Episode 91 – Latezeon Balentine



91 - Latezeon Balentine.png

Meet Latezeon Balentine

LATEZEON BALENTINE is a mom of three boys, a teacher, and founder of September Chances, Inc. – a nonprofit organization created to develop joy in reading, grow literacy, and increase reading fluency. Latezeon is also a Donors Choose Teacher Ambassador, dog lover, an advocate for mental health awareness, and blogger. And she’s got a book on the way, so stay tuned!

Latezeon is an English teacher at Jefferson County High School in Fayette, MS. The school is situated in a small, rural area and the student population sits around 380. It’s a region that has its share of economic challenges, and poverty is a continual issue for many families. Latezeon has some teaching experience in fourth and fifth grade, but most of her teaching has taken place in secondary, which is where she feels at home.

Baptism by Fire

Latezeon recalls the start of her career, when she was hired to fill a long-term substitute position in a primary classroom. She had all the duties of a full-time first year teacher, but the compensation and benefits of a substitute teacher. If that wasn’t challenging enough, her class size continued to grow as the year wore on.

Fortunately, Latezeon pushed through a difficult year one and was offered a full-time contract in Vicksburg, MS the following year. It was still an extremely tough challenge for Latezeon as she balanced full-time teaching, parenting, a part-time job, and the completion of her Master’s degree during this time.

She continued to persevere, however, and things have gradually improved. The work of education is about the outcome, not the income, Latezeon laughs.

Empathy and the Work of Supporting Others

Empathy is evident in so much of Latezeon’s work, whether it’s her care for her boys, her advocacy for the mentally ill, her passion for literacy, her support of other educators through Donors Choose, or even her love of animals. It seems limitless!

When asked where this bottomless empathy comes from, Latezeon points first to her own experiences. She’s lived the pain and hardships of mental illness in the family, and it motivates her to support others struggling in the same ways.

Speaking to her work with Donors Choose (a crowdfunding site for education-related funding campaigns), Latezeon is proud to have raised over $13,000 and supported 20 fully-funded projects for other educators. These include the creation of a food pantry and a hygiene closet at her own school.

“I’m all about helping people reach their goals, because that’s where my heart is,” Latezeon says. “I’ve been a nurse, a counselor, a liaison, an advocate – anything I can be for my kids, I’ve been it!” She’s also currently working on a project to raise money for animal shelters in her area.

Her Vision for September Chances

Latezeon started September Chances in 2014 with the purpose of helping struggling learners outside of the classroom. Over the time since, her focus has shifted from tutoring to book giveaways through Scholastic. She’s a big fan of the $1 books that Scholastic lists each week, and she’s made a lot of progress stocking her classroom bookshelves this way.

She’s also making it the aim of September Chances to provide two $250 scholarships to graduating seniors, and she’s working hard on an initiative to put a free book in the hands of every child in her school district. A love of literacy starts with getting books to kids that resonate with their interests and passions. As September Chances continues to grow and build momentum, Latezeon hopes to support districts across her state and even across the nation. 

What’s Setting Latezeon on 🔥 in Education Today

One passion in education for Latezeon is in the whole area of technology resources for her learners. She sees the applications and devices that are made available to students in other schools and districts, and she wants to bring the same to Jefferson County.

She’s also committed to developing stronger financial literacy programming in high school. She wants her students to have all the information, preparation, and life lessons they’ll need to survive and thrive financially as they move into adulthood.

A Professional Growth Goal: Sketchnotes

In terms of professional growth, Latezeon wants to learn more about sketchnotes. She wants to help her students acquire the vocabulary, techniques, and resources they’ll need to fully leverage this powerful learning strategy.

(*Tim’s Note: For more information on sketchnoting, make sure to check out the books, resources, and videos from Sylvia Duckworth – the sketchnote master!)

An Inlet to Her Outlet

Blogging has become a wonderful outlet for Latezeon. Her posts aren’t as long as others, partly because she recognizes that as a reader, brevity is often best. She calls her blog posts “a little inlet to her outlet.”

A Daily Habit: Building Her PLN

Latezeon started taking Twitter seriously in November of 2018. She plans to do a love tour through her network to introduce herself in a unique way to every single follower, and continues to learn from the amazing connections she’s made there in just a few months.

Voices and Resources That Inspire 

Over on Twitter, Latezeon recommends following @NicholasFerroni, leader of the #NoSummersOff campaign that intends to show how educators actually use their summer holidays.

Latezeon’s picks in edtech tools are Topeka, an AI-powered writing analysis service, and FlipGrid, a popular video platform that seeks to amplify student voice.

With a big passion for books and literacy, you know Latezeon’s book selections are on point. She calls out The Pepper Effect: Tap into the Magic of Creativity, Collaboration, and Innovation by Sean Gaillard and One Drop of Kindness by Jeff Kubiak. Follow these authors on Twitter @SMGaillard and @JeffreyKubiak

In the wonderful world of podcasts, Latezeon is listening to The Ed Podcast and Faculty Room. Follow these hosts on Twitter @TheEdPodcast and @Maire_from_NJ

Over on YouTube, Latezeon’s favorite teacher channel is A Classroom Diva. Follow the channel creator, Jessica Nichols, on Instagram @AClassroomDiva

Latezeon and her husband enjoyed binge-watching a number of the latest episodes from Stranger Things 3 on Netflix recently. Predictably, this show is very strange … but it’s been fun to watch how this little group of friends interacts with each other.

We sign off on this conversation, and Latezeon gives us the best ways to connect with her online. See below for more details!

Connect with Latezeon:

Song Track Credits

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

Episode 85 – Andrew Milne



85 - Andrew Milne.png

Meet Andrew Milne

ANDY MILNE is a charismatic PE educator who has hopped the pond from London to Chicago! He’s also a speaker, blogger, and was named 2017 Health Ed Teacher of the Year. 

Today, he’s thrilled to serve at his dream school, a high school located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with 4,000 students spread out over two campuses. It’s Andy’s sixth school and his 23rd year of teaching, and he finally feels like he’s found his sweet spot.

He serves on a fantastic team of 36 PE and dance teachers, with three former national Teachers of the Year and several former state Teachers of the Year. His students are motivated to succeed in every area of studies, and Andy enjoys the support of visionary administrators who cultivate a culture of yes and encourage positive risk-taking on the part of their teachers.

Leaving the Profession

Seven years into his career and at his second teaching position, Andy started to feel jaded. He was seeing things he wasn’t happy with, a mentor had moved away, he was overlooked for a promotion, and he was starting to lose some of his fire.

Eventually, he decided to leave education and take a job in a completely different industry. Once there, however, he quickly started to realize that education was his truest passion and highest calling. He returned to education after about 18 months away, and he’s never looked back.

How to Bring More Energy, Creativity, and Empathy Into Your Practice

When it comes to bringing energy to the classroom, Andy turns to a book called The Kinesthetic Classroom. Get kids moving, because movement is engagement. Remember to send more oxygen to our students’ brains by prompting them to physically move around the room whenever possible, he advises. Another favorite activity is sending students on a walk & talk, which can be a powerful exercise in reflection and reinforcement of learning.

When he thinks of creativity, he urges educators to see the world through the lens of their classroom. Model your passions for your learners whenever possible. When students start to see the world through your lens, you’ve helped them reimagine their world and increase awareness of the opportunities for learning around them.

On building a culture of empathy in our classrooms, Andy says we need to listen to our learners – REALLY listen to them. When we care about our learners not as students for a time but as human beings preparing for life, we’re giving them the armor and weapons that they will need to take on all the challenges and decisions they will face in the years to come.

Mobile Devices and Wellness

Andy works in a school with a 1:1 iPad policy, but devices don’t need to be used in every setting and learning activity. We need to model and support the sort of mindful device management that recognizes times when devices are not helpful. As educators, we also need to include students in self-reflective processes and activities that help them to analyze their own digital habits and adjust accordingly.

Parents can and should actively support their children with device management as well. Sometimes, this might look like parking all devices in main living areas overnight or turning the household wifi off at a given time every evening.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Education

Andy is energized by the conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion that only seem to be gaining steam on Twitter and in other professional circles. Hashtags like #EduColor, #CleartheAir, and #HipHopEd have offered a steady stream of provocative questions, ideas to consider, books to check out, and educators to follow.

A Professional Project on the Go

Andy is currently developing a walking curriculum. He is passionate about all facets of walking: stress relief, pacing, breathing, heart rate, blue minds theory, and engagement with nature. He’s been reading Born to Walk (by Dan Rubenstein) and other titles by authors who are shining light on the connections between walking outdoors and cognitive activity.

Becoming

Everything Andy does is about BECOMING. He’s becoming a better husband, a better father, and a better person. That’s his passion: becoming better in every part of his life, little by little.

A Timeless Productivity Hack

Andy read Dr. Matthew Walker’s book, Why We Sleep, and it’s completely revolutionized his view of sleep. It’s the no. 1 life hack! Sleep has to be a non-negotiable for us as professionals and for our learners as well.

His ideal sleep quota is eight hours a night, although he admits that doesn’t always happen. His alarm goes off at 4:45 a.m. every morning, so he tries to get to bed by 9 each night. He keeps devices out of the room, makes sure the temperature is cool, and draws the blinds tight to make his bedroom as dark as possible.

Voices and Resources that Shape His Practice and Inspire His Thinking

Over on Twitter, Andy recommends following @MrPranPatel, who has been boldly leading conversations around diversity and equity in education in the UK.

Two of Andy’s favorite edtech tools are Canva, a powerful design creation tool, and Calm, one of the best meditation and mindfulness apps available today. Teachers are entitled to a free account on Calm! Check out this link to learn more.

Andy’s two book picks are Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brene Brown and White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo.

If you’re looking for some interesting history content to complement the Teachers on Fire podcast, Andy suggests checking out The Chernobyl Podcast, an HBO special. In it, the producers take a close look at all of the events surrounding the world’s most famous nuclear meltdown.

Andy’s not really a YouTube subscribing type, but he’s sure thankful that YouTube satisfies his need for 80s soul music. On Netflix, a fun series that takes him back to his homeland is Turn Up Charlie. Check it out!

We sign off on this conversation, and Andy lets us know the best places to connect with him online. See below for links and details.

Connect with Andy:

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

iTunes | Google Podcasts | Spotify

Follow the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media.

Song Track Credits

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

Episode 64 – Jennifer Casa-Todd



64 - Jennifer Casa-Todd.png

Guest Profile

JENNIFER CASA-TODD is a mom, wife, teacher-librarian, speaker, coordinator for Google Educator Groups of Ontario, ISTE Librarians leader, and an @ONedSschat advisor. Jennifer is also the author of Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @JCasaTodd.

Overcoming Adversity

Jennifer was in her first year as a teacher-librarian (after serving as a literacy consultant), excited to be back in a school and eagerly building relationships with staff and students. After suffering a concussion, she was forced to battle depression and other concussion symptoms for the next ten months. Jennifer shares more about the challenges of this experience in Mandy Froehlich’s book, The Fire Within.

Jennifer credits (1) staying connected with other supportive educators on Voxer, (2) learning from a TED Talk about brain healing from Jane McGonigal, and (3) an app called Super Better as important factors in her recovery. Her battle with concussion symptoms has also given her more empathy for people suffering silent battles that don’t meet the eye.

The Mission of Social LEADia

Social LEADia actually began as a passion project. Jennifer didn’t expect to write a book, but after encouragement from George Couros she ended up speaking to a publisher about her vision, and the rest is history.

Part of her passion comes from the “ban and block” stance of many schools, which focuses more on preventing online activities instead of talking about how students and staff are using media positively. 

In the words of George Couros, digital leadership is all about improving the lives, wellbeing, and circumstances of others. It’s time for schools to take another look at social media tools and start talking about how they can make learning come alive. As William Dwyer puts it, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

In addition to the power of social media tools to make a positive impact in the world, Social Leadia also looks at media literacy. Are we equipping our learners to be discerning consumers of online content? When it comes to personal branding, she pushes students to build “a brand of you” without losing authenticity or a sense of who they really are.

Jennifer is thrilled by the incredible possibilities in education today. Technology is enabling exciting global partnerships on meaningful, real-world projects like the Sustainable Development Goals and global book clubs.

Goals, Passions, and Productivity

In terms of a professional goal, Jennifer is taking the second semester off this year to focus on her Master’s thesis. She looks forward to once again becoming a full-time student and doing more of her own research on the relationships between social media and students today.

Outside of the school, Jennifer is a very social person. She’s plugged into a curling league, she connects regularly with friends to play cards, and she’s in three book clubs. Even when she doesn’t finish the books in her clubs, she values the relationships and connections fostered there.

Although she’s not the most organized person, Jennifer credits a strong work ethic and intense passion as the simple secret behind her professional work and success. Becoming a high-profile speaker and author isn’t about luck — it’s about sacrifice and commitment over time.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Her Professional Practice

On Twitter, Jennifer points not to one account but to one of the lists on her Twitter profile: Kids Who Inspire.

Her edtech recommendation is FlipGrid. Follow FlipGrid on Twitter @FlipGrid.

Jennifer’s book recommendation is Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less  by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. Follow the author on Twitter @AskPang.

Her podcast recommendation is VoicEd Radio, headed by Stephen Hurley. Follow Stephen on Twitter @Stephen_Hurley. Jennifer also hosts The Social Leadia podcast! Visit her podcast home and listen to her latest episodes at VoiceEd Radio.

Jen’s YouTube picks are Video Writing Prompts (with the very creative John Spencer) and Editing is Everything. Follow these channels and their hosts on Twitter @SpencerIdeas and @The_Real_Editor.

On Netflix, Jennifer and her family are watching How I Met Your Motherwhich keeps them laughing partly due to the nostalgic Canadian references.

We sign off on our conversation, and Jennifer gives us the best ways to follow her online!

Follow Jennifer …

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

iTunes | Google Podcasts | Spotify

Follow the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media.

Song Track Credits

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

 

Episode 52 – Paul Stevens-Fulbrook



52 - Paul Stevens-Fulbrook.png

Subscribe to the podcast on your mobile device HERE: iTunes | Google Podcasts | Anchor | Spotify | YouTube

You might know Paul Stevens-Fulbrook better on Twitter or Instagram as @TeacherofSci. Paul is a father of five and head of Year 7 and 8 Science at his school in the UK. He writes at teacherofsci.com with the mission of “supporting teachers’ lives through strategy, wellbeing and extra income.”

In our conversation here, Paul explains why it’s critical for teachers to remain true to who they really are, even when they’re in the classroom. He tells us the most exciting opportunity that edtech tools offer: improved student engagement. He shares about some of his other loves outside of the classroom: running, cooking, and spending quality time with his family. He also offers us his picks on Twitter, in books, on YouTube, and more.

Follow Paul online here:

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 1:07 – Paul describes his current context in education: high school science teacher and department head at Steyning Grammar School in the United Kingdom.
  • 2:28 – “Be careful where you get your advice.” At the outset of his teaching career, veteran teachers warned him to be stern, not to smile, and not to be too friendly in the classroom. Predictably, he didn’t bond with his students, and his stern exterior seemed to only make relationships more difficult. Then, other teachers told him to be the same person in the classroom that he was in the staffroom: funny, silly, relaxed, and genuine. Students embraced his authenticity and things went much better after that.
  • 5:01 – The mission of teacherofsci.com is to support teachers’ lives through teaching strategies, wellbeing, and income. Most teachers struggle a little bit in the areas of finance, health, and balance – how to fit all of our priorities into the day. Teacher of Sci is here to help!
  • 7:41 – Paul’s main passion in the classroom today is edtech – particularly the ways that technology can engage every student.
  • 9:33 – Outside of the classroom, Paul is committed to building his blog, running, cooking, and spending quality time with the family. “One thing I’ve learned is that you’ve got to take time for yourself. It can’t be about teaching, teaching, teaching. You’ve got to get away from the books at some point.”
  • 11:52 – “Seek education from cradle to grave.” This ancient Arabic proverb is Paul’s mantra – he tries to learn every day and from everything.
  • 12:32 – On Twitter, Paul recommends following @ICT_MrP.
  • 13:28 – An edtech tool that Paul is just getting into with great early success is Classcraft. Follow @Classcraftgame on Twitter to find out more about this platform.
  • 14:48 – Paul’s pick for books is Unlocking Excellence: A Guide to Becoming an Extraordinary Educator by Jarrod Dumas. Follow Jarrod on Twitter @Xtraordinary247.
  • 16:12 – Looking for an interesting podcast to add to your commute? Check out No Such Thing as a Fish. Follow them on Twitter @NoSuchThing.
  • 17:24 – On Youtube, Paul points us to two channels: SciShow and For Teachers. Follow these great shows on Twitter @SciShow and @_ForTeachers.
  • 19:37 – When he’s out of energy to do anything productive and unencumbered by his wife’s inclinations, Paul likes to watch survivalist shows like Man vs. Food on Netflix.
  • 21:15 – We sign off on the interview, and Paul tells us the best ways to follow him online. See above for details!

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device: iTunes | Google Podcasts | YouTube | Spotify

Follow the podcast on Twitter @TeachersOnFire and on Instagram @TeachersOnFire.

Song Track Credits

  • Intro: Relax (by Simon More)
  • Outtro: Starley – Call on Me Remix (by DJ Zhorik)

Listen to this episode on YouTube and subscribe for more episodes!

Episode 50 – Bethany Petty



50 - Bethany Petty.png

BETHANY PETTY is a teacher, coffee fanatic, and 2017 EdTech Digest School Leader Finalist. She writes about thoughtful uses of technology in education at http://usingeducationaltechnology.com/ and is also the author of Illuminate: Technology Enhanced Learning.

In our conversation, Bethany recalls the challenges around teaching students not much younger than her. She discusses the main message of her book, Illuminate, and the ways that her passion for history plays out in and out of the classroom. She also talks about coffee, the importance of exercise, and some of her top picks on Twitter, edtech tools, and more.

Follow Bethany online here:

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 0:54 – Bethany describes her current context in education. It’s her 11th year teaching high school Social Studies in southeast Missouri. It’s her school’s 5th year in a 1:1 Chromebook environment, and she’s excited by the innovation she’s seen over these years. She’s also an adjunct instructional technology instructor at a local junior college.
  • 1:36 – She recalls the challenges of being an anxious rookie teacher not much older than her students. Initially, she made it her mission to control her class. Over time, she realized that authenticity, transparency, and humor can all go a long way toward building learning relationships in the classroom and creating an optimal learning environment in the process.
  • 3:44 – We talk about the heart and main message of Illuminate: helping educators at all technology levels use technology intentionally and purposefully in ways that support the learning of their students. It’s not about the technology – it’s about the learning. Why are you using it? What do you hope learners to gain from it?
  • 7:36 – Even out of the classroom, Bethany’s passion is Social Studies. A self-professed history geek, she enjoys watching history documentaries and learning opportunities wherever they present themselves.
  • 9:04 – One personal habit that Bethany relies on is exercise. It’s always been a part of her life, and when she’s in her exercise routine she feels like she has a good handle on things, she’s more alert, and more present. She also admits to a strong coffee addiction, often consuming eight or nine cups in a day!
  • 10:30 – On Twitter, Bethany recommends following legends @AliceKeeler and @HollyClarkEdu. Both of these educators tell it like it is and will keep you thinking with practical advice and provocative insights.
  • 11:07 – An edtech tool that Bethany calls indispensable for her Social Studies classroom is EdPuzzle. Follow EdPuzzle on Twitter @EdPuzzle.
  • 11:52 – A fictional book series that has really drawn Bethany’s attention lately is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Follow Diana on Twitter @Writer_DG. For a solid educational read, check out Ditch That Textbook: Free Your Teaching and Revolutionize Your Classroom by Matt Miller. Follow Matt on Twitter @JMattMiller.
  • 12:56 – Looking for an interesting podcast to add to your commute? Check out Ladies, First with Natalie Gonnella-Platts. Follow Natalie on Twitter @YankeeBean to learn more.
  • 13:38 – On YouTube, Bethany recommends the very fun Epic Rap Battles of History. Even if you’re not teaching Social Studies, it’s a blast at any age level.
  • 14:25 – When she’s got no energy left for anything productive, Bethany is watching the Once Upon a Time series
  • 14:54 – We sign off on this conversation, and Bethany gives us the best ways to follow her online and get to know more of her great content! See above for contact links.

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device: iTunes | Google Podcasts | YouTube | Spotify

Follow the podcast on Twitter @TeachersOnFire and on Instagram @TeachersOnFire.

Song Track Credits

  • Intro: Relax (by Simon More)
  • Outtro: Starley – Call on Me Remix (by DJ Zhorik)

Listen to this episode on YouTube and subscribe for more episodes!