Viral Change for the Common Good: Dr. CJ Huff at TEDxFrontRange
C.J. Huff: Resilience in the aftermath of the unthinkable
Dr. C.J. Huff served as the superintendent of Joplin Schools from July, 2008 through June, 2015. He is the proud father of three children and has been married to his best friend, Jennifer, for 18 years.
A native of McCune, Kansas, Huff earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Pittsburg State University, his Master and Specialist in Education from Missouri State University. Most recently, he earned his Doctorate in Education with a focus in Educational Leadership from the University of Arkansas in 2003.
His wide range of experiences as a classroom teacher, building principal, superintendent and a family farmer prepared him to lead his district of 1,100 employees and 7,700 students through the recovery effort that has followed the devastating Sunday, May 22, 2011 tornado that ripped through the heart of Joplin. Graduation ceremonies for Joplin’s Class of 2011 had just concluded at Missouri Southern State University when the tornado struck around 5:41 p.m. destroying or damaging 10 of the 19 buildings in Huff’s district including the high school and leaving over half of his students without a school to return to on Monday, May 23. The Joplin Schools family suffered loss more precious than the buildings though as they lost a staff member and seven students to the storm.
Huff’s declaration that “We will start school on time” is credited with being a key factor that drew the community of Joplin together just days after the tornado and provided a positive light for the country to rally around in the midst of such tragedy and destruction. To find and create learning space for 4,200 kids—54 percent of the district—in 12 weeks was a daunting task. However, on August 17, 2011 what many determined was an “impossible goal” became known as the “promise kept” when Joplin’s 7,700 students started the new school year on time. On May 21, 2012—just one day shy of the one year anniversary of the devastating tornado—President Barack Obama delivered the high school graduation commencement address.
Three years later, Joplin Schools continued to take the lead in the community's recovery effort. Huff and his team encountered and overcame many challenges since that fateful day in May. Undaunted, his focus remained unchanged as he and his team continued to take care of what he refers to as his "Joplin Schools' family" and crossing the recovery finish line strong. In August 2014, the last of the buildings destroyed by the storm was rebuilt. Fulfilling yet another promise to build Joplin back bigger AND better, his students and staff came home to the new Joplin High School after three long years. A 21st Century high school with a forward-looking and rigorous program of study to prepare students for a highly competitive workforce and global economy that has the potential to change public education as we know it. Of particular note, in the fall of 2015, Joplin Schools was named one of nine “Future Ready” school districts in the nation by the United States Department of Education.
Huff is well-respected by the community and his peers as a man of vision and a man that keeps his word. People magazine named him as one of their 2011 “Heroes Among Us." Other recognitions include the 2013 Missouri “Superintendent of the Year” award, one of four finalists for the 2013 “National Superintendent of the Year Award”, 2012 Missouri “National Education Association Horace Mann Award”, National School Public Relations Association’s “Bob Grossman Leadership in School Communications Award”, eSchool News 2012 “Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award”, Missouri Association of School Administrators 2012 “Pearce Award”, Missouri School Public Relations Association 2012 “Administrator of the Year” and the 2011 American School Board Journal Magna Award/Grand Prize Winner for “Joplin’s Bright Futures” initiative focusing on community engagement and drop-out prevention.
To book C.J. Huff call Executive Speakers Bureau at 901-754-9404.
C.J. understands how teamwork, leadership and a focus on the future can help overcome any challenge. In this presentation, he shares his remarkable story of leadership, relationships, and resiliency that kept children at the center of the recovery effort after the Joplin Tornado. Claiming 161 lives and inflicting damages exceeding $3 billion, it's recognized as the most costly tornado in U.S. history.
Education for the 21st Century
Dr. Huff focuses on ways the education system must prepare the leaders of tomorrow through technology and communication to face future challenges.
Human Resources Program Coordinator FBL Financial Group, Inc. Farm Bureau Financial Services
CJ Huff spoke as a closing keynote at our Human Resources annual state conference. His presentation was amazing. His presentation gets you thinking about ways that businesses should be interacting with schools now to create a strong workforce in the future. His approach and the way he rallied the community back together after something so big is inspirational. If we all had a chance to work with someone like CJ we would be so lucky.
Dr. CJ Huff’s message provided Missouri School Counselors just what was needed to head back into the trenches of working with students. His awe-inspiring message was deemed one of the best keynotes ever!. Dr. Huff is an authentic speaker with such a caring approach that brings a powerful presentation leaving the audience refocused, motivated and inspired to take action. It is often a challenge to maintain an attentive audience on the final day of a conference, but Dr. Huff held the audience captive with his message of what really matters….the students. Dr. Huff, thank you for your transparent delivery of sharing your heart, passion and challenge to change our communities…. You ARE a “GameChanger!”
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