by Aileen Hower & Bob Dandoy
PCTELA 2019 Conference Chairs
We begin the New Year with a look back at 2019 and our Conference held last fall and with an eye toward this year and our fall conference. Yes, we’ve already begun planning a wonderful event for this year and we hope you’ll join us.
There were many highlights to CONFERENCE 2019. One of the most wonderful surprises came from a problem when one of our featured speakers was unable to attend. Instead, we were able to have JONATHAN AUXIER join us! A Pennsylvania author, Auxier was engaging and charismatic. His message of how difficult school was for him and how he was inspired by a few teachers who really saw him beyond his quirks was a strong reminder for teachers about the rich variety of students who sit in our classrooms every year.
At NCTE in Baltimore in November, we met up with Jonathan again, as his novel Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster (2018) was awarded the 2019 Charlotte Huck Award. In a distinctly different speech, Auxier shared about his reasons for writing the book. He shared personal and inspiring stories of struggle in his personal life and how his book and his character, Nan, saved his life. The larger message that we were able to take away was how, for all of us, books can often save us and inspire us in ways that “real life” might not always be able to.
Both opportunities to listen to Auxier taught that we need to cherish our students’ creativity and passions and find time to get books into our students’ hands because we never know which book will speak to their hearts and inspire their life’s path. We as teachers, too, have to be readers - so that we can find our own inspiration and work with a larger vision in mind: to teach the whole child, not just any one curriculum.
Jonathan’s appearance at our event illustrates the quality professional learning opportunity afforded to Keystone State teachers through PCTELA. At the NCTE event where Jonathan received the award, Sandra Wallace received the Orbis Award for her picture book, Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery. (We’re excited to let you know that Sandra and her husband, Rich, will be two of the featured speakers at CONFERENCE 2020). The same quality professionals that we often see at a national event come to Pennsylvania each year for our PCTELA members edification.
Again, we saw that evident in the professionalism and graciousness of two outstanding national educators, Ken Lindblom and Leila Christenbury. Not only did they speak to the entire conference group, some teachers were able to avail themselves of smaller, more intimate sessions with each of them. Thus is the strength of a local conference.
Author, Paul Griffin, and Teacher-of-the-Year, Shanna Peeples rounded out the program with engaging and enlightening presentations. Of course, the bounty knowledge and experience that is available from our own backyard was evident in the outstanding concurrent sessions presented by PA educators and pre-service teachers.
Cap it all off with a beautiful facility, some great food, and the best of friends and colleagues and we can easily proclaim Conference 2019 to be a grand success.
Of course, in planning and running a conference, it’s important to keep an open mind and stay flexible. Just like with a wedding, or a prom, a play, or anything with many moving parts, it’s realistic to expect anything to happen - both good and bad! When those “anythings” did happen, the PCTELA team jumped into action and thought of our attendees/members first. Although the planning is mostly done by a few, it was only through teamwork from the many that the conference became a reality and was a wonderful experience.
We carefully look at the shortcomings of the event as we plan our 2020 conference. We encourage all who were in attendance to contact us with any ideas or suggestions. (We hope you took the time to fill out the POST CONFERENCE EVALUATION). We are looking at new ideas and structures for this year’s event. The CALL FOR PROPOSALS will be going out soon and we hope you will submit and share your experience and knowledge.
FROM AILEEN: I am deeply grateful to Bob Dandoy for his partnership through this experience, and the whole PCTELA Board and long-time members who showed unwavering support and were willing to work hard to make our vision a reality.
FROM BOB: I am so happy that Aileen consented to co-chair this event with me. I hadn’t chaired the event in a long time and I thought it was important to do so in order to be up to speed on just how things are done now and what challenges the conference chairs face. There is no more professional person and AMAZING resource than Aileen. She helped me to keep my wits about me when sometimes things were swirling out of control! She is a great professional and a wonderful friend.
SEE YOU IN OCTOBER!