Episode 66 – Dr. Sarah Thomas

66 - Dr. Sarah Thomas

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!

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Song Track Credits

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Episode 64 – Jennifer Casa-Todd

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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 …

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Follow the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media.

Song Track Credits

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

 

Episode 62 – Beth Houf

62 - Beth Houf

BETH HOUF is a mom, middle school principal, passionate leader & learner, and forever teacher. She’s also the co-author of Lead Like a PIRATE: Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff. Interact with her on Twitter @BethHouf and engage with ideas from her book at #LeadLAP.

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Episode Summary

Beth is the principal of Fulton Middle School in Fulton, Missouri. She serves about 600 students in Grades 6, 7, and 8. After fifteen years of teaching and leading in elementary contexts, this is her fourth year at Fulton MS. Beth also serves as a facilitator with the state department’s regional leadership academy, and she mentors new principals in Missouri leadership program.

Beth began her administration career in the pressure-packed atmosphere of No Child Left Behind. School test scores were low, requiring the school to issue letters to families in the community saying that the school was a failing school. What a culture-killer! In response, Beth worked hard to move the needle and improve test scores, instead of putting her focus on building school culture. She worked so hard, in fact, that she began to approach a state of burnout, and found herself considering leaving education for a career in nursing. Then in 2014, she attended the NAESP Conference and met Jay Billy, who showed her how to engage better and smarter with other education leaders on Twitter. He also encouraged her to connect with Dave and Shelley Burgess, and Beth soon saw the value of TLAP principles in education leadership.

Lead Like a Pirate was first born out of Beth’s passion for the principles taught in Teach Like a Pirate, by Dave Burgess. After she began building a workshop that would apply the #TLAP principles to leadership contexts, Dave and Shelley Burgess encouraged her to put her ideas and content into print. As she wrote Lead Like a Pirate, one of Beth’s main concerns was to ensure that other administrators didn’t have to experience the levels of fatigue and burnout that she once experienced. Yes, there will be times when we get discouraged or down, but she doesn’t want education leaders to feel like they are all alone or don’t have a support system. Beth wanted to archive best practices and resources but also start to build an active community of education leaders.

When she’s not focusing on education leadership inside and outside of her own context, Beth loves to read. In particular, she loves to do online read-alouds, book talks, book tasting, and any opportunity to connect books with kids and light their passion for reading.

Beth sees improvement as a daily process. She starts each day by reading a blog post — her favorite is one from Rich Cryz (@RACzyz). She also tries to stay current in leadership practices within and outside education and takes in professional development whenever she can. She welcomes free opportunities like #DitchSummit with Matt Miller, and although she’s not currently contemplating a PhD, that’s a possibility in her future. She also talks about her efforts to further promote and amplify the voices of other culture-builders, including Lead with Culture by Jay Billy, Lead with Literacy by Mandy Ellis, and Balance Like a Pirate by Sarah Johnson, Jessica Johnson, and Jessica Cabeen.

Beth enjoys traveling, experiencing other cultures, reading non-fiction, and sampling wines. She traveled to Alaska in October and was blown away by the phenomenal educators there who face overwhelming obstacles. Beth also enjoys sampling and learning about new wines. The best trips are the ones that combine education and pleasure. And when her boys hit on a new area of passion, she finds extra motivation to get involved herself.

Beth starts each day by getting up before anyone else to just relax with coffee and the news. Just the act of sitting quietly for 30-40 minutes gives her to calm she needs to start her workday in a good head space. She also leans on social media to improve parent engagement and involvement, so she makes sure she is taking pictures and video whenever she can as she gets into classrooms. She finds that the best documentation of learning happens right then, in the moment. Beth also calls herself a mobile principal. She carries her backpack with her wherever she goes so that she can get work done wherever she is and not remain tied to the desk in her office.

Beth’s Quick Picks: Voices and Resources That Shape Her Practice

On Twitter, Beth points first to a couple of hashtags – #FMSTeach and #LeadLAP. She also recommends following co-author @Burgess_Shelley and publisher @BurgessDave and @DBC_Inc.

Beth’s edtech recommendations focus on effective visual communication. She points out Quik, Canva, Poster My Wall, and Smore. Follow these great platforms on Twitter @Quik_App, @Canva, @PosterMyWall, and @SmorePages.

In books, Beth just finished The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook–What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing by Bruce D. Perry and Maia  Szalavitz. She also recommends Reclaiming Our Calling: Hold on to the Heart, Mind, and Hope of Education by Brad Gustafson. Follow these three authors on Twitter @BDPerry, @Maiasz, and @GustafsonBrad.

Looking to add some more great education podcasts to your podcast deck? Check out Cult of Pedagogy by Jennifer Gonzales and Aspire: The Leadership Development Podcast. Follow these educators on Twitter @cultofpedagogy and @Joshua__Stamper.

Beth is admittedly not a YouTube subscriber, but she does mention the Fulton Public Schools channel. Check it out here: Fulton Public Schools.

When she is able to find a little Netflix time, Beth has been enjoying flashbacks from The Nineties.

We sign off on this conversation, and Beth gives us the best ways to follow her online. Find her On Twitter @BethHouf, on Instagram @BHouf, and check out Lead Like a Pirate on Amazon.

Follow Beth.

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Song Track Credits

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Episode 59 – Dr. Sam Fecich

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DR. SAMANTHA FECICH is a former special education teacher and now a professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. She’s also a mom, edtech innovator, and most recently, the author of EduMagic: A Guide for Pre-Service Teachers.

Follow Dr. Sam online here:

Episode Summary

Dr. Sam Fecich is a professor of education at Grove City College in Grove City PA, just north of Pittsburgh. A former special education teacher herself, she teaches about educational technology integration and special education.

Sam recalls the crushing disappointment of applying to a PhD program in special education, only to have her application rejected. After cycling through discouragement, self-doubt, questioning her future, etc., she called her parents and spent some time reconsidering her passions in education.  She eventually applied for a PhD program in Learning Design and Technology, and she was accepted. Something we can all take away from Sam’s story: when one door is closed, keep trying more doors! The one that opens may just be the best fit.

EduMagic challenges the thought that your teaching career starts when you receive your teaching diploma. In it, Dr. Sam argues that the journey actually begins in your freshman year of college, and she shares authentic stories of innovation in education that will inspire educators today. EduMagic is also an acronym that forms the structure of her book:

  • E = Educate and Engage. Learning to take something from every learning experience.
  • D = Digital Presence. Start building a positive professional presence through digital portfolios of work, on LinkedIn, and other platforms.
  • U = Unite your PLN. Reaching out and building a professional network provides mutual benefits.
  • M = Megapixels. These are the bits of magic, flavor, and excitement into learning.
  • A = Always Be. Always advocate, be grateful, be mindful, and contribute to the learning of others.
  • G = Get Out. Get out of the classroom, go to edcamps, go to workshops, volunteer to present your learning to others.
  • I = Inconceivable. Use education technology to create original learning experiences.
  • C = Cooperative Teaching Gone Virtual. Use technology to build real-time partnerships between preservice teachers and teachers in the field in different locations.

Dr. Sam is passionate about the ways that Twitter and other social media platforms can connect educators and allow them to share innovative teaching practices around the world. It’s about showing process, progress, and product — in our professional learning and in the learning of our students. She’s seen first-hand the power and ability of Twitter to build a professional resume, and she shares a story of how Twitter helped earn one preservice teacher multiple job offers by the time she graduated.

Her professional goal for this year is to do a better job of meeting students where they are. In order to embrace this goal, she plans to master and utilize Snapchat better.

In terms of other learning and personal passions outside of the classroom, Sam enjoys spending time with her daughter, Summer, and watching her grow, learn, and try new things.

She tries to live by a simple rule: “Wherever you are, be there.” Among other things, she tries to leave her work at work as much as she can.

Her recommendation on Twitter is @NanKr1120, someone who does fantastic and imaginative work and gives Sam goosebumps every time she speaks.

Sam’s pick for edtech tools is Microsoft Teams. She touts the power of Teams to improve collaboration and accessibility for all learners and stakeholders. Follow Teams on Twitter @MicrosoftTeams.

One of the books she recommends most often to her preservice teachers is Dave Burgess’s Teach Like a Pirate. Follow the author on Twitter @BurgessDave.

Dr. Sam’s educational podcast pick is House of EdTech, hosted by Chris Nesi. Follow the podcast on Twitter @HouseofEdTech.

When she’s got no time left for anything productive, Dr. Sam is enjoying House of Cards on Netflix or Manifest on Hulu.

For more from Dr. Sam Fecich, follow her online here:

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Song Track Credits

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

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Episode 51 – Mandy Froehlich

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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!

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!