The theme of the 22nd Annual Texas School Social Workers Conference was Empowering Student Success. Held at the Austin Double Tree Hotel, February 20-22, 2013, the conference offered school social workers opportunities to learn effective strategies and new techniques to empower students, parents and staff. School social workers from all areas of Texas, as well as the states of Utah, Arkansas and Florida, and as far as the Netherlands, came together to shares ideas, concerns and best practices.

angela lutts
Angela Lutts, of Irving ISD, honored as Texas School Social Worker of the Year

Activities began with three pre-conference institutes addressing ethics and anxiety issues in children and youth. The opening night started with a keynote entitled The New Game Plan, presented by Tom Zimmermann, who returned as one of this annual’s conference most popular speakers to share a highly interactive presentation teaching principles designed to empower social workers to create success in their school settings.

Other keynote presenters included Michelle Alvarez, President of the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA), who provided an update on national efforts to support the practice of school-based services; Donna Clark Love, an internationally recognized expert and trainer in the areas of bullying prevention and student assistance, who addressed current and compelling concerns about cyber-bullying and Internet safety; and Jonathan Harris, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction in Del Valle Independent School District, who addressed the conferences core theme of empowering student success. Dr. Miguel A. Guajardo, from Texas State University, provided a dynamic closing to the conference with an inspiring keynote entitled Advocacy and the Imagination: The Journey of Self, Institutions, and Community.

In its 22nd year, the conference continues to attract new school social workers but it is most importantly an event where practitioners can convene annually to network and interact with one another. For most attendees, the highlight of this conference is to connect with others who share the same passion, and who are bonded by the unique and important role they hold in school settings.

Clinical Associate Professor Kathy Armenta has served on the conference committee since its inception in 1991, and has chaired the committee for the past 14 years. Armenta has worked with Liz Nowicki, Director of Professional Development for the School of Social Work, to facilitate the conference. The Conference Planning Committee is made up of members who bring school social work expertise from several school districts, agencies, charter schools and higher education to ensure a link between the university and the practice world.

Planning has already begun for the 23rd Annual Texas School Social Work Conference, School Social Workers: Supporting Opportunity and Change, to be held February 26-28, 2014, at the Austin Doubletree Hotel.