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AACTE 2021 Annual Meeting Moves Ed Prep in the Right Direction

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As a member of AACTE’s Meetings and Professional Development Committee, it has been exciting to see this year’s Annual Meeting come together. Given the tragic events of the past few weeks, the conference theme of “Resisting Hate, Restoring Hope: Engaging in Courageous Action” is even more relevant today than a year ago. It is an affirmation that we truly live in a time that calls upon each and every one of us to restore hope through courageous action.

This year’s keynote speakers embody this mission. Award-winning author and professor, Bettina L. Love, will show us how to build communal, civically-engaged schools that love and affirm Black and Brown children. Our need for a healthier political climate, one that honors democracy through integrity and public service will be addressed by acclaimed, presidential historian Michael Beschloss.

To see the conference program emerge from this year’s theme in the midst of unprecedented challenges was very gratifying. I was especially heartened that AACTE members, undaunted by the current crisis, submitted a tremendous number of conference proposals, an indication of membership vitality even in the midst of a pandemic. From those proposals, there emerged 168 concurrent sessions on online learning and teaching, equity, diversity, democracy, community engagement, and clinical practice. I am eager to learn how this dedicated group of colleagues are transforming challenge into opportunity, crisis into innovation, and chaos into creativity. It is clear that the AACTE membership is forging ahead, meeting the challenges of today, while keeping their eyes on the future.  

I am also fascinated by the outstanding work AACTE has done to put together a national virtual conference. In the New Jersey chapter (NJACTE), we have also transitioned to virtual, state-wide conferences, and we have learned much from how AACTE conducts their work. (Plus, the AACTE team has been very generous in sharing their virtual expertise.) Each time I attend an AACTE event, my vison for engaging in the virtual world is enlarged. This year’s conference is a perfect example: how to combine live and recorded sessions into a compelling professional experience.

We are at the beginning of a new era that must be dedicated to restoring American democracy. If we are to build a more just, more inclusive, more enlightened society, the way forward will require a renewed understanding of equity and justice, the courage to act on that understanding, and the ingenuity to bring it forth in a highly technological world. This year’s conference is an important and needed step in that direction. It is an exemplar of how to move forward by embracing challenge. I am looking forward to it. 

AACTE Board member John Henning is a member of the Association’s Committee on Meetings and Professional Development.


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John Henning

Dean of the School of Education at Monmouth University (NJ)

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