The most daunting start of school in memory brings logistical worries of how to plan for a school year that may be virtual, in-person, or both and stress over best teaching practices in an unfamiliar remote or blended learning environment. These concerns, along with health, social and emotional well-being, and equity for all are the driving force behind our August Virtual Conference: Back to School. 
Sessions will follow the same tracks as our successful July event and are designed to help you plan for the transition to fall. We're bringing practitioners and thought leaders to you in an online setting to help you navigate the important questions about how to be ready for the start of a new school year.

View the full schedule of sessions here!


Adaptive Professional Development: Meeting All Educators’ Needs in Unpredictable Times

Jim Knight
Educators today face more uncertainty about what they do than at any other time in our lives. Consequently, instructional coaches and other professional developers have never been more needed. The challenges teachers face are so unpredictable and complex that professional developers must be ready to do their best to be everything to everyone. But how do they do the impossible? This session is meant to answer that question at least partially. Given the complexity of teachers’ professional learning needs, coaches need to move fluently between different roles (mentor, trainer, coach) and different kinds of interactions (facilitative, dialogical, directive) as they respond to the individual needs of each unique educator. In this session, we’ll unpack these different roles and interactions and share specific tools and strategies every professional developer can use to better support teachers when working within each of the roles. Anyone who is trying to help teachers address the many challenges they are facing today should find this session helpful.

Which Function Can Your School Serve? Clarifying the Purpose Before You Go Back

Simon Rodberg
Schools serve four functions in our society: custodial, job readiness, developmental, and democratic. The tensions between these four functions challenged school leaders before the pandemic; now, especially with social distancing in schools, it will be impossible to fulfill all four for all students. In this session, you will identify which activities at your school serve which function. You’ll then prioritize, given pandemic-related limitations, which will be most important for your school to achieve, and how to achieve them in virtual or in-person settings. Participants will Identify and prioritize the purposes of their schools for their school communities. Plan for virtual and in-person activities to meet the most important purposes for particular student populations.

Creating Sustainable School and District Improvement Using an Intensive Theory of Action

Yozmin Gay Draper
Although the 2020–21 school year is met with much uncertainty because of COVID-19, we have a valuable opportunity to deeply reflect on the student learning inequities that already pervaded the education system in our country. This session is specifically designed for school or district leaders and their teams working as networked communities to clearly identify their school or district problem, accurately establish priorities, and develop a theory of action grounded in equity to close learning gaps and drive sustainable improvement. Following this session, participants will be able to Establish a problem statement: What is the problem? Who is it affecting, and for what reason? Align priorities to your school or district problem. Commit to a cycle of researched-based instructional leadership actions, reflections, targets, and metrics that will create traction in student outcomes. Operationalize high-leverage commitments and actions with people, time, and resources that will drive your school or district improvement plan.

Leading for Growth Mindsets

Marcus Conyers
Around the world, a growing body of research has shown that learners of all ages with growth mindsets have greater motivation, work harder to solve difficult problems, and experience higher levels of academic achievement and performance. Leaders at all levels can influence the development of growth mindsets by modeling key practices and sharing a framework of principles and effective strategies over time. In this dynamic session, global leadership consultant Marcus Conyers, co-author of Developing Growth Mindsets, will share inspiring insights and practical steps for developing growth mindsets in educators and students. Participants will Learn why it is important for education leaders to support the development of growth mindsets in faculty and staff. Apply insights and practical strategies for supporting faculty and staff in the development of growth mindsets.  

Distance Learning in the Primary Grades: Elevating Voice to Design Change

Lindsay Portnoy
This session is based on the presenter's book, Designed to Learn: Using Design Thinking to Bring Purpose and Passion to the Classroom. Primary-level educators will use this education-focused design thinking framework to elevate the voices of students, teachers, and the community. We'll unpack five elements of design thinking: (1) understand and empathize, (2) identify and research, (3) communicate and ideate, (4) prototype and test, and (5) iterate and reflect. Embedded within each element is authentic formative assessment to inform teaching and inspire learning. I’ll demonstrate how to implement each element in flexible but intentional design to create future forward learning experiences that have a positive impact on the local community and create global change. Participants will Discover a roadmap for transitioning a single unit or lesson to a design thinking experience for primary learners that works during distance learning and in the emergent model of education. Identify concrete steps primary students can take in design thinking experiences as well as methods for evaluating student’s metacognitive thinking, self-regulated learning, and epistemological beliefs. Discover technology tools for students to use in connecting, creating, co-creating, and sharing their designed creations. Create authentic assessments for providing ongoing formative feedback to learners.

Drawing Them In and Lifting Them Up: Responding to Student Interests and Needs (Online and Face-to-Face)

Kristina Doubet
If we are to succeed in supporting student success this coming academic year, whether it occurs in a face-to-face, online, or blended setting, we must be prepared with flexible options for engaging and supporting students in their pursuit of essential ideas and skills. The first step is to determine and respond to student interests with absorbing, relevant tasks that beckon them to participate, even in the midst of distraction and hardship. The second step is to make sure that students are appropriately challenged and supported in these efforts. This session will provide teachers with (1) frameworks for offering choice and giving students voice and (2) tools and strategies to support students as they work on these engaging tasks. We'll model digital delivery systems for task options and supports  throughout the session to build teacher competence and confidence in implementation. All strategies and tools will help students demonstrate critical skills through avenues that draw them in and with structures that lift them up. Participants will Examine frameworks for determining and responding to student interests. Explore digital tools for delivering tasks and providing both choice and scaffold.

Milestone Portfolios: Showing Student Growth from Different Starting Points

David Niguidula
This year, let’s not focus on the gaps; let’s celebrate the growth. In this session, we’ll show you how your students can build "milestone portfolios." Rather than focus on trying to catch up on all the content, teachers can use portfolios to focus on students acquiring the key skills in any subject area. To build the portfolio, we first establish a baseline for the students by asking them to complete a basic task. From there, teachers can use a task review strategy and designate certain existing classroom assignments (or home learning activities) as milestones. (Note that this builds on assessments already in place. As students complete these tasks, they can show their growth by adding them to a portfolio. This process allows students and teachers to make this year more manageable by focusing your assessments on the most important skills. Participants will learn how to Focus on essential skills for a class. Conduct a task review to designate existing classroom assessments as milestones. Implement a strategy where students assemble portfolios to show growth.

Better Teaching for English Language Learners

Persida Himmele
William Himmele
All teachers can provide a learning environment that supports the academic growth of English language Learners (ELLs). This session will focus on a five-part framework for fostering learning and increased interaction in classrooms that serve all students, including multilingual learners. Participants will Be able to identify five important ingredients for increasing learning in classrooms with ELLs. Be able to identify specific strategies that fit into the CHATS framework for increasing learning in classrooms with ELLs.

Six Key Guiding Principles for Transformative, Sustainable Racial Equity Planning

Paul Gorski
The trouble in most schools is less the absence of racial equity efforts than the tendency to embrace racial equity strategies and initiatives that have no chance of cultivating or sustaining more racial equity. In this session, we will briefly explore common equity detours that undermine meaningful equity efforts then learn fundamental research-informed principles to guide racial equity planning. Participants will engage in interactive processes of considering how they might shift their racial equity efforts and build momentum with colleagues toward a more transformative approach. We will include examples relevant to distance learning and COVID-19, but the message will be that we need to carry these lessons forward with us. Participants will Reflect on the transformative potential of their current racial equity efforts. Learn a robust framework for racial equity based on key evidence-based values and principles. Practice applying that framework to the racial equity challenges in their own classrooms, schools, or districts.

The Mindfulness Revolution: How a Simple Stress-Reduction Technique Can Transform Your Students’ Lives

Thomas Armstrong
This session will describe the practice of mindfulness and its benefits in lowering stress levels in students. Thomas Armstrong will cite recent neuroscience research and provide tips on implementing mindfulness in the classroom. We will also conduct a brief mindfulness experience during the session. Participants will Become familiar with mindfulness as a stress-reduction practice. Learn about the research supporting this practice. Receive practical tips for implementing mindfulness in the classroom. Have a brief mindfulness experience of mindfulness.  

Emotions, Learning, and the Brain

Allison Posey
Research on the brain has shown that emotions are essential for learning; they are never separate from cognition. The challenge for educators is how to design for emotions in day-to-day learning preparation because there is so much content and curriculum to cover and so many students to consider. In this session, we will discuss research on the learning brain and how the brain's emotion networks are critical for learning. We will discuss strategies, including Universal Design for Learning, which can make a real difference for student learning. In addition, we will brainstorm how to integrate those strategies into our daily routines and practices to support rigorous, meaningful learning opportunities for every individual. Through interactive discussions and exercises (even in remote learning), we will reflect on how we can design learning environments that support and value the full range of emotions in our classrooms and deepen the learning opportunities for all. Participants will Learn key findings from brain science about the learning brain. Understand how emotion and cognition interact for learning. Gain strategies and resources to begin to take action in practice.  

Strategies to Support At-Risk Learners in the Digital Space

Danielle  Strohmeyer
Leah Jurek
While online learning has many benefits, for some learners, moving into the digital space can also bring special challenges. As we move into a new school year, it is important to look carefully at some of the needs this online learning environment may present for different learners and how we can design instruction and spaces to help overcome these challenges. 

We will look briefly at three key areas for considering equity in online learning and discuss ways you can leverage the space and instructional design to empower the student experience. We will look carefully at the technical design practices that may inadvertently create barriers and ways to overcome this through strong accessibility practices. Additionally, we will look at Universal Design for Learning and how this framework can create adaptable instructional that enables all learners to access the learning process in ways best suited for them. 

Join us to learn how to design online instruction that supports all student learning! 

Sponsored by:

The Flexible Principal: Leading Through—and Learning from—Hard Times

Jen Schwanke
The past school year taught us a lot about our staff, our community, and ourselves—in ways we could never have predicted. We’ve had to adapt quickly, think flexibly, and develop new ways to support our students and staff. In this session, we will discuss some specific strategies to capitalize on what we’ve learned, which will reboot our leadership skills and make our work more effective, more enjoyable, and more sustainable over time. Participants will Consider a specific three-step approach to work through hard times. Gain confidence to lead through challenging situations. Embrace the inevitable change that comes with a "new normal."

Supporting Adults SEL in a Virtual Realm

Alissa Farias
As education restarts in the fall, we are largely focused on how best to support our students social and emotional needs due to the impact of COVID and civil unrest. As educational leaders, we need to also shift our focus to supporting our staff’s social and emotional needs. In this session, you will learn several ways to integrate SEL, mindfulness and build community with your staff virtually.

Resilient to Burnout: Using Science to Bring Back the Joy of Teaching

Chase Mielke

Educators often burn the candle at both ends—not only eroding their own well-being, but also diminishing their ability to engage students in the classroom. This interactive session will highlight research-based, teacher-tested methods for increasing educator well-being, reducing burnout, and improving learning in the classroom.
The session will begin with an introduction of a simple Model for Thriving, which empowers educators to take their well-being into their own hands. Then, we will explore multiple themes for thriving: mindfulness, goodness curation, forgiveness, gratitude, optimism, altruism, goal striving, and job crafting.
We will explore the peer-reviewed science for each theme along with dozens of strategies for educators. Participants will not only learn methods for their own thriving, but also walk away with ideas for improving the social and emotional well-being for their students.
Participants will
  • Identify multiple research-based practices for reducing burnout.
  • Articulate dozens of specific actions and attitudes that will improve educator and student social and emotional thriving.

What Matters for High-Quality Project-Based Learning—In Person and Online

John Larmer
Suzie Boss
When schools made the abrupt shift to virtual learning in March, some teachers quickly and successfully adapted project-based learning (PBL) for remote instruction. As fall approaches, more schools are looking to PBL for blended or online learning. This interactive session will help them succeed. We will feature lessons learned about how to design and manage high-quality PBL for online and blended learning. Participants will engage in protocols and routines that are useful for online PBL.They will leave with resources to assist with project planning and implementation, as well as strategies and tools to keep students engaged in authentic and meaningful learning. Participants will Learn how to apply best practices for PBL in online and blended contexts. Experience protocols and routines to support student success with PBL. Gain access to resources to support PBL implementation.

If We Want Students To Be Independent Remote Learners, What Do We Have To Teach?

Margaret Searle
Marilyn Swartz
How can we make up for lost time and get kids re-engaged this fall? In this session you will receive a tool for analyzing remote learning strengths and needs. See what research says about how long students can stay engaged and learn a specific technique for teaching students to organize their materials and time when learning at home. 1. Receive a tool for analyzing students’ remote learning strengths and needs (Strength Charts). 2. See what research says about how long students can stay engaged. 3. Learn a specific technique for helping students organize their learning days at home.

Rigor in the Remote Learning Classroom

Barbara Blackburn
Would you like to take your remote learning instruction to a higher level? Are you interested in helping your students rise to higher expectations? How can you ensure they will be successful in a more rigorous remote learning environment? In this session, we'll discuss practical strategies to ensure all students can succeed in a rigorous remote learning environment. This session is appropriate for all content areas and grade levels. Participants will Understand strategies to incorporate rigor in the remote learning classroom. Learn specific strategies that allow you to adapt your current remote learning instruction to include opportunities for more rigorous learning for students. Develop a draft of an action plan of next steps to incorporate rigor in remote learning.

Scaffolding for English Language Learners in Traditional and Digital Classrooms

Erica Flores
Kelley Cordeiro
In this interactive session, we will model and engage participants in an exploration of tools and strategies to design academic and linguistic scaffolding for English language learners. Specific consideration will be given to adapting scaffolds from traditional classroom settings to digital learning environments. Participants will Identify opportunities for implementing various scaffolding tools to support English language learners at all levels of language proficiency. Build their capacity to use specific features of digital platforms to engage and support all learners. Grow their professional learning community through engagement activities designed for and embedded in this session.

Impact. Connect. Rest: How to Teach the Fine Arts in Uncertain Times

William Martinez

For teachers of music, theater, art, and other electives, this year has proved to be the most difficult to accomplish your lesson plans, find artistic expression, and be a source of inspiration. Join popular keynote speaker William Martinez as he shares three different and powerful ways to enter this school year with a plan. We know students need the arts to express their emotions, comfort their fear, and have a safe place to belong. Martinez will share how to get buy-in from parents and administrators without changing your lesson plans and achieve quantifiable results. Start this year with inspiration, purpose, awareness, equity, and much-needed care. (Bonus: You may learn some American Sign Language along the way!)
Participants will
Learn how to impact your school and community through positive, specific actions.
Explore different ways to connect with your students and creatively establish communication between each student.
Discover powerful ways you can redefine rest.

Emotional Check-Ins

Jackie Gerstein
By checking in with students (regardless of age) about how they are feeling as class starts, teachers acknowledge that how students are feeling is important to the them, that students matter as human beings who have feelings and emotions. Emotional check-ins also help students become more focused and present for class. During this session, participants will learn 10 emotional check-in strategies that they can implement immediately in their classrooms. Participants will Learn and be able to implement 10 emotional check in strategies in either their face-to-face or their virtual classrooms. Be able to justify their use of emotional check-ins based on current social and emotional learning literature.

Drawing Them In and Lifting Them Up: Responding to Student Interests and Needs (Online and Face-to-F

Kristina Doubet
If we are to succeed in supporting student success this coming academic year, whether it occurs in a face-to-face, online, or blended setting, we must be prepared with flexible options for engaging and supporting students in their pursuit of essential ideas and skills. The first step is to determine and respond to student interests with absorbing, relevant tasks that beckon them to participate, even in the midst of distraction and hardship. The second step is to make sure that students are appropriately challenged and supported in these efforts. This session will provide teachers with (1) frameworks for offering choice and giving students voice and (2) tools and strategies to support students as they work on these engaging tasks. We'll model digital delivery systems for task options and supports  throughout the session to build teacher competence and confidence in implementation. All strategies and tools will help students demonstrate critical skills through avenues that draw them in and with structures that lift them up. Participants will Examine frameworks for determining and responding to student interests. Explore digital tools for delivering tasks and providing both choice and scaffold.

Blended Learning Bliss: How to Address Engagement, Expectations, and Experiences

Georgina Aye
Shawnette Bryant
How do teachers engage students and increase student participation using web-based content, instruction, and integrated learning experience? Remote learning is a part of our reality. For some, it's complicated, with hours of planning and numerous technology platforms. For others, it's basic, just worksheets and 15 minutes live. Where's the line? How do teachers maintain their expectations . . .and their momentum for distance learning for students and the teacher? Participants will Define and understand blended learning models by comparing and contrasting various models. Refine the blended learning models by discussing current suggested (or required) remote learning instructional expectations. Learn strategies to increase student engagement by unpacking a lesson plan.

Using Curiosity to Support Learning from Home

Kristin Rouleau
Tonia Gibson
How does student curiosity contribute to improved learning outcomes, and how can we leverage it to benefit every student? This session will explore the "why" behind student curiosity and suggest that you can use curiosity-driven projects to deepen and extend learning at home. Participants will Understand the benefits of curiosity and why it’s important to cultivate it in our classrooms. Practice asking questions that promote curiosity. Generate examples of how to use curiosity-driven projects for at-home learning.

Student Ownership of Remote Learning

Cathy Vatterott
Whether student learning is in person, blended, or remote, the strategies for student ownership are similar. We start by removing the threat of grades, giving one-on-one targeted feedback, and allowing students choices in how they learn and how they demonstrate their learning. The presenter will share examples of student-owned elementary and secondary tasks, discuss the logistics of implementing and managing student-owned learning, and typical student missteps to expect. She will also share a template for “emergency” learning: when students must transition to totally remote learning on short notice. Participants will Understand how student ownership can enhance the quality of remote learning. Discuss logistical issues of implementing and managing student-owned learning. Anticipate student struggles in adapting to student-owned learning. Evaluate a plan for student-designed emergency remote learning.  

Distance Learning, Online Learning, and Students with Disabilities: How Do We Do It?

Deborah Taub
Elizabeth Hartman
Terri Vandercook
Gail Ghere
Meeting the needs of students with disabilities is often viewed as an add on to meeting the needs of students without IEPs. Yet, the COVID 19 era has reminded us of the power of educators who are able to use technology, distance learning, and educational tools in flexible and inclusive ways. This session delves into the principles of Universal Design for Learning and how this framework fundamentally changes common thinking about education. Specifically, we will demonstrate and provide opportunities to explore different educational technologies, tools and platforms using a frame of accessibility and flexibility to meet students’ needs with a focus on minimalizing the need for educators to recreate the wheel. If the response to COVID-19 taught us nothing else, it is that hundreds of different resources are available for teachers, but how to use those resources effectively is often left up to the teacher. We will share some strategies and provide resources that will take some of that burden off of the teachers. Participants will Identify ways to use Universal Design for Learning for distance, online and in-person learning that makes instruction accessible for all students, including those with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Be able to evaluate different educational technology, tools, and platforms for their accessibility and use. Leave with ideas and resources for using technology to immediately support all students with a specific focus on students with disabilities.  

How to Curb Student Anxiety During School Transitions

Christine Ravesi-Weinstein
While school is a place of academic learning, and expectations of the school environment can riddle students with anxiety, it’s also a place of certainty and familiarity for many. Students can always count on it being there. However, when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in early March, and governors across the country began closing schools, that certainty faltered. Now, as we transition to a new year, many uncertainties remain as to what school will look like. Although a loss of academics is a concern for all, even more concerning is the emotional impact this is having on our most vulnerable students: those with anxiety and depression. From helping students focus on what they can control to encouraging creativity, educators can smooth the continuance of remote learning or the transition back into the classroom. In this session, educators will learn strategies to encourage and help students with anxiety and to help parents persevere through remote learning and transition back to the schoolhouse. Participants will Examine what anxiety is, how it can look different for so many sufferers, and why it is exacerbated in young adults. Learn numerous practical strategies to use with students suffering from anxiety and to help parents support them in managing the anxiety that comes with schooling during a pandemic.  

ReIMAGINE Raffle Drawing


Wrap-up with ASCD

Joseph Brumfield