If you’re open to it, middle school students can teach you some profound lessons about the world around you. I’ve been lucky enough to learn some pretty wise lessons from my students over the years, but there is one lesson I first learned from a student, and from many others since, that seems to stick with me most. The lesson: there is power in being available for one another. “Mr. Healy, could I stop by... read more
A quick Google search of “best practices in teaching” brings up results that teachers have been working on honing even before they first step into a classroom. This list includes items such as “create a student-learning environment” and “build relationships with students that promote a positive and safe environment”. Young teachers dream of creating their own classroom. They start shopping garage sales... read more
The COVID pandemic has impacted the public education landscape of America. Policy across the country has shifted like the sands of the Sahara, causing unrest and uncertainty. In some cases, there have been vocal and sometimes violent confrontations at school board meetings with parents squaring off against elected officials over mandates, curriculum, and content. Many of these protests are rooted in new... read more
When I’m outside of school, I like to be quiet. I like to listen to my family, my friends, vinyl records, and more, but I like to be quiet. At school, I don’t always get to be quiet. Teaching, particularly at the middle school level, requires a fair amount of talking: setting expectations and boundaries, delivering content or support, responding to questions, and sharing with colleagues. Educators talk at... read more
In my current role as a district  instructional coach, I enjoy sharing strategies with my colleagues that support critical thinking skills for students. One strategy that has proven to be very popular with teachers and students is the Question Matrix, developed by Weiderhold and Kagan in 1995. On the surface, the matrix is a visually appealing organizer containing question starters. Looking closer, one observes... read more
I #loveteaching because I love to learn I am a better person because of the lessons my students teach me Each day brings forth new lessons, insights, and opportunities to grow I #loveteaching because I love to learn Transformations and light bulb expressions are reminders of the importance of this heart work that I do I #loveteaching because I love to learn I am a better person because of the... read more
Ever had a conversation with an old friend that you haven’t seen in a while and somehow, you pick up right where you left off? That’s where we are today. I know we haven’t talked in a while, but I’ve been keeping up with you on Social Media, and just wanted to let you know that…   I see you.   I see you showing up for your students every day, even though you’re exhausted. I... read more
“Have you heard anyone say anything bad about your teachers?” I asked my children one night after school. “No! Never!” They unanimously replied, with a slight hint of disgust on their faces. “People at my school only say teachers are nice, thoughtful, and kind,” said Lucy. “The sixth-grade teachers at my school work really hard to make sure kids understand,” responded Jude. “No one has any... read more
I have a confession to make. I was a little bit afraid to write this blog for #LoveTeaching week because I didn’t want to be accused of “toxic positivity”. It seems like social media is overwhelmed with stories of teachers who are quitting the profession. I get it. Teaching has changed, teachers are being attacked (literally and figuratively), and education in general is taking a hit. So this is not an article... read more
“You can not teach a man anything.  You can only help him discover it within himself.” ~Galileo Galilei Mentoring is the same process: reciprocity, discovery, and renewal. Education requires one to work with others and learn from others. The role of a mentor for early career educators is the same. I have mentored teachers in all academic areas throughout my career, from music to special education, from... read more
This past spring I was fortunate enough to attend the online Teaching History Conference hosted by UC Davis. The theme, "Challenges of Teaching and Learning History: Issues of Pedagogy and Content," caught my attention as my colleagues and I were struggling to deliver rigorous, differentiated instruction to our students. One session, led by Cate Denial, featured four university professors describing a novel... read more
At the beginning of the school year, I wrote about the opportunity that we had to create the conditions for learning in an otherwise unstable time by limiting the white noise: “In sum, we can strive to provide the intellectual, emotional, and physical quietude that students need to learn, and I am confident that we will rise to this challenge just as our colleagues have risen to meet the others that came before... read more
As I sit, once again, staring at the abyss called my email INBOX, I feel defeated before I even begin to conduct my “email triage.” How am I to read all of these emails during my scheduled working hours? I see other people who manage to read their emails. How do they do it? Do they really READ the emails? Do they skim the emails? Do they ignore and pretend as if they read the emails? Do they reply to emails by... read more
Do you have any unnecessary but comforting habits at work? Like only using a certain copier because “the other one” doesn’t like you, or parking in the same spot every day? These are the little behaviors that if others noticed they might wonder, what’s up with that? For the last sixteen years at school, I’ve had a noticeable and completely unnecessary habit. I’m not sure when or why it started. I’m... read more
In her book Thinking in Bets, Annie Duke introduces a concept called “resulting,” where some of her clients review the quality of a decision based on the final outcome, as opposed to a more thorough analysis and reflection of the decision-making process in which they engaged. Annie herself speaks publicly of the curveball life threw her when her health postponed late doctoral work and interviews.  That led... read more
  As we begin the descent towards the Winter Solstice, the whitetailed deer are leaving their marks as mating season wanes here in New England, ancestral lands of the Algonquian Peoples. The last vestiges of fall leaves remain as the daylight hours grow shorter. It is a time of both rest and renewal in the natural world, a period of slumber.It is also a time when schools often celebrate a romanticized... read more
In the spring of 2018, I was thrilled to be selected as a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching recipient. It was a life changing personal and professional experience so I would like to share my reflections and encourage anyone interested in it to apply. Several programs are available to teachers and administrators through Fulbright Teacher Exchanges, and in this post I intend to share the expectations and... read more
What do earthworms, lawns, dandelions, malaria, honeybees, and Europeans have in common?  The Answer: They are all non-native species that were not in North America in the year 1491.  In the book “1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created.”, Charles C. Mann argues that “from the outset globalization brought both enormous economic gains and ecological and social tumult that threatened to offset those... read more
Toward the end of the first quarter of any school year, it is critical that teachers take the time to reflect on what it is that we are doing. From my perspective, however, this year has been challenging in ways that the previous pandemic year was not. Whether this challenge can be attributed to the continued politicization and inconsistent interpretation of public health policy (to which I alluded in my previous... read more
What are the narratives that we use to tell the story of America? As a descendant of 16th and 17th century French and English colonizers, history for me was never a question when I was a young child. My history teachers taught me that Columbus discovered America and only spoke of Indians as living in the past, as if the “Last of the Mohicans” was a fact. We were not taught to question. We were taught to... read more
Go apologize to your sister. Say you’re sorry! So much of what many people experience as “forgiveness” as children seems to be centered around the idea of forced apologies. Someone who caused the harm has to say sorry (even if they aren’t). The person who was harmed has to accept the “apology” even if they aren’t ready to do so. While these “apologies” can seem to restore a sense of order... read more
Teachers are leaders, and leading from the classroom is an organic progression that occurs as a novice teacher matures. Support of the teacher leadership model (TL)  has strengthened as hierarchical leadership structures in schools have eroded because of welcomed changes in the authority and power distribution on school campuses. I recall a time when there was an unspoken fear that if teachers tasted the rewards of... read more
Have you ever noticed what the scientists look like in the cartoons? You know - those crazy white-haired guys? Even better, have you ever done a Google search of “famous scientists” or “famous engineers”? Go ahead - I will wait… . . .What did you see? Yep, for the most part you saw those same old white-haired guys. Stereotypes generally do come from somewhere. However, stereotypes lead to some problems... read more
At the beginning of the pandemic, educators faced new challenges engaging students through distance learning. As many of us return to in-person instruction, what did we learn about motivation and how can we apply it to the new school year?  With my experience and background in educational technology, I played a support role in my district. I worked with teachers to address the pressing needs of teaching online and... read more
Although people who live and teach in any part of rural America are able to appreciate natural beauty every day of the year, August in Maine is, in my opinion, the height of summertime. Beautiful warm days are followed by cool and clear nights, producing what is affectionately known as “good sleeping weather.” The vast number of pristine lakes play host to locals and tourists who come to fish, camp, boat,... read more
“I can’t do math!” Raise your hand if you, someone in your family, or anyone in your friend circle has ever said these words or something similar. I can imagine all of the raised hands across America. I sit here, solemnly, and shake my head as I really begin to think about how many times I have heard people say this to me, a math teacher. This leads me to ask the questions: Can you speak Japanese or French?... read more
Last month, Arkansas’ infection numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths made national news and my state had the dubious honor of becoming our country’s new virus epicenter. On July 29, Governor Asa Hutchinson declared a public health emergency and called for a special session so that the legislators could consider lifting the state’s mask ban. As an educator, I believe the governor made the right call.... read more
We have seen the  moment play out a million times, in a million different ways. We bet you have experienced the moment, too. You have stood on the side lines, watching a situation unfold, and all the things that you predicted could go wrong, do. This happens in schools more often than people would like to admit. Decisions are made at the school, district, state, or national level, without teachers sitting at the... read more
Around the country, cries of “No CRT in the classroom!” are ringing out and lawmakers in many states are using this as a rallying cry to keep the teaching of history “Eurocentric.” It is bad enough that more than 14 states have or are currently working to enact legislation that restricts voting rights, and the Supreme Court majority decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (July 1, 2021)  will... read more
“If I had an option to stay online, I would because we have more time to work on our class work. Also, we can try and figure out how to learn something by ourselves and be more independent. With online learning I can login from wherever I want. The teachers also let us be more independent by giving us sources and letting us have the opportunity to figure it out.” “When I was doing online learning, I enjoyed... read more
The future of public education is coming into focus. It is an inclusive space that acknowledges and values all children, identifies their strengths, and celebrates their individuality. It is a space that understands learning can, and should, occur in various spaces and mediums – sometimes within the constructs of a school building but often floating and flowing through online and other boundless spaces. It is... read more
In preparing to write the piece that follows, I looked back through my mental repertoire of writers and thinkers that I have read and studied who might serve to provide inspiration in the face of a challenging year. In the midst of my mental and physical exhaustion from coordinating remote learning and in-person learning all year long, and sanitizing all student surfaces at least five times a day (in addition to the... read more
I need to preface this by saying that I did not grow up on a farm. I liked animals, but cows were scary and tractors were too big.  In fact, at one point in my life, I promised myself that I would never marry a farmer. Fast forward to me living the farm life with my husband, three sons, many cows, two dogs, and various cats with no names. I’ve had some time this summer to reflect on my life, and it’s occurred... read more
Graduation, well, feels a bit different this year. So, instead of recounting your accomplishments, sharing some emotional anecdotes, or offering some advice for the future, I’m going to ask you for some favors. First, we need you to fight against ignorance. People will tell you that if you’re a Republican, Democrats are your enemies, and vice-versa. It will become apparent that some tribalistically-inclined,... read more
In an April 22nd interview with Fox&Friend’s Brian Kilmead, former Secretary of Education (1985-88) Bill Bennet questioned why people who hate America are elected to public office. He answered his question by concluding students who attend higher education facilities are indoctrinated by liberal professors who are critical of America. Those students graduate to become teachers. As educators, they promote hate... read more
As I sit in my empty classroom this afternoon, the craziness of these past fourteen months has, for some unknown reason, been wrapped into this “thing” that I cannot seem to let go:  I am planning lessons for the last week of school. I am in disbelief that I am actually planning lessons. I know that I have written that sentence more than once. Please indulge me. I don’t know what is wrong with me. Could it... read more
I can’t believe that in a few days I’ll close the books on my 29th year of teaching! The end of the school year has always been a powerful time of reflection for me. It’s as if I stand on a trail, looking back at where I’ve been, and at the same time peering into the distance - what will the future hold, and how do I want to shape it? What is the purpose, or value, of reflection? Reflection, if solely... read more
The pandemic exposed a greater need for personnel to support social and emotional wellbeing. The question then becomes, will school districts provide the staff and funding needed to make this a reality? For everyone in the educational realm, this year has been one of many firsts, many questions, and never enough answers. How do we educate to the best of our abilities, when a pandemic is controlling the agenda?... read more
How many decisions do teachers make in one day? That’s a million-dollar question. With every decision, teachers have the power to impact the life of a child. The gravity of every decision is something I may not have fully considered as I walked into my first classroom 23 years ago. A direct message (DM) from Thomal, a former student, is the impetus of this blog. His recollection of the impact of his teachers’... read more
So yeah…if there’s one person near you, are you doing no harm? Are you in the mental state where any interaction with that person would be neutral or beneficial? That sounds so incredibly modest. But that’s basically my deal, and I’m failing at it all the time. George Saunders on The Ezra Klein Show, 2/19/21 B. was one of my favorites. Taught him as a freshman in American History, then got to teach him... read more
Greta was 8 years old when she first heard about climate change. She wondered why so little was being done to combat a human-made problem.  Why would her mother continue to fly when air travel causes high amounts of carbon dioxide?  Why did her father continue to eat meat?  By the time she was 11, Greta had become so desperate and depressed, she stopped talking and eating - losing twenty-two pounds.  What can a... read more
I find myself frequently wishing to go back each time I step into my classroom. I want my desks set up into cooperative learning groups. I want my carpet where my students sit and listen to stories. I want to spend less time monitoring how far students are away from each other and if their masks are above the nose. I want to “go back to normal”  for so many reasons, but we can’t. When it comes right down to... read more
The 1960s and ‘70s were a great time to be a social studies person. The Vietnam War was dividing the country, Richard Nixon was president, and the protest movements on college campuses were in full swing. Nationally, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated, the Democratic Convention in Chicago and subsequent trial of the “Seven” helped generate the culture gap while music widened it as... read more
Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of rides on the emotional roller coaster of teaching. Sometimes the ride was my own, and other times I was seated next to students on theirs. I reminisce about the anticipation of standing in line on a hot summer day, rechecking my buckle just to make sure, and the adrenaline, terror, and excitement of the twists and turns. However, the journey always ended with the greatest... read more
The first to go was the bindi on my forehead. Then I traded my Indian clothes for Western clothes. Someone watching my transformation might say that I was giving up my identity to assimilate, but no, I gave up my external identity to be safe. I am an Asian American. Well, Indian American to be more specific. When it comes to any talk about Asian Americans, the focus is on Chinese and Korean immigrants, with... read more
Relationships. We’ve heard that word a lot lately. “It’s all about relationships”. “You have to build relationships with your students”. “Relationships are key”. I agree with all of those sentiments. However, the best relationship you can have is a healthy relationship with yourself. Give yourself permission to take a break this summer. Give yourself permission to step away from the job if that’s... read more
After thinking about this blog for a week, the word finally came to me this morning on my run: “Tantalize.” That it came from a conversation about Brave New World—my runs can be very literary—may make you wonder. I promise you, though, that’s the word. It’s the right word because it’s what we do, and what we need to do to make it so kids want to... need to...can’t wait to... read something. No... read more
In 1988, an overconfident freshman encountered her first college classes. Armed with a yellow highlighter, I “read” my first college textbook. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was certain that the way to prepare for my class was to highlight the important details; it all seemed important. In the end, my pages were completely yellow and I had retained nothing. When it came time for discussions or quizzes,... read more
The achievement gap is commonly used to describe disparities in academic performance among students defined by race, gender, and socioeconomics. Educators often consider the impact of instruction, absenteeism, and inequitable accommodations among other things to address this gap. Various instances of social unrest, a global pandemic caused by COVID19, and schooling implications that accompanied the pandemic threaten... read more
While 2020 brought with it a host of disappointments and challenges, it was, for me, a year of unexpected learning experiences. I dug deep and questioned my beliefs both personally and professionally. I leaned into the discomfort of examining my bias. I felt I had done the work. And then I revisited a harmful, yet common practice I had used very early in my career, and for the first time, I realized I should have... read more
It doesn’t take long in the current political climate to come across the words “these teachers” blasted across the comments section of online news, in responses on people’s posts on Facebook and  other social media forums, or even being spoken on the radio. “These teachers” has become synonymous with the concept of teachers asking to be heard, and the consensus of that request being, “No, thanks, we... read more
The most passionate voices don’t come from a source everyone can hear. They are from a singular inner voice only heard by one. In the half-century I knew him, he could never say San Francisco in two distinct words, despite being born and raised across the Bay in Oakland. Even though he was raised by a father who was neglectful, he became a dad who encouraged and supported his children and his students. He... read more
“Greatness is built on the backs of giants,” is a quote a mentor shared with me years ago. At the time, I did not fully appreciate the implications of the wise words she was sharing with me. At first glance, it appears to be about success but now, years into my career I have a  much deeper understanding. I understand now we are only as great as the people around us. I understand that it requires each and every... read more
I have always loved integrating games into my high school social studies classroom. Generally, students also love it because it lets them take their learning less seriously for even a short time, and do something that is fun with their friends. Several years ago, I discovered Classcraft,  a gamification platform for my classes that focuses on improving student behavior and rewards them for helping others, turning... read more
Joy! One of the most satisfying aspects of being an educator is witnessing joy in my students. I have seldom seen greater joy than when my students build, destroy, then build again in Minecraft Education Edition. This cycle not only promotes an exceptional amount of engagement, but also my students' impassioned love of learning. Joy! When I first began using Minecraft Education Edition with my students, I... read more
It was a perfect February afternoon. We had just had an awesome day in my 4th grade classroom. Awesome and hectic!  But, let’s be honest, with 20 boys and 7 girls, every day is a hectic day. I was standing in the back, surveying our room, when there was a light rap on my door. I turned to see one of my little 4th graders - all grown up. Not only was she all grown up, but she had been substitute teaching right... read more
I am a thankful person, a grateful person, an optimist. I am a glass half full, love Mondays, and benefit of the doubt kind of person. I take delight in the little things, find myself in awe of others and choose happy every day. For me to dwell in this place of positivity can sometimes be awkward, sometimes uncomfortable, and even sometimes makes me feel a little guilty. It is awkward when someone responds to me as... read more
“I’m really glad you’re back,” she said quietly behind the mask that hid her smile as she zipped up her backpack and prepared to exit the classroom. There had been signs before today. Like when she showed up for class four hours early. Or when, despite her school pivoting to virtual due to an outbreak, showing up anyway because of her excitement about that day’s lesson. So yeah, in my heart, I had known... read more
Yesterday, a student asked for my autograph; I felt like a ROCKSTAR!  I know you’ve also felt that feeling. You’ve seen shining eyes eager for approval when students share a proud creation and you attained the moniker “Favorite Teacher” scrawled on paper hearts. Younger students have clung to us on first days of school, while seniors have sobbed upon our shoulders, thankful we were a part of their... read more
For many, last year felt like being swept up in a tornado of anxiety, frustration, and often grief, before landing in a world that was unfamiliar and uncertain. And much like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, many of us are searching for answers to find our way back home--to the familiar, to the comforting. But as any fan of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey will tell you, in order to have the return home, with... read more
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Education Secretary John B. King Jr., hosts the 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes, center, May 3, 2016, at the White House. Hayes, an NEA member, is now a member of Congress. | Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP   We were in front of the Supreme Court of the United States when we heard there was a protest underway near the White House. We grabbed an Uber and... read more
This post concludes a three-part collaborative series on COVID-era teaching and mental health. Click to view Part 1 and Part 2. Cindi and Karyn are instructional coaches, Cindi at a K-12 public charter school and Karyn at a public high school. Although their job descriptions mean they are caregivers (curriculum support and emotional support as well) for staff members in their respective schools, they also have... read more
The first time you hear it, you won’t forget it. It’s usually at recess, when the collective energy and impulsivity of 200 plus 5th graders could power a school bus. Or after P.E. class, where a well intentioned game of flag football becomes a sparring match reminiscent of a scene from “Gladiator.” Sometimes it’s during lunch between mouthfuls of green beans, chicken nuggets, and the occasional ketchup... read more
This post is Part 2 of a three-part collaborative series on COVID-era teaching and mental health. To see Part 1, click here. What if we were to tell you that according to the World Health Organization, mental health conditions account for 16%, or the fourth leading cause of the global burden of disease and injury in people 10-19 years of age? Would it surprise you to know that nearly one in five U.S. adults live... read more
This post is Part 1 of a three-part collaborative series on COVID-era teaching and mental health. Look away, please, I beg you. If you came here hoping for a minute of inspiration, a funny story about teaching under COVID, a glimmer of hope in this dark, dark world. Please, read no further. I offer no such thing. No, I have neither joy, nor light, nor certitude, nor help for pain to offer. But I offer you my... read more
March 14, 2020 was a big day for education in North Carolina. That afternoon Governor Roy Cooper announced the closing of all schools in North Carolina in response to COVID-19, and education in our state (and across the world) has been in a state of flux ever since. Interestingly enough, at the time of Governor Cooper’s announcement, the North Carolina chapter of the National Network of Teachers of the Year was... read more
When my brother and I were kids, we loved going to amusement parks – the excitement, the aromas, the unique din in the air – we couldn’t get enough. We especially liked the rides – sheer abandonment and controlled terror made the experience particularly appealing. One day, we saw the ultimate ride: the Spinning Spider. It looked like a horizontal Ferris wheel with 8 “legs” extending from the Spider, each... read more
Gratitude is probably the number one topic talked about, posted about, and thought about during the month of November. We even devote an entire holiday to celebrating its meaning. But lately it is a topic that can elicit a range of responses, from “It’s essential to happiness, always keep it in your heart!” to the unspoken but definitely felt “I’m so tired of Pollyanna posts right now, I just might... read more
For the last couple of weeks, I have been in virtual meetings at the state, national, and global levels about the impact of COVID on the education community and possible solutions to the problems caused by the virus. To their credit, educators across the world have dug in their heels, facing the problem squarely on and addressing the issue creatively. The issues being faced are similar, ranging from student... read more
It was late in the afternoon, long after the last bell, when my mentor reached deep into the back of a filing cabinet, pulled out some old files that looked like they hadn’t been touched in a decade and touted triumphantly, “I never throw anything out. Education is a pendulum, constantly swinging back and forth. If you stay in the game long enough, what is new will become old, and then come back to being new... read more
Pre-Halloween week looked a lot different this year in many classrooms. Zoom or Teams meetings buzzed with connectivity issues instead of classrooms infiltrated with excitement (and sugar). Reprimands for talking in class have been replaced by checking the chat box for irrelevant conversations and emojis. Missing assignments are no longer hidden in the haunted corners of messy desks or lockers, but vanish like a... read more
Let’s take a journey back in time, way back to the Pre-COVID era of 2012, back to a time when children filled classrooms all around our country, huddled together as they worked collaboratively, with no fear of contracting plagues. Aside from being a glorious time without fear of a virus raging through our country, it was also the last time I, as an educator, felt comfortable covering Presidential elections. In... read more
Teachers don’t enter the profession for the accolades, the fame, and certainly not the salary. They do it in service of their communities, for the greater good, to make the world a better place. During no other time in recent history has the raison d'être of the teaching profession been exemplified with such profundity. Their essentiality within the very fabric of society, and how their role ubiquitously,... read more
On September 20th, 2019, I attended a protest march for climate change in Philadelphia.  Marching along, I snapped the photo above. I thought “how true - our children are learning every minute out of every day”. As educators and parents, we need to take heed - watching and listening while asking ourselves the question, what are they learning?  Over the last several months, my thoughts have frequently returned... read more
I became a Kansas City Chiefs fan on April 20, 1993, when Joe Montana was traded from the San Francisco 49ers four days after my twelfth birthday. At the time I was listening to Billy Joel on my Sony Walkman, riding my blue Trek 820 to school each day, playing Betrayal at Krondor on my parents' Gateway PC, and occasionally clerking at their bookstore on small town main street after school. Later in life, I would... read more
If I had known March 12 would be the last day of teaching as I had known it for 18 years, I would have taken no nuance of that day for granted. The following day at noon, everything changed. Learning packets. Zoom meetings. Social distancing. Masks. My usual routine of teaching angsty, impulsive 5th graders in the spring quickly dissolved into scrolling for news updates in between remote teaching via... read more
Grace. It’s a word I heard a lot when schools first closed back in March. Teachers asked for grace as we navigated through difficult times. Colleagues extended grace towards each other as we all chartered a new course of remote learning. Supporters showed grace towards protesters involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. Parents offered grace to teachers as we worked together using remote learning. Fast... read more
My husband walks into the room and stares at me. I am sitting on my bed, looking at my phone, and he instantly knows something is wrong. He pauses before he speaks because he already knows the answer, but he asks anyway. “What is wrong?” I look at him and all of the pieces begin to crumble because everything is wrong. People are saying hurtful things about educators, the funding  is not there, and there are... read more
As if the global pandemic and murder hornets were not enough, we have been inundated with media stories of adults screaming at each other and worse over basic safety protocols.  Now I do not understand why anyone would not follow basic health and safety guidelines to help us all stop the spread of Covid, but I am also appalled by how some adults act towards each other in public and on social media. Our children are... read more
Carol Strickland, executive director of the National Teachers Hall of Fame, has felt the pain of all the COVID-19 cancellations this year at personal, local, and national levels. It is almost too much to bear. “We had been living with COVID-19 and working remotely from home,” she explained about having to cancel all the events leading up to the national induction of the Class of 2020’s teachers into the... read more
Do you remember the “Advice from Kindergarteners” poster that made the rounds years ago, the one that shared life advice through the lens of 5-year-olds? The honesty (and often unintentional humor) of these very young voices rang true for many adults and reminded me of an assignment I have my seniors complete each year. At the end of every school year, I have each of my seniors write a letter to a rising... read more
Teachers have the ability to change the world one child at a time, and it is time to step up. Over my teaching career, I have emphasized kindness to my students. Like many of you, I have kindness posters, t-shirts focusing on kindness, and curriculum units focused on kindness; I praise my students for showing kindness every day. In today’s world, however, kindness is no longer enough. It’s no longer enough to... read more
Like the rest of the world, we had no idea when we left school that day in the middle of March that we would not be returning. On that last day there was a snow-day-like atmosphere of excitement, and my students were buzzing with anticipation of an unexpected break. I revised my regular reading lesson plan to allow time to explain the five days of AMI (Alternative Method of Instruction) work that I had posted... read more
Life has taught me that good women, especially good women who are teachers, are patient, subtle, and humble. Those rules were fine by me. They fit my introverted personality and allowed me to grow in the shadows, unnoticed and uninterrupted by others. Then coronavirus happened. Schools closed. Everything changed, including me. As a teacher in a pandemic, there is no place for patience, subtly, or humility.... read more
Covid-19 has rocked the education system of America. Within weeks of the virus diagnosis as a super contagion, schools closed and teachers were forced to take a crash course to facilitate distance learning. Some have questioned the quality of education, but learning opportunities have been provided. Some governors are pointing to a lack of learning in this environment. As the school year winds to a close, there is a... read more
In May of 2019, Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania dedicated May 23, the 143rd day of the year (except in a leap year), as a day to honor the inspirational Fred (Mr.) Rogers. The number 143 was significant to Mr. Rogers; it represented not only his shorthand for the phrase ‘I love you’ (the number of letters in each word), but also a conscious checkpoint for his physical health, as his weight stayed at 143 pounds for... read more
As an educator, administrator, teacher educator, and adjunct professor, I work with thousands of students every year. Out of those students, there are several hundred whom I see regularly and whose names I (should) know very quickly. Many teachers can relate to this necessary aspect of their professional lives – over the course of a year many teachers need to learn more than one hundred names. Learning students’... read more
As schools closed overnight— most for the rest of the spring semester— and teachers across the country were tasked with rapidly creating effective and comprehensive curricula to be delivered virtually to students, the truth became apparent quickly. Equity and fair access to educational technology is horribly disparate throughout our country. Big gaps exist— in funding, equipment, bandwidth, teacher... read more
I had planned to take April 7 off this year, prior to school shutting down due to the Covid 19 Pandemic. I had scheduled appointments with my physician, my dentist, and my chiropractor in order to justify the “sick day” I had entered months in advance, though in truth what made me sick enough to miss school that day was not a physical ailment cured by a medical professional, but rather the addiction that our... read more
“I touch the future, I teach.” I’ve thought about this quote from Christa McAuliffe many times over the past several weeks. As teachers, we live in the future. We make lesson plans for the weeks and months ahead. We focus on the high stakes assessments at the end of the year. We ask our students what their lives look like after graduation. We live so much in the future that many of us have to make a conscious... read more
Teachers, are you feeling a bit overwhelmed? I wanted to let you know that you are not alone. Consider the past few weeks; we have been asked to convert our curriculum to an online platform. Many of us have explored or used the "flipped classroom" approach, but to put everything we do online is an entirely different proposition. Not only are we considering the "how" in our teaching, but we are taking a look at the... read more
A choice? Not one teacher would choose the current situation that we find ourselves facing. Not one teacher would choose to teach from the kitchen table rather than be with students. Yet, teachers across our state and nation have chosen to answer the call to action. They have chosen to be there for their students, not knowing the full definition of “there” in this reality. We find ourselves in the great unknown,... read more
Dear Covi, I know we have not met, and I hope you’re not offended when I say I hope we never do. Covi might seem informal, but you have had such an impact on my life I feel like I know you. I think it would be okay to drop the formal Covid-19 title and speak to you heart to a virus. You must be proud because you are having quite an impact on the world. You are in the news daily. People fear you are in... read more
While news of the unfortunate circumstances that surround all of us continues to spread, I’m reminded every single time I open social media of the incredible cadre of professionals performing nothing short of magic for the kids that they serve. This is even more impressive considering that teachers had to unceremoniously say goodbye to them as schools began to close their doors a few weeks ago. Since then,... read more
       Is everybody doing okay? Probably a silly question, but I really wanted to check-in on my ASL students. It was Day 3 of no school, no friends, no teachers, no routine life as we know it.  The new virtual, on-line reality was starting to sink in and at 47, I knew I was struggling to adjust, so how could my 15, 16, and 17 year old students be feeling? Immediately, the responses flooded my... read more
Let’s face it. There’s no shortage of resources for remote learning making the rounds these days. From Alexa Skills to education companies offering free subscriptions to parents during school closures, figuring out how to teach remotely seems to have been addressed quickly by many organizations and individuals. But what about the what of teaching during remote learning times? While some schools keep on... read more
It’s #MarchIsReadingMonth, and everywhere you look, people are talking about reading. From what we’re reading to our kids, and what activities for reading they are doing in schools, to what books we ourselves are reading this month, there’s no shortage of conversation about reading. When I look back on my time in grade school, I think of many fond memories. However, contrary to what you might think—for an... read more
March and April are typically my favorite time of year as a teacher. Everything just feels a little bit brighter: the sun is out longer, the birds are chirping, my students and I have a rapport that works, I have figured out (most) everyone’s quirks, and the content and curriculum feel like they are coming together. All those times when I said, “This will connect to something later,” are coming to fruition and... read more
Informed and civil discourse is a necessary part of our representative democracy. The honest exchange of ideas is what creates the effective compromise the Founders envisioned for the country. Much of the discourse today is anything but civil, or as Meryl Streep has described it, “Grace, respect, reassurance, and empathetic listening are qualities sorely missing from the public discourse now.” So is the informed... read more
In the first 20 seconds of the new school year, your students learn two things about you: how you feel about kids and how much you love your job.  This is something I talk about in presentations to teachers around the country. We have such a short moment to cast that first impression, but we have the entire year to build upon it. In honor of #LoveTeaching week, I invited the new teachers I work with to tell me what... read more
I recently heard a familiar, stinging remark from a policy maker: “Allison, if we’re going to increase education funding significantly, we must address the issue of bad teachers in our classrooms.” I resisted the temptation to jump on the term ‘bad teachers’, but I couldn’t argue the underlying concern. To be honest, there is ineffective teaching in every school. It’s an uncomfortable truth,... read more
What does it take for teachers to build trusting, authentic relationships across cultures—and why does it matter? In her famous poem “Human Family”, Maya Angelou’s repeated refrain closes with her take on the matter: I note the obvious differences between each sort and type, but we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike. We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike. We are more alike,... read more
“Twenty-five, fifty...Here’s your change,” Chad says as he finishes his sales transaction with a teacher. “Thanks for the snacks,” the teacher replies. “See you tomorrow.” I’m not a career teacher. I was 45 years old and had been in business for 23 years when I went back to school to become a special education teacher. Little did I know when I made that transition how much I would be inspired by... read more
Shame and vulnerability researcher Brene Brown says that one should, “Never underestimate the power of being seen.” As a child living through the divorce of her parents at a young age, school was a place for me to be seen. At school, I did not have to worry about which parent I was staying with that night or if life was ever going to feel normal again. I was simply a student who was seen and loved by her... read more
Little moments in life shape you into the person you become. Countless teachers impacted my journey of loving my job. My teachers instilled in me the belief that educators can make a  lasting impact in this world because I remember the influence they had in mine.   I remember using my grandmother’s teaching materials when I was a little girl to teach the beginning sounds of pictures to my sister who... read more
At this moment, I am looking out my window watching the magic of those softly falling bits that sustain life.  Individually, I know each is beautiful, unique, Not-Another-One-Like-It  Anywhere. Ever. We catch them, on coat sleeves, on lawns, in reservoirs, in mighty rivers.   Every single one is needed in this collective effort for life-giving water.   Those snowflakes become… the base... read more
“We have your tea!  Don’t forget to grab it!”  Carrie, one of the cafeteria workers said to me with a smile as I walked downstairs to get my lunch.  Every day as she empties out the container and gets ready to throw out the leftovers, she puts some aside for me.  And every day I stop by to say hello, exchange pleasantries, and thank her for her kindness.  One afternoon, I lingered a bit longer and... read more
One year ago this month, the news broke in Virginia that Governor Ralph Northam’s yearbook page included a photo of a man in blackface standing aside another person in a KKK hood. He first responded in a video apologizing for the photo, then appeared at a press conference the following morning to say that, after reviewing the photo, he was sure it wasn’t him. In that same press conference, he also shared that he... read more
The cardboard box was tall on the sides so the dirt wouldn’t spill out in the hallway, but Blake, Jeff, and Aidan still carried it like they could lose their grip at any moment. Finally, they plunked it down on the desk in front of us, and we began conferring about their 5th grade Genius Hour project.             “I don’t understand anything that you are talking about,” I said, truly... read more
We all love helping people, right? That’s what led us into a service profession like teaching in the first place, isn’t it? But right now there is someone out there who is considering resigning from their classroom, quitting their school, and walking away altogether from teaching anyone anything anywhere anytime. Ever again. To that person, I would say, please read on. What could it hurt? Serving... read more
So many children have to hide their gifts to be acceptable to the world. I’m not talking about those stellar learners who make their teachers’ and parents’ eyes shine, the ones who have learned the game of school and who dot every “i” and cross every “t” to get the grades that will move them through to meet their goals. I’m talking about children who annoy teachers and challenge parents, whose... read more
Few people remember the number one issue in the 2000 election was education reform. No one could fathom the impact this would have on American education for the next two decades. The election of George W. Bush was the first seismic event creating the tsunami that changed American schools, and not for the better. While serving as the governor of Texas, Bush witnessed what he called, “The Houston Miracle.”... read more
                    Three years ago, thinking of myself as a teacher leader was the furthest thing from my mind.  I was neck-deep in seven periods of instruction, directing drama, and coaching tennis. The world of educational policy was far away.  Geographically, it was quite close since I live and teach 20 miles from our state’s... read more
                      Imagine someone starring in the movie, " THE BEST TEACHER in the WORLD! " What do you see in the star’s actions and behaviors? What traits do they exhibit?  Pause here and brainstorm those before reading on….. The truth is, no one can be THE BEST teacher. It’s an impossible goal, and frankly,... read more
  Recently a picture circulated on social media of a Teacher “Wellness Room”—a dimly lit, soft-seeming room on campus filled with reclining chairs where we teachers might rest our weary souls after (or even during) a day spent teaching children. Most of the comments from teachers tended toward the positive, even envious.   I was horrified.   Don’t get me wrong. I’m ALL about... read more
  Communication between home and school is flawed despite the awesome educational technology tools at our disposal and the teachers who carefully send information home with their students. I’ve heard teachers say things like, “Can’t parents even go through a backpack? This paper has been in here for three days!” When I hear these comments, I cringe and my mind races to an image of my kitchen table... read more
  Adversity is a teacher. As Homer said, “Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.” Adversity is the whetstone that sharpened my favorite leadership tool, time.  Time is nothing to waste but is a commodity to be given willingly, shared frequently. It should never be taken by anyone lightly. I am a stickler for time. I am a clock... read more
  I read Trends in Educational Philanthropy Benchmarking 2018-2019 with interest because the report documents significant shifts in how philanthropists will likely spend big money over the next five years. This information is important for all stakeholders because it’s one way that we can all “follow the money” to learn about trends in education. One area of increased interest for funders is social and... read more
Written by Victory Jackson (a senior at Little Rock Central High School) and Stacey McAdoo (the 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year/Communication and AVID teacher at Little Rock Central High School)   “Turn off the lights. Be quiet. Get away from the door. Huddle in a corner or hide under a desk.” These are familiar words to the nearly 75 million students who practice monthly how to respond if the... read more
This co-blog, written by Maggie Lee McHugh, WI Middle School Teacher of the Year 2019, and Paige Yang, a student in Dr. McHugh’s classroom from 2016- 2019, tells the story of how the pair explored the critical topic of microaggressions.     Yang I left high school one day, walking towards the middle school to meet Dr. McHugh. We had plans to work on editing my poetry and to brainstorm ideas for our... read more
  It's November and that means the holiday season is upon us. For me, the holiday break is a chance to catch my breath and catch up on some reading I've had to set aside during the first few months of school. I love to read, so it can be difficult to get my reading stack down to a manageable number of texts. So, I often look to colleagues for suggestions of their recent reads and recommendations. If... read more
  With depressing regularity, since the start of the 2016 presidential campaign, I've felt a tug to blow-up large chunks of planned lessons because of a morning indictment, Congressional hearing, or some norm-shattering tweet. On the days that I do, I set a timer for 10 to 15 minutes and we talk through the scandal du jour. In these moments, my students are always more engaged. They ask incredibly thoughtful... read more
  "OUR STUDENTS WANT TO KNOW MORE THAN WE ARE TELLING THEM."   Our students want to know more than we are telling them. I teach a class in which my predominantly White juniors and seniors teach all of the predominantly White freshmen and sophomores about racial literacy and social justice. I teach this class in a small town in Iowa. Day one is all about identity and Lillie—White, female,... read more
  As a reading intervention teacher at a D.C. Title I school, I see my seventh and eighth graders’ intelligence, curiosity, silliness and resilience. I see also in stark contrast and vivid, quantitative detail how far some need to grow to reach a beginning reader level and ultimately grade level comprehension. Why Are They in a Reading Intervention Course as a Secondary Student? We know the story’s... read more
  School discipline will always be a hotly debated topic. As an advocate, I have argued for more proactive, inclusionary practices that address prevention rather than reaction, but I realize that the ability to have positive behavior in the classroom is how we can ensure that students are receiving a high-quality education.   I WANT TO CHALLENGE US ALL TO LOOK INWARD WHEN THINKING ABOUT... read more
  The first wave of the new school year in America should have crested. The beginning of the school year means fresh faces entering classrooms, new ideas for pedagogy and active shooter training. The probability of a school shooter on campus, or what the National Rifle Association terms a “Mass Casualty Tragedy,” is deemed so high Mortenson Elementary School—just outside of Columbine, Colorado—... read more
  Not everyone who talks about teacher voice really wants to hear it. Take a peek into many schools and this is what you might see. A veteran teacher shares an idea she has about improving school policy or curriculum. Leaders smile and nod because she’s using her teacher voice. After all, that is what’s valued in this school. However, her voice brings no real change or reflection. What she said is... read more
October is ADHD Awareness Month and, whether you’re new to education or have been working with students for years, you have probably encountered Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in your school. ADHD is a brain-based medical disorder that impairs the management system in one’s mind, affecting six key executive functions of the brain—activation, focus, effort, emotion, memory and... read more
  I recently attended my son-in-law’s white coat ceremony at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry. As a career educator, I was intrigued by the symbolism: white representing the profession’s purity of purpose in serving patients. The coat—a tangible expression of empathy and commitment to both patients and colleagues. And the actual ceremony marking the transition of an ordinary student to... read more
Dear Colleagues,   As educators, the beginning of fall signifies a fresh start. We have new classrooms, new students, and a new commitment to our craft and the children and families we serve. The National Network of State Teachers of the Year shares the same sentiment - the beginning of fall is an exciting time for NNSTOY’s future, and we are proud to announce our new Impact Statement, Organizational... read more
By David Bosso As a White man I can recall only a few times in my life when I have been viscerally aware of the color of my skin. The first was when I visited the Bahamas with my college roommate, who had grown up there. I was uncomfortably self-conscious. Still, this was the first time it occurred to me that being perceived and treated differently along racial lines is what my roommate and friend experienced every... read more
By Allison Riddle When you teach in a predominantly White community, conversations about race can be uncomfortable, even in professional settings. Educators are not just unsure of how to talk about the race of students, they often question the necessity of having the conversation. While they may feel they are being polite or even respectful, the truth is that we White teachers often lack the courage to include... read more
By Rebecca Eunmi Haslam Throughout my entire K-12 childhood experience, I never once saw anyone who looked like me. Not in any textbook. Not in my teachers' or administrators' faces. There were no role models on television and not one affirming character who looked like me in a novel. I was never taught about a single Asian female of any significance who made any positive contribution to society at... read more
By Sydney Chaffee Last spring, I stood backstage in an historic theater, peeking out from behind a thick velvet curtain at the audience filling up. My students paced around in the wings in various states of costume. They had been preparing for this moment for months. Every year all of my ninth graders--including those with autism, English language learners, and even kids who begin the year with crippling stage... read more
By Rebecca Mieliwocki Some kids dare you to teach them. Damion was mine.  Physically, this tiny kid took up about four feet of space, but the sound and fury this boy brought with him consumed all the remaining air in my classroom. He strode in on day one and made a beeline right for me. He introduced himself and proudly announced that he'd failed virtually every class last year and had a frequent flyer... read more
By Lauren Danner It was a typical Thursday in the life of a high school teacher as the end of the marking period was quickly approaching. As soon as I finished teaching my classes, I began furiously correcting tests to make sure that my students would receive timely detailed feedback and the grades would be entered in time. In addition to the piles of uncorrected papers on my desk, my colleague and I were meeting... read more
By Karen Vogelsang Equity.  Regardless of the education circles in which you travel, it is likely this topic has arisen in your conversations about school funding, curriculum resources, accountability, discipline policies or access to highly effective teachers. We hear equity so often, in fact, that we often assume everyone knows what we mean by the term. Too often educators confuse equality--every student... read more
By Michael Dunlea Teachers constantly show students how to be the best they can be in life. We model for them how to make mistakes, how to recover from them, and how to get up and try again. We model kindness and empathy. We show them that hard work and determination can lead to success, and that failure is just a step along that path. And sometimes we overdo it. Often teachers will give and give to a point... read more
By Melissa Collins “It’s not how many times you get knocked down that counts, it’s how many times you get back up.” (George A. Custer). If my life could be summed up in one statement, that would be it. I’ve been knocked down plenty, but I always get up. As a nationally and internationally acclaimed teacher and teacher leader, one would assume that I am just one of the “naturals,” born to lead the... read more
By Mike Soskil Standing in a dirt school courtyard 7500 miles from my students, I wept tears of joy. In Kibera, Nairobi, the largest slum in Africa, children had just received water filters my students had worked to provide. Everyone on the group Skype call I had organized had tears in their eyes. Hundreds of Kenyan children around me hugged the filters that would keep their families safe from the cholera... read more
By Nate Bowling Although I am an AP teacher, I never took an AP, IB, or honors class while I was in high school. This was for a host of reasons, but in general, there weren’t very many kids who looked like me in those classes--the news tells us that not much has changed in the last twenty years. Around the nation students of color and low-income students are underrepresented in accelerated courses; this is a... read more
By Megan Olivia Hall There’s a moment, in the best of school years, when the disparate individuals we lead in learning transform into a team.  As a whole, the class enters a state of flow, gloriously focused on a collective goal and suffused with the spirit of solidarity.  After three months of team-building, that golden moment flashed into existence with my advisory group – in the middle of a dance... read more
By Monica Washington The holiday hustle—that precarious time between Thanksgiving and winter break—is an outstanding time for teacher leaders to reach out to new teachers. For many beginning teachers, this period is pivotal. It’s the first holiday rush, and they are likely reflecting on how they did during their first semester. As a first-year teacher, by the time I made it to Christmas break, I was sure... read more
By Gary Abud Jr. Over recent weeks you likely have been reminded that November is the time of year to be thankful. Not surprising. But did you know that a Thanksgiving attitude can have lasting benefits for you and your students, even beyond Black Friday? As educators, we are thankful for parents' trust in us to educate their children, community partnerships that help us to do the work of teaching and... read more
By Dorina Sackman-Ebuwa A few weeks ago NNSTOY posted a letter in our Member News for any educators interested in adopting a school in Puerto Rico that was gravely effected by Hurricane Maria. The letter sparked interest in many and I was overjoyed and overwhelmed by the amount of emails requesting to learn more about the Materials for Maestros initiative.  Madeline Will covered the project in EdWeek, and since... read more
By Josh Parker I have spent nearly half of my career in some form of teacher leadership. Now that the horizon of 15 (!) years in education is quickly approaching, I have come to understand where I have made the most improvement (and done the most damage) as a leader of teachers and students. My mistakes and bad decisions have come with consequences, though I believe I was doing what I thought at the time... read more
By Tom Rademacher Writing isn't that hard. We can all do it, one word after next, little baby steps until a whole thought is complete. Writing so people will care is pretty darn difficult though, especially in an age where we are constantly besieged by words and ideas on email, social media and whatever news sources are best at forcing themselves in front of our eyes. Still, the need is there. In fact, there... read more
By Allison Riddle We all know teaching is challenging, but some teachers make it harder than it has to be. As a veteran of 28 years, I get it. I know the intensity and seemingly endless amount of paperwork and planning involved in teaching well. While there are moments of true satisfaction, teaching can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. That being said, while we cannot manage every aspect of teaching... read more
By Jemelleh Coes and Taryrn Brown Recently I wrote two pieces about the importance of educators holding each other accountable for attending to issues of equity and justice. We are, after all, teaching the future leaders of our nation. In my current work in teacher education, I am also helping to prepare future educators to teach with justice in mind. For too many of them, our program has provided their first... read more
By Angie Miller Turn on the news and there seems to be hate engulfing the world our students walk through right now. A sudden public upsurge in white supremacy, anti-Immigrant, antisemitic, anti-Muslim, anti-gay declarations affront us, and while racism and prejudice have always simmered beneath the surface of our society, the underbelly has been sliced open and an unsettling ugliness has been granted permission... read more
By Gary G. Abud Jr. Writing is not only a blueprint of thinking, it’s a key ingredient to developing it. I thought about this while reading The Dot, by Peter Reynolds, to my three-year-old daughter. In a single, brief encounter, the teacher in the book helps a student to see herself as an artist for the very first time. And it changes the trajectory of her life. There have been ‘dot’ moments in my... read more
By Monica Washington It’s National Principals Month and I’m reflecting on some of the best administrators I’ve had the pleasure of knowing throughout my career. One principal had a deep level of respect for students and the entire staff. He could often be seen sweeping the floor because he’d told the custodian to sit down and rest her feet. He would pass my classroom door, look around, and give a thumbs... read more
By Rebecca Mieliwocki This is my 22nd year of teaching. In that time, I've had eight principals. Every year, without fail, there's something new and different to learn. New content standards, cooperative learning strategies, positive behavior support, Thinking Maps, curriculum to support English learners, culturally responsive teaching, Accelerated Reader, Reciprocal Teaching, Step Up to Writing, portfolios,... read more
By Angie Miller A teacher recently told me about the ridicule she faced when speaking to an audience of teachers at her school. During her presentation, one colleague leaned back in his seat, ripped her handout into squares, crumpled two squares into small balls, stuffed them in his ears, and stared at her with crossed arms. Horrible, right? But—if we are honest—not unfamiliar. Sometimes as teachers, we... read more
By Lyon Terry As social and emotional learning has come to the forefront in education, what teachers worry about is another initiative piled on our already crowded desks. Rarely is anything taken off, so teachers tend to view any new initiative with caution. But as I have come to understand and teach social and emotional skills (SEL), I’ve learned they can’t be—indeed, should not be—viewed as something... read more
By Tom Rademacher Our school year is upon us, and many of us are scrambling to set up our classrooms, get those first few weeks planned, and convince ourselves that, yes, we have to wear real, actual, big-kid pants to open house. The beginning of the year is an especially important time to connect with families, but we often use it for some of our least important communication. Now isn't the time for reminders... read more
By Nate Bowling “Mr. Bowling, I think I want to be a mujahid and go fight in Syria.” You really don’t forget a conversation that starts like that. Following the recent act of white-supremacist racial terrorism in Charlottesville, Virginia, a local newspaper reporter reached out to me via Twitter. He wanted to know how I would handle a student who’d shown signs of radicalization. Specifically, he was... read more
By Lee-Ann Stephens and Katherine Bassett The National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) recently published a free Social Justice Book List to help teachers and parents teach a variety of current social justice concepts. Recommended by State and National Teachers of the Year and Finalists, the list includes more 200 titles for students, from pre-K to adult. Below, two members of our network... read more
By Allison Riddle The statistics are not just alarming. They’re downright ugly. An estimated 8% of teachers leave American classrooms within the first year, and even worse, 40 to 50% leave by their fifth year. It’s not surprising, really. Truth is, we’ve made it too easy for them. Too easy to quit. We cast our newest teachers into the most challenging classrooms and expect them to ‘sink or... read more
By Anna E. Baldwin As a rural teacher in a large frontier state, I know firsthand the limitations of small schools: reduced class offerings and extracurricular opportunities, huge travel distances for field trips and athletic events, limited funding for needed resources, and extreme difficulty recruiting teachers. Many Americans outside rural areas do not understand the dynamic of these regions, but one would... read more
By Gary G. Abud, Jr.  Can...can you...can you hear me now? As humans, we are hard-wired for connection with each other. When we face challenging life situations, we often seek out and lean on others. Relationships are our human cell phone signals. In The Power of the Other, Dr. Henry Cloud compares our strong desire to develop meaningful relationships to how a cell phone constantly seeks connection in order... read more
By Brett Bigham Over the past several years I have had the absolute honor to meet teachers from every state in the country and a substantial number from Europe, Asia and South America. I’ve had the chance to learn from the best and share deep conversations about many of the issues teachers all over the globe are facing. I’m not surprised that many of those conversations turned towards Social Emotional... read more
By Dorina Sackman-Ebuwa I love a good summer read, to be swept away by a classical romance or put on my toes by a modern psychological thriller. As an educator, professional learning writer and doctoral student, time to read what I want is mostly a summer luxury. On Sunday, while enjoying the Florida sunshine along the Suwannee River and making my mind up about what to read next—Sparks or Saldana? Grisham or... read more
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
(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
(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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
(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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
  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
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
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
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

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