A Global Celebration of Teaching and Learning

Mizzou Academy Teaching & Learning Conference 2023 Extracurriculars
Hosts and attendees gather on Zoom for the conference kick-off.

Sarah Özdemir, an educational coordinator in Turkey, called our Teaching and Learning Conference restorative and important. “It was so wonderful to spend that time just talking about education. I appreciate knowing that there is a whole team out there working towards the same goal.”

Özdemir was one of close to 150 educators from across Brazil, Honduras, Turkey, and the United States who joined us for our annual Teaching and Learning Conference. This year our three-day event took place over Zoom. 

Dr. Kathryn Fishman-Weaver, Mizzou Academy’s Executive Director, led the conference. She shared that “the online format increased accessibility across our global learning community. This format also increased access for our faculty and staff. We had close to 25 people working on our conference team to put together this incredible international event.” 

In addition to the global attendance, Fishman-Weaver was intentional in celebrating and centering student voice and leadership. She shared that “a special addition to our 2023 conference was closing each day by giving the last word to our student leaders.”

Mizzou Academy Teaching & Learning Conference 2023 Uirapuru
Luca Myasaki and Stella Chiuratto Pelosini at Uirapuru (Sorocaba, SP)

On the first day of the conference, we closed with a presentation by elementary and middle school students who were working on peace and non-violence at Colégio Dante (São Paulo, SP). 

On the second day, school coordinator Midiam Golino celebrated a special middle school project at Cristo Rei (Marillia, SP) to collect and deliver school supplies to children undergoing cancer treatment. 

On our final day, we celebrated the research and professional presentation of two middle school student leaders, Luca Myasaki and Stella Chiuratto Pelosini,  at Uirapuru (Sorocaba, SP). Their research explores the connection between physical activity and social-emotional health.

Community Learning

Teaching & Learning Conference 2023-11

The theme for our 2023 conference was Community Learning. Conference sessions explored how we learn as a community (organizational learning) and what we learn from across our collective communities (culturally responsive practices). 

The conference booklet reads, “We know that our communities are our greatest strength and asset. Over our three-day conference, we celebrated what it means to teach, learn, lead, and create together.”

Teaching Matters

The conference kicked off with a distinguished keynote by Dr. Beth Whitaker on “Teaching Matters.”

Dr. Beth Whitaker is an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at Mizzou, where she teaches K-12 leadership courses and supervises administrator interns. 

Beth Whitaker
Keynote speaker Dr. Beth Whitaker

Whitaker’s talk celebrated the importance of teaching and learning. Among the many takeaways participants shared from their time with her, here are our top four:

  • Teaching matters; so does the tone you set at the start of each class.
  • Your presence can be a present.
  • Close class in ways that make students want to come back. 
  • Literature and learning can save us.

Two activities that resonated with participants were Dr. Whitaker’s invitation to share our “literature life” with one another and her commitment to pursue a personal passion project each year. The first celebrates the power of literature and community as a way to bring us together. The second celebrates the power of our continued learning as professionals. 

Ana Cristina Nikolau, who coordinates the Brazil Office, said, “Dr. Whitaker’s talk meant a lot to me because I could connect to her, as we have a lot in common (as educators). Her experiences and true stories inspired me and made me want to act. I am willing and ready to choose my 2024 passion project.”

Programs for High School, Middle School, and Elementary

Dual Diploma Program

Mizzou Academy offers sixteen CoTeach High School courses. During the three days of our conference, our  CoTeach partners attended sessions that covered curriculum, pedagogy, technology, and teaching. Professors and lead teachers in each content area shared updated and exciting new content for 2024 and collaborated with partner teachers on best practices.

Adrian Clifton & Greg Soden
Speech and Debate
Dr. Adrian Clifton and Greg Soden
Instructor Teams Jeff Kopolow & Angie Hammons
History and Government
Economics and Marketing
Jeff Kopolow and Angie Hammons
Instructor Teams Jill Clingan and Stephanie Walter
Composition and Literature
Jill Clingan and Stephanie Walter
Instructor Teams Sherry Deneny and Kimberly Kester
Personal Development 
Dr. Sherry Deneny and Kimberly Kester

Greg Soden, who leads our Debate courses said, “I’m so grateful for the continued engagement of the Speech and Debate teachers from Brazil. Seeing people I have personally met all come together is beyond important to keep our connections and collaborations in place for years to come.” 

Jill Clingan leads our Language and Composition series. She added, “It’s always such a joy to be with the classroom teachers who make the curriculum come to life for our students. I love connecting to them and am so inspired by their passion, dedication, creativity, and care.” Presenters and participants alike left these sessions inspired and excited for a new school year!

Mizzou Global Scholars

Brian Stuhlman
Brian Stuhlman
Jacquelyn Kay
Jackie Kay

Brian Stuhlman, our Middle School Coordinator, and Jackie Kay, our Lead Instructional Designer for the CoTeach program, led our participants through three sessions on our middle school Mizzou Global Scholars (MGS) program. Mizzou Academy currently has 20 schools participating in this interdisciplinary student leadership program. 

Mizzou Global Scholars

Their sessions led teachers and coordinators through best practices in MGS I, II, and III. With positive examples from our partners, Brian and Jackie shared ideas for taking your teaching “up a notch!”

One conversation that started in the MGS sessions about teaching for justice became a thread throughout our time learning together. Classroom teachers shared resources they use to help students reckon with more complete versions of history than they may have studied previously and how those histories connect with current global events, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

A partner teacher in Brazil shared that he was struck by how the MGS curriculum makes our Mizzou Academy values so clear. “It’s easier,” he said, “to have these important conversations about things like equity and inclusion when we can also say, look! This is in the Mizzou books.”

Mizzou Elementary

Lisa DeCastro
Lisa DeCastro
Julie Phelps
Julie Phelps

Just moments before the world changed in February 2020, we launched our Mizzou Elementary program.  

In a few short years, Lisa DeCastro, our Elementary Coordinator, and Julie Phelps, Lead Instructional Designer for the elementary program, have seen this program through profound iterations. 

Mizzou Elementary

DeCastro and Phelps led several sessions during the conference on our Mizzou approach to literacy, science, and math education in elementary. These sessions covered curriculum, resources, and pedagogy. Lisa included photos from some of our recent site visits to elementary partners in Brazil. She also reminded participants that learning activities don’t have to be high stakes to be high impact. 

Angie Hammons, our Director of Curriculum and IT, has worked closely with the elementary team on this project. Following the conference sessions, she remarked that Lisa DeCastro and Julie Phelps, “are amazing. They have done incredible work revising our elementary curriculum to fit the needs of our diverse students. Their expertise is unmatched. They have put countless hours into curriculum writing and making the online space rich in resources for our teachers. I’m so excited to see what the new year brings with everything they have created!”

Literacy is the Cornerstone

On the second day of the conference, Karen Scales, our Division Chair for Global Language Arts, taught us all about deep writing. Deep writing is writing when students feel agency in both creating and messaging their ideas. It is writing for a purpose that matters to the author. It is also a process. In her powerful session, Karen offered important strategies for celebrating student voice and leveraging 21st-century communication tools.

This work around literacy development across the content areas was a tether for our 2023 Teaching and Learning Conference. In addition to the curricular and enrichment sessions, we also offered three breakout sessions specifically on supporting literacy in the 21st century.

These included: 

  • The Writing Process with Karen Scales 
  • Building a Classroom Library with Tami Regan, Dr. Sherry Denney, and Kimberly Kester
  • Global Book Club with Dr. Kathryn Fishman-Weaver and Dominique King

Reckoning with Artificial Intelligence

Stephanie Walter
Stephanie Walter

To kick off the last day of our conference, Stephanie Walter, our Director of Teaching and Learning, facilitated a powerful session on Academic Integrity and Artificial Intelligence in the classroom. In many ways, Fishman-Weaver says, “this session really ended up being a closing keynote session. This topic is so relevant and so important right now that everyone who attended the conference couldn’t wait to learn with Stephanie on this topic.” 

With over 60 educators in attendance, Walter guided the group in reckoning with pertinent questions about artificial intelligence, academic integrity, creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking. In the words of one participant, “The Zoom room was buzzing with possibilities, tools, and dynamic discussion.” 

Extracurricular and Professional Learning 

Mizzou Academy Teaching & Learning Conference 2023 Extracurriculars
Conference attendees smile about the extracurricular opportunities at Mizzou Academy

In our extracurricular and professional learning sessions, participants had a chance to explore extracurricular opportunities at Mizzou Academy and learn together about connecting with our students and sharing resources with them through a variety of avenues. These sessions included:

  • Mizzou International Experience (MIE) for 2024 with Brian Stuhlman and Dr. Ta Boonseng
  • Extracurricular Opportunities at Mizzou Academy with Dr. Sherry Denney, Ericca Thornhill, Alicia Bixby, Nina Sprouse, and Brennan Ransdell  
  • Mizzou Academy Open Access Resources with Dr. Kathryn Fishman-Weaver and Karen Scales
  • Making Learning Visible in the Immersion Classroom with Renata Vaccari and Roberta Franzoni Healy
  • Fostering Belonging in the Classroom with Ana Nikolau, Ericca Thornhill, and Stephanie Walter

Stephanie Walter shares that “our Fostering Belonging in the Classroom session tied all these themes together.” Ana Cristina Nikolaou led a heartwarming and insightful discussion with educators gathered to learn more about how to teach and learn in ways that support acceptance, celebration, and courage. She reminded us that belonging, emotional connection, influence, and integration work together to help students feel connected to our classrooms. Together, we shared strategies for encouraging each student to use their voice in class and for guiding students toward both academic and affective development throughout the year.


Coordinating an international teaching and learning conference requires the talents, expertise, and dedication of a committed team. This year’s 2023 conference would not be possible without the following presenters and session moderators: Dr. Kathryn Fishman-Weaver, Stephanie Walter, Tami Regan, Angie Hammons, Alicia Bixby, Dr. Ta Boonseng, Dr. Adrian Clifton, Jill Clingan, Lisa DeCastro, Dr. Sherry Denney, Kimberly Kester, Jeff Kopolow, Brennan Ransdell, Karen Scales, Greg Soden, Nina Sprouse, Brian Stuhlman, Ericca Thornhill, Jacquelyn Kay, Sarah Michaels, Steve Turner, Julie Phelps, Roberta Franzoni Healy, Dominique King, Ana Nikolau, and Renata Vaccari.

Mizzou Academy Teaching & Learning Conference 2023 thank you conference team

Alison Murray, a classroom teacher at Notre Dame (Campinas, SP), summed it up well. The most important takeaway I have learned from this conference is to make space for the students and their learning process. Each student is unique in their needs and learning styles, and we can empower students to open up the dialogue to make all students feel welcome and at ease in the classroom.”