Scanlan Center for School Mental Health
2021 Iowa BEST Summit

Why every K-12 administrator should attend the Iowa BEST Summit

Brad Niebling
Brad Niebling
written by

Brad Niebling, Ph.D.

Skill Development

It was late February 2020, and I was coming up on my three-year anniversary of being hired as an administrator at the Iowa Department of Education. My feet were finally planted somewhat firmly on the ground. The budget was coming together. I was well-connected with my staff’s work, and we were starting to gain some traction with priority initiatives.

Then, the pandemic hit in early March, and the proverbial rug was ripped out from under me.

My head was swirling. My immediate concerns at work were making sure that my staff was taken care of, that we continued to keep the agency up and running, and that we ramped up guidance and communications with those we served. And, of course, I was greatly concerned for the physical and psychological well-being of my family and friends outside of work. 

Now, even before the pandemic hit, it was clear that the social-emotional-behavioral health needs of students and educators alike were increasing. I heard concern from many school administrators across the state, and certainly carried those burdens as an administrator myself. Even as the intensity of the pandemic gradually recedes, I continue to see, feel, and live the residual impact it has had on our individual and collective well-being.

In the middle of the storm, a new partnership was formed between the University of Iowa College of Education and the Iowa Department of Education. Specifically, the Department of Education supported the launch of what is now known as the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health.

One of the first things we did in our partnership was to dream up a forum for school leaders and educators to not only voice their concerns, experiences, and ideas on how to create a positive school climate but even more, one that gave educators hope for a better future. 

The first annual Iowa BEST: Behavioral, Equitable, Social-Emotional, Trauma-Informed Health in Schools Summit came to life November 2-3, 2021. 

And, boy, was it electric! Attendees left feeling better connected to school mental health resources and experts, inspired by the latest research, best practices, and professional development, and more prepared to support student and educator well-being.  

2021 Iowa BEST Summit

We received overwhelmingly positive feedback on all aspects of the conference. And seeing 1,500 educators connect in person after so long was an amazing experience. 

So now, we are gearing up for round #2 of the Iowa BEST Summit October 10-11, 2022, at the Iowa Events Center. 

I know that time and resources are in short supply. Schedules are taxed like never before. But this is worth it. You will be grateful you attended, as will your staff. And your students will benefit.

Here are 5 reasons every school, district, and AEA administrator should attend the upcoming Summit: 

#1 Students and Educators Still Need Help from Leaders Like You

There is an entire strand dedicated to Educational Leadership at this year’s Summit! The Summit will provide opportunities to enhance your leadership skills and ability to address social, emotional, and behavioral issues in your school. By expanding your knowledge and resources, you will leave better equipped to support your students and staff.

#2 Get Off the Administrative Island 

So many administrators I have met over the years feel like they are on an island by themselves. However, you don’t need to be. The Iowa BEST Summit is an opportunity to network, learn from, and perhaps even build new collaborations with other administrators from around the state.

#3 Get a Boost of Energy! 

The power of having people in a room together cannot be understated. Especially when those people share common occupations, goals, and challenges. Conferences like the Iowa BEST Summit are a great opportunity to be in a room with 1,500+ educators who all care deeply about social-emotional-behavioral health. Learning and growing with others reinvigorates us and boosts our confidence in tackling complex problems.

#4 Build Your Team

The Iowa BEST Summit can not only help you build your network and skills, but it can also help you build your team back home. The Summit offers captivating keynote speakers like Dr. Robert Brooks and Dr. Erika McDowell and countless breakout sessions where participants will learn about how to implement the latest evidence-based practices. 

#5 It’s Free

Registration (which includes lunch on both days) is offered at no cost to attendees. This is just one of the ways the Iowa Department of Education and the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health are supporting Iowa’s schools and providing more resources. And you’ll be hard-pressed to attend another conference this or any school year with the quality line-up we are providing and no registration fee.  

So, if you haven’t already, take a few minutes to register yourself and your staff for the second annual Iowa BEST Summit. I look forward to seeing you there!