Earlier this morning, ASCD’s annual Empower conference kicked off at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Despite the early start time of 7:00am, wide-eyed and excited educators from around the world made their way inside. It was abundantly clear they were ready to learn from some of the greatest minds in education.

Welcome to #Empower18

While the initial rush of attendees may have been problematic for many conventions, ASCD officials did a masterful job in their setup of the main registration area. The long, zigzagging line viewed while descending down the towering escalators may have caused some to worry they’d miss their first session, but the rapid registration process allowed for quick and easy check-ins.

Once attendees received their ID Badge, they were free to make their way to any of the general sessions offered. Spoiler alert: There were a lot of options!

For those who chose to forgo one of the early morning sessions, vendors from all walks of education were out in full-force, offering educators a peak at some of the latest in curriculum development, educational technology, classroom furniture, assessments, etc. With representatives from many of the companies synonymous with education in attendance, it was easy to lose track of time weaving your way through the rows upon rows of vendor presentations.

The Keynote Address: Dr. Jill Biden

The first Keynote Address of the weekend was delivered by former First Lady and longtime educator, Dr. Jill Biden. During her talk, Dr. Biden spoke passionately about the importance teachers have in the lives of the children they serve. She reminded the crowd of 8,000 why it is we do what we do when she emphatically stated: “We don’t teach because it is hard, we do it because we love it!” Her words clearly resonated with the enthusiastic crowd as many hollered in agreement.

Biden went on to say that teaching is a calling that stays with us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was with utmost sincerity that she then gave thanks to all of the educators inside the massive convention hall. She left the audience with a clear message that we are all role models and remember that we truly make a difference in the lives of our students.

Bonner’s Passion Shines

One of the most talked presentations of the day was conducted by Mr. Michael Bonner, a second-grade teacher from North Carolina. Fresh off of two appearances on The Ellen Show in 2017, Bonner’s career has soared as of late as his intrinsic desire to inspire has spread like wildfire across the education landscape. In a session filled with notable educators such as Joe Dombrowski, Todd Nesloney, and Kyle Schwartz, Bonner’s passion for education quickly became infectious.

Listening to folks walk out of the room discussing just how inspired they felt after watching such a passionate and enthusiastic speech, it was easy to understand how Mr. Bonner’s meteoric rise in education was made possible.

Education needs young, out-of-the-box teachers to help ensure that today’s youth are receiving an equitable and accessible education. The field needs educators who will do whatever it takes to best serve the children in their care. Mr. Bonner does just that and then some.

My prediction? Mr. Michael Bonner will be delivering his own keynote address in the not-so-distant future.

Previewing Day 2

I hope no one’s too tired after a busy first day of the convention, because Day 2 is shaping up to be another unforgettable day of learning.

Here are a few of the can’t miss sessions of the day:

  • Keynote Address: Manny Scott – 3:30-5:00pm

    • Relationships are the foundation upon which all great learning takes place. Join Manny Scott, original Freedom Writer and founder of Ink International Inc., in exploring how to cultivate healthy relationships with students and all youth so that they can excel in school and come out prepared for work and life. By sharing life-changing lessons he has learned from teachers and loving adults who helped him and from the work he has been doing with kids for the past 18 years, the presenter will show how, together, we can transform our schools into safe, positive environments where all adults are equipped to reach kids and all kids are empowered to reach their destinies. This session is a reminder of the incredible power every adult has to help young people flourish—and it will be a call to action for all who experience it (EMPOWER.ASCD.ORG, 2018).
  • Education Spotlight: Todd Nesloney – 10:00am-11:00am

    • “As Nicholas Ferroni says, “Kids who are loved at home come to school to learn, but kids who aren’t come to school to be loved.” The presenter, a K–5 school principal, lead learner, and award-winning author, has watched firsthand in his own classroom and now on his campus how using the words “You Matter” has not only transformed the culture of the campus, but also transformed lives. The presenter will share many different strategies that you can implement immediately that will positively affect those around you and build stronger relationships” (EMPOWER.ASCD.ORG, 2018).
  • Keynote Luncheon: Dr. Robyn Jackson – 12:00pm-1:30pm ($89 – Seating is Limited.)

    • “Are you tired, run down, and overwhelmed? Feeling a little cynical lately? Do you find yourself going through the motions these days? Do you miss that passion you used to have for your job? If so, you’re not alone. More and more educators are facing a barrage of challenges that are eroding the passion and fire. It’s not that you don’t still believe in what you do; it’s just that you’ve lost a little of your mojo. Well, it’s time to get your groove back. Join the presenter in this empowering keynote luncheon on how you can recover your passion, find your mojo, and protect yourself against anything that threatens your love for what you do, even in the midst of it all” (EMPOWER.ASCD.ORG, 2018).
  • Education Spotlight: Kyle Schwartz – 2:00pm-3:00pm

    • “For years, the presenter, a 3rd grade teacher, has been asking the same beautifully simple question of her students: What do you wish your teacher knew? When she finally shared this community-building activity through her new Twitter account, the response astounded her. In this session, the presenter will share a detailed teacher’s guide to the #IWishMyTeacherKnew lesson and will explore issues that may arise through students’ responses. Participants will explore multiple issues that affect students and come away with “Teacher Tools”—actionable steps they can take to address students’ needs and build relationships that lead to learning” (EMPOWER.ASCD.ORG, 2018).

That’ll do it for me! Thanks to everyone for following along with me on Twitter and Instagram (@pondereducation).

Let’s have a great Sunday!