The Who’s Who of #PTACon17

The 2017 National PTA Convention & Expo is right around the corner and we have an amazing lineup of education leaders and experts who are traveling to Las Vegas to connect with PTA advocates across the country.

We are pleased to welcome the following keynote speakers:

Paula A. Kerger, president and CEO of PBS, the nation’s largest non-commercial media organization, with 350 member stations throughout the country.

Steve Pemberton, author and motivational speaker who shares his personal story of beating the odds and overcoming childhood trauma through the power of education.

Rosalind Wiseman, author and internationally recognizes expert on children, teens, parenting, bullying, social justice and ethical leadership.

In addition to hearing from these influential leaders, attendees will have the special opportunity to take part in exciting events like the National PTA Awards and Reflections Celebration dinner – a night filled with awards and entertainment for the entire family.

This year, we are thrilled to announce that Le PeTiT CiRqUe will be performing during the awards celebration on Saturday, June 24 at 7 p.m.

Winner of 16 National Youth Awards, Le PeTiT CiRqUe has entertained audiences across the U.S. and internationally in Dubai and Canada. They have performed for world leaders including the Dalai Lama and the Sultan of Brunei and are the only all-kid prodigies cirque company in the world! You’ve seen them all over national television—they appeared on NBC’s “LITTLE BIG SHOTS” as featured guest stars on March 26, 2017.

Register for the National PTA Convention & Expo by going to PTA.com/Convention and be sure to get your tickets for the Awards and Reflections Celebration event too.

We can’t wait to see you in Vegas!

Ashley Collier is the associate manager of digital communications at National PTA.

Why I Volunteer

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Even at 40 years old, I still get scared. Driving out of town to a place I have never been before, going to exercise class for the first time, even flying on airplanes can give me a little anxiety. I say things to myself like:

  • You’re going to get lost.
  • You’re going to look stupid.
  • This plane could go down and there are still wet clothes in the washing machine.

But when my kids are scared I hear myself say things like:

  • This is an adventure!
  • You’ll make new friends!
  • Flying is safer than driving!

I know the right things to say to help them be brave, but I don’t say those things to myself.

The first time I volunteered to help with a PTA function, I was nervous. I had offered to help mount artwork for the Reflections program, only to find out the other volunteers were getting together at 11 a.m. at the school (But I work fulltime downtown?!).

I felt I couldn’t back out so I used vacation time. I got my orange “Volunteer” sticker at the office and met the other volunteers for the first time. They showed me where the PTA room was and we worked together for a couple of hours marveling at the little masterpieces. I remember finding my daughter’s painting in a pile with other kindergarten pieces and taping it to black paper. It was a fun day.

A few months later, I decided I would give volunteering another try. I showed up at the spring Carnival (not knowing anyone) and I was assigned to the cash register at the concessions table. I had worked the cash register one time as an employee at Bed, Bath & Beyond and I was a disaster (they kept me in the bedding department after that).

The cash register should have been the worst assignment at the PTA event. Except it wasn’t. Instead, I stood around and chatted with other moms and we all laughed every time I had to do math in my head and tried to count change. I made a lot of mistakes. But no one said I was stupid and they didn’t audit my register. People even thanked me for volunteering. After that, I knew I could do anything.

Fast forward five years and I still volunteer at most PTA events. And now that my kids are older, they always come with me. I still work full time, but I look forward to volunteering in the evening and on the weekends because I know I can bring my kids with me. I don’t have to sacrifice time with them in order to be involved at their school. And they can help too! (Or they can at least run around the cafeteria with their friends while the moms and dads are working.) Most importantly, I have made a lot of friends and my kids are friends with their kids.

If you have never volunteered for PTA, know this: It’s an adventure and you’ll make new friends! The wet clothes in the washing machine can wait.


Heather Zirke is the president of Grindstone PTA and mom to Aurelia, a fourth grader, and Kip, a second grader.

ED Celebrates Award-Winning Student Art in the National PTA’s Exhibit ‘Believe, Dream, Inspire’

Reposted from U.S. Department of Education’s HomeRoom blog.

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Travez Bradford, recipient of a National Award of Excellence for Music Composition/High School Division, performs his winning rap Believe, Dream, and Inspire. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

On January 13, 2015, more than 200 teachers, family members, arts education leaders, PTA members, policymakers, and local-area students came together to honor student artists from 21 states at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) auditorium and art gallery. The young artists – and winners of the 2014 National PTA Reflections program — came to celebrate their works of visual art, film, dance, music, and creative writing based on the theme Dream, Believe, Inspire.

Two dynamic artists performed their winning pieces. Travez Bradford, recipient of a National Award of Excellence for Music Composition, performed his rap Believe, Dream, and Inspire. With a whirlwind of energy, Jillian Miller, winner of a National Award of Merit for Dance Choreography, performed her lyrical dance You Can Be Anything.

Jillian Miller, recipient of a National Award of Merit for Dance Choreography/Intermediate Division, performed her lyrical dance You Can Be Anything. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Prior to the start of the ceremony, Travez, who had traveled with his grandfather from Natchez, Mississippi, talked about his musical inspiration: the gospel rap he experienced at church. His winning composition is in response to his classmates’ fear of performing poorly on tests and failing to graduate, “Believe in yourself when other people doubt you. Dream big, even when some dreams don’t come true. Inspire yourself when others don’t.” Travez now attends community college in Mississippi.

Secretary Duncan launched the celebration by championing arts education, “The arts should be — must be — part of a well-rounded curriculum for every single child.” The National PTA’s Reflections program, he noted, “helps students gain core knowledge — in areas like history, geography, and math — alongside 21st-century skills like critical thinking and problem solving. This program prepares students for success not just in school but in life as well.”

Echoing the secretary, Dawn Small, chair of the Reflections program, observed, “These students … have gained … the ‘arts advantage.’ Their creativity is alive. … Their mind’s eye is awake. … We look forward to great things from them.”

Robert Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, underscored the value of the exhibit and audience to help decision makers learn about the transformative power of arts education. To demonstrate that, he presented an information tool developed by Americans for the Arts, a national nonprofit organization for the advancement of arts and arts education. “If we do it right,” he charged, “the return on investment is a better child … a better nation and a better world.”

Otha Thornton Jr., National PTA president, stressed the importance of promoting arts education, observing that, “our children’s education is our future … we are their advocates. We are the conduits of their dreams.”

After the ribbon cutting, Vy Nguyen of Texas talked about her acrylic painting Dream with Eye Wide Open. A recipient of an Award of Excellence for Visual Arts, she developed her skill through sheer determination. Blinking away tears of joy, she shared her dream to graduate from high school and attend college. The silhouetted figure depicted in cap and gown represents this dream amid a class of graduating seniors in an eye full of awareness and hope.

Vy Nguyen, recipient of an Award of Excellence for Visual Arts/Intermediate Division, shares the inspiration for her painting Dream with Eye Wide Open. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

One of the most exciting sights of the day was the middle school class from Jefferson Academy of Washington, D.C., critiquing student art. Their art teacher Michelle Green explained their presence, “It’s been a long and arduous process of getting them comfortable with the [art criticism] vocabulary. This is a great opportunity for us to see other kids their own age from around the nation looking at artwork” and to get the desire to “join in these competitions!”

Students from Jefferson Academy in Washington, D.C. critique artwork in the student art gallery. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)


Isadora Binder is on the staff of the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.

All Department of Education photos are by Paul Wood. More photos from the event may be viewed on the Department of Education’s Flickr

The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann.

National Endowment for the Arts Task Force

Somewhere inside each of us, especially when we are young, lies a budding artist. Fostering that creativity–nurturing that spirit to let our imaginations fly–is the very essence of educating a child.

This past Wednesday (November 30th) the National Endowment of the Arts announced that it will lead a new federal level task force that will emphasize research on the arts and well-being at all stages of life. Chief among the departments involved is the Department of Health and Human Services. In an era of tightening school budgets that see funding for arts programs and classes eliminated or cut altogether, this is a much needed step forward in recognizing the importance of arts in education. Studies continue to endorse the well-known fact that when children express themselves through the arts, they are more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, more likely to participate in a math or science fair and more likely to be elected to a school office.

Something PTAs nationwide understand well! That is why each year, hundreds of thousands of student participants in National PTA’s Reflections arts program can attest to how the arts impact their lives and their ability to express themselves.

No child should be denied the chance to develop their talent or be denied an outlet for their artistic expression because of budget cuts. Thousands of PTAs across the country and in our military based schools overseas make it possible each year for our children to be involved in the arts through Reflections. Sadly for many, they may not have had the opportunity otherwise.

As parents, PTA leaders, and members Urgent Blog Request, we commend the National Endowment for the Arts, the Department of Health and Human Services, along with the other federal departments that are working on this important research on the arts. We stand ready to assist them in any way possible!

Every child in this nation deserves the chance to have a well-rounded education and to have the tools to reach their full potential as they grow into adulthood. The arts are a vital ingredient!

Visit PTA.org/Reflections for more information about National PTA’s Reflections program and to find out how your PTA can participate in next school year’s program.

Championing Arts in Education for More Than 40 Years

National PTA recently announced the 2010-2011 Reflections award recipients. The announcement made me look back at our history with and the importance of arts in education. It’s no secret, arts programs and classes are often the first to be cut from the school day when education budget cuts hit.

This is so unfortunate because studies continue to show that when children express themselves through the arts, they are more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, more likely to participate in a math or science fair, and are more likely to be elected to a school office. National PTA and its local PTAs nationwide know these facts.

We believe in the importance of arts in education. We believe that children should not be denied an outlet for their artistic expression because of budget cuts. That’s why for more than 40 years we have sustained our very own Reflections arts program. Thousands of PTAs across the country have made it possible for students to be involved in the arts, when they may not have had the opportunity otherwise.

We’re proud of the millions of students that have participated in this amazing program throughout the last four decades. This year PTAs at all levels have seen, first hand, the true talent our students have from pre-k through the 12th grade. Either in visual arts, literature, photography, music composition, film production or dance choreography our students have an untapped talent that so many of us would be amazed to see.

For example, I was in Arkansas recently for the Arkansas PTA convention. I took part in their awards program in which more than 400 students and parents attended… and that’s just one state! It’s inspiring to see that we’re all working together to continue to champion arts in education.

Visit the National PTA newsroom (onevoice.pta.org) for the announcement of the 2011 national winners and visit the general website for more information on how your PTA can participate in next school year’s Reflections program.

Finally, please join me in celebrating the best and the brightest our PTA schools have to offer when it comes to arts education!

PTA and Arts in Education Week

Well, I am guessing by now we have all returned to school and the summer break has come to an end. I know that here in the Saylors household my two sons are excited to get back with their friends.

As we start this new school year we will be honoring a number of mile stones in education.

The first is “Arts in Education Week” which will be held on the week of September 12-18, 2010. This is a new recognition program within our schools and was sponsored by Representative Jackie Speier of CA, along with over 100 co-sponsors in Congress. The rally came from PTA friend and Broadway legend Carol Channing who has been working to see that the Arts are still honored throughout our country, and our schools. Carol, along with her husband Harry, were with state and national PTA leaders at our recent National Governance Retreat where they both spoke on the importance of arts in education.
(Dr. Carol Channing and husband Harry addressing National Governance Retreat Aug. 2010)
Our friends at the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have also joined the cause making this a global event. Alice Hixson, Hope Matthews and Jim Hashman are all leading the charge around the globe to help see that the children of our service personnel are involved as well.

We all know that studying the arts; visual, music or written; is a great way to help increase critical thinking in our students. Skills like problem solving and creativity are all connected to the arts, so why not support this cause? This is why PTA is so appreciative of the efforts of Representative Speier and Dr. Channing for keeping the subject of arts in education alive.

Take a look at this exciting video, Dr. Channing and her friends put together to support arts in education

Carol Channing & Friends for the Arts – ChanningArts.org

As we start “Arts in Education Week” please help us make sure that every student has the Arts as part of their educational experience. Start now planning your Reflections program. Start planning today and above all, have fun!