Over two weekends in January, over one thousand educators from across Alaska gathered online and in-person for the 2023 RTI MTSS / Effective Instruction Conference. Hosted and lead by the Alaska Staff Development Network (ASDN), this annual professional development gathering is the largest K-12 education conference in the State of Alaska and brings national caliber presenters and education experts from across the curriculum together with Alaska’s education community.
2023 was the first time in three years that the conference was held primarily in person, with a virtual component offered the Saturday before for those who couldn’t make the trip to Anchorage. Many colleagues had not physically seen each other in years, and so there was a notable atmosphere of reconnection throughout the two in-person days, with many hugs and high-fives and catch up conversations.
This year’s in-person conference featured an opening keynote on from Vince Bustamante who spoke on ‘Establishing an Environment for Implementation’. His comments addressed the kinds of empathetic environments that we create in schools that can invite students to feel connected and seen, setting the stage for increased academic engagements.
Conference participants then broke out into a dynamic series of breakouts throughout the day, featuring speakers from across the curriculum discussing topics as wide ranging as literacy engagement, social emotional strategies, mathematical fluency, Alaska’s new Reads Act and principal leadership. Saturdays endnote was delivered by Tricia Skyles from the organization ‘Safe and Civil Schools‘. Her talk spoke to educators being ‘Beacons of Hope’ in students lives as well as in the communities where they serve.
Of this year’s conference, one participant offered the following:
“I have been teaching for 13 years this year and I absolutely felt for the first time in a long time that I walked away with practices and skills that I can apply within my classroom immediately to help support students. It also sparked my own learning to dive deeper in to the topics of change and programs to have a deeper understanding and knowledge bank for growing my craft as an educator.”
Another participant shared:
“THE Conference of the year! I enjoy these conferences because of the caliber of speakers & quality of material presented at each one. I have never been disappointed in any of them.”
Gatherings like the RTI/MTSS Effective Instruction conference help refresh, connect and reignite the common purpose of the Alaska education community. Being the first large gathering like this in several years added just a bit more importance and urgency to the collective work taking place to reengage students, families and communities as everyone charts a path forward following the pandemic years.