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Educators learn how to "choose joy" at 2024 KEEN Conference

Educators learn how to "choose joy" at 2024 KEEN Conference

Around 135 educators from across the state attended the first day of the 2024 Kansas Exemplary Educators Network (KEEN) State Education Conference on Thursday.

Darrion Cockrell, 2021 Missouri Teacher of the Year and 2023 Missouri Physical Educator of the Year, gave the keynote general session: "Relationships that Bring Joy."

"I never really got the chance to be a kid, but I think that now being an educator, I'm almost living through my kids and seeing their joy. It allows me to relive that and just spread joy knowing that I didn't have that growing up."

Cockrell said he incorporates smiling, high fives and being silly into his classroom (gymnasium). He also wants to show kids it's okay to make mistakes and learn from them, showing them you don't have to be perfect.

Lara McDonald, a 7th grade language arts teacher at Washburn Rural Middle School, says she signed up for the KEEN Conference immediately when she saw the title: Choosing Joy. After Cockrell's presentation, McDonald said she learned that she is doing the right thing.

"Leading with love in a classroom and understanding that you may not know what your kids are going through in a classroom is important. Yes, curriculum is important. Education is important. But loving on your kids, you can really make that connection to help them learn better."

Attendees had two opportunities to attend share sessions. Some of those sessions included:

  • Elevating Kansas Educators, hosted by Dyane Smokorowski, Wichita USD 259.
  • Growth Mindset Through Hands-On Activities, hosted by Kathleen O'Brien, Derby USD 260.
  • Say Yes to the Right Things, hosted by Jessica Gazzano, Spring Hill USD 230.
  • Neuroscience Unveiled: Decoding the Science of Learning, hosted by Erica Huggard, Emporia USD 253.
  • Formative Can Be Fun, hosted by Kirsten Cigler Nelson, Washburn University and Kyle Nelson, Auburn Washburn USD 437.
  • Education in Motion-Bust a Move, Not Your Back or Bank Account, hosted by Heather Potter, Goddard USD 265.

Amy Hillman, a recruiting liaison for Olathe USD 233, hosted an energetic general session in the afternoon titled, "Boost, Belong, Believe."

Day two of the conference continues Friday with a community conversation led by Education Commissioner Dr. Randy Watson and KSDE Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Learning Services Dr. Ben Proctor. A luncheon and awards program honoring the 2023 Milken Educators and the 2024 Kansas Horizon Award Educators will wrap up the 2024 KEEN Conference.

Check our Twitter (X) page for more pictures and videos from day one of the conference. Look out for next week's edition of KSDEweekly for a video slideshow of the 2024 KEEN Conference.

Posted: Feb 22, 2024,
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