Perhaps it is my age and stage that makes it seem as if the pages of the calendar turn more quickly or perhaps it is the fact that we as a society are more connected than ever and that brings new and exciting things more rapidly into our view. Either way, I still experience a sense of nostalgia as I reflect on 2023 and the past year as the executive director of the Virginia Society for Technology in Education. This was my first complete calendar year in the role and I am humbled and in awe of the successes that the organization has experienced.
VSTE23 welcomed 1106 attendees to a highly successful annual conference to close our year and what a year it has been. The conference planning started in January as Craig Spraggins, VSTE Conference Committee Chair, Ashley Clarke, VSTE finance Director and I resumed our weekly business meetings. The Conference Committee leadership began meeting in February and a cadence of meetings with each of the conference sub-committees began shaping the conference and we all had “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” added to our playlist.
January also ushered in the start of the second VSTE Certified Coaching cohort. Thanks to our ongoing partnership with Forward Edge, as of this report nearly 400 coaches, representing all 8 superintendent’s regions will have completed the certification process with several cohorts still underway and applications for the spring 2024 cohorts are being reviewed. January also was a flurry of activity planning for the events that would take place throughout 2023.
In February the seeds of collaboration planted in July of 22 grew to fruition as Chris Jones, Executive Director of VASCD and I welcomed over 600 participants to experience the Power of Coaching events. Later that month VSTE's partnership with Virtual Virginia celebrated over 400 attendees at the 3rd Virtual Blended Learning Conference. The Perfect Blend themed event drew participants from as far away as Hawaii, across the lower 48, and went international with presenters and attendees from Canada.
March came in like a lion as VSTE partnered with Susan Clair from the Virginia Department of Education to meet a need brought forth by the K-12 IT Advisory Group. Between the event at Richard Bland College near Richmond and the second date in Martinsville at the New College Institute (NCI) over 200 educational technology leaders attended Incident Response is a Team Sport. This event was in response to the high-priority need to help Technology Directors and other school leaders better understand and prepare for the ever-looming cyber threats that schools encounter. The joint effort to help schools become CyberSafe has continued with NCI and has gone mobile. Look for the CyberSafe vehicle throughout the Commonwealth. VSTE also lent support in March to the EdTechRVA regional conference put on by the Greater Richmond Area Educational Technology Consortium a.k.a. GRAETC. It was my first time working with the organizers of that event and I was impressed with the level of commitment and dedication. With the support of VSTE, the Shenandoah Valley Ed Tech Collaborative (SVETC) held the Brainstorm conference virtually in April. Working with SVETC was especially rewarding as my experiences in leadership roles with that organization helped to prepare me for my post as executive director of VSTE.
The month of May was busy with work behind the scenes as new members of the board of directors were elected and we prepared for changes in leadership in June. We welcomed Chrystal Elmore, JB Reynolds, and Daniel Vanover to the board and bid farewell to Heather Hurley, Scott Kizer, Paula Leach, Tim Mays, and Joy McDonald. New Officers were elected as Heather Askea handed the Gavel to the incoming Board Chair Emily Heller, the Vice Chair transitioned from Joy McDonald to Chanel Alford, Secretary responsibilities were passed from Margaret Sisler to Lucy Spencer and the Office of Treasurer remained with Patrick Hausammann. The newly elected E-Team met for a planning retreat in July to work through the priorities set at our June meeting.
The Summer Webinar Series was well attended and the response was strong enough to set the foundation for the ongoing VSTE webinar series that is geared toward providing educators with content that is valuable to them and easily and readily applicable for use in the classroom as they plan for future lessons. We will cover topics from Accessibility to Gen Z student engagement.
The Board of Directors met in August to set the stage for the September Quarterly Board Meeting where a work session on the strategic planning for VSTE would begin to shape the coming years of growth and advancement for the organization. Communication, Membership, Development, and Partnerships were the key themes for the strategic plan and the E-Team went to work on drafting the goals for each of those areas. The goals were approved at the December Quarterly Board Meeting and the E-Team will hold a workshop to identify the strategies for achieving these goals.
October for VSTE has long included the Leading Ed Forum (LEF). The 2023 version, Leading Education Forward, brought together over 150 Ed Tech Leaders and featured sessions from three of our national affiliations, ISTE, CoSN, and SHLB. Twenty-eight sessions were offered on the day under the strands of Cybersecurity, Sustainability, and Emerging Technologies. Many thanks go to Susan Clair, Christine Diggs, Terri Hechler, Shannon Fuhrman, and Heather Askea of the LEF Planning Committee.
You can tell by now, as Thanksgiving approached there was an abundance of things to be grateful for and appreciation was aplenty. The strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results of the work of many friends of VSTE were evident and we still had the annual conference right around the corner. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” had been truly represented as a mindset of the organization since the theme was announced during the closing session of VSTE22. From our VSTE23 keynotes, featured speakers, presenters, and volunteers to the staff and attendees, there was a powerful sense of purpose among the VSTE Community!
We are indeed hopeful that the annual conference will one day return to Roanoke. The extension of the conference venue to include the Roanoke Higher Education Center provided the needed additional space for the CS Playground and to accommodate the over 1100 attendees. The space at RHEC also provided the opportunity to add an event to the conference lineup. The inaugural Data Science Career Pathways Summit was held on December 3rd and was well attended by representatives from the business, industry, and workforce sectors, the higher education community, and K-12 educators. The panel discussions by each of those groups were followed by table conversations and brought to light the economic impact on and educational needs of our learners and the societal supports necessary to meet the challenges that are before us.
With a focus on strengthening Communication, Membership, Development, and Partnerships, VSTE enters 2024 with strategic goals and plans in place to maintain the level of activity achieved in 2023 as well as a desire to enhance those events and to add others to fill in the opportunities that exist between VSTE23 and VSTE24. We will aspire to increase our members' engagement helping them to stay connected and resulting in a positive impact on educational environments throughout the Commonwealth.
And now it’s time for a long winter’s nap!
Be well, make good happen, and let’s keep in touch.