The 44th annual Huether Lasallian Conference came to a close on Saturday, November 18, 2017, with final sessions addressing the theme “One Call, Many Voices: Dialogue, Inspire, Transform.”
The morning started with a powerful keynote address by Elizabeth Huntley, J.D., litigation attorney and child advocate, author and lecturer from Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC in Birmingham, Alabama. Huntley shared her personal story of being raised in her young years by parents who sold drugs, with her father ending up in prison and her mother committing suicide, followed by living with her grandmother in poverty and enduring sexual abuse by a male family member. She shared the impact loving teachers had on her life, with their care and encouragement and reminded Lasallians to know the story behind the eyes of every young person in their care.
William Gault, executive director of The De La Salle School in Freeport, New York, a San Miguel school that serves young men from economically disadvantaged situations, called Huntley’s address amazing.
“Her story resonates,” said Gault. “I could walk away in tears because I could think of several kids that I know I have to go back to and really look at and say, wow, I need to look beyond their eyes because I know there’s a story there.”
Sophia Cartagena, a behavioral assistant at Tides Family Services in Rhode Island, could relate to Huntley’s story from her work with at-risk youth and their families.
“It’s the exact same thing,” Cartagena said. “Seeing her up on stage was like seeing a client that I work with 15 years, 20 years, 25 years down the road sharing their story and being able to inspire other people to keep doing what we’re doing.”
After the address, Lasallians attended a final round of breakout sessions, followed by casa conversations and reporting. Attendees shared summaries from their casas, along with the impact the Huether Conference experience has had on them. During casa reporting, first-time attendee Bethany Stannard, a teacher at Catalyst Circle Rock in Chicago, Illinois, shared that she has recently been asking God if teaching is what He is calling her to do.
“I needed a little extra push,” Stannard said. “The speaker this morning and breakout sessions over the past two days have been God speaking to me and saying, yes, this is your passion, this is your drive.”
Hearing the passion of fellow Lasallian educators and having the opportunity to share ideas are moments that energize attendees.
“I love hearing the different experiences, but also everyone having the same language to talk about it. I don’t know if you can put a value on that,” said Mike Aquino, director of educational technology integration and social studies teacher at De La Salle High School in Concord, California. “Really getting to see people in their different ministries and also being able to share that we’re all doing the same work, but in really different contexts, which I think ties us together.”
Attendees will gather together once more Saturday evening for Mass and the Distinguished Lasallian Educator Awards Banquet to celebrate outstanding educators in the Lasallian Region of North America. The 2017 conference marked the first time that Huether has taken place in Denver, Colorado. The 2018 and 2019 gatherings will be in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Huether, hosted by the Office for Lasallian Education at Christian Brothers Conference, is an opportunity for educators to not only learn new techniques and find inspiration, but to build community, share best practices, and grow more deeply committed to their vocation of providing students with transformative, holistic experiences.