A.W. Beattie hosted eight southwestern Pennsylvania CTCs and more than 300 public educators Tuesday, Aug. 21 at the 6th Annual Joint In-Service in the build-up to the first day of school.
The regional in-service focused on school safety preparation before the start of its new school year.
“Every year that the southwestern career centers have gotten together for a day of professional development has been a great opportunity for all of the teachers and staffs to learn together,” A.W. Beattie Executive Director Eric Heasley said. “It’s also a great opportunity for professional presenters, teachers and staffs to share best practices.”
The event featured a four-hour program by John-Michael Keyes that covered crisis preparation and responses for educators and staff members. He has given about 1,000 presentations since 2009 on school safety across the United States.
For Keyes, the cofounder of the I Love You Guys Foundation, the program he leads educators through is personal. His daughter Emily died in an act of school violence. The foundation, which was cofounded by Keyes’ wife Ellen, was named after the last text Emily sent to him in 2006 during the Platte Canyon High School hostage crisis.
Keyes’ presentation put the conversation of school safety into the context of simple actions that educators can carry out with the Standard Response Protocol, which is based on the response to any given school situation. Keyes also covered family reunification methods.
“I think what I want everyone to take away is even more motivation to pay attention to (school safety preparation), and based on the reactions today I think we achieved that outcome,” Keyes said. “I think people showed gratitude, and people also thought this was interesting.”
The I Love You Guys Foundation has visited A.W. Beattie twice since 2017.
“It’s important to repeat, because of what I call ‘the flood,’” Keyes said. “Our educators and administrators are flooded with everything they have to do. If you don’t actively cover something, it can fade. Of course, there are new staff members. The foundation also constantly evaluates all of the methods and protocols, so some of the conversation today didn’t exist two or three years ago. That evolution is important to cover as well.”
The foundation grew slowly in the three years after Emily died.
John-Michael and Ellen Keyes then shifted their careers toward the foundation on a full-time basis to help schools, universities and communities.
They believe Emily, who had an entrepreneurial spirit, would be proud of how much the foundation has grown to assist others.
“Emily was a fireball,” John-Michael Keyes said. “We knew her twin brother Casey would be off to college. With Emily, we weren’t sure about the path. Those concerns weren’t great. (Right before) we lost her she was in the school choir and doing a fundraiser for a trip to Italy. The minute Emily came home one day she asked for my wife’s and my contact books. She called everyone and then asked them for their contacts. She raised more money than the rest of the choir combined in three weeks.”
The Keyes felt the foundation was catching on, on a large scale when Columbine School District reached out to them. The next big call came from the Department of Justice, which requested the Keyes speak at a national conference.
“Emily gave us a voice,” John-Michael Keyes said. “We can talk about this stuff. We learned that the personal story carries an impact. If that motivates people, I’m OK telling the story, and we’re committed to offering the materials at no cost.”