The Blue Button Up
Sometime around 2005, I attended my first NETA conference at what was then the Holiday Inn Convention Center. I distinctly remember attending a playground session next to a pool and winding down numerous hallways and stairs to find the closet room where I gave my first presentation. Magically, a handful of other people found it, too! I remember listening to Dan Pink sing, being wowed by what Dan Schmitt was creating with students, and being changed forever by Will Richardson's insight into what school should be. I also remember the blue button up shirts that NETA Board of Directors wore every Friday. As a young professional slowly discovering technology's power in the classroom, I was mesmerized listening and watching these folks who pulled off this fantastic event where I could connect and network with others. I knew I wanted to earn the privilege to wear that shirt.
In 2009, the first year the spring conference moved to the La Vista Conference Center, I finally had the opportunity to be a Board member. I wasn't elected on my first try, but that was OK - I had finally earned that shirt. I even got re-elected three years later. One of my favorite parts of being on the Board were conversations in the car on the way to and from events and meetings. On the way home from a fall Board meeting in Kearney, a good friend convinced me to run for President of the Board, something I had said previously I wouldn't do. I was concerned more about me and not what was best for the organization and the teachers and students we serve. He was right. Even though my family was growing - we've had three kids since I first ran for the Board - waiting until they were done with activities would be another twenty years. I'd spend those years thinking "what if." So I ran and became President-Elect. Coincidentally, the year that I was conference chair was 2015 - our first year at the Century Link Center Omaha.
Over the years, most Board members have grown to despise the blue button up that the Board wore on Fridays. Being a traditionalist, I've dug my feet in. I do that from time to time, which I know can annoy some. And I'm fine with that. The blue button up was what I knew as the Friday uniform for the NETA Board of Directors. In my mind, end of story. This year, you'll notice I got overruled. Knowing this was my last conference on the Board, I said my piece and moved on. No, the blue button up isn't the flashiest or most comfortable shirt, but it has meant so much to me over the years. I wore it with pride for the organization I had the privilege of serving for the last eight years. I wore it with pride knowing educators in my beloved home state believed that I could help make a difference. I wore it with pride knowing that I carried on a little-known, quirky tradition of having an alumni of Louisville High School on the Board for the last 20+ years, which will fortunately be carried on by one of our new Board members. I wore it with pride knowing that the work I was doing impacted kids from Syracuse to Scottsbluff and now beyond as the conference has expanded. As I put the blue button up away for the last time after this year's conference, I've got no regrets. The organization has never been stronger and the spring conference continues to grow in an era of declining money for schools. Future Board members need to resist taking that for granted. Looking at the current Board, I don't see that happening. One thing that has always stuck with me is when our previous Executive Director talked about how we were a "working Board." We put in a lot of time and effort to make the spring conference what it is today. That has to continue for the organization to remain successful. Most will probably agree that they'll at least be dressed much nicer than previous Boards. :)