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Episode #29: Brian Dalton

Dalton, as a teacher and endurance athlete, helps educators take care of themselves and endure this rewarding, yet exhausting career.

Brian Dalton has taught for 24+ years and raced in over 20 triathlons. He is the author of  Teach4Endurance: Surviving the Swim, Bike, and Run in Today’s Classroom and is the Teach4Endurace podcast host. Brian uses his endurance racing experiences, lessons learned while training, as well as his unique sense of humor to correlate endurance racing to the greatest endurance challenge of all: the academic school year!

“Strain, rigidity, and stress are surefire killers of any pursuit in which one hopes to flourish,” says Dalton. “Having success as an educator relies on having a strong game plan. It’s certainly not something you can go into and simply hope for the best. Unfortunately, too many teachers are thrown into the water without the proper support or a proper game plan. For many this can spell disaster.”

Tell me about a time you were in the trenches and managed to come out: He went back to when he was in 2nd-8th grade. He lost both parents at a young age. Mom had cancer from 2nd-8th grade. He still battles with worries to this day. Waiting for the shoe to drop. The emotional challenges he faced during his formative years made him the man he is today.

Tell me about your mental game that ties over from your racing to teaching. You’re thrown in the water, either gonna sink or swim, don’t have a life raft. He tried to work his plan, plan his work. If he gets tired, he has an escape route. As a teacher , he plans A,B,C scenario as it’s always good to have a backup route. Too many teachers leave college without info on what education really is. You’re really by yourself. New teachers can’t always navigate. Plan, plan and plan some more. 

What motivated you to start using your story as an endurance athlete to help teachers? You have to live it. To endure it, you have to have a game plan (in book prologue). It’s a solitary experience. You have to plan your work and work your plan. Not a lot after that life could throw his way that he couldn’t handle. How long were you working on your book before it got published? Book ideas came to him during swim training. Ideas started taking shape. Saw #’s of how many people were leaving teaching. No one is going into teaching. Who are these kids going to have? Book start to finish 1.5 yrs. Had idea, wrote it down. Got in luck. Mailed 3 publishers. 

Brian started racing Ironmans 8th years ago. First race was Alcatraz after local tris around the state. Didn’t do half Ironman. How do you fit in time to train during the school year? Every day isn’t guaranteed, he wasn’t just going to “pay his dues”. Go back to Roosevelt “comparison is the thief of joy”. Do what works for you. You don’t have to train like crazy. At Alcatraz, you have to be prepared for the current to move you longer than you need to go. Found awesome gentleman in San Francisco, Diego will take you out to the prison, you have to swim to his boat. He learned it’s really cold. He knew what it would look like going in because he trained at Alcatraz. He needs 60 hours in the pool. 130 hours/bike, 30-35 hours total running. He brings his kids to the pool, kids on bike ride. Longest training runs before Ironman is 11 miles. He focuses on the need to get endurance up on the bike. Is on autopilot once that point of race. Mental game, he saw what his mom endured when he was young. She fought longer than she should have. If you quit, life will leave footmarks up your back. He doesn’t give up. 

Brian also cohosts another podcast. Favorite swim was Alcatraz. Wants to do this again. In his book, there is a chapter where he wrote how many pros were in the race. Just took in the prison. Book has 30 chapters.

Tell a little bit about your second book  and when we can expect that. This book is helpful for teachers to “Shut up & listen”. He begins all his classes with a huddle. They talk about things many don’t talk about in the classroom. What they’re going through, fears, etc. Huddles have a theme. He would collect data on the huddle. We’re good at telling kids what to do but not good at listening to what they’re trying to tell us.  New book so far has 13 chapters. A lot of students are dealing with being in broken homes. It will tell you a lot when Johnny or Jill doesn’t care about learning 1 day. He wants to get back in his school and collect more data. These kids’ first “Kennedy moment” happened this year. You can try to plow your way through, keep things steady, bike uphill but gravity will win. Lesson plan isn’t the top priority. In racing, you need a good relationship with the water or you’re going down. Respect the environment you’re in. Will train heavy for 3+ months, if there is a race in July will really train in June. Keep moving forward one step at time. Swims for 3 miles (will prepare for the distance). Do you swim mostly in the pool or open water? Usually 2K-6K. You have to have an escape route, like rolling to your back & relaxing to rec center yourself. In book he puts he knows when someone’s panicking. You don’t turn your head to the air, you roll your body to the air. Races he’s hoping to participate in in the future are Alcatraz again, Boulder Ironman, Lake Placid- tough race. He’s love to say Kona- the pros say Lake Placid is toughest. Taught self to swim, but became a good swimmer. Hates the bike. Will get crushed on the bike. Never had a DNF.   

What do you say to teachers who feel like they can’t make it through the school year? Don’t have any preconceived notions. Let go of them. It’s going to be very different this year. Worrying doesn’t do you any good. It creates anxieties of something that may or may not happen. You loose out on beauty of present moment. Don’t look too far in the future, one class zoom meeting at a time. It’s psychologically impossible to do something you’re not motivated to do. Need to have hard discussion with selves if they really want to teach. Check out his podcast episode “No return to syndication”. If you don’t want to race, don’t race. You get 1 crack at this. Mile 13 of marathon. In your darkest hour, you find goals. It may look bleak, but if you fight thru you don’t know what that treasure is if you don’t fight through. Intrinsic motivation. He tells this to his students. If they don’t, life will walk right over you.

Key quotes: “Whatever it takes in your own situation to keep moving forward, you better do it”. “Keep moving, crawling, teaching forward. It’s your only option”. During a triathlon, the swim will get you in trouble. Dead float, swim far from the mix.

 Find Brian on IG, Twitter, @teach4endurance.  Make sure to check out his website and blog available at along with his podcast at This episode on YouTube:

Episode #30: Suzannah Calvery

Suzannah has worked in non-profit, corporate, K-12, and higher education. She currently works as an EdTech Specialist for a pre-school-12 independent school.

Suzannah Calvery, Ph.D., is an Educator-at-large, Education technology specialist, social justice pursuer, curious learner, #MIEExpert (Minecraft Education edition), teacher, professor, trainer, hiker, skier, parent, and #MSFTEduChat host who lives in Washington state (the Seattle area). Suzannah has followed a circuitous route to her current role in EdTech innovation. She has worked in non-profit, corporate, K-12, and higher education. She currently works as an EdTech Specialist for a pre-school – 12 independent school and as a member of the i2e Microsoft Global Training Partner Team. She delights in outdoor activity and engaging her body and mind in gratitude to center herself.

Living in the Seattle area, Suzannah says that being outdoors is like getting out of the trenches. In the summer her family went to outside the Cascade area, to a remote location, and she was able to go out & gives her space to reflect, so she’s connected in her heart to what’s going on. She needs to come up for a few moments to breathe and not think about all that’s going on. Being in the outdoors is very important to her, seeing wildflowers helps her have a better perspective on the world. It gives her energy.

How do you balance work and your outdoor lifestyle? She turns off work- she has a yard with native plants. She likes to maintain her garden. She and her husband take short walks early in the AM. Revitalizing to take herself through forest- i.e. the Japanese term “forest bathing”. Under trees makes a huge difference. Family tries to get out on 4-10 mile hikes in the weekend.

How has non-profit served you in your in your current role? Non-profit- she was the part of starting various, some have been academically education-oriented. 1)
University Tutors for Seattle schools- people who serve in Seattle’s highest need elementary school. Being involved in non-profit during her Ph.D. helped her branch out. Other types of non-profit: 6th day dance- work with city’s parks & rec to help adults with disabilities. Was a board member, saw types of things she care about. Another non-profit a friend started is 2) Joshua 1:9 Ministries. Baseball-centered in Dominican Republic. Serves small town, set up feeding program for all families involved, ensures students are still enrolled in school. Her son/husband also went down to visit & participate. She worked for denominational church in Chicago, saw how that has worked in.

Share some of your experience and the difference you notice between K-12 and higher ed? Suzannah taught in N.E. IL Univ. in Chicago, a fully commuter school, with diverse, non-traditional students. Was struck by passion of students to learn & desire to engage. Students were there because they chose to be at that university. Don’t necessarily get that a K-12 level. She also taught at Lake Washington Tech College, students had to take the class. Taught as Fullbright scholar in Germany at a “Berufschule” in 2005-6- students are tracked, placed in tracking system. ( like a tech college). Portion of students were entering trades at the university level. As K-12 educator, admin is far more engaged. In higher ed, they leave you to your own forces. We have so many more instructional coaches K-12. Another difference is strong focus on mental health K-12. Counselors are invested. There is no good system at the university level for referring student for counseling.

How has your faith served you in your work, and please explain how working in a faith-based school helps you when you’re talking with colleagues through your struggle? Suzannah has worked both in public ed and faith-based schools. Has the gamut of experience. Great friends in all places. When you have a common foundation not just based in your workplace, you can fall back on with colleagues, it makes a huge difference. Incredibly uplifting and powerful that she can be vulnerable. Not everyone will be a safe space for you. She can fall back on common commitment that goes a long way towards mutual understanding. Teachers can come to voluntary prayer. Way to support each other.

How does community support you in getting out of the trenches? Where is community so important for you? (she alludes to strong friendships in Okinawa community and dance, they have online classes.) Community support- up until last year, she got really invested in local dance community 7 yrs ago. Group of women, FB group. Most supportive group she’s ever been around. She doesn’t want to deal with difficulties that can emerge from large groups of women. There’s research about meditation, she saw how 1h45m class was like a sacred space. You couldn’t do anything else. You sunk into yourself- there were technical aspects to it. Interpret movement, you become much more self-focused than you usually are permitted to be in our culture. In Okinawa, longest lived relationships that are intentionally maintained. Many of her relationships as a parents are accidental other than intentional. More individual other than group-centered. Her church community has been one of those places, is still worshiping virtually.

Key quotes: intentional community, and make space for being outside. Not everyone has space to be outside. In Seattle they’re turning many empty spaces to turn those into trails. Watch this episode on YouTube:

Follow Suzannah on Twitter @Suzteaches

Links to the non-profits she mentions in the episode: 

1. Sixth Day Dance:

2. Joshua 1:Nine:

3. University Tutors:

Episode #31: Brad Hughes

Brad is a certified “Self-Reg School Champion” and has an ongoing commitment to reframing the joys and challenges of school life through a Self-Reg lens.

Brad is an elementary school Principal with 25 years’ experience in education. He is currently at Forest Hill Public School in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, designated a HERO Generation school in the Waterloo Region District School Board. Prior to becoming a school leader, Brad taught for 16 years in classrooms from Kindergarten to eighth grade, most recently teaching middle school Visual Arts, French and Special Education. Brad and his wife Jennifer are proud parents of a son and daughter both in university. Brad describes himself as an optimist and recovering perfectionist who is passionate about improving the lives of kids by loving and supporting the adults that serve them.

Tell me about a time you were in the trenches: Working shoulder to shoulder and being available to educators in the building, working moments to moment with kids, and experiencing their school experience is what Brad describes as “the trenches”. Trenches are as they get ready for school, they’re diversity, their language learning, economic needs, in his school setting, don’t need to climb out of the trenches, it serves as a community hub, he provides support to staff. Everyday he has trench stories he can share. He wants to share because he views it as a positive thing. This year, 70-80% of his kids came back face to face. They felt like soldiers, facing unknown adversaries. We were facing so much unknown and we were drawing on our basic training and empathetic skills before school started this year. We didn’t want the stakeholders to feel like we’re pushing them back over the trench. Start with love & understanding, position ourselves as listeners and learners. We had an opportunity to work as never before.

What are specific strategies you’re doing in working with the community through the COVID crisis and into the next school year? He provided clear communication, because without clear understanding they would fill in the gaps with their worst fears. Ontario did a full face-to-face return K-6. We place significant emphasis on relationships with students as our skills. We draw on the trust & positive experiences we have. Teachers were worried about managing the classroom with all safety expectations. People were in self-preservation mode. We need to realize the impact of rekindling the relationships. Collective breath will be slowly released (when schopol started). There was natural apprehension on the part of learning loss- we welcomed them back wherever they were. We have all experienced different layers of trauma (during the pandemic). We need to find our what our student’s needs are- start where they are. His job is to convey the info, hold space for people to have a response to the communication, you wait & hold space for people to respond. Need to be really cautious in responding to what-if’s. Show empathy. Reframe it, help and be positive but also real.

What is it about your colleagues that you will do to help them stay resilient? In Canada, urban areas are experiencing a lot of COVID transmission rates. To be positive, but real is key. Info is changing but is also incomplete. Don’t say “everything is rosy, everything is ok”. You have to acknowledge people’s apprehensions. Acknowledge importance of being vulnerable. Leadership isn’t about the stiff upper lip. It’s about leveraging the power of “I know”. You don’t necessarily have the answers here. Seek to understand and help them unpack the solutions. Leadership is modeling the desired behaviors. Be present, real and positive. He truly loves his staff & students. Resilience can be restored if we feel like people care. He finds service to others a real stress reducer. He thinks to himself, “Who’s load can I lighten right now?” Even a dumb dad joke to kid can help relieve stress. 

How are you helping people manage the info from their provincial Ministry of Education? In-person school attendance is optional, distance learning is provided. In Waterloo, community infection rate was (at the time of recording) very low. Can’t guarantee safety but can leverage public health information. He is empowering his teachers to help, is soothing teachers worries before they are able help (soothe) parents. We want to seek to enhance public confidence in what government has decided to do. Stay informed & help families come to terms with what we know today. We have tremendous opportunity to reframe information to community. Treat return to school as a process as opposed to something that etched in stone. Being real about challenges they’re experiencing. They started school 9-8 after 2-3 days PD. Psychological barrier is maintaining distances, the hospital for sick children in Toronto said distance should be only 1 meter. For students age 4+ masking is mandatory. We want to strive for 2 meters, but if we can’t maintain the space in the classroom of more than 1 meter it should be OK. There was a huge anticipatory stress before people were actually in the building. If we can anticipate collective “holding of breath”. We’re not going to enforce set of protocols in a punitive way. Lead with the heart, tell parent/student you’re delighted to see them. We want to know our learners so well that we’re able to engage them in academics. That way we get to academics after we build relationships.

Tell me about self-regulation as it applies to the school leadership setting. He went through training at the merit center in Ontario. Frame/reframe our own energies & stresses. We are devoting brain + body energy to deal with stresses. This approach shows (the power of) caring for one self. We are often attuned to our tone of voice, physical gestures. Calm can be shared physically. We will see parents, kids, colleagues returning highly stressed. We ask why we’re seeing what we’re seeing. As beginning educator, you had a lock-step way of approaching rules/consequences. It can be displayed in misbehavior. Instead of giving consequences, we have to expect their alarm systems will be heightened. Approach them with gentleness, grace and patience. Self & mutual care, colleagues & friends are essential. It’s human, as servant professionals, we’re looking to improve outcomes for kids. It’s human to loose your cool. You have to be able to forgive yourself and restore damaged relationships. You have to forgive yourself and be vulnerable. We’re often seen as experts in situations as educators, teachers or principals used to be on a pedestal. We need to circle back to being in the trenches shoulder to shoulder, to learn through practice.

1. Demonstrate care

2. Seek to understand

3. Focus on students as individuals.

Key takeaway is SELF regulation, you have to find your own regulation first. You have to find your own by finding your own calm first. Tone of voice, modulation. 

Key quotes: It goes back to the beginning of the podcast, this is an incredible in the trenches moment, he hopes folks take away we all have a responsibility to meet others where they are. Don’t loose hope. Reach out to others who can restore it. There will be setbacks. IF we maintain focus on restoring schools as places of safety we can release apprehensive breathe

Find Brad online on Twitter @Brad_Hughes 

Watch this episode on YouTube:

Episode #32: Don Goble

Don is an award-winning Multimedia Instructor, International speaker, and published author from St. Louis, Missouri.

 Don Goble is a Broadcast Technology Instructor and Adjunct College Professor. Don teaches grades nine through twelve at Ladue Horton Watkins High School in St. Louis and he works as an adjunct professor for Loyola University New Orleans. One of Don’s greatest professional achievements was being named the Broadcast Adviser of the Year in 2015 by the National Journalism Education Association.  Don instructs two levels of Broadcast Technology coursework, which allows students the opportunity to learn media literacy lessons through the creation of their own media projects. In 2019,  Don began as an adjunct professor at Loyola University New Orleans, teaching online courses for digital photography and videography. This year, he started his 16th year teaching at the High School level. He’s been in Education since 2001. 

Tell me about a time you were in the trenches and how you managed to crawl out: Has said he’s been in trenches quite a bit. His dad died when he was 25. Took 2 years to get out of sales (stainless steel). He didn’t want to let his dad down.  Economic downturn, took long, hard look and had reflective time before he changed to teaching in 2001. He was told then couldn’t get a teaching job. He had no certifications. The closest he could get was speech + theater. Was pushed to maybe get an English certification. When he was student teaching for speech & debate, the husband of the teacher passed away. Don took over and took the debate team down to the speech competition.  When he was hired, a teacher had built a TV studio in the 1960’s. In 2016, he lost the whole TV studio and how to teach out of closet right across the hall from woodshop. Now has 143 students in a new building. He took it up from 15 students his first year. Light at end of the tunnel was a fully functional tv studio. Now having to teach classes all online is hard, but easier for him than most. Was hired to teach speech + debate, but then they had him teach broadcast journalism. Over the past 14 years, he has created quite the video portfolio. It took 12 years to have all the cameras replaced. In the new school building, they needed to form a community. He also works for the district communications deptartment. His superintendent is big into messaging, so he went into the studio to record.  He has a class for students who create video games.

How has teaching in virtual environment been?  Keeping kids engaged, they can’t use equipment in studio but use Macbook Air and smartphone as editing tool. He runs the class like a production. They are not able to meet the standard of being in person, but do their best with the tools they have. He helps kids make digital portfolios. Uses a lot of adobe spark. Did a presentation to staff about how to incorporate video in digital world. First 9 weeks they were remote.

When the pandemic hit, Don was the go-to guy in the district. Teachers didn’t know how to use tech, so he worked all summer. Created a podcast to broadcast from the district main office. Did training with teachers on recording short videos for students & parents.

In 2006, he had kids post videos to YouTube when it first came out. SchoolTube, which offers services, gives students access to 200 million assets w/ high quality videos to English & social studies teachers so kids can create videos to do instead of assessment, or create self-reflection videos. Video allows you to hear from kids who in class are otherwise quiet.  Video is a great skill to have to be able to communicate with others. He wants to know what they’re learning and what they’re thinking about their learning. Loyola he does summer curriculum for multimedia. He finished his second summer with them this year.

What type of PD have you given in your district since the pandemic hit? Don did a presentation to his district on distance learning strategies like Wakelet to engage students. He’s very self-taught. received in 2011. He was able to obtain a lot of PD when he received the Apple Distinguished Educator award. He put together a presentation to engage students, building relationships w/ students. He held 2 virtual journalism camps. He has been involved with Scholastic Press nationally. Kids in the camp were able to film stories out in the community this summer. (Visit ). District asked him to offer PD over the summer. He had to do PK-5 and then secondary. At journalism workshop, which was tailored around media teachers but he knew it was way to engage MS + HS students. He had to pivot. Elementary not his specialty. Center conversation around importance of multimedia, video literacy, importance of that today. He knows Elementary teachers are more risk-takers with tech than many secondary teachers. He gave them a lot of strategies. Researched things, such as media literacy. Got a lot of fantastic feedback. Elementary teachers aren’t afraid to take risks. Secondary + higher ed teachers are more tentative. He wants teachers to give students voice that shows their knowledge. Teachers created projects for students to do. 

What’s one thing you’d especially like listeners to remember? Taken from research he did in 2012, brain research, we take in visuals 60K times faster than text. People are visually able to share their knowledge. Instructor can offer more visual/video instruction. Loloya students love his audio/video feedback because they can’t see him in virtual environment.

Find Don online at Twitter: @dgoble2001    

IG: @dgoble2001    



Watch this episode on YouTube:

Episode #33: Dr. Jeff Prickett

Jeff lives with his wife & 6 kids, 4 of whom are adopted, in Illinois.

Dr. Jeff Prickett currently serves as a High School Principal in McHenry, IL. Prior to assuming his current role, he served as middle school principal in both Crystal Lake, IL, and Round Lake, IL, for five years, as well as principal at the elementary level in Round Lake for eight years. Currently in his 23rd year in public education, he holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Judson University, a Master’s degree from Aurora University, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from National Louis University.

Tell about a time you were in the trenches and managed to crawl out: Going through his Doctorate. Most universities only give you a time frame to finish in. Only 3 out of 5people who started in his program finished. He needed 8 years because of many reasons. Was a foster family, adopted 4 siblings. Often had 6 month chunks of things that he didn’t touch, went thru at least 1 job change. Spend so much of your time, so much $ invested, you have to finish. Things led him to pick it back up. One example, background is pretty traditional in moving up to principalship, 17-18 yrs. Have worked all 3 levels. Now 4th year as HS principal. Not all admin work at all 3 levels. Has great examples as working in a highly toxic environment at ES level, w/ gang relations. Found 1 girl had been stealing food from cafeteria. 1st instance w& ES discipline. Didn’ have dean/AP. She would take food up the stairs to mom waiting on the stairs. First yr principal didn’t know how to solve it. Spent 8 yrs there focusing on culture. Needed to focus on how to turn things around @ the school. Needed to navigate thru healing of staff to help kids. Culture is what they needed to focus on, not test scores. 8 yrs later, they were the only elementary school in the district that had met AYP (adequate yearly progress). Everything fell into place because of the shift in culture.

You’re currently working on a book? Working title is “Becoming principal”, it’s an outcropping of the story he tells on the podcast. It shows how his journey to becoming a principal was. He needed to take time & be quiet to staff’s needs. Has reached out to kids who were at the elementary school where he started his principalship. Has snippets from the book on his blog: Notes from the Principal blog on

How did you get started with the Principal Leadership Lab podcast, fairly new, launched in June 2020, cohost is Adam DeWitt, principal in WI. Jeff has known him for 25 yrs. since their 2nd teaching job. Taught 5/6th grade together years ago. Thought about the book route, that didn’t go as planned, so started the podcast. Right now they publish episodes every Monday. They wanted to talk to leaders in education, focus on word “lab” about what we can work through. They always talked about doing something together. They can do the podcast together at a distance. Principal leadership lab came out of leadership conversations. They take it to next level of interviewing thought leaders in education. Always ask “what’s your leadership struggle” like a science lab, experiment with new ideas. Talk through problems to see how others got through their problem.

What is the biggest difference you have seen see having worked as a principal of middle schoolers, elementary and high schoolers. Elementary teachers weren’t afraid to tell him what they needed. Kids mirror their teachers. High school teachers won’t tell him much. Teachers’ attitude reflects the attitude of kids. Has had the honor of working in 6 different districts, seen wide differences between resources.

What led you to working at the high school level? Last time he’d been in a high school was when he barely graduated from one back in ’88. He saw it as intimidating starting out as a HS principal. He finds that it’s not “bigger kids, bigger problems”, kids are kids no matter where you go. They need the same things wherever you go. Wife said job was opening up, that was his next job. He never thought he’d be back, but handed his son his diploma a few years ago.

Key quotes: “It’s important that people keep an open mind.” Like him working at the HS level. It’s worth exploring. Teachers come to him because they’re exploring an admin job. He’s encouraging them. “Live with no regrets, just do it!” 

Follow Jeff on Twitter & IG @jdprickett FB: Jeffry Prickett Listen to The Principal Leadership Lab podcast: Visit his blog “Notes from the Principal” on blogspot. Watch this eposide on YouTube:

Episode #34: Brandon Beck

Brandon is a National Board Certified teacher and holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership.

Dr. Brandon Beck is the Author of “Unlocking Unlimited Potential: Understanding the Infinite Power within to Guide any student toward success.” It is published by CodeBreaker Inc. and just released. His primary purpose as an educator and teacher leader is a simple one: “To inspire people (adults and children) to have faith in themselves and believe in their inner genius.” Dr. Beck’s dissertation titled, “The Influence of Professional Development on Teachers of English Language Learners” dug deeply into understanding teacher self-efficacy. He has been an elementary teacher for 15 years and a dual language teacher (English Zone) for the past 10.  He is also an Adjunct professor at Manhattanville College, NY, an editor and reviewer for AASA Journal of Scholarship & Practice,  a regular presenter at state, regional, and national conferences, and is also an education. Dr. Beck is also a Mutt-i-grees teacher and National Trainer. Mutt-i-grees is a program designed by Yale University’s 21st Century in partnership with North Shore Animal League. The Mutt-i-grees curriculum is an innovative Pre-K – Grade 12 social emotional learning program that brings adopted shelter dogs into schools. Dr. Beck is also an entrepreneur and professional soccer coach. He is currently a nationally certified instructor for the United States Soccer Federation. In addition, he has coached teams that have won numerous state, regional, and national championships.

Brandon has been putting pieces of his book together since writing his dissertation in ‘17. The story behind the book is that it’s written through the lens of an educator. He is a big follower of Brené Brown, Tony Robbins. Inside of all of us is a power we need to be able to understand in order to unleash it on those we teach. Rediscovering who we are. There are chapters written around different stories. Brandon also a runs a small soccer business with 2000 families as members. Takes experience from coaching and connects it to teaching. Challenges where we as humans get down, how we view those are important for the next step. 

Tell me about a time when you were in the trenches and managed to crawl out:  Soccer coaching has led him to understand the power of values. In 2017, his team was on its way to the NY state tournament, went into overtime “golden goal”. Team made it sectional/county championships. Other team got a corner kick. Game over, kid heads ball 1-0.  Kids got back to work for upcoming season. In springtime he drove to off-season practice. A plane was seen in thee air with a sign. On the news, the plane flew over the school he worked at. An aggravated parent paid for this plane. The next day, the superintendent paid the same company to fly “let’s go Bears” sign. Something needed to change for him as an educator. He came up with the quote “Trust the process”. The plane flew over because the family didn’t understand the process. Fast-forward to the next season, that quote was the team’s credo. He was in the trenches in between seasons. What do we value to teach our players? Had a more amazing season- pushed values and integrity. It’s not about just you. In 2018, won a game against same team as year before. He made the credo clear to parents. It’s so much more than winning. State final- lost but came back with much more. Made history. Didn’t worry about “my time”. How can we do better? Goal keeper became the MVP. As they came home, town set up a police escort. Process needed to be trusted. Rose out of the trenches together. Made him realize how values were important in the classroom. Book is about unlocking unlimited potential in everyone we engage with. Understanding who we are, our purpose. Be able to identify opportunities within the school. We face challenges as educators, even parents. What makes you a better teacher? Is it your drive, passion, etc.

Being a monolingual bilingual teacher: At a conference, he didn’t consider himself a “bilingual” educator because he only speaks English, but he IS a bilingual educator. In his school, there is 57% Latino population. Duo-lingual program, they needed to find someone to be the “English-zone” teacher. He loves bringing different cultures into the classroom. After 6 years in that position, he was given opportunity to present at conferences. He made a documentary. Spoke to former students, community members. He uses strategies to help kids work on both languages simultaneously. He says it’s the belief on how we handle changes. How can we figure it out and learn to do it better. He has learned through the process to teach students to use what they have to better learn English. This realization came during his 1st year in doctoral program.

What made you change your dissertation topic? He changed his dissertation topic to focus on teacher prep and how teachers feel about their ability to teach ELLs. Wanted to see if there were other people out there who felt the way he did. How do you empower yourself to be the best teacher you can be? During National Board certification, he got insight on how they aligned with student inquiry. He rewrote a course through the university to help with bi-lingual certification.

Talk a little about your thoughts on the teacher evaluation system and how COVID may change it for the better? In NY State, they wanted to link student performance to teacher evaluation. Saw inequities between districts- highly vs. under-funded. Flexibility & creativity are words we live by now. Equity & access, kids who were super quiet in class, but great online. Read “Getting teacher evaluation right” by Linda Hammond. How we score teachers is often similar to how we score student achievement. There are so many variables. It’s not about fixing teacher evaluation, it’s about empowering teacher self-efficacy. How do we develop self-confidence. His platform is about developing people personally + professionally. Let’s remove the word “evaluation” and focus on creativity and innovation. Chapter in his book ‘when one door closes, a virtual one opens’ he invited people he met on Twitter to contribute to it. They wrote about what is their silver lining. Right now it’s easy to focus on what we can’t control. We have to trust the process, teachers will do their well-intentioned process. They will work hard to make this a unique learning opportunity.

Tell me about the comfort  dog you’re bringing with you to school this year? Is it your own dog, and what kind of training did it go through? The Mutt-i-grays story started with a Time for Kids article. Dogs in the classroom followed the Yale University curriculum. Brandon got home and read the article to his daughters. They wanted a dog. Family became puppy socializers for the “Guiding Eyes” organization. They brought home different labs for 4 days each. His students kept asking about getting comfort dog. He reached out to Jane who runs Mutt-i-gress. Pet savers foundation linked up with them. A dog was available (a poodle) shortly. Did research with students, wrote letters to principal & superintendent with kids. His daughters fell in love with “Peaches”. Personally invested in training for her. Curriculum is aligned with social-emotional learning. Wrote a grant and got it funded. Impacts on students are endless. A story he can share- there was a student with no affect, teachers didn’t know what was happening. “Peaches” sat down next to him. Amazing to see how she can pick up on kid’s needs. She works with 100 students every day. Comes in twice/week. Principal gives Brandon a list of kids to have “Peaches” work with. She comes 1 hour early to a mentoring program. Students teach “Peaches” tricks. She works with the pull-out reading instructor also. They read her body language. Teachers want her in the classroom. The dog has to have a schedule, she can only work 2 hours at a time.

Key quotes: “As we embark upon quest of educators, we need to remember our WHY/purpose”. It should be visible in your classroom, by your door. Read it + close eyes, understand it. You’ll be able to make any game-time decision that will let you unlock. What’s wrong with being vulnerable? 

There are more interviews with other Code breaker authors coming up soon! Follow Brandon on Twitter and see posts of Peaches every day she’s in school  @BrandonBeckEDU  IG: @BrandonBeckEDU FB: Brandon Beck Visit his website:

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