As we reflect on our Virtual Fall Conference, “Hands On - Minds On: Now More Than Ever,” we are grateful, now, more than ever, for all of the hands and minds that it took to make this conference a great success.
A huge thank you goes out to our keynote speakers, Dr. Marcia Gentry and Dr. Brian Housand, who gave us some clear insight into the state of gifted education in Wisconsin. Their presentations were coupled with many concrete suggestions, and with much inspiration as we continue on our journey of inclusion and diversity. We have a long way to go, but our heads, our hands, and our hearts are dedicated to this work, and we invite all of you to join with us.
Another huge thank you goes out to our breakout session speakers. With over 40 great offerings to choose from, these speakers gave us valuable and timely information, and shared many ideas of what is working well in Wisconsin. They all rocked it! We can’t thank them enough for their willingness to join us on this virtual journey, and to learn and grow with us.
Our virtual teen conference was also an outstanding success, with over 50 students and some very supportive parents and teachers in attendance. We know that these teens will benefit from this experience, and will enjoy the Arduino kits that they received for years to come. We extend our thanks to all who made this wonderful learning adventure possible!
Once again our parent conference was well received and appreciated by our participants. Thank you to all of the parents who shared their wisdom, and adapted well to our virtual format; though the format was different, the sharing was, as always, authentic and heartfelt. Thank you for supporting each other in the parenting journey.
This year we chose to invite pre-service educators from our state’s colleges and universities to attend our conference free of charge. They brought enthusiasm, and fresh perspectives to our conference, and we thank them for accepting our invitation. We know that we will continue to include students in our conferences in the future!
It was reported that some of our unconference zoom rooms, our informal gathering, went on well into the evening. This was a testimony to the need for all of us to stay connected, even during a pandemic. We are glad that so many of you took us up on that opportunity! Staying connected is important, now more than ever.
We thank all of you, our participants, for your questions, your patience, and your willingness to go on this virtual conference journey with us. Though the format was different, the spirit of learning, and sharing, and questioning remained evident. Here in Wisconsin we’ve built a great network of educators and parents who are committed to gifted individuals in our state, and it was heartwarming to be together.
Finally, we’d like to extend a huge thank you to our exhibitors, who ventured into this virtual format with energy, enthusiasm, and a willingness to try out new ways of sharing. We thank you for your time, expertise, and commitment to gifted learners. We hope that you had a successful experience this year, and we look forward to working with you again next year, in whatever format is possible.
As a reminder, many of our sessions were recorded, and, depending on the conference registration level that you chose, you will be able to view them at your leisure until the middle of December. For those of you who are extremely busy during these unusual times, we are sure that this feature is most welcome, and we urge you to catch up on sessions that you might have missed and want to view.
As a board, this virtual conference provided us with many challenges and deep learning experiences. Like many of you who are braving the joys and challenges of online learning, we on the WATG Board had a steep learning curve. We pivoted to planning this conference virtually in April when we realized that a face-to-face conference would not be feasible. We spent most of the spring, summer, and early fall exploring, formulating, reformulating, and refining our plans. We had a lot of learning to do! Just as online teaching is definitely much more work than in-person teaching, we found that a virtual conference was much more time-consuming, and we learned many lessons along our journey.
First and foremost, we learned that you, our participants, were flexible and gracious people. As we inevitably had some glitches along the way, you rolled with it. You learned on a new platform, and pivoted with changes along the way. You were patient with us as we problem solved, often right before your eyes. And you remained kind and understanding. We thank you!
In retrospect, we also learned that we, as a Board, were a great team, and that we were capable of learning and growing. Board members pulled together, shared the work, and challenged each other to use our skills to make this the best conference possible in a new and unfamiliar format. If you could have peeked “behind the curtain” before and at the conference, you would have seen camaraderie, problem-solving, decision-making, and creative and critical thinking in action. You would also have seen some frustration, heartfelt encouragement, and unique (and much appreciated) senses of humor. You might have even seen a few glasses of wine... Our genuine admiration and appreciation goes out to our executive director, “General” Nancy Woodward, who handled everything with grace and infinite patience. Nancy’s skill and dedication to the WI Association for Talented and Gifted continues to be a joy to watch. We are very fortunate to have her, especially as we navigated new territory virtually.
It occurred to many of us on the Board that this year, “more than ever,” we were given a rare opportunity to grow beyond our comfort zone. At this writing, we are hoping to add several new board members to our ranks, and are looking for individuals who are willing to work hard, learn new skills, move beyond their personal comfort zone, and make a difference in the lives of gifted and talented individuals in the state of Wisconsin. We are looking for people who have a “Hands On -- Minds On” attitude, and a “Heart On” dedication to service. Maybe that’s you? If it is, please contact us at www.watg.org. We’d love to talk to you about this opportunity. We promise that you, too, will learn and grow!