Risk rewarded – raising the bar with #EdCampWake

About three years ago, the great Steven Weber  encouraged me to attend my first EdCamp. I had heard of the concept but wasn’t really sure what it was about, but knowing Steven was a fan encouraged me to at least check it out. After all, it was free PD, and local. So I stopped by the Friday Institute for a few hours to check it out. What a unique concept – an unconference. I really didn’t know what was going on initially but I liked it – and did a lot of listening. I could only attend in the morning but knew I would be attending more in the near future.

From that point on I became hooked and have been to roughly 10 EdCamps around North Carolina traveling to Charlotte, Salisbury, and various locations within the Raleigh/Durham area. A few years ago our district (Wake County Public School System) began hosting EdCamp Wake at our central office. It was good but having the event in an office building chipped away at some of the “organic” feel to the traditional school EdCamp setting. With the district’s blessing, this past fall Kyle Hamstra and Melanie Farrell had the bi-annual event shifted to the campuses of Davis Drive Middle and Davis Drive Elementary. Not only had Kyle and Melanie managed to move the event from central office to a school they pulled it off as a “hybrid” having some sessions in the middle school and afternoon sessions in the elementary next year. Outside the box thinking, eh? Brilliant.

As the day and the learning went on last fall, thoughts in my head began to swirl about how great this event was but what could be done to take it up a notch for the spring edition. Where would it be held? What could be adjusted? Scraped? Added? Hmmmm.

After the event, around 15 of us, mostly friends in education around the district and surrounding areas gathered to discuss the day’s learning. Being that the event in the fall was on the western side of our district (and county) my good friend Michael Parker West and I were based on the eastern side of the district (I’ve recently switched – but that post is forthcoming) we decided right then and there to inquire about Wendell Middle School pending the blessings of the WMS principal and eastern area superintendent.


Fast forward a month – We now had the blessings of both Mr. Morrison and Dr. McFarland. Michael and I started planning #EdCampWake for Saturday, March 18 in late fall. Immediately, we wanted to go big. Knightdale High School jazz band in the morning during breakfast, WMS step team to open the welcoming, invitations to WCPSS district leadership, Board of Education members, etc. The bar was going to be raised.


Mike wanted two WCPSS educators to open the day’s events with a presentation so he called on two of our district’s finest – Bill Ferriter and Paul Cancellieri who recently co-authored Creating a Culture of Feedback. In the afternoon, after lunch I came up with the idea of having two connected educational leaders from other parts of our state speak on topics of interest in the end of lunch going into the last session of the day. Two friends of mine came to mind immediately – Bethany Gullion from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Leslie Kinard from Guilford County Schools.

I always talk about striving to #BecomeBetter. I live the actions ongoing and this was no exception. With Mr. West right along side we continued to plan weekly and as the months and later weeks to the actual event got closer gathered a leadership team of good friends from our district to tighten the “nuts and bolts” of the event – a big chore.

The ball started rolling… potential sponsors turned into sponsors. A conversation at a hockey game over holiday break with Ryan McLane and Eric Lowe turned into a pre-arranged Google Hangout session discussing contents of their book, Your School Rocks. A planned moderation of #EduGladiators chat turned into a promotion of our event and the chat thanks to Marlena Gross-Taylor’s  brilliance — a win-win. Everything was falling into place.




As the final push to the event moved along, Mike and I spent most of the Saturday before the event printing out banners, creating the day of slides, signs, sponsorship orders and commitments were in order, etc.

There is so much more involved with organizing an EdCamp than we realized – especially the higher the bar is raised. Promotion, promotion, promotion! Both word of mouth, district email, social media blasts and promo videos helped us get the word out attract over 100 educators from around our district and state to EdCamp Wake on a Saturday.

The Friday before the event I made my way to Wendell Middle to make final preparations along with the “leadership team” Mike and I assembled. Together we spent several hours preparing and staging things so they would be ready for the morning. We were ready. As Mike and said several times during the actual EdCamp Wake — everything went smoothly because we were prepared, had a plan and most of all had a very solid team assisting throughout the day.


Just as the case of the sponsors (seen above in a photo) without our leadership team of Juliette Kuhn, Karen D’Elia, Melanie Farrell, Kyle Hamstra and Chris Tuttell, there would be no EdCamp Wake. Period. Adding value to our profession and specifically EdCamp Wake doesn’t do the situation justice. Amazing people.


The day of the event – everything went without so much as a slight bump here and there. All the planning paid off despite raising that bar. The KHS jazz band rocked in during breakfast, the WMS step team opened the day, Dr. McFarland (WCPSS Eastern Area Superintendent) welcomed the crowd to EdCamp Wake, Mike and I went through the day’s events and protocols. Everything on planned….



17362844_10154817042700804_4243003267434957758_nConnected Educators welcome participants to #EdCampWake

Sessions, breakout events like the #EduGladiators chat, lunch presentations, lunch conversations — powerful, powerful. If you weren’t inspired after #EdCampWake – you might be in the wrong profession.


Always great learning and growing with edu friends Derek McCoy, Leslie Kinard and Bethany Gullion.


Your School Rocks session via Google Hangout with co-authors Ryan McLane and Eric Lowe.

17265106_10154817046110804_3299891847559155103_nPhil Echols, Mariah Walker and Gia Hoke. Some of WCPSS’ finest educators.

While it was exhausting planning and overseeing the day’s events with Mike and despite the fact we weren’t able to really attend sessions the joy of having a successful EdCamp Wake and the energy buzzing from all the learning and excitement made it all worthwhile and then some!

I’m grateful for the experience and eager to assist whomever takes the torch next. Prepare to raise the bar even higher in our ongoing quest to #StriveForGreatness and #BecomeBetter as educators and leaders. Goodbye, #EdCampWake — see you in the fall.


11 thoughts on “Risk rewarded – raising the bar with #EdCampWake

  1. Gia Hoke says:

    What’s the saying, “Go Big or Go Home”? Well, this edcamp went big in a mighty way. I felt as if I was truly among the rock stars in education and this experience has made a lasting impression and catapulted me in a whole new direction. I’m recharged, reset and ready to go as I press forward paths of education.

    Liked by 1 person

    • BrendanFetters says:

      Gia, I couldn’t agree more with go big or go home! 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed your day and are recharged! The overarching goal Mike and I had was to have every educator who attended #EdCampWake this weekend be “over the moon” energized and inspired as a direct result of attending. I’m so glad you made it out and had such a good time! KOKO -Brendan


  2. ctuttell says:

    Your dedication to not only WCPSS but NC educators and beyond makes us all better. I am honored to be a colleague and more importantly, a friend. You are always striving towards greatness and inspire me daily. So proud of you and Mike – it was a great day and it’s impact will continue to ripple throughout WCPSS, NC and beyond.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. BrendanFetters says:

    Chris, your words are so inspiring – thank you! Our goal was to have every attendee over the top inspired and I hope Mike and I hit that mark. Lofty goal, yes, but why not shoot for the stars, right? My father always told me if your name is on something make it your best, always. I’ve never lost sight of that no matter the situation. Thank you for the support, pal! I appreciate you greatly. KOKO. -Brendan


  4. karendelia says:

    Wow, wow and wow! What a heartfelt, powerful post that captured a wonderful day of learning and connecting due to your and Michael’s hard work and dedication. It was such a well-organized and worthwhile event for all who attended. You did go big! And at the end of the day, despite feeling exhausted and relieved that all went well, it was very obvious you felt fulfilled and rewarded because you knew you made a positive impact on so many educators and in turn, students. Being a part of your team to support you and Michael was easy, because you make us feel like #wematter! Thanks for your friendship and dedication to our profession.

    Liked by 1 person

    • BrendanFetters says:

      Thank you for reading and your kind, heartfelt words! I appreciate you so much, Karen! You were such an important part of the day – your leadership and suggestions helped make the event even better! #YouMatter. KOKO. -Brendan


  5. NathalieLudwig says:

    Brendan, awesome reflection. I’m honored to have been part of this amazing experience- my very first time attending an EdCamp! It’s so cool to hear the behind the scenes perspective of the event, and it gives me a new appreciation for how you and Mike really worked to raise the bar. All of those little touches added so much to the day. Thank you for helping make this inspiring experience possible. I look forward to my next EdCamp!

    Liked by 1 person

    • BrendanFetters says:

      Thank you for reading and your kind words, Nathalie! Yes sooooo much work but so rewarding. When my name is on something BIG I always aim to go the extra mile especially – this was no exception. I knew you’d be a fan of EdCamps! So glad Chris got you all connected with EdCamps, NCties, etc. You’re in good company! 🙂 KOKO. -Brendan


  6. jenniferswartz says:

    Brendan, EdCamp Wake was an incredible day of sharing and learning! Your post is a great reflection of all the ways you and your team created a fabulous learning and networking experience for us. Anthony and I took notes throughout the day to help raise our game when we organize the next EdCamp JoCo. I hope that others who are interested in edcamp will read your post because the pictures really capture the positive energy of the day! THANK YOU!

    Liked by 1 person

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