Episode 88 to 94


Episode #88: Anna Voth


Episode #88: Anna Voth (podbean.com)

Anna currently serves as Gifted and Talented-Curriculum and Instruction Specialist in Jeffco Schools, CO.

Anna Voth is an experienced Curriculum and Instruction Specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry. She is skilled in Gifted Education, Classroom Management, Lesson Planning, Instructional Design, Professional Development facilitator, Colorado Department of Education Trainer of Trainers, and Differentiated Instruction. She is a professional with a Master’s degree focused in Educational Leadership and Administration from American College of Education. She currently serves as Gifted and Talented-Curriculum and Instruction Specialist, Student Success Department- Jefferson County Public Schools, CO. Her position is district- based and she supports 14 elementary schools in the district. She works closely with parents, admin, and the community.

Trench story: It started over 20 yrs ago. Was married 14 years, it wasn’t not great. Crawled out because her sister shook her and Anna had a “come to Jesus” moment. Violent ex, real turning point in her life. Put self through grad school at the same time as custody battle. She thought she was doing the right thing, but she was staying in the marriage for the wrong reasons. Opened a new chapter of her life, the world became her oyster. Became a better person, personally & professionally. Taught in the classroom grades K-8 then became an instructional coach (she highlights what an instr. coach is) for 5 years. Prior to the divorce, was classroom teacher. Becoming an instructional coach allowed her to advance in her career, made more $. She also worked with Colorado Department of Ed- PD training for differentiated curriculum resources. Switch from teaching younger students to adults wasn’t that big a deal. In the summers she is also admin for the district’s GT enrichment school (her role is to hire teachers, advertise to parents). They offer classes that aren’t offered in the regular school year like robotics, textile, fashion.  

Tell me about SPARKS Academy in Jeffco, where you have been summer principal for about 5 years. Did F2F last summer. They were guinea pigs in making it safe, getting staff to teach in-person. Teachers are really passionate about the subject niche they teach. They did it last Aug- it was awesome. Usually 1-8 grades participate in the program. It varies between 300-500 students. Held at Wheatridge High School. An example of a class- lego building- had to make sure everyone had own labelled supplies in a bag during the pandemic. STEM-driven activities. Cabinet members in district wanted them to do it F2F. It turned out amazing/wonderful. Susan Leach, student success director in the district said it needed to happen or we wouldn’t get back to where they were before (the pandemic). Feedback from students/parents was extremely positive. Everyone was excited to be in person. Last summer enrollment was fewer than usual 500. 200 last year. They ran both morning/afternoon sessions.

What is something that will look different this summer at SPARKS? They have been planning since last August. Decided to keep it how last summer was, will have 15 instead of 10 students per class. More teachers want to teach this summer. Have more classes, are able to open up to more students. will keep with 2 daily sessions.

What do you see as major shifts happening at K-8 level in the 21/22 school year, in terms in curriculum, standards?   Huge learning curve was going from F2F to remote. Remote kids are attached to the school still. With adults being vaccinated, and kids getting vaccinated in fall, for the upcoming year, Jeffco is saying they will make a remote-only academy for those who wish to attend (a separate school, they will weigh participant #’s). As more people are vaccinated, the lunch room, etc, will look more “like normal”. A few positives that have come out of the past year is that remote learning & PD is possible asynchronously. Remote meetings, asynchronous class for educators that she designed. Easier for educators to engage in after school. People can still engage & learn when they want to, it’s not tied to a specific time of day. People are thus becoming more engaged. They will engage in the content when they’re ready to. She & her teammate run a Workshop for parents after 2nd graders get results of CoGat (Colorado Gifted/Talented aptitude) test. Did it remotely this year, attendance was 3x’s usual attendance. People were also able to engage in the recorded session. Thinks some of the remote options will stay in place. That was her biggest a-ha walking away from this year. She reflects on how resilient educators in Jeffco are in being the best they could be in remote instruction. Huge learning curve. Huge growth opportunity to realize their potential. Our world is you have to engage in tech or you’re stuck in the 80’s. We shouldn’t brush these positive things under the carpet. Huge growth mindset. Teachers have realized they can have success in teaching online. 

 In terms of curriculum- they are looking at adopting a new literacy program. This will align with Jeffco’s curriculum- bridge to curriculum. They have already presented to the school board for levels K-5. District didn’t really have a literacy program before. Data showed that the literacy program needed work. Needed to adopt something with all the standards, Spanish, G/T and digital component. Have a lot of presentations they watched, had schools vet different resources, got teachers feedback on resources. Will have a consistent curriculum across the board, especially for Title 1 schools. Helped easier with kids who move from school to school within the district. It will help increase test scores. It teachers engagement, PD piece across district. Will be nice to go in & see everyone’s being consistent in all schools. You can be creative & bring your passion even with a scripted resource, need to collaborate with others.   

Key quotes: What’s guided her in education, what she keeps in her mind is building relationships. With adults, children, colleagues. Think of it as house being built. That way everyone will be motivated to create a positive work space. Strong, trusting relationships with people in the building. It wasn’t until her 3rd year teaching she found that out, she then based a lot of her teaching on building relationships with students. They needed security & trust from her. She embraces this philosophy working with adults. Her favorite quote from Maya Angelou “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel” (she has it in her email signature as well).

Find Anna online at the Jeffco G/T page, and on Instagram, FB, Linked @AnnaVoth  View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/XIZ9N85hKeY


Episode #89: Debbie Silver


Episode #89: Debbie Silver (podbean.com)

Debbie is one of the most sought after presenters for professional development in education.

Dr. Debbie Silver is a brilliantly funny, beautifully insightful, and boldly authentic speaker, author, and educator based in Melissa, TX (suburb of Dallas). She has dedicated her life to understanding learning and growth behavior and has become a world-renowned and empowering speaker.

Through her research, her outreach, and her humor, Debbie seeks to help teachers find the joy in the daily job of teaching so that children can embrace the satisfaction and pride of knowledge, growth, and self-worth. Debbie co-wrote the 2014 bestseller, Deliberate Optimism: Reclaiming the Joy in Education, which offers research-based strategies, practical examples, and thought-provoking scenarios to help recharge educators and schools. With a healthy dose of humor to make it fun, Deliberate Optimism demonstrates the difference a change in attitude can make.

In her most recent best-selling book, “Fall down 7 times”, get up 8, Teaching Kids to Thrive: Essential Skills for Success“, In this book Dr. Silver and co-author Dedra Stafford illustrate how SEL (social and emotional learning) instruction can be woven into all subject areas at levels preK-12. This book describes what SEL-friendly classrooms look like and provides a wealth of tools and strategies for those who want to teach life skills beyond the standards.

Trench story: How she got into teaching. She had a whole other career path in mind. Had only 2 years of college education. Didn’t see herself as being a teacher. Lived in Logansport, LA. This is a step back in time (early 1970’s), schools there were still segregated. There was a lot of racial tension. She started working at a hardware store, superintendent walked in and offered her a teacher job, they were desperate. Federal judge wanted her to be Caucasian teacher in integrated schools. She said “I don’t like school”. It was for a 4th grade position. She had no idea how to deal with 4th graders. Signed paper work in June, asked superintendent how to go about teaching. He said “get there 7:45 Aug 24”. There were no teachers there in the summer. People were friendly to her, but thought she was an idiot. She ended up getting 1st graders instead of 4th. Parents had no transportation, kids came to school with birth certificate/shot record. She had to do registration. She didn’t know what do to with “father unknown”. Started crying. 1st graders stopped crying. She said she’d resign. Kids wanted her to stay with them. They got “you love us”. She was just trying to make her way and learn to teach. Many kids hadn’t gone to school before. Mentor said “give yourself some time”. Kids will learn by after Christmas. Light went on. 4-5 kids couldn’t read at the end of the year. Principal said to pick 3. She looped back to teaching several grades. When school was integrated, she was made a MS teacher. They got her humor. Found where she fit. The light came on. People ask, how did you make it as a Caucasian in an 100% African-American school, she says it’s because she asked questions about things that were done differently. She loved the kids. Started teaching science. Very hands-on. Started figuring out how to differentiate with kids without someone telling her how to do it. Watched the kids, found out what worked. In her book, she talked about “grow where you’re planted”, learned lessons from being in a small town, despite being from the city. This was also a time, early 70’s with individualized instruction- that every kids deserved a reasonable chance at success. Learned theory after she taught when she did her M.A. She is a huge believer in finding her own voice, she was a huge extrovert. Wrote letters to all 200 students at MS. Was able to be herself-comedian & writer as a teacher. It’s important to get mentors out there that believe in kids. It goes back to the connection you make. 

We discuss the recent revision of her book,Fall down 7 times”, get up 8: it’s about resiliency. She would go into the classroom and do guest presentations. The pull of digital media on our kids shows us kids aren’t great a being self-motivated learners. Kids were displaying a lot of entitlement. Felt like it needed to be addressed. Added QR codes with videos of authors speaking, explaining, thought questions for every chapter and thought. Revision was out in May. The book is both for parents, admin & teachers. It gives ideas of how to word things better. Also speaks about how to work with G/T learners. Why is this needed now? The book came from some of the struggles to the writing of the book. It was a reaction to the pandemic. Looped back into who thrived, who didn’t thrive. We should see what is it that’s engaging child that we can learn from. Helping kids do the hard work to accomplish tasks. Brené Brown has taught her that sympathy will separate you from others, empathy will help you understand their story- she would then set goals w/ kids. She is still learning proper feedback. Take kids wherever they are, not where we wish they’d be. Raise the bar beyond their reach for every since kid. Fall forward, not fail. Always reiterate there’s a lesson in it. Prepare kids ahead of time with role plays. Great for parents, teachers to brainstorm how to handle different situations. Build up toolkit. Don’t operate from a deficit mindset- i.e. learning loss. She’s also talked about people with different learning styles and what they need for virtual learning. 

What kind of work are you currently doing with schools? She has been working with a school in MT, a book study on delivered optimism. Mainly PD done virtually during pandemic. Was on board to be at some well-known but those are put on hold. Is working with a European group now on teaching kids to thrive. Did a couple free webinars on practicing safe stress. Has talked to staff on how not to beat themselves up. She gives it to them from teacher & mother perspective. She has told principals she’ll come for PD in person in August. They’ll really need her in January. In Deliberate Optimism presentation, she says you need to convey optimism to kids. It’s how you look at the world.

Key quote: Her go-to phrase “Every student deserves a reasonable chance at success.” People disagree on definitions, but you have to help kids go the next level, wherever this may be.

Find Debbie online on FB, LinkedIn, Twitter @Drdebbiesilver

Visit her website: www.debbiesilver.com

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/gOmrFzwnsm0


Episode #90: Todd Nesloney


Episode #90: Todd Nesloney (podbean.com)

Todd was a classroom teacher for 7 years before taking the leap straight from classroom teacher to campus principal in Navasota, Texas.

Todd Nesloney is the Director of Culture and Strategic Leadership for the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA). He was previously a Principal/Lead Learner at a PreK-5 school in Texas. He is an award winning author for his books Kids Deserve It!, Stories From Webb, Sparks in the Dark, and his newest book When Kids Lead. He has also published a children’s book, Spruce & Lucy. Todd has been recognized by John C. Maxwell as a Top 10 Finalist for the 2018 Transformational Leadership Award, by the White House as a Connected Educator “Champion of Change”, the National School Board Association as one of the “20 to Watch” in Education, the Center for Digital Education as one of their “Top 40 Innovators in Education”, the BAMMYs as the “National Elementary Principal of the Year” and the “National Elementary Teacher of the Year”, and the Texas Computer Education Association as their “Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year”. Todd took over a struggling campus, brought in a brand new staff, and used his creative ideas to transform a campus. (Here is a link to Todd’s 2017 “Kids Deserve It!” 2017 Ted Talk). 

Trenches story: 1000 times we’ve been in the trenches. A topic that’s being talked about a lot recently is mental health. It’s ok to take care of you. He’s consistently reminded to take care of self- over last year or so. Last year, he started working out consistently. Is transparent about being on anxiety meds. Doesn’t feel like he is out of the trench. We can all take time for ourselves. Peloton gives point for doing meditation. Especially for sleep meditations. He can play the sleep meditation so much it calms him down and knocks him out. We were so long told that self care is getting a massage but it’s so much more. There are so many free resources out there for educators. 

Tell me about your course content, now available: He provides info about his courses that recently came out this summer. They’re about how to instill student leadership and culture/student leadership. Participants can get credits for completion.

In his previous work, he worked as a principal working on doing a culture shift with student leaders at the elementary school level. His course content is about improving school/classroom culture. There were elements that allowed him to hone in on strengths. He’s constantly getting questions about how to improve school culture. If people don’t want to be there (at the school), they’re not going to perform their best. He needed help with the little pieces. A friend of his did the behind-the-scenes help making the courses. There are 30-50 videos with input from people from all over the US. Classroom teachers also share tips. Admin share tips. He amplifies the voices of others. Some things in the course content do cost $. Covers no matter where you are on the spectrum. When you pa, you get lifetime access. Get credit- continuing hours. There are printables, pdfs, workbooks. He was thinking about every piece for every type of learner. He talks to participants directly on some videos. Some districts don’t have $ to bring people in. They can buy this course instead. 

Tell me about getting a principal job offer through a Twitter direct message, how were you prepared to make the leap to principal from ES teacher? He taught 4-5th grades. Shared journey about what he was doing in the classroom on social media. More people were seeing that. He had his M.A. He didn’t necessarily want to use it. Got principal certification. Other school was 30 miles up road. They reached out a few times. Todd said he was happy where he was. He was told he could hire his whole staff. Then he did the interview. Spent 5 years there. Grew him and it allowed him to try new things. He didn’t know what it was like until he got in there. Wishes he would have had an in-person mentor but is connected to many other admin’s through social media. They talk every day via Voxer. Good having them cause they were outside the district. Social media is a big contributor to his success. Opportunity to connect with others as deeply as possible. He had a post that went viral. You need to surround himself with people that will be honest. Don’t just have people who will lift you up. They have to be honest- especially if it’s a bad idea. Then you’ll be willing to accept their advice.  

Talk about how it led you to write “When Kids Lead”: It came out in middle of pandemic (June 2020). Has done really well in spite of the pandemic. Wrote it with Adam DoVico. Does “Get your Lead on” conference. Has been working with leaders in inspiring them to be their best selves. No one talks about hos to build leadership in our kids. Where’s that in our kids. He found out they were already doing a lot of the that stuff. Doesn’t matter your role, you play a part in the kids’ lives.

Talk to me about leadership opportunities for kids at the elementary-school level you helped oversee: Student-led conferences. Social media interns, the kids posted, got their perspective on it. Classroom greeter. One students’ responsibility. School ambassadors, they did new families tours. They get the public speaking experience. The book is not just tailored towards extroverts. Todd is an introvert. It was important to discuss how to include the kids who don’t feel comfortable. Jobs like a classroom greeter- then the instruction never stops.  

Highlight conferences you’re speaking at online & in-person. He consults with schools/districts worldwide. When pandemic started, his presentations stopped. He did some in-person presentations early this summer. Sometimes has an early call with school in India. Has learned with working with schools overseas, they’re not so different but they are. The other areas of the world are dealing with barriers we aren’t dealing with in the U.S. Giving him a much deeper perspective. It’s how we can help others with what we’ve been giving. Some teachers in India have to drive truck out to kids to use wifi for 1 hour S. Africa- how do we work with in-person learning. A lot of cultural intricacies that play into how Americans are looked at.  

Go to ToddNesloney.com for info on course & to enroll.

Key quote: anytime he’s given a platform, he wants people to know they’re meant to be there for a reason. His biggest goal in speaking is to make sure they don’t leave the space without letting them know how “you deserve a seat at the table regardless of what you see otherwise. You were put here for a reason- you bring something nobody else does, our world and our field of education is better if you use the brilliance that you’ve been given“.

Find Todd online by visiting his website at  ToddNesloney.com Follow him on most socials, on everything except tictoc  @Techninjatodd View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/e3wkMz1f2sM


Episode #91: Debbie Tannenbaum


Episode #91: Debbie Tannenbaum (podbean.com)

Debbie supports both staff and students to integrate technology tools into instruction through both coteaching sessions and weekly technology classes.

Debbie Tannenbaum is a School Based Technology Specialist in Fairfax County, Virginia. She has been in this position for three years and twenty-one years in education. She loves learning and has a growth mindset.
She loves helping students and teachers use technology as a tool for creation to activate and amplify student learning. Sometimes, that means using @edPuzzle or @Flipgrid to achieve that purpose.  Her first book, “Transform: Techy Notes to Make Learning Sticky” was released in May 2021 by Road to Awesome LLC.

Debbie emphasizes working collaboratively with other educators to use technology tools that amplify student learning and empower student voice. She also blogs and shares her thoughts and reflections regularly on her website: https://www.tannenbaumtech.com.

Out of the trenches story: Looking at her teaching career, there are parts when was and wasn’t a connected educator. When she first joined Twitter, she felt like she was in the trenches. Couldn’t find her niche. Such a much better educator. She divides it into Before Twitter/After Twitter. Had a principal who was very into Twitter. She made a board at the front of school where staff’s Twitter handles were. Debbie discovered podcasts then. Found opportunities she didn’t know existed. When got hacked, had to start all over. Is following educational thought leaders now. 

Highlight your work with blogging, twitter, Teach Better Team. She started blogging in Feb. ‘19 on her own. Was part of 2 different book chats. Everyone shared a website, she didn’t have one. Wanted to share things that were going on. Wanted people to know it’s ok to learn through taking risks. Has done a few for Teach Better Team and a bunch for other places. Has posted every 3 days on her website. Resources on the website, she’s added to it continuously. Is looking to do consulting in the future. Is experimenting with different things. Has been blogging every 3 days recently.

In terms of becoming an ambassador and guest blogger for Teach Better Team. Debbie was listening to a podcast and there was a call for bloggers. Decided to get more involved. During 12 hour live last summer, they announced the ambassador program. Didn’t expect to be picked. Learned about the admin mastermind at the 2nd TBT live. Was a phenomenal opportunity. 

In terms of PD Debbie is facilitating, she has been giving breakout sessions at virtual conferences in the past few months where she has shared about book, thinking routines, and empowering student voice. 

Talk about your book and your journey to getting it published: started working on it last Jan ‘20, took about 1 year. Didn’t do a lot on it during spring ’20. Was overwhelmed as a tech coach during COVID. Connected with Darrin Peppard & Brandon Beck Xmas eve ‘20, won Brandon’s book at TB Live event. Darrin said 12-24 he was looking for stories to share/publish. She reached out to Darrin, had a story to tell he’d love to help with. His enthusiasm was off the charts that she was able to finish her book quickly. He got a copy of her manuscript. She wrote about her journey about Sent to other publishers. He’s an affiliate of Code Breaker #roadtoawesome. 

What can one expect to read about in the book? Her story, ways of using tech to nurture agency, building PLN, teachers offering voice & choice. Lessons learned through opportunities during COVID. Practical tips. The books is organized into 3 parts. Using tech in a way that amplifies learning. Giving students agency. Good for people who want to try tech but don’t know where to start.

Key quotes: She wants to talk about creation vs consumption. Take risks and see where it leads. She realized it’s scary to take them. She had a story people needed to hear, still persevered. Put out website. Learned a lot from being vulnerable. Reflection with students and coach.

Remember, you don’t need to do this alone. You don’t need to teach behind closed doors. There are many educator Facebook groups, IG can work for educators. Clubhouse app. Pick one and connect with other educators. You’ll be amazed how much you’ll learn. 

Find Debbie online: @tannenbaumtech Buy her book on Amazon. View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/qg9QPMXslOc 


Episode #92: Alex Valencic


Episode #92: Alex T. Valencic (podbean.com)

Alex is a professional educator, a former small business owner, avid reader and movies lover. He is also passionate about music and all fine arts. He absolutely loves teaching and seeing the light go on as an individual suddenly understands a new concept. He is also an avid volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America, Operation Snowball, Inc., and the Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute. After three years of substitute teaching and seven years of teaching fourth grade full-time, his current role is that of Curriculum Coordinator for 21st Century Learning with Freeport School District #145 in northwestern Illinois. He works with teachers on project-based learning, inquiry strategies, technology integration, and implementing the 4 Cs of 21st century learning: creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration. 

Out of the trenches story:  he has so many stories to draw from. When he was in the classroom, he was in a building centered on fine arts, collaboration with the Center for Fine Arts. They didn’t embrace academics. He wanted to propose 1 million minutes of reading logged in 1 school year- he’d shave his hair bald. Students taunted him, School got out of a rut of 1-trick-school.  Shaved head, but it took 2.5 hours and they had to dismiss kids from the assembly. Did it 2 more times the next few years.

Talk about drug prevention background you’ve volunteered for- it’s an organization he’s been involved with for 22 years. Started with the Snowflake program in middle school. Small, simple efforts to avoid temptations of drug/alcohol abuse. In 1999, he was invited to be at a conference for the teen institute. Application and main focus of what they do. In the 80’s it was the “just say no” campaign. What do we replace behaviors with? It’s about learning healthy replacement behaviors. Involve the whole community. Lots of teachers think about classroom rules. Opioids- they go into education about the most common use. Tobacco use-underage drinking are still out there because it’s so acceptable in our society. Vaping has become high on list along with prescription drugs, it has been loss of live due to parties w/ people dumping pills into bowls at parties. The drug prevention work he does as a volunteer. It’s an important part of who is his. Now there’s a gap in the knowledge from 2020. It’s voluntary for each school district to participate. He has been volunteering with the program ever since middle school. Usually he volunteers for summer learning community. They usually administer the IL Youth Survey for MS/HS, only have data from 2019. There has been a downward trend overall. Won’t have the data for ‘21 either. They’re asking districts to sign up for ‘22. Check out IL Association for Behavioral Health.

Books he loves:  he talks about some “undiscovered treasures” he’s read recently. Reading has been a passion of his his whole life. His mom read to them from an early age. “Danny and the dinosaur” was a favorite book as an early reader. Has stacks of books on desk, nightstand, library at home. People who visit him are astounded by so many books. Is currently reading “12 Characteristics of Deliberate HW” by Eric Youngman. The book makes sure how do teachers in HS create HW as a team. His go-to is “The Ball” by Todd Whitacker, allegory to teaching students. Focus on things that make education fun. Deeper research about changes in education, anything by Tony Wagner- like “The Achievement Gap”. It’s about education being a system that was designed in late 1800’s. 

Talk about music/musicals you enjoy: In HS, and briefly afterwards he did the tech side, didn’t get an acting part, did the spotlights, the manual type. But he is an avid consumer. Hobby and passion that grew out of HS. What is the show you’re most wanting to see when they open up again? Loved the diversity of classic plays. He follows a few a cappella groups at colleges. Local theater group in area he lives (started doing productions this summer), doesn’t get to go and see the productions as often as he’d like. Has been in bands since 5th grade- played the trumpet. Hasn’t been able to find one yet since he moved there.

How long have you blogged and how do you see the future of education evolving? Started blogging for Teach Better Team 7 months ago. Intermittent, once a month. “21 century skills”, he blogs a bit more often on the website than TBT. It ebbs and flows. Started when he was a sub- a friend wanted to know what subs really do. Reflected on where he was going, what he was teaching daily. He doesn’t care if anyone has read them. He thinks it’s a great way to compile his own thoughts. Has written on his work with redesigning PD models in his district so it’s not a one & done PD. Differentiated model. It’s job embedded work. 

What has listening to educational podcasts has done for you professionally? Have you been an avid podcast listener for a while? He needed to listen to something doing long drives. Ask about what he takes away from podcasts? Resisted getting into for a long time. When he interviewed for leadership positions, he was driving 2-3 hours 1 way. Realized that was a great time to get PD from podcasts.  When from 1 podcast to another. Does a rotation of podcasts, likes to start at the beginning to get caught up on them. Jennifer Gonzales- Cult of Pedagogy. This year, he lives 10 m. away. Podcast listening happens when walking the dog in the morning. His recommendations- Teach Better Talk, Lasting Learning with Dave Schmittou, Staffroom Podcast w/ Chey & Pav (all part of the Teach Better podcast network) , Presidential- Washington Post released. Not all are in educational leadership. People wanted to be able to dig deeper. What teachers are doing on their own, when they’re reading books, listening to podcasts. His blog posts may start in 1 place, end up in another place. Need to be comfortable with that in your writing.

Talk about being an Ambassador for Teach Better Team: first got involved thru mastery chat. Said “wasn’t a paid monkey, a prof educator”. Developed a relationship with Chad Ostrowski. There are a ton of free resources avail thru the TBT website. “We need to all be constantly growing”. As ambassador, he can share their message. They have had the program since June.  Has partnered with Education Blueprint- has 1000’s of educational resources. Alex’s title is Lead Ambassador for Data Management. There are over 50 ambassadors so this helps him support everyone. It’s like a family.  TBT wrapped around him when his preemie infant passed away. It was about recognizing the humanity of others. They’re averaging 60 blogs per month.

Key quotes…Once upon a time, education was an isolating job, that’s now a choice (to be isolated). There are so many ways to connect. Whether it’s reading books, podcasts, connecting with professional organizations. The choice to be lonely is a choice.    

Find Alex online @alextvalencic on all the platforms and visit his blog website: coordinatingthecentury.wordpress.com  View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Xa1wmSbBcM8


Episode #93: Jami Fowler-White



Jami currently serves as a principal in Shelby County Schools (TN).

Jami Fowler-White has served ten years as a classroom teacher, an Instructional Coach, and a Core Advocate with Achieve the Core . She currently mentors First-time and Renewal candidates for the National Board, and is a charter member of the National Board Network of Minoritized Educators. She is the author/coauthor of several books including, Educator Reflection Tips, Volume #1, The Skin You are In: Colorism in the Black Community, 2nd Edition, Edumatch’s Snapshot in Education 2020: Remote Learning Edition, and Educator Reflection Tips, Volume II: Refining Our Practice. Jami blogs at DigitalPD4You.com, has a bi-monthly leadership blog on Insight Advance , and writes a monthly blog entitled the Better Mindset at Teach Better.

Trenches story: has found self in the trenches so many times the past few yrs. During her first job, she spent a few years as a sub. A teacher quit during a long-term placement. The principal hired Jami. Was there 10 days, told she had to leave. Was thrown into a different school 15 minutes away. Principal told her to not ask for anything. There were no textbooks. 2nd graders, she was 5th teacher there that year. She reassured them that she would stay, if they worked with her, she’d work with them. There were 3 months left- she got there, to a point they believed in her. When there is 0 culture, there is no routine. She learned you build the relationships first. 

Tell about your experience throughout your career with nationall board certification- what subject did you get certified in? Would you suggest this certification as “worth” the work? Was at the Teach to Lead summit and many teachers asked her about it. She achieved National Board Certification (NTC) in 2008 in Middle Childhood generalist. She is a specialist in every content area for that level. It’s the best PD she’s had. During that process, you’re studying your own practice. It makes you think about your results, how would you teach the lesson differently? It’s about what you want to do to make yourself better. Accomplished teacher & all that ties into that. Had a mentor. There is no playbook, you pay and there isn’t external help. Has mentored for free in district for 4-5 years. Then she got paid to mentor across the state. She thinks every educator should reflect on there our own practice.

Talk about your book “The Skin You are In: Colorism in the Black Community”, and how micro-aggressions occur within the Black community towards individuals of different skin shades. The book is based on work her husband did for his doctoral dissertation. As she read through his research, she reflected on the color spectrum. They published the first edition of his book. Has training/manual that was put into 2nd edition of book. Publishes the companion guide to begin discussions. Her sister is on the lighter end, husband is darker end. He got comments like “You better marry a light skinned girl”. It ties into ACEs. Dates back to slavery. All nationalities of color have that, Asians as well.

Tell me about your writing Cyber Connection competency of Volume II, specifically Reflection Tips #18-19 She has incorporated after having a discussion with her son about adopting a growth mindset, grades, completing virtual assignments (Reflection Tip #19), and the benefits of gamification. A lot the chapters came about from looking at educator and parent lens- son is 17 in 11th grade. They had to maneuver dinner schedule around his gaming. Read research by Steven Johnson. Cognitive benefits around gaming. Can increase student’s IQ. They’re doing many cognitive tasks simultaneously.  It’s a growth mindset because they make mistakes. He said school doesn’t give him the wholistic approach gaming does. He wished every school would adopt that, being able to go back & see where he went wrong. We should spend more time talking to the kids. We don’t know what kind of jobs they will be doing in the future. They have learned to navigate the virtual space. 

How do you find the time to blog and write so many articles along with your FT AP job and Natl Board mentoring duties? 

Last November her world kind of imploded, she started working in the building (after being remote for so long). She had then been back at work FT for 30 days. Had a lot of time early in the pandemic. Wrote a lot. She had gotten a book contract, said she’d finish by December. Several places asked her to write for them. In Nov. she realized she had too much on her plate. Rob Breyer recommended her use a journal for time management. She has a high performance planner. It let you set must do, can do, what kind of person you need to be today. Has growth mindset goals. Has tasks and simple questions to answer daily.  Helps prioritize things. Helps to write things down. She started charting out things she had to do. Limited virtual interactions. Had never used a paper calendar until this past year. The phone wasn’t enough for her. Once she wrote it out and planned it, she realized she did have enough time. She makes sure she schedules self for weekends off because she gets tired. Writing makes her happier. 

Key quotes: “Change is good, there is always enough time”. “Never be afraid to make yourself better”.

Find Jami online on Twitter @jjjj821 visit her website: http://www.digitalPD4you.com Reach out to her if have questions about NBCT certification. It fills her soul to help others.

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/HYoKI0VFXZg


Episode #94: Tyson Gardin



Tyson Gardin is an elementary assistant principal in the Chester County School District in Chester, SC. He is passionate about making a positive impact on equity and excellence in our schools and encourages our students to make their own positive and lasting impact in our world.

Trenches story: Tyson has been an AP since last August. He wrote a blog post about navigating the COVID world as a new AP (linked at end of show notes). Was MS teacher for 15-16 years then went to ES to be an AP. He was asking himself “When is someone gonna take a chance on me?”. He was ready to give up Spring ‘19. He has a good support system with his family and PLN that said “don’t give up”. Even getting the position is a trench story, he applied for admin jobs for 7 years, only got a handful of interviews. Background was heath & P.E. He asked himself- is this ever gonna happen, then when it did, asked self “is this real?”. Learning the skills is a trench story. It’s the way things lined up to get the position. He has 8 sisters, 1 in particular helped him understand it was meant to be when he got to where he currently is. His frustration was he couldn’t get enough interviews to make the good impression. He is in charge of discipline where he works. 

Tell me about the context of your current school: His school’s very unique. There are 3 different schools in 1 building. His school is the school of the Arts, others are Tech, Inquiry (PBL) schools in 1 building. Almost like a school of choice. All schools have 300 students each. Each small school has its own admin. School has been through a lot of turnover, not so much the teachers but the admin. They go to get their experience and then they leave. He handles RTI, attendance, a lot he’s learned this year. As an admin team at all 3 schools, all 6 make decisions that affect the building as a whole. Have had to get creative on splitting virtual academy between schools.

Tell me your thoughts about the lack of prep the admin internship/principal licensure program gives one for working as admin at the Elementary School level: Even during the internship, there isn’t anyone to “hold your hand”. He now has the support of other admin in the building. He can ask them for advice. He speaks directly to the podcast listener who is looking for an admin job- A lot of decisions that are made as a human, you have to use your judgement. Not everything’s so black & white. You have to understand the small kids don’t understand the brevity of their choices. Was concerned about a K kids that she expedited the process on. When he went into the job, he was worried that the veteran teachers would take him seriously. Some of it’s watching what they do. Can watch, learn & help.

Talk about your experience suspending kids for the safety of the other students: His district has only 1 school psychologist for the small district. You know as an educator that a particular student will need particular services instead of the discipline approach. Sometimes as the admin you don’t know how to help them. Talk to the parent, this is why they have to be at home for x amount of time- to come up w/ a plan.  They’ve made out of school suspension (OSS) creative, they’ve joined Microsoft teams. Sometimes it’s tough, getting the process started with a psychologist. Kids are already behind, we don’t want to hold up the process even more. They don’t have in-school suspension (ISS). They take away recess or they send the student home. How can we work together to provide equitable resources? The pandemic put the inequities of education on forefront. How can we give everyone the same opportunity? Here’s the opportunity gap, how do the shrink it? Don’t focus so much on academics. They want you to be innovative & creative in giving standardized tests. Allocation of resources need to be doled out to what’s best for our students. Can we shift $ from testing to what will benefit students more? We forget that we’re here for students not so much for the adults as well. 

They were F2F all year since early Sept. Started with hybrid with virtual academy. Was 2 days/week in-person to start off. Ran that schedule up to spring break. Week of April 12 was their first week full in-person. Had to internalize any fears about being in-person because he’s a leader. They had plexiglass around students’ desks even. Also observes teachers who teach in the virtual academy. Things are going to be hit or miss with the learning environment for students as it has been during the pandemic. Are the kids gonna show up online?  He had to have a lot of grace, especially for virtual teachers. They had the best intentions. You know who is engaged in helping kids learn. 

Talk about guest blogging for Teach Better Team– He wouldn’t call himself a “natural blogger”. Once he gets something on his heart, he writes a blog post. He says he has to figure out what he’s even doing before he writes about it. That’s where the “Pandemic 1st year Principal” post comes from. How do you navigate being successful when you’re new. He wrote about how 3/12/20 was his “last day as a teacher” but he didn’t know it at the time. By 11:00 on the 13th (“pandemic day”), they decided they wouldn’t be in the building anymore, would be closed for 2 wks. During the summer, a job came open in another county. He needed to apply in order to get opportunity, got the job. Still couldn’t believe it.  Asked self “how am I gonna engage these little kids?” “What’s the school year gonna look like?” The front office staff had resigned. Him & principal were both first year. Didn’t have front office staff until the beginning of October. Couldn’t give students & parents the answers. Learned he had to have the communication with teachers every day. His intention is to be in the classroom every day. Conversations with teachers don’t have to be about education. Listening is important. It’s not always a gripe session. Sometimes teachers bring solutions instead of just problems. Having empathy & support. Having flexibility with changes. He made the article a guide to first year admin in general. Utilize your strengths and it will all come to you. Take your strengths and maximize them! It’s important to engage your students’ humanly, not just in a discipline role. 

Key quotes: “If you’re going thru something, remember his perseverance”. This year has made or broken you. Persevere through whatever. “Remember the struggle, you’ll be better for it. Have faith, keep trying the rest will take care of itself”

Find Tyson online on Twitter: & FB @TysonGardin IG: @tyg1979  View his TBT blog. He has 3 posts out, here is the link to the one that was discussed on the podcast: https://www.teachbetter.com/blog/highlights-of-2020-in-case-you-missed-it/


View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/tyVDw2nHWgI


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