Tom Valk heads up Friesland College, an impressive educational establishment consisting of seven departments and providing courses for a total of ten thousand pupils, students and adult learners; he is a director who, at the age of 40, has undoubtedly not yet reached the pinnacle of his career. He tells me that he discovered the AEHT in Dubrovnik in 2009, then for the second time on Lisbon in 2010, The Hague in 2014, and Cervia in 2015. It was then that he began to want to organise the 2018 Annual Conference in the year in which Leeuwarden had been selected as European Capital of Culture.
Even thought he had just returned from a comprehensive guided tour of his school provided for a small team from Portugal, he was very glad to answer a few questions relating to the organisation and running of the 31st Annual Conference in Leeuwarden.
When did you really begin the preparations and the organisation?
Since I had always taken teachers with me to the conferences, they knew how to go about things. We really got going in September, whilst in terms of the administration things had got underway well before that. Thus between 60 and 70 teachers took part in the organisation and implementation of the Conference, as well as the 600-odd students who were involved between Monday November 12th and Friday November 17th. I should add that I met no resistance at all from them, but lots of enthusiasm.
How did you manage to finance all this?
Well, in addition to the financial contribution from the delegations, we also called on our sponsors. We informed 500 companies of the event, as well as the press and television. I had the budget in place, but without everyone’s commitment we would never have managed to put on such an event.
We’ve almost reached the end of the Conference. What have you got out of it?
It was a super challenge admirably met by Friesland College and its teams, who spared neither their time nor their energy to make sure that everything was as perfect as possible. This 31st Annual Conference has been a unique event for the city of Leeuwarden, and I will shortly be organising a party for all those involved in the organisation.
Last question: did you experience any problems?
(broad smile). Well, not really, apart from some little last-minute problems which were very quickly smoothed over by those in charge of the matter concerned!