Report from the AFMTE Annual Meeting

I’ve just returned from the second annual meeting of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education in Charleston, SC.  It was an excellent gathering from start to finish.

There were keynote speakers throughout the weekend, daily opportunities for those present to give input into the initiative on teacher standards the Alliance is undertaking, informative continuing education classes, group sessions, a comfortable setting, and plenty of socializing with friends and colleagues.

The first keynote address, “Creating a Culture of Teacher Excellence,” was given by Tracy A Ortelli, an education director from the nursing field who has vast experience in implementing standards of teaching excellence in that profession. She was a good choice since the same difficulties basically face any licensed profession when their educational objectives are evolving with no way to go but up. She was very engaging and had a lot of expert advice to share…including what personally jumped out at me:  “Do not assume that people learn to be teachers through on-the-job-training, or ‘trial by fire’, rather than through planned, deliberate preparation.” Timely advice for all those last year’s students who are this year’s teachers, and those who place them in those positions.

Executive Director Rick Rosen gave a report on the state of the Alliance, including the good news that attendance at this year’s meeting was up 50% from last year’s inaugural session. Rosen also shared the details of the simplified dues structure and the many new and improved benefits that are a part of Alliance membership.

Becky Blessing gave presentations on the Alliance Code of Ethics and the National Teacher Education Standards Project, and Core Competencies for Massage Therapy Teachers. I attended all three. Ben Benjamin spoke about the dynamics of effective communications. I attended a presentation on government relations led by Sally Hacking, the Queen of Government Relations (she’s actually the GR rep for the FSMTB, but she’s been doing this for 40  years for a number of entities so she’s the Queen to me) and Pete Whitridge, President of the BOD of the AFMTE.

I also attended a session on the proposed new CE approval program of the Federation led by Debra Persinger, and their new CE project coordinator Lorena Haynes, with Sally occasionally making clarifications. Among the attendees at that meeting were Alexa Zaledonis, Chair of the NCBTMB and Sue Toscano, Chair-Elect. They were a class act in that meeting and expressed their willingness to cooperate and collaborate with the FSMTB, an attitude  that would do well for all concerned to adopt. It was a lively discussion. Jan Schwartz also gave a great presentation, “The Role of Massage in Complimentary Health Care.”  Other topics for massage schools, instructors, and CE providers, including instructional design, financial aid participation for schools, increasing enrollment, and ethics in education were covered by Iris Burman and Cherie Sohnen-Moe, massage school marketing strategist Lex Filipowski, Anne Williams, Dr. Tony Mirando and Demara Stamler, and Nancy Dail.

In between all this great education, I had dinner with Sally and Ed Hacking and Jan Schwartz, enjoyed a fabulous dinner another night with Lynda Solien-Wolfe and ten other friends, and got to chat with Anne Williams and Les Sweeney, Winona Bontrager, Sandy Fritz, Ariana Vincent, Sharon Puszko, Cherie Sohnen-Moe and lots of other folks. Ruth Werner pointed out to me that she had counted nine textbook authors present. Incidentally, Ed Hacking is also 350 pages in to a book he is writing. He let me read the first chapter. I hope I’m still able to write a book when I’m 94! Ed is one smart fellow. I also taped an interview with Ryan Hoyme, the Massage Nerd, and afterward we spontaneously decided to tape a promo for the Alliance, which ended up getting shown at the meeting.  That was my first effort as a volunteer for the membership committee. Lynda Solien-Wolfe also gathered me, Bruce Baltz, Cherie, Ralph Stephens, Linda Beach, Anita Shannon and others for a roundtable interview for Performance Health and BioFreeze.

North Carolina had a big contingent present at the meeting: Gloria Coppola, Claire Marie Miller, Anita Shannon, Cynthia Loving, Nancy Toner Weinberger, and several more. Industry partners and association members, including Bon Vital, COMTA, the Massage Therapy Foundation, Mother Earth Pillows, NACCAS, Massage Register, and several others had exhibits that were well-visited.

So much happened, I feel like I haven’t covered half of it, and I could go on and on about the wonderful gathering of educators and the work and camaraderie that took place, but I’m going to cut to the chase: every educator needs to join the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education. Whether you are a school owner, program director, CE provider, or industry support partner, the Alliance is going to accomplish great things for the advancement of massage therapy education. This is an opportunity to have a voice and a partnership in many resources for that, and I encourage you not to pass it by. Jan Schwartz closed her presentation with a line I’m going to steal: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

Come to the table. Visit the Alliance website at www.afmte.org and join today.

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