Well, it’s that time of year again! On November 7-8, teachers, retired educators, education service professionals, and hundreds of others who eat, sleep and breathe all things education, will gather at the Atlantic City Convention Center to learn, network, and celebrate. There’s so much to do at the convention, and that’s why it’s a really good idea to have a plan before you go. The annual meeting features over 300 professional development seminars, hundreds of vendors (with lots of freebies to give away), keynote sessions from inspirational speakers, receptions and luncheons, and high quality entertainment…and that’s just the official agenda. Meet ups, receptions and social gatherings of all kinds also abound before, during, and after the main program. So here are some highlights and planning tips for you to consider as you map out your 2019 NJEA Convention experience. Have a great time, and, who knows: maybe I’ll see you there.
- Take Advantage of the Convention’s New PD Session Pre-registration Option
Everyone knows that the annual convention is great one-stop shopping for high quality and diverse PD offerings: over 300 this year, to be exact. PD sessions will take place on the third and fourth floors of the convention center, and you will want to follow the designated procedure for getting your credits. A room attendant at each session will register your attendance by scanning your badge. You will want to make sure that all of your profile information, especially your email address, is up to date since right after your session, an email will be sent to you with a link to the session evaluation. Simply complete the evaluation no later than December 1 and the certificate for that session will be emailed to you. After December 1, your PD attendance record and certificates will be available only at njea.org. in your Professional Development Transcript.
One really cool thing about this year’s convention is that you will be able to reserve a seat ahead of the conference for many of the most sought after sessions. No more showing up for that session you were counting on and being turned away because of popular demand. To save your seat for select sessions, you will need to request an invitation to preregister. Do this and you will be invited to preregister for all of this year’s pre-registration-eligible sessions; and as long as you show up on time, you will have guaranteed seating. A list of workshops for which pre-registration will be made available can be found at: https://njeaconvention.njea.org/save-your-seat-at-the-your-njea-convention-workshops/. To see everything else, download the full convention program here: https://njeaconvention.njea.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2019/10/2019_convention_program-WEB.pdf.
- Don’t Miss the Morning Keynote Sessions
You may be tempted to sleep in and get a relaxed start on the day, but you really don’t want to miss the scheduled morning keynote speakers. This year’s convention theme is “Standing Together” and many sessions will bring focus to issues of social justice and its intersection with education. The 2019 event logo features the motto: “Social Justice = Educational Justice =Student Success.” This year’s keynote sessions promise to be quite inspiring. Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo, the young co-founders of CHOOSE Racial Literacy will kick things off on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. These two dynamic women have been nationally recognized for their development of a groundbreaking racial literacy handbook for teachers. On Friday at 9:30 p.m., attendees will be treated to the always provocative and thoughtful Harvard professor, Dr. Cornel West, a celebrated author and speaker on the subjects of race, democracy and social justice.
- Get Some Great Ideas (and Loads of Free Stuff) in the Exhibit Hall
You may have to plan in a couple of visits over the two days to do the exhibit hall justice. There’s really something for everyone in the ENORMOUS A.C. Convention Center hall. Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Thursday and from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Friday, the hall will introduce you to a wide range of vendors, innovators, union services, and other institutions that may hold potential value for you. Check out dozens of advanced degree programs, shop for great classroom resources, explore the latest in educational technology (in the Digital Boulevard section), and discover some cool class trip destinations around the tristate area. If you haven’t attended before, here’s a reminder to bring a generously-sized tote for collecting and bringing home all of the freebies offered by most of the exhibit hall vendors. And please, by all means, stop by and see me and my fellow Plymouth Rock Teachers’ Lounge compadres at booth #2229. We’ll be giving away the most adorable smiley-face screen cleaner stress ball—back by popular demand, while supplies last. My friends from Teachers’ Insurance Plan will be right next door with more cool tchotchkes, too!
- Bring Your Kids and Spouse!
So, ignore this tip if your goal is to have a day or two away from your normal routine. But if you are on the fence about attending because you don’t want to be away from the family, you’ve got options at the NJEA. Child care is available for children ages 3-14. See Page 10 of the program or visit the conference childcare page here https://njeaconvention.njea.org/childcare/. KiddieCorp will have a full range of programming and services for your kids. You should also know that your kids (accompanied) and your spouse or partner are welcomed to register for an exhibit hall badge at no charge if you are a union member.
- Dialogue with the NJ Commissioner of Education
There’s a lot at stake at the moment, and this year’s meeting follows right on the heels of an important NJ election day. Mark your conference agenda plan for Friday, 11 a.m. to have a chance to hear from and speak with New Jersey Commissioner of Education, Lamont Repollet in Hall A. Members of the State Board of Education will also be in attendance for this session, and NJEA Vice President, Sean M. Spiller, the association’s liaison to the State Board, will moderate a discussion including the Board and Commissioner Repollet. This is a unique opportunity, so don’t miss it!
- Stay Current at the Event with the Convention App and Social Media
See all the chatter. Get all the last minute updates. Have the agenda at your fingertips. This is the way to go. Ditch the paper program if you can and travel light with the event app on your phone https://njeaconvention.njea.org/plan-your-convention-with-the-njeaevents-app/. Follow NJEA at facebook.com/njeaconvention and follow @NJEA on Twitter or Instgram @njeaconvention. Share your convention highlights by using #njeaconvention.
- Take Advantage of Complementary Breakfasts, Luncheons and Hospitality Events
Hospitality suites of all kinds are on the docket, as well as lunches and breakfasts for county union associations and other subsections. Keep an eye out and ask around to take advantage of these. Here are a few that have been published so far for county union chapters:
Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sheraton Atlantic City Boulevard’s Café. Members and invited guests only.
Thursday, Noon-2 p.m. Sheraton Atlantic City Steel Pier Room.
Thursday 4-7 p.m. Caesars Palladium Ballroom B; Members and Invited Guests Only.
Thursday 3:30 – 6 p.m. Convention Center – Room 201
Thursday 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Caesars Members and invited guests only. Palladium Ballroom C
Thursday 4-6 p.m. Sheraton Atlantic City Crown Ballroom 3
- Know Your Parking Options
If you are planning to stay at any of the major casino hotels in town, travel to and from the convention will be easy: regular shuttles will be in service. If you are coming for the day and plan to park at the Atlantic City Convention Center itself, be warned that, though there is a lot of parking there, it tends to fill up (and close) well before 9 a.m. A great parking alternative for you is the Atlantic City High School, from which shuttle service will be provided every 15 minutes from 7 in the morning until 6:30 p.m. Thursday and from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday.
Final Thoughts on Making the Most of the 2019 NJEA Teachers’ Convention
The bottom line here is to do what educators do best: have a great plan. Map out your day, choose your sessions carefully, give yourself a little down time and schedule in some social time with a colleague or with a new friend you meet at the convention. The list above will help get you started, but be sure to take some time with the full program to personalize your itinerary. If you have time for the exhibitor area, take glance through the vendor list to identify the ones you most want to visit and find them on the exhibit floor map. Most of all, have a great time!
- Chris West, Ph.D.
Editor, The Plymouth Rock Teachers’ Lounge (Booth 2229)