Member Blog

The Surprising Grief of Teacher Leadership

By Rebecca Mieliwocki The grief comes suddenly and unexpectedly. It reaches across to tap you on the shoulder, reminding you that you haven’t seen a real live kid in over a month. It whispers snidely in your ear that “real” teachers work in classrooms. It wraps its heavy cloak around you and asks, “Are you really even making a difference?” It keeps you awake at night contemplating your decision to leave... read more

Sometimes Calling Teachers “Valued Professionals” Just Feels Empty

By Monica Washington Recently I asked my AP English Language students to write an argumentative essay about individuality and conformity in U.S. schools. They’re teenagers, so I expected some pushback about school, but I wasn’t at all prepared for the number of compositions focused on oppressive school culture. One student, Anna, wrote, “Public schools are no more than glorified prisons with pretty... read more

What Happens When a Student is Put Out of Class?

By Josh Parker Every time I have to do it, I hate it. When my student has to walk the halls to cool down from a conflict with me, I feel like a first-year teacher again. A middle/high school student again. 13 years into my career and it still feels the same way. Let me tell you how it usually happens. The student(s) in question enters class as my ‘Good afternoon’ greeting signals the start of class.... read more

Lessons from an Addict: What Teachers Really Need to Grow

By Topher Kandik In literature, like in life, wisdom often comes from unlikely places. Readers benefit from paying attention even to seemingly minor characters. Mitchell Jackson’s debut novel, The Residue Years, has much to teach--if you are paying attention. As Grace, the protagonist’s mom, is released from rehab, she runs into an old acquaintance, Michael, who invites himself to sit beside her on the bus... read more

What I Want From My Next Teaching Job

By Tom Rademacher I just lost my job. This happens in education all the time. I was new to my district, and my district needed money, and a whole bunch of us had to go. A lot of us (me included) hoped to stay, hoped we would escape the teacher shell-game--transfers and retirements and re-hires--that happens this time of year. We hoped that in the end we would just end with a few weeks of brow-furrowing before we... read more

Take Afterschool Programs Off the Political Chopping Block

By Allison Riddle As an elementary teacher, I don’t often get to see where my students end up in life. Colleagues teaching in high school watch their students climb the stage at graduation, winning scholarships and awards I rarely hear about. As my eleven year olds leave, I can only predict the progress they may make, or challenges they may face in coming years. A few years ago I ran into the parents of a... read more

Fighting for the Dreamers in and out of the Classroom

By James E. Ford There are some moments as a teacher that just never leave you. They remain burned into memory like still photos. These images have stories that all elicit their own emotions, varying widely from invigorating and awe-inspiring to sad and demoralizing. Amid news that a DACA protected student was just deported, I am reminded of one of the single bravest acts performed by one of my students:... read more

When Teachers Believe Their Work Is Never Enough

By Angie Miller During a break at a teacher leadership conference, I stepped out onto the patio to get some fresh air and found a teacher weeping inconsolably. “I shouldn’t be here,” she confided. “Everybody in there is doing amazing things and making change, and I am just ineffective. I don’t have the time or energy to be that. I can’t be that. This conference isn’t inspiring me; it’s making... read more

Who Cares About Questioning Strategies?

By Maryann Woods-Murphy When I was in high school, I asked too many questions. Some teachers brightened when my hand shot up, but others sighed when they heard me ask, “Who decides what justice is?” or “How do we know that we really know anything?” With questions solidly in my wheelhouse, it makes sense that when I became a teacher, I would see the immense value of inquiry-driven instruction. Questions... read more

To the Educators Who Will Teach My Colleague’s White Son

By Jemelleh Coes and Matthew Moulton In January, I wrote a piece called “To the Educators who will teach my Black Daughter .” The majority of feedback was positive, but some was downright hateful. Some readers commented on my lack of attention to white children, claiming I am a selfish racist who cares only about the well-being of my own daughter. “What if I wrote a piece titled, ‘To the Educators of my... read more

Lessons from the Garden: What Teachers Can Do to Help Our Most Vulnerable Students Thrive

By Nate Bowling A few springs ago, my wife and I raised beds for a vegetable garden. We built the beds with lumber and brackets from the hardware store and planted tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs. But we cheaped out. Honestly, I cheaped out. I bought off-brand soil and chose not dig the beds very deep. You know where this going, right? The tomatoes yielded mixed results in the first year.  We never a single saw... read more

Spring Break and the Equinox of Student Engagement

By Gary G. Abud, Jr. Close your mind's eye for a moment. Imagine it's a Saturday night. You're in Miami at the hottest dance club in town. Lights flash, the bass pounds, and you feel the atmosphere so much you don't want it to end. Facing the DJ on stage, a hush falls over the crowd. Excitement builds with anticipation and the crowd begins to cheer wildly as the drum beat kicks in. They are in--they are all... read more

Make Some Waves

By Monica Washington No one ever said being a teacher would be easy. I do remember being told that when the waters got rough, I should not speak up or speak out. Instead, I should hang on (in the background), stay out of school business, and just worry about the students in my classroom. “Keep a low profile,” they said. “You can’t change it anyway.” This is the culture of our schools. Teachers: learn not... read more

What Happens to Teacher Leadership When the Money Runs Out?

By Rebecca Mieliwocki  Got just about the worst news I could get since taking a role developing teachers for my school district. We’re out of money. Don’t get me wrong. We teachers are used to having to do more with less. Making something out of next-to-nothing is our middle name, and we’re far better at it than we should have to be. That was the news my assistant superintendent called me into her... read more

Love and Teaching: A Transformational Connection

By Josh Parker "There's no word in the language I revere more than 'teacher.' My heart sings when a kid refers to me as his teacher, and it always has. I've honored myself and the entire family of man by becoming a teacher." Pat Conroy If justice is what love looks like in public, as Dr. Cornel West says, then teaching is what love looks like in practice. Teaching children well is proof of the love that we... read more

What to do when the next awful thing happens

By Tom Rademacher I don’t know what happened yesterday. I can guess it was something terrible for some of my students and friends.  I can guess (as a straight white person in America) the event wasn’t directed at me.  I can guess it added new fear, new worry, to the unpleasantness that has been building, steadily, since the last yesterday. I don’t know what happened yesterday. Maybe there was an act... read more

Time to Step Up

By Allison Riddle My state is struggling. Utah has the largest class sizes in the nation, and we spend the least per pupil. Our current funding model cannot adequately provide for the ever-growing number of students in our communities. Teachers are paid .70 on the dollar compared to others who earn a Bachelor’s Degree. On top of that, our state board recently approved yet another alternative licensing route... read more

Relationships Are Everything

By James E. Ford I can't overstate this point. In the classroom, relationships are everything. I learned this early in my teaching career when I was fortunate enough to return to my alma mater to student teach at Auburn High School, in Rockford, Illinois. It was a special feeling, walking the halls and teaching in many of the same rooms where I'd sat as a student. Once a day I would teach in Mr. Brian Ott's... read more

6 Things Teachers Can Do When Bad News Strikes

By Angie Miller A couple of months after September 11, 2001, a parent called me, concerned about his son’s grade. “He had an A last quarter, and now we’re looking at a C-. What’s going on?” he insisted. A first-year teacher, I hadn’t yet developed the knowhow to read data for identifiable trends or patterns, but as I looked at the overall picture, it became clear that over the past months his... read more

To the educators who will teach my Black daughter

By Jemelleh Coes Every holiday season, I celebrate the year with my sorority sisters, a group of professional women of color. The conversation often turns to the topic of education, including our observations about how education can empower, and at the same time marginalize, oppress and discriminate. We find ourselves returning to this topic because my sisters and I were all Black girls raised in the American... read more

Reflecting on Our Work. Renewing Our Commitment.

By David Bosso The start of a new year is a time for reflection and renewal, an opportunity to consider the possibilities ahead while expressing gratitude for what has passed. It is also a time when I can’t help but consider how many of my current professional opportunities stem from my recognition as the 2012 Connecticut State Teacher of the Year and my involvement with NNSTOY.  Whether I’m conducting... read more

Equipping Teacher Leaders for the Ed Policy Game

By Leah Lechleiter-Luke There’s no denying it. Being named a Teacher of the Year makes its mark on a State Teacher of the Year’s personal and professional life. Navigating the opportunities and demands alone can be precarious—especially when you long to influence education policy. Fortunately, NNSTOY’s support system has offered me a lifeline. During this extended holiday season, when many publicly... read more

On a Clear Day in April

By Rebecca Mieliwocki On a clear day in April 2012, I stood beside President Barack Obama at the White House preparing to receive the crystal apple, a symbolic prize given to the National Teacher of the Year. When I asked him to tell me about his favorite teacher, without hesitation, he gushed about Mabel Hefty, his 5th grade teacher at Punahou Elementary School in Hawaii. He spoke candidly about spending his... read more

Honor a Great Teacher through Your Gift to NNSTOY

By Lee-Ann Stephens One of my favorite quotes comes from William Arthur Ward: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Most of us have encountered the mediocre, good and superior teachers that Ward describes. For me one great teacher stands out— a teacher who deserves to be honored for inspiring me to greatness. Through her... read more

NNSTOY Unites the Tribe of Teacher Leaders from Coast to Coast

By Rebecca Mieliwocki and Angie Miller We all know the importance of building relationships in the classroom--when our students can trust, laugh, question, and explore, they learn more about the content, their world, and themselves. But how often do we think about the importance of relationships in our professional development? Nurturing the kinds of relationships that grow through NNSTOY are important to our... read more

What it Means to Bridge the Gap

By Jody Zepp When I won Howard County Teacher of the Year, a parent approached me after the ceremony and said, “Jody, you have no idea what your award means for this school.” My eyes welled up because I did know. I do know. I know what it means for minority majority schools with over 40% of students on free and reduced lunch, and over 60 languages, to be elevated and celebrated. I know what it is like... read more

NNSTOY Innovation: Living in a World of Why? How? and What’s Next?

By Michelle Pearson I live in a house filled with geeks. Go ahead and laugh, but it’s really the truth. On top of that, my house is always in a bit of chaos, constantly in motion with three boys, three border collies and a very patient husband. The only calm one is our turtle, who just shakes his head and then hides in his shell if it is a little too crazy. The teenage boys can down 12 gallons of milk in a... read more

Meet Jayden and Be Changed

By Michael Dunlea Jayden is a four-year-old who lives in Salt Lake City with his mom and grandmother. I got to meet him at our day of service at the beginning of NNSTOY’s teacher leadership conference in the summer of 2015. If you met him, you’d probably notice right away that Jayden is quiet and shy, a kid who seems reticent at first. I remember that I had to call on my old pre-school teaching tricks to... read more

Creating Moments Our Students Will Remember

By Allison Riddle After the birth of my second child, I took my beautiful six-week old daughter in for her first check up. I knew what to expect, but I was surprised at what happened when the doctor came in to join us. He scooped my baby into his arms and nuzzled her into his chest. Then, as he stood swaying from side to side, he said, “So, how are things going?” No stethoscope, no exam, no blood... read more

Beyond the Noise in Teacher Leadership Conversations

By Michael Lindblad Teacher Leadership has become an educational buzz word being used extensively in district, state and national conversations. While we give the term a great deal of lip service, I’ve become convinced that teacher leadership as a concept is often misunderstood, that we must move past the noise and embrace the truth. For teacher leadership to be transformative, we must choose to fully adopt... read more

Where Do We Go from Here? A State Teacher of the Year reflects on his run for the Oklahoma State Senate.

By Shawn Sheehan We gave it a good run, friends. #SheehanforOK That was my concession Tweet after I lost a bid for Oklahoma State Senate. At school this morning, a former student passed me in the hallway and offered comfort.“Hey, Mr. Sheehan, I voted for you!" she said. " I’m sorry you didn’t win but you’re gonna go for it again in four years right?” My face was less than enthusiastic. I... read more

The Teacher Prep Regulations – A Short Primer for Educators

By Maddie Fennell To be a profession, we need expertise. Building that expertise should begin with strong college preparation and then continue throughout a career. But as educators we know that teacher preparation isn't what it needs to be. Too many new educators are either graduating with a degree they never use, or they quit a few years into the profession. They are unprepared for the challenges they... read more

A Rural Teacher Gets a Glimpse into Urban School Discipline

By Jaclyn Roller Ryan One of the benefits of being part of NNSTOY is that State Teachers of the Year and Finalists sometimes get to share our expertise with policymakers who really want to hear what we have to say. Recently, Kimberly Worthy (Washington, DC 2009) and I attended a Tea with Teachers at the U.S. Department of Education, where we and other educators talked about school discipline with Secretary John... read more

Teaching Children of Color: Love vs. ‘Tough Love’

By Justin Minkel (As first appeared in Education Week Teacher’s First Person on November 1, 2016. Reprinted with permission from the author.) I have a friend who is an amazing mom. Her daughter has more resilience than most kids, and my friend attributes some of it to experiencing her parents’ divorce at a relatively young age. But the resilience this 7-year-old has developed doesn’t just come from... read more

5 Great (Short!) Videos for School Leaders

By Alex Kajitani As education leaders, at times it can feel like we’re saying the same thing, over and over again, with little effect. Effective leadership means communicating many messages—such as getting people to believe in the work we do, take action, support change, and stick with it until a job is completed. Sometimes, we just need everything summed up in a short, inspiring video.  This month, I... read more

Beyond the Binders: How Seeing Teachers as Learners Creates Meaningful PD That Sticks

By Rebecca Mieliwocki When I returned from a year on the road representing American public school teachers, I was delighted by the many ways I had seen teachers supporting, leading, and growing students to greatness across the country. From Cranston, Rhode Island, to Bishop, California, teachers were running themselves ragged to give kids meaningful and challenging learning experiences that prepared them for the... read more

5 Steps to Empower Students with the Skills They Need to Change the World Through Story

By Joseph Fatheree The innate desire in humans to tell stories may be the single most powerful tool a teacher has to help motivate students and empower them with the skills they need to find success in the 21st Century. The yearning to tell a narrative through song, pictures, and prose has evolved over time to the point that it is now hardwired into the human genome. Nowhere is that more apparent than in... read more

How High-Flying Teachers Get Their Wings

By Maryann Woods-Murphy I love the true story of Captain Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger, the heroic US Air captain who made an emergency landing on the freezing Hudson River in January 2009. Sully is played masterfully by Tom Hanks in a newly released film by Clint Eastwood that left me marveling at his expertise in a time of crisis and thinking about my career as a teacher under pressure. For those with only a... read more

The Difficult (and Satisfying) Run of Teaching Defiant Students

By Allison Riddle My dad and I share an insane joy of running. The best advice he ever gave me had to do with the hardest runs. He taught me that when a run feels the most challenging, I am probably making the most progress. “After an especially difficult run,” he said, “notice how much stronger you feel on the next run. Your discomfort is gone, your speed is back, and you are ready to tackle whatever... read more

New Year, New Goals

By Pamela Harman After teaching for more than 20 years, I can say that everything about a new school year is exciting (except maybe having to wear shoes). When I was a new teacher, the beginning of the school year intimidated me. I was nervous about both my content knowledge and my pedagogy. So my goals for the year focused on improving my practice and strengthening my teaching skills. I worked to deepen my... read more

Hello From the Other Side

By Maddie Fennell For the past three years I’ve been a teacher serving in a bit different setting. I’ve worked for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow (TAF) and a Teacher Leader in Residence. Next week I begin a new journey as a Teacher Fellow with the National Education Association. Before moving on—and while I can still remember what it feels like to work for ED—I want... read more

Leave Summer Vacation Alone

By Joseph Fatheree Maryland Governor Larry Hogan recently signed an executive order that requires schools in the state to start after Labor Day. His reasoning is simple: students need more time with their families and the extended vacation will boost the economy. The idea appears to be a no-brainer. Who would be against supporting families and growing the economy? However, Hogan's ideas have been criticized by... read more

Time to Rethink Our PD Paradigms

by Sarah Brown Wessling I often find myself in conversations with administrators who ask familiar questions: Why can't our school make change? We did the PD, so why don't these initiatives change instruction? Why didn't the plan work the way we designed it? Sometimes the questions give way to probing discussions. Other times they seem to stagnate with frustration. Either way, there’s always a desire to have a... read more

Mission-Minded Teaching

By James E. Ford It’s that time of year again. Summer has ended, and the dawn of a new school year has appeared. Teachers are preparing their classrooms and reviewing their rosters. Students are taking advantage of back-to-school sales and fulfilling their supply lists. And the hallways shine like new from a fresh summer buffing. As educators prepare their hearts and minds for the endurance race of the... read more

Another Year, Another Principal

How to Manage Your Relationship with a New Principal for the Good of Your School By Alex Kajitani If you teach in a school that’s had the same principal for the past five years, you needn’t read any further. Still reading? Of course you are. With so much focus on the national teacher shortage and high teacher turnover rates, it’s easy to overlook that principals are moving in and out of schools at... read more

The Lifeline Every Teacher Leader Needs

by Rebecca Mieliwocki I had my job evaluation last month. The good news? I get to keep my job, and I am even more energized and focused than ever. The bad news? Most teachers never get the kind of feedback I received. For me, this performance evaluation was a teacher leader’s lifeline. While teaching, my evaluation usually consisted of a short classroom observation by an administrator followed up by an even... read more

Your White Teacher is Woke

by Maddie Fennell I’ve been an educator for 26 years. Over 95 percent of the children I’ve taught have been children of color. I’ve worked very hard to not only teach with cultural sensitivity, but to confront my own prejudices and those of others. I call out friends and family members who make racist jokes or comments. Several of my students have lived with our family when they needed a home. I say all... read more

Changing Professional Development from the Inside Out

By Whitney Crews I'm sure most of you have stories of ways you have spent your last dime, your last minute of free time, your last shred of sanity to meet a need for a student. We know what our students need and what it takes to provide the best learning opportunities for them. Why is it, then, that when teachers become the learners, they are the worst students? I have attended and presented well over 1000... read more

Calling a Teacher a Leader Is Not Enough

By Tom Rademacher The following was delivered as a speech to the Minneapolis Teach to Lead Summit. Video of the speech is included below. Let me tell you about the first time I almost got fired. In my first year of teaching, I was doing one of those special and important extra duties we reserve for new teachers since their jobs aren’t hard enough yet. I was watching sixth grade lunch, and I was stressed.... read more

This is the Summer of Race and Equity in Education

by Anna Baldwin Ever since I can remember, each summer has had a theme, an idea that connects events and experience. Sometimes it’s as simple as “the summer of naps” or “the summer of adventure.” This summer’s theme is more serious and important. This is “the summer of equity.” Not only because Education Secretary John King has named equity as one of his focus points for his work at the... read more

Teachers, I’ll See You on Twitter!

By Cathy Whitehead Teaching can be an isolating, lonely profession at times, which is ironic, considering we spend the day surrounded by humans. In classrooms that can feel like cubicles, we work next to each other, still very much apart. I wonder, is it a mistake to separate ourselves from one another so much? About a year ago I participated in something that has me rethinking this: my first Twitter chat.... read more

Teens Talk about Racism

by Maryann Woods-Murphy Martina, a high school sophomore, told her teacher she was nervous about talking with students from other schools about race. As she boarded the yellow school bus to participate in the annual Teens Talk About Racism conference in Teaneck, New Jersey, she wondered: “What if they automatically think I’m racist because I’m a White girl from an affluent school?” Although Martina... read more

No App Can Replace Mastery for Students or Teachers

By Allison Riddle In May one of my colleagues retired after 25+ years of teaching. A master educator in the younger grades, she was responsible for helping hundreds of first graders learn to read. At her retirement luncheon I asked her how she knew it was the right time to retire. "That's easy," she replied, "It was the app." She then recounted a troubling parent conference during which she recommended that... read more

Even in Virtual Classrooms, Teachers Build Bonds that Help Students Learn

By Danielle Massey Last week, Shanice, a senior in my Financial Literacy class, shared with me her fear that she will most likely not graduate with her class. Retaking a math class for the second time, she was still not passing. Since the class is required for graduation, Shanice told me, “I have lost hope.” I felt frustrated, sad and limited in my ability to help her. This year is my first year as a... read more

A Teacher’s Summer Resolution: Take Your Rest

By Anna E. Baldwin My to-do list takes the form of a sticky-note wall in my home. These post-it notes remind me—every time I pass my kitchen table—of the many tasks I must complete, and never, not ever, do they diminish throughout the whole school year. When two notes come down, another five go up. Eventually though, summer does arrive; piles of paper get recycled, wall coverings fade, the notes unstick... read more

One Math Teacher’s Journey from Frustration to Appreciation of the Common Core

By Mary Pinkston As a twenty-four year veteran of the classroom, I can still remember the day, more than a dozen years ago, when our staff was told that we would lose five days of instruction in order to administer a new state test, which would be used as one measure of accountability, based on our updated Delaware State Content Standards. I was a bit baffled and remember incredulously asking department... read more

When Critics Pounce: How to Survive (& Thrive) When You’re Burned as a Teacher Leader

By Alex Kajitani. Last month, a blog post I wrote, The #1 Factor That Determines A Toxic or Thriving School Culture, made it to the top of EdWeek’s most-read pieces that week. As thrilling as this was, my heart began sinking as I read some of the comments posted below the piece. Sure, there were a good number that supported my views, and some that respectfully disagreed, offering alternative perspectives and... read more

The Danger of a Single Story and How Common Core Can Help

by Joshua Parker In Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s seminal TED Talk The Danger of a Single Story, she argues against using one anecdote to come to any general conclusion about the human condition. “I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person,” Adichie says. “The consequence of the single story is... read more

Come Back Better

By Rebecca Mieliwocki. Part of my teacher development work in Burbank includes coordinating secondary induction for brand new teachers working to clear their credentials. Last week, I scheduled several check-ins with my newbies to make sure they were on track to complete their early service induction portfolios. I expected to need to do a fair bit of encouraging in these tough final few days of the year. Between... read more

This Is Why Teachers Really Count Down to Summer Vacation

By Monica Washington.. A couple months ago, I came across a meme that said “When teachers are already counting down to summer, it’s not surprising that so many students dislike school.” The flaws in that argument jumped from the screen. As an AP Language teacher, I work with my students to dissect arguments, and this one would have been quite easy for them to crush. What the meme is really saying is... read more

Feeling Stuck in the “Right Field” of Teaching? How Teachers Can Get “Unstuck” this Summer

By Sarah Brown Wessling. For the last several years, spring has carried a predictable cadence for my family: the less time the kids spend in school, the more time we spend at the ball diamonds. There are three children, five baseball or softball teams, and roughly ten games a week. That’s a whole lot of America’s favorite pastime. While the games themselves seem to fall into indiscriminate wins and losses,... read more

Every Brain Deserves a Break

By Allison Riddle. As a teacher, May is a polarizing month for me. On one hand, it signals the final lap in the race to complete the school year. My students and I are like family now, and I enjoy watching them work smoothly together on the last few projects of the year. On the other hand, May marks the end of an exhausting month of intense standardized testing and directed test prep. Wait… did I say... read more

State Teacher of the Year Says Teacher Appreciation Week Not Enough

By James E. Ford Teacher Appreciation Week has come and gone once again. For a moment our country paused to pay tribute to its educators. Teachers were adorned with chocolates, gift cards and thank yous from every direction for being part of the world's most underrated and noble profession. It’s the least we could do as a society, after all. One of my teacher-buddies, in typical sarcastic fashion, sent me a... read more

What I Learned Making Common Core Videos with State Teachers of the Year: The Assumptions are Wrong

By Joe Fatheree. As a teacher, I often hear two long-standing negative assumptions about the Common Core States Standards.  The first is that standards limit creativity in the classroom, and the second is that they encourage to “teaching to the test. ”  As a corollary to these arguments, I often hear critics complain that states should spend less time on standards and more time on growing “quality”... read more

Will Teaching Change or Will We Just Keep Complaining?

By Maddie Fennell. A few months ago Ted Kolderie, founding partner of Education Evolving, sent me a packet of materials summarizing a discussion that took place more than a quarter of a century ago about the need to transform the education profession. Page after page of 30-year-old comments read like my current Twitter feed and Facebook posts.  “Teachers and school administrators feel they are being blown... read more

Reflections on Saving Tomorrow Today

At the recent National Action Network 25th anniversary conference, I was honored to participate on a panel of NNSTOY* teachers and university professors moderated by renowned journalist and host of TVOne’s “NewsOne Now,” Roland Martin. The topic, Saving Tomorrow Today focused on some of our serious educational concerns and highlighted the urgent need for community involvement in schools. Roland Martin’s... read more

Using Technology to Break Down Language Barriers in the Classroom

Ich weiß es nicht? ¿No sé? Я не знаю? 我不知道 Teachers have heard the phrase “I don’t know?” in almost every language. Still, they take on a different meaning when they come from a student really struggling to learn English.  We see the frustration in their eyes when our English learners can’t communicate with peers and participate fully in class. Though English is the... read more

The #1 Factor That Determines a Toxic or Thriving School Culture

As a teacher leader who travels the country working with schools to improve their culture, I’m constantly amazed at the varying degrees to which staff members respect, encourage and communicate with each other. Here’s what I’ve concluded: the number one factor that determines whether a school culture is toxic or thrives is how staff members deal with their own conflicts as they arise. As teachers, part... read more

American Schools Still Have Bragging Rights

I have a confession to make: I think America’s public schools are not so bad. I’d go so far as to say that they’re actually pretty good. Every day in schools across our country, students, teachers and principals are doing amazing things. Kids are using technology in their classrooms to communicate with people around the globe. They are more accepting of human differences in race, religion, physical... read more

The Million Dollar Question (that We Rarely Ask or Answer)

(This article has been cross posted from Education Week.) A few weeks ago I had an opportunity to come to Washington DC and talk about innovative models for professional development that are cropping up around the country. I sat on a panel with a very distinguished education scholar from Harvard, two practicing teachers, and two principals; all of us engaged in re-imagining how professional development can and... read more

There’s Never Been a Better Time to Start Listening to Teachers

(Note: this article has been cross posted from Education Post.) Even in the middle of a cornfield, not a hotbed of discussion about education policy, you can find the results of those policies. As unlikely as it may seem, when policymakers in Washington make a decision, those decisions affect all of us—even students in my small, rural Indiana school. When policymakers on the East Coast decided schools should... read more

How do we prepare teachers for the realities of a post-modern world?

A high school student lies in a hospital suffering from severe injuries incurred during a recent bombing at the Brussels airport. Her mother was killed. Students from Turkey are being evacuated from their schools and communities just months before graduation.  As these students wrestle with extensive emotional and physical trauma, their teachers, counselors and principals are called to ease the transition and... read more

Flying Solo: The Need for Greater Support

Ask any teacher about their first year, and you will no doubt hear responses including phrases like, “incredibly challenging,” or “the kids were exhausting,” or “not sure how I made it through,” perhaps even “that year was brutal!” In some ways, the student teaching experience and the first year in the classroom are like a rite of passage, a sort of initiation to see if you’re tough enough for this... read more

The Power of Career and Technical Education

All too often kids are pushed aside and labeled as troubled, disobedient, or lazy.  Schools are supposed to be inclusive and meet the needs of every child, yet there are still those that do not feel that school is a home for them.  “Included" or “wanted” are not words they would use to describe their feelings about school.  I was one of those kids that could not see the need for core curriculum!  As a... read more

Five Ways for Teachers to Be Kind to Themselves by Shanna Peeples, Texas and National Teacher of the Year 2015

When I was in my 20’s, I regularly startled awake with terror, grabbed a small paper bag, and hyperventilated into it until I began to feel myself become lightheaded. In my 30’s, I went to the emergency room twice for panic attacks so severe I thought I was having a heart attack. Is there a coincidence between the fact that I traded one high-stress job - journalism - for another: teaching? I kept my panic... read more

Teacher Leaders Are Changing the Fabric of Education

One of the best kept secrets in the United States is about to unfold at a summit in Washington, D.C. on February 5-6.  Policymakers, Education Leaders, State Teachers of the Year, and other Teacher Leaders from around the country will gather at the National Summit on the Teaching Profession to discuss Teacher Leadership.  Now, at first glance, that may not appear news worthy.  After all, Washington is well known... read more

My Journey as the 2015 Montana State Teacher of the Year

By Craig Beals, the 2015 Montana State Teacher of the Year   With obvious drama I unzipped the small red, hand sewn, heart stitched bag that my grandma made especially for this – to protect my homemade, medieval looking scroll. I reached in and pulled the scroll from the bag and let it slowly unfurl toward the ground. The crowd, a small group of women teachers wearing freshly pressed hijabs, sat quietly... read more

Matt Damon, Monty Python, & Teacher Powered Schools

By Megan Olive Hall, 2013 Minnesota State teacher of the Year   Doug Dooher’s media training for Teachers of the Year features Matt Damon in a scathing interview, in which Damon calls our school system “intrinsically paternalistic.”  Well, Matt Damon was calling the supposition that we’d all be better off if we applied a business model to our public school system intrinsically paternalistic, and... read more

Connect. Learn. Share. Grow. A Reflection on What I Learned at the 2015 Seattle ECET2

By Jeremy Wagner, 2013 Texas State Teacher of the Year This past July I was afforded the opportunity to do something that many educators are not given the privilege of doing; I was chosen to attend a celebration whose sole purpose is to elevate and celebrate teachers.  While being chosen to attend was an honor that was limited to a little less than 500 teachers this summer at the national Elevating and... read more

Invest in Your Future: Renew Your NNSTOY Membership Today

By Angie Miller, 2011 New Hampshire State Teacher of the Year: I remember arriving home from Princeton and New York City, wracked by sadness after having said goodbye to all of my STOY friends, and feeling confused about what lay ahead for me. My speaking engagements were starting to wrap up. My travel was nearing an end. With a year of discussing important pieces of educational policy with leaders from around... read more

We are What We Teach: A National Geographic Teacher Fellow’s Perspective

It was 2:00 in the morning and I stood in the Arctic wind, bundled in winter gear, at the prow of The Explorer, a National Geographic/Lindblad Expedition ship. Deafening explosions of breaking ice filled the air. The ship’s spotlight illuminated massive chunks of drifting ice while up above, in the bridge, Magnus, the Swedish night captain, navigated us along the difficult course of the Denmark Strait, trying... read more

Model Code of Ethics for Educators is a Welcomed Resource

Year after year I have been confronted with news headlines that revealed various infractions by teachers. I have often wondered if they had had a Model Code of Educator Ethics, would those infractions have been avoided. Fortunately, now we do have a code of ethics that can guide educators through the complexities of our educational system. Being a part of the NASDTEC task force that created the Model Code of... read more

Where Every Student Has a Voice

As I prepare to enter my 12th year as a classroom teacher, I am still struck by feelings of newness, excitement, and anticipation. Every August I am reminded that I have the best job in the world. I get to spend my days with young people all eager to learn, grow, create, explore together, and have fun. I feel re-energized by the challenge of teaching my first grade students to have a growth mindset: to celebrate... read more

Have You Ever Seen Yourself in Action?

Jay Hoffman, Vermont State Teacher of the Year 2013 “Video will completely change the way we do professional learning.” Jim Knight   “For me, as a teacher, the most powerful place of inspiration and learning has been in other teachers' classrooms. Through Project Shift's Video Reflective Practice, I'm able to step into many different classrooms and observe the teaching, the class environment,... read more

Looking Forward

In three weeks, I will close out a 34-year career as an educator in the public schools of Hardy County West Virginia. The first 31 years were tremendously fulfilling, as I was blessed to be involved with the children in the community where I grew up.  I taught my own children, nieces and nephews and countless children of friends. Some years ago, my colleague across the hall and I made a pact to retire... read more

Why Your School Should Invest In a Stuffed Penguin

(This week's guest blog comes from 2014 Michigan Teacher of the Year Gary Abud Jr.) How often do others get to witness the great things that happen in your classroom, school, or district? The students see it regularly -- but how about the adults? Likely, it's not that often. This could be for a variety of reasons, but often we in education are not able to share the great things that we are doing, because we... read more

Helping Students Reflect on the Year That Was . . with Paint?

This week's guest post is by Gary G. Abud, Jr., Michigan's 2014 Teacher of the Year It's springtime, and that means another school year is coming to a close. For some, the time flew by while for others the wrap-up couldn't come soon enough. What did you learn? What were the best parts? What challenges did you face, and how did you respond to them? Whether this was the best year ever, just an okay one, or a... read more

Reflections From Banff

By Pam Reilly, IL STOY 2014 The International Summit on the Teaching Profession was held in Banff, Canada in March. The scenery and hotel in Banff were just as beautiful as what was happening inside its walls. Countries came together from across the globe to collaborate on the teaching profession. The Department of Education invited teachers and one principal to be a part of the United States delegation this... read more

What are We Talking About, Anyway?

By Angie Miller, New Hampshire STOY 2014 As  part of "STOYs on CCSS Video Series" I remember the first time I read through the Common Core State Standards: I was invited to a small gathering of teachers and administrators from across the state of New Hampshire to examine what the final standards looked like and how they compared with our current standards. I was hesitant. Nervous about the change. A bit... read more

Educators share why they #loveteaching in a big way

Last Month, educators from around the world collaborated on a campaign to share what they love about teaching during the week of Valentine's Day. The results are in and the impact on social media shows the project was a tremendous success. Over the past few years, education has had its share of challenges to overcome. From new standards, to fluctuating high-stakes tests, to teaching evaluation legislation... read more

Global Teacher Prize Creates Conversation

In my high school classroom I talk to kids all the time. We discuss history, writing, dances, sporting contests; we talk about life and celebrations, and sometimes loss. But we rarely include the conversation topic of my teaching. Perhaps the reason is because my teaching is in the background – it is the system you don’t see. The lessons, the student groups, and the activities float behind the scenes allowing my... read more

4 Digital School Supplies For the New School Year

By Gary G. Abud Jr., MI STOY 2014 As Labor Day weekend is now upon us, the signs of the beginning of a new school year become increasingly more real. While the daylight decreases, the anticipation increases for everyone who has a connection to school. Teachers are preparing their classrooms, parents are getting their children ready for new learning experiences, and students are shopping for school... read more

Beyond the Digital Zombie Stereotype: Three Tips for Empowering Student Agency and Decision-Making

By Curtis Chandler   My wife is a vegetable ninja. You see, over the years, she has secretly employed a handful of tricks to ensure that our four sons (and their father) develop healthy eating habits. From the time our boys were old enough to speak, she would offer them a choice. She would say something like, “Would you like broccoli or carrots to eat?” As they grew a bit older, she began ask them to... read more

A Nation of Teacher Leaders

By: Katherine Bassett   Today, the United States Education Department announced its next step in implementing its Teach to Lead initiative, the hosting of three, regional summits led by various supporter organizations. The National Network of State Teachers of the Year is honored to be a Teach to Lead partner organization. An organization of teachers leading in policy, practice, and advocacy, NNSTOY... read more

Your Personal Best Is Yet to Come

By: Jennifer Facciolini, NC STOY 2011   “Don’t do it," I thought. "Athletes don’t cry."   Somehow, I managed to pull myself together, but instead of my usual post-race celebration of high fives and cheering on other runners, I walked to the race result board without eye contact with anyone. My instinct was confirmed--my worst time ever.   I wanted to be proud that I at least... read more

Reflections While Gardening

By Megan Hall, MN STOY 2013   I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about Katherine Bassett, Executive Director of NNSTOY, because I’ve been working in the garden. When we parted ways at the end of the 2014 NNSTOY Annual Conference, Katherine told me that she was planning to spend a week working from home and gardening. Now, whenever I work in my own garden, I imagine Katherine Bassett working in... read more

Rewarding Excellence With Excellence

By Brett Bigham, Oregon State Teacher of the Year 2014 As I returned from the NNSTOY Conference in Philly this year I had a chance to think back on the experience and two things became incredibly clear to me.  NNSTOY is not your typical conference and the attendees were not your typical teachers.   As a Special Education teacher, we are so often used to attending general ed meetings at every level.... read more

The Bowl of Fruit

By Luke Foley, VT STOY 2014 Education is like a bowl of fruit.  From a teacher's perspective, each piece of fruit represents a task, responsibility, or initiative, often on top of what one would assume are normal teaching duties. This bowl of fruit is endless; teachers always have more work than can reasonably be done in a work day, week, or even year.  And as soon as we feel like we're making progress on our... read more

Supporting Teachers as They Grow From Good to Great

By Katherine Bassett How do good teachers transform into great ones? What are the experiences, supports, and motivators that drive good teachers into continually evolving, seeking out meaningful learning experiences, and leading such learning for others? These questions are central to states’ efforts to ensure that all students have great teachers. They also are the crux of a survey study report recently... read more

Fascist Formulae

By Ralph Maltese, PA STOY 2002 Before we had our first child, my wife and I, both possessing Masters degrees in English, adhered to the belief that you can prepare for anything through the power of reading.  After all, there were books on just about everything:  managing your weight, improving your muscle tone, installing a light bulb.  And read we did.  We gathered books on swaddling, crib preparation, and... read more

Banning Hope

By Katherine Bassett Hope and I have a long and storied history.  Like most people, I started out embracing hope – as in, “I hope that Santa brings me the complete Tammy Family doll set,” when I was ten.  This relationship had its ups and downs, but it mostly thrived until I was a mother and my daughter became very seriously ill.   In dealing with doctors at a premier children’s hospital,... read more

The Skeptics Guide To Social Media: 5 Reasons Every Educator Should Plug In

By Luke Foley Like many educators, I have always felt a bit skeptical of utilizing social media as an educational tool.  To me, it has always seemed to be, at best, a distraction for my students.  At its worst, it reminds me of the terrifying prophecies of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, in which futuristic societies are brainwashed by an omnipresent technology that monopolizes their time, kills their... read more

Today’s Teacher Leaders: Who They Are, What They Do, and How To Be One For Your At-Promise Students

By Alex Kajitani, California State Teacher of the Year 2009   “Anytime you influence the thinking, beliefs, or development of another person, you’re engaging in leadership.” -Ken Blanchard. While the Common Core Standards have been parading down education’s Main Street over the past two years, often surrounded by much debate and controversy, another set of standards has, at the same time,... read more

Professional Compensation Based on Teachers’ Roles

By Katherine Bassett During the 12 years I spent working in a corporate culture, I experienced an evaluation and compensation system very different from what I’d known during 26 years as a classroom teacher.  My compensation as a teacher was based on longevity and I was evaluated with a checklist of desirable characteristics. When I worked for a corporation, my performance was evaluated frequently and my... read more

The Power of Present Tense

By Monica Washington, Texas State Teacher of the Year 2014 I traveled to the National Teacher of the Year conference in Scottsdale, Arizona feeling a great deal of excitement that was tempered by a bit of apprehension.  Did I know everything that I needed to know?  Could I thoroughly discuss educational policy if I needed to?  Who would I meet?  I would be spending the week with the other fifty-three state... read more

Teachers Leading the Way on Teacher Leadership

By Katherine Bassett Last month, at an event in Washington, D.C. to release NNSTOY’s report on the need to create sustainable career pathways for teachers, American Enterprise Institute scholar Rick Hess commented that teachers should be leading the charge. “For this to have a fighting chance,” he said, “it can’t be something done to teachers; it has to be something teachers are asking for and asking... read more

A Frozen Moment among Memories and Hopes for the Future

By Karyn Dickerson; North Carolina Teacher of the Year 2014 On Tuesday, January 28 I had the opportunity to attend the eighty-first live State of the Union Address as a guest of Senator Kay Hagan. The experience was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I was honored to be one of only three educators in attendance as guests that night: the other educators included Michelle Obama’s guest, a teacher from... read more

Talking to Parents About the Common Core

By Sarah Brown Wessling Sometimes I think we get so busy trying to unpack and implement Common Core that we forget one of our important roles in making this implementation stick: helping our larger communities, especially parents, to understand it, too. With back-to-school nights on the horizon and parent communications getting underway, we wanted to fill your backpocket with some resources you can turn to when... read more

Advancing the Profession

Posted on December 12, 2013 by Katherine Bassett and Kathy McKnight Teaching is rocket science. Research tells us that in any profession it takes 10 years to become a true expert.  Unfortunately, far too many teachers leave the field before they reach that point. To retain teachers, some states and school districts over the past 40 or more years experimented with making teaching more like other... read more

When the Community Becomes the Classroom

By Jay Hoffman The view changes dramatically when you take down the walls of the classroom. You and your students become magically transparent. Students’ work takes on meaning and relevance to them. They become engaged and before you know it they are learning and demonstrating higher order skills and becoming proficient with technology as they work seamlessly to meet needs in their community.... read more

If You Want to Go Far, Go Together: Collaboration in the Era of Common Core

NNSTOY’s three pillars are policy, practice, and advocacy. The advent of the Common Core standards makes it possible for teachers to collaborate on all three in a way that has no precedent in this country, especially when it comes to instructional practice. The reason is simple: we’re finally moving toward a national system of education instead of fifty separate state systems. The tag-line often used to... read more

My View From the Common Core

Kathy Powers is a National Board Certified reading and language arts teacher at Carl Stuart Middle School in Conway, Arkansas. She has 20 years of teaching experience in first, fourth, fifth, and sixth grades, and in almost every subject. Powers has authored articles in education journals, presented at several conferences including the International Reading Association conference, and has been awarded multiple... read more

Thank Goodness for Tests!!! – Super Heroes Speak About Assessments Part I

By Curtis Chandler There are times when I am really glad that we have tests…and lots of them. For example, those who know me best are aware that I am absolutely, positively terrified of flying.  My friends and family try to tell me that it is irrational to get so nervous on a plane, and that ‘statistically speaking, it’s still the safest way to travel.’  First of all, I have had a hard time finding the... read more

Just Ask Us…

Jeanne DelColle is 2012 NJ STOY and a 2013 Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow. A high school history teacher of 17 years, she is the 2012 NJ History Teacher of the Year and 2010 NJCH Humanities Teacher of the Year. She is currently working to bridge the gap between higher education and P-12 as the Instructional Development and Strategic Partnerships Specialist at Richard Stockton College.   The... read more

To Our Teachers Passed (Past) by Josh Parker

Maryland STOY 2012   To Our Teachers Passed (Past), Death is something people don’t think about enough. Retirement is probably something teachers think about too much. Both are in some ways the same. While teachers never stop teaching; there will come a time when our classroom careers close. This is probably more like death than many of us would admit. I think about it often; wondering what my... read more

Alex Kajitani: What the New Common Core Math Standards Mean for our At-Promise Students

Alex Kajitani is the 2009 California State Teacher of the Year. He recently released a new book, "Owning It: Proven Strategies for Success in ALL of Your Roles as a Teacher Today." As teachers of at-promise students, we’ve often had an “upside down” view when looking at standards. Teachers in affluent neighborhoods, where students are generally performing at grade level, tend to view state standards as... read more

Kelly Kovacic: Strengthening our Human Capital Strategy in Education

The foundation of a thriving democracy is an educated citizenry able to make well informed and rational decisions. This can be accomplished, but only by ensuring that we have highly qualified teachers in each of our nation’s classrooms and strong education leaders throughout our education system.   Traditionally within the education space, we have been masters at innovation - introducing and... read more

Josh Stumpenhorst: 21st Century Educator

  Lots of people are tossing around terms in education and attaching the words “21st Century” to appear cutting edge or on the front end of trending ideas. As a teacher in the 21st century I find it amazing to see some of the things that are so called “21st Century” and yet are no different than 20th or even the 19th century ideas. With that in mind, I have reflected recently on my opinion of what it... read more

Curtis Chandler: Mining, Modeling, and Other Sandbox Activities to Foster Student Creativity

This week, Curtis Chandler, Kansas State Teacher of the Year 2011, writes on Mining, Modeling, and Other Sandbox Activities to Foster Student Creativity.  This piece first appeared in Ed Week, on March 11, 2013. ... read more

Jeanne DelColle: Getting It Right: Teachable Moments and Education Policy

2012 NJ State Teacher of the Year Jeanne DelColle, a high school history teacher of 17 years, is also the 2012 NJ History Teacher of the Year and the 2010 New Jersey Council for the Humanities Teacher of the Year. After working at the NJ Department of Education on educator outreach initiatives at the request of her Commissioner, including the design and implementation of the New Jersey Teacher Advisory Panels, she... read more

Reflecting on Newtown: Teacher Perspectives

This month, I am introducing you to two outstanding educators:  David Bosso, Connecticut State Teacher of the Year 2012 and Tony Mullen, both National and Connecticut Teacher of the Year 2009.  David and Tony live and work in Connecticut, a state that enjoys a close-knit community of educators.  Both were deeply impacted by the horrific murders of very young students and their teachers in Newtown.  These two... read more


© 2017 NNSTOY, All Rights Reserved
Website by David Taylor Design | NJ Website Design Company