The Words of the Winings Family
6th Educators Conference At UTS
The Sixth Educators Conference held at the Unification Theological Seminary in Barrytown, New York from Friday, October 5th to Sunday, October 7th was a clear success. Participants had a rich array of breakouts, plenaries, and pre-conference workshops from which to choose based on what they felt they needed to learn and to take back to their districts. A highlight of the weekend was the keynote speaker, Dr. Thomas Lickona -- a recognized authority and main designer of character education curricula and programs. In addition, this year’s participants experienced four focused plenary sessions, 33 dynamic breakouts, a new and improved exhibit hall and tremendous opportunities to network and meet new and old friends.
This all began on Friday, October 5 with three distinct and beneficial all day workshops. They ranged from a focused look at the Character Education curriculum from UPF led by Mr. Alan Saunders, to creating district-based and local trainers for our Sunday Schools and youth ministries with trainers Rev. Brian Saunders and Dr. Kathy Winings, to training in the use of a marriage enrichment program developed by Mr. Stephen Stacey.
The pre-conference sessions offered a strong way with which to begin to look at our expanding educational horizons. The UPF Character Education curriculum is truly innovative in its approach and how it is taught. As a comprehensive K-12 program, the curriculum is innovative in that it utilizes indigenous stories and illustrations by which to teach the concepts. The pedagogical creativity is in the use of second generation young adults to go to the countries where the program is being used.
The Understanding Marriage curriculum is another expansion of educational horizons. Developed by Stephen Stacey and his wife, the curriculum is wideranging and comprehensive through its look at not only healthy relationships but also at difficult and challenging relationships.
The Train the Trainer program is a new initiative to expand the horizons of effective teaching throughout our Sunday Schools and Youth Ministries. Working with the Education Department of the FFWP, the workshop was developed as a means to create a more stable and long-range educational system by beginning to train at least one key person in each district, who would in turn train educators in each state. As each trainer gains experience and strength in that role, each Sunday School and Youth Ministry will gain strength in turn. What a great way to begin a conversation on expanding educational horizons!
After dinner, we went into full conference mode with the first plenary on Becoming Communities of Practice by Mrs. Heather Thalheimer. This first plenary provided the participants with a good framework as Heather outlined how our common focus and work in education makes us a community of practice. What Heather did was to give us a framework in which to look at our work; she reminded everyone that, at heart, we are all part of a community of practice -- a community of educators -- and so we should be reflecting on the role each one of us play in such a community and reflecting on where we should and can be as a community of educators in 10 to 15 years from now. Realizing ourselves as part of communities of practice will be more valuable because the key characteristics of such communities include sharing, supporting learning, networking, the encouragement of investments that move things forward, translating learning to policy, and the new relationships that will emerge. Certainly this plenary set an important tone for the weekend.
Saturday morning, after a most innovative and fresh experience in doing Hoon Dok Hae, led by Dr. Tyler Hendricks, participants had to make some difficult decisions as they faced a day of diverse breakouts, dynamic plenary sessions, and opportunities to network, make new relationships and browse through an expanded exhibit hall. Because of the large number of participants the previous year, the steering committee decided to use the auditorium for all exhibitors as well as a larger coffee and snack room. Participants’ decision-making was also aided this year by a special "Planning Page" in their program so that each team that came from a specific geographic region could make a good plan to cover all the topics that they would need for the sake of their home districts. Participants remarked that this was a more valuable addition this year.
In terms of the breakouts, participants had a wide range of topics divided into the five special categories that is the signature of the Educators Conference: Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, Young Adult Ministry, Marriage and Family Ministry, and Pastoral Educational Ministry. Viewed through this lens of "expanding educational horizons," we can see how each of the various breakout sessions were able to take our educational communities of practice to new places and in new directions. Participants benefited from the increase in Children’s Ministry breakouts this year. Christine Brunkhorst’s review of the Reggio Emilia Approach and Lena Yasutake’s efforts to see young toddlers as more than nursery school material offered a rich conversation for those working with children. New materials and resources for Sunday School were the central theme of several breakouts in this age bracket including the use of specialized felt boards and teaching tools by Johanna Duffy and Keiko Fortin or Stephen Goldiamond’s musical rap woven into stories. Participants’ understanding of Shim Jung education, with Joy Morrow and Beverly Berndt, was deepened as were their understanding of the impact of the new theories of neuroscience on gender, spirituality and learning offered by Kathy Winings. Finally, Teresina Phillips gave an invaluable breakout on one room Sunday Schools and Ken Webber led a breakout in looking at effective and creative teaching methods for children.
Expanded educational horizons were also evident in the youth ministry breakouts offered by individuals and panels who were actively engaged in their programs. A dynamic panel of second generation with Sam Stoia, and Diana Santelli together with Mrs. Sally Sayre shared their experiences with teaching the UPF Character Education program around the world. Mr. Bob Beebe shared how New Jersey’s New Hope School integrated character education throughout the curriculum and utilized key concepts from Kohlberg. Mr. Richard Panzer and Mrs. Linda Haft’s work in relationship intelligence education affirmed a long-standing and effective program that has been in use for many years. Finally, Dr. Josie Hauer provided participants with a series of group facilitation activities and methods found to be effective in working with teens. Finally, Kimikami Miyake introduced participants to the results of working with the Jr. STF program as an effective means of guiding teens to recognizing their true identities under God. Certainly the breakouts introduced participants to the many changes taking place in young adult ministry. Rachel Curry and Jeff Adshead from the NextGen Academy inspired participants to consider living for the greater good by becoming engaged with the Academy’s program centered around service work. Another service opportunity was also shared by Laurel Nakai, based on her experience in AmeriCorps. The young adult breakouts were rounded out by Jin Kwon Kim as he introduced participants to Cobalt, a special one year program begun in New Jersey., new programs to truly live for the sake of others as Laurel and Sally Sayre, Sam Stoia and others described, or Cobalt and YAM from Jin Kwon. In terms of Family and Marriage Education, breakouts certainly raised the bar in terms of improving our relationships within couples, learning to read Unification scripture in Korean at home or dealing with the hard issues such as domestic violence and pornography. The ideal relationship between husbands and wives were discussed with Jim and Hiromi Stephens and also with Stephen Stacey in two different breakouts. Jim Stephens also worked with participants on how to prepare to match their children, based on real testimonies and examples. In addition, John Williams focused on ways of improving our relationships but also led participants in an important discussion on dealing with domestic violence as well as how to deal with internet porn. Our breakouts in the Pastoral Education area addressed new efforts at small group ministry -- both from Jhon and Maria Acevedo in Chicago and Lionel Binnie in Westchester, New York. The Acevedo’s work has expanded to more than 400 families through their focus on community building and so gave participants a lot to consider. Dr. Tony Devine offered two dynamic breakouts with one focusing on practices of transformational leadership as a means to become more effective pastors and leaders. The other breakout, offered with Dr. Josie Hauer, offered a new tool called a Logic Model for pastors and leaders to use that emphasizes an outcome- based approach to effectiveness. Rounding out this grouping of breakouts was a vital session, offered by Mr. Rob Sayre, on rethinking how to raise the funds necessary for our diverse ministries based on what is called the Nehemiah Paradigm, and another session by Major Ouida Harding on how to effectively use music in our worship sessions.
Woven throughout the morning breakouts on Saturday were two special breakout sessions by our keynote speaker -- Dr. Thomas Lickona. In his first breakout, Dr. Lickona addressed the 12 key strategies of character education-based discipline. His second breakout focused on the six principles of an ethical learning community -- a concept central to Dr. Lickona’s work and that is a basis for a new type of high school pioneered by him. For his keynote address, Dr. Lickona was able to introduce how to develop what he has come to see as the eight strengths of character. Many of his illustrations also allowed us to understand how these work in an ethical learning community. These points went handin- hand with Friday’s concept of becoming communities of practice so that we could see how we, as educators, parents, and pastors could shape our newly emerging ethical learning communities of practice. Dr. Lickona gave all of us a great deal to think about -- regardless of the age or type of group with which we worked. The third plenary session that took place on Saturday afternoon immediately before dinner was most unique to the Educators Conference. It focused on music in worship and was given by Major Ouida Harding. As an energetic and captivating Baptist preacher and teacher, Maj. Harding offered all participants a way of imaging not only the worship service but our relationship to the worship service and the powerful role of teaching and learning at such times. All of this was done through the power of song. After offering her insight into the purpose of worship, Maj. Harding then taught all of us a song through which we could begin to experience what it is God wanted to teach each of us. Drawing in the special music team from New Jersey and inviting Rachel Curry to engage in improvisational and liturgical dance, the speaker led all of us to a deeper understanding of the power that music plays in coming to God through worship.
The conference concluded on Sunday with the fourth and final plenary session given by. Dr. Kathy Winings. Speaking on "Where Do We Go from Here," Dr. Winings led participants through a review of some of the challenges we face in living in a postmodern world and with a postmodern mindset and then to a consideration of what we could and should do from now to move toward creating strong families and communities. According to her, this future picture should include enlarging our community of practice to include other churches and communities with whom we work, developing benchmarks toward which we can work, focus on defining and clarifying what education in a culture of heart will mean and how it will look, and to see the Educators Conference as a means through which we not only learn and develop but as a means in which we can share our expertise and experience with the others in our community of practice.
A new feature that was added this year was acknowledging two educators who have worked for many years to ensure that progress is made in education. This year, we chose to honor Mrs. Kristina Seher from Northern California and Mr. Richard Panzer of New Jersey. Christina was instrumental in the founding and development of the Sunshine School, a K- 12 school, in Northern California. Richard was the founder and developer of the Free Teens Program, an abstinence-based program that is taught throughout diverse schools. Both Kristina and Richard were given a small gift plus a free registration for next year’s conference. In addition, the entire conference could acknowledge their work and dedication to education. With each year, the Educators Conference grows and develops because its participants are able to grow and develop through it. Certainly this year was no exception. A real effort was made to professionalize and enhance the conference for the benefit of the participants. The plenaries had a stronger music and interactive media dimension to it. The larger exhibit hall allowed for more exhibits and a bigger space with which to network.
The addition also of an award to honor the contributions and work of those who have given tirelessly so that youth could grow to become true godly men and women was something new to this year’s program. We can hardly wait to see what next year will bring to the Educators Conference and to see how our community of practice has grown and matured. We hope that you will be there too next year to share your expertise and experience at the 7th Educators Conference!
Visit www.centerforeducation.net to order your copy of the 2007 Educators Conference all-conference-inclusive CD’s!