2021 Elementary Principals Convention

October 13-15, 2021 | KI Center, Green Bay

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Photo of elementary aged school childrenGeneral Information

The 2021 Elementary Principals Convention will take place from October 13-15, 2021 at the KI Center in Green Bay. Brad Gustafson and Jennifer Abrams will present our keynote sessions and the convention will feature over twenty sessions focused on Elementary Leadership. Click here for our printable program. 

Hotel Information

A block of rooms has been reserved at the KI Center for attendees. When making reservations please ask for the “Elementary Principals Convention” block. There are a limited number of blocked rooms and they may sell out before that date so we recommend that you make your reservations soon.

Overnight: $127 single/double and $152 triple/quad
Block will expire on: 9/21/21
Call: (920) 432-1234
Ask for: Elementary Principals Convention

Cost of Registration

Pre-Con Sessions $39 or $69   
AWSA Member Registration $210*
Non-Member Registration $352

*You must be logged in to see member pricing

Cancellation Policy: Full refund of fees will be made on cancellations received 10 days prior to the start of the convention. Following that date, a 40% administrative fee will be retained. There will be no refund for no-shows or cancellations during the event.

If you have any questions about registration please contact Kathy Gilbertson at [email protected] 

COVID Mitigation: Keeping Each Other Safe and Healthy

AWSA is working with conference facilities related to food service, ventilation, cleaning, and other key mitigation strategies.  We all do our part by washing our hands frequently, wearing a mask where it is requested, staying home when we are sick,  and following guidance provided for the event.  

Information for Vendors


 Wednesday | October 13, 2021

12:30-4:00 PM        Pre-Convention Session

1. Elementary Principals Legal Seminar

Malina PiontekAWSA Retained Counsel; Jina Jonen, Legal Counsel and Human Resources DirectorOregon School District and Melissa Thiel Collar,  Legal Counsel, Green Bay Area School District

This  session is designed to inform elementary principals on legal issues most commonly at stake in their day-to-day work. Malina, Jina and Melissa are three experienced school law  attorneys who will lead an interactive discussion and answer your burning questions on: the open records law  as it relates to video footage and which types of paperless communication, such as text messages and Google docs, constitute official records; the expansion of open enrollment over the past few years; social media and parent communication; custody issues; and an update on student seclusion and restraint.

2:00-4:00 PM          Pre-Convention Sessions 

2. Leading Professional Learning Communities: Building and Sustaining Improvement

TammGibbons, Director of Professional Learning, AWSA 

Looking for a way to further build, advance or sustain collaborative learning teams in your school? Are you a new leader or frustrated with the rate of improvement in your school? This  two-hour session will provide examples of the collaborative team process and examine protocols and structures that guide and support the implementation of professional learning communities. Also included in this workshop are ways to leverage your leadership team/guiding  coalition to monitor the impact of the collaborative process and an improved culture in which educators engage in vital and crucial conversations with one another. Facilitative examples will be provided by three elementary principals currently living the mission of leveraging collaborative teams for their school improvement efforts.

3. Growing Adult Impact: The Power of Developing and Implementing Your Own

Instructional Playbook

Joe SchroederPh.D., Associate Executive Director, AWSA

School leaders who want teacher practice and student learning to soar must address three root cause problems: (1) focus the improvement agenda, (2) clarify what good, better and best look like in areas of instructional priority, and (3) provide relevant and ongoing practice, feedback, coaching, and support.  In this session, we will explore how a customized instructional playbook as presented by Jim Knight and colleagues can systematically address all three root cause problems, enabling much deeper teacher,  coach, and leadership impact.   Participants will  leave this session with an example playbook in hand while also gaining clarity on what an instructional playbook is, why it is important, and how to begin developing a locally relevant tool.

4. Planning for Your Retirement

Joel Craven, OwnerAstrais Financial LLC (Horace Mann)

This  session will  provide information on the three legs of  a solid retirement: the WI  Retirement System, Social Security and personal savings (e.g. Roth, 403(b) plans, etc.).  The session will also cover what educators should know about putting savings to good use and public service loan forgiveness. Come with your questions and leave better prepared for your future. 

5:00-6:00 PM   Welcome Reception (Sponsored by Zaner-Bloser)

Zaner Bloser Logo


Thursday | October 14, 2021

7:30 AM        Registration

7:30-8:15 AM           New Principal’s Breakfast

If you are a new elementary principal please come to this informal breakfast to meet AWSA executive staff and other new and experienced leaders. 

8:30 AM        Welcome

8:45 AM        Opening Keynote

Photo of Brad Gustafson smilingReclaiming Our Calling

Brad Gustafson

What would school look like if we held the whole learner in  the same regard as high-stakes test scores? This keynote is a refreshingly honest and practitioner-friendly message that will help you meet your school’s goals while helping all students connect to their passions. Let’s  turn off auto-pilot mode and set our sights on learning that lasts.

Brad is  an award-winning principal, avid reader,  speaker,  and best- selling author.  He’s  also serving as a National Advisor with Future Ready Schools and a School Improvement  Advisor with Scholastic. Brad was recognized as a “20 to Watch” by the National School Boards Association and he was Minnesota’s Principal of  the Year in  2016. He received the Digital Innovation in Learning Award f rom EdSurge and Digital Promise and his school was recognized with a Local Government Innovation Award by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. He  co-hosts the “UnearthED” podcast on the Bam Radio Network. Brad’s is the author of Renegade Leadership: Creating Innovative Schools for Digital-Age Learners and his newest book, Reclaiming Our Calling, is a genre-busting book that’s helping educators hold on to the things that matter most in this profession.

9:45 AM        Break and Opening of Expo Hall 

10:00-11:15 AM        Concurrent Session Round One 

1. Making Every Minute Matter: One School’s Journey from 68.3 to 97.4

Robin SchrotPrincipal, Mill Valley Elementary School, Muskego-Norway School District

Mill Valley  Elementary School principals, coaches and teachers will present their journey of their growing pains, successes and next steps of a school, who is striving to meet the needs of all their learners. We want to be a school where a gap does not exist between any of our populations or staff members working in our building because we are all in this together.  We believe it  is our collective responsibility through our professional learning community and intervention process to do everything we can to support our students meeting the standards. In our session, we will present our school statistics and data both past and current, so that you understand who we are as compared to your own situations. Additionally, we will focus on the identification, learning and implementation of six high leverage instructional practices that we infuse across content areas. It is our hope that you will leave our session with at least one idea, resource, or strategy to be able to implement, adjust and make it your own, so that all of our Wisconsin students rise to greater levels of achievement.

2. Cultivating a Climate of Effort and Joy at Your School

Rita PlattPrincipal, Saint Croix Falls Elementary School, St. Croix Falls School District 

This  session will  show how you can create  a joyful school community  in  which students are determined to work hard, be resilient, and never give up. Rita Platt will describe how to help build students’ purpose, mastery, and autonomy, so they take ownership over their work and develop a growth mindset for success. 

3. Leading Learning: Maximizing your Meetings

TammGibbons, Director of Professional Learning, AWSA

Teams are a leadership lever that are often left  to chance. How teams are formed, what they are spending their time on,  and how they receive feedback varies widely in  schools. In this session, participants will learn about generating momentum around the impact of high performing teams to include team creating, critical elements for working together and for creating a collaborative culture that helps teams maximize their impact.

4. Despite the Best Intentions: Examining and Disrupting “Hidden” Barriers That Prevent Our Schools from Closing Persistent Opportunity Gaps

Joe SchroederPh.D., Associate Executive Director, AWSA

How do well-meaning  adults (educators, families, and community members alike) make sense of the stark,  persistent inequities of  opportunities, experiences, and results across various student populations within our schools?  And how through  deep examination of  the current state do key stakeholders gain insight and come to accept that the systems we regularly engage in  and collectively reinforce are actually working against our professed aims, to instead produce ongoing inequities in a predictable and unacceptable fashion? Participants in AWSA’s inaugural cohort of the Mastering Leadership Academy (MLA) this school year are taking on these deep-seated problems of practice in ongoing cycles of learning, action and inquiry.   This  session will discuss some of the subtle but significant and unsettling barriers commonly “hidden” beneath the school veneer while also sharing some early actions arising f rom this MLA effort so  that,  collectively,  administrators across Wisconsin can better promote the learning and leadership necessary to shift the narrative and experience for all students under our care in life-changing ways.

11:15 AM         Lunch

12:00 PM      Dessert with Exhibitors

12:30-1:45 PM          Concurrent Session Round Two

1. Transforming School Leadership Through Job-Embedded Professional Learning for Staff

Lexi Vanden Heuvel, Principal, Northside Elementary School, Sun Prairie School District

Teacher leaders are critical in a school’s ability to achieve institutionalized change. These leaders help to build, sustain, and ensure that deep conversations, those that transform language, behaviors, decision making and mindsets, authentically grow. How do principals inspire and develop teacher capacity to further school improvement? This session will share one elementary school’s experience creating a guiding coalition and job-embedded professional learning for all staff,  including the development of teacher leaders.

2. School Culture is the Hidden Curriculum

TammGibbons, Director of Professional Learning, AWSA

Creating a school community where students thrive, not simply survive, requires learning leadership, change leadership, and high-quality feedback that causes reflection. In this session, participants will engage with elements of a high-performance culture and consider entry points for impacting your current school culture.

3. Beyond the “New Normal”: Applying COVID Lessons Learned to Improve Our Service to All Students

Joe SchroederPh.D., Associate Executive Director, AWSA

While we ultimately expect to get through the ongoing trials and aftermath of a global pandemic, we will never be quite the same, nor should we.   Through COVID, many problems were magnified and accelerated; at the same, potential solutions and improvements came to the fore. This session will highlight examples from multiple colleagues and organizations who are leveraging these recent challenges as opportunities to reset their schools and systems so that student success and wellness flourish. Participants should leave this session with inspiration, encouragement, and practical ideas from their colleagues to improve local conditions for their students, too. 

4. School Report Card Data

Eric Larsen, Director of Assessment, Data and Accountability, CESA 6

The WI Accountability Report Card will be getting a new look and feel this year, as well as new metrics. This workshop will explore the report card changes and dig deeper into the new target group metric as well as the reporting categories College and Career Readiness and Arts Data information.

5.  Powerhouse PLCs: Fueling Team Outcomes Within Systems of Continuous School Improvement

Peggy FisherPrincipal, Matt Malcore, Associate Principal, Jessica VandenHeuvel,  Literary Coach, Anne Sullivan School, Green Bay School District

The PLC is a powerhouse! But is yours running low on gas?  Or, are you ready to go full electric? Our Sullivan Team is here to electrify your PLC leadership by getting real together.  If you are ready to be vulnerable with colleagues, join us.  Plan to leave with knowledge of supportive resources and action steps you can put into place to grow your school’s collaborative learning teams.

1:45-2:05 PM           Break with Exhibitors

2:05-3:20 PM          Keynote Session

Renegade Leadership

Brad Gustafson

This keynote brings an inspiring blend of personal stories and humor that will change the way you think about positive deviance. Learn how to unleash student and staff potential while dismantling barriers to innovation. Collect examples of the Renegade CODE in action so you can champion meaningful change in your sphere of influence.

3:30 PM         Personal Time:  Catch Up On Communication From Home

5:00 PM         Reception 


Friday | October 15, 2021

7:00 AM        Fellowship Breakfast (Optional) 

School administrators support the boundless needs of those they lead and serve. But who supports them -- especially in ways tending to the heart and spirit? Join AWSA’s Associate Executive Director, Joe Schroeder, and administrative colleagues from across the state in this Christian fellowship breakfast option that, now in its third year, is proving for many to be an annual highlight of encouragement and assistance for the next leg of the leadership and life journey. 

8:00 AM        Breakfast Program: Remarks from the State Superintendent and Principal of the Year Recognition  

State Superintendent Jill Underly will recognize the 2021 Elementary Principal of the Year, Tina Miller, and will share comments about her priorities as State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

9:00-10:15 AM         Concurrent Sessions Round Three 

1. Communicating in Challenging Times

Jennifer Abrams, Author and Education Consultant

No matter what role we play in a school (principal, department chair, team lead), we all strive to make our communications successful. And in this time of uncertainty and with distance learning becoming a norm, we often are moving fast and don’t get the opportunity to think about the language we use and our communications to others. Ultimately, we end up not being as successful as we can in getting our messages across. We need to build up a skill set of messaging capabilities, ‘resistance management' strategies and for the sake of our health, our ‘stress tolerance.’ This is based on Jennifer’s book Swimming in the Deep End:  Four Foundational  Skills for  Leading Successful School Initiatives. I will provide support, and a laugh, to help you communicate more effectively in these unprecedented and uncertain times.

Participants will learn how to: a) Learn more about getting more successful in our communication of initiatives, the complexity of it all and where we ‘trip up’ in our messaging, b) Review research on how others respond and resist change, and, c) Develop a linguistic tool kit for managing the resistance of others.

2. Coaching for Equity 

TammGibbons, Director of Professional Learning, AWSA 

Despite many productive coaching conversations we have missed opportunities to have the deeper conversations that influence language, decisions and mindsets. This means many of our most vulnerable children go underserved in regular and special education settings. This session will focus on coaching stems and entry points for impacting equitable practices for students in Wisconsin.

3. Finger on the Pulse: Three Tools for Identifying the State of Your School Culture and the Supports Needed Now

Joe SchroederAssociate Executive Director,AWSA

Your school culture – good or bad – is the foundation for all other leadership action you will take. Therefore, staying keenly aware of the evolving state of affairs is critical if you want to lead a healthy and improving school.  In this session, we will review three approaches  (aspirational surveys, staff rounding protocols, and one-legged interviews) to help assess your culture and gain critical information that will allow you to take ongoing, proactive action and staff support – approaches we will apply and practice in this session as time permits. Participants will leave this session with the ability to implement any and all of these approaches in their schools immediately.

4. Legislative Update

John ForesterExecutive DirectorWisconsin School Administrators Alliance (WSAA)

John Forester will share information on the legislative issues of most importance to elementary leaders.

10:15 AM        Break

10:30 AM      Closing Keynote

Photo of Jennifer Abrams smilingHaving Hard Conversations

Jennifer Abrams, Author and Education Consultant

As administrators, coaches or colleagues, we often come up against situations where difficult topics must be addressed. What do we know about the best strategies for those moments? What questions should we be asking ourselves before we speak,  and what environments are best for when we do speak? Based on Jennifer’s book, Having Hard Conversations, and her work with conflict and interpersonal communication, this session will provide participants with action plans and scripting tools for having those necessary hard conversations.

Participants will learn how to: a) Identify why they hesitate having hard conversations, b) Choose questions to ask themselves before they choose to speak up, c) Articulate in professional language the challenges they are facing, d) Determine the goals of the conversation and write an action plan of support, e) Script the conversation avoiding trigger words that put others on the defensive, and, f) Choose the best ‘wheres’ and ‘whens’ for a productive discussion.

Jennifer Abrams is an international educational and communications consultant for public and independent schools, universities and non-profits. Jennifer trains and coaches teachers, administrators, and others on new teacher/employee support, having hard conversations, collaboration skills, and being your best adult self at work.

In her over two decades at Palo Alto Unified School District (Palo Alto, CA, USA),  Jennifer was a high school English teacher, new teacher coach, and professional development facilitator. She left PAUSD in 2012 to start her full-time communications consultancy in which she works with schools and organizations across the globe. Jennifer presents at annual North American-based conferences such as Learning Forward, ASCD, NASSP,  NAESP,  AMLE,  ISACS and the New Teacher  Center Annual Symposium among others. Internationally, she facilitated with the Teachers’ and Principals’ Centers for  International School Leadership (TTC and PTC)  and presents with EARCOS, NESA, ECIS,  AISA,  AASSA, CEESA, and Tri- Association, and consults with schools across Asia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Canada.

Jenniferpublications include Having Hard ConversationsThe Multigenerational  Workplace: Communicating, Collaborating & Creating Community,  and Hard Conversations Unpacked – the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs, Swimming in the Deep End: Four Foundational Skills for Leading Successful School Initiatives, and her upcoming book, Stretching Your Learning Edge: Growing (Up) at Work, will be out in April of 2021.

Jennifer has been recognized as one of “21 Women All K-12 Educators Need to Know” by Education Week’s ‘Finding Common Ground’ blog. She considers herself a “voice coach,” helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of a groupcoaching a colleague, supervising an employee. Jennifer can be reached at jenniferjenniferabrams.com, on this website, and on Twitter @ jenniferabrams.

11:45               Adjourn


Vendor Information 

Photo of Part of Vendor HallUpdate: Booths for the 2021 Elementary Principals Convention are SOLD OUT!

Booths for this year's convention are now sold out. To be put on a waitlist, find sponsorship information, or to find out about exhibit opportunities at upcoming conventions please contact Kathy Gilbertson at [email protected] 

Each year AWSA's Elementary Principals Convention brings in hundreds of administrators from across the state of Wisconsin. Vendors will have the opportunity to engage in unique face-to-face interactions throughout the convention. Table Top registration is $310. Advertising opportunities are also available.