News Articles

Convention to Inspire 6,000 Educators to Strive for “Something Better”

A sneak peek into what Adventist educators can look forward to at the North American Division’s largest professional development event

Logo for the NAD's 2023 educators' convention, titled "Something Better"

The North America Division’s (NAD) 2023 "Something Better" educators’ convention, to be held in Phoenix, Arizona, from August 7-10, is the division’s opportunity to honor and empower educators division-wide. Logo: NAD Education office.

When COVID-19 shut down the world in 2020, educators had to pivot online overnight, many with little to no virtual teaching experience. But they persevered and, despite road bumps, continued providing a wholistic, Christ-centered education to students at all levels.

The North America Division’s (NAD) 2023 educators’ convention, to be held in Phoenix, Arizona, from August 7-10, is the division’s opportunity to honor and empower these frontline workers. Roughly 6,000 educators and other ministry leaders from across the NAD will gather for a jam-packed four days of networking, learning, and spiritual rejuvenation.

“This marks the single largest professional development and spiritual growth opportunity for Adventist educators as they network, rekindle friendships, learn, collaborate, gain skills, and receive resources to help them become more effective educators on their journey to excellence,” said Arne Nielsen, vice president for education in the North American Division.

He added, “This [event] is our way to say thank you. Thank you … for being the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus in classrooms, dorms, offices, work programs, and sports fields.”

Plenary and keynote speakers will address contemporary topics in education, as will 300 presentations divided across six breakout sessions. Presentations will be primarily conducted by Adventist education practitioners. A particular focus will be standards-based learning, an NAD Education initiative for the 2020-2025 quinquennium. Another will be a dedicated training track for early childhood education, reflecting the NAD’s efforts to fully integrate ECE, led by director Evelyn Sullivan, into its Adventist education portfolio.

Morning worship sessions, including devotionals by Donnett Blake, Northeastern Conference’s Women’s Ministries director, will kickstart each day. Attendees will also enjoy worship music from Cyiza Music Ministry, a concert by Micah Taylor, Christian comedy by Phill Callaway and Taylor Hughes, and musical performances by renowned artists Nicole C. Mullen and Laura Story.

The event will also include an exhibit hall. Nearly 150 exhibitors will display classroom supplies, curriculum and resource materials, higher education information, professional development resources, and more. It will also feature a photo booth and live podcasts, such as one by the Adventist Learning Community (ALC), where teachers can share their stories.

New to the Educators’ Convention

This year’s convention will incorporate several exciting new elements. One is EdTalks, a series of 18-minute TED Talk-style presentations on leadership and education. Notable presenters will include recording artists Nicole C. Mullen and Laura Story, Adventist leaders Carlton Byrd, Meshach Soli, and Adam Wamack, and educators Mario Acosta, Tina Boogren, and Doug Reeves. The convention will conclude with a commitment and anointing service featuring G. Alexander Bryant, NAD president.

Sponsored by the Bainum Family Foundation, the EDtalks will cover core elements of learning, capacity building, collaborative culture, and commitment to growth. Moreover, a Bainum leadership lounge will offer executive coaching and networking opportunities.

Also new, schools will be encouraged to enter submissions for SPARK Tank, a Shark Tank-style event showcasing creative evangelism projects. While only eight finalists will live pitch their initiatives to judges for grant funding awards, all participants will receive a check. Furthermore, all ideas will be shared in the convention center.

Leisa Standish, NAD director of Elementary Education, explained that the name “SPARK” represents a spark of an idea. “Also, …. It only takes a spark to get a fire going, … that spark to get people excited about Jesus,” she added. Thus, NAD Education, in collaboration with Calvin Watkins, NAD vice president, regional liaison/evangelism, is seeking innovative, student-led community outreach initiatives. “We want to get kids excited about evangelism,” said Standish.

Finally, the convention will offer a comprehensive “STEM experience,” sponsored by Versacare, in the exhibit hall. Section one will offer information on STEM teacher education, such as Loma Linda’s EXSEED summer program, and promote STEM Tuesdays, ALC’s interactive STEM courses. In section two, the “Tinker Space,” elementary and middle school teachers will learn to use robots, engineering, and other STEM equipment. Section three, for high school teachers, will offer hands-on demonstrations and training in coding, robotics, and engineering. Visitors will also enter a draw for free STEM kits. The goal of this segment is to promote equity in STEM education, where women and minorities are underrepresented; introduce supplements to the Adventist Church’s by-design science series; and equip teachers with the necessary tools and knowledge to support students in pursuing STEM careers.

The NAD Education office is thankful to sponsors for making the STEM experience and other value-added elements possible. “Our goal is to bring joy, inspiration, and a spiritual emphasis to this convention to renew the spirits of our teachers. I’m excited we’re able to provide experiences we haven’t had before,” said Standish.

Nielsen concluded, “Two years ago, we were doubtful that we [would] have a convention. However, through God’s providence and leading, we recognized that this was something we could do. We’re thankful and grateful. It has truly taken a village to make this happen.”

Photo of Phoenix Arizona at sunrise

Photo of Phoenix, Arizona, site of the NAD's 2023 "Something Better" education convention, at sunrise. Photo: Getty Images

Behind-the-Scenes Breakdown

On the Theme, “Something Better:”

In Education, p. 296, Ellen White wrote:

“‘Something better’ is the watchword of education, the law of all true living. …To honor Christ, to become like Him, to work for Him, is the life’s highest ambition and its greatest joy.”

This theme, selected by the union education directors, was introduced at the first Association of Seventh-day Adventist School Administrators (ASDASA) virtual conference in 2021. Said Nielsen, “It’s a theme we’ve been holding close to our hearts during this quinquennium. “[In this quote, Ellen White] tells us Jesus offers us something better than the world has to offer.”

How Many Conventions:

This is the fifth NAD-wide convention for Adventist educators. The first convention was held in 2000 in Dallas, Texas, then in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2006 and 2012, and in Chicago in 2018.

In 2021, the union directors of educators voted to host the convention every five years instead of six and changed the name from “teachers’ convention” to the more inclusive “educators’ convention.”

Breakout sessions: 6

Sponsors: a record 18; Click here for a full list

Presentations during breakouts: nearly 300

Exhibitors: 150 (Click here for a list of exhibitors)

Volunteers and staff: 100+

Anticipated guests: Anyone from classroom teachers and principals to deans, marketing and development directors, administrators, and food service employees

The app:

The Cadence app will provide a detailed schedule, maps, platform for attendees to connect, updated breakout information, speaker information, session handouts, sponsor pages, exhibit hall information, FAQs, and more!

For more information on the convention, please visit