Episode 74 – Susan Jachymiak

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Meet Our Guest

SUSAN JACHYMIAK is a 4th grade teacher in Orland Park, IL. She’s a rookie this year, and she’s clearly on fire! Follow her on Twitter @MsJachymiak and visit her blog at http://msjachymiak.weebly.com.

Rookie Year Challenges

Susan’s teacher training focused on middle school education, but her first teaching position has been at the fourth grade level. These students come with different learning and social needs than students in middle school, so it’s taken some professional growth for her to better understand the dynamics of these younger learners and meet them where they are.

#NewTeacherJourney and the Power of Twitter

As Susan started plugging into Twitter chats before her first year of teaching, she noticed a shortage of chats dedicated to rookie teachers. That led her to create the #NewTeacherJourney chat, which typically connects on Sunday evenings at 8:30 pm EST. She’s been pleased to see the number of other new teachers plugged in, connecting, and gaining encouragement and advice thanks to this hashtag.

Susan is a strong advocate of using Twitter – not only for the purposes of connecting socially with other educators, but in order to leverage the power of the platform by actively sharing and learning from what is happening in classrooms around the globe.

Passions in Education

What excites Susan about education today are the amazing opportunities that technology is allowing learners in her classroom. She uses GoFormative to facilitate exit slips as checks for understanding at the end of lessons, Prodigy to reinforce Math concepts, and Mystery Skype to reinforce critical thinking and geography skills.

Her professional goal for the rest of this year and going into next year is focused on organization, including what to collect from students, how best to arrange it, and how best to act on it. Because so much of teaching requires thinking on your feet and making quick decisions – especially during your first year – it’s been a challenge to find the systems that work most efficiently for her. Ultimately, better organization will set her up to better meet the unique needs of each of her learners.

Susan has also been fascinated by the possibilities for learning articulated by Jo Boaler in her book, Mathematical Mindsets. In the Math classroom, this helps students understand the power of “I don’t get this … YET,” seeing initial failures as merely first attempts in learning, and adopting practices of continuous revision to improve first attempts and learn toward mastery. These concepts don’t just apply to students – they apply to educators as well!

Productivity and Recharging

Susan is a list-keeper, and for that purpose her app of choice is Google Keep. Keep is where she goes to determine what still needs to get done, what is a higher priority, what needs to be added to the list, and what needs to come off. She also recharges her professional passion in Twitter chats, and she makes it a goal to participate in at least one of those per week.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Susan’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, Susan suggests following @RaeHughart. Rae shares a lot from her practice, offers great resources from the Teach Better Team, and co-hosts the Teach Better Talk podcast.

For edtech tools, Susan recommends Class Dojo as a means to build class culture and encourage collaboration toward group goals. She also points out Plickers as a fun way to quickly and efficiently collect feedback and formative assessments across the class using your mobile device.

Susan’s writing has already appeared in a published book! It’s called Chasing Greatness: 26.2 Ways Teaching Is Like Running a Marathon by Mike Roberts. Follow the author on Twitter @BaldRoberts.

Two educational podcasts that Susan is listening to are Teach Better Talk and The Pondering Education Podcast.

Over on YouTube, Susan is tuned into a channel called Pocketful of Primary, hosted by Michelle Ferré. On her show, Michelle shares all the ups, downs, and ideas from her work, and Susan gleans things of value from every episode.

On Netflix, Susan enjoys two classic series: Fuller House and Friends.

See More From Susan

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Episode 72 – Tisha Richmond

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Meet Our Guest

TISHA RICHMOND is a Technology Integration Specialist serving 19 schools in Medford, Oregon. She’s also a speaker and author of Make Learning Magical: Transform Your Teaching and Create Unforgettable Experiences in Your Classroom.

From Misery to Magic

In 2014, Tisha was at a real low point as an educator. She was frustrated, tired, and dreamed of becoming a barista. A sign in her classroom spoke as a silent reminder: “Above all, have a good time.” But the good times seemed elusive, and she found herself struggling to find joy in her work.

When the culinary teachers in her district first adopted iPads, she was skeptical at first, but after attending iPadpalooza and seeing what educators were doing with technology, her imagination was captured. She went all in on iPad integration in her classroom, utilizing Google Classroom, iMovie, app smashing, green screens, and other strategies to allow students to demonstrate understanding and elevate their learning.

Her passion for the profession was completely rekindled. The magic was back.

The Heart of Make Learning Magical

Make Learning Magical starts from the incredible transformation Tisha experienced in her own practice. She wants educators everywhere to know that no matter how long you’ve been in the classroom, magical learning experiences are still possible.

In her book, Tisha makes MAGICAL an acronym for the factors that bring the magic to your practice:

  • M – Meaningful Beginnings
  • A – Authenticity and Agency
  • G – Gamified Experiences
  • I – Innovation
  • C – Creativity and Collaboration
  • A – Authentic Audience
  • L – Legacy.

To the last point on legacy, Tisha recounts some memories from a teacher that was instrumental in her own life and urges educators to create experiences that will cause students to want to continue learning long after they leave our classrooms.

Breakout EDU

Breakout EDU, one of Tisha’s latest passions, involves games of logic and problem-solving that groups of students (or educators) can play together. Think of an escape room – but instead of trying to get out of a place, participants try to unlock special containers using provided clues. Tisha has been thoroughly impressed by the level of immersion she’s seen from students: they’re all in, enthusiastic, excited, collaborating, and relishing the productive struggle.

Education Today & Professional Goals

Tisha is thrilled by the opportunities that our learners have for authentic global collaboration today. She shares a recent joint effort between culinary and design classes who were able to team up on a project from different parts of the country.

Tisha is keen on learning more about augmented and virtual reality, but when it comes to technology in education she is just hungry to learn wherever she can. She wants to serve the educators in her district well, and that means creating professional development opportunities that are personalized and meet the needs of every educator. She will continue to speak and write – two of her passions – and she’s recently been accepted into a class that will equip her to build her own BreakoutEDU games.

Other Passions and Productivity Habits

Outside of education, one of Tisha’s chief passions is design – especially interior design. Along the same theme, she really enjoys the creative process, including calligraphy, sketchnoting, hand lettering, and graphic design. Many years ago, she wouldn’t have considered herself a “creative,” but she’s really enjoyed getting in touch with this side of herself in recent years.

Exercise and running are key in terms of clearing her head and improving her focus. These activities give her those opportunities to process, and they seem to lead to some of her best creative breakthroughs. Writing has also become a foundational habit in terms of reflecting and processing her thoughts.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Tisha’s Professional Practice

Looking to strengthen your PLN on Twitter? Tisha recommends following @TamaraLetter and @SixthIsGoal.

The edtech tools Tisha sees being put to best use in the classroom these days include Canva, Pear Deck , and FlipGrid.

Two books deserve the most credit for reviving Tisha’s practice and revolutionizing her perspectives on education. They are Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and Explore Like a Pirate by Michael Matera. Follow these two awesome authors on Twitter at @BurgessDave and @MrMatera.

In  educational podcasts, Tisha’s tuned in to The Google Teacher Tribe Podcast with Kasey Bell and Matt Miller, Cult of Pedagogy with Jennifer Gonzales, and Well Played with Michael Matera.

Over on YouTube, Tisha points to sketchnoter Carrie Baughcum. Follow Carrie on Twitter @HeckAwesome to see more of what she’s all about.

Though she claims not to be able to sing herself, Tisha is digging a show called The Masked Singer in her free time.

See More From Tisha

We sign off on this magical conversation, and Tisha reminds us of the best ways to connect with her and learn together online. Get connected!

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Episode 70 – AJ Juliani

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Meet Our Guest

AJ JULIANI is a dad, a sought-after speaker, and prolific author of several education books, including The PBL Playbook, Empower and Launch. He is a recognized authority on design thinking, genius hour, growth mindset, IBL, PBL, and all things innovation in education. Read more from AJ at http://ajjuliani.com/ and follow him on Twitter @AJJuliani.

AJ is currently the Director of Learning and Innovation for Centennial School District, located near Philadelphia. He and his team serve about 6,000 learners. In addition to his work there, AJ writes frequently on education and speaks at schools and districts across the country.

Frustrated by the Game of School

Teaching in 2011, AJ was starting to get discouraged by the climate of his classes. His students were intent on playing the game of school, navigating their way through assignments in ways that they thought would earn them the best grades for the least work. Frustrated by what he saw, AJ started reading more widely and searching for better solutions in his practice.

He eventually found Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, and it led him down the rabbit hole of intrinsic motivation, inquiry and passion-based learning, genius hour, and much more. It was the beginning of a huge paradigm shift, and he’s never been the same. He now sees student choice as a sort of secret sauce when it comes to inspiring student engagement and empowerment.

Thoughts on How to Approach Project-Based Learning

AJ’s practical advice about project-based learning is to start small. Try to avoid massive projects that simply follow exhaustive requirement checklists, which really amount to recipe-based learning. Instead, start with small class activities that help students embrace greater amounts of control and direction in the classroom.

Secondly, treat the project itself as a source of continual formative assessment instead of simply using it as a piece of summative assessment at the end. It’s the main course, not the dessert. Students should be able to demonstrate their evolving understanding of concepts throughout.

The Professional Benefits of Blogging

In many other professions and industries, it’s normal and expected for practitioners to write about their work and share it broadly. In K-12 education, this work is often left to researchers, when in fact the teachers in the trenches have important and valuable perspectives worth sharing as well.

AJ sees three primary benefits in blogging about educational practice:

  1. It helps us reflect on and learn from our own practice.
  2. We’re sharing the highs and lows of our practice in a way that others can learn and benefit from.
  3. As we reflect and write, you start to see your profession differently. You start to see the growth that is possible as you track your evolution as a professional, engaging with other educators, and sharing other perspectives. Blogs and PLN activities can inspire us and give us the encourage.

Be More Chef

Most students – and many educators – approach education as cooks. We want to follow a given recipe, and follow it well, hoping to find the success and learning that the formulas promise.

The chef’s approach is different. She takes a look at available resources and asks “What can I make with this?” And that’s AJ’s call to educators.

As you think about your practice and even your life, ask yourself “Am I just following recipes?” AJ’s late brother was a fine example of someone committed to leaving the beaten path and writing his own recipes. Yes, there will always be economic opportunities for people who prefer to follow and be compliant. But there are far more opportunities in today’s economy for people who are go-getters, strong self-starters, creators, makers, designers, and dreamers.

Building Empathy Through Design Thinking and Story

Design thinking always starts with awareness of one’s surroundings. It helps learners learn to take note of the needs of others. It helps young learners to ask critical questions to better understand their context and the needs of others. These are important skills.

Another way we can build empathy is through stories. Brain researchers tell us that the brain processes stories in a different way than it does other information – it activates more resources in order to gain a deeper appreciation for the needs of others. Telling and sharing stories is by far the best way to build empathy.

One recent example of a design product that came from AJ’s district was the creation of reflector socks for cyclists from MIT. The students didn’t enter the design process thinking they were going to engineer a new sock design, but after getting a clearer understanding of the needs of the cyclists, that’s where they ended up. The socks continue to sell today! In another case, some elementary students designed an artificial insect that could evade exterminators effectively. These second graders had to pitch their product design to some actual exterminators – another authentic learning experience.

Goals, Interests, and Passions

At the moment, AJ is working with a company called Next Lesson to develop PBL lessons and units for elementary classes. These are resources that will help educators take their first steps into PBL without jumping straight into Genius Hour.

From a larger perspective, though, the thing that is really exciting AJ about education is how many people are doing things differently. Most educators have moved past the initial stages of integrating technology in their practices, and now so many educators are thinking more deeply and differently about the learning process itself.

AJ derives tremendous joy and fulfillment from sports, but the thing that he’s really been diving deep into lately is AI. He’s reading and watching as much as he can, and he feels like today we’re boiling the frog – things are already drastically changing around us, often in ways we don’t notice or are not aware of. For him, AI isn’t something to fear but instead something to be cognizant of and recognize.

Voices & Resources That Inspire AJ’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, AJ recommends following @CultofPedagogy. He learns a lot from Jennifer Gonzales and describes her as his pedagogical North Star.

AJ just finished reading 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari, and considers it a fascinating read. Follow the author on Twitter @Harari_Yuval.

AJ’s podcast pick right now is The Knowledge Project Podcast with Shane Parrish. Follow the host on Twitter @FarnamStreet.

Over on YouTube, AJ suggests subscribing to his co-author, John Spencer. Follow John on Twitter @SpencerIdeas.

In terms of non-educational viewing, AJ and his wife are enjoying The Americans on Amazon Prime right now. It’s making him suspect everyone around him of being a spy!

We sign off on the conversation, and AJ gives us the very best place to connect with him and receive more of his thoughts on education: AJJuliani.com. Visit him there and subscribe!

Other Places to Connect with AJ

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device.

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Song Track Credits

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Episode 69 – Mike Paul

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Guest Profile

MIKE PAUL is a middle school math teacher, edtech leader, Google Certified Innovator, and the co-founder of Edcamp Kentucky. Follow Mike on Twitter @mikepaul and check out his blog at https://pikemalltech.com/.

Mike teaches at Bardstown Middle School in Bardstown, Kentucky. Bardstown has the distinction of being the bourbon capital of the world, and was also recently judged the most beautiful small town in America. Mike teaches 7th grade Mathematics and is the IT coordinator for the district, where he helps teachers integrate technology in their classrooms.

Making the Success of Learners the Top Priority

During his first year of teaching, Mike received an email from a principal that was hard to receive. A school in another district was experiencing success in a particular program area, but wasn’t willing to share ideas and resources out of a sense of competition. He realized from the email and the conversation that followed that not everyone is in education primarily for students; unfortunately, some are more concerned about their own success.

This experience only heightened Mike’s resolve to work with educators who put the learning and success of kids as the top priority and are less concerned with perceptions of success. When students win, we all win!

How Has Technology Changed the Ways We Teach and Learn Math?

Technology and tech tools have changed the way we teach and learn about mathematics. Today, it’s less about accurate calculations and more about proper processes, habits of mind, and approaches to problems. It’s about problem-solving skills that transfer across all domains.

What Gets Mike Excited About Education Today

Mike is excited by the pockets of innovation that are showing up in schools across the country that are determined to be about more than just test scores. At the Google Innovator Academy, Mike focused on developments in design thinking that empower students to solve real-world problems inside and outside of the school walls.

Mike’s OneWord, Personal Passions, and Productivity Hacks

Mike’s #OneWord2019 is SERVE. He’s challenging himself to assist more educators and more students than ever. By orienting himself this way in his professional and personal spaces, he knows his relationships will be enriched and opportunities for growth are sure to follow.

Mike is a big fan of self-improvement and personal development. Whether it means growing his mental, physical, or financial health — he loves to learn.

Mike read The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, and it’s completely transformed his mornings. The key to transformative mornings are SAVERS: Silence, Affirmation, Vizualization, Exercise, Reading, and Scribing.

Mike has become an early morning riser, starting his days at 4:00 a.m. No, he doesn’t manage to do all six things every single day, but on the days the SAVERS don’t happen, he can feel the difference.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Mike’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, Mike suggests following @DonWettrick, the innovation leader and enigmatic host of the StartEd Up Podcast.

An edtech tool that has really caught Mike’s attention lately is Pear Deck. Find out more about how Pear Deck can amplify student voice and increase engagement by following them on Twitter @PearDeck.

Mike’s two book recommendations are The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure by Grant Cardone. Follow the authors on Twitter @SPressfield and @GrantCardone.

In podcasts, Mike suggests subscribing to The Ed Mylett Show. Find out more about Ed and what he’s all about @EdMylett.

Mike’s pick for YouTube channels is The Passionate Few by Omar Elattar.

On Netflix, there’s one show that convinces Mike to keep his subscription active. It’s The Office, of course!

We sign off on the conversation, and Mike lets us know where we can follow him online. See below for details!

Follow Mike:

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Episode 66 – Dr. Sarah Thomas

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Guest Profile

DR. SARAH THOMAS is a regional technology coordinator in Maryland and serves as affiliate faculty at Loyola University. In 2014, Sarah founded the EduMatch Project, and she has spoken and presented at numerous conferences since. Find out more about Sarah on her blog and follow her on Twitter at @sarahdateechur.

The Challenge of Finding the Right Fit

Sarah’s first three years in education were the hardest of her career. She came through alternative certification after completing a bachelor’s degree in radio, television, and film. As she began her undergraduate work, Sarah’s mother became a middle school teacher, and Sarah was impressed.

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in media, she enrolled in a Master’s of Education program. Early into her Master’s studies, she responded to an ad calling for teachers in her district. Once she finished her training program, she found it a challenge to find the right placement in the district. It was discouraging at first to try to figure things out and adapt to different school cultures, but the support of her family and the meaningful relationships she was building with students propelled her through.

The Vision and Mission of EduMatch

EduMatch started from a conversation Sarah had on Twitter, when she connected two educators with unique passions and interests that matched the other’s. That’s what it’s about: learning and growing together, helping others on their education journeys, and leveraging the power of stories. Through its publishing work, EduMatch amplifies the voices of students and educators who have a story to share. A series of crowd-sourced books have led to solo projects, with five solo titles published in 2018 and more on the horizon. If you’re an educator interested in contributing to the 2019 edition of EduMatch’s annual Snapshot in Education, complete this form.

Passions, Goals, and Creativity

Social media has opened incredible opportunities for educators around the world. The democratization effect created by the internet now allows every educator to find their own voice and share their own learning journey. The old paradigm of established voices and gatekeepers has shifted, and as the sharing increases, the professional learning accelerates. This democratization also opens up new possibilities for learning with and from students, which is equally exciting.

In terms of professional growth, Sarah is hoping to get back to producing more content this year. She argues that when we share what we’re doing, what we’re doing well, and what we are trying to improve, the act of publishing helps to give us the valuable feedback that we need to direct our next steps. Over the past year, Sarah was able to collaborate on Closing the Gap: Digital Equity Strategies for Teacher Prep Programs, and now that she’s got the writing bug she feels ready for more!

Outside of her work in education technology, teaching, and publishing, Sarah is most passionate about music. She’s enjoyed listening, playing, and learning musical instruments for as long as she can remember, and she’s excited by the prospects of bringing more music back into her life in 2019.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Sarah’s Professional Practice

If you’re looking for passionate educators to add to your PLN, Sarah invites you to check out the Awesome Table of EduMatch. Find educators around the world who are working in the same spaces you are.

Sarah’s edtech tool recommendation for educators is Voxer. Get in and get connected! Follow Voxer on Twitter @Voxer.

The book that is most meaningful to Sarah at the moment is one written by her father! She’s working through it on her Kindle at the moment and it’s giving her a fascinating understanding of her family’s history.

One education podcast that Sarah has been tuned into for some time is the The Dr. Will Show. The show is hosted and produced by Will Deyamport, with a focus on edupreneurship: serving other educators well while producing an income as well. Follow the host of the show on Twitter @IAmDrWill.

Sarah has two YouTube recommendations to share. The first is The Mr. Wasko, an educator who creates fun similes and metaphors from movies and pop culture. The second pick is purely for fun: Zach Morris is Trash – a serial that appears on the Funny or Die channel. Follow these channels on Twitter @FunnyorDie and @TheMrWasko.

Finishing her doctorate has allowed Sarah to enjoy a season of reduced demands, leisure, and rest. On Netflix, she’s been enjoying Wentworth.

We sign off on this conversation and Sarah shares the best ways to follow her and EduMatch online. See below for details!

Follow Sarah …

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device.

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Song Track Credits

Listen on YouTube and subscribe to the Teachers on Fire channel.