Thursday, November 10, 2011

Upcoming Instructional Conference

It has been too long since I posted anything, I know. I have been busy with traveling, meetings, and the elections. I don't want to talk about the elections, though. Time will tell how everything will shake out and we will do what we can to preserve and protect public education in the coming months should it become a target...let's hope it doesn't.

No, what I want to write about today is my excitement over the upcoming VEA Instructional and Professional Development (IPD) Conference which is being held next weekend, November 18-19, 2011.

Why am I so excited? Because this event represents a long held goal of mine that was part of the reason I ran for president of the VEA four years ago. I, for one, and I don't believe I was alone, missed having an annual instructional conference to attend which was sponsored by the VEA. I view the VEA, after all, as my professional the same way that the Bar is the professional organization for attorneys and the American Medical Association is for physicians...for me, the VEA is the organization I turn to for advice and information on best practices, professionalism, and professional development.

So, next weekend, with the launch of the VEA IPD Conference in Richmond, I will see the culmination of a long held goal come to fruition...and it's about time since this is my last year in office. I was beginning to feel that I was running out of time.

The focus of the conference is also a subject near and dear to my heart. While it isn't the ONLY thing that we will be focusing on over the course of the Saturday of concurrent sessions that are being offered, Friday night's opening session is ALL about national board certification...something that I feel very strongly about and to which I am passionately committed.

So, on Friday night, we will be one of the first state affiliates in the country to offer a premiere viewing of the documentary, the Mitchell 20. (You may see the trailer for the film at

The film is about 20 teachers at Mitchell Elementary School in Arizona who joined together to undertake either the national board "Take One" process or the full blown program. The documentary follows the Mitchell teachers during their own individual and collective professional journeys, and it highlights the importance of undertaking meaningful professional development experiences.

Immediately following the film, a power house panel of educational leaders and experts will discuss their reactions to it and they will also take some questions from the audience of over 170 individuals who will be in attendance. The panelists include NEA President, Dennis Van Roekel, Governor Bob Wise, President of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Dr. Mary Futrell, Past President of the VEA and the NEA and a founding member of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Nancy Flanagan, a former Michigan Teacher of the Year and blogger and member of the Teacher Leader Network, and Daniela Robles, the teacher from Mitchell Elementary School who sparked the action of her colleagues after having gone through the national board process herself.

This event is a major one for the VEA, and I hope that it will spark a debate among educational practitioners in Virginia regarding the nature of professionalism in the teaching profession. I believe that the National Board process is one way of raising the teaching profession to its appropriate level of respect. For too long, now, we as educators have deferred to non-educational leaders--politicians, well meaning philanthropists (and perhaps some not so well meaning ones as well) and others as they took the lead in the public debate about what it takes to make a great school and what a great teacher looks like. We have gone way off track by accepting the premise that tying a teacher's performance to the arbitrary test scores of their students is a way to determine expertise or professional practice. We as educators must start once and for all to stand up and make our voices heard...and I believe that promoting the national board process is one way to do that.

As a result, I am very excited about our upcoming event, and I hope that if you are reading this, you will take the few minutes that it will take to look at the trailer for the Mitchell 20 and then learn more about the national board process as a possibility for your own professional development if you are currently a teacher. I wouldn't trade my experience for anything...and as a matter of fact, I am preparing to renew my national board certificate this year. It is a designation that means more to me that either of my master's degrees or my Ph.D., frankly. I tell people that if I had to give back all but one of my professionally earned credentials, the one I would keep would be my national board status. It's that important to me.

If you don't don't much about the national board process and would like to learn more, go to You can learn what certificates are available, and you can explore the various possibilities that exist for how to pursue this most important program.

Until next time.