The 13th Annual ART of TEACHING Conference

The 13th Annual ART of TEACHING Conference


The Cotsen Foundation for the ART of TEACHING hosted its 13th Annual ART of TEACHING Conference on Sept. 22nd at the Hyatt Regency in Long Beach. Over 600 educators registered to attend the conference from across California, making this year the largest conference the foundation has ever hosted.

The Hyatt Grand Ballroom was filled with the excitement and bustle of alumni and current mentors, fellows, principals, and district administrators gathering for a day focused on innovation, empowerment, and student learning. Attendees began arriving at 7:30 in the morning to sign in, pour coffee, have breakfast, and meet and greet former and current colleagues before the opening welcome.

Executive Director, Jerry Harris, welcomed the large gathering. “This year’s theme, ‘Innovation, Empowerment and Student Learning,’ is at the heart of the ART of TEACHING’s mission. As a result, we continuously seek to challenge and stretch your horizons about excellent teaching and learning. Be it CGI, enlightened notions of literacy development, or expanded learning through the effective integration of technology in the classroom, our goal is to help you acquire and refine your knowledge and tools to empower students in ways that lead to deep understanding and meaningful learning,” stated Harris.

The annual conference was created by the Cotsen Foundation to offer Cotsen alumni and current program participants an opportunity to learn from some of the most prolific educators, literacy consultants, and authors in the field of education. But this conference also serves a second purpose. It also shows teachers, coaches, principals and district administrators that they are not alone in their efforts to improve student learning and school/district-growth. With over 600 educators from schools of all shapes, sizes, and cultures, the opportunity to network and share struggles and successes is an added benefit of attending the conference. This year’s presenters included:


  • Jan Burkins & Kim Yaris (Literacy consultants and authors of the series Who’s Doing the Work and Reading Wellness)
    • Conference Workshops: “Who’s Doing the Work? (Grades K-6),” “Breathing Deeply (Grades 3-6),” and “Jumpstarting Readers When They Plateau (Grades K-6)”
  • Ralph Fletcher (Educational consultant and author of books for children and professional educators such as Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide and Joy Write: Cultivating High-Impact, Low-Stakes Writing)
    • Conference Workshops: “Lifting the Chill from the Writing Classroom (Grades K-6),” “How Mentor Texts Lift Student Writing (Grades K-2),” and “Encouraging Non-Formulaic Nonfiction (Grades 3-5)”
  • Susan Empson (Professor of Learning, Teaching, and Curriculum at The University of Missouri, and co-author of books focused on Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI), including Children’s Mathematics and Extending Children’s Mathematics.)
    • Conference Workshops: “Using Equations to Deepen Children’s Understanding of Fractions (Grades 3-6)” and “Using Story Problems & Problem Solving to Teach Fractions (Grades 3-6)”
  • Gravity Goldberg & Renee Houser (Literacy consultants and authors of books focused on reading and writing workshop. Gravity is the author of Mindsets and Moves: Strategies That Help Readers Take Charge. Renee is the co-founder of Growing Educators, a literacy consultant organization, and co-author of What Do I Teach Readers Tomorrow? Nonfiction, Grades 3-8: Your Moment-to-Moment Decision-Making Guide)
    • Conference Workshops: “Teaching Main Idea and Beyond (Grades K-2),” “Triumph Over Decision Fatigue (Grades 3-6),” “Making Reading & Writing Workshop Work in Your Classroom (Grades K-6),” and “Teach Like Yourself (Grades K-6)”
  • Tracy Johnston Zager (Literacy consultant and author of Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had: Ideas and Strategies from Vibrant Classrooms)
    • Conference Workshops: “How Will We Know What They’re Thinking? (Grades K-2),” “Not Just Answering Somebody Else’s Questions (Grades K-6),” and “Going Beyond Groupwork (Grades K-6)”

After three hours of inspiring workshops, attendees gathered back in the ballroom for lunch and the keynote address presented by George Couros. Couros, who is a sought-after speaker on the topics of innovative teaching, learning, engagement and leadership, has worked with schools and organizations around the globe. He is also the author of The Innovator’s Mindset, and creator of, an initiative that brings educators and leaders from around the world together to create powerful learning opportunities for students. Formerly, he was the Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning with Parkland School Division, located in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada.

During his keynote, Couros noted, “Engagement is more about what you can do for your students. Empowerment is about helping students to figure out what they can do for themselves… Let’s empower our students to drive their learning!”

The Cotsen Foundation takes great pride in the level of professional development it offers to its participants, and the impact that it has on them. Alumni mentor and ART of TEACHING program officer, Lyndon Catayong commented, “Before I joined the Cotsen fellowship program as a mentor, I wasn’t familiar with people like Gravity Goldberg, Megan Franke, George Couros, and so on and so on. Part of what the Cotsen fellowship program did for my colleagues and me was to introduce us to these amazing educators and the research behind their work. As teachers, when you are given a little bit of professional development on the level that Cotsen offers, you become thirsty for more. That’s why you see so many teachers here today. Many of these teachers plan with their school to attend this conference a year in advance. These teachers know that when they come to the Cotsen Annual ART of TEACHING Conference, they are going to get quality presenters. They know that what they will learn today will be transferred into their classroom and instructional practices come Monday morning.”

Principal of Oka Elementary School, Erik Miller, said, “It has been fantastic to come to this conference over multiple years now. We’ve been able to use this opportunity to take in continuous growth and learning… At Oka we have a saying, ‘Own your Oka’ and with the level of empowerment we’re receiving today, that’s what we’re here to do.”

“Having the opportunity to join Cotsen was very transformative in my career,” said Annette Stankovich, an instructional coach at Tustin Unified School District. “The work that Cotsen brought into our district through its mentor model was so effective that our district decided to adopt it. We initially had three district wide instructional coaches and now we have 12 of them. We’re so excited to be here and continue growing our practice,” she declared.

View our photo album from Flickr

Photos by Steve Parker

Watch our conference reflection video on YouTube

Video by Isaac Cox