Episodes 198-204

Episode #198: Dennis Matthew

Episode #198: Dennis Matthew (podbean.com)

Dennis Matthew is an elementary school speech pathologist, singer-songwriter and author. For over 20 years Dennis has had the joy and honor of working with children in public schools and through non-profit work. 

In 2018, he launched his authorship, bringing children’s stories integrating social emotional wholeness, language enrichment, critical thinking, conflict resolution and character development to life. 

 His published works so far are “Bello the Cello”, “My Wild First Day of School”, and “How Grizzly Found Gratitude”.  He is also a singer-songwriter with a published music album for schools called, “The Let’s Roar Experience”.  Through his books and music Dennis has reached tens of thousands of students worldwide since 2018. 

He eagerly looks forward to hearing from you, to work with your school community to spread joy through story and song!

Trench story: Inception of his authorship, emotionally/prof (summer of 2017). Was in a dry spell. Lost joy of working in education, was mundane. Was also unemployed. Started writing story he’d had in his mind about cello for over 10 yrs. Now he’s been on his journey 4 years- 50K books distributed. It helped him find a regenesis. Has found a joy again. Let’s work in education to inspire writing.

Choose one of your children’s books to highlight and talk about on the podcast-He wants to see students identify with emotions of characters. Not surface-level stories. He wants kids to be self-aware. Regulate life circumstance. SEL wholeness.  Purpose #2- wants them to be resources for the CR. Wants educators to feel like they can work off it for a month. “Bello the Cello”- emo conflict is “what is my life’s purpose?”. We can plant the seed with the youngest of students to have them start asking “what are my strengths? Kids are never too young for that. “What is my life’s song?” main ? in the book. Where do I fit in is a ? all adults even think about. Character of moon & Miss Melody point Bello in right direction. You don’t find your way on your own. Discovering larger narratives of life. From educator perspective- ark of story, facets of characters. He’s hoping educators will collaborate with each other. F.ex. using art lessons. He writes for 2 purposes-culturally responsive, SEL.

Getting books to kids thru the LLC: mostly public schools most get a hold of him thru website, social. Go to (booksbydennis.com) he’s distributing out multiple 100’s of boxes to schools. He likes playing the role of sending the books out. Has mobilized 45K books to schools since 2019. Right now is just targeting bulk purchases. Communicates with educators across the nation throughout the day- supt, principals, media directors, etc. He directs others to go to Amazon. He has sales come in through personal connections. Hasn’t really done much marketing. $300K/ in 3 yrs.

During the pandemic, did 250+ virtual visits. Just wrapped up 2 weeks of in-person visits. It’s up to the school if it’s an assembly- he does music and reads his books- 45m/1hr. One the assembly is done usually leaves. Sometimes he has sent the books beforehand. Prek-5. It all comes down to what the school is looking for. Had 1000 students or 2 tune in. It’s about opening their eyes about what literature, music can be. He tells kids there is no substitute for hard work.

Journey as an elementary school speech pathologist to songwriting. Started dabbling in songwriting in HS. Didn’t go anywhere. Once book sales took off, he added songwriting component. He had an affinity for language & accents. Over the 16 years as SLP, he’s heard kids tell him their stories. He realized he could start creating stories. Takes lessons from stories & puts them to music. Song about gratitude for “How Grizzly Found Gratitude”. They all feed each other. 2 FT gigs. 

Marketing-how did company take off? He had to do a lot of leg work. He did book fairs when first started out. Promoted on social media. Lots of hard work-it is like a marathon. Word of mouth. He’s doing everything, dad helps him some. Builds genuine friendships w/ educators beyond the books. Personal connection he maintains sometimes for 1-2 years until they buy the books. Pandemic facilitated mass distributions. He doesn’t charge for presentations, but the schools buy the books. It’s ultimately kids who receive the benefit of all this. 50K target will be hit in Sept/Oct. State allocated funds used for books. “Don’t be a vendor, genuinely care about ppl you sell books too”. He lets relationship grow over the course of yrs. Writing stories has evolved into educators across the country becoming friends of his. Plant seeds for the long haul.

Key quotes: Everyone has a story to tell. Be inspired by listening to someone else’s but ask yourself what story you have w/in you. Get that story out there!

Where can ppl find you? Children’s Author, Songwriter, Educator, Oklahoma City (booksbydennis.com)  @storiesbydennis Twitter @booksbydennis IG FB: DennisMatthew   

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/60OTlsBgRhE

Episode #199: Kristen Eccleston


My next guest is Dr. Kristen C. Eccleston (aka The NeuroDiverse Teacher). Her areas of passion, expertise and research focus on examining adolescent mental health impairments in the education environment, and she is well versed in the needs of the neurodiverse brain. Additionally, her professional experiences include in-class teaching at the secondary levels and designing and directing a specialized program for secondary students with mental health needs (check out her YouTube video).

She has a Doctor of Education in Mind, Brain, & Teaching from Johns Hopkins University, a Master of Science in Special Education from Johns Hopkins University, and a Certificate in Educational Leadership and Administration from Hood College. Currently, she’s an Adjunct Professor at Towson University in their Secondary and Special Education Graduate Programs and work as an Education Consultant to families and education technology companies. She’s a National Board-Certified Teacher, Exceptional Needs Specialist, and holds an Advanced Professional Educator Certificate.

Trench story: was a sped teacher for almost 20 yrs. Last post was as a Secondary Program Specialist. Then a director for sped, designed for students with mental health (MH) needs. She now works as an educational advocate. Had 58 students when it should have only been a 48 student program. St’s would have otherwise been put in private placements. Needed academic supports. St’s who were showing schizophrenia, self-harming signs. Had 1 social worker for entire program. Was putting out fires. More of a central office issue. Principal was great. Felt very alone, in trenches. Had worked with bringing in truant students to school. It was a $ saver for the county.  

Talk about her edu consulting through Weinfeld Education Group. Director of SEL servies there. She is a partner, directs SEL services there. Trench story was awakening. It needed to be bigger than her small piece of the world. Predominantly works with students who have MH issues. White House had a press release about youth mental health crisis. School doesn’t have to be favorite thing in the world. Schools don’t refer out to, mostly it’s families, child doesn’t get services in school. Does brain development, advocate, expert witness work. Helps corporations as well. 

Was a director of sped (for Montgomery County PS, outside D.C.) was a program specialist. She felt like you were constantly having to fight for procedures, processes, why we’re doing it this or that way. Prior to the pandemic there was a struggle but it’s now gotten worse. You felt like “ugly stepchild”. A principal early in her career said “you chose to be sped teacher, you should expect to be hit by students”. Was treated like a 2nd class citizen. 

She hosts The Neurodiverse Podcast-released every Friday: She has guests, mix of authors, influencers, or ppl who are neurodiverse themselves. Had Clarissa Burt- top model. Hamish Hallot, promoter of auditory processing disorder. It’s about youth to connect with other educators who are neurodiverse. See how ppl have managed to be successful. “I don’t want to be different or seen as different”. She wants to share “stand out” message. 

Doctoral research in mental health setting- why some students are not identified. Pieces that came out- t’s not having a good understanding around what MH is and what it looks like. Most teachers want to learn more, understand. They need to be provided the time to see what it can look like. Legislators aren’t spending time with students. White House plan wasn’t about helping teachers. 

Edu advocacy aspect-areas she’d like to share- links around MH & neurodiversity. It comes down to a lot of neurodiverse st’s don’t fit into one size fits all education. A lot of those kids tend to do very well. Have parents validate their strengths. Once they get to post-secondary they will find their own. A lot of neurodiverse people mask their differences. F.ex. Simone Biles. 

Out of everything…you are amazing individuals. Everyone else has things they’re dealing with. We’re all in this together. We need to come up with solutions to make this a better world.

Find Kristen online? www.theneurodiverseteacher.com  IG/TikTok @theneurodiverseteacher  

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/eSoeeTh2qh8

Episode #200: Road to Awesome Authors


Join me for a live (recording) of the 200th episode of Out of the Trenches with Darrin Peppard, Dan Wolfe, Ashley Hubner & Melissa Wright. My guests were all previous guests on Out of the Trenches and are all Road to Awesome (RtA) authors.

Ashley Hubner: Ed Consultant who builds instructional effectiveness with districts. Author of Foundations of Instructional Coaching: Impact People, Improve Instruction, Increase Success, published September 2022.

Dr. Darrin Peppard: author of Road to Awesome, published in July 2020. Former principal & superintendent, now leadership speaker and consultant who coaches leaders in improving their school culture & climate as well as growing dynamic leaders.

Melissa Wright: HS Math and dance teacher in New Brunswick, Canada. Inducted into Jostens Renaissance Hall of Fame this past summer. Author of Inspired: Moments that Matter, published July 2022.

Dan Wolfe: an Assistant Principal at Sunray Elementary in Pasco County, FL. Author of Becoming the Change: 5 Essential Elements To Being Your Best Self”, published June 2022. His principles are to Serve, Lead, Inspire. For more information on Dan, his book, blog, podcast and other podcasts he has been on please go to www.becoming-the-change.com/8258-2/.

(Unable to attend due to illness) Debbie Tannenbaum: Elementary School Tech Specialist in Fairfax County, VA. Speaker, blogger and author of TRANSFORM-Tech Notes to Make Learning Sticky, published in May 2021.

Getting your first book published and how the process looked for you

DP: someone said, “just tell your story”. He’d met with a different publisher. Then made a connection with Code Beaker, May 2020- book was live 2 months later. Overnight to the next day, having a contract.

DW: started with his blog. Pandemic happened. What better time to go ahead & do it. The writing part flowed for him. RtA took a chance on him. He’d gotten 50 rejections. Threw pitch out to Darrin. He & Jess helped him promote. He’s been on 16 podcasts.

MW: process started over COVID. Took different turns. Didn’t submit a complete book. She had a pitch. Took 1 ½ year after contract was signed, until it was published.

AH: had fully written book. Left public ed, went from TX to FL. Had a lot of life change. There was no guidance for her to coach. She decided to dedicate it to instructional coaches who had the same role as her. Her advice was how to lead PD. Wrote every day over the period of a month. She met Jillian DuBois who suggested she reach out to Darrin. A lot of self-reflection. Toolkit for instructional coaches.

For those who have had their book published for over 6 months, what are your take-aways from the book launch, what would you have done differently to promote your book? What are you currently doing to promote your book?

DW: still promoting it. Learned thru Darrin that Canva is a great promo tool. Praise pieces. Ask anyone who’s bought it to promote it. Topic is always going to be relevant. He’s putting himself out there.

MW: had quotes out there before the book launched. Not everyone sees all your posts so you can reuse. Heard from those who had previewed book, non-educators have read it.

AH: was on several podcasts. Reached out to community in edupreneur space. FB groups in edupreenur space. Last night she launched Confessions of a Coach book study on FB. A few districts have bought got for their coaches.

DP: promoted during working as a superintendent. He got out & spoke @ conferences, first 1.5 yrs it was virtual. Authors miss that piece to turn your book into a workshop, keynote. You’re going to talk about that book for the next 2 yrs. Your msg becomes so sharp. BEEREDU was one of the first ones he was on. Convos about having your website- drive traffic to your website to collect email addresses. He & Mike Nagler will do a breakout session on “From Idea to Published” in March. You want to sell on your website. Not just family & friends. He’ll give away copies if someone wants to have him speak @ school.

Darrin, why did you get interested in starting the educational publishing company RtA? communication with other publishers. He thought he’d self-publish. When book was 4 months old. Code Breaker helped him get started. 18 mos ago. A point in his superintendcy he figured he’s want to do something different.

Talk about how you and your wife, Jessica, tag team to review, edit and publish books.  Ideas come to Darrin. People pitch books- what are your goals for the reader? What do you want ppl to get out of your book? When they get the contract, talk about how to fit it into their timeline. It’s no longer about him & Jessica. It’s about fitting into other RtA books. Queue is like drag race. Dive into document. Deep in editing- mostly Jessica. They’re in it every day. Cover, etc is mostly her.   

Where can people find each of you online?

DW: Book focuses on SEL-where you are today is different than 6 months. Cover has image of butterfly. We become the change in our own lives. Has written 800 blogs for Becoming the Change blog. Remember your why.

MW: journey as educator from 1st year teaching until now. Wants ppl to see themselves in the book. Positive or negative moments that can change their trajectory. Last chapter- find someone in their life that’s inspired them.

AH: Impact Ppl, improve instruction, impact cuss. Starts with building relationships. Knowing your teachers, help them improve instruction the CR. Happy teacher makes a happy Classroom. 

DP: Road to Awesome, Journey for Kids. So many incredible authors. Left superintendent to grow leaders, He’s been able to watch ppl grow as entrepreneurs. He’s proud to be the leader of RtA family. He learned so much about us. Roadtoawesome.net also listen to his Leaning into Leadership podcast.