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2016 UEA Convention & Education Exposition

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Highlights for 2016

  • NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:
    The former Utah teacher and popular speaker provided the Opening Session keynote address.
  • Best-selling Author Erin Gruwell:
    Former high school teacher and inspiration for the hit movie Freedom Writers provided the Friday keynote address.
  • New Educator Panel Discussion:
    A panel of new education professionals discussed how policies affecting the classroom are determined and how to be an advocate for students and the profession.

2016 UEA Convention Review

Additional UEA Convention Information

2016 UEA Convention Summary

The 2016 UEA Convention & Education Exposition kicked off with remarks from the UEA president, the NEA president and Utah’s governor. “What I love more than anything about times like this Convention where we can get together is that reminder of why we do what we do, said UEA President Heidi Matthews. “We need this reminder – this inspiration – so that we can be the teachers that our students deserve.”

Held at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy, the 2016 UEA Convention delivered much more than just professional development for educators. Parents discovered new ways to engage their children in education and kids experienced hands-on science, math, art and reading activities.

For well over 100 years, Utah educators have gathered at the UEA Convention to share best practices. The 2016 Convention featured professional development for K-12 educators, compelling keynote speakers, a New Educators’ Workshop and dozens of vendor booths, seminars and workshops for parents, and a hands-on learning area for children.

Thursday Opening Session

Thursday’s opening session featured remarks from UEA President Heidi Matthews, Utah Governor Gary Herbert and NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.

UEA President Heidi Matthews

Making her first appearance at the UEA Convention since assuming the office of UEA President in July, Matthews shared her passion for teaching.

“A couple of months ago I had the incredible opportunity to serve on the selection committee for the Utah Teacher of the Year,” she said. “I can’t tell you how inspiring it was to listen to the five finalists reflect on their source of energy and motivation. It’s no surprise to those of us here today, the secret to finding joy in our work…it’s all about our students.”

“What I love more than anything about times like this Convention where we can get together is that reminder of why we do what we do. We need this reminder – this inspiration – so that we can be the teachers that our students deserve. And we need to remind each other that while what we do is important, it is far more important to remember why we do it,” said Matthews.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert

“I’ve had the opportunity to meet with (the UEA) Board of Directors on a number of occasions,” shared Gov. Herbert as he addressed Convention attendees. “I found it a little surprising that I’m the only governor that has done that. It seems to me we are best served when we have discussion and dialogue. We probably won’t agree on everything, but will probably agree on most things.”

He then shared several thoughts on Utah public education. “First, I want to thank you for the service that you render (to the students of Utah). We can’t thank you enough. You deserve not only our thanks but our respect and our support for your efforts…what you’re doing in the classroom is nothing short of remarkable.”

“Every student deserves to have a qualified, effective teacher in the classroom,” said Herbert. “And we have by and large, with few exceptions, that kind of personnel that take up teaching as a profession. We need to do as a state what is necessary to recruit and retain teachers into the system.”

Other items the Governor mentioned were adequate resources, increased teacher salaries, local control, creating a long-term plan for Utah public education and creating better communication within the education community.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García

“We need to get the Every Student Succeeds Act right,” said Eskelsen García. She stressed the importance of teacher participation in the process. “There are state legislators out there, there are district and state offices of education who are not going to get (ESSA) right unless we’re sitting at the table with them.”

Eskelsen García explained that the new federal education law provides a great opportunity for teachers to be involved. Standardized testing is replaces with a “dashboard of indicators” under the new law, she said. “We’ve never been afraid of measuring, we just want to measure something that truly matters to kids. That is what we’re doing now.”

“I believe our north star is actually Finland,” said Eskelsen García. In Finland, she noted the purpose of education is to have a better society. “It’s not about the individual, it’s about the community. We serve the whole child because it raises up the whole community. You have to look at the whole system, not just little pieces…Competition means winners and losers.” In Finland, they “want all kids to be winners,” she said.

“Every public school in Finland looks like the best public school in Finland, by design,” noted Eskelsen García. “They have the most highly prepared career professionals on the planet. They made it harder to get into the college of education than to get into law school. They said we are going to make this the most prestigious sought after career…everybody’s going to want their best and brightest sons and daughters to be teachers.”

“We have to change what it means to teach and change what it means to learn,” concluded Eskelsen García. “And ESSA is going to be a part of that. This new law is a very important first step. Do not wait for the bureaucracy. We are sitting at the table right now…We are not going to waste this opportunity. It’s more than an opportunity, it’s a responsibility that we get this right. It could be the beginning of a whole new beautiful world for us.”

Friday Keynote with Erin Gruwell

Friday’s keynote speaker, Erin Gruwell, shared the Freedom Writers story. “I didn’t know I was going to be a teacher right out of the gate,” said Gruwell. “I thought I was going to be a lawyer.” She then explained how seeing the college student standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square changed everything for her. “I don’t think I want to go into a courtroom and stand in front of a judge and jury…by that point it’s too late. I think I want to stand in front of a classroom of kids.”

As a teacher in an inner-city Los Angeles high school, Gruwell earned an award-winning reputation for her steadfast commitment to the future of education. Her impact as a change agent attracted Hollywood’s attention, and in 2007, Paramount Pictures released Freedom Writers, starring two-time Oscar® winner Hilary Swank as Gruwell. The film is based on The Freedom Writers Diary, the New York Times bestseller that chronicled Gruwell’s extraordinary journey with her 150 high school students who dubbed themselves the “Freedom Writers” in homage to civil rights activists the Freedom Riders.

Gruwell shared stories of how she transformed her students’ lives. By fostering an educational philosophy that valued and promoted diversity, she encouraged them to re-think rigid beliefs about themselves and others, reconsider their own daily decisions, and ultimately, re-chart their future.

“Sure we work too hard, we get paid too little. But there is nothing better, because it is noble, it is right and it is just,” concluded Gruwell. “I stand in front of you as an ordinary teacher, so honored and so proud and so humbled to have the most extraordinary kids. I hope that each and every one of you feel that same nobility. When you stand in front of a room full of kids knowing you are in the right school at the right time with the right kids. Help them be extraordinary. Help them find their purpose, their passion and their hope.”

SPECIAL EVENT: New Educator Panel Discussion

Many policies affecting a teacher’s license, classroom and students are determined at the state and local level. During this interactive panel discussion, titled “Early Engagement in Education Policy and Professional License” panel members shared experience in the politics of the profession and best practices for engagement in public policy to help new educators become advocates for their students and their profession.

UEA President Heidi Matthews moderated the discussion. Panel members included:

  • Marie Hutchings, NEA Student Program Board Member
  • Bailey Danielson, Sunset View Elementary (Provo); and 
  • John Arthur, Meadowlark Elementary (Salt Lake). 

The discussion was part of the New Educators’ Workshop, designed especially for educators in their early years of teaching and for students in teacher preparation programs. Available workshops covered a variety of topics such as classroom management strategies, teaching and learning with iPads, strategies for children with autism, multimedia projects and dealing with stress.

'Hot Topics and Hot Dogs' Event


Utah Fourth Congressional District candidate Doug Owens and other UEA-Political Action Committee recommended candidates joined members of the UEA Capitol Club during the annual Hot Topics and Hot Dogs event on Thursday afternoon. Participants at the event had the opportunity to mix and mingle with the candidates during the informal hot dog lunch.


Workshops and Seminars

Learning opportunities included professional development sessions designed for educators, as well as seminars and workshops to help parents with children in public schools. While both days featured training opportunities on a variety of topics, Thursday’s professional focus was on veteran teachers and Friday’s emphasis on new educators, including the New Educators’ Workshop. (See the complete workshop descriptions.) Teachers: to request re-licensure points, complete the License Renewal Credit Form (PDF).

Exhibit Hall

The Exhibit Hall area featured dozens of vendor booths, a stage areas with hourly education-related entertainment, and a variety of other activities (see the complete Thursday schedule and Friday schedule), including:

  • Stage Areas: The Exhibit Hall featured the Columbus Community Center stage area where parents and educators participated in workshops and kids enjoyed educational entertainment.
  • Book Giveaway: The Utah Jazz Bear and the Cat in the Hat were on hand as kids and adults shot free throws to win a book at the “Book-A-Basket” event. Hundreds of books were available for all age groups thanks to generous donations from Horace Mann, Utah Idaho Supply/Map World, Barnes & Noble, KSL Radio and KUED. The Utah Jazz also sponsored the event.
  • Kids Exploration Corner: Kids and families once again enjoyed the KUED Kids Exploration Corner for the hands-on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and literacy activities, and of course for the PBS Kids characters. Community organizations also provided curriculum guides and classroom lesson plan ideas for educators. Participating organizations included KUED, Discovery Gateway, Mad Science, Mike Hamilton and the Magic in Learning, Salt Lake City Public Library, Salt Lake County Library Services, Thanksgiving Point, Utah Film Center, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Utah Museum of Fine Arts and Westminster Chemistry.
  • Pampering Station: Convention attendees relaxed and enjoyed massages, haircuts and manicures at the Pampering Station. “The Pampering Station was definitely a highlight for me,” said one attendee. The stations were free for UEA members.
  • Health Screenings: EMI Health provided health screening exams – including cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and body fat percentage for UEA members.

Other Convention Activities

  • UEA Booth: The UEA hosted a booth where UEA members could gather information and learn more about their Association. The booth, located in the main foyer, featured representatives from membership, U-PACUEA-Retired and the Children At Risk Foundation.
  • Gifts and Prizes: Each educator who attended the Convention received a free welcome bag, courtesy of Chevron Fuel Your School. UEA members were also able to participate in the following:
    • ‘Golden Ticket’ prize drawing for those who entered the ticket included in their UEA Convention program book.
      • 7-night condo stay at one of thousands of worldwide locations, courtesy of Access Development, won by Jade Crown, Woods Cross Elementary (Davis)
      • Three $100 gift cards, courtesy of Utah Idaho Supply/Map World, won by Pat Raymond, Valley High (Jordan); Rachel Christensen, student member; and Lois Mortensen, South Jordan Elementary (Jordan)
      • Four $100 Donors Choose gift cards, courtesy of Chevron, won by Sarah Andersen, Park Lane Elementary (Canyons); Kimberly Gardner, Dixon Middle (Provo); Glen Mower, Rose Springs Elementary (Tooele); and Owen Farley, Woodstock Elementary (Granite)
    • ‘UEA Monopoly’ Challenge for members who completed the “UEA Monopoly” board challenge to visit vendor booths, won by Susan Thompson, Three Mile Creek Elementary (Box Elder). The basket included:
      • $50 Bed, Bath & Beyond gift card, donated by Access Development
      • $50 Target gift card, donated by California Casualty Auto & Home Insurance
      • $100 gift card, donated by Chevron
      • $50 VISA Gift Card, donated by Horace Mann
      • KUED bag, t-shirt, DVDs, mug, lunchbox and cup, donated by KUED
      • Ten Free Admissions & Four Educator Memberships, donated by The Leonardo
      • $50 iTunes gift card, donated by NEA Member Benefits
      • $50 Amazon gift card, donated by Security Benefit
      • $50 Amazon gift card, donated by
      • $50 Amazon gift card, donated by Western Governors University
  • Free Tickets: As always, entrance to the UEA Convention was free to all UEA members. The regular admission cost for all others was $10. Each UEA member was provided with a supply of free tickets to share with students, parents, neighbors and friends. Advertising directed anyone wanting free Convention tickets to contact a public school teacher.


Future UEA Convention Dates

  • October 19-20, 2017
  • October 18-19, 2018
  • October 17-18, 2019 

Past UEA Convention Information