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Welcome to 99th Annual NCSS/NCGE/TCSS Conference A4 | Informed Action: Agency, Advocacy, Activism

November 11, 2019

Tina L. Heafner, Ph.D.

Social studies colleagues, it is with great anticipation that I welcome you to Austin, TX next week for the 99th Annual Conference of the National Council for the Social Studies. Thirty years ago, I attended my first social studies conference as a preservice teacher. I remember feeling both excited and overwhelmed by the experience. Navigating the numerous choices and figuring out which sessions aligned with my early career goals was challenging. Luckily, I had a wonderful methods professor, Dr. John Litcher, who helped me plan out my conference experience so that I could take full advantage of the many professional learning opportunities available. John also touted the benefits of being a member of a professional organization in one’s content expertise. He knew first-hand the merits of attending the Annual Conference and engaging with likeminded colleagues in exchanging knowledge and sharing pedagogical ideas. With John’s guidance, not only did I enjoy my first national conference experience, but I also became deeply involved in the various service components of the National Council for the Social Studies. 

On behalf of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), I am pleased to share a preview of the 99th Annual Conference events in Austin, TX. The 2019 A4 | Informed Action: Agency, Advocacy, Activism Conference boasts expansive programming thanks to the partnership with the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) and the Texas Council for the Social Studies (TCSS) and offers a broad range of professional learning experiences. Attendees will have opportunities to synergistically engage in discourse about advocacy priorities and to advance their capacity to lead social studies in extraordinary and troubling times. The conference will bring together elementary, middle, and high school teachers, preservice teachers, social studies educators, scholars, geographers, social scientists, school librarians, curriculum specialists, administrators, curriculum developers, and exhibitors leading social studies and geographic educators, administrators, researchers, and policymakers across the world. Together we’ll discuss the vital role social studies and geography can play in supporting the agency of PK-16 students and educators to safeguard democracy, bridge partisan divides, inspire critical inquiry, promote civil discourse, empower civic engagement, and inspire informed action in our communities, schools, states, nation, and across the globe. With almost 1000 events, including traditional, power, and poster sessions, lightning rounds and roundtables interactive discussions, pre-conference clinics, off-site community visits, workshops, and 175 exhibitors, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Download your NCSS/TCSS/NCGE conference app in the App Store and Google Play to build your conference schedule. Tweet about your conference experiences and tag @NCSSNetwork, @theafner, and #NCSS19.

The 99th Annual NCSS/NCGE/TCSS Conference will be a place to Learn, Connect, and Lead. 

Learn. As you prepare your presentations, handouts, and resources, I want to thank you for your willingness to share your expertise. Our success as social studies and geography educators depends greatly upon our continuous learning and commitment to building our collective intellectual capacity for high-quality social studies. It is the outstanding sessions led by thousands of social studies educators that will deepen our knowledge and develop our pedagogical expertise through authentic and meaningful inquiry. I encourage you to learn as much as you can and to take this knowledge back to your schools and educational communities.

Connect. Utilize this conference space to network with others who present high-leverage practices and share successful ideas from their classrooms and educational communities. Together, we are stronger, and these networks will enable us to reach many others who desire to partner with us in advancing social studies and geography education. From PK-16 educators, to district supervisors, to state social studies specialists, to curriculum developers and publishers, we are strong networking partners who understand our desire to create powerful social studies curricula and thought-provoking learning experiences for every student. Networks we establish from shared conference experiences will further social studies education in our classrooms, schools, states, and nations across the globe.

Lead. Perhaps the most important message you will hear throughout our conference is the importance of leadership. As I have highlighted in previous TSSP writings, advocacy is our mission. We are the leaders of social studies and geography. We are the greatest advocates for our content, our profession, and, most importantly, our students. We need to be visible and highly involved in every facet of educational policy and practice in our communities, our schools, our districts, our regions, our states, our nation, and our world. Attending the 99th Annual NCSS Conference will keep us informed of current issues facing social studies and enhance our leadership abilities to take informed action on behalf of shared professional interests. Social studies is essential to sustain and safeguard democracy; its place in PK-16 education is of vital importance to a democratic, pluralistic society.

NCSS/NCGE/TCSS will begin conference activities on Wednesday, November 20th, with NCSS Associated Group meetings of the Council of State Social Studies Specialists (CS4) and the College and University Faculty Assembly (CUFA). Meetings focus on current trends in social studies policy, research, curriculum and standards, and pedagogical praxis and practice. Be sure to check out the many committee and special interest community meetings offered throughout the conference for small group networking and opportunities to get involved in NCSS. I also encourage you to visit the May 4th Listening Wall as we curate our understanding of youth activism. Make plans to stop by the technology lounge sponsored by the Technology Community in partnership with Google. You’ll find many technology-rich ideas along with informal networking through Unconferencing led by Visions of Education. 

This year, attendees can enjoy a pre-conference full day of programming at no additional charge with regular conference registration. This full-day of localized programming on Thursday, November 21st, includes numerous sessions focused on inquiry in action, geography topics, social science education, and social studies instructional practices. These tailored sessions align with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and include content of interest to Texas teachers and social studies and geography educators in general. You can expect to find topics such as immigration, migration, racial segregation, civic empowerment, citizenship, culturally responsive inquiry, bilingual education, critical media literacy, augmented reality teaching, GIS, cartography, and geocaching. A highlight of this localized programming is a keynote address by Karen Korematsu, Executive Director, Fred T. Korematsu Institute. 

The National Social Studies Supervisors Association (NSSSA) and the Texas Social Studies Supervisors Association (TSSSA) will host the first joint national-state meeting on Thursday, November 21st. Be sure to take advantage of the Thursday pre-conference full- and half-day clinics, including onsite College Board AP workshops and offsite experiences at the LBJ Presidential Library, Bullock Texas State History Museum, Contemporary Art Museum of Austin, and local geography walks through Austin’s city center. A must-see is Our Stories: Linguistic and Cultural Agency Through Art Integration hosted by the Blanton Museum of Art.

Friday, November 22nd, is also filled with many traditional conference activities. I invite you to join me at the President’s breakfast as we examine informed action in social studies through agency, advocacy, and activism. We will begin the President’s breakfast with a Land Acknowledgement to Native Peoples of Texas. Dr. Mario Garza, an Elder of the Indigenous Cultures Institute in San Marcos, and the Miakan-Garza Band will provide a history of the place where we will gather. Distinguished guests from Austin Independent School District and several exemplary educators from across the country will be in attendance. Remarks will be given by members of the conference planning committee, including Dr. Cinthia Salinas, Dr. Whitney Blankenship, NCGE President Kenneth Keller, TCSS President Kip Moore. I will also offer my NCSS presidential address.

I am pleased to introduce a new conference offering—A Preservice and New Career Educator Strand. This full-day Friday event creates a conference experience catered to the unique interests and curiosities of teacher candidates and early career educators. Specialized programming in this strand includes a broad range of content and pedagogical topics led by experienced teachers, social studies methods professors, content scholars, and others who have a specific interest in mentoring and supporting young social studies colleagues. I encourage new career educators and preservice teachers to take full advantage of these personalized learning experiences and to also network with other young professionals. These professional connections are essential resources for the future. Friday also includes the meeting of the International Assembly tailored to the interests of international educators. The afternoon boasts an exhibit hour with refreshments and an opportunity to explore over 175 exhibitor booths. Plan to end the evening by celebrating educators, leaders, researchers, and influencers in geography and the social studies at the Friday evening awards dinner in the Grand Lobby of the Bullock Texas State History Museum. When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a local Mariachi band. There will be time to mingle and enjoy the museum exhibits before and after our evening program. Keynote remarks will be given by Rodney Robinson, the 2019 National Teacher of the Year. NCSS, NCGE, and TCSS will present annual awards to recognize and honor the accomplishments of outstanding social studies and geography educators. The 2019 Spirit of America Award will be given to Sylvia Mendez as we honor her lifetime contributions to the integration of American schools. 

Our diverse slate of featured conference speakers includes: Pete Sousa, Norman Mineta, Sylvia Mendez, Indira Lakshmana, Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Marty Baron, Peniel Joseph, Angela Valenzuela, Michael Rebell, Weiping Wu, Marc Aronson, Carl Hulse, Victoria DeFrancesco, Bob Duke, Ann Millin, Sherri Smith, Graham Pike, Stephen Harrigan, Edward Westermann, and Wayne Journell. Featured panel sessions offer conversations on prison education, Kent State May 4th Speakers, For Sama, Holocaust survivors, Korean War, European Union, 9/11 first responders, and New York City Public School principal, teaching slavery in America, German culture and history, European Union, and American law and the Judicial system.

Saturday, November 23rd, begins with a free continental breakfast in the exhibit hall. The day is filled with sessions of various formats and content topics. Consider attending one of the community scholars’ sessions to explore issues such as Human Rights at the U.S.-Mexico Border and Beyond, NCSS Position Statement on LGBT+ History, and The Changing U.S.-Japan Relationship in the Context of a Rising China. As the conference’s premiere evening event, I am hosting an NCSS President’s Reception at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. I hope you will join me in exploring all the museum has to offer while enjoying food and beverages. There will be a featured talk by Presidential historian Mark Updegrove, highlighting the accomplishments of LBJ. This event is possible thanks to the generous support of the LBJ Presidential Library.

Sunday, November 24th, is the final day of conference activities. Attendees can take advantage of numerous workshops such as: TED Masterclass, American Genocide: New Documentary on Decolonizing Hidden U.S. History, An Inquiry into the European Refugee Crisis, Become a National Geographic Certified Educator, and Chamoy, Mangonadas, and Takis: Infusing MAS in Social Studies Classrooms. New York Times Best Selling author Steven Harrigan will share stories about Texas from his newest book Big Wonderful Thing as Sunday’s keynote speaker.

Dr. Cinthia Salinas, 99th Annual NCSS Conference Co-Chair, and I are pleased to welcome 55 first-time scholarship awardees. Cinthia has been an amazing planning partner offering not only her expertise but also generous financial support from the University of Texas, Austin. We hope the diverse conference options available allow you to tailor your conference experiences to your specific professional interests.

In preparation for the conference and throughout the conference events, many local volunteers have given of their time to ensure a positive conference experience for all attendees. I am exceptionally grateful to Dr. Whitney Blankenship, NCSS Local Arrangements Chair, for organizing these efforts. If you have an interest in volunteering, there’s still time to sign up (email: whitney.blankenship@gmail.com). On behalf of the NCSS board of directors and staff, I want to thank the many Texas volunteers, the National Council for Geographic Education, the Texas Council for the Social Studies, the sponsors, speakers, presenters, and attendees for their commitment and support of an incredible social studies and geographic education conference.

This is the first time NCSS has hosted a conference in Austin, the capital city of Texas. Austin likes to “Keeps Things Weird.” With access to numerous cultural experiences, including world-renowned food choices, live music, and street art, Austin stands to be a truly memorable conference experience. Located in the center of the state, Austin has both scenic, natural views and the hustle and bustle of urban life. Austin claims the title of the Live Music Capital of the World and has over 200 live music venues with as many as 2,000 bands and performing artists. Hopefully, during your stay in one of the sunniest cities in America with an average of 300 days of sunshine, you’ll have the opportunity to explore Austin’s cultural diversity and its complex history. With its many layers of culture, social, and historical life, Austin is the perfect location for our annual conference.

It is my sincere hope that the 99th Annual Conference experience and your visit to Austin, TX, will inspire you as my first social studies conference did for me. With access to numerous cultural experiences, including world-renowned food choices, live music, and street art, Austin stands to be a truly memorable conference experience--Austin “Keeps Things Weird.” I look forward to greeting in you Austin, TX, next week. 

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