QUINCY -- Registration is underway for this year's Quincy Conference.
"We simplified the registration process for teachers. Last year, it was a bit much, so we revised the process to make it easier for them," said Emily Pool, a Rooney third-grade teacher and one of four co-directors of the conference slated for Oct. 10 and 11 at Quincy High School.
With registration open just over a week, attendance is closing in on 1,000 and still growing as "more districts and leadership within districts know what a quality opportunity it is to have professional development for their teachers," said Quincy School Board member Shelley Arns, another conference co-director. "It's hard to find affordable professional development in our region without having to drive to St. Louis or Springfield. It's really nice to have something right here."
The conference will offer speakers, breakout sessions and activities targeted to the theme of "Innovate to Great."
"We've worked really hard to provide a variety of experiences for educators from early childhood to high school," Pool said. "We want to connect educators across the board on all types of offerings so they can leave full of knowledge to go back to their classrooms and do amazing things."
Registration, open through Sept. 13, is available online at quincyconference.com.
Keynote speakers include Kim Bearden, co-founder, executive director and language arts teacher at the Ron Clark Academy; Michael Bonner, a North Carolina second-grade teacher honored by Ellen DeGeneres and featured on her show; and Gerry Brooks, an elementary principal in Lexington, Ky., who highlights real-world educational experiences through humorous YouTube videos.
Other featured speakers include:
º Paul Gorski, founder of the Equity Literacy Institute, who focuses on how to "meet students from all walks of life and make education work or them," Pool said.
º Randy Parrish, a Quincy native who has carried his physical education knowledge across the country and worked with Olympic athletes to underprivileged children.
º Jake Miller, host of the Educational Duct Tape podcast, who emphasizes using technology like duct tape "to make education better," Pool said.
Thursday opens with a keynote speaker followed by five break-out sessions.
Friday offers opening and closing keynote speakers, four break-out sessions and a conference social event.
Break-out speakers are coming from as far away as California and as close to home as Quincy Public Schools.
"We pride ourselves on our local experts," Arns said. "A lot of teachers do amazing things every day in the classroom. When they feel comfortable enough to share, that's a win for us."
Teachers sharing ideas, strategies, successes and failures can help others succeed in reaching students and helping them to learn.
"We work hard to target some of our special populations of music educators, art educators, special ed, nurses, speech/language, early childhood, PE, to bring in some speakers and address issues specific for their needs," Arns said. "It just continues to grow in who we're reaching and who's coming."
Break-out sessions will be scheduled continuously throughout both days with no dedicated lunch break "to give people flexibility in scheduling," Arns said. "We don't want everything to stop because lunch has to happen."
Lunch vendors will be available on the QHS campus, and conference-goers can eat during breakout session 2 or 3 or bring their own lunch "sit in a session and keep on learning," Arns said.
More time between sessions, 15 minutes for this year's conference, will "give people a chance to grab a snack, visit vendors, network, stay and ask questions and still get in a good number of sessions," Arns said. "Our goal is to make it better. That's what we're hoping happens."