Laura Varlas

Annual Conference Swings into Action

The force was with attendees at the open of ASCD's 2011 Annual Conference in San Francisco! Film legend and Edutopia founder George Lucas opened the conference with a video address, asking educators to consider the purpose of school. Factual knowledge is important, but it's what we do with that learning that is meaningful, Lucas confirmed.

ASCD President Sara Shubel acknowledged that many in attendance are already doing something to support the relief efforts in disaster-struck Japan, as well as recovering communities around the world. For more ways to help, consult the digital program book for a list of charitable organizations.

OYEA winner Luis Torres receives his award from Global Scholar sponsor Rob Kilgarriff and ASCD Executive Director Dr. Gene R. Carter.

In fact, a common characteristic of ASCD members and conference attendees is that they take action, and what better place to celebrate these change agents than at the Annual Conference? In particular, ASCD Executive Director Gene Carter recognized the work of the 2011 Outstanding Young Educator honorees, teacher Brad Kuntz of at Gladstone High in Gladstone, Oregon, and Principal Luis Torres of PS 55 elementary in the Bronx, New York.

Kuntz described his whole child approach to teaching and emphasized the importance of engaging students in learning beyond the traditional definition of schooling. True to his word, Kuntz was addressing the audience via video, as he is currently leading students on a spring break expedition in Peru, exploring the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu.

Ultimately, Kuntz said, we must empower students to own their own learning and futures. "We will guide them, we will trust them, and we will witness the actualization of their dreams," he concluded.

Torres shared a similar philosophy, approaching the principalship not just as a school leader, but also as a community leader. I want my students to know, he explained, that "we do not need to leave our communities to find a better life; we need to improve our communities so that we don't have to leave." Torres resists recognition as "that principal at that oasis in the Bronx."

"We must view our communities as rain forests, not isolated oases. It can no longer just fall on the shoulders of schools; we have to consider the whole ecosystem and come together as a community to educate and improve the lives of kids."

Come together indeed—it's what ASCD's Annual Conference is all about.


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