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 and join today.

9 Replies to “Report from the AFMTE Annual Meeting”

  1. Thanks so much for this informative blog, Laura. Getting together with such a dedicated and devoted group of educators was a profound experience. It was truly inspiring.

  2. There were many initially proposed. Part of our duties at the conference was going through dissecting and discussing the document, give criticism and suggestions, which will be incorporated into the second draft. It includes such things as having measurable knowledge, skills, and attitudes in areas of communication, learner development and well-being, an integrative approach to teaching in order to effectively reach students of all learning styles, instructional development, assessment skills, continued professional development, commitment to professional teaching ethics, etc.

  3. it was definitely a positive time to collaborate! I was honored and humbled to be in the presence of so many diligent and dedicated individuals.

    The classes were informative and I look forward to more in teacher training topics. Ben Benjamin’s SAVI communication classes were fun and I feel EVERY instructor needs to take his training or read the book coming out soon. It was clear that the board members use this process to maturely negotiate what is needed for the alliance’s mission.

    I feel the energy was high and inspirational amongst us all.

    Thank you ALL who contributed to making this event possible for all of us. I look forward to working along with the standards committee and seeing you all next year too!

  4. Great overview, Laura. It was an inspirational gathering of inspirational people who are doers, not just talkers. Kudos to all who attended and to those who made it happen!

  5. I have to echo the above comments and reinforce the need for educators in all facets to join the Alliance. If any of you who are reading this blog work for one of the corporate based schools PLEASE educate the program directors and administrators about how important it is for their sector to be represented.

  6. Laura… thanks so much for your informative wrap-up of the conference. I was deeply inspired by the level of participation of the attendees, and the powerful feeling of collaboration that emerged from our three days of learning and dialogue. By the end, there was agreement that we were successful in “Bringing Teaching to the Next Level”.

    On that note, all the input that was given by attendees on the first draft of the Core Competencies for Massage Therapy Teachers will be gathered by the Alliance’s Professional Standards Committee, and will be reviewed along with written comments that will be submitted over the next two weeks. (This first version was provided exclusively to Alliance Members and Conference Attendees.)

    Later this Fall, a revised second draft will be published and made available to the entire massage therapy education community for a period of public comment. That feedback will be reviewed by the Professional Standards Committee, and a final version of the standards will be published. I want to emphasize that this is not the end of the National Teacher Education Standards Project, but just the completion of the first step in a long-term process. Information on the entire project is available from the Teacher Standards page on the Alliance website.

    If you believe in the mission and goals of the Alliance, I join with Laura in asking you to become a member *today*. This is an independent organization that was created BY educators FOR educators — and it depends strongly on the active participation of massage schools, teachers and continuing education providers to be able to carry forth these essential projects.

    When you become an Alliance member, you are supporting efforts that will strengthen and improve the quality of massage therapy education. At the same time, you’ll receive valuable benefits and services that will give you greater satisfaction and success in your professional endeavors!

    Rick Rosen, MA, LMBT
    Executive Director, Alliance for Massage Therapy Education

  7. I watched Obamas politburo run their kangaroo court on BPs CEO Tony Hayward today. hes already admitted responsibility and hes already committed 20B for starters to clean up efforts. Now why cant these self serving, self aggrandizing pinheads let the man get on with his job which, right now is to stop and clean up a disaster.Nope they all have to get their face time in front of the sheep, so they can run more socialist crap on us later.

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