Elementary Principals Convention

October 9-11, 2024 | Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake

Cost of Registration
Pre-Con Sessions: $99
AWSA Member Registration $267*
Non-Member Registration $424

*You must be logged in to see member pricing

Hotel Information
The Osthoff Resort
101 Osthoff Avenue
Elkhart Lake
Block expires on 9/18/24
(800) 876-3399
$145 single/double; $185 two-bedroom suite
Ask for: AWSA Elementary Principals Convention

Schedule of Events 

Wednesday | October 9, 2024

11:30-4:00 PM        Pre-Convention Registration

12:30-4:00 PM        Pre-Convention Legal Seminar

1. Elementary Principals Legal Seminar
Malina PiontekAWSA Retained Counsel, Melissa Thiel Collar, Legal Counsel, Green Bay Area School District and Tess O'Brien- Heinzen, Rening, Lewis & Lacy

Effective Leadership at the elementary level requires that principals understand legal basics, including special education, Title IX, constitutional law, and relevant areas of family law. In addition, it requires principals to keep abreast of changes in the law and agency guidance. This three-hour presentation will reinforce legal basics that all principals need to know and identify important hot topics, including restraint and seclusion, Act 20, free speech, playground issues, and more. The presenters, all seasoned attorneys, will come prepared with case studies to challenge group thinking and will be ready for questions as they lead a lively group discussion!

2. Harnessing the Power of AI for Elementary Leaders
Rita Mortenson, Educational Technology Coach and Jason Rubo, Director of Technology, Verona Area School District
Miranda Moe, Associate Principal and Sheila Weihert, Principal, Arboretum Elementary School, Waunakee School District

We can use AI to enhance decision-making, streamline administrative processes, unlock insights from data, and support student success. You will walk away from this session able to harness AI in new ways to save time, grow your impact, and better balance your work and private life. The session will have one section for leaders just beginning to explore AI and a second section for those wanting to explore intermediate applications, so whether you're new to the world of AI, or have already utilized these tools for tasks like drafting correspondence, data analysis or helping your staff enhance teaching and learning, you will not want to miss this interactive session.  Both the introductory and intermediate sections of this session will have facilitated discussion and hands-on time for the AI tools.

5:00-6:00 PM   Welcome Reception 

Thursday | October 10, 2024

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 staff and other new and
experienced leaders. 

8:30 AM                 Welcome & Opening Keynote

Fearless Leadership
Douglas Reeves, Creative Leadership Solutions

Wisconsin, like a majority of states, has passed early literacy legislation (Act 20). This session will provide practical suggestions rooted in lessons learned from around the country (e.g., don’t forget non-fiction writing). More importantly, it will address leadership factors that matter most in creating the conditions for strong student growth and engagement.

Fearlessness is essential to learning for students, teachers, and leaders. It is not possible for a school or district to successfully implement any initiative in teaching, curriculum, or leadership in a fearful environment. Fearless leadership is, therefore, the top priority for schools and districts that wish to make progress. In the fearless organization, students and adults can make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and share their learning with others without fear of embarrassment. In the fearless school and district, students, teachers, and leaders routinely take risks, express ideas, and accept constructive criticism without defensiveness. Everyone in the organization knows that a zero-risk environment is a zero-learning environment. Participants will understand the essentials of Fearless Schools and will apply that learning to authentic scenarios in classrooms, schools, and administrator meetings.

Douglas Reeves is a researcher and writer for Creative Leadership Solutions. He is the author of more than 45 books and 100 articles on education and leadership. Twice named to the Harvard University Distinguished Authors Series, Doug has received several national and international awards for his contributions to education. Doug has taught at every level, from the primary grades to post-doctoral students. 


10:00 AM                    Break and Opening of Expo Hall 

10:20-11:00 AM        Keynote Continues (with time for questions, challenges and success stories)

11:15-12:00 PM        Luncheon and Elementary Principal of the Year Award

12:00-12:25 PM        Dessert with Exhibitors

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

1. Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom
Jessica Barry, Meadowbrook Elementary School, Waukesha School District

Kristin Souers and Pete Hall’s "Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom" is an invaluable resource for educators navigating the complexities of childhood trauma in the classroom. Join us as we discover practical strategies grounded in both research and real-world experience. This session will help you cultivate a trauma-sensitive learning environment for students across all content areas, grade levels, and educational settings.

2. Markers of a Coaching Culture
Tammy Gibbons, Director of Professional Learning, AWSA

Does your school have a culture of feedback? Are teachers hungry to sit with another colleague and talk about their successes, their blunders, and their impact? This session will allow participants to reflect on and consider ways to assess the markers of a coaching culture in the school and identify ways to ensure it is a place where people of all ages thrive on trust and feedback.

3. Becoming a High-Performance Culture for All Students: Collecting and Monitoring Instructional Practice Data
Joe Schroeder, Associate Executive Director, AWSA

For over a decade, I have asked scores of leaders (representing hundreds of Wisconsin schools and districts) to engage in a five-minute survey that identifies the degree to which ten attributes of a high-performance culture describes their school. On 90% or more of the occasions, leaders identify their biggest gap as this one: “My school routinely collects and shares data on adult practices to ensure deep implementation of specific strategies and to support all adults toward improving student learning.” The good news:  in the past few years, we have evidence of more Wisconsin schools than ever who are addressing this gap and, thus, making encouraging progress on student growth and learning. In this session, we will share Wisconsin-based approaches and examples for addressing this nearly universal challenge so that you can leave with the next steps for closing these gaps in your school’s performance culture and levels of student learning.

4.  The Power of Intentional Scheduling
Kelsey Schmit, Principal and Melissa Riedel, Associate Principal, Belleville Elementary School 

Join us for a dynamic presentation on developing grade-level schedules tailored to prioritize students’ diverse learning needs for optimal growth. Discover practical strategies, samples, and principles for creating flexible, data-driven schedules that foster collaboration and differentiation. Learn how to integrate support services effectively and continuously monitor and adjust schedules to ensure every student thrives.

5. Moving the Needle: Small Steps to Create Big Opportunities
Tom Sauve, Principal, Elmwood School District and Megan Challoner, Principal, Frederic Elementary School

"Moving the Needle" is a dynamic session tailored for PK-12 educators seeking impactful strategies to drive positive change in their schools and districts. By focusing on incremental yet transformative actions, this event empowers educators to enhance professional capacity, refine hiring practices, nurture leadership, and promote goal setting and reflection.  Attendees will leave with concrete examples of tried-and-true practices employed by our districts.

6. Supporting Early Literacy in Wisconsin: Where Are We Now?
Laura Adams, Policy Initiatives Advisor, Department of Public Instruction

The Department of Public Instruction will share up-to-date information and resources to support districts as they implement the requirements of Act 20, Wisconsin’s reading legislation singed into law in 2023. Participants can expect to receive information about templates and resources, and will have the opportunity to ask questions.

1:45-2:15 PM          Break with Exhibitors

2:15-3:30 PM         Concurrent Sessions Round Two

1. Building Leaders from Within
Shelley Hyde, Principal, Kewaskum Elementary School

Step into a transformative conference session tailored for principals: "Building Leaders from Within." Are you feeling the weight of your workload bearing down, drowning in endless tasks and stress? Discover innovative strategies to cultivate leadership within your team, lightening your load and reducing stress levels. Uncover the power of nurturing leadership potential from within your staff, empowering them to share responsibilities and lift the burden of overwhelming workloads. Join us on this journey toward a more balanced and effective leadership approach.

2. Defining Instructional Identity: Empowering Principals to Foster High-Expertise Teaching and Learning
Yaribel Rodriguez, Director of Urban Leadership, AWSA

In this thought-provoking session, we delve into the fundamental question: "Does my school have an instructional identity?" Principals are pivotal leaders in shaping the educational culture of their schools, and understanding and cultivating a distinct instructional identity is essential for success. Through interactive discussions and practical insights, attendees will explore strategies to identify, define, and refine their school's instructional identity. Moreover, we will delve into the critical role of high-expertise teaching and learning in closing academic gaps and enhancing overall outcomes. Participants will leave empowered with actionable approaches to strengthen their school's instructional identity and drive continuous improvement in teaching and learning practices.

3. Leading Literacy as an Administrator

Jessica D’Ambrosio, Principal, Amery Intermediate School

Leadership plays a critical role in developing educators and ensuring students have exposure to best practices and the tools to become good readers.  Through meaningful professional development that aligns with ACT 20 and the Science of Reading, we can grow our educators. Leaders must understand science based early learning instruction and how to implement universal and intervention instruction that is systematic and explicit. This session will focus on how we support and develop literacy instructors, develop a framework to evaluate data to implement response to intervention, and provide equitable student access to tiered instruction.
4. Rhetoric Reality Gap:  Changing our Commitments
Tammy Gibbons, Director of Professional Learning, AWSA

Schools could make a long list of reasons they are not successful for ALL students. But the truth of the matter is, that there is often a gap - the difference between what we say are our priorities and what our behavior says about our priorities. This session will focus on how to lead a school through a process of identifying commitments (norms) that lead to a high-performing culture and further identifying the need for healthy conflict in order to socialize those commitments in all spaces, whether the leader is present or not.

5. Managing the Unmanageable: How to Deal with Increased Stress in Schools
Josh Varner, Consultant

Recent studies have shown that it has never been more stressful to be an educator than it has over the past two years.  Teacher burnout is at an all time high.  So many of our stressors are out of our control (pandemic, lack of subs, increased student issues) but we can control how we manage our increased stress load.  During this presentation you will learn how stress is stored in the body and evidence based ways to release it.  During this training participants will learn: 1) how stress gets stored in the body, 2) evidence-based practices that complete the stress cycle, and, 3) how to make an individualized stress management plan that meets the needs of each person.

PM                  Personal Time:  Catch Up On Communication From Home

5:00-6:00 PM         Reception Sponsored by


Friday | October 11, 2024

7:00-8:00 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. 

8:00-8:45 AM               Breakfast Program & Legislative Update

AWSA and the School Administrators Alliance's Executive Director, Dee Pettack, will provide an update on issues of most importance to elementary school leaders.

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

1. Bench Warmers or Bench Leaders? You Can Decide
Tammy Gibbons, Director of Professional Learning, AWSA

Change is currently the top challenge for school organizations and today’s leaders. This requires a thorough understanding of the changing conditions organizations encounter and how to respond effectively. Leaders need to be able to cultivate leadership teams that, in Leigh Thompson's words, “go through the various storms, the successes, the failures and keep coming out alive.” This session will have participants consider the many strategies that leaders may have adopted to improve teamwork; while well-intentioned, they are not all that effective, but there are some solid recommendations that can be readily implemented.

2. Accelerating Impact: You as a 100-Day Leader
Joe Schroeder, Associate Executive Director, AWSA

It has been commonplace in education for decades to say that systemic change is a 3-5 year process. But we now know that change can happen much more rapidly – and, in fact, is typically the product of a series of robust, short cycles of progress. This session will leverage the work of thought leaders such as Michael Fullan and Doug Reeves, as well as examples from principals across Wisconsin, to help you conceptualize a 100-day challenge, identify entry points, and develop means for interventions that render clear results. In short, participants will leave the session with concrete approaches they can apply to become impactful, 100-day leaders by taking deliberate action of short-cycle impact.

3. Navigating Tough Conversations: Implementing the RESIST Protocol for Accountability and Student Success
Yaribel Rodriguez, Director of Urban Leadership, AWSA

Join us for an enlightening session tailored for principals seeking guidance on facilitating difficult conversations essential for accountability and student success. Inspired by the RESIST Protocol developed by Anthony Muhammad and Luis Cruz, this workshop equips participants with practical steps to address challenging situations effectively. Through interactive exercises and role-playing scenarios, attendees will learn how to navigate crucial conversations with confidence and empathy. Gain invaluable insights into fostering a culture of accountability while ensuring that practices align with student needs and aspirations. Leave prepared and empowered to engage in meaningful dialogue that propels your school towards greater equity, excellence, and student persistence.

4. Filling the Jar: A Principal’s Guide to Teacher Resilience
Mary Garcia-Velez, Principal, Waukesha School District and Melissa Horn, Principal, Hamilton School District 

Caring for your staff using tried and true tested examples as well as ideas from Aguilar. Principals will walk away with various ways activities and ideas to fill your staff’s buckets. Practical ideas to take back and use with your staff. This will include modeling activities that will be good for your soul.

5. Identifying and Supporting Dysregulated Students
Josh Varner, Consultant

Increased mental health challenges are putting additional stress on school staff and students.  During this presentation we are going to learn how to maximize the resources in our school to support these students. During this training participants will learn classroom interventions to support dysregulated students, school wide supports designed to support students, and student coping strategies that increase regulation and learning.

10:15-10:30 AM        Break

10:30 AM                  Closing Keynote

Be Their Hero: Trauma Informed Care
Josh Varner, Consultant

Two out of every three students in the United States are impacted by a traumatic event. When students experience trauma or an extremely stressful situation, it's normal and natural for them to have a hard time coping afterwards. I'm passionate about teaching educators how to support individuals impacted by trauma. I specialize in inspiring educators that they can support these students and be the hero in their life journey. During this training participants will learn how many students are impacted by childhood trauma; how to identify them; and, how the brain and body respond to trauma and how that impacts student behavior. Participants will leave with a ‘Call to Action’ and be equipped with many specific tools that are easy to use to support their students.

Josh Varner is a trauma informed speaker and a school mental health professional with a PASSION for helping individuals and schools to support students who have been impacted by childhood trauma.  Josh has presented over 300 high energy, informative, interactive presentations to audiences all over the country.  Along with speaking Josh has been a mental health professional, school counselor and coordinated an at-risk student program. Josh has experience in the classroom working with traumatized students and knows what will work for teachers. 

Vendor Information 

Photo of Part of Vendor HallBooths for the Elementary Principals Convention will open August 1st. 

Tabletop fee is $400 and includes: 1 8’ table, 2 chairs, lunch, dessert break, pre-registrants list one week prior to the event. If you are a vendor who has questions about the event please contact Katie Lowe

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. 

Event Cancellation or Postponement
AWSA reserves exclusive right to modify, postpone/reschedule or cancel programs for any reason, including but not limited to emergency, inclement weather or other acts of God. If there is an event cancellation, every attempt will be made to reschedule and registration fees will be applied to the reschedule event dates. In the unlikely event of cancellation of an event, including inclement weather, the liability of AWSA is limited to the return of paid registration fees minus actual expenses. Cancellations of travel reservations and hotel reservations made directly with the hotel are the responsibility of the attendee.

Conventions, Conferences, and Workshop Cancellation Policy
A full refund of fees will be made on cancellations received 10 calendar days (9/29/24) prior to the start of the event. If you cancel between 9/30/24 and 10/4/24 you will receive a 50% refund of the fees. After that date there will be no refunds. There is no refund for no-shows.

Dietary Disclaimer
AWSA makes every effort to accommodate basic dietary needs such as vegetarian, gluten-free and basic food allergies. AWSA does not assume liability for adverse reactions to food consumed or items one may come into contact with while eating at an AWSA event. 

For questions about accessibility or to request special assistance during the event, please contact Kathy Gilbertson at [email protected]. Three weeks advance notice is required to allow us to provide seamless access. If you need to cancel the special request this must be done at least 3 working days prior to the start of the event. See registration cancellation policy on the event’s web page for how to cancel your conference registration.

*Refund fees retained by AWSA pay for your food guarantees, a/v equipment, meeting room rental and any hotel attritions caused by the cancellation.