By Janet Barresi
Special to The Sun
OKLA. CITY —
I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer — playing in the water, grilling, enjoying time with family; maybe preparing for vacation. But for Oklahoma educators, I hope your plans include a trip to Oklahoma City, July 9-11 to attend the State Department of Education’s Vision 2020 professional development conference.
The conference is free to all Oklahoma educators.
Parents also should plan to come to the first night of the conference, Tuesday, July 9, for our Parent Power Night. My Office of Parent and Community Engagement staff have been working hard to include sessions on graduation requirements, third-grade reading support, career technology, funding for college, internet safety, suicide prevention and other topics of vital importance to parents of Oklahoma students. I will be there for the meet and greet from 5:15-6 p.m. Sessions will be from 6-7:45 p.m.
For educators, we have an amazing lineup of speakers for the morning general sessions and for individual breakout tracks.
Tuesday’s keynote speaker, Dr. Ryan Quinn, will teach us how to use the principles of positive leadership to create higher sustainable levels of performance in our schools that will ripple across our state. Quinn is co-author with his father, Robert E. Quinn, of “Lift: Becoming a Positive Force in Any Situation.”
Those who attend the conference on Wednesday are in for an entertaining blend of southern charm and academic acumen as educator Ron Clark shares stories of his early days of teaching and of starting his own school. Clark has a fantastic way of weaving humor into his experiences. He will help all educators remember the joy and fun of their chosen vocation. Clark’s book titles include “The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck — 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers.”
Dr. Tony Wagner, speaking on Thursday, will challenge us to transform our thinking as we work to teach skills pertinent to students in this century. His goal is for us not to just help students secure a good job in the future but to help them become active and informed citizens. His latest book is “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World.”
Each keynote speaker has a book-signing session following his address. In addition to our keynotes, each academic discipline has a list of state and national presenters to lead professional development workshops in each subject. These include STEM, literacy, history, art, world languages, advanced coursework, ag in the classroom, child nutrition, legislative updates and more.
While Tuesday and Wednesday’s sessions are focused on educators and Thursday’s sessions on administrators, each day the content is designed so all educators can benefit. I strongly urge superintendents and all administrators to attend sessions on the implementation of the Oklahoma Academic Standards and on literacy strategies offered July 9-10.
As in years past, the conference will include a trade show with exhibitors offering everything from literacy teaching aids to digital learning software to special education resources to school financial systems, architectural firms, student transportation and more.
We also will have some exciting awards and announcements at this year’s Vision 2020 conference. On Tuesday morning, we will recognize the nominees for the Presidential Award for Math and Science. On Wednesday morning, we will reveal our Teacher of the Year finalists, and the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence will announce the Alternative Education Program Award winner.
In addition, lead State Department of Education staff from the areas of federal programs, student support, educational support, instruction, accreditation, and accountability and assessments will be stationed in “The Hub,” booths 415-419 in the exhibit hall. They will be available at various times throughout each of the three days to answer questions and pass along the latest information from the department.
There will be something for everyone at this year’s Vision 2020 conference. We hope to see you there.
JANET BARRESI is state superintendent of public instruction for Oklahoma.