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Donovan Ross Blogs About the Teachers’ Convention in Nashville

Blog by Donovan Ross; photos by Bryant Taylor, Donovan Ross and Daniel Weber
Published 8/14/12


Members from the union’s Office of Education, register attendees.
Sunday: Math, Geography and Physical Education
As I huddle in our registration booth with the staff from the Columbia Union Conference’s Office of Education, I am somewhat apprehensive. Of the 6,500 educators expected to arrive from all across the North American Division, some 500 are from the Columbia Union. We pray and prepare to greet and register them (there’s already one waiting patiently). With that many people trying to get registered and checked into their rooms, I expect that our team of six will encounter our fair share of challenges.

It’s mid-afternoon and my job has changed from greeting and directing our educators to running back and forth from one end of the convention center to the other trying to ensure that they have the appropriate lodging. At 6:30 p.m. we close the window and move into the main auditorium for the opening session, one of nine such general sessions that will be presented over the next four days. Afterward, we notice that a line has formed in front of our booth, so we ditch the plans to wait until Monday morning to re-open and are rewarded with grateful smiles from tired educators who just want to get to their beds after a long but fulfilling day. One attendee shares with me that she was blessed after hearing Carlton Byrd, DMin, speaker and director for Breath of Life Ministries, and could not wait to see and hear what was in store for the remainder of the convention.


Monday: Communications 101 With a Minor in Patience
Today my apprehension from Sunday has been replaced with joy and exuberance. The sessions are going well, my colleagues are telling me that so far the convention has been “wonderful,” “awesome,” “professionally and spiritually refreshing.” At about 1:20 p.m., I sit with Jeff Bovee (pictured) for our class on “Servant Leadership and the Principalship.” Last year he was my principal at Spring Valley Academy in Centerville, Ohio, and I was his vice principal. This year we are both serving in different capacities: he is now education superintendent for the Pennsylvania Conference, and I serve as an education associate for the Columbia Union.


We do a final walkthrough of our presentation. Then, at about 3:35 p.m., 10 minutes before the session, we stand outside the room and wonder aloud if our only attendees would be Jeff’s three family members who were seated in the back. After all we were two of about 18 presenters from the Columbia Union and teachers can choose from 530 breakout sessions. Minutes later our fears were allayed as about 27 current and prospective school leaders joined us for our session. We were scheduled to end at 5 p.m. but at 5:09, as we wrapped up, no one left and some are still taking notes.


Tuesday: A Lesson on The Three Ms and Four Rs
It’s about 7:45 a.m., and I am strolling leisurely toward the main auditorium. I am in a reflective mood as I look forward to the morning worship. Dwight Nelson, pastor of the Pioneer Memorial church at Andrews University (Mich.) has been inspiring and challenging us daily. He is reminding us that teachers Motivate, Mentor and Mobilize and that we should be teaching the fours Rs: Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic and Redemption! Afterward, I am inspired, motivated and ready for my students to come through the door. I’m ready for the first day of school! Then it dawns on me that I serve in a different capacity now. While I won’t be in a classroom this year, I know that the three Ms and four Rs still apply to my new administrative ministry.


Columbia Union teachers chat with new friends. Lisa Dunn Marshall (second from left) and DaVina Alston (last right) are teachers at Allegheny East Conference’s Dupont Park school in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday: Technology 3.0 and a Major in Purpose
After the final devotional, I see something that has become familiar during this conference—educators using QR Code readers to scan the badges of fellow attendees to secure their contact information. There were even QR Codes on all accessible convention signs, which when scanned lead to the convention website and the most up-to-date information such as breakout session cancellations and room changes. As I inquire, I learn that this convention has been cutting edge with its use of technology.


Cheryl Jacko, assistant superintendent for the Mountain View Conference, and Yvette Cooper, superintendent for the Allegheny West Conference, sing together.

When I asked teachers their thoughts on the devotion and the convention, Garry Emmons, a young educator from New Jersey, said the conference was “just great ” and that he enjoyed the experience. Another educator gushed, “I am on information overload, but this is just great!”

We have been through one opening session, three devotions, four general sessions, over 500 break out sessions, two morning prayer meetings, one anointing service and one commitment service. I have been blessed, inspired, informed and motivated to continue on the “Journey to Excellence” in Seventh-day Adventist education as we move hearts and minds upward.




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