GIRARD — For the past four years, Girard Unified School District (USD 248) has hosted an annual event for area educators from Girard as well as USD 247 Southeast (Cherokee), Northeast USD 246 (Arma) and Frontenac Schools (USD 249) featuring speakers to help motivate teaching staff to start the school year.

“We kind of pool together resources to bring in a speaker that’s motivating and to kind of enlighten our staff and get us going for the school year,” said Girard Superintendent of Schools Blaise Bauer.

“We hope to continue doing it again if we get a good response and a good speaker, and we had a good one today,” Bauer said, adding that he wanted to thank Southeast Superintendent Brad Miner, Northeast Superintendent Greg Gorman, and Frontenac Superintendent Rick Simonsic for helping to make the event happen.

This year’s event took place Tuesday and featured a presentation by Houston, Texas-based motivational speaker Garrison Wynn, who spoke to a crowd of about 300 area teachers from the four school districts.

“What I talked about was about being influential,” Wynn said, “you know, in other words, the relationships we have with the teachers, the students and each other, really reflects on how effective a school system can be, and the key really is about tolerance and acceptance.”

Being able to positively influence students starts with teachers being motivated themselves, Wynn said.

“If you believe in your own self worth, it’s a lot easier to show it to others,” he said during his speech to the audience of teachers. “If you believe in your own value, it’s a lot easier to show it to others.”

Wynn said he speaks at a lot of corporate conventions, but also a significant number of school events, which he appreciates doing because his mother was a rural school teacher and because of his own experience as a student.

“I wasn’t very good at it,” he said. “I had parenting issues, I had [attention deficit disorder], I wasn’t the smartest kid in the world, and I wouldn’t shut up talking. So I had, you know, those issues, and I had the teachers literally willing to help me. I mean I don’t know why they would help me so much, because I wasn’t worth helping is what I thought, but they did, and they were really proud of what they were doing.”

Wynn said he would not have achieved the success that he has if weren’t for his teachers.

“I’m here today because I’m a product of what you do,” he told the audience. “I wouldn’t be doing anything in my life if the school system hadn’t come together to help me.”

Wynn also noted that he works with data from Gallup, Inc. and the Pew Research Center to generate ideas to provide solutions for organizations including school systems.

“One of the things we were talking about was the Dutch school system in the Netherlands and how they’re doing some things to produce extremely happy teenagers that aren’t depressed, and now probably in the United States we’re going to have to start following some of those guidelines that the Dutch have set,” he said.

John Womeldorff, an elementary school music teacher in Girard, said Wynn’s presentation was helpful and informative.

“I thought it was great,” Womeldorff said. “I thought he had some good insights backed up by research on how to be influential with parents and students and some things that you can do to work with them to get the students where they need to be.”

Wynn emphasized the importance of the work teachers do and the unique role they play in his Tuesday presentation.

“You make sure that human beings are prepared to run the planet,” Wynn said of his audience. “You just couldn’t be making a bigger contribution.”