Jon Wibbels of AEA in Sioux City applauds speaker at symposium.

Jon Wibbels of AEA in Sioux City applauds speaker at symposium.

The “leadership symposium” for Iowa teachers and principals underway today  in Ankeny is attracting more than just teachers and principals. Laura Daily is co-chair of the education department at Northwestern College in Orange City.

“We’re beginning a new masters degree and teacher leadership is one of the strands that people will be able to focus on,” Daily said just before the event started, “and so I’m curious about where we are, where different school districts are going with the initiatives and how we might be able to compliment that with training.”

Jon Wibbels of the Northwest Area Education Agency in Sioux City has helped districts in his area apply for the new state funding available to implement new systems in schools that promote teachers to be mentors to other teachers.

“We have probably 19 of our 36 public districts that were wanting to do it last year and applied. We had three that were accepted, with Sioux City being the largest one,” Wibbels said. “As we looked at it and they started to go through the process, they found out this was the right thing to do with the teachers and the leadership.”

Wibbels is most interested in this afternoon’s presentation by leaders in the Saydel and Central Decatur School Districts who have already launched the teacher mentoring program.

“What bumps there may have been, (how) we can help our districts smooth things out as we move forward,” Wibbels said. “After being in the education business for 40-plus years — I’m getting up there — I’ve seen a lot of things and this is one of the things over the year that I think, really, is the first time we are bringing all of our faculty and our adminitration together to really work for what’s good for kids.”

Some school board members and a few parents are part of the crowd today, too. Governor Terry Branstad delivered the opening address to the group this morning.

“I want to thank all of you for joining us today for this very important conversation about giving our children a world class education here in Iowa,” Branstad said.

The goal is to have all of Iowa’s schools adopt the new teacher leadership ideas by the school year that begins in August of 2016. For the coming school year, 39 districts are implementing the program, which raises the beginning salary for teachers to $33,500 and provides bonuses to talented teachers chosen to coach their peers.

“And we need to do something else — we need to see that teachers have more support from outside their school,” Branstad said. “Students, parents, elected officials, business leaders, all of us need to do what we can to build support for teachers and the educatio profession.”

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds said teachers must be recognized as “full partners” in transforming Iowa’s schools.

“Teachers must be recognized as true professionals who are the real change agents of the 21st century,” Reynolds said to open the event.

About 34,000 teachers are employed in Iowa’s K-12 schools.