Larson teaches business classes at Vermillion Public School.
The theme of the conference, "Tech Prep/HSTW: Linking Classrooms to Careers," focused on improving student achievement, setting higher standards, contextual teaching and learning, careers classes, and business partnerships. The 200+ participants represented 80 school districts and 15 other agencies from 10 different states.
The conference began Thursday evening with the keynote address by Pat Bortnem, a health instructor at Southeast Technical Institute. She used her sense of humor as she shared her life's experiences to "always sit at the fun table."
Her presentation was geared toward morale building and self-motivation. The remainder of the evening was in a round table discussion format. Participants had the opportunity to visit three of the 24 sessions offered.
Friday provided over 25 focus sessions, which allowed participants ample choices to experience successful practices firsthand on a variety of topics relating to career and technical education and the High Schools That Work initiative.
Dave Zimmer, a motivational speaker from Nebraska, addressed the conference during the Friday luncheon. Zimmer's message focused on being a person of character and leading a significant life by focusing on the things that really matter in life.
The Outstanding Service award was also presented at the luncheon. Gloria Smith-Rockhold, assistant director of the Office of Career and Technical Education, was recognized for her efforts in maintaining a strong Tech Prep and CTE program in the absence of a permanent director for an extended period of time.
In addition, Beresford, High School, The Freshman Academy from the Central Area Consortium, Northwestern School District, and Sturgis Brown High School were recognized for their excellence in Tech Prep Education. The regional coord-inators presented the awards. Marsha Kucker presented Flandreau School District with the High Schools That Work/Making Middle Grades Work award.
Saturday's emphasis was on business partnerships. Malcolm Chapman, founder of the Chapman Group, gave the keynote address Saturday morning. Chapman shared his passion for workforce education and workplace learning. The participants then had the opportunity to attend two of the four business panels on the following topics: Work-based Learning, Business Partners, Entrepreneurship, and Job Trends and Placement.
Larson was able to return to her school with numerous new teaching ideas and strategies plus a network of colleagues who can help with the implementation.