At Phoenix Convention Center, educators go through adventures in education.
Published on: 08-16-2023
At 2:00 p.m. on Monday, August 7, the North American Division Educators’ Convention Exhibit Hall doors opened. At the “Something Better” convention kickoff event students, educators, and administrators flooded the Phoenix Convention Center for a chance to browse the 150 exhibits offering endless tools, ministries, organizations, and resources, each designed to support the needs of Adventist education.
For three days, attendees were able to explore a wide variety of exhibitors providing high tech options, classroom aids, new curriculum programs, and a look at the higher education offerings in the division.
Tertiary institutions such as Southern Adventist University and Loma Linda University operated booths to share their department programs, including master’s degrees and STEM programs such as EXSEED. Loma Linda offered a 360-degree camera at the booth for an immersive experience. Students and teachers alike were able to learn about the university’s new programs.
Adventist Learning Community (ALC) was a prominent presence in the exhibit hall, with a seating area and information on programs, courses, and a podcast network. In a mobile podcast studio, educators could book a recording session and a spot where they could be recorded for a segment answering the prompt, “Why I Teach.”
“We have thousands of free courses and resources specifically for Adventist educators,” ALC director Adam Fenner said, with each course, podcast, and video designed to “connect with other teachers, collaborate on classroom projects, and utilize our SBL database.”
Across the aisle was an organization that spotlighted film. Sonscreen Film Festival rolled out the red carpet for attendees, sharing the booth with other NAD heavy-hitters such as the Society of Adventist Communicators and Adventist Journey.
Adventist Education Technology, or AE Tech, showed off high-quality production equipment that could benefit educators, from studio-grade microphones and cameras to a recreation of a podcast set, complete with equipment for live episodes. Desmond Suarez II, a teacher at Richmond Academy in Virginia and a Columbia Union TDEC representative, commented, “We really want to get teachers and schools excited about producing their own content on their campus, whether its podcasts, school promo videos, or recording and broadcasting their live events, getting students to create films.”
Indeed, technology was a core presence for the exhibit hall through organizations such as AE Connect, NAD Cloud, and Adventist Robotics. Each fills a vital need within every aspect of education, whether helping create a student information system designed for Adventist education or IT resources for Adventist institutions in the North American Division, organizers said.
Adventist Robotics incorporated tech development and interactive learning through two obstacle courses designed to test the skill set of robots made by high schoolers and middle schoolers. In the center of the exhibit hall was The STEM Experience, a booth created to highlight didactic learning and new teaching methods for science and engineering for every age with small puzzles, prototypes, and engineering projects.
The STEM Experience was one of many booths to offer an interactive experience for those milling around the hall. Multiple booths, sharing new children’s curricula, new methods for early education, and more have found a way to capture the hands-on impact of teaching. Bursting with colors, treats, activities, and information, quite a few organizations and ministries committed to making their booths as playful as possible, capturing the whimsy and curiosity of childhood as well as youthful exuberance for God.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) brought one of the many interactive booths to the exhibit hall, with multiple giveaways designed for teachers to use.
“We are launching our ADRA community hub. It is a place where teachers will get access to resources that we’ve put together to use in their classroom to bring the world of ADRA and its humanitarian work from around the world into their classrooms in a way that makes sense for students,” an ADRA representative noted.
Those visiting the booth were encouraged to take part in a virtual reality experience, using a headset to immerse them in the environments ADRA serves. Committed to applying the ministry of Christ in practical ways, the humanitarian organization recognizes there is no better nor more practical application of the gospel than through education.
By the second and third days, enthusiasm was still high, with attendees getting the opportunity to visit the rest of the exhibits, including a photojournalists’ gallery by ADRA, and browse, at the NAD Children’s Ministries booth, the new Alive in Jesus children’s Sabbath School curriculum created by the General Conference Sabbath School and Personal Ministries department. In addition to lots of practical giveaways such as pens, pencils, handheld fans, stress balls, and other items, many of the booths conducted giveaways throughout the course of the event. These ranged from an Amazon gift card to specialty video camera and equipment and a new iPad tablet.
For many of those attending, the NAD Educators’ Convention was a full-circle experience, with the exhibit hall also serving as a place to fellowship. Former coworkers had a chance to reconnect. Colleagues from different unions, conferences, and divisions were able to meet in person for the first time after connecting through the Adventist network. Old classmates were brought together again years after their graduation. And best of all, teachers who have been dedicated to their profession for decades were reunited with former pupils who went on to become teachers themselves.
When exhibitor Suarez was asked what makes the NAD Educators’ Convention such a joyful experience, he said something that many attendees could wholeheartedly agree with: “The best part of any good conference is connecting with people.”