In January of 2014 the YLC team ventured to Vail Colorado and had a fantastic conference at the Vail Mountain School (VMS).

Conference Highlights: YLC Vail had so many incredible highlights. First of all, the VMS campus was gorgeous, and the students and staff couldn’t have been more welcoming. As well, the conference’s final day will forever remain in my memory. Seeing the hard work that each kid put into his/her group’s project was truly inspiring, especially since the students’ growth was so apparent on this last day.

The kicker for me, though, had to be our first ever YLSki day. Every Friday at VMS ends with the students going to Vail Mountain Resort to ski and snowboard, and we got to join them! It was a really funny reversal of roles as our students who had been skiing for years took time on the bunny slopes to teach Paoa (who’s from Hawaii and never skied) to ski. There were some hysterical wipeouts from all the teachers, and I think this day brought the students and teachers even closer together.

What Made This Conference Unique: One of the coolest things about this YLC conference was the fact that all the participants came from the same school – VMS. This allowed the kids to dive right into the conference without the usual hesitation between strangers. It also created some truly magical moments when students who had been friends for years learned things about each other that they’d never heard before.

Favorite Moment: Each YLC conference does a special lunch one day called the “Cultural Lunch” where students can bring in a dish that has been important to their culture or family, and the teachers do the same. Since we lacked a full pantry, we created something simple – Boston Brownies! One thing we forgot about when cooking though was that the town of Vail is 8,150 feet above sea level, and the altitude makes dishes cook faster than normal. We ended up sharing our Boston Brownie Brittle (patent pending) with our students who took it in stride and laughed about our rookie altitude cooking mistake.

What Set This Conference Apart: For me, YLC Vail 2014 will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first YLC conference. I was originally very nervous about teaching the curriculum, especially in our small groups, but my students were incredible! I couldn’t believe how receptive and focused they were. I hope the students learned half as much as I learned from them, because they taught me so much about how to be an active and engaged learner.

- Chris Willis, YLC Vail 2014 Teacher