SIERRA VISTA — That’s a wrap on this year’s hybrid online/in-person Innovations in Education Conference.

“I hope that there was a paradigm shift in how everyone sees themself and see(s) each other,” said Cochise County Superintendent Jacqui Clay. “Everyone is an important part of this puzzle — that is Cochise County and of life.”

Clay said that 147 people registered for the conference, but 90 ended up participating, virtually and in person.

She said she received positive feedback on the conference, notably on the three keynote speakers: Thunder Mountain Church pastor Randy Youngblood, author and motivational speaker Shontel “Song” Stanford and John Maxwell Team member Brandon Jeter.

Jeter, owner and lead trainer at Brilliance Strategies & Innovation Group, said he hopes teachers recognize the impact they have as leaders.

Jeter said teachers are “people who really make lifelong impacts on our lives. So, I just wanted to thank, encourage and inspire those educators.”

Jeter recalled how his kindergarten teacher was “the first person I can recall who put me in front of a group of people to speak.”

As a kindergartner, “I was taken to a first-grade class to read a first-grade-level book, and that was the first time I stood in front of people to speak,” he continued. “And now at age 43, I didn’t realize that was the start of a business and service to other people.”

Jeter hopes the conference’s theme of self-care and mental health helps to drive away the stigma surrounding taking time for self-care.

“I’ve heard it said this way that ‘self-care is not selfish,’ “ said Jeter. “Self-care is so important, so we can better serve those that we have a responsibility to.

“So, for teachers to take time off and hear something different, get new insight, it gives them a time of (refreshment), and hopefully, they were able to go back to work Monday with some new ideas to implement — and hopefully — get some of their administrators and other teachers on board to really make a difference.”

Youngblood, who’s been a pastor in Sierra Vista for over 30 years and is also a former high school math teacher, said that he hopes to remind teachers of their “why.”

“You have everything that you need to bring to the table to love what you do and make an impact on the lives that you teach,” said Youngblood.

“What I find is a lot of times, there is such discouragement, and not just discouragement, but despair among educators because they tend to look at the things they don’t have or can’t do and feel a hopelessness,” he said. “What I want to bring is hope and faith; don’t look at the things that you don’t have, you have everything you need to be successful.”

Clay said the only criticism of the event was it’s duration, which ran from 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on Zoom and at Cochise College’s Sierra Vista Campus on Jan. 21.

“The only negative was that it was longer than what teachers were expecting,” said Clay. “We’re going to shorten it (next) year to end at 4:15. It’s just that we had so many people who wanted to present — that was overwhelming — we didn’t expect that to happen.”

With a staff of six, Clay said hosting this year’s hybrid conference was a challenge, but she beamed with gratitude for the numerous volunteers who stepped forward to assist and participate.

“Hybrid was good, but that was almost like having two conferences in one,” said Clay. “But it was worth it. There were people from Georgia that were tuning in, there were people (from) upstate. But I had a smile on my face. Ben Reyna (outreach coordinator) and Ibrahim Aslam (outreach programs), those two did just about everything plus their regular job. “

She said plans are already being put in place for next year, including recruiting speakers and exhibitors.

“People left with a good feeling about each other and themselves — that’s what we wanted,” said Clay. “We’re not whole unless we understand our interdependency, and unless we celebrate each other and take care of each other.

“All of us are part of this wonderful ecosystem, and if one part of that ecosystem isn’t working right, or if the other parts aren’t appreciated, they become dysfunctional. So, this was a time to really validate each other, appreciate each other and understand each other.”