YOU are a Powerful Educator!

I have been working on a reflective project which has required me to think about the last 6 months of my professional career and the impact I have made in that time period.  With it being a new decade and all, my mind naturally started wandering to the year of 2010 and where I was professionally during that time.  I couldn’t help but think about how my professional life has changed in the past ten years.  If you were to ask me in 2010 where I saw myself in ten years, this is NOT the path I would have thought my journey would have taken me. 

So, It’s the year 2010.  I am 38 years old and have four children, ages 11, 9, 6, and 5.  I am a long term substitute in District 181 trying to get my “foot in the door” as I am needing to pack my Stay at Home Mom bags and go back to teaching full time.  Two years and 4 long term assignments later, I landed a full time teaching job.  Second grade at Madison School with an amazing team (whom I still love dearly today).  Getting back into the classroom was invigorating!  The excitement, the joy, the buzz I got from teaching!!  However, the year was challenging, not only professionally, but personally.  Juggling home life and a career was not easy.  Especially for someone like me who likes give 100% to anything I do.  Not having 200% to split equally between my family and career caused a lot of guilt and heartache.  It was something I knew I had to get a handle on if I was going to continue to be a successful teacher AND a stellar mom/wife. 

The next year I needed to make a move to either third grade or fifth grade because of a change in enrollment.  Never teaching anything higher than 3rd grade, I went totally out of my comfort zone and took the 5th grade position.  For the next five years, I taught 5th grade and LOVED every single minute of it, well, mostly.  In those five years, I grew and developed into an educator that I never dreamed I could become.  I started to realize and quite frankly, didn’t really like what I was noticing about our educational system.  I was quickly getting tired of all of the tests my 5th graders needed to take and I felt there should be more to school than paper and pencil activities.  Especially as we moved through the decade and technology was becoming more and more relevant in our world.  In 2013 I went back to school for Educational Technology and earned my Masters in 2015.  During those years I also made changes to my classroom, all fifth graders in 2014 had 1:1 iPads.  Talk about change!  I was thrilled!  Everything I was learning about in my Master’s classes, I could now actually put to use in my own classroom.  During that year and the few years later, my teaching  and classroom started changing to fit more closely with todays unique world.  I changed to a flexible classroom model, I started this blog, I facilitated a HUGE Shark Tank unit with all fifth graders , I had my students blogging, they were collaborating with architects, and other professionals, they convinced the Village to repair the roads around our school so they could ride their bikes more safely.  My students were learning real world skills by tackling real world problems.  In the thick of it all, each little story of impact didn’t mean much at all.  It was just little old me, mom of four, trying to give my students the educational experience I felt they needed.

Fast forward to 2017, I applied for and became an Apple Distinguished Educator!  Excitement overload!  Again, who would have thought back in 2010 that this stay at home mom, would achieve being recognized by Apple as an innovative educator?  That same year I moved into the library as my love for teaching in the classroom was dwindling each year.  As much as I wanted to “disrupt” the system, I still had rules to follow and curriculum to teach.  More and more time was being taken away by mandatory lessons and tests, less and less time was available to do the activities I felt were most important.  Moving to the library as the Teacher Librarian and weCreate Lab Facilitator (STEAM Lab) allowed me to give ALL of the students a place to tackle those real world problems and learn skills they’ll need for their future.

It seemed like the right fit for me – again, I never saw it coming.  The past three years have included a lot of planning, implementation, and reflecting only to go through the cycle again and again.  As our world is ever changing, I need to change, the space where I “teach” needs to change, my mindset needs to change. 

A new year is a great time to reflect, but a new decade is even better.  So many times we forget the little, tiny impacts we make each year, we never really take the time to see how all of those tiny, little stories of impact add up to the powerful changes you are making in your classroom, school, or district.  I challenge you to add up your stories of impact from the last decade so you can see how powerful you really are!  I’d love to hear all about them in the comments below!

Now that….is Positively Techie!


2020 – Josie 16, Frankie 19, Toni 21, Joey 15

“Shark Tank” Update

The “Shark Tank” project went exceptionally well.  I am so impressed with my student’s creativity and their ability to work so well with each other.  You can read about their inventions on their blogs at 5G Brainy Bloggers, 5Ma Brainy Bloggers, and 5L Brainy Bloggers.  My students would LOVE if you would make a few comments on their blog :))  

Thinking up a solution to solve an everyday problem and presenting that idea to”sharks” was just the beginning.  Each fifth grade class chose what they wanted to do next with the top 3 inventions.  Classes voted using a Google Form on the following options:
1. Mass produce one of the inventions
2. Make prototypes of all three inventions
3. Market all three inventions (create a website, infomercial, etc.)
Two classes chose to mass produce and sell their product, one class chose to market all three products.  The students spent the next few weeks working in groups making the product, packaging the product, creating commercials, jingles, and websites.  The inventor was the “boss” and was in charge of their “employees”.  The “boss” had to make a lot of decisions and answer many, many questions.  It was interesting to see how each student fell into their role and took their job seriously.  I can honestly say I am super proud of my fifth graders!  Once all products were made and packaged, we sold the items during lunch to raise money for our weCreate Lab at our school.  We made A LOT of money and now the fifth graders get to decide what materials to buy for our weCreate Lab.  We will be making that decision next week.

I am always trying to get my student’s voices heard.  It is important to help our children navigate a positive way to use the social media and the internet.  I will be sending the links to the student’s website to companies to get their feedback on the inventions and have been promoting on Twitter some of the items our students made.  One surprising email did come in because of this article written for the local paper.  A marketing firm emailed me wanting to see the video and presentation of one of my student’s inventions!  She was hoping the brand she works for could “help out with this product”.   A video is in production at this time, but I don’t know how the company is going to use it.  I will definitely be sharing it when it goes public 🙂

My students now believe that their ideas matter, that they DO have a voice that can be heard.  My students now believe in themselves and have a sense of pride for their hard work.  They also have a feeling of accomplishment and ownership for real life solutions.  That is all I could ever want as a teacher.

Our students have so much creativity built up in them and often, we get too caught up in teaching from the book, getting ready for the test, worried about the scores and data.  The things my student’s took away from this project could NEVER be taught from a book, or be assessed for a grade on a report card.  Here are several reflections my students wrote in response to the question:
What did you learn form this project?

“I learned that it’s possible to make tons of things you imagine and being creative is super fun and exciting.”

“I learned about sales and how to make a sales pitch.”

“I learned that if you think of an invention or idea you can really make it happen if you believe and try hard enough. It was fun and amazing!!!”

“That you can apply anything you dream of.”

“I learned a lot about how people market products and the process of how a company gets to success, and I also learned that even kids can do this and it’s not impossible but it takes a lot of work.”

“I learned the process every inventor had to go through to get their product invented. I also learned the stress some bosses have to go through to get their workers to do what they want to do.”

“I learned, that there are many new ways I can think about solving everyday problems.”

“I learned a lot about working in groups, and leadership. It was kind of hard telling everyone what to do for the website, and getting things done, but after a few days of getting used to it, I got better at it.”

“I learned that you don’t always get picked in the real world, and you have to deal with it and be happy for the person who did get it.”

“That I could be a inventor when I grow up.”

“I learned that to really get the most out of the project, you really had to think out of the box and be creative with your invention to get the most out of it.”

“I learned that you should take risks. I think that I could of made a better product, but I didn’t take a risk, I just thought of something and didn’t really think about anything else.”

“I learned that it is a complicated and frustrating process to go through to make an invention. You need to think through so many things to be successful with your invention.”

“I learned that you have to keep on trying.  If you did not get you product pick then still should not stop, and don’t give up. Keep on trying and reach your goal.”

“I learned that there’s a lot of steps to making products and working together makes it go way faster.”

My goal is to continue working towards giving my students opportunities to be risk takers, use their creativity, follow their curiosities, and share their voices to the world.  The weCreate Lab at my school is the perfect place where students can use a variety of materials to do just that!


Now that… Is Positively Techie!

“Shark Tank” Classroom Materials for you to use (simply duplicate the copy and modify to meet your needs)!