It Never Fails to Inspire


By Karen K. Garza, PhD

Each year, I am inspired and reinvigorated when our national network gathers for the EdLeader21 Annual Event. The energy. The passion for learning. The creativity and collaboration of visionary education leaders. The dedication to advancing 21st century learning and helping students. It all combines to create an experience that reminds me of why we all do what we do here at Battelle for Kids. 

Yes, like most gatherings of its type, our Annual Event features inspiring keynote presentations and powerful breakout sessions. But as I walked around the event, I was reminded that the real power of these three days is created by the interactions between these innovative educators. 

If you’re not familiar with our Annual Event, let me explain. It’s 700+ leading educators, from all across the country. From urban, suburban, and rural school systems. All in one place. All members of our EdLeader21 network. All sharing with one another and learning from one another. All collaborating to transform their school systems to realize the power and promise of 21st century learning for every student. 

These school systems are all at their own unique point in their transformation. Some are just starting to develop their Portraits of a Graduate, while others are in the process of redesigning their system to make sure they’re delivering on the vision they’ve conveyed in their Portraits. 

At this year’s event in Houston, we hosted a Portrait to Practice fair. During this fair, 21 school systems displayed and explained how they are bringing their Portraits of a Graduate to life in their districts, schools, classrooms, and in many cases, beyond. It was energizing to see the sincere interest in learning and sharing as these education leaders gathered around the different exhibits, discussing what they have done, are planning to do, and could do to make sure every student benefits from the district’s Portrait of a Graduate. 

While I was watching all these interactions—and engaging in the learning myself—I was reminded of when I was a superintendent and why I always attended the Annual Event—it's the passion for learning, and the willingness to be vulnerable and share both the successes and challenges with other education leaders for the benefit of our students. 

Every year, every week, every day, all of us at Battelle for Kids are working to help education leaders move their systems closer and closer to delivering the education experiences that students need to thrive in our ever-changing world. And candidly, the task can sometimes seem a little daunting. However, this event reminds all of us that this is the right work—and that it can be done. We see the progress that is being made, and more importantly, we see the effort and energy that education leaders are putting into the mission that is at the center of everything we do. 

Please join us next year in Orlando for our 2020 Annual Event. And if you aren’t already an EdLeader21 network member, please contact me to discuss the benefits of being part of an innovative national network of educators leading the way in transforming school systems.



In the words of attendees at the Annual Event:

"So many ideas to enhance what we already are doing for 21st century learning."

"Wonderful opportunities to enrich my division’s work. Inspiring, empowering and purposeful! Noble work leading to powerful change in schools."

"The ability to network was fantastic. It is so inspiring to get to collaborate with like-minded educators."



learn more about our EdLeader21 network

KarenGarzaHeadshotRound small
By Karen K. Garza, PhD 
President & CEO,
Battelle for Kids


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