Recapping the 2015 NNSTOY National Conference

August 12th, 2015

Category: News, Policy and Practice, Student-Centered Learning


Last month, two members of the Rodel Teacher Council, Melissa Tracy and Michele Johnson, presented the RTC’s Blueprint for Personalized Learning at the National Network of State Teachers of the Year National Conference (Transformers: Innovating Education) in Salt Lake City, Utah. Read on for their reflections from the conference.

The 2015 NNSTOY National Conference was an incredible professional development opportunity, and it was such a privilege to share the Blueprint with our colleagues. The most enduring message from the conference was to “make it personal.” Specifically, Pernille Ripp encouraged us to:

  • Know our students.
  • Ask students what it is like to be in our classrooms and then leap to make a change.
  • Rediscover why we became teachers.
  • Go back to our hearts and be the excellent teacher that we dreamed we would be.

The three-day conference was highlighted by inspirational keynotes, informative and transformative presentations by State Teachers of the Year, writers and researchers, professional and advocacy organizations, political leaders, and vendors all working together to transform our landscape.

Our presentation on the Blueprint included an overview of the Rodel Teacher Council, an introduction to the Blueprint, and a facilitated discussion with attendees. Personalization from the teacher perspective was a significant point of discussion. Attendees shared innovative professional development plans in their districts that included cafeteria-style PD plans, a focus on PLCs as learning (rather than common planning) communities, and technology platforms to support personalized teacher communities.

The culminating activity was an EdCamp, commonly referred to as “unplanned conference” because the agenda is created in real time. I (Melissa) attended two sessions hosted by STOYs: “Effective, Meaningful and Personalized Professional Development” and “Building Relationships with Policymakers.” In both sessions, rich discussion revealed several common themes. First, as teachers, we need to change the culture of our profession. This means being a teacher leader at the micro- and macro-levels in our communities. Secondly, we need to focus on being solutions-oriented. Finally, as teachers, we need to develop our own professional learning communities beyond our school walls.

Major Takeaways for Educators:

  • Be your own hero! You have the power to bring humanity to your classroom and school (Richard Ognibene)
  • Use Asset Thinking to accentuate the positive and build on each student’s unique abilities and voice. “Your faith in them is a surrogate until they find theirs.” (Kevin Honeycutt)
  • Teach them to write with their hearts—edit and revise (two separate steps) with their heads. (Jeff Baxter)
  • Use technology to connect to others and foster an environment that makes it safe and fun for students to learn. Imagine a room of 200 elite educators playing Simon Says with a Skyped in cartoon character and having a blast! What other profession would do that? (Wondergrove)

Major Takeaways for Educators and Advocates:

  • Add your own unique voice and perspective to the conversation (Curtis Chandler)
    Create a world where there is Equity and Trust (Bosso) in both teachers and our educational system.
  • Policy makers connect to individuals more effectively than loud voices—the power of personal connections.

Overall, the experience was insightful and inspiring—and we had such an outstanding group of colleagues to share the experience!

Melissa & Michele

By Melissa Tracy and Michele Johnson

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Rodel Foundation of Delaware



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