KSDE Weekly

Upcoming Events, Trainings and Recognition

Kansas LEADS Conference draws 170 educators to Topeka for networking, learning

Kansas LEADS Conference draws 170 educators to Topeka for networking, learning

Commissioner Watson offers Q&A session; Teachers of the Year give keynote presentations

The fifth free conference in a series geared toward teachers of all grade levels and content areas brought 170 educators together in Topeka for networking, fun and learning.

The fifth Kansas LEADS (Linking Educators Across Districts) Conference began at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, at the Jayhawk Theatre, 720 S.W. Jackson, with a social hour.

Jennifer Farr, a fifth-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, Geary County Unified School District 475, welcomed attendees. The night also included a dinner, a keynote presentation, “B.E.L.I.E.V.E.! That Linking and Leading to Inspire, Motivate, Empower and Elevate Our Kansas Teachers,” by Dorina Sackman-Ebuwa, the 2014 Florida Teacher of the Year, a dueling pianos performance by Midwest Dueling Pianos and a dessert bar.

A January Zoom call has been scheduled with Sackman-Ebuwa for attendees who are interested in reflecting on how their learning has continued since the conference, said Dyane Smokorowski, coordinator of digital literacy at Wichita USD 259 and an event organizer.

The first-ever Kansas LEADS Conference happened in April 2022 in the Wichita area, according to Smokorowski, who is known by her students and colleagues as “Smoke.”

Kansas LEADS was created with $300,000 from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III fund. The event planning committee budgeted about $30,000 for each conference. The plan was to have two conferences per year in 2022, 2023 and 2024. The cost of the conference, along with meals and lodging, are covered by Kansas LEADS. However, mileage costs are the responsibility of the attendee.

The idea for the conferences stemmed from a conversation among members of Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson’s Teacher Advisory Committee. Discussion focused on the need for educators to reconnect after the COVID-19 pandemic.

To date, other conferences have included:

  • June 3-4, 2022: Shawnee Mission.
  • Nov. 18-19, 2022: Dodge City.
  • April 14-15, 2023: Manhattan.

“We were generally happy with our numbers this round,” Smoke said. “Our hope was 200, but 170 is still a great number of attendees. This was our highest-attended event, and I believe that’s because our name is finally getting out there. I honestly think we did fantastic.”

Activities on Saturday, Nov. 4, were held at Washburn Rural Middle School, Auburn-Washburn USD 437. Jon Juravich, the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year, gave the keynote speech, “Small Actions, Big Impact.”

Attendees could then select from a variety of 45-minute breakout sessions. After a brief networking opportunity, Jeri Powers, a district literacy specialist for De Soto USD 232, led Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Watson through a question-and-answer session.

Grant Snyder, a children’s author and illustrator, was the spotlight speaker at lunch.

The afternoon included more breakout sessions and a wrap-up by Dr. Shannon Ralph, 2020 Friends of Education ABC Award recipient, and 2015 Kansas Teacher of the Year.

Educators can be nominated or self-nominated to attend Kansas LEADS conferences. Two conferences remain. One will take place on April 19-20, 2024, in Wichita. The April 19 evening event will take place at the Sedgwick County Zoo, and the conference portion on April 20 will be at Andover High School, Smoke said.

“We are hoping for 250 (attendees) in Wichita,” she said.

The last Kansas LEADS Conference will be in the fall of 2024, and the group is considering Hays as the final location.

For more information about Kansas LEADS and upcoming conferences, visit kansasleads.mystrikingly.com.

Posted: Nov 9, 2023,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush

Theme picker

Copyright 2024 by Kansas State Department of Education | 900 SW Jackson St. | Topeka, KS 66612 Privacy Statement  |  Terms Of Use  |  System Maintenance Notices  |  Open Records (PDF)

The Kansas State Department of Education does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its programs and activities. (more information...)

To accommodate people with disabilities, on request, auxiliary aides and services will be provided and reasonable modifications to policies and programs will be made. To request accommodations or for more information please contact the Office of General Counsel at gc@ksde.org or by 785-296-3201.