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The Out of the Trenches Podcast

Episode 1: James Divine


James Divine is a middle school band + orchestra teacher in Colorado Springs, CO. He has 22 years’ experience teaching music. When he isn’t teaching, he is a professional speaker, has written 4 books, plays saxophone at local venues and is the host of the Music Educators Podcast. He also has many funny YouTube videos featuring Papa Jimmy and Jimmy D Lite. His motto in life is “your now doesn’t define your future“. I had the pleasure of working with James a few years ago, and observed how he would often bring stories from his past to relate to his students.

Key quotes from this episode: 

  • “I’m teaching life through music.”
  • “Music teaches kids perseverance to move through, you have to put in the time to do it”.
  • “Sometimes we have to take a detour but we have to keep moving forward”. 
  • “Learn to be yourself, if you’re a good teacher, you’ll always have a job”. 
  • “Always read and be inspired by other teachers.”

Find out more about James at and follow him on Twitter @jamesdivineco  His Youtube channel is at:

Episode 2: Anitra Gallegos

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Anitra Gallegos is the principal of Panorama Middle School in Colorado Springs, CO. She has 10 years’ leadership experience and 7 years’ experience as a classroom teacher. She has worked w/ non-profit organizations on race-conscious pedagogy and educational equity. She holds a MA from Capella University where she conducted research on assessment practices and data disaggregation. She has recently been recognized in her district for her work with ELLs (English language development ambassador award) and she set up a re-engagement center  for special populations at the high school level.

Key Episode Points:

1. Childhood and educational challenges

2. Realizing self and servant leadership

3. The 4 I s of my transformational leadership

4. Thinking outside the box: new ideas to tackle old problems

Key quotes from this episode: 

“I’m willing to work with you and get to a level of understanding”

“Belief we have in ourselves is what will get us through”

“The best thing you can do for your kids is giving them the exact thing they need”

” Decide on your moniker, strength. Don’t make the school fit YOUR style

One thing to remember: “You as an educator have the power the build or break the world for a person. Are you going to be the person who builds or breaks”.

Follow Anitra on LinkedIn at:

See the YouTube recording of the Zoom interview:

Episode 3: Mechele Newell

Dr. Mechele Newell is a 2nd/3rd grade teacher/Change Agent/Advocate for the under-represented/under-privileged youth and leader in her local ministry in the Bay Area. A former laboratory scientist, she supports youth and education in the local community by volunteering in local public and private schools. What caused her to get into K-12 was the time she was coaching girls’ basketball. Her interview talking points include: 

  • Mechele’s educational experiences 
  • Her military experience which led her to teaching adults 
  • Her experiences in ministry which led her to teaching and loving children 
  • Coaching high school basketball how it led her to teaching k12 
  • How teaching adult prepared her for teaching in k12 
  • Current role in education-teaching at a new local charter 2/3 combo 
  • Her plans from here- social justice / social change/ agency in the education of black and brown kids ….a need for teaching programs for educators who teach the underserved/ underprivileged more specifically, black and brown kids.

Key quotes:

“You learn kids”

”We are a community”

“There’s going to be something in their lives that will motivate or discourage them. You really want to be on the motivating end “

“Our words, they matter to them”

Follow Mechele on Twitter @mechelenewell

Episode 4: PJ Caposey

PJ Caposey is the Superintendent of Meridian  School District # 223 in Illinois.
PJ is the author of 7 books –  on time management, teacher evaluation, student success strategies and student voice.

Download the episode here:

Watch the episode on YouTube:

In this episode, PJ addresses the following topics & questions:

PJ’s story as to how he has gotten to where he is today
Particular instances he recalls as a teacher that has shaped him as a district leader

The one instance as a teacher where he felt buried in the trenches and how he picked himself up and keep moving forward
As a school leader what does he believe his biggest responsibility to your teachers is?
In his role as a principal, what did he find that worked to help keep teachers moving forward when they were previously stuck in the trenches?
One piece of advice PJ gives to a new administrator on how to work with teachers
Teacher stress and burnout seem to be at an all-time high if you consult social media, what strategies does he deploy as a school leader to combat that?

Key quotes:

“You’re not there to fix other people”

“Time is a finite resource; live a life of passion and purpose”

You can contact PJ: pcaposey(at) or follow him on social media @mcusdsup

Episode 5: Jen Molitor

Jen Molitor is the author of The Happy Teacher’s Handbook- From Overwhelmed to Inspired- Helping Teachers Embrace Resiliency

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Jen Molitor is a Speaker and Author of The Happy Teacher’s Handbook- From Overwhelmed to Inspired- Helping Teachers Embrace Resiliency. This upcoming school year, she is transitioning into her first principal role at a 4th/5th grade campus. Her most recent role was instructional coach in Clarksville, OH. As an educator for 19 years, Jen has enjoyed teaching in the classroom, as a gifted intervention specialist. The Happy Teacher’s Handbook, shares strategies for inspiring teachers to find a reason to stay and make their impact on the world, one class at a time.  Jen’s superpower is getting teachers to smile again. She brings a refreshing perspective that lifts you up when you want to walk out, reminding you of the real reason you became a teacher.  When Jen is not speaking, writing, or teaching, you can find her soaking up sun, hiking with her family, or caring for her many critters.

Her book outlines her journey out of the trenches and narrates her story. She started out as an excited teacher, but 6 years in, she became burnt out. When she gave birth to her first child, she took time off and was a nanny for a year. During that time, she got certified in nutritional therapy, worked 1/2 time with both. She had to choose whether to stay with nutrition or teaching. It came down to that teaching is in her DNA. She journaled and reflected. Once she returned 1/2 time to working in a school, Jen created an after-school gifted/talented club, and from there she became an instructional coach. Thereafter, she started her book.

Key Quotes:

“Teachers feel like victims, like things keep happening to them.”

“Being in the trenches doesn’t have to define you. You have the power to change the trajectory of your career. It may be going to another district.”

“The trench doesn’t have to hold you in. You can climb out.”

 You can access chapter 1 of Jen’s book for free @ and follow Jen on Twitter @TeacherRenegade.  Also, there is a Happy Teachers Handbook Facebook page.

Watch this episode @

Episode 6: Frankie Mendoza, M.A.

Frankie Mendoza is the Dean of Culture and Restorative Justice Coordinator at IDEA Public Schools in Austin, TX.

Listen to the episode here:

Frankie Mendoza is the Dean of Culture and Restorative Justice Coordinator at IDEA Public Schools in Austin, TX. (IDEA is a Charter school network out of Rio Grande Valley.) IDEA started as an after-school academy. His campus is in its 13th consecutive year of sending 100% of its seniors to college. IDEA has a “No Excuses” philosophy- students can succeed and achieve great things, no matter what neighborhood they’re from. He’s been in current school since 2016.

Tell me about how your experience in as a youngster in school led you into education and how that shapes your work with students? IDEA will take any kid (often who are 2-4 years behind in reading) and push them to the highest level. Frankie started in theater. He went to college to be actor. He found his niche of being teacher- in 2006 started as a teacher. Felt love for the struggles as he had a similar upbringing to many of kids at IDEA. When he was growing up, Daryl Fleming was his theater teacher. Didn’t look like him. Frankie was the only Latino. Frankie started showing up early to help build sets. He went on stage + acted and eventually got a scholarship.

When you were in the trenches as a youngster how did you crawl out? Frankie’s “Out of the Trenches”, story started as a youngster, was placed 3x’s within the school system. Couldn’t fail again. Was told by many high school counselors he wasn’t college material. Did go directly to college, dropped out 2-3 times, but surrounded himself by inspiring organizations. Went to Texas State, Joined Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Community service, gave back to youth. He started seeing that teaching was his “stage”. Taught at Gary Job Corps center, taught 16-24 young adults. 

When did you find your niche with Restorative justice? He got into it in 2015, he started in Austin Achieve Schools, really fell in love with he reflective part. Come as you are. Found niche that it’s a practice that will help him grow as a person. Students gets short end of the stick. When got hired in ‘16 at current school, he brought it in. It was tough getting it started because school was 100% academics and rigor. He still had to teach, was able to do circles after/before school, clubs. Was pushing for social-emotional roles for deans since ‘17. He loved training teachers in restorative circles.

You can contact Frankie at  or on LinkedIn & his YouTube channel @FrankieMA. Frankie is open to talking to schools, on how to implement RJ.

Watch the episode here: 

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