PB Connect 2023

9th annual PB Connect benefits all district personnel
Posted on 01/24/2023
Dr. Todd Whitaker

Poplar Bluff Schools recently hosted its most well-attended PB Connect on collaboration day, boosting participation by opening up the conference to classified staff for the first time since the event’s inception nine years ago.

Around 550 staff members had an opportunity to choose from over 100 breakout sessions to attend during the annual internal workshop hosted Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the High School.

This year’s keynote was one of the country’s leading authorities in the field, Dr. Todd Whitaker, a best-selling author and lifelong educator, who continues to teach at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

“We tried closing schools and guess what we found out? They matter,” said Whitaker in the gymnasium to kick off the full-day event. “We have definitive proof that we matter. We knew [teachers] mattered when we chose education.”

The last time the staff gathered for PB Connect was just prior to the health crisis in January of 2020. While the format transitioned to virtual in the subsequent years, school leaders still managed to keep the tradition of securing a nationally-renowned speaker at the top of the bill via Google Meet.

“A school’s job is not to reflect society,” said Whitaker, whose presentation was entitled ‘What Great Teachers Do Differently.’ “A school’s job is to cultivate society.”

Whitaker explained how the best educators are willing to seek guidance from more experienced practitioners because, “You can never work at ego and skills at the same time.” He continued: “Ineffective people always have an ego day and focus on things they can’t influence.”

Before the conference opened, R-I Superintendent Dr. Scott Dill welcomed the audience, recalling how his initial introduction to the district was prior to taking the helm in 2016 at the second annual PB Connect, then known as Tech Camp. Befittingly, Dill's soon-to-be successor Dr. Aaron Cornman was also in attendance last week, and commented how he was impressed with the turnout, 200 more than Poplar Bluff’s previous high-water mark.

Unique among school districts in the region, PB Connect was founded in 2015 as a means of sharing technology tools for the school system’s first buildings that went 1:1 under the laptop initiative, Junior and Senior High, then expanded to incorporate Middle School before going district-wide. Co-organizer Keri Jameson, R-I instructional coach, noted how this year there were less than a dozen tech-focused sessions.

Themes alternatively included instruction, leadership, trauma-informed care, restorative practice and self-care. “We’ve been technology-trained, especially coming off 2020 and virtual [education]; people are looking for more hands-on,” explained co-organizer Michele Carmode, Jameson’s counterpart.

The agenda was driven by staff interest surveys, and then led in large part by R-I school personnel. Carmode and Jameson credited their team of building ambassadors, among others who worked behind the scenes, for helping to organize the 9th annual PB Connect.

The winner of the 2023 $400 classroom makeover, sponsored by FCC Behavioral Health, was: Katherine Johns, who teaches sixth grade at the Middle School. Recipients of the $100 PB Connect ‘bucks,’ sponsored by Wallstreet Group, were: Joshua Allen, Julie Littles, Michelle and Nick McDaniel, and Denni White.

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Cutline: Following his keynote address, special guest speaker Dr. Todd Whitaker proceeds to host a breakout session in the library.

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