I learned so many things that I want to implement in my classroom.  From framework to teaching essential life skills, I felt like this trip helped provide some answers that I was seeking for my classroom. It also provided a platform for me to connect and learn from people all over the country.

The Rocky Statue and our impromptu trolley ride to see the other, less important historic landmarks of Philadelphia.

In many ways, this trip also reaffirmed what a great school Bettendorf High School already is.  The Science Leadership Academy is very progressive.  The school and class sizes are very small, the administration that started the school has hand selected each of the excellent teachers there, and the vision has been a shared vision among all faculty and staff from the beginning.   The culture and passion for learning that has been built at SLA is one that every educator should see.  Yet, I was proud that many of the things they were doing at SLA are also being done in our school.  The idea of open student choice, the use of technology to transform a classroom, and an emphasis on a love of learning are all happening at BHS right now.  Our teachers are thinking outside the box.  We are putting ourselves out there and are willing to fail in order to get better.  We are finding new, innovative ways break out of our content silos and learn with the students.  These are all staples of SLA and are things I have witnessed at BHS.

Finally, I recognized the opportunity that we have at Bettendorf High School.  Every day, we have nearly 1500 students that walk through our doors.  Our responsibility to each and every one of those students is immense.  Thinking about every kid with his or her own wants and needs keeps us up at night, makes us miss that right turn we were supposed to take when driving, and makes our own kids say “DAD!!!!” a few extra times before getting our attention because we are so mentally wrapped up in how to help our students.   There is truly no mental time off from that responsibility.  But that responsibility is why we come to school each day.  It’s why we need to continue take the opportunity to attend conferences like these, make connections with other educators, and revise and edit our teaching practices on a daily basis.  It’s also why we need to continue to share our story and the innovative things were are doing in our attempts to help all kids stay connected.


  1. Mark,

    Yes, Bettendorf is a great school but it is great because of teachers like YOU! Glad you made the trip and looking forward to what new ideas you'll implement for our Bulldogs as a result!

  2. Very good blog. I was in one of your first classes back in 2011, business math. Later on I took 2 more classes that year and I have to admit, your teaching style impacted me to strive for better grades and have a good work ethic. You're by far the best teacher I know that I have ever been taught by. Thank you for teaching at Bettendorf High School. -Devin Perkins