“It is critical that every educator has access to high-quality professional learning opportunities and resources like those from Learning Forward.” – U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Learning Forward 2021 Annual Conference, December 7, 2021

The events of the last two years have been daunting. Everyone has had to dig deep to find the courage, the drive, and the creativity to thrive in ever-changing education environments. This morning, as I thought about all that educators face, I felt the need for a little inspiration. Who better to provide inspiration than U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona? I decided to take a few moments to watch the video of his remarks at the 2021 Learning Forward Virtual Annual Conference. I am so glad I took the time and let myself reabsorb all that he had to say. Just what the doctor ordered.

Speaking to conference attendees, Secretary Cardona said, “Beyond healing lies an opportunity to reimagine education. Now is the moment. Professional learning has a major role to play in this transformation… We can’t heal and reimagine a more equitable system for all students without you.”

This was the call to action that I needed. Secretary Cardona is an educator to his core. He was a teacher, a principal, and a district and state administrator before being appointed U.S. Secretary of Education. For Secretary Cardona, professional learning in all systems is a cornerstone for educational success. He said, “I know first-hand the pivotal role that effective professional learning plays in not only helping educators achieve their goals but helping agencies grow and thrive to meet their goals.” It was a rallying cry for me and I hope it is for all of you.

He encouraged all conference attendees to lean into the important work of professional learning as a way to address challenges and “balance your love for your students and your work with your own well-being.” He acknowledged that educators learn best from one another. His point was clear as he celebrated the attendees at Learning Forward’s conference. He knew that by taking the time out of already overbooked schedules to come together for community and collaboration and professional learning, attendees are attending to that balance.

I was inspired and motivated in December, and I am inspired and motivated today. Hearing Secretary Cardona promote what we all know to be true – that high-quality professional learning is essential for adult and student success – was another validation of the incredible work that members of the Learning Forward community do. Sometimes it’s the speakers, sometimes the insights gained in sessions, and sometimes it’s those chats that happen during the conference —  all of this combines to make the Learning Forward Annual Conference a renewing learning experience. That’s what brings Learning Forward conference attendees together year after year – virtually and in person. As we look ahead to Nashville, our first in-person conference in two years, I hope you will join us for connection, inspiration, collaboration, and professional learning.

Melinda George
(melinda.george@learningforward.
org) is chief policy officer at Learning
Forward.