Civics Educator Conference

Civics Educator Conference

Home Cooking with Schoolhouse Seasoning: Teachers & Parents Partnering on Civics

The Center for Constitutional Studies at Utah Valley University hosted its annual fall civics-educator conference Oct. 10, 2023. Sharon McMahon, known as "America's Government Teacher," keynoted the conference that evening in the UCCU Center on UVU campus.

See photos of the daytime conference and Sharon McMahon's evening keynote.

Watch Sharon McMahon's Keynote

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Entitled "Home Cooking with Schoolhouse Seasoning: Teachers and Parents Partnering on Civics," the conference brought together teachers, parents, education experts, and other voices to focus on strategies and resources for building a better-informed and more civics-minded generation.

Topics for the for the conference included these:

  • Our Kids: Parents, Teachers, and our Shared Civic Responsibility
  • Bridging the Parent–Teacher Divide
  • Hard Civics Conversations in the Home
  • Civics Resources for Parents
  • Misinformation in the Digital Age
  • Preparing the Next Generation of Citizens and Civic Leaders

Conference Schedule

Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023 

8:30–9:15 a.m.  |  CB 101B  |  Conference Registration

9:15–10:00 a.m.  |  CB 101B  |  Welcome and Introduction | Our Kids: Parents, Teachers, and Our Shared Civics Responsibility

10:00–11:15 a.m.  |  CB 101B   |   Panel: Bridging the Parent–Teacher Divide

11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. |  Breakout Sessions

  • Hard Civics Conversations in the Home (CB 511)
  • Educational Resources for the Home (FL 421)
  • Misinformation in the Digital Age (FL 120)

12:30–1:30 p.m.  |  Lunch Break

1:30–2:45 p.m. |  CB 101B  |  Panel: Preparing the Next Generation of Citizens and Leaders

2:45–3:00 p.m.  |  CB 101B  |  Closing Remarks

7:00–8:00 p.m.  |  UCCU Center  |  Sharon McMahon Keynote Address


Conference Panelists, Presenters, and Moderators

  • Meredith Balmforth is the mother of three teenage daughters who has frequently served as a “room mom” and now as the PTSA president at her children's middle school. Professionally, she is an electrician who loves to expose the rising generation to the advantages of working in the trades.

  • Dawn Harvey is the director for the We The People: The Citizenship and Constitution program for the State of Utah. She graduated in Secondary Education with an emphasis in History and taught at Ignite Entrepreneurship Academy.  

  • Briawna Ainge Hugh is both a mother and a teacher. She has four children and is an English Language Arts teacher in the Alpine School District. She includes regular civics discussions in her classroom. She is a bibliophile, quilter, and supporter of civics education at home and in the schools.

  • Jodi Ide is the social-studies specialist for Canyons School District. She wrote and secured a civic-innovations grant funded by the Utah Legislature and awarded by the Utah State Board of Education to implement a project known as Information Investigators, impacting approximately 34,000 students across Canyon School District’s 50 schools. For the program, she is training teachers from Kindergarten to high school on how to help students identify misinformation and evaluate news sources, including social media.

  • Manju Karthikeyan is the mother of Diya Oommen and her older sister Arundhati, who led efforts to pass legislation allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local school-board races. Manju is a research specialist at the University of Utah, focusing on neurobiology and neurobiology.

  • Becca Kearl is the executive director of Living-Room Conversations, an organization dedicated to communities coming together over conversation about pressing social issues. Becca has designed and led healthy dialogue practices in high schools, universities, civic organizations, faith communities, the community at large, and her own family of seven.

  • Michelle Lenhardt has worked with the Anti-Defamation League, Their Story is Our Story, Everyone Belongs, and Mormon Women for Ethical Government (MWEG) to increase civic awareness and decrease bullying in schools. A mother of six, Michelle is a campaign manager, photographer, writer, and founding member of MWEG. 

  • Sharon McMahon, a former high-school government and law teacher, is on a mission to combat political misinformation by sharing nonpartisan facts about the U.S. government, democracy and history. She has more than 1 million followers @sharonsaysso on Instagram.

  • Derek Monson is chief growth officer at Sutherland Institute, a nonprofit public-policy research and education institution in Salt Lake City, where, he oversees operations, policy research and outreach. He provides expert analysis and commentary on a broad list of public-policy issues that include civic education, curriculum transparency, and parental rights in public schools.

  • Jim Moss  currently serves as the chair of the Utah State Board of Education and is an adjunct professor at UVU teaching Introduction to American National Government.  Jim has practiced employment law for the past 20 years. He obtained an Ed.D. degree from USC and has also served on the Utah State Charter School Board, his local school community council, and in the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce.  He has also tutored elementary-school students and taught American jurisprudence to law students in Ukraine. 

  • Jeff Nokes is an associate professor in the Department of History at Brigham Young University. He is a former middle-school and high-school teacher, and he has authored several works on history pedagogy, including Building Students’ Historical Literacies: Learning to Read and Reason with Historical Texts and Evidence.

  • Diya Oommen is a high-school student who gained recognition in 2021, when the The Salt Lake Tribune featured her in an article highlighting the inadequate inclusion of Black history in Utah schools. Diya is the youth member of the SLC Racial Equity in Policing Commission and is also actively involved with We The Future, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding voter pre-registration. 

  • Justin Powell is the executive director of Youthlinc, an organization dedicated to youth-service involvement in local and global needs. In 2023 Justin was named Citizen Diplomat of the Year by U.S. Global Ties, the nation's oldest and largest citizen-diplomacy network.

  • Axel Ramirez is a professor of social studies for elementary and secondary pre-service teachers in the School of Education at Utah Valley University.  Professor Ramirez was a middle-school teacher and specialist in social studies for Alpine School District. He has a leadership role in the Utah Council for Social Studies and teaches a secondary-level methods course in social studies for the Utah State Board of Education. 

  • William Shields teaches U.S. History and American Institutions and Issues at West Jordan Middle School. He participated in a 2021 Utah Legislature work group exploring best practices and research about civic education in Utah schools and is an advisory group member of the Utah Civics Learning Collaborative. 

  • Stan Swim is chief program officer at the Bill of Rights Institute, where he leads the Education team. He previously chaired the boards of the Sutherland Institute, National Council for Adoption, and Legacy Films Foundation, and currently serves on the board of the State Policy Network.

  • Lauri Updike homeschooled her own children from 1985 to 1999 and currently teaches a homeschool co-op for junior-high students. She has served on the Arizona governor's Commission on Children, Utah governor Gary Herbert's Commission on Common Core, conducted research for the Utah Legislature’s Senate Education Committee, and trained faculty for the Utah Boys Ranch. For the American Heritage School in American Fork, Utah, she was the in-service director and a social-studies teacher.