“I have never seen more laughter. People were intensely engaging in conversations, remembering each other from last time they met, and celebrating each other’s accomplishments during the hardest two years of our lives.”

Most wouldn’t guess that was the description of a recent education conference. But that’s exactly how Heather Powell recalls her time at the third annual Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators (OASSA) Women’s Leadership Conference.

Powell, OASSA’s associate executive director, attended the two-day gathering last month. Organized by a committee of OASSA members, the conference addressed a variety of topics related to the recruitment, support, and advancement of female leaders in secondary education. But it was also an opportunity for attendees to briefly step away from their most hectic school year ever and reflect on their work with other accomplished women.

“Too many times we don’t recognize the superpowers we have and what we do every day as leaders, constantly pivoting and getting creative to give our team and our students what they need to succeed,” Powell says. “When we designed this event, we made sure the focus was on recognizing our strengths, celebrating those, and identifying ways to get feedback and build better relationships with those we served.”

To that end, the conference showcased professional development sessions and networking opportunities. One such session was led by Misty Goetz, principal of Milford Jr. High School outside Cincinnati. After her presentation, she engaged with her colleagues in a networking activity on how to host successful professional learning networks.

“I just want women supporting women,” Goetz says as to why she presented on the topic. “Being a leader can be intimidating, so it’s up to us not just to step up but to build each other up. One way to do that is use learning networks to create opportunities where we learn from one another and grow together.”

And like any good educator, she ensured her session was interactive – and a little quirky.

“We made intentional February-themed station activities, like a Valentine’s speed dating that used conversation starters and a Groundhog Day station where participants scanned a QR code with a question that popped out, all facilitating conversations about how women navigate as leaders,” Goetz said.

From someone who puts on 14 conferences a year, you’d think it would be a snap for Powell and her team to plan each one. But this was a special group, she said, and giving them a great schedule took a special effort.

“The world of Ohio education is a small one,” she explains. “Oftentimes it’s the same speakers at different conferences, most of whom are white men. We wanted a diverse representation of presenters so people in the room could feel like they’re working with someone who looks like them and knows their struggles. We pulled people from different walks of life, career paths, and locations, and ended up with such a unique event that tackled issues we’d never covered before. It took a lot of effort, but this event realized so much more than in the past and really helped women move forward whenever they want to go.”

For more on what the conference offered (including a presentation titled, “High Heels, High Standards”) check out the Twitter recap.

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