The Teachers on Fire Awards: Top Education Voices of 2022

7 education content creators to add to your playlists and bookshelves in 2023

On December 21, 2022, I asked teachers for their input. Which education voices had done the most to spark their thinking and ignite their professional practice in the past year?

The purpose of this project was to amplify the education voices that are sparking teacher thinking and igniting professional practice in order to bring more fire to our classrooms and support student learning more powerfully than ever. I think you’ll agree: that mission was accomplished.

As educators, we glean ideas and inspiration from a wide variety of voices from within and outside K-12 education. As Jennifer Smith wrote recently on LinkedIn, educators can learn a lot from other industries.

But for the purposes of these awards, I wanted to keep the focus on education voices only. For example, I let contributors know in advance that I wouldn’t consider entries for Brene Brown or Simon Sinek in the speaker category, as much as we might love them.

Over the week of voting that followed, I was delighted to receive responses from 86 educators — not a bad starting point for this first edition of the Teachers on Fire Awards. If you’re hoping to take your practice to the next level in 2023, these are introductions worth making.

Education Book of 2022: Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, Grades K-12

The question I put to educators for this award read “What was one education book that sparked your thinking and ignited your practice this year?” I clarified that the book did not need to be published in 2022 to be nominated.

With a ton of titles for teachers to choose from, the voting results were impressive. Taking over a third of the votes was Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, Grades K-12: 14 Practices for Enhancing Learning by Peter Liljedahl.

I couldn’t agree more with this outcome. I led a book study on Building Thinking Classrooms (or BTC, as it’s affectionately known by fans) in the spring of this year in my Vancouver middle school, and it was one of those books that actually changed our professional practice in significant ways.

I won’t review the book here, but here are a few Peter principles that I’ll throw out as teasers:

  • The difference between studenting behaviors and students actually thinking
  • The power of visibly randomized student groups
  • The benefits of having students solve Math problems while standing at whiteboards instead of sitting
  • The possibility of de-fronting the classroom space
  • How to respond to student questions without doing their thinking for them
  • Rethinking homework and the role that it plays in learning
  • Rethinking what we require from students in terms of note-taking

I could go on. It’s a revolutionary book. If you teach Math at any level, it’s worth your time.

Education Facebook Group of 2022: Building Thinking Classrooms

Well, teachers found the book helpful, and the Facebook group clearly kept these learning conversations going. The question I posed to teachers for this Award category asked “What was one education Facebook group that consistently sparked your thinking and ignited your practice this year?”

It’s been interesting to watch the slow but steady growth of Facebook groups as platforms for professional learning over the last five years. Expect that trend to continue, and expect more learning conversations at the 37,400-member strong Building Thinking Classrooms group.

Education Instagram Account of 2022: @GCouros

For this Award, I asked teachers to consider this question: “What was one education account on Instagram that consistently sparked your thinking and ignited your practice this year?” I was careful not to rule out education organizations that are doing so much for our profession, but teachers tapped an education leader: George Couros.

George is a former teacher, principal, and now sought-after author and speaker. With over a quarter million followers on his education Twitter account and a large audience for his weekly newsletter, he is perhaps best known for The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity (published in 2018).

George creates valuable weekly content for educators on his YouTube channel and on his podcast, and I recommend subscribing to both. Interestingly, his Instagram account is probably the most personal of all his offerings, focusing largely on his family and weight loss journey in recent months. It’s content that clearly resonates with teachers.

Education Podcast of 2022: Control the Chaos EDU

What was one education podcast that regularly sparked your thinking and ignited your practice this year? That was the question put to teachers and education leaders for this category of the Teachers on Fire Awards.

Lots of my personal faves showed up in the results, including Natalie Vardabasso’s #EduCrush, The Tom Schimmer Podcast, Alfonso Mendoza’s MyEdTech Life, and House of #EdTech by Chris Nesi. Each of these shows earned multiple votes, but in the end, Control the Chaos EDU took a decisive lead.

At Control the Chaos EDU, tech coach Stephanie Howell and behavior coach Tara Ruckman engage in real conversations around instructional strategies, today’s classroom, the nature of learning, and teacher wellness. Recent episodes have included Use Student Excitement to Your AdvantageTaking Back Your Winter Break, and The Power of a PLN with Evo Hannan.

Upgrade your learning experience in 2023 by adding this show to your playlist on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.

Education Speaker of 2022: Peter Liljedahl

When teachers were asked “Who was one education speaker who sparked your thinking and ignited your practice this year?” the answer came back loud and clear: Dr. Peter Liljedahl.

If the name sounds familiar, you’ve been listening. Liljedahl is the author of Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, Grades K-12. If you slept through my preview of this book and the powerful principles it contains, scroll up in this post to read why this title was voted Education Book of the Year.

So who is he?

Borrowing from his official bio, Dr. Peter Liljedahl is a Professor of Mathematics Education in the Faculty of Education and an associate member in the Department of Mathematics at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. He has authored or co-authored 13 books, 41 book chapters, 39 journal articles, and over 50 conference papers.

A former high school mathematics teacher, Liljedahl has kept his research work close to the classroom. His scholarly interests include creativity, insight, and discovery in mathematics teaching and learning, the professional growth of mathematics teachers, and engaging student thinking. He consults regularly with schools, districts, and ministries of education on issues of teaching and learning, assessment, and numeracy.

If you’re ready to rethink education and hear a message that stands out from the crowd, Dr. Peter Liljedahl is a speaker to pay attention to.

Twitter Educator of 2022: Stephanie Howell

On Twitter, I wanted to put the focus especially on individuals. The survey question: “Who was one educator on Twitter who consistently sparked your thinking and ignited your practice this year?”

People have a wide range of impressions of the Twitter experience, but let’s put it this way: your feed is exactly as positive, wholesome, inspirational, and helpful as the people you follow. If you’re committed to building a vibrant professional learning network, I highly recommend doing so on Twitter.

The 2022 Twitter Educator of the Year Award goes to Stephanie Howell, found at @mrshowell24. You’ve seen Stephanie’s name show up previously in this year’s edition of the Awards, where Control the Chaos took Education Podcast of the Year. Her Twitter account is a similar flow of positive ideas, shares, and practical resources for teachers.

With 25,000 followers and counting, Stephanie has a proven track record of delivering value on Twitter. Follow her there — you’ll thank me.

Education YouTube Channel of 2022: Gold EDU

It’s no secret that YouTube has a lot to offer classroom teachers, but in all the noise of channels, brands, and influencers, which specific creators can be trusted to deliver quality content on a reliable basis? Coming in strong with a high percentage of the final tallies was Stephanie Howell’s Gold EDU.

On Gold EDU, Stephanie keeps the mission simple and clear: “We want to transform education to help educators use technology in powerful ways.” And that’s exactly what she delivers. Her video feed includes a mix of timers for the classroom, task trackers, tutorials (How to Use Google Earth), and conversations with other educators. If you’re looking to get more from your education YouTube account, Gold EDU is a must-subscribe!

Thoughts on the Awards and Learning in 2023

It was at the very tail end of 2021 that I first had the idea to try this project, but it was so late in the month that I realized I had lost my chance. So I did what any normal person would do and put it on my calendar for December of the following year.

That reminder was all I needed to launch the first-ever edition of the Teachers on Fire Awards in the final weeks of 2022. If you took part in the voting, thank you. By elevating educators who are making a positive impact, we introduce them to new audiences and allow other teachers to benefit. In turn, we support student learning, too.

I’m also grateful to the teachers who volunteered feedback around possible future awards at the end of the Form. Some of their suggestions for additional categories included TikTok Account, Education Conference, and Education Blogger of the Year. All are worthy considerations and will likely appear in next year’s edition.

To the Award winners above, thank you for doing what you do! Your work is making a positive impact on learning, and the world is a better place because of what you do.

Keep that fire for learning burning bright.

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