February 8

The Tool Box

Walking into a stereotypical garage or shed, you will most likely find an absurd amount of tools. The older the home owner, the more tools they will have. It might be filled with hammers, saws, nails-all types of them, ladders, and even a saw horse. That could lead you to believe that he/she may be an amateur carpenter who built the beautiful piece of furniture in their house. After some asking, you come to learn that they do in fact have a lot of tools but not sure what to do with them.

Now transfer that thought to your classroom. Take a walk around and look at all the fabulous tools you have acquired. Building blocks, molding clay, maps, technology, files of creativity from veteran educators, manipulatives, etc. Every one of them is valuable if used effectively.

Having them in your room only means you have stored some items. Students of all ages learn best by playing. Being involved with the learning process is where the connections happen. As we read articles and blogs, listen to pod casts, watch videos and even attend conferences we are given an influx of new items we ‘must use’.  Technology is constantly changing and educators are consistently told out with the old and in with the new. The issue here isn’t what is the latest and greatest but HOW are you using that tool.

As you look around your classroom, look at the tools you have and determine how they can be incorporated in your lessons. What can you do that will engage your students collaboratively? What activity will make the dinner conversation tonight?

If your class is full of technology or only has one device or IWB, do you know how to use it effectively? Take the time to ask questions, read articles and watch videos. There is so much power in  your creativity and passion for teaching so let it explode into the tools you have.

January 29

Life Long Learner

“How many of us purposefully and explicitly model the learning process for our children? How many of us stand up in front of kids and say, ‘This is what I’m learning right now.” ~George Curous ‘The Innovator’s Mindset’


What is your one word that will be your next challenge? #oneword2018 When you look back on the past 3 months, 6 months or even a year can you say how you’ve grown? Think about it. Before you know it, you’ve been teaching for a handful of years, most likely in the same grade-or even the same room. If you don’t take the time to learn, grow and achieve the goal a new way you become stale. Your excitement dwindles because it’s the same old routine and your students will see it.

If you are in a job that encourages forward thinking and growth, chances are opportunities are within walking distance. Local trainings and webinars created by fellow colleagues with tools in your district and ideas that are relevant to you are readily available. On the other side of this equation, you may need to find that growth on your own. Here are a few tips to accomplish that:

  • Follow a ‘#’ from conference: #FETC, #VSTE, #ice18 or #ISTE18 as examples
    • hashtags will work on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
    • attendees are encouraged to post what they are learning and often presentations can be found online
    • join the conversation no matter where you are
  • Online courses
    • NorthTIER offers a multitude of inexpensive and current courses taught by local teachers
    • Search for your favorite product and inquire about course work. Most offer 4-8 week options
  • Conferences
    • Search for those that interest you.
    • A one day conference can be inexpensive and may be covered by school funds.
    • Ask colleagues in your department for recommendations
  • Blogs


July 24

Fearless Learner



Outside SMART Technologies Headquarters Calgary, Alberta, Canada

It’s been a week since the 2017 SEE (SMART Exemplary Educator) Summit. It was a fearless week. There was so much I wanted to tell my family but didn’t know where to start. Instead of trying to put it into words I sat back and digested it like you would when you have just finished a fabulous meal with the perfect company. You can’t find the words but can savor the flavor and know that it surpassed your expectations.




The Mentor Team

This year I was selected to be a mentor. A mentor, by definition, is a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. This company believes in me so much that they’d give me this honor. Throughout each of the days I, along with 8 other mentors, guided, answered questions, asked the hard ones and ensured that the emotion we felt when it was time to say goodbye was understood by the attendees.



Lunch with the executives.

Our week began with a session led by executives who told us we were the “Best of the Best”. In teaching, a profession filled with constant evaluation, criticism and desire for improvement they told us we are enough. They shared their excitement in the upcoming week to hear our ideas, learn from us and work with us to improve the company. That’s quite a bit of information to hear on a Monday morning yet they kept repeating “We are the best of the best.” Their wishes for the week certainly came true.




Each attendee had a star next to the red carpet as we were cheered on by the entire company

During the next four days, our sessions were filled with executives, developers, fellow attendees and other members of the company sharing experiences, trials, obstacles and successes. When we questioned, they answered. When we challenged, they listened. When we achieved a new goal, we all celebrated. So much so that on

day 3 of this amazing week, everyone at SMART Headquarters came to the cafeteria and cheered for us as though we were famous walking down the red carpet with our names in stars lining it.



As a mentor, I realized that it was my duty to guide and encourage the 24 new Summit attendees that way any parent would. They were guided to ask the questions, share their ideas and converse with any and every employee that joined us. What other company brings their customers to their headquarters to have it criticized with the opportunity to grow?

A week later we received a survey asking us to reflect on every aspect the week, one of which was to describe the week in one word. Fearless would be my word. Fearless to apply to attend knowing the level of competition of SEEs around the world. Fearless in sharing my thoughts to help create one of the best weeks of professional development possible. Fearless in meeting new people which included those from 7 different countries. Fearless throughout the week by showing them that this company wants to improve and values our opinion. Finally, as they took their walk down the red carpet with the entire company cheering them on, I needed to be fearless as I watched them as any proud parent would. They relished in the moment and I caught it all on video.

As any effective teacher does, I evaluate my time during that week and hope I was enough. I hope my passion for this community and SMART was felt enough that they know they are the best at what they do, their voice matters and this journey has barely begun.

Stay fearless as you now have a team that is cheering you on.




May 19

Online Test Prep

In Virginia, the S.O.L.s are here. This is our end of the course state assessment where students prove how much they’ve learned. You may be preparing or reviewing, currently testing or celebrating the end of that 5th season. Grades 3-12 know the drill. Spend the school year prepping for it in every way possible.

What if the prep didn’t start in 3rd grade, but earlier? How do you begin to prepare? Teachers in grade K-2 will tell you their kids are too young to handle the pressure. It’s time to change that thinking and find appropriate sites for this to happen.

Kahoot https://getkahoot.com teacher created; points awarded by fast answering
 Quia  https://www.quia.com  shared quizzes are free; create your own for a small annual fee
 Quizizz  https://quizizz.com  sample quizzes; create your own; play against classmates
 QuizStar  http://quizstar.4teachers.org/  various types of questioning formats; graded quizzes; create a class

Looking for a large list, click here to learn of paid, free, K-12, and PD.

Of course, there are always more and maybe your tried and true isn’t on my list. Not matter the tool you use, get your students involved in it. So much of today’s world is assessed via online items and the more we prepare our students and add this language to our teachings, the better prepared we are all to prove how smart we are.

April 28


The last week of March was my school’s SMART Hackathon. Everything about it was amazing! In a field full of creativity, think of this as a blank cavas. Just like the Notebook software it can be anything we want it to be. It was discussed how it would go, what would occur during each session and where the success would lie.

The biggest question when selling this to my colleagues and administration is “What is it?” In a nutshell, it’s the most open ended activity you can imagine. No rules. No right way. No wrong way. Your way. Everything that is being stated in the educational journals regarding the way we need to be teaching today comes to fruition during this event.

An excited class walks into the computer lab. Kelly Miksch and team, at my event included Jason Smith, ask the students what they are learning. She’ll make a list of it on the SMART Board and gets thnd shows them 1-2 of the LAB activities. A game is created in less than 5 minutes focusing on questioning techniques appe kids thinking about the content they are learning. Questions are asked the same way any classroom teache would guide inquisitive minds. Then they enter the world of  Lesson Activity Builder (LAB) activities. From this she gets them excited about video games aropriate to the population she is working with. The students quickly see the repeated template format in each one and the energy soars. From here the children are chomping at the bit to get with their partners and create.

Listening to the conversations with the classmates, they select a topic (unless you predetermine it for them) and what they want to focus on. The students then create their first LAB activity using every level of Bloom’s Taxonomy and all the 4 C’s you can think of. 45 minutes later each group has at least 4 games, we couldn’t stop them if we tried, and then it’s time to share. Each pair rotates through the computer lab playing every game created by their classmates


It was success and there was such pride in every aspect of this. As with most lessons, there are unexpected outcomes that seem to blow us away. You see at the beginning, our Hackathon plan was to be with one class of 14 students. We later added a 3rd grade group who created their activities in 20 minutes, a teacher group where an apprehensive educator took over by assisting a colleague with a technology question and (our favorite moment) hearing a special education teacher yell out “That’s her IEP goal! This 10 year old child with an Autism diagnosis created a game, completed it successfully and it’s her goal. She has a hard time doing it in the classroom and on here she does it in record time!”

Are you interested in learning more?

Download SMART Notebook Software for a free 45 day trial.

Check out SMART’s ebook “Hackathon’s Made Simple”