Learning Forward Annual Conference
•December 7-11, 2019•
Marie Henderson and I represented our Learning Forward Kansas team at the National Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. This year marked Learning Forward’s 50th birthday, and we celebrated with Learning Forward folks from across the United States and around the world. The Sunday evening birthday party was electric and energetic.
Difficult as it was to select from so many sessions to attend, Marie Henderson and I both landed in a personalized professional development session focused on awarding badges to educators. During this work session, the participants shared the work their respective school districts were doing.
Filled with educators from the classroom to the district office, the participants appeared hungry for ideas and learning. During the sharing session, Marie shared the work she and Kyle Carlin were doing with learning badges to support teachers on their professional learning journey. Their badging system was by far the most advanced. Several educators asked Marie for more information on FLEX, the program she is pioneering for her school district’s professional learning.
Many of the participants from larger schools lamented about the difficulty in changing the professional learning status quo. The larger districts were concerned about scaling the program and ensuring all the departments and central office staff were on board for this change. Yet, they were optimistic about the number of people they had to support such a program.
I was so proud of the work Hays is doing under the leadership of Marie Henderson. She has shown leadership, grit, a commitment to improving the delivery of professional learning in her district. Her passion, dedication, and hard work ethic have moved FLEX forward.
I left the National conference very proud of the work that is happening in our state and the leadership of Kansas educators, like Marie. In my thirty-plus years in education, I have always been amazed and impressed at the innovation in our rural Kansas school districts. Many of these districts, like Hays, Kansas deserve a badge for their courageous innovation and their dedication to improving professional learning, as well as a “We make good things happen” badge for understanding the sense of urgency to prepare all learners to be future-ready. Most educators would agree that professional learning is long overdue for an overhaul. If you find yourself intrigued by these ideas, I suggest you attend the Learning Forward Kansas Conference this February in Wichita, Kansas. You will come away with new ideas and have the opportunity to hear Kansas leaders like Marie Henderson that are impacting second-order change and national leaders like Jennie Donahoo discuss her work around the power of educators and teacher efficacy. It’s an exciting time to be an educator!
LFKS Central Office Representative, LFKS Conference Co-Chair