School's out for the summer -- but not so fast for hundreds of Olentangy educators.
More than 300 teachers, counselors and administrators came together for the annual Think Tank, a volunteer program held May 30 and 31, shortly after the end of the school year, at Liberty High School.
The two-day "conference style" event is in its fourth year and has continued to grow.
"We have 300 teachers who are volunteering to do this at the start of their summer and are very excited to be there," said Jessica Fields, curriculum supervisor of instructional technology.
That number represents about 10 percent of the district's certified staff, Fields said.
The Think Tank offers two keynote speakers, presentations from educators inside and outside of the district, and -- perhaps most important -- a chance to learn from one another, Fields said.
"We noticed that teachers came back very motivated from conferences and we were so impressed by the level of expertise we had in house," Fields said. "Seeing a teacher present an idea is empowering. The district is large, but we try to emphasize making large feel small."
The keynote speakers this year were Jennifer Gonzalez, a former teacher and education expert behind cultofpedagogy. com, a website that helps people "crush it in the classroom"; and Catlin Tucker, a teacher and best-selling author who writes about blended learning and incorporating technology into education.
Although teachers are with students for only 185 days, teaching is a year-round job, said Scott Dills, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Berkshire Middle School who has both presented at and participated in Think Tank for all four years.
"Think Tank becomes our opportunity to collaborate with peers that we don't see every day," Dills said. "It's where you can showcase what's really working in your classroom and it allows you to start the summer, when you have the most time, to do the planning and perfecting."
Staff members who attend Think Tank write a reflection on how they will implement the lessons learned into their classes.
"They are going back to their buildings and sharing," Fields said. "It brings all of our work together."
Dills said he expects the coming school year to be a "huge experiment" where he puts into practice what he learned over the summer.
"It allowed me to explore some things that have been successful and time to reflect," Dills said. "There's this idea that teachers take the summer off, but that's not true. My whole summer is spent revamping my coursework. My students, more than anything, benefit from that."