The seventh annual Summit on Nevada Education welcomed P-20 leaders from across the state to discuss current education challenges, methods for effective policy making & advocacy, and the exploration of community-focused approaches to addressing student needs.
The start of the summit opened up with warm remarks from university leaders like Danica Hays, Dean of the UNLV College of Education, and Chris Heavey, UNLV Executive Vice-President & Provost.
“On behalf of the UNLV’s College of Education, it’s my pleasure to welcome you to this year’s Summit on Nevada Education,” Hays said. “This year’s theme- ‘The Whole Student, The Whole Community’ – is no accident. As we appear to hopefully be emerging from the pandemic, the importance of community wide collaborations to foster student success is more apparent than ever.”
Heavey continues the opening extending thank you’s to campus and community leaders. “I want to thank the trustees, the sponsors, the regents, the chancellor, the superintendent, and all of the presenters for their service. I want to thank all of the attendees for caring about the most important issue of our day, building the potential of our youth and community.”
Other education leaders took the stage to discuss UNLV’s Student Success Initiative (SSI), a program aimed at supporting prospective teachers to pursue their bachelors degrees and support them throughout their journeys. The SSI is centered around three programs which are Paraprofessional Pathways Program, Dual Enrollment, and Cross the Finish Line Grants.
Following the opening, a morning panel discussion titled, “Solving Education’s Wicked Problem,” was moderated by Jon Ralston, CEO of The Nevada Independent. The panel featured Nevada state superintendent Jhone Ebert, Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Melody Rose and Clark County School District superintendent Jesus Jara.
During the panel discussion, topics surrounding interdependent and intertwined issues like the economy, health care, housing, race, and education were hot subject matters. Panelists discussed how these factors are inextricably tied to student success and that P-20 leaders must develop comprehensive policy solutions for Nevada’s kids.
“We have to appreciate contributions that R1 institutions like UNLV and UNR can contribute. Our labs, research hubs, and institutions are the beating heart of innovation and productivity,” said Rose. “We need to be very assertive in sharing what we have to offer in higher education to attract the new wave of industry leaders to Southern Nevada and all of the State.” Rose finished her remarks by discussing that a primary task for her is changing the college going culture in Nevada to attract a new generation of diverse students.
Following the break, conference attendees were sent to breakout sessions that covered a number of hot higher education topics like the role of labor organizations, strategies for equity school improvement and critical race theory.
One of the highlights during the summit was the lunch keynote delivered by Juliana Urtubey, Nevada’s national teacher of the year. During the keynote presentation, conference attendees ate lunch and listened to Urtubey’s life story as an educator and change-agent. Urtubey highlighted her experiences as a first-generation, bilingual immigrant and how she wanted those experiences and identities to be mirrored in the students she taught.
Now serving as Nevada’s first ever national teacher of the year, Urtubey has traveled the nation to speak at conferences and worked alongside the First Lady of the U.S., Jill Biden, spreading her message of beautifying schools, unifying communities and uplifting student experiences and identities.
Urtubey told the Scarlet & Gray Free Press that, “There’s a lot of things to pay attention to. There’s special education where we need to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, ensuring we have systems in place for all the kids who have backlogged counseling evaluations, and centering teachers in policy decisions while respecting their work and contributions.”
Urtubey’s advice to other UNLV students aspiring to pursue education is that they learn how to tell their story in a way that amplifies and uplifts all communities. “Staying true to who you really are is so important for students as they can see themselves represented in you.”
The rest of the summit featured unique breakout sessions and online presentations, as well as opportunities for P-20 leaders to connect with others in their field.