As another year  begins, individuals reflect on the past year and make resolutions to better themselves for the new year.  I challenged the school community in which I work to choose one word as a focus to grow themselves rather than making several resolutions.

I started by asking them to reflect on the kind of person they each wanted to be and list characteristics admired in others, or words that stand out as important. Some examples I gave were believe, kindness, and challenge. Each of these words could be chosen by students, parents, teachers, and administrators alike. But the challenge was for them to choose a word that meant something to themselves. 

My #OneWord2019 is inspire. Inspires is defined as encouraging others to set forth and do something. I would like to inspire each person in the school family where I am an administrator. Both kids and adults can pursue their passions individually and collectively. I believe in each of them. I know that everyone is challenged daily to learn more and be the best they can be. Everyone of them have passions and dreams of what they want to do in the future related to education, their profession, and their interests. I hope that with everyday struggles or challenges faced, that each person is able to make and surpass the goals to move forward and onward and upward. My parents and family inspire me with their accomplishments. The administrators and teachers inspire me by what they do day in and day out for students to learn and grow. The students and teachers inspire me as they achieve goals and come each day to learn something new and share their stories. I hope to inspire them in return. I hope I can be a resource for ideas and strategies, a person to listen, or someone to guide each person in the right direction alongside the others at our campus. I encourage everyone to let the spark of interest ignite the passions and create a desire to learn new things, reach new levels, make new friends, but most importantly share your passion and grow to be the best in 2019.

Your Attitude Determines Your Direction

Attitude defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is a feeling or emotion toward a fact or state. A choice that each teacher chooses as they prepare to teach the students each day.

I reflect on the teachers I have had throughout my own education, the education of my own children, and the teachers I have taught along side. The teachers who have made the most impact on the education of all students have been those who have a positive attitude.

It starts at Pre-K and Kinder teachers who welcome the youngest students into the school with happiness and energy everyday, even when they are tired and overwhelmed with the challenge of teaching the students so their foundation is strong, but most importantly that they love school. The students come running into the school with smiles and laughter and ready to learn and experience new sources of excitement. Each grade level has its challenges and struggles to keep the students interested, engaged and most importantly empowered. But I believe it starts with a positive attitude of the teacher. With that positive attitude, the students will learn and progress each year.

As I grew up with my family telling me that if believed I could do it and worked hard enough that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to.  I learned along the way that being positive is an essential part of each lesson learned and shared. Working hard meant I prepared my lessons, studied and knew what and how I needed to change to make the learning better for my students or myself. But the attitude is what kept me moving forward and not letting the challenges push me down.

Teachers are faced with struggles and challenges that are different from every other profession. Teachers teach more than just letters and numbers. Teachers have the influence to impact every child and create learning experiences that empower them to be curious, ask questions, and find answers. Teachers spark the interests of the minds they interact with and make connections through lessons and experiences. A positive attitude leads to success and even learning from mistakes and setbacks. Teachers find ways to keep smiling, encouraging, and moving forward. That positive attitude breaks down barriers, for the students as well as themselves. Their positive attitude determines their direction as an educator, but more importantly the influence and direction of the young minds they encounter each day.

As a leader, I can support the teachers, students, and parents by promoting the learning experiences and sharing the excitement at the campus.  I can encourage the teachers, students, and parents with recognition of the learning and empowering them to grow and be successful.  I can model being positive even during the challenging and crazy days. A leader of the campus with a positive attitude will determine the direction of the school.


Personalized Toolbox for Learning from PD to the Classroom

**Blog Buddy Post**

Thoughts by LaLonnie King (Texas) @Lalonniek

 Valerie Zemaitis (Indiana) @vrzemaitis


Katie Martin states in #IMMOOC Season 2, Live Session 4 that in order to be innovative the first step is to decide what you want your students to know, understand and be able to do. Once there is a shared vision of the needs and wants, you find the tools to achieve those goals. Then we need to look for evidence of those tools making an impact. She said this evidence can be found if we use George Couros’s 8 Characteristics of an Innovative Classroom. We, as teachers and administrators, need to have these characteristics modeled for us, if innovation is expected of us.


The challenge of this blog is to focus on how these characteristics are being used in our professional development.


We can agree that we have had a lot of professional learning as educators. What turns out is we have been given a lot of tools to use. George confirms this belief when he stated in IMMOOC Live Session 4 Season 2 that it is called the “Teacher Platter”, rather than the “Teacher Plate”. Every teacher has that kitchen drawer or tool kit with so many tools we forget what it buried in there. Do you remember the excitement when you first gained that new tool and how to utilize it with the students?  We use it for awhile and put it down when the next “tool” is shared with us. We now have so many tools that our tool boxes are unorganized and overflowing. Teachers are forgetting some of the best tools that were just shared with them because of another new tool. Educators have so many tools and resources,  but they  always want the one “tool” that will have the greatest impact; an impact on our students, in our kitchen, or when we make a repair. It is time to go on an “innovation diet” and clean out our drawers so we can be effective at using the few that have the biggest impact.


Wouldn’t it be ideal if professional learning and development involved one or more of these characteristics from the 8 Characteristics of an Innovative Classroom? Training sessions that are innovative by nature will have the greatest impact on us, and in the end positive outcomes for our students! How would professional learning look if these characteristics are used? What we need is a shared document that we can continually add to and take ideas from as we choose tools for our district, campus, or classroom.


The chart below has a few ideas that are being used in our schools in Texas and Indiana, or include ideas that we would like to see being used in school. Each item is a starting point that can be developed and created to fit your specific needs.





  • Technology Department does a 30 day Twitter challenge at the beginning of each semester.
  • Weekly Techy Talk in which webinars are shared explaining how to use different technology or programs and how to use it immediately in the classroom. Example the Google Suite.
  • Ipad Academy – a monthly  sessions on how to use ipads beyond just the basic programs. How to use it for exploration and discovery based on interests and passions.
  • Survey teachers to discover their strengths and needs. Have those with strengths in an area lead PD.
  • No chairs allowed where movement and conversation happen.
  • Teachers set rules for meetings at the beginning.
  • Share video reflections and respond to others.
  • Teachers have a variety of options, maybe too many, based on what is provided by curriculum department(s).
  • Option of attending and participating in additional trainings or conferences.
  • Atomic Learning Website- where teachers can choose additional trainings ranging from literacy and math to classroom management  and technology tools.
  • Ed Cafe where teachers have a menu of options of how they choose their professional learning of the day.
  • Unconferences/EdCamps
  • Self-directed learning sessions. Learn topic via article, video, book excerpt, website. Regroup and discuss.
  • Book/Strategy Tasting. Begin with a small sample. Dive in deeper with choice of interest.
  • Superintendent meets with group of individuals from each campus monthly to discuss how things are going, comments and concerns, as well as upcoming events or topics of conversation.
  • Blogging
  • Professional reads
  • Weekly journaling
  • Professional Learning Communities at each campus and within the district.
  • Time to Revisit, Reflect and Refine direction/journey
  • Education Grant Foundation for teachers and administration to create innovative ways for PD and teaching students.
  • Teacher University where the teachers in the district share their favorite tools and lessons with others in the district.
  • Mystery Dinner. Everyone acts out different roles.




  • Lead4ward strategies playlist, planning tools
  • TCM strategies for R, M, S, and SS
  • Pre-planning
  • Kagan Strategies
  • Scavenger Hunt to find needed information. Gamify.
  • Teachers bring resources/ideas for topic/need and share.
  • Pre-planning
  • Use data analysis for district to create targeted lessons
  • PLCs
  • PLNs
  • Dream Team. What is your dream job/school? Make it happen.
  • Genius Hour or 20% time for teachers.
  • Professional reads- reflect on how we can apply these ideas and improve teaching of model lessons to classes and teachers during PD.
  • Annual Teacher Evaluations
  • Participate in Twitter chats
  • Developing PLN
  • Blogging
  • #ObserveMe
  • Pineapple Chart
  • Skype with an expert person, group, or school on a topic of interest.
  • Vlog effective strategies at your school to share with others where everyone has a role.
  • Bring in students, alumni, community, parents to lead a presentation.
  • Accountability Partner to keep each other in check


The key to learning, whether adults or children, is that the tools we use need to be chosen carefully so the impact matches the expectation set for those specific tools. We do not necessarily have to use the same tool to get the job done. Learners of all ages should be motivated through investigation and have the chance to create questions while being challenged. The environment should be a place where the learners can take risks and try new things. Teachers and students who are able to embrace this culture will be more positive and more empowered to make the learning their own which is the true intent of every teacher when they bring a tool to the classroom.

Everyone is a Learner

As a coach, I interact with teachers who are just beginning and teachers who have been in education for two or three decades. I have come to realize that teachers are just older students. The problem is that many teachers see themselves as only a teacher. They do not feel they need to learn anything; new strategies, read about or share ideas with others, or allow students to lead in their learning.  Teachers who think they are done learning, or do not have time to learn new things, are a stumbling block to the teachers on their team, the students in their classrooms, and the those they interact with.

If all teachers were challenged to be learners, they would be a part of a school culture evolving by the passions and interests of the community.  The best teachers seek learning new ways to share the learning with students. The teachers are great not only because they can teach well, but because they are continuously reflecting on the lessons. These teachers find the best ways to reach the students. Teachers who see themselves as learners, value the students input in learning. The best teachers empower the students to go beyond engagement by modeling and sharing their own learning with others.

Learning is Limitless

As I read and ponder the ideas listed on the School vs. Learning Image, I see the school as building that holds the students back and sets limitations on the progress. Limitations that keep the students on the all the same path decided ultimately with by the teachers, not the students.

The limits start when teachers eliminate the possibility of discovery and exploration. The teachers expect students to find answers to questions created for the whole class.  The students are all searching for the same answers to the same questions. The teachers are expecting everyone to learn through a prescribed method where each student listens, follows directions, and complies. A one size fits all, even with differentiation.

True learning empowers the learners to search for wonders and find the answers through exploration and discovery about their passions and interests.  The students are the owners of the learning and should be able express their voice as they learn.  Students who are empowered learners become the teachers to others in the community, including the teacher. As the learners develop skills creativity and communication about what they are learning, the teacher becomes the facilitator.  Learning should be limitless and the personal, not standardized.

An Empathetic Teacher Becomes the Learner

Empathy is the first characteristic of an innovator’s mindset mentioned in Chapter 3 of The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. Empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of others. Educators empathize with students when they come to school and are hungry, have few clothes, or had another argument with a sibling before school. Students come to school with challenges everyday. Teachers build relationships with the students in order to connect and assist the student to focus on learning and growing.

Over 21 years of teaching, I have seen a wide variety of students reflected in various backgrounds, each bringing challenges of home to school. I always made it a point to find a way to inspire and connect with the students. The relationships sparked a reason to learn. A reason to come to school and enjoy learning. The empathy did not stop by getting them to participate in class with the day by day lessons. The empathy continued as I created a learning environment best for the students.

Each year as I teach I find ways to make learning more interesting for the student. I wanted the students to love learning. I sought out ways to use new technology and wrote grants to get materials and supplies to fund these endeavors.  My classes became the setting for me trying new strategies and engaging students. The students became the leaders of a class store and held jobs after an interview. The books I collected were shared with other grade levels and became the motivation for learning new concepts. Board games became a tool to encourage parent involvement at lunch while the students practiced math skills.

As an educator, we need to take risks and try new ideas in the classroom so that we meet the learning needs of the students. I did this be building relationships with the students, knowing their educational needs, and creating new learning experiences based on their interests. Today, I am a curriculum coach and love to see teachers using passions to build lessons and learning experiences for the students. I encourage teachers to begin with their passions, brainstorm ideas, and assist them in finding materials and supplies to make it happen. I share the learning experiences with others through social media and PLC conversations to spark the interest of other educators. Each spark leads to new experience for the students at our campus. A reason for the students to come to school, not because they have to, but because they enjoy the learning created in their classrooms.

#IMMOOC Reflection Week 1

  1.  The purpose of education is to ignite the passion for learning and sharing about the world. Students should have the ability to find and explore new ideas.  Teachers ask, “What is BEST for the student?”, but with in their guidelines. Guidelines that they feel are set by the school administration. Guidelines that teachers feel the need to ask permission to be creative and teach students  in an innovative manner. School leaders need to create an atmosphere in which teachers are encouraged to be risk-takers and try new things. A community where teachers, students, and school leaders are finding questions about their wonders and passions, and then finding the answers. In reducing the fear, more teachers will attempt innovative ideas and design thinking. The teachers need to get to the point of doing what is good for the kids, instead of waiting for permission.
  2. As a curriculum coach, I am embracing change by  encouraging the teachers to be life-long learners through professional reading. I have an endless list of professional reads from the last 12 months. The more I read, the more inspired I am. As I read, I am sharing these books with teachers whom I feel would benefit from the reading. Another change that I have made is the interaction and development of my PLN on twitter. A year ago, I was not on twitter. A new administrator encouraged me to give it a try. I slowly tried it out and it didn’t take long to get connected and stay connected. I moved to another new campus this school year, where I have spread my interest and inspiration that has come from Twitter. My current administrator has taken off with Twitter in the last month and is tweeting about our school daily! I have convinced several teachers who had never seen the benefit of Twitter to try it out. They are slowly building a PLN and are starting to share with other teachers on their team. Lastly, I am starting to blog at least once a week. I had tried last year, and it fell through. I am picking it back up with #IMMOOC! I am excited for the ideas and interaction. The time to reflect on my learning as I lead is going to be beneficial to me as I move forward in leadership.
  3. If I were starting a school from scratch, the school community would need to have a climate and culture that understands that design thinking and innovation is not just another thing done at the end of a unit, or when there is time. Design thinking and innovation is embedded into the lessons. The standards are not separate from the engagement and thinking, it is intertwined.  I would take out the way that all students must do the same thing, at the same time, in the same way kind of research and lessons.
  4. New teachers entering the field of education think they must learn the traditional way of thinking, before being innovative. I have seen this in the last several years as a mentor and coach. Then there are the teachers on the other end of the spectrum, who are traditional and do not want to try anything new. As a coach, I have found I have to encourage both the newbie and the veteran. It is okay to embed innovation and passion into their classrooms. I would like to ask the questions mentioned in the live chat this evening of all the teachers I work with, ” What cool idea would you like to do 5 years from now?”, ” What if you did it now?”, “If the rules were gone and you just had standards, what would you do?”. I believe the answers would be inspiring and change the way teachers see their purpose for teaching.  It would challenge teachers to do what is best for the students.

Coffee Chat Edu

As I venture out to new ways to grow my PLN in and out of my school district, a co-worker approached me and said, “Let’s do a Coffee Edu!” That is all it took for us to start brainstorming dates, times, places, and needs…and we were ready for our first Coffee Edu in our area.

First, we both researched Coffee Edu. The participants of a Coffee Edu meet a coffee shop and lead the discussion for exactly one hour. We read comments and posts on twitter and online. The more we looked, the more we wanted to do the Coffee Edu. The chance to network with other teachers in the district while sharing the engaging and positive learning experiences was very appealing to both of us.

We decided to call it Coffee Chat Edu to make it unique to us and our area. We chose a local Starbucks that was easily accessible and has a large seating area. We made a sign to set on the table and offered free Starbucks for the first four individuals who joined our Coffee Chat Edu!

We picked a date a month away, and each took a task for getting the word out for the new event in the area. She created a poster of sorts, while I created a commercial using Animoto.  We each tweeted out our poster and commercial each week leading up to the event. Our district technology and communication departments sent the information to teachers as well.

My colleague was able to attend a Coffee Edu in Austin, Texas to gather first hand knowledge of how it works. She came back with pictures, energy, and ways to make our Coffee Chat Edu successful!

Yesterday, we met at the local Starbucks and anxiously awaited educators to arrive and share in our very first Coffee Chat Edu. We had topics ready ahead of time to guide the discussions if there was a lull in the conversation, or it started turning into a gripe session.  We had a small turn out for our first Coffee Chat Edu, but it was amazing. We bought the first four a Starbucks of their choice and enjoyed conversations. We did not have to guide the discussions, the participants naturally shared and kept it positive.

My co-worker and I acted as facilitators and kept the conversations going by encouraging everyone to share. The time went fast as a variety  of the topics were  shared  from technology to curriculum.  Each person explained how they were  using the technology  in our schools for our students. They were also excited to share their new instructional strategies to keep students engaged. The teachers talked about how even though we were all in different roles in education, we all had so many ideas to share and unique things being done in our district.

After everyone left, my colleague and I decided that we were glad we stepped out of our comfort zone! We have started planning our next Coffee Chat Edu and look forward to more exciting conversations about education in our district.