Reflecting on Learning Forward’s 50th anniversary with Debbie Cooke

Debbie Cooke, executive director of Learning Forward Florida and board member for the Learning Forward Foundation, shares how Learning Forward has helped her establish profound and impactful relationships with experts in the field of educator professional learning. This blog is part of a series celebrating our 50th anniversary.

Please share a favorite memory of Learning Forward/NSDC and why it is special to you.  

My favorite memory of Learning Forward (formerly NSDC) is hard to nail down. It might be any one of the times that I had to pinch myself when I realized that membership in the organization gave me access to the leaders in our field, and that they were as interested in engaging at a personal level with me as I was in engaging with them. Dennis Sparks, Stephanie Hirsh, Joellen Killion, Shirley Hord, Ann Delehant, Heather Clifton, Cindy Harrison – folks who are dear friends now, but started out as authors of work I was studying. That is why the organization is so special. Our leaders, partners, and thought-leaders become friends who continue to do the work WITH you and FOR you.

Why has the organization been important to the field?

As an organization, we are willing to advocate for change to policy and practices at ALL levels – local, state/provincial, national, and global. We share our work with others across the nation and globe, and ask hard questions about our current ways of planning, building, and measuring professional learning in order to better impact teaching and learning.

Why do you think Learning Forward will continue to be important to professional learning in the future?

We are an organic organization, different now than we were more than 20 years ago when I first became a member. We model the notion of life-long learning, responding as our world changes and our field requires more of educators than ever before. One constant over time is that teaching changes lives, and Learning Forward’s work ensures that we continue to equip this life-changing profession with the knowledge, attitudes, skills, aspirations, and behaviors required to impact the lives of educators and students.


Join Debbie Cooke for Elevating Teacher Leadership

Celebrate our 50th anniversary at our Annual Conference in St. Louis, Dec. 7-11, 2019, and join Debbie Cooke as she co-presents a session on elevating teacher leadership as a means to improving schools and increasing student achievement. Read more about this event and Learning Forward’s 50th anniversary celebration here.