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Working the Circuit: 10 Teacher Conferences You Don’t Want to Miss

When it comes to professional development opportunities, educators certainly don’t get the short end of the stick. There are numerous teacher-focused events varying in size, topic, duration and format. So many in fact, that culling it down to just 10 was more than a little challenging.

Depending on when you’re reading this, some of these conferences may have already passed for this calendar year. But fear not. We don’t foresee any of these vanishing into the ether anytime soon, so click on the names of each conference for more information. Also keep in mind that more and more of these conferences are offering online sessions, so even if you can’t make it in person, you can still be there in (virtual) spirit.

SXSWEdu

Originally a small local music festival, SXSW has morphed into a myriad of festivals and conferences all wrapped up into one globally recognized event—now lovingly referred to simply as “South By.” This classically Austin event added its Edu branch in 2011 and has continued to grow annually. Like the other factions, SXSWEdu serves up the latest and greatest, but in the education realm. Previous events have delved into topics such as game-based learning, critical thinking’s importance over grades, creating a variety of truly engaging content for students, using failure and adversity as powerful tools, culture change, protecting student privacy and building inclusive communities, just to name a few. Our number one tip is to book early. Even months before SXSW descends on Austin, flights go up and hotel rooms go fast.

Teaching & Learning

Join thousands of fellow knowledge-dropping educators and connect with some of the country’s most well-respected advocates, officials and game-changers in the education arena. Teaching & Learning is geared toward breaking down the current education landscape and shaping the direction it takes moving forward in innovative ways. There will be inspiring speakers, hands-on workshops (both during and before the conference), networking opportunities and groundbreaking plenaries. Hosted by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, this decade-old conference focuses on connecting students and educators alike with the outside world to ensure they’re exposed to today’s biggest challenges, opportunities and ideas. It’s completely informative and utterly inspirational. So…are you sold already but just need to justify it to your administrator? No problem. They’ve already written a letter for you doing just that—all you have to do is download it and print it.

NBEA Annual Convention

Teaching is oftentimes more of a calling than a job. Between the long hours of seemingly thankless work, the distracted and disengaged students and the exceedingly high expectations, being an educator can feel overwhelming. That’s why the National Business Educators Association hosts their annual convention—to renew business teachers’ passion with fresh ideas, thought-provoking subject matter and hands-on workshops. It’s designed to help grow skills and present ideas that can be used in both the classroom and workplace. Past topics have included building and maintaining business relationships, expanding critical thinking skills, entrepreneurship, ethics, professionalism and strategies that cultivate employability skills. And that’s just the tip of the business-education iceberg. The NBEA Annual Convention schools business educators on ways to help students find success in school, business and life.

ASCD Annual Conference & Exhibit Show

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) is a diverse nonpartisan, non-profit global organization that was founded in 1943. Its focus on solutions-driven professional development that helps educators learn, teach and lead makes this 125,000+ member organization pretty powerful. The annual conference (much like ASCD’s smaller, more topic-specific conferences sprinkled throughout the year) is no different. ASCD boasts over 200 sessions covering more than 30 focus areas and an exhibit show with more than 300 educational companies, so there’s something to help every aspect of your school. Learn how to best focus your time, efforts and resources, close the opportunity gap and foster student motivation. Plus, gain tips for getting your school peers on the same page once you get back. When it comes to ASCD, there really is power in numbers: Organize a group from your school and the fifth attendee is free.

NCTM Annual Meeting & Exposition

This cozy little conference offers a forum to mix, mingle and soak up as much as possible from over 9,000 fellow math educators. Numerical wisdom droppers from across the country come together with the common goal of bringing about growth and reform in math education. This National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ event explores ways to have a greater impact on students at both a macro- and micro-level. Learn tips for shifting students’ focus from finding the right answer to a specific problem to thinking critically so that they can solve any problem that comes their way. This real-world, big-picture approach helps teachers improve how students learn math, creates more excitement about math-related career possibilities and brings about more “aha!” moments in the classroom.

OLC Innovate 

The Online Learning Consortium and MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) are partnering to bring educators a conference dedicated to all things blended and online learning. This über-interactive event offers many sessions that are as collaborative and malleable as a Wikipedia page. Tap into the collective intelligence of attendees to find real-world solutions to today’s biggest teaching challenges. Presenters share highlights from their research as well as trends in innovative teaching practices. Roundtable discussions turn attendees into contributors while a series of rapid-fire, speed dating-like talks give presenters an opportunity to share their ideas on innovation in pedagogy, structure and other learning challenges. This inventive crowd-sourcing approach means no two OLC conferences are the same.

ISTE

With over 1,000 sessions (no, that’s not a typo: one thousand sessions) and nearly 14,000 attendees, ISTE is a conference to behold. Sessions are offered in a variety of formats, divided into four categories: Listen & Learn, Participate & Share, Explore & Create and Engage & Connect. This allows teachers to maximize their return by attending sessions that sync up with their own individual learning style. (Talk about practicing what they preach.) No matter what your career focus, it’s easy to tailor the conference experience fit your needs and interests. And in addition to keeping up with the latest in definitive education technology standards, attendees can help shape future ISTE standards for teachers, as well as the professional learning community. Bonus: ISTE offers some sessions online.

NAME Conference

Whether ‘culturally responsive teaching’ sounds only vaguely familiar or you’re already spreading the idea of inclusion to any fellow educators who will listen, the National Association for Multicultural Education’s (NAME) conference just might change your whole perspective on teaching. This conference is designed to move the needle in your understanding of issues of equity, inclusion, diversity and justice in learning environments. NAME typically offers panels, hands-on workshops, roundtable discussions, presentations and interactive poster sessions. Topics range from bullying, social class, religion and bilingual education to media literacy, sexual orientation, gender and racism. NAME created this conference as a means to install problem-solving abilities in educators so every human can learn in an environment where everyone is given dignity and respect. Needless to say, this conference isn’t afraid to put it all out there as a forum for frank and open dialogue. And we salute them for it!

ACTE’s CareerTech VISION

The VISION conference is jam packed with relevant and engaging content. This four-day event, put on by the Association of Career & Technical Education, helps educators make a greater impact on their students by exposing them to career options that will make use of the skills and knowledge they’re gaining in the classroom. There’s even a symposium element designed specifically to help teachers inspire underrepresented students to pursue STEM-related careers. VISION helps teachers to not only give their students a career goal to work toward, but also allows educators to earn CEU credits in the process. It’s what you could (aptly) call a win-win situation. If you need to renew your sense of purpose and be reminded of the power you hold in the lives of the students you teach, this is definitely the conference for you.

Learning Forward: Annual Conference

Learning Forward conference gives educators the opportunity to take their teaching prowess to the next level. This conference is especially valuable to educators who enjoy learning about new approaches as well as the research behind them and their effectiveness. Get real-world tips and techniques for implementing technology into your teaching, no matter whether you’re a complete newbie or a tech wiz. Learn how to conquer challenges to professional development hurdles while staying up on the latest topics and best practices in education. Gain insights into what makes the most successful schools and learning communities so darn successful and find out how you can implement them in your school as well. Plus, get the chance to collaborate with educational leaders from all over the place. If it has to do with professional learning, you’ll find it here.

There you have it. Of course, we’re always looking to expand our list to better help educators like yourself find the best professional development events. So if you’ve been to any other conferences that helped you take your teaching to the next level we’d love to hear about it. Share this article on your social media networks and share any comments or feedback with us on our social networks. Or drop us an email (at startheregoplaces@aicpa.org) and tell us the name of the conference and what you liked best about it, so we can add it to this list in the future.