Building Trust, Equity, & Belonging:

The Power of Discussion


July 18-20, 2023

Winter Harbor, Maine

The best PD ever. Only better.

When teachers attend Touchstones® workshops on discussion-based learning, they often rate them among the best they’ve attended. Our first-ever Educator Summit delivers on what our workshops do well and enhances the experience through an in-person cohort. You’ll engage in a practice-based exploration of how powerful discussion can be for building inclusive community and shared leadership. Join us for three days that will rekindle your connection to authentic learning and offer joyous inspiration to bring back to your classroom!

Build Community

Join a network of educators committed to fostering shared leadership, belonging, and civil discourse in discussion-based learning.

Strengthen Your Practice

Add to your toolbox for building an authentic, inclusive learning environment with strategies you can use right away.

Learn by Doing

Gain practical takeaways from the experiences of Touchstones schools and teachers in our interactive workshops and panels.


Reconnect to the passion and joy that brought you to education and feel ready to jump back in to a new school year.

Selected Session Topics

    • How do you navigate issues of power, legitimacy, and bias to build an inclusive discussion class?
      • This presentation will focus on trust, empathy, and sharing/listening to experiences as essential to the transformative potential of group discussion. We will consider what underlies trust and empathy as they emerge in group discussion, and how these can be developed or strengthened.
    • How can the Touchstones approach support an equitable exchange of ideas throughout the school, from classrooms to faculty meetings?
      • Small schools and communities can breed deep, sometimes even generational, silences where family names and/or zip codes define students. In this panel, you will hear from educators in Mount Desert Island about how Touchstones programming can help foster a safe and inclusive environment in which students can begin to develop their own voices and good listening habits.
    • How can you connect families and caregivers with each other and school staff through inclusive discussion?
      • Learn how to engage with families as partners through discussion.
    • How can you meaningfully assess intentional speaking, active listening, and other essential discussion skills using student portfolios?
      • Learn how portfolios can foster reflection and support a more robust picture of student growth and development.

Featured Presenters

Matteo Burrell

Matteo graduated with my BA from St. John’s College in 2019. He is currently a philosophy graduate student at the New School for Social Research, where his research centers on how inherited paradigms and cultural perceptions shape linguistic interaction, and how the intersubjective space that unfolds in dialogue affects what has room to be spoken, recognized, and understood. He has co-led the Touchstones Fellows Program, which delivers intensive discussion leadership training using Touchstones’ Exploring American Perspectives.

Gary Heidt

High School Teacher, Perkiomen Valley, PA

Brittany Usiak

Brittany holds a B.S. from Virginia Tech and earned a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education focused on school-family-community partnerships. Her work is rooted in the belief that educational institutions are microcosms of a democratic society and should prepare students to be informed, engaged citizens. Prior to Touchstones, she spent nearly 10 years creating engaging interdisciplinary learning experiences for students in grades 2-12 in schools and out of school time, including six years as a classroom teacher in public and private schools. When she’s not in schools, Brittany loves gardening, backpacking, and rock climbing.

Elana Diaz

High School Teacher, Mount Desert Island, ME

Julie Keblinsky

Director of Teaching & Learning 7-12, AOS 91, ME

Howard Zeiderman

Director of Leadership Programs, Touchstones Discussion Project

Keith Eaton

Keith has been teaching English and Social Studies on two separate Maine islands, one bridged and one “unbridged,” for the past 23 years. Discussion-based curricula have been central to these classrooms. Whether debriefing a North Woods Fall Expedition at the North Haven Community School or analyzing the One China Policy in social studies classes at Mount Desert Island High School, discussion has been the focus. Until students begin generating A.I. avatars to attend virtual classes for them, he suspects that dialog will continue to remain a cornerstone of any student-centered pedagogy.

Stef Takacs

Executive Director, Touchstones Discussion Project

Details & Pricing

Register now! Space is limited to 24 attendees!

  • $225 Early Bird Registration
  • $300 Regular Registration after April 15
  • What’s Included?
    • Attendance to all workshop sessions, panels, and presentations
      • Summit starts at 2 PM on July 18 and closes at 3 PM on July 20
    • All meals during summit, including a welcome reception
    • 2-night (private bedroom accommodations at the Schoodic Institute)
      • We’ve reserved 5 spots at a reduced rate for educators in Maine who won’t need accommodations. Email us to learn more.
Years of Experience
Educators Trained

What educators say about Touchstones

“Thanks to Touchstones, our students are better listeners and better problem-solvers and much more considerate of one another.”

Karole Turner-Campbell,

founding Head of School, Frederick Douglass Academy II, NYC

Tentative Schedule

  • Tuesday July 18
    • 1:00pm Registration Opens
    • 2:00 – 3:45pm Workshop Session: Getting Started in Our Work Together
    • 4:00 – 5:30pm Workshop Session: Building Voice & Joyful Learning – Whose Voice is Missing?
    • 6:00pm Welcome Reception
  • Wednesday July 19
    • 8:30 – 9:30am Presentation: Addressing Issues of Bias, Power, and Empathy to Build Trust
    • 9:40 – 10:45am Workshop Session: The Mechanics of Trust – What is Required to Build an Inclusive Group?
    • 10:45am – 12:00pm Workshop Session: Leveraging Small Group Work for Cooperative Learning
    • 12:45 – 1:30pm Presentation: Fostering Connected School Culture Through Family Engagement
    • 1:40 – 2:30pm Workshop Session: The Role of Observation and Assessment in Shifting Dynamics
    • 2:40 – 3:30pm Presentation: Meaningful Assessment of Student Development
    • 3:40 – 5:30pm Workshop Session: Examining Assumptions Toward Open and Active Listening
    • 7:00 – 8:30pm Panel Discussion: Building a Culture of Civil Discourse
  • Thursday July 20
    • 8:30 – 10:30am Workshop Session: Teaching and Practicing Shared Leadership
    • 10:45am – 12:00pm Workshop Session: Cultivating Shared Leadership in Your Classroom
    • 1:00 – 2:30pm Workshop Session: Thinking Ahead and Staying Connected

Register for 2023 Educator Summit