More Than 500 Educators Gathered to Innovate, Collaborate and Inspire at Second Annual Elevate Summit

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Mesa County Valley District 51’s 2nd annual Elevate Summit was a learning community of more than 500 educators focused on engaging, equipping, empowering. It takes strong leadership to drive change. That’s what Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze establish in their book Walk Out Walk On. It profiles communities all over the world that have tapped into their own resources and resiliency to create and live their desired future now. Powerfully described, at the root, it is about leadership. The authors point to patterns and trends that daring leaders have across all the communities they examined.

At the Elevate Summit, more than 500 educators came together, dedicated to their vision for the future: engage, equip, empower.

I couldn’t help but hear Wheatley whispering in my ear while attending Mesa County Valley District 511’s Elevate Summit this summer. The patterns were very present in this learning community of over 500 educators. On the surface, it was like any other educator conference, but at every turn, I felt the energy of a learning community coming together, dedicated to their vision for the future: engage, equip, empower. In the back of my mind, I knew that Wheatley would have commended the learning atmosphere; she would have noticed the patterns coming alive.

Pattern #1: We turn to one another

“Whatever the problem, community is the answer. There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” – Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze

At the Elevate Summit, educators spent time together sitting in circles, having rigorous conversations around their fears and planning next steps for the start of the school year.

I witnessed teams spending time together sitting in circles, having rigorous conversations around their fears and planning next steps for the start of the school year. I heard educators asking one another for input and feedback over and over. A key to sustaining change is turning to each other, knowing that the wisdom is present in the community.

Pattern #2: We make our path by walking it

“If the road looks familiar, if we’ve walked it before, if we feel comfortable knowing where we’re going, then we aren’t walking on, we aren’t pioneering something new.” – Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze

Elevate brought educators together around the common theme of performance-based learning, the vision for District 51. How District 51 rolls out their vision is a work in progress, and this conference showed commitment from staff district-wide. There were many questions and uncomfortable moments, but we aren’t learning if that’s not taking place. Knowing how it all is going to go step by step is not the description for authentic learning. When we have really learned something, rarely is the line straight; we create the path by venturing through the unknown together. With that in mind, we always want to build our clarity and transparency together, even if that means we aren’t always sure.

Pattern #3: The leaders we need are already here

“They don’t declare themselves “a leader”; they just start acting to change things.” – Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze

Building teacher capacity is an essential leverage action for sustaining change and increasing student achievement. While those statements are proven facts in the world of education, teachers don’t go far in isolation. They go far when they are given opportunities to collaborate, and discuss their professional practice and data. They go far when they are given time to build their own clarity, whatever that means for them. Just like we ask teachers to do for our students, our teachers deserve the space to act on the change.

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