As educational leaders we often talk about taking risks; this week I took one. Our school needed a coach for the tennis team, so I thought, Why not? I coach. I play tennis. Just never both together.

This week I did both together. Most likely with some students who may or may not play better than I do. But could I teach them something? Coach them?

So we got started, and headed to the courts, a bit of self-doubt in my head but never outwardly. I mean, technology coach by day, teacher by day, but was I a tennis coach by night?

Can we wear different roles? Can we be agile and seen differently with different expertise by the same people. Risk taking?

I tell teachers this all the time. Take a risk. Try something new.

Sometimes we have to be pushed out of the bird’s nest. So here I go. Nobody laughed at me.

I will model what I tell my teachers and my students. Risk taking. Trying something new, something that makes me a little uncomfortable.

When do we grow? Just outside of that zone of comfort. And so I will grow in this experience.

I will grow as an educator.

I will grow as a tennis player.

I will definitely grow as a human being.



Innovation #IMMOOC

For many we know that change can be difficult. People get comfortable, cozy and “it works.” Sometimes, though what we deem as working is more existing. Sure, compliant students leave the K-12 system reading, writing, doing basic math, knowing some level of facts in their other classes, but is this really all we want from our students?

Our schools need to take a hard, deep look at themselves. Reform is one thing. Transformation is something entirely different. For our schools to truly meet the needs of the world that our students are graduating into, we need adults who are ready to innovate in every sense of the word. We all know that schools are one of the only industries that look and function much like they did 100 and 200 years ago; neither the business world nor the medical profession does –can you imagine? Yet we continue to tweak here and tweak there. Trade a white board for a chalk board. Trade a tablet for paper. Without changing the functionality of these, it’s just not enough. We need true innovators to wipe the slate clean and dream up a system that will work in 2016 to prepare our students for their present and future.

The impact will be students who are ready for the world.

Students who can think.

Students who are not compliant but are creators and innovators themselves.

Our world cannot wait. We must innovate.



The Future is Here: Are you Ready to Join the Innovation Movement?


This is my presentation from last week’s CUE conference.

Future Ready


Creation: Let’s Get it Made!


Creation Presentation


Getting to this Point…












Going through the National Board process early on in my career certainly helped shape me as an educator. Additionally it had provided me with opportunities I would not have otherwise have: I have spoken with district and state superintendents, local politicians, and one of the highlights was speaking before members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

But our career is not made up of highlights but of day-to-days… we impact students, educators, and the field overall: that is what will make a career.

For me going through the process solidified my reflective nature. I have renewed also and that process gave me the opportunity to reflect on the professional learning I had gone through and how that learning actually impacted my practice. I took months to reflect on the training that I had completed and determine how worthwhile they were; what impact they actually had. As a result, I am particular about how I spend my time. Particular about the professional learning I take part in. Particular about the degree programs I choose.

I am currently the Innovation & Technology Coach at a middle school. I oversee the professional learning at the school as well as coach teachers as we move our school to one that is project-based learning and 1:1 iPads.

I work hard to use that same high standard to create personalized professional learning for my teachers and staff that I want for myself. I am reflective after each PL session that I plan and ask for feedback to better it for the future.

The National Board process is one that allows us time for reflection. Reflection to become better teacher. Reflection to become better coaches. Reflection to become better educators.

Creating a Positive Culture for Innovation

For many of us the year either has started or is about to start. Those first few weeks are the most important in establishing positive culture in our classrooms. In my school we’re moving to 1:1 iPads, so creating a risk-taking culture where students know the boundaries but aren’t afraid to make mistakes is so important.

#satchatoc had a meaningful discussion about establishing a culture of innovation in schools. Building this culture of innovation and creativity is essential to bring schools and students into the present and get them ready to lead in the future.

This idea of creating a culture where students and educators alike utilize technology to problem-solve and create a better world is an ongoing theme in education.

How do we encourage creativity and innovation in the classroom? Creation tools like iMovie, Educreation, Explain Everything, Thinglink, blogging, and Book Creator can help.

So, how do we get people to this place of innovation?

As educators we are always working to better ourselves, trying to learn so that we can share our ideas with our students. By being connected, we open a whole world (literally) of information and people to learn from. This chat is a perfect example as it is called #satchatoc; is based in Oceania yet draws an international crowd.

Modeling multiple solutions to questions as well as big ideas is huge! If we as the model in schools can get this and show our students that often problems do not have just one answer, it makes it okay for them to take risks, grow, and seek multiple answers to questions.

Moral of the story: what we do week one with our teachers and our students to create a positive culture where taking risks becomes the norm will determine how our year goes.

How are you starting your year?

Who Are We?

Opening Slides


Who are we? Where do we come from? What makes us who we are? Is it nature or nurture? For me, my family and the traditions that I was brought up with are so much of who I am that it is engrained in everything that I do.

I believe that I should be better today than I was yesterday.

I should have a disregard for the impossible.

My Bubeh and Zayde (great grandparents) came from Russia as young adults. As a child, I used to walk my Bubeh to the restroom because she couldn’t read English. In spite of not having a formal education, she raised four children. When school called, she had learned the formal system; she showed up, and whatever that teacher said was right! And boy oh boy, you didn’t mess with her! All that in spite of not reading. That perseverance came in handy; I remember her telling stories of the Cossacks raiding her village time after time as a child growing up.

My grandmother: she was the kid whisperer. Even though she wasn’t the most social person, she could strike up a conversation with any child whether we were in line at a store or wherever. She had an innate ability to bond immediately with them. When my sister and I both became teachers, she started buying books for each of our classroom libraries because, “They need to learn to read!”

She became a widow way too young and got the equivalent of a minimum wage job to support her four young children; she saw to it that each made it to college graduation. Her youngest, much to her dismay had a dream of being an actor. But she saw to it that he lived out that dream and went to Juliard on a full-ride scholarship to live out that dream -it wasn’t her dream but what her children wanted she saw to!

So how does this connect to my vision of education and to me?

That risk-taking of my grandma and bubeh?

As a first-year teacher I found myself in the inner-city where most of my second-grade students couldn’t read the pre-primer words. Innovation was where it was. The grade level text wasn’t going to cut it. Business as usual wasn’t cutting it for those kids. I knew that like my family before me I was going to have to take a risk and do it differently and get my students through several years of school in one year. Because after all, we all know the research: jail cells in Georgia are built based on the number of third-grade students not reading on grade level…and I wasn’t going to let my babies be part of that statistic! So as a twenty-two year old fresh out of college I broke the mold and I set the course for my career.

I was going to be a risk-taker. I was going to be an innovator.

These are beliefs that I have never stopped.

I have lived my educational career this way. I believe in this growth mindset. This is the legacy that I want to leave. We have to be innovators if we want our students to be.

What if we all committed to learning together? To innovating together? To figuring it out together.

Augmented Reality

My new FAVORITE techy thing is augmented reality! The implications for these apps in a classroom are amazing, so test them out then use them with your students –of all ages.

With Aurasma (see a video at the link) you can use pre-made Auras or create your own. Auras are three-dimensional animations or videos that are captured within a frame on the app. This app is available on IOS or Android. Imagine students for whom English is a second language creating videos of words they are learning so that when they frame the word, the video plays.

The ColAR app is free and some of the coloring pages are free; others you have to pay for. Students color the page and hold the frame in the app over the colored page to make it come to life.

PopAr has a series of children’s books that “come to life” through this augmented reality experience. This is a new way to interact with books and it is so cool!

Spacecraft 3D is put out by NASA. Students learn about the solar system and earth as they interact with them in as an authentic way as possible….without heading into space on a shuttle.

Student Engagement….Has it Changed over the Years?

Flickr photo by William Ferriter (CC BY 2.0)

As a young teacher right out of college, I knew I was going to change the world. I was an inner-city teacher and nothing was going to stop me–even if it meant closing my door sometimes to do what was right for my students. I remember one time having a conversation with my principal and telling her that I could use the textbooks (that were two plus reading levels above my students), or I could use trade books and other resources that I had that were written at their level. I assured her she wouldn’t regret it –confident on the outside but a bit nervous on the inside. After all these were second graders who for the most part didn’t know primer words. Innovative strategies were definitely what it was going to take to be successful. Technology wasn’t the same back then; however, student engagement was just as important then as it is today. That was and is the heart of a lesson. Without engaging our students we have nothing. Meeting these second graders where they were, making class fun for them, and being innovative in the process….that’s what it took to bring those students to where they needed to be.

Today we have so many tools at our fingertips. By collaborating and using these to the best of our ability, we can reach our students….every one of them. Sometimes it means throwing one thing out the window to try the next and figure our what it is that is going to engage them and get them to a place where they are excited by school and learning. Most importantly, though, at the center of our classrooms are the students..and whatever it takes to engage them.

Innovate * Inspire * Lead Change

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