Teacher Symposium


The Teacher Symposium is an annual, teacher-led professional development event that gives teachers the opportunity to participate in engaging, relevant professional development sessions that will have a direct impact on their instructional practices.


Speaker for 2019 Teacher Symposium: Michael Bonner

I wish I could go back to second grade, so Mr. Bonner could be my teacher,” were the words Ellen Degeneres released on her social media accounts in early January 2017. This is when she learned of how Mr. Bonner’s unique, rap-filled teaching methods encouraged students to go above and beyond on a reading test.

Mr. Bonner is an inspiring second grade teacher at North Carolina’s South Greenville Elementary, where the majority of students have strenuous familial dynamics and many are homeless. The school is 100% FRL (free and reduced lunch) and is located in an impoverished neighborhood in Eastern North Carolina. In early 2017, Bonner was honored by Ellen DeGeneres in recognition of his positive and innovative educational approaches for children coping with the challenges of poverty. Ellen presented Bonner and his school with technical equipment to assist in the creation of music videos serving as aids to education. Additionally, Wal-Mart presented the school with $25,000, and the Ellen Show created a Go Fund Me site for South Greenville, which has raised over $88,000 for the Title I school. However, the amazing journey did not stop there!

One month after he first appeared on her show, Ellen flew Mr. Bonner and his entire second grade class to visit with her again at her studio. Twenty children from Mr. Bonner’s class received an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles, California. The students recorded in a professional studio had class on a Hollywood set, and made a professional music video with Ellen, Big Sean, Ice Cube, Migos, Ty Dolla Sign, and Lin Manuel Miranda! Mr.Bonner’s class was then awarded another $20,000 from Wal-Mart to assist in creating a more prosperous learning environment.

His efforts to change the proficiency learning culture have also captured attention from other national news outlets. NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, Flocabulary, the Ashton Kutcher Foundation, and Remind all released stories on how Mr. Bonner is utilizing music as a tool to help counter the negative statistical data concerning children living in poverty. He’s had the privilege of speaking at NC State University, the American Association for Blacks in Higher Education, and various other institutions, delivering powerful messages on improving student performance and resilience.

With only four years in K-12 education, Mr. Bonner is consistently seen as a visionary leader who strives to create a positive mindset among all of his students. He understands that his students come to class each day with diverse backgrounds, strengths, needs, and challenges, and seeks to identify strategies to ensure the growth of their social, emotional, academic, and psychological needs. Because of his approach to education, students leave feeling a little more hopeful, challenged, inspired, and forever a part of Bonnerville!


Program Overview

The purpose of the Teacher Symposium is to provide teachers with an opportunity to participate in engaging, relevant professional development sessions that will have a direct impact on their instructional practices. This program is a way to highlight strong teachers by giving them a forum to share their best practices, build capacity by developing the skills of teacher facilitators, and create a space for teachers to network while engaging in a learning experience together.

Teachers serving as facilitators completed an application process which was reviewed by a committee of representatives from multiple stakeholder groups. Facilitators attended 10 hours of professional development to support them in creating their sessions and corresponding materials. If you are interested in presenting at next year’s event, look out for the job posting on the PhilaSD website in the fall.


This symposium is open to 400 participants. Each session will have 25 seats available. Sessions provide multiple opportunities for teachers to practice and apply the content to their work with students.

Participants & Compensation

The Teacher Symposium is advertised on Cornerstone, the Teacher Information Board, and through teacher and principal e-mail distribution lists. Prior to each event, participants will self-select into three 90-minute workshops. Participants should bring a fully-charged laptop and any relevant planning materials to each session. Participants should also be ready to practice and apply the new content and be open to feedback from colleagues and facilitators.

While participants in all roles that support our students are welcome at the Teacher Symposium, payment and Act 48 credit will be awarded solely to participants categorized as Pre-K through 12th-grade teachers within the district. Employees classified as “other than teacher” cannot be paid.  Pre-K through 12th-grade teachers will receive 5.25 Act 48 credits and payment at the contractual hourly PD rate for each session they attend. Counselors will also receive 5.25 Act 48 credits but cannot be paid. Payment takes six-to-eight weeks (three-to-four pay cycles) for processing. Paychecks will include the pay code “TSPD” in order to help teachers to identify Teacher Symposium compensation

Thank you to our Participating Community Partners!

Thank you to our Participating School District of Philadelphia Offices & Departments!

For additional questions regarding the Teacher Symposium, please contact professionaldevelopment@philasd.org