SLJ Leadership Summit: Reflections

2015 SLJ Leadership Summit Reflections | I was honored to attend the 2015 SLJ Leadership Summit in Seattle, WA. Here, I reflect on the speakers, sessions, Build Something Bold Award and other happenings at the summit,

A few weeks ago, I had the honor and privilege of attending the School Library Journal Leadership Summit in Seattle, WA. It was an amazing weekend filled with sightseeing, learning and good times with friends old and new.  I’m going to break up the experience with several posts.

The 2015 SLJ Leadership Summit

Last week I blogged about the school tours I went on at the SLJ Leadership Summit in September.  Now that it’s been several weeks, I want to take some time to look back and reflect on the event.

SLJ Hackathon Breakfast
SLJ Hackathon Breakfast

Hackathon Breakfast

The Saturday morning Hackathon was an event led by Joyce Valenza.  Every table had at least one vendor representative and a specific topic to focus on.  I sat at the Follett table where the focus was on STEAM learning.

Following the introduction from Joyce about what a hackathon is and how it works, our groups had to work to:

  • Identify one big hairy issue about our topic
  • Brainstorm three potential solutions of the issue
  • Prototype one solution
  • Pitch our idea to the whole room

The STEAM learning group collected our notes here.  We came up with several major issues about STEAM learning, and it was difficult to limit down to just one.

Topics that we came up with:
  • How do we incorporate STEAM?
  • What are the staffing issues?
  • How do you integrate resources to meet STEAM learning needs?
  • How do we make learning visible?  What is the best way to teach the design process?
  • How do we show the value of creative play to teachers, admin, etc?
  • How do we educate our stakeholders on the importance of creative STEAM play?

After a lot of discussion and debate, we focused on looking at ways to educate our stakeholders, since there’s a lot of misconceptions and misunderstanding of how STEAM and creative play can create valuable learning experiences for our students.

Our solution ideas revolved around increased advocacy for STEAM learning.  We wanted to find a way to demonstrate the learning that is happening, highlight successful STEAM programs.  The group started brainstorming a PSA style video that would feature multiple spaces from K-12, with perspectives from students, teachers, parents and administrators.  We talked about finding ways to distribute this video through multiple channels so that we could reach ALL stakeholders, including administration, government officials, community members, fellow educators and the general public.  We acted out a “prototype” of our video by having two of our group members create towers out of cereal boxes while Elissa Malespina explained about how they were learning through play.

Check out this great article on the hackathon from SLJ: How to host a hackathon (on the #sljhackathon breakfast)

Speakers at SLJ Summit
Speakers at SLJ Summit

Panels and Speakers

There were a ton of awesome panels and speakers at our main sessions at SLJ Leadership Summit (click the titles of the various talks to see my notes).  Marnie Webb of Caravan Studios gave a fantastic keynote on Extreme Listening. I loved how she talked about the importance of design thinking when we’re looking to solve problems and implement change.

The panel, Become Essential: Strategic Information Innovation in Every School, focused on the importance of library advocacy and emphasizing our role as teachers in our schools.  Greg Benner talked about The Whole Child Initiative, which is a fantastic positive behavior system in Tacoma schools that includes all of the adults that students interact with, from teachers to bus drivers to custodians.  Perri Klass gave a fascinating talk about Books and the Brain, with a lot of scientific data about the effects that reading has on early childhood brain development.  She’s a part of a program called Reach Out and Read that helps support early childhood literacy by training medical professionals on how to encourage parents to read to their children.  Through this program, families receive a free book at every doctor visit.

Check out these great write-ups on some of the sessions from SLJ:


Jack Pretlutsky
Jack Pretlutsky sang to us!

And Jack Pretlutsky!  While not an official speaker, we had the honor of privilege of getting to hear Jack Pretlutsky read and sing his poetry.  It was super awesome 🙂

Friends at SLJ Summit
In these pictures (clockwise from top left): Donna Macdonald, Andy Plemmons, Elissa Malespina, me, Becky Calzada; Donna & Elissa again; me, Kristina Holzweiss

Time with Friends

One of my favorite parts of SLJ Leadership Summit was getting to spend time with friends, old and new.  It’s so much fun to get to hang out in real life with people who you usually just interact with virtually.  We had such a great time sharing insights from the conference, going out to dinner, streaming the Bammys, visiting Seattle schools and more.


Build Something Bold

Build Something Bold

While at SLJ Leadership Summit, I was honored to receive the 2015 Build Something Bold award from School Library Journal and LEGO Education.  I had known about this for several months (it was really hard to keep it quiet) and this was a large part of why I was able to go to the Summit (thank LEGO Education for making that possible).  It was also my first time seeing the article which is now out in the latest issue of School Library Journal.  I’m so excited to see the library program I’ve worked so hard to build receiving this recognition.  And yes, the award is made of LEGOs, which are not glued together and came apart in my suitcase – I had to rebuild it when I got home.

Have you ever been to an event like School Library Journal Leadership Summit?  Let me know what you thought of it in the comments.