If you’ve ever been to an NSTA conference, you know you go home SO pumped up by what you saw and learned there that you want desperately to go the NSTA National Conference and/or the 6th Annual STEM Forum & Expo! Unfortunately, you know there is no way that you can afford it, and you doubt you can get funding from your administrators to go to another conference. Well, maybe there is a way to find funding so you can attend an upcoming NSTA conference; I have a few tips and tricks to share that might help you.
Tip #1: Check the Date
The NSTA National Conference does fall within the same fiscal year as our area conferences, so it might be harder to double dip on the professional development budget this school year. However, take a closer look at the STEM Forum & Expo’s dates: July 12–14, 2107. This is actually the start of the NEW budget year for the 2017–2018 school year. Carefully point this out to your administrator and remind them that you are asking for the FIRST professional development opportunity of the new school year. There will definitely be money available at the start of the fiscal year. You may find it helpful to bring a justification letter to share. Download one for the National conference here, and read more about the PD you’ll get at the STEM Forum & Expo here.
Tip #2: Present at an NSTA Conference
I know you might be saying to yourself “I could never get up in front of others and talk about my classroom,” but I am here to say you can! Each and every one of us has one great idea, fabulous project, or fantastic unit of study that will help our fellow colleagues improve their teaching. When you approach your administration about funding for an NSTA Conference or the STEM Forum & Expo, you are giving yourself professional credibility when you say “I am presenting at the NSTA __________ conference.” Your service to your colleagues goes a long way when asking for funding. It provides your school and school district with a way to promote something good to your local school board and to the larger community by way of your school/alumni newsletter, local television news or newspaper. Come on you can do it. Find out more about submitting session proposals here. The next round is due December 5, so don’t wait.
Tip #3: Apply for an NSTA Award
The annual NSTA Awards and Recognition Program recognizes exceptional and innovative science educators. This awards program helps to raise awareness of the outstanding work being done in science classrooms around the country each year. With 20 different awards, there are many options to apply for in the program. Make sure you follow the specific criteria for the award you are applying for. Be sure you read the details before submitting your application. Some awards come with a monetary gift that can be used toward expenses to attend the NSTA National Conference. In addition, award winners are celebrated at the Awards Banquet during the conference. It is a great way to let our colleagues and the world know of the outstanding work happening each and every day in your classroom.
Tip #4: Ask Your Business and Industry Partners
Many schools, especially STEM schools, have business and industry partners that give supplies, time, personnel, and funding to schools. Why not write a letter asking your partners to fund at least part of your trip? In your letter explain what conference you want to attend, how it would benefit and improve student performance, and how it helps to move you and your school forward. While your business and industry partners may only fund a portion of your trip, it is some funding that you did not have before. Plus, it could be the impetus to get funding from other community groups and partners. Try it! All they can say is no.
Tip #5: Ask Local Service and Civic Organizations
Civic and service organizations like the Rotary International, Kiwanis Club, Lions Club, and the Optimists are groups of local business leaders and service-minded individuals that meet with a common belief or cause. Many of these groups lend service to our local schools with fund raisers, service hours, and in-kind donations. Why not write another letter asking these groups to fund at least part of your trip? Just as in the letter to your school’s business and industry partners, explain what conference you want to attend, how it would benefit and improve student performance and your performance as an educator, and how it helps to move your school forward. While these groups may fund only a portion of your trip, it’s funding that you did not have before and you may get more than one organization to help you.
Tip #6: Write Off Some of Your Expenses on Your Taxes
First thing… I am not a tax professional! Attending conferences like the National Conference or the STEM Forum & Expo are a normal part of the education world and are considered business expenses. You should be able to deduct travel expenses for any conferences you attend. This includes your airfare, lodging, and (depending on distance) food. If these expenses are not reimbursed by your school or school district, you should be able to write them off. But consult your local tax professional, since I am not a tax professional.
Tip #7: Create a GoFundMe Fundraising Campaign
Crowd funding is hot! We all know that sites like GoFundMe where people post a brief write up (some have videos) about the project they would like members of public to support. It is quick and easy. You can link your fundraiser to your Twitter or Facebook account for more exposure. People seeing your fundraiser idea can give as little or as much as they would like and there is no pressure from the site to donate.
I hope these tips and tricks will help you to make your way to and upcoming NSTA conference or the STEM Forum & Expo. These are wonderful, stimulating events that will feed your mind and fill your soul as an educator. I hope to see you there!
Jennifer Williams is the Steering Committee Chairperson for the 2017 STEM Forum & Expo and is the Department Chair, Lower School Science at the Isidore Newman School in New Orleans, LA; follow Jennifer on Twitter @ScienceJennifer.
The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.
2016 Area Conferences
2017 National Conference
2017 STEM Forum & Expo