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Vice President's Message

Post-Conference Reflections...

By Cassy Lawrence

C onference bags, program booklets, folders and name badges… registration and membership … presenters and exhibitors… lunch menus and parking… the workshop schedule… PD certificates... LCD projectors and Internet – these are just some of the many details that consumed me for several months before the Spring Conference. The role of Conference Chair, paired with my fulltime job as 4th grade classroom teacher, made for a very busy and demanding year. Just days before the conference, our amazing Executive Board worked together to stuff bags, count certificates, and make some last strategic decisions. And the night before the conference, when anticipation was at a height, I was able to take it all in. Indeed, we were ready to go!

There’s continued talk around the state of budget cuts, lay-offs, program and staff reductions, as well as feelings of disillusion as our profession continues to be on the receiving end of harsh criticism from the public. Our Spring Conference proved, however, that nothing stops dedicated educators from accessing the professional development they want and need. There were about 680 attendees on the first day of the conference and over 500 on Day Two. In addition to these numbers were the outstanding presenters and exhibitors, as well as a supportive team of volunteers, bringing our total conference numbers to just over 1280. The hotel hummed with excitement and camaraderie, as colleagues from across the state gathered at workshops, networked over lunch, and examined materials with exhibitors. As well, the dinner event was very well-attended – including recognition of award recipients, a superb variety of international foods, a beautiful dance performance, and the informative keynote of Dr. Nancy Cloud.

Sincere thanks to those of you who took the time to respond to the post-conference online survey. After reviewing your comments, we were pleased to know you were quite satisfied with the conference in general.  The variety of workshops met the needs of our diverse membership. The Higher Ed Mini conference was a welcome addition to our program and went very well. Attendees were pleased with the quality of the buffet lunch, as well as with the smaller setting which the Hyatt offered – “all in one place”, “closer”, “everything accessible”, and “conference feel” were just some of your positive comments in regard to the new venue.  

Overwhelmingly, the survey results were positive, though there were some complaints about parking and the workshop schedule. Although we made sure to remind our conference-goers to “leave early, share the ride, beat the traffic”, many of you found yourselves scrambling to find a parking space. Parking is indeed an issue as in any busy city. And while we did apprise our registrants of the city parking facilities, many were frustrated at not being able to park closer to the hotel. We acknowledge all of your comments in this regard, and assure you that we’ll be working on this detail for next year’s conference. We’re exploring a few options to alleviate the parking, and will let you know what we come up with well before next year’s event.

Some comments on the survey indicated dissatisfaction with the staggered nature of the workshop schedule. We must stagger the workshops so that we can offer you a wide variety of topics and manage the flow of participants. We also stagger the workshops in an effort to create special interest group “strands”. If all workshops were to begin and end at the same time, not only would we have parking issues on our hands, we’d have serious traffic jams!

Now is the time for YOU to consider being a presenter at the next conference! Perhaps you, or that amazing colleague of yours, have the perfect topic to share next year. If you haven’t already, join us on our Facebook page (NJTESOL-NJBE) or on Twitter (@NJTESOL-NJBE) and stay up-to-date on the latest ELL news, advocacy issues, and conference information.

It’s the start of summer, and I’ve sent my 4th graders on to meet the challenges of fifth grade. All conference tasks are complete as well. I can reflect on the year and say, “ it was a success!”

Now, on to Spring Conference 2012! See you there!

Cassy Lawrence is Vice President of NJTESOL/NJBE and Spring Conference Chair and may be reached at clawrence@njtesol-njbe.org . She is a bilingual elementary teacher in the Perth Amboy School District.