Fresno State’s annual Exemplary Practices in Educational Leadership Conference returned this year with an emphasis on inspiring children’s learning in an innovative 21st century.
Over 300 educators and leaders from across central California gathered at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District on November 1 to learn from experts, explore best practices, discuss critical issues and gather relevant ideas needed to transform organizations into collaborative cultures of learning for students and educators.
The EPC is one of the focus points of the John D. Welty Center for Educational Policy and Leadership. It’s an opportunity for the center to partner with county and local school districts to bring in respected leaders and educators to share their knowledge and for local districts to showcase their work.
A vocal performance from operatic tenor Chris Pucci and a welcome from Fresno State President Dr. Saul Jimenez-Sandoval set the tone for the conference.
Developing Curious Minds for the 21st Century was the theme for this year’s conference and attendees were treated to a keynote speech from nationally-renowned educator and speaker Dr. Kenneth Wesson, who places a heavy focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) programs and how the brain affects learning.
Dr. Wesson’s speech, Ushering in the Age of innovation-Where Anything is Possible, focused on emotional impacts on learning and methods for creating 21st century PK-16 classrooms. It also emphasized the need for the integration of learning concepts, including math, science, writing, reading, technology – and the arts. Wesson entertained and enlightened the audience, beginning with the fundamental question, “If we are to teach our students how to think, don’t you think we should first understand how the brain works in the 21st Century?”
According to Dr. Mabel Franks, the Director of the Welty Center, “Dr. Wesson delivered the right message, to the right audience at the right time.”
“It is imperative that we remain in touch with the needs, desires and interests of our students if we are to provide a quality, purposeful education that will prepare our youth for this brave, new, exciting, yet complex future. We also need to recognize the impact emotions have on learning and the importance of developing the whole child who is eager, willing and able to fully engage in the learning. That should be the mission of every educator.”– Franks.
Following Dr. Wesson’s speech, the conference attendees then ventured out to selected breakout sessions. Many of the sessions focused on topics that included early literacy design, proactive approaches to school safety, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and other innovative teaching strategies affecting local districts and universities. There were 20 breakout sessions total, and each session was uniquely geared towards engaging and reengaging learners about the topics that are vitally important to educators and leaders in the 21st century.
These sessions were a great opportunity for the attendees to learn from experts in their fields and share best practices for closing specific achievement gaps and improving learning outcomes for students.
The EPC is part of the Dr. Peter G. Mehas Lecture Series and is held every year. The Mehas Lecture Series honors local education icon Dr. Pete Mehas, and explores educational leadership, issues of equity and access, emerging topics in curriculum and instruction, and student success in local, regional, and global context.
(Written by staff members at the Kremen School of Education and Human Development)