Each year, Teach For America South Carolina (TFASC) supports teachers by offering two conferences during fall semester and spring semester that foster their professional development and improve student performance.
Originally planned for March 2020, TFASC’s spring conference shifted to a virtual program on April 4 because of the global pandemic. The spring conference theme was centered on restorative justice. Following opening remarks by TFASC Executive Director Troy D. Evans, morning and afternoon sessions featured Restorative Empowerment for Youth Co-founder Udoro Gatewood to discuss “Beyond Restorative Justice 101: Community Is Established, Now What?”
“During our spring conference, we examined how our teachers are continuing to build relationships with students and engaging students on what it looks like to restore relationships within a classroom community,” said Tess Holt, senior managing director of leadership development at TFASC. “When students are partners in their education, it builds not only investment, but students are intrinsically motivated to be their best selves academically, socially, and emotionally.”
Research shows that students of color are disproportionately sent to administrators’ offices (U.S. Department of Education). According to Gatewood, “Restorative justice is a philosophy of building community and repairing harm to hold each other in our humanity.”
“One of the best aspects from our conferences is that our teachers have an opportunity to build community across their cohorts. At our professional development conferences, some of the best and brightest minds gather to share ideas and best practices from their classrooms,” added Holt. “You can see our teachers’ growth when they leave the conference, which will help them throughout their career.”
TFASC’s upcoming fall conference will feature a similar format as this spring conference, but the program will be focused on relevant content for first-year teachers, including how to translate summer institute training in the classroom.