You Get Out What You Put In: Working Hard for Edu


I didn’t always know I would be a teacher.  Like many of you, I had many other declared majors and future plans that didn’t involve teaching.  At one point I was contemplating becoming a large animal vet simply because I loved being around my horse.  Chemistry classes took care of that plan as I watched an A turn to a B and then a C, and finally a D.  This happened all while getting tutoring help and asking the professor questions.

Back in 2006 I was working for Coca-Cola driving the big trucks delivering soda when my mother in-law invited me to observe a friend of hers, who happened to be an elementary teacher in town.  Taking a day off from my regular job, I remember walking on the elementary campus thinking “what am I doing here?”  But then it happened.  I walked into Mrs. Ford’s classroom.  Students were working on several different tasks at the same time while Mrs. Ford was bouncing from group to group coaching.  As I sat there, one thought kept running through my mind  I cannot believe this is a job!  The kids were having fun, the teacher was happy, and everything seemed right in my world for the first time.

I cannot believe this is a job!

Taking a step back in time a little further.  I played baseball all year round growing up and even into college.  I distinctly remember my neighborhood kids you know, the kids that always wanted to play a game of whiffle ball or two-hand touch football in the street.  I remember coaching kids younger than me and absolutely loving that feeling.  Especially when they followed my advice and ripped the ball down the third baseline!

Remembering my past love of coaching and the experience I had in Mrs. Ford’s classroom was enough to propel me headfirst into the pool of elementary education.

Being the first to graduate from college in my family, I had many loans and decided to take out another one for my multiple subject credential and then eventually my Masters in curriculum and instruction.  Keep in mind I had no choice but to work full-time at the soda company all throughout my associates degree, bachelors, and multiple subject credential.  Many classes I attended in work clothes and then after class headed back to work.  It was normal to have 10-12 hr days.

My baseball coach always said, “You get out what you put in”.  This of course referred to the hard work needed for success in baseball.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that my coach was also talking about LIFE.  We can do mediocrity, but why?

We can do mediocrity, but why?

Working hard has always been something I have done.  Why you ask?  Well, simple.  Working hard allows me to appreciate the things I have earned.  I am proud to say that I have worked for the things I have, and I am good with that.

What still gets me fired up to this day, you ask?  Great question!  It is seeing students succeed, seeing teachers passionate about their teaching, and learning to get myself better everyday.

Teaching is long-term.  We must put in the hard work to see the benefits in our students and our schools.  So don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from colleagues to get this done.  Relying on your site administrator as your only coach is not enough.  Ask people to come into your room to offer advice!  I did last year and it looked like this




What do you do to seek out feedback?  What kind of feedback does your school provide?  I’d love to know how it is with you!


Refueling The Teacher Tank



I know like many of you that the school year can be just plain hard.  Maybe you had a really difficult class or maybe life just got crazy.  Teachers must tap into whatever gets them refueled because this thing we call teaching is just too dang important to not be, well- on fire for kids!  I tell you what.  I’ll let you in on what I do for the summer months to get myself in tip-top-shape for the next school year (mentally anyways as I haven’t been exactly regular at the gym) haha.

Some teachers refuel by getting away from anything that has to do with teaching.  Maybe you like to read your favorite mystery novel and lounge around in your pajamas sipping chai lattes. Perhaps you finally get to that honey-do or hubby-do list that was put off during the school year.  Maybe you take the kids to the beach or the dog and just get lost in order to get right with your soul.

For me, getting refueled means diving into more Professional development.  If you’re like me, I love to read books in the summer on everything education.  Lately I have been tackling everything on leadership, as I am enrolled in an administration program.  So everything from Michael Fullan’s The Principal to Paul Bambrick-Santoyo’s Leverage Leadership.  If I am not reading books then I am designing and researching units on project-based learning (PBL). As you can probably already tell, I am kind of a big fan of PBL. If Buck Institute for Education were to ask me why I believe in PBL so much, they need only to check out my post here which is my success story using PBL.

The biggest form of refueling for me has to be my professional learning network (PLN) on twitter.  I follow people and interact with them from all over the states.  It’s so exciting to know there are people out there that feel the same about educating kids that I do!  If you have never signed up for a twitter account, I highly suggest it.  No.  I demand that you sign up right now!  Kidding.  You don’t have to.  But seriously- you should!

One of the cool things about summer is the opportunity to connect with other educators at conferences around the state.  CA Teachers Summit is this month and its free!!! Check out the link and sign up for one near you!  Other workshops and conferences are offered through local colleges as well.  You might have to do some digging depending on where you live and how far you’re willing to travel.  UCSB has a few educator opportunities in the summer on their campus.

However you choose to  “refuel” during your summers, please make sure you do whatever helps you to come back in the fall fully charged and: On Fire For Kids!

All the best,


Original on White

PBL: A Success Story


In the fall of 2017 I began my journey towards seeking my administrative credential. One of the assignments for the program was to find an issue of vital importance to take on from a leader’s point of view. Our school district hosted a data retreat, featuring Judy SargenUpon analyzing the data, I was shocked to find that my high performing school was down 13.9 pts from the previous year in math!  After further research, I noticed it wasn’t just a particular race or socioeconomic status-but every category! This led me to the conclusion that this was a real problem that needed to be addressed NOW!

I knew these students were not finding success with traditional approaches to teaching math through isolated book work or worksheets.

That summer I had remodeled my kitchen and realized how much REAL math goes into measuring and calculating! And then it hit me like a Tyson-Holyfield fight night. Why can’t teachers bring real life into the classroom!? What if kids could learn the math in the work books along with applying their skills to real life experiences!?

I started looking up everything I could on real world lessons- and then it happened! Like a hammer hitting my thumb- I landed on this page

Buck Institute for Education has literally changed me and educators around me. I reached out to my PTA to ask for funding to attend their PBL 101 workshop in Palm Springs, CA.  The PTA was amazing for allocating half of the funds needed for the trip,  I, determined, paid the other half on my own, because I believed in the potential of PBL for kids!


Back to the project.

So I got permission from my district to run an after school math club for struggling students featuring woodworking as the lens to teach real world math skills. One thing I must mention here: I had an amazing administrator, Mrs. Grossi, that believed in me and allowed me to run with my ideas to help students get access to the curriculum in a new innovative way.

Of course, like any other huge task you take on in education, there were some obstacles along the way. I had teachers not interested in PBL, getting funding for material was a challenge, the district naturally had concerns for the safety of the class. As Mr Adam Welcome, would say:

“Everyone is not going to like you. They’re not going to like your ideas. They’re not going to think you have what it takes. And that’s totally ok. Move forward, push, innovate, get your crew and Don’t. Give. Up”. – Adam Welcome

I used my course work  from my admin program to weed my way into the school site by seeking out what Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Switch, call “bright spots”.  These educators are the kind that are willing to try new things and are eager to help out.

Not only was I able to reach a particular group of 5th grade students in a pilot after school math group, but now with my bright spots, I was able to spread PBL pilot classes throughout the grade levels Kinder through 6th.  I had one pilot class at each grade level trying out a PBL lesson that I helped put together for each teacher.  We then had both the traditional approach classes and the pilot class from each grade level take the exact same chapter test.  At first I thought we might have a percent or two increase because the lessons, although engaging, were not 100% a true PBL unit, as Buck Institute would say.

Let the drum roll begin!

We had a an increase of 7% all the way up to 23% comparing pilot groups to traditional!!!  Not to mention the individual performance increases and math attitudes of my 5th grade after school pilot group.  Some kids gained 3.2 years grade equivalency on their STAR Math score!  I had parents coming up to me thanking me because their child finally understood fractions!  I had one students that started the year with a 23% score on a benchmark assessment and then turn around and take it again in the spring and scored a 90%!!!  That’s a 67% increase because of what PBL did for this young man!

If you’re not convinced at this point then don’t take it from me- go out there and implement your own pilot groups and compare your results.  But be sure you know the difference between TRUE PBL vs projects.  There is a huge difference folks!

This journey is only at the beginning.  I have recently been hired as the math coach for my district.  I now have the potential to spread my passion and my results to a broader audience within my district!  I can’t wait for 2018-19 school year begin!  Why am I so excited you ask?  Because I am On Fire For Kids!