Episode 21 to 24

Episode #21: Sarah Johnson


Sarah Johnson is the author Lead with Faith and the Co-author of Balance Like a Pirate

Sarah Johnson is a former teacher and school principal, turned author, speaker, leadership coach, and podcaster. She is passionate about assisting others in seeking greater satisfaction in all areas of their full lives by helping them go beyond work-life balance as well as develop strong leadership foundations. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education, Master of Science in Educational Administration, and a Certificate for Women in Leadership from Cornell University. She hosts the weekly In AWE Podcast where she is proud to amplify women’s stories to empower a community.  Sarah is co-author of Balance Like a Pirate: Going Beyond Work-Life Balance to Ignite Passion and Thrive as an Educator and author of Lead with Faith: Building a Strong Foundation So You Can Rise Up, Slay Fear, and Serve Well. 

Sarah lives the balance message in her life by pursuing passions such as running, writing, focusing on family with her two daughters and teacher husband, while also honing her leadership skills through networking, teaching, and learning.

Tell me about a time when you were in the trenches and managed to crawl out? Sarah hopes her message will help with those who are leading through challenge. Many of us are in trenches we thought we wouldn’t be in. She was hired late in the hiring season as first principal job. Tried to finish up the last few weeks of her teaching assignment. Had young kids. Very committed. Took too much of her management tasks that led to burn out. Transitioned to a new district 3rd year, was a trench, didn’t matter what she did. All spaces of her life fell apart. Moments included cultural upheaval, near breakdown in her marriage. Living with a lack of intention. She believed circumstances like the drive could shift things. She thought “Everything could work out if in a different place”. We can choose what we can control. When she wasn’t satisfied with the context of her life, she realized she needed to get out of her house and start a running streak. As of the podcast recording, she had 2,2011 days so far on running streak.

How do you plan to serve leaders to lead with faith? She leapt out of her last principalship in January of her 4th year, had been practicing Miracle Morning. She became very spiritual. Received message in journaling to serve others through consulting. Was loving it. Then she wrote Lead with Faith. It shares foundations you need to lead in any space, not only in schools. F-free to be you, A-affirm your purpose I- intentionality, T-embracing transformation H- leading with heart. Emotional intelligence- the most important factors in any organization. Helping people understand who you are & what makes you you. We don’t dig into who we are enough. Enneagram- stereotypes of people. Embrace strengths that make people who they are. Look at how people you are leading. It has a faith. Manager vs. leader. You cannot lead others until you lead yourself. Otherwise, you’ll be led by the will of your org. If you’re not articulating your mission, vision, values, your org may not be aware of that. When they came out of alignment for her, she had to rise up out of her pit. She didn’t have an articulated mission.

What type of leadership coaching do you offer? She has done job-embedded coaching with 7 principals by being Jimmy Casas’ associate. This fall she is pivoting to a launch of a coaching program with balance piece & leadership framework foundation.

Key quotes: “This journey is complex, no matter what role you’re serving in”. “Drill down to your foundations and what makes you tick as a person”.

You can find Jessica on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIN, & Facebook @sarahsajohnson or visit her website: www.sarahsajohnson.com Watch this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/8WhAbJe8Cwo

Episode #22: Danna Thomas


 Danna Thomas is a former Baltimore City Public School teacher turned founder of a global initiative to support the mental health and wellness of educators.

Danna Thomas runs Happy Teacher Revolution, which is an organization that is an international movement on a mission to transform the lives of educators by empowering them to claim happiness as their own. Happy Teacher Revolution is on a mission to increase teacher happiness, retention, and professional sustainability by providing educators with the time and space to heal, deal, and be real about the social-emotional demands they face on the job. Danna served as the national spokeswoman for the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) Maryland and the “Music for Mental Health” campaign. She is the recipient of the 2019 Johns Hopkins Community Hero Award and the 2019 winner of the Johns Hopkins Social Innovation Lab. Danna’s favorite forms of self-care include playing backgammon, community hot yoga, and rocking out on the saxophone.

Tell me a story about when you were in the trenches? She was teaching 39 Kindergartners, 4th year in the classroom. There were roaches in the teacher’s lounge, and a toxic work environment, including sexual harassment. She created Happy Teacher Revolution that year. She looked to fellow teachers, found people who would give voice to the voiceless. It was a grassroots movement.

Her tips to provide to teachers during this “crazy time in education”: Most important message is we’re all able to have the power & action over our own choices. Policies are being mandated by people haven’t spent time in the classroom. Educators need to know their self esteem is important.

Talk about your work with training teachers, their mental health and the SEL environment. She is in edtech space, they are meetings, not therapy groups (not advice-giving space). They are experts in their own experiences. In self-care intro-course they go into research & data as to why self-care matters. It’s challenging. It’s saying “no”, uninstalling work email from cell. Disconnect from place of love. 

Talk about training, revolutionary certification training, PD that you provide. She is able to train folks to be successful in their communities. It is an act of revolution to take care of themselves. Her journey started before she taught, teachers when she was in high school, her teachers took an interest. Online training to become “Certified Revolutionaries” are global- Africa. If people are interested in diving into importance of self-care, they can take the training. John Hopkins provided the funding. Human-centered design- puts user/participant as expert in their own intervention. Based on needs of each community.

Tell me about a teacher you worked with. Benita from AL was asked to be TOY given by NEA. She felt like she was a hypocrite, teaching was affecting her health. She started holding wellness meeting for the community. People like her have though about their “why”. Teacher burnout is affecting student support. Benita taught her that burn out and stress has a ripple effect outwards, but so does happiness and joy. She had more time when she packed up her classroom. She prioritized her personal life. Biometric data, cortisol, saliva samples, stress is contagious. Even her doctor said there were medical benefits. Feel-good chemicals that go off when How does taking care of yourself tie into equity issue? Stressed out teachers are more likely to suspend males of color. For folks that may not be ready to lead a meeting, may be interested in a self-care intro course, deep dive into the work they’re doing. We’re perpetuating the school-to-prison pipeline. Going into new direction in terms of data collection. Danna has been in EdTech since 2017. They have been using the Maslock burn out inventory. When they first started evaluating the impact they were having, they wanted to be intentional about the quest. they were asking. This inventory was originally designed for health-care.  Overwhelming exhausting, ineffectiveness of job, dissatisfaction. Used up until COVID but then looked at other’s needs. They’ve adapted one for educators. She wants to reframe language in measuring well-being. Talk about it in terms of well-being, who is thriving at work? How are they experiencing a sense of thriving at work? Let’s replicate it to support other teachers with those strategies.

Out of everything we talked about, what’s one thing you want people to remember? If an educator feels unsupported, uncared for, devalued, they won’t bring best work to their job. We’re not only talking about t’s but all service providers in building. Oxygen mask on yourself first, connect to the breath. Pour into your own cup.

Find Danna online @HappyTeacherHTR and visit https://www.happyteacherrevolution.com/ to find out more! YouTube link for this episode: https://youtu.be/J9bmE_UDOsU

Episode #23: Rick Jetter


Rick Jetter has written 7 books for the educational community, numerous articles & has also contributed various chapters for other authors’ edited works.

Dr. Rick Jetter, Ph.D., (a.k.a. “Dr. J.”)  is the Assistant Head of Schools at the Western New York Maritime Charter School. Co-Founder of Pushing Boundaries Consulting. Rick is an educator, author, speaker, and national education consultant. He has worked in the field of education for over 20 years and has held the positions of: alternative education teacher, English teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent of schools before pursuing a career in consulting, speaking, writing and publishing. He is the author of several educational books, such as Escaping the School Leader’s Dunk Tank how to prevail when others want to see you drown.

Tell me about a time you were in the trenches and how you managed to crawl out. Out of hell?, Rick asked. He has a couple burn wounds dunk tank since 2016.Here’s what he went through: picture a high-functioning school district with great people. BoE revenge initiatives that start to trickle into the environment. He felt the only work he was doing was protecting school from animosity from board members. He drank heavily. Had vodka for breakfast. Was his coping mechanism for chaos and leading community out of this chaos. He sought refuge & rehab. They helped to train his mind that alcohol was like turpentine, came out of self-inflicted nightmare.  He looked and felt different. He wrote his own ticket to and from hell. Was hired by an edu resource company right away then went into publishing. He’s back as asst. Head of Schools in inner city of Buffalo. He needs kids just as much as they need him. Now he looks back on it. It’s brought him full-circle. For his Dunktank book, he and co-author Rebecca Coda interviewed tons of people who were willing to tell his story. They found 2 different trends taking place. People take a lot of pride in their workplace. Backstab and create adversity.  There’s a factor of jealousy to dunk + drown a colleague. They talk about emotional driving forces, emotional driving forces, what are people doing to dunk someone else. Dunktankers set out to create adverse environments. Someone is standing in their way to win. Dave Burgess said ch. 6 is one of the best chapters of the book. A lot of stuff hidden under rocks. When you start in a new position, you could update your resume. If the organization is going to ignore the elephant in the room you have to leave b/c you can’t necessarily change the situation. You’re finding victory.  As a consultant, he missed that feeling of the 1st day of school, he was saddened by it. Advice to people (working in an adverse environment) is to get back to true joy they remember and make that your true driving force. He smelt a loss. When he went back to building, he went back as a teacher. He wrote about it on his back. From there superintendent wanted him to be asst.head of schools. Thought it would be cool, he could help kids on a grand scale. Now he can do what he does best.

Writing with courage- the more he comes into himself- he’s gained wisdom. People hold back and don’t write about heavy-duty things. Many feel-good books that can be repetitive. His advice would be to write something that will “shake it up”. This will help people go beyond basic status-quo foundation of a topic, roll up sleeves. Write a blog, 1pg a day. By the end of the year you’ll have a lot. It’s therapeutic in its own right. “My Bad” podcast with John Harper also good to check out. Support- he had close friends, some people turned back on them. They didn’t want to be affiliated w/ him. Other people came out of the woodwork who stepped up to be by his side. 

Out of everything we talked about today on the podcast, what’s the one thing you’d like ppl to remember? 

We all have our own recoveries that we go through. Covid and race relations-there’s economic, schooling recoveries, hence “out of the trenches”. Rick and a team of Edu consultants wrote “Recovery Mode”, free e-book for everyone. “ Go to his website, You can find Rick on most social media channels by searching @RickJetter 

You can learn more about Rick and his work by visiting www.rickjetter.com

Watch this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/ssl_gFHxfPA

Episode #24: Yaritza Villalba *special teacher resource episode*


Yaritza is currently a lead teacher at an alternative high school in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NY
YV Educational Resources swag

Yaritza Villalba has ten years of experience in education. She started her career teaching Social Studies to high school students in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York.  Throughout the years she has developed numerous curriculum materials and conducted a variety of professional developments. She is currently a lead teacher of an alternative high school in Bedford Stuyvesant, teaching over -aged and under- credited students history through a critical lens. Her overall mission, in education, is to provide teachers and students with an array of strategies and materials to assist them in the educational process.

Tell me about when you were in the trenches: she’s still in the trenches. While speaking to colleagues, they say “we’re all a 1st year teacher now”. It’s time to adapt to changes. Her experience is such as an ELL student, similar to what teachers are dealing with now. She started elementary school in the ELL class. In HS, she was placed in native learners class. She was in a classroom with only Spanish speaking students. She was only one who lived in the U.S. for so long. Wanted to be challenged more. Family migrated, mom had 4 jobs. She made sure older sister made sure they did HW. Yaritza was dominant in English so was cracking jokes. After she graduated, she visited her mentor, she was doing her M.A. and was asked to come back, met the principal. Didn’t know it was a job interview. Did teach students who were under-credited, using skills that can work in remote learning now. This was 9+ years ago. Her experience going back to her HS was a little shocking that some kids were forever seniors.

What discussions are you having with students through critical lens with online teaching? She asks questions to them to tell her how they’re feeling. It only matters that they’re safe. Many students who are in shelters, been in jail, different from average HS student. She has realistic conversations about their next move. They are in the CRT model that follows its own curriculum. Designed interactive notebooks. She needs to meet students where they are. A lot more kids signed up for remote. Even before remote learning, she designed a flipped classroom. Her students have often worked during the day. Designed a 2nd classroom for kids, they knew what expectations were. She’s known for doing how-to-videos. 

How did you get your start w/ YV Educational Resources and when was it? It was founded 2-3 yrs ago. She never assumed would have non-profit. A programs she was using weren’t meeting the needs of her students. The recreated the rubrics. Vocab wasn’t meeting their needs- needed to be in other languages with a word bank. Resources are for multiple grade levels & resources. Strategies she show one can infuse in other subject areas.

The Teacher Success Summit is happening Oct. 19-23. Is this the first of its kind and how much planning went into putting this together? Chuck Poole is putting it on. Teachers will get a surprise bonus to attend her session. 100 educators with different presentations. You can sit through workshops and can get a membership to have access throughout the year. Access to strategies you can have at your fingertips. After 23rd, you will have to pay for access. 

How did your business model or clientele change due to the pandemic (i.e. were you serving a lot of educators/schools prior to the spring)? Didn’t do any virtual workshop first. Idea was to create workshops to present in local library in Brooklyn. She wanted people to understand there are a ton of local resources. Resources available on “every corner”. Kids may be more comfortable with learning so they will benefit from a writing workshop. Will still use Brooklyn Public libraries when everything is open. Did 2 parent virtual workshops. When pandemic hit, started Tech4all fundraiser will raise $ to get resources to students and training on tech. Will be held on Saturdays inside library. Even staff at library attended writing workshops, across the curriculum. Students can write in every subject area as long as we create engaging activities. Clientele are making “how to” videos. Will start up Oct. 1. Teacher Success Summit is focusing on using Flipgrid to increase parent engagement. It’s tied to SEL, she’s doing that w/ parents as well. Her company is all about forming relationships. Podcast blog, Youtube series with Flipgrid with race justice, equity. She’s getting a lot of people who are also part of the Microsoft community. She gave away YV Educational Resources swag and Flipgrid swag. Thought about how much studentss don’t have devices. At the beginning of remote learning, we assumed students knew how to upload documents. Came up with TechforAll initiative. Followed with 6 weeks of videos by tech pros on how to use surface. Flipgrid new series #askyaritiza, goes live on YouTube every Monday@ 6 EST. Every Friday the blog is posted on Twitter. You can also can go on Flipgrid to find it.

What kind of remote learning resources do you provide members? Do people have to be members to access your resources? When first designed, wasn’t a fee. There is a free google classroom. Site membership for folks who want to do one-on-one talks or who want her to host forum. One-on-one sessions will help her know who the students are the teacher is creating a lesson for. 


You were a peer collaborative teacher at the beginning of your career was it difficult for you to make connections with other teachers that way? She feels like when you’re innovative they expect you to create, create, etc. Collaboration was easy part. Knowing who to collaborate with, knowing who to collaborate with was the hardest. Teachers she worked with didn’t take her seriously. It wasn’t that she struggled making connections, it’s that some didn’t want to connect. She’s learning how to embrace everything. You know what you’re doing is awesome, don’t give up. When she created YV it was on premises of “how do I help teachers who WANT the educational resources?” She knew she didn’t want to get paid, wanted to help teachers out who were wanting to use things she’d created for kids who needed credits (overage students).  They worked for kids of color. The business model has always been to create educational resources for teachers. Everyone needs someone to create a blueprint. Clientele changed in a great way. First event, workshop for students. Planning to launch her company- she began YV as a plan for only 3 months. Had friend who was able to set up finance, budgeting, marketing. Hardest part was deciding what to release first. Was better to take things slow. She needed to restructure way she was thinking. Depends on who asks for assistance. You actually have to say “I need help”’. If someone would like to share their materials, take yourself outside the equation and look in and see what others would want to use. What works for you may not work for everyone else. Look at it and ask “would this work in math, science, etc.” Tie things in cross-curricularily. Look at structure of your resources. She wakes up in the middle of the night, then changes lines. She doesn’t want to see herself as being perfect. In her free google classroom she has 90 teachers there who give her feedback. It helps her make changes when needed. She is waiting for questions and constantly revising. It’s what we expect from our students. On student work, she doesn’t put comments, she puts questions to prompt their thinking. It allows them to go back. Learning more about the reflective process.   

Key quotes: ”As educators, we’re constantly learning”. “Don’t doubt yourself”. “You owe yourself an explanation”. “Be authentic with yourself”. 

Follow Yaritza on Twitter @inc_yv, #aksyaritza, Inspiring Educator on #Flipgrid.

https://blog.flipgrid.com/news/category/AskYaritza She can put episode info on her G-classroom, twitter, and membership page. youtu.be/sf2RTWCC_ZY

Watch this episode: https://youtu.be/L1fNB-ren7U

Click here to read about more great podcast episodes!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

& Receive a Free Chapter of My Book

You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

Dana Goodier will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.