I traveled to Wisconsin in August to be the keynote speaker (and a breakout speaker) for CESA 5, which stands for Cooperative Educational Service Agency 5. This was a sold-out conference with school leaders such as principals and assistant principals, school counselors, teachers, special education teachers, and other educators.

This is what I saw from the stage about 15 minutes before my keynote.

mental health speaker for teachers, school counselors and leadership audience in Wisconsin

After I spoke, I got a slew of index cards with “one thing I learned” (some of those are below) but even better I had educators coming up and telling me their stories. This is so crucial to my learning.

One school counselor told me about how she and a student’s mom worked together for more than one academic year to keep a student who was suicidal engaged in school and from killing himself. I will let that sink in for a moment. These days school counselors feel like students’ lives are literally in their hands. This always takes my breath away.

The role of teachers has become so much more complex, demanding, and politicized. I want them to feel supported and appreciated. I appreciated all the stories shared with me either in person or via index cards. You might think my favorite part is being on stage. Well, my favorite part is connecting with the audience after. While some speakers run from the room, I plant myself there listening. Because that’s where I learn, connect, engage, make friends.

Educators are very tuned in to this topic

They want to help. They want to know what to do. They want to go upstream and prevent kids from getting to crisis. All of them were taking notes, and pictures, downloading materials, picking up materials, and connecting with each other.

Right after the keynote, I did a breakout focused on the ideas we highlighted in the book. Over 30 attendees got a free signed copy of the book, Emotionally Naked: A Teacher’s Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk, and one person got a copy of Diary of a Broken Mind, my memoir. It was her birthday. 🙂

Here’s Julie Beckwith whom I worked with at CESA 5 since last year. She was super organized and so nice to work with. I love someone who makes it supremely clear and I always answer fast because a conference has a lot of moving parts. The last thing a meeting planner needs is someone who isn’t sending in their headshots and blurbs or answering emails.

I have “rain hair” as it was pouring that day. I can’t complain because that area desperately needed it. I only wish I had my NC State umbrella that day!

Mental health speaker, AnneRogers and meeting planner, Julie Beckwith at CESA school conference, 2023

What are the index cards?

This batch of index cards was one of the best! I only had time today to photograph these but I’ll be posting more of them on my Facebook photo album soon.

I ask attendees to share one thing they learned. And if they want they can add a note or just share a comment.

When I get to the point after a keynote where I feel I’m going to crash emotionally, I pull these out, read them, and they fill me back up. It’s a self-care step that means so much to me and allows me to carry a piece of my audience with me.

I save them all. I might need a warehouse soon to store them soon.

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