This guest post was written by Wendy Otheim, Special Education Director at Brandon Valley School District in South Dakota
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2021 eLumaNation Summit on September 30th and October 1st in Salt Lake City. As a current school district special education administrator, I found this conference to be a much needed “reboot” during a time in education like no other. We are feeling overwhelmed and under-supported and face a mountain of student issues and concerns. We have felt this way for a long time, especially in the last 18 months.
In his presentation, Jeremy Glauser, eLuma CEO and Founder, referenced these two statements describing the word crisis: “a time of intense difficulty” (Oxford), and “event that has overwhelmed all coping strategies” (David Adams). Students, staff and administrators are at an all-time low, in regard to mental health and levels of energy and optimism. I confess to being in that same boat.
We are in a crisis. However, we are not and never will be alone in our journey.
The eLumaNation Summit featured experts in fields such as mental health, social emotional learning, trauma informed schools, special education policies and legislation and multi-tiered systems of support. Topics included learning loss, mental health challenges, educator burnout and shortages, remote learning and tele-therapy, and visions for the future. For two days, I listened to committed and passionate professionals sharing ways to provide interventions and support for students, teachers and school leaders.
The takeaways were numerous, and much of it circled back to the idea of taking care of ourselves first. Hearing from these presenters, who all have the common goal in mind of student success, reignited a spark in me. We are here to serve, and we are in this together. These times are hard, and we need to think outside of the box to meet the needs of students and staff. We need to continue to advocate for our students at every level; locally, state-wide and at the federal level. We need to support our teachers and we need to support each other.
The eLumaNation Summit ended up feeling like a life-line being tossed to me across the waves.
We are in a crisis, but there is a fantastic and supportive world of professionals here for us and with us. Thank you, eLuma, for being so committed to the field of special education to hold your 2nd annual conference and for letting me be a part of it. In the words of Phyllis Wolfram, Executive Director of CASE, “Believe that we are better together” and “Believe that the best is yet to be”.