Pictured Above: Valley’s gymnasium was filled with over 250 Lutheran Educators during the 9th annual Lutheran Educator Conference held at Valley January 20, 2020.

The morning started with anxiety. Apprehension. Unknown. And cinnamon rolls.

On Monday, January 20th, Valley Lutheran opened its doors to over 250 people at the 9th annual Lutheran Educator Conference. Initiated in 2012, the Lutheran Educator Conference was created by principals of Lutheran schools in Bay City, Midland and Saginaw. The conference was designed to strengthen the community of Lutheran teachers within the Great Lakes Bay Region, while also providing a high-quality professional development opportunity for its attendees. Participants from twenty-four area schools, early childhood centers, and Lutheran organizations joined together to hear Ted Neitzke, CEO of CESA6 (Cooperative Educational Service Agency 6) from Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

So why the apprehension? Why the anxiety? Because Valley did something they have not done before at a conference.  Valley followed the request of keynote speaker Ted Neitzke and assigned seats.  That’s right.  Valley did exactly what many teachers do to their students – assigned seats. Graciously, attendees were notified of the assigned seat plan before the conference began.

When the morning of the 20th dawned, educators arrived to search for name tags, finding the table number they had been assigned to.

Among the cinnamon rolls and coffee were conversations filled with “who are you with?” and “know anyone at your table?” Now, this article is not meant to tell teachers they should not assign seats. Nor is it meant to tell our readers all about the conference.

This article is to inform you, our congregation members and supporters, that your beloved teachers and educators were pushed out of their comfort zone.

Just like they push their students outside their comfort zones.

Just like they encourage their students to work with someone new.

Just like they challenge their students to succeed.

And, on Monday, January 20th, it worked. Lutheran educators were forced to meet someone new, forced into small group sharing outside of their normal staff, and forced to listen to the speaker in a new way.

Principal Levi Bringold from Trinity Lutheran in Reese shared, “Coming into the VLHS conference there was excitement, yet a little hesitation. The faculty heard there was going to be a speaker coming, a great speaker, but there were no sectionals. They were skeptical about this assigned seating. But after the speaker started the teachers learned so much! While we initially sat by strangers, we soon became acquaintances and fast friends.”

Neitzke shared many thoughts on leadership, encouraging educators to find ways to continue being a leader in their classroom, life, and challenges placed before them. So, we thank you, educators, for your service to God’s calling in leading young children in a Godly manner. And we thank you, congregations, for your continued support of Lutheran education.

It was our pleasure to host a conference that brought together twenty-four schools within our Great Lakes Bay Region. Valley Lutheran looks forward to 2021, when we will host another opportunity for educators to learn and grow together (cinnamon rolls not guaranteed).

In the meantime, enjoy the second half of the school year, being the leader God has created you to be, the educator your congregation and students know and love!