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Educators learn to boost learning through laughter during Step Up’s virtual education celebration

By LISA A. DAVIS

More than a year after the pandemic shut down most of the nation, Step Up For Students and its leaders in the Student Learning & Partner Success Department knew just what educators needed: a good dose of laughter, the best medicine.

And that’s just what nearly 1,000 private school educators got May 20 virtually from longtime educator turned social media star Gerry Brooks when they logged onto computers from their schools, homes and watch parties for the virtual Step Up For Students 2021 Choice in Education Celebration: Boosting Learning Through Laughter.

Gerry Brooks and his Magic 8 Ball

Last year’s annual Step Up for Students Choice In Education Conference was one of the casualties of COVID-19. So a Step Up team created an event to not only bring some belly laughs, but also take a moment to celebrate educators in what may have been the most challenging time in their career.

Among Brooks’ eight-lesson presentation, infused with laughter and serious advice, is that educators need to remember that this challenging time will not last.

“When you are in the midst of a season, you can’t see your way out. Things are going to get better. The season is going to pass,” he said, holding a package of Peeps. The springtime seasonal candy is among his favorite sugary treats. He saves a stash in his freezer year-round.

Brooks shared with Step Up’s audience eight “object lessons” to really drive home points about educators’ personal time and culture. He held up everything from Dollar Tree reading glasses to Butterfinger candy to peanut butter and jelly.

“When they see the object that you show them then, hopefully, they will remember that lesson weeks down the road,” he said.

The objective of this virtual lesson: “My goal is to be able to encourage you as an individual and open up some doors,” he told his audience. “… I believe if you have positive personal climate and culture you can get through anything.”

In the talk that lasted more than an hour, Brooks told stories about being a kid and when the “Mr. Magic 8 Ball” could predict which kid was in love with whom. He talked about a lot of serious things, too, while still getting many laughs like he does from his viral videos. He did this while wearing a bright blue shirt saying “Erducator Strong!”

“I like misspellings,” he said, his southern accent thick.

Before he took the virtual stage, Step Up For Students Founder and Chairman John Kirtley applauded educators.

“I know I’m stating the obvious when I say that we at Step Up are grateful for the incredible efforts you have put forth during the pandemic,” Kirtley said. “It may be obvious, but it still needs saying. Here at Step Up, we know how hard it’s been for you.

“… You adapted, you worked harder than ever, and frankly, you took risks for your students. Step Up knows that, and we are very grateful.”

Paula Nelson, senior director of Student Learning & Partner Success, said after the event she couldn’t be more thrilled.

“I think this has turned out to be even better because it came at a time when we really need to have a celebration,” she said. “The message was so timely and powerful. I think there’s a chance we may do it again.”

Lisa A. Davis can be reached at ldavis@sufs.org.

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