An Interview with Silvia Cheng

Peter Paccone
5 min readMar 15, 2017

Fourth-year social studies teacher and first-time conference attendee

March 15, 2017
Email Interview with Silvia Cheng

Silvia Cheng is a Rosemead High School, fourth-year, social studies teacher. She teaches five periods of Modern World History and in March of 2017 attended her first-ever California Council of Social Studies (CCSS) teachers conference.

If you were called upon by your principal to describe this year’s CCSS conference, what would you say?

This year’s CCSS conference was a three-day event designed to provide California social studies teachers with high quality professional development. The conference attracted nearly 500 (K-12) history, government, and economics teachers from throughout state and consisted of several key-note speakers, dozens of high-quality break-out sessions, and a small handful of teacher training workshops. The conference was held in Sacramento at a Hilton Hotel.

Chronologically, take us through your experience.

When I arrived in Sacramento on Thursday night, the first thing I did was to go to the hotel, where the conference was scheduled to take place.

Immediately after checking in, I went to the conference registration booth and received a conference program, conference identification badge, and conference tote bag, with the tote bag containing a number of free promotional items.

The conference program was the key to navigating the entire conference. I carried it with me at all times and repeatedly referenced it to ensure that I maximized all opportunities. What a wonderful document that was! Really well put together.

Then on Friday morning, I attended the First-Timer’s Event, where I received an introduction to the conference, insider tips on heightening my conference experience, and even more giveaways!

From that day forward, I did two things. One, I tried to attend as many break-out sessions as possible, and two, I tried to stay away from the key-note speakers and teacher training workshops.

It’s not that I didn’t have an interest in these speakers and workshops — it’s just that I wanted to maximize the variety of breakout sessions that I could attend.

I was determined to come home with a large collection of lessons plans and this is what each of these break-out sessions promised to deliver.

Whenever I had more than 10 minutes to spare, I went to the Exhibit Hall. All of the exhibitors there were excited to share their resources with me.

Silvia Cheng’s first-timers badge

What is one thing that you found especially valuable?

One thing that I found especially valuable was a breakout session entitled The TED-Ed Lesson. Not only did I acquire a useful resource for flipping my classroom, I also became inspired to contribute to the field of digital education beyond my classroom. I would love to be the author of at least one TED-Ed lesson in the near future!

I also found a number of other break-out sessions equally valuable, with several detailing truly great ways for teachers to enhance student civic participation.

All of these break-out sessions inspired me to flip my classroom, if only to provide me with the time needed to place various project based learning opportunities before my students.

One other thing of value that I took home from the conference was the idea of “teaching through travel.”

Did you find anything else of value?

Yes, all the free resources I received were very helpful, with the most valuable free resources found in the form of lesson plans.

I especially liked the lesson plan designed for teachers wanting to teach about “untold histories.” These untold histories are frequently skipped over due to a focus on breadth rather than depth.

The most important take-away from this experience was the understanding that what I was doing within my classroom was simply not enough. In other words, as a direct result of my having attended this conference, I have been inspired to really focus on my professional development inside and outside of the classroom.

What a typical conference break-out session looked like

When did you first hear about this year’s conference?

I first heard about this year’s conference from my department chair shortly before the winter break. Until this year, I had no idea that something like this even existed.

If you were to grade your conference experience overall, what grade would would you give?

If I were to grade my conference experience overall, I would give it an A-. The majority of the break-out sessions were great, but there were a few issues with organization. For example, some sessions were cancelled without notice, which forced me to scramble at the last minute to find another session to attend. This resulted in my late arrival to second-choice sessions.

Is there anyone you know who attended the conference?

Yes. Two of my colleagues — Christine Sandoval, a US History and World History teacher, and Alex Rai, another World History teacher, as well as our department chair — also went to the conference. They also thought the break-out sessions helped them develop as professionals.

Do you plan to attend next year’s conference?

No, I do not plan to attend next year’s conference, unless the district pays for it again. Nonetheless, I think think it’s important for teachers to go to conferences like this every few years. I would like to go again within the next three years.

In any event, I believe attending conference such as this is what teachers need to do in order to stay inspired and knowledgeable about current best practices.

If your fellow social-studies department members were to ask you whether you think they should go to the conference next year, what would you say?

I would definitely encourage my fellow department members to attend next year’s CCSS conference.

The 2018 CCSS Conference will be held Friday, March 23 through Sunday, March 25 at the Town and Country Resort & Convention Center in San Diego, CA

Do you plan to join CCSS?

I don’t know enough about CCSS to answer that question. How much would it cost to join? What are the benefits? I need to know the answer to these questions before deciding whether to invest in CCSS.

Furthermore, with so many high quality social studies lesson plans available online today, I can’t help but wonder if much of what was presented at the conference isn’t already available to interested teachers on the Internet.

Any final thoughts/comments?

This year’s CCSS conference was an incredibly eye-opening experience for me and I am very grateful to my district for having given me the chance to attend and, as a result, to bring back to my students so many wonderful high quality social studies related lesson plans.



Peter Paccone

San Marino High School social studies teacher. Also the Community Outreach Manager for Class Companion and a member of the CB's AI in AP Advisory Committee.