In our continuing series of spotlighting the affiliates of CUE, I had the opportunity to speak with Brent Warner, an OCCUE Board Member and Communications Committee Chair, and Board Member Angela Barnett. They explain how OCCUE is crafting professional development opportunities to reflect the current state of teaching – and how they’re interacting with members, despite being virtual.

KO: Tell us about OCCUE. What areas and communities do you service? 

BW: OCCUE serves teachers in beautiful Orange County and (now, virtually,) beyond!

AB: We service all schools, public and private.  We are also reaching out to include classified staff because we know how much support they provide to teachers and the students.

KO: How do you engage with your members? What types of events does your affiliate offer?

BW: We offer a number of events, from small, focused trainings to our large TechFest which brings in hundreds of educators from Southern California. We’re always experimenting with different opportunities to help our community. We offer grants to help teachers get their projects off the ground, and in better days (both past and future) we have informal gatherings like Pub PDs, mixing good ideas in teaching with friendly people and a couple of adult beverages. 

AB: We’ve also been experimenting with something new – playdates.  This is where we encourage conversation and sharing to support one another. We held a playdate focused on Self-Care and Teacher Wellness in December. We shared different tools, such as Headspace. This is a free app for educators that they can use, both inside and outside of the classroom.

KO: How has this pandemic changed how you interact with members? How are you building membership numbers?

BW: The pandemic has allowed us to increase our offerings to members. We’re running online events and we’re able to support niche offerings that might appeal to a smaller audience of dedicated teachers. Like most teachers, we’ve also come to appreciate how much being together in the same space means to people. So while we love the virtual offerings, we’re looking forward to seeing everyone in person in the future!

KO: What do you hope your affiliate members get out of attending your affiliate’s events?

BW: We hope they walk out with practical ideas they can use in their classroom, and hopefully a couple of new friends, too! 

We also want them to know that there is a community here that will support them and provide opportunities to grow as an educator.

Angela Barnett

KO: What upcoming events would you like to share with the rest of the CUE community?

BW: We’re running our first Virtual TechFest on Saturday, January 30th. This is our big annual event, and last year’s was just before lockdown, so we’re one of the last groups to convert to an online conference. We’re really excited because we put together mailer boxes that participants can interact with during the conference, giving a little more personal touch to the online experience. But even if people didn’t sign up on time for the box, we’re still excited for an outstanding conference with excellent presenters. If anyone is interested in attending, they can sign up at OCCUE.org.

KO: What does CUE mean to OCCUE?

BW: CUE’s energy and enthusiasm for better pedagogy and collegial collaboration guides all of us at OCCUE.

Whether it be informal get-togethers or big events like TechFest, we’re always inspired by the model that CUE sets, in particular giving back to the community as we are all #BetterTogether.

Brent Warner

About Kristin Oropeza
Kristin is a full-time special education teacher, contract consultant, and educational content writer. She is a Google Certified Teacher (Level 1 and 2), Google Certified Trainer, and MIE Expert for 2020-2021.