Guest blog by the teachers at The Academy of Alameda, current grantees of the LIGHT Awards project Deeper Learning & Stronger Support for Teachers.


After months of planning we made it to the Anaheim Deep Learning Lab 2023 Conference. Four of our team members and three additional teaching staff from our school were able to hear from educators from all over the world! It was a quick, but exciting two days of jam-packed learning and community building. In addition, one of our team members also presented at the conference with our Principal. Presenting Bridge to Deeper Learning: How we Welcome Students to our Community and to NPDL to a packed room, we made connections with international school communities and shared tools about supporting students in building community and connections through deep learning practices.

Our first speaker was Dr. Shawn Ginwright, author of The Four Pivots . This particular speaker inspired our team to think through change and the language of change. Dr. Ginwright left us thinking about the power of “healing leadership” and how systematic change comes when we see things through the lens of assets. It also reminded us that there are so many strengths to things that are viewed as a challenge. We also agreed that we all wanted to read the speaker’s book The Four Pivots.

In addition to keynote speakers, our team was able to choose subject-based insight sessions. Some examples of sessions included: how to use making coffee for a science experiment with students or how to hold restorative and community circles to support student engagement. As a team we decided to ensure we were going to a wide range of sessions to ensure topics were relevant to our subject area expertise and needs we have seen as school leaders. It was fun to meet back up at lunch during the conference and debrief ideas and discuss ways to incorporate readings or strategies into our own work. We were also able to connect after the end of each day and talk through how we wanted to bring our learning to staff. We planned to present key points from the conference and make clear connections to the work done in classrooms. It was easy to see the impact Deeper Learning makes in classrooms and in the educators doing the work to support students.

We were also excited to hear from students from Anaheim and New Zealand schools. By having a student voice in the conference, we were able to better see a full picture of the work and how it can impact student experience. It made us think of our own students and how their learning experiences in middle school can truly shape how they feel about themselves and their impact on the world. It was a nice reminder of staying student centered in our educational endeavors.

By far the most important and most impactful session was Zaretta Hammond. As a team, we had all read Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond at multiple points in our career, but this was the first time we were able to learn from her in person! As much as we knew she would be a powerful speaker and presenter, she surpassed all of our expectations and hopes as an audience, again reminding us to not be satisfied with the status quo but to be innovators for students and ourselves. Hammond was so impactful to our team that half of the team stayed for her second presentation and question session. This was a very important part of our time at the Anaheim Deep Learning Lab 2023 Conference and really supported our conversations around being “innovators” and pushing ourselves to try to be more brave in our work. We were excited to learn that Zaretta Hammond was working on a new book and are looking forward to starting up a book club at our site once it comes out!

In our two days at the conference we were able to grow as educators and has a lot of fun getting to meet educators from around the world. We were in the happy glow of Disneyland and were able to get to see other like-minded educators. Looking towards the future we are looking to connect more with the speakers and educators we connected with in Anaheim and presenting more of our projects and works at future conferences