Write to Learn Conference 2016
by Betty Porter Walls, Ph.D.
Nearly one thousand educators gathered at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach, MO for the 2016 Write to Learn Conference (WTL) on February 25-27. Every room at the resort was occupied; hallways were crowded between sessions; long lines waited to get books autographed by authors who were keynote and featured speakers; the vibrant sound of adult engagement and learning permeated the resort; exhibits were plentiful and teachers shopped and wished for funds to purchase new, creative resources. The weather at the lake was beautiful and the conference was full of exuberance.
Keynote speakers challenged everyone’s thoughts. Taylor Mali reminded us why we do what we do – teach. Author Tanny McGregor stressed the power of the reflective practitioner. Adam Gidwitz fascinated everyone with the well-known Grimm’s Fairy Tales currently retold in a terrifyingly humorous manner; perhaps there’s a new genre of literature. Ron Clark lifted our spirits, made us laugh as he acknowledged the differences educators make in the lives of our students as we ‘teach through adversity’ and face continuing challenges. So great was the caliber and commitment that one speaker, Kate Messner, who was snowed in on the east coast, Skyped her full-day pre-conference workshop.
This year’s WTL offered a plethora of inviting sessions. Two of our own St. Louis Suburban Council International Reading Association (IRA) board members conducted sessions. Both President Tamara Rhomberg and Betty Porter Walls had more than one hundred twenty (120) teachers in our workshops. Tammy’s workshop title was “Making the Most of Writer’s Workshop: Mini-Lessons that Enhance Author Crafts. Betty’s title was “Creating a Culture of Writing Right in the Classroom: The Teacher Makes the Difference.” Board member Tom Cornell also attended the WTL. We all helped at the exhibition booth for the Missouri State Council of the International Reading Association (MSC-IRA) which recruited a number of new members.
Fun, engaging and creative activities were featured for educators during the WTL; these included a ‘magnetic poetry contest’ for spontaneous compositions, the ‘micro-essay contest’ with the sentence stem, ’Teachers make a difference because …. ,’ and the ’mad libs’ contest for creative and humorous writers. As prizes
were announced, it was pure joy to observe the surprise and sheer pleasure of the winners. The ‘Open Mic’ allowed budding writers, poets, musicians, and artists an opportunity to showcase their talents. Students in grades PK– 12 who were winners of the ‘2016 Missouri Writing Awards Contest’ showed great excitement when receiving their awards while their parents and teachers beamed with pride.
The WTL Conference was quite an enjoyable professional development event and I look forward to attending next year. Mark your calendars for February 16-18, 2017.