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Room full of people sitting at tables listening to the Future Teacher Conference

    Future Teacher Conference Inspiring the Next Generation of Educators

    University of Northern Colorado’s College of Education and Behavioral Sciences is hosting its 8th annual Future Teacher Conference on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. 

    University of Northern Colorado’s College of Education and Behavioral Sciences is hosting its 8th annual Future Teacher Conference on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. This free event brings together hundreds of high school and community college students interested in teaching careers to understand what it takes to become an educator. The conference will feature presentations and workshops facilitated by current UNC students, early career teachers, veteran educators and UNC faculty and administration. This allows attendees to not only get a sense of what it feels like to be on a college campus, but it also provides them with a chance to make connections with their peers and mentors, creating a sense of belonging. 

    “Coming to the conference stepped up the game for me because it was such a hands-on, personable experience,” Natalia Lopez-Gutierrez said.  

    Lopez-Gutierrez attended the Future Teacher Conference last February 2022 when she was a senior in high school. She now attends UNC majoring in education with a goal of working with kids who learned English as their second language. Lopez-Gutierrez says the insights she gathered and the people she met at the conference helped her make this decision. 

    “I live in a single-mother household, so I was taking it day by day and trying to figure out what options I had for college,” Lopez-Gutierrez said back in August 2022. “The Future Teacher Conference Q&A sessions answered a lot of my questions, so I was a little more relieved and realized I can do this, I got this.” 

    Providing that support for future educators and building a community of learners were the reasons why co-organizers and School of Teacher Education Professors Suzette Youngs, Ph.D., and Christine Kyser, Ed.D., created the Future Teacher Conference almost a decade ago.  

    “We know that teacher candidates persist when they feel a sense of belonging” said Youngs and Kyser. “Our goal with the Future Teacher Conference is to create a welcoming learning environment and to build a community of learners that will set future teachers on the path to success. The first years are a critical time in teaching. At UNC we aspire to find innovative ways to support teachers, provide resources and support them well into the future from high school to their first years in the classroom.” 

    New to this year’s conference will be the Most Inspiring Teacher Recognition ceremony. Registered student participants were invited to nominate a teacher that has had a significant impact on their educational journey or one that has inspired them to become a teacher. The MostInspiring Teachers will be recognized during the conference opening ceremony. College of Education and Behavioral Sciences Dean Jared Stallones, Ph.D., will welcome all the attendees and then recognize the Most Inspiring Teacher nominees.  

    "Teachers receive a lot of individual thank yous from their students and from families and they are sometimes praised as a group by public figures, but there are fewer opportunities to recognize teachers individually in public for the way they inspire and guide students,” Stallones said. “We wanted to make a special effort to do this, so we developed this award.  We plan to make it an annual feature of the Future Teachers Conference.” 

    Following the recognition, keynote speaker Mekialaya White ‘08, a proud native of Colorado Springs will be sharing her inspiring story. White is currently working her dream job as a weekday anchor at CBS News Colorado. She credits her start in TV, however, to UNC. A proud alumna, White double-majored in journalism and communications before pursuing a journalism career to empower and serve others. 

    Students interested in teaching in a rural setting where teachers are in high demand will be attending the Future Rural Teachers Summit on Thursday, Feb. 2, the evening before the Future Teacher Conference. 

    – written by Sydney Kern

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