Making Strides in Professional Development for Educators in Baldwin County

More than 1,000 Baldwin County educators came together at the 2021 Gulf Regional Innovative Teaching Conference (GRITC) – a professional development conference for teachers by teachers.  The three-day event was held July 19 – 21 and hosted at Fairhope Middle School. The conference kicked off with a keynote speaker and was followed by 16 55-minute sessions. From the 15+ sections offered for each session, teachers and administrators curated unique schedules that fit their grade level, school, discipline and interests. Canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, GRITC is the only regional conference in the area and has had success for the last 14 years.

GRITC embodies Baldwin County Education Coalition (BCEC) ’s core value of elevating our educators, “Our teachers are on the front lines every day changing the lives of our children. It’s important that we invest in them and equip them with the professional development and resources needed to be the best they can be,” said Terry Burkle, Executive Director of BCEC. BCEC partners with Baldwin County Public Schools as its non-profit arm to engage the business community and create opportunities to support its teachers, students and schools through sponsorships and annual investor opportunities.

GRITC organizers Jerry King and Katie Nettles spent the year recruiting Baldwin County teachers to share their particular or innovative teaching strategies at the conference to provide state-of-the-art sessions for attendees. “Many of the teachers we recruit wouldn’t have the confidence to come to us on their own to present,” said Nettles. “However, after presenting, they are often surprised by their performance and walk away with a sense of pride and accomplishment. They realize their work is important, and that confidence goes back with them into the classroom.” For those who attended, King hopes they walked away from the conference reinspired that learning conferences can be fun and take various aspects from the sessions to help build impactful and enjoyable lesson plans for their students.

Keynote speaker and founder of Know the Hope Foundation, Tammy Vice, shared her story with attendees. A mother to a daughter with Autism, Vice’s message of finding the gift, potential and ability in everyone and not discounting others for their differences spoke to those listening, “I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room,” said Nettles. In addition, sponsors Bryant Bank, Wolf Bay Lodge and Trustmark Bank catered one of the three days of lunches for teachers and administrators – who typically must pay out of pocket for their meals at the conference. Burkle hopes that BCEC can raise enough support from local businesses to cover all of the conference’s lunch expenses in future years.

GRITC is in the works to expand parking options and add multiple locations to next year’s event. Scheduled for July 18-21, King shared, “We’re ready for GRITC 2022.” To keep up to date on announcements and events throughout the year, follow along on our Facebook page!