MANDY FROEHLICH is the Director of Innovation & Technology for the Ripon Area School District in Ripon, WI. She is a blogger, speaker, and co-host on the @bamradionetwork’s Teacher’s Aid podcast. She is also the author of The Fire Within: Lessons from Defeat That Have Inspired a Passion for Learning and the soon-to-be-released Divergent EDU.
In our conversation, Mandy recalls an experience of discouragement and burnout early in her career, and describes the formula that helped her recover and recapture her passion: avoiding negativity, reading uplifting and accessible education books, engaging on Twitter, and starting a blog. She explains the heart and message of The Fire Within: the journey to view past trauma not as a source of shame or stigma but as a potential source of strength in order to serve students better. She talks about the joys of raising teenagers, the benefits of working outdoors, and her top picks on Twitter, books, edtech tools, and more.
Follow Mandy online here:
Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:
- 1:07 – Mandy describes her work as a Director of Innovation & Technology in Ripon, WI. She’s a former elementary teacher, middle school teacher, and technology integrator.
- 1:58 – Mandy describes one of the lowest experiences of her education career, when at the end of five years, she felt completely disengaged and burned out. Workplace bullying and other issues made her want to leave teaching – something she never thought could happen after entering the profession with so much passion and optimism. Her path to healing and recovery included intentionally avoiding negativity, reading uplifting and accessible education books, engaging on Twitter, and starting a blog.
- 5:46 – Mandy talks about the heart and main message of The Fire Within: Lessons from Defeat That Have Inspired a Passion for Learning. Her vision for the book started with a conversation she had with Tara Martin (author of Be Real) after ISTE in 2017. It was such a relief to chat with Tara and compare notes on personal histories, childhood experiences, and journeys with trauma. Mandy had always struggled to be fully transparent about her past for fear of what parents, colleagues, and others in the educational community might view her. The Fire Within speaks to the realities of trauma, adversity, and the ways that people overcome negative experiences not by relying on shallow cliches but by fully embracing who they really are. It’s when we can be truly authentic and learn from our experiences that we build the emotional tools to serve students who are experiencing similar challenges.
- 13:00 – Mandy also talks about her upcoming book, Divergent EDU, which talks about educators who are willing to challenge their own assumptions, be highly reflective, and think differently than the masses. She bases the book in part on a hierarchy of needs and divergent thinking. The book will look at the supports needed to support educators who seek to think and teach in divergent ways.
- 17:41 – She discusses a source of passion and personal learning outside of education: parenting teenagers! For her, the experience has been far better and richer than advertised. One of many lessons she’s learned along the way is the power of the apology. It’s an essential skill in parenting and in leadership. We need to take ownership of our mistakes and let our children see us doing it.
- 20:51 – One tried-and-true habit that helps Mandy personally is the practice of studying, writing, and working outdoors whenever possible. There’s something about the sunshine and fresh air that does wonders for the spirit.
- 22:25 – On Twitter, Mandy recommends following @EvanAbramson and @JCasaTodd. Both are great sources of innovation and divergent thinking in education.
- 24:27 – A productivity tool that Mandy leans on heavily is Trello. Find out more about what they offer by following them on Twitter @Trello.
- 25:21 – One book that Mandy recommends is Professionally Driven: Empower Every Educator To Redefine PD by Jarod Bormann. Follow Jarod on Twitter @JBormann3 and check out his interview on the Teachers on Fire podcast at episode 41.
- 26:03 – Mandy’s podcast recommendation is rightfully her own, the Teachers Aid Podcast, which she co-hosts with @JonHarper70bd.
- 27:07 – Not one to watch a lot of TV, her go-to show on Netflix right now is Suits. Since she once considered a career in law, Mandy finds this one especially interesting.
- 27:48 – We sign off on our conversation, and Mandy gives us the best ways to follow her content online. See above for details!
Song Track Credits
- Intro: Relax (by Simon More)
- Outtro: Starley – Call on Me Remix (by DJ Zhorik)
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