I spent the last 9 days in Burlington, Vermont at one of the best professional development events I’ve ever attended, the 2013 DEN Summer Institute. This time around, I was on the “other side” of the event because I was not a regular attendee, but staff. It felt different, but not in a bad way. There were plenty of opportunities to meet new faces and connect with others, as I’ve done at past events, but there was plenty of work to do to help make the event a success. This year, there was a new challenge. I’ve known plenty of DEN members from my time on the LC and have, for lack of a better word, “history” with many. (History isn’t the best word to describe what I mean, but read on and it might make sense.) I’m still working on balancing those personal relationships with the ones that are now professional. I can tell you, it’s not easy as I’d like it to be. I’m so fortunate to be working on a team with Porter, Lance, Steve, Kyle, Dean, Jannita, and others. It is unbelievably awesome. They are some of the smartest and nicest people I know and they challenge me to live up to the DEN standard they’ve set. I’m constantly working on it.
Throughout the week, I watched all of them interact with the community, prepare for each day, and figure out the best way I could help. I attended DENSI as a teacher in 2010, but this year, needed to make sure my role was that not of an attendee, but as a Discovery Education team member. I wanted to attend sessions and connect with others – which I did, but that wasn’t the first priority. My priority was to the team. Luckily, I love my team, so keeping in constant contact wasn’t difficult. Continuously checking to make sure things were under control was a necessity, but there were still opportunities to learn great stuff during the day and network in the evening. This week seemed to go off without a hitch and it’s because of the awesome team, specifically Porter, who does such an amazing job putting things together. I’m sure there were things that didn’t go as planned, but from my point of view, it was incredible. The sessions were awesome, the field trip was great, the unconference rocked. And let’s not forget about the DEN swag. Porter has really set the bar high for next year, but there’s no doubt that she, with the help of our team, will put together another amazing event in 2014.
Before I share some of my highlights, I want to share a couple of regrets. I’m terrible at introducing myself to others. It’s something I need to work and I, again, didn’t do a good job this past week. Not introducing myself to attendees I didn’t know is inexcusable and will not happen next year. I must do better with names and faces. There were also a couple of things I personally wanted to get done this week, but didn’t. These are things for future projects that I wanted to get done at DENSI because we had so many great community members present. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to all of them.
On to some of my personal highlights. Some of yours might be similar, with a few names swapped out.
- Meeting new faces and developing friendships and connections that I hope continue well beyond DENSI. Linsday, Brandon, and Carlos were just some of the people that helped make the week special.
- Reconnecting with people I’ve only seen a few times – the Idaho crew, my DENapalooza friends like Mary Carole, Kati, and others, the Texas twosome of Rafranz and Kristy.
- Good friends that go back a few years, it’s always great seeing them. Dennis, Traci, Jan, Kelly, Tim, Rachel, Katie, Cheryl, Connie and more.
- Having lunch with Team Canada and discussing ways to share and grow the DEN north of the border.
- Helping Gina Powell get going on Twitter. She was a newbie, but with her hard work, and a little help from me, accomplished her goal of 100 tweets and 100 followers during DENSI. Way to go!
- Chatting with Terra-Lee about her Passion Project, DENPals, and helping her get her blog set up to share it.
- My presentations. I think they went well, or at least that’s the feedback I got. It’s always nice to hear good things when you share with others.
- The got den? shirt challenge. I had a blast giving those shirts out and thinking of fun challenges as our supply dwindled. Seriously, I had so much fun during this time, I was probably annoying Porter and Steve way more than they let on as I kept popping in and telling them how awesome it was.
- TV show trivia game – TWICE! It was such a blast sitting around with over 50? people yelling out the answers. If only he would have put together songs from movies for another challenge. I’m sure it wasn’t that difficult for Dean to put together the 200 songs for the tv show challenge wasn’t really. Oh and Lindsay’s scoring – she needs work on that.
- Friday. Dean’s closing. Brilliant. And the Unclosing, WOW, what a fantastic idea. Allowing others to share their experiences was awesome, but sitting back and listening was even better. I wish we could have captured Kate’s words, along with those of many others, to share with the community.
- Knowing that I helped play a small role in making DENSI 2013 a huge success.
Honestly, I could have stayed longer. Obviously, I missed my family, a larger shower, and the comforts of my own bed, but the experience was so awesome, I didn’t want it to end. Based on the tears I saw as people left the dorms, I don’t think I’m alone. It’s sad to think that it might be a year before I see many of the faces again. My only saving grace is that I get to communicate with you all via communications from the DEN. It’s not the same as the face to face contact, but it will have to do.