An Identity Crisis and a Fresh Start

Spring break is officially over. The light is at the end of the tunnel; 8 weeks until summer. And here I am sitting at a crossroad in my professional career.

For the last 6 years, I have identified as an English Teacher.
For the last 3 years, I have identified as a graduate student.

Once May comes and goes, both of these things will no longer be a part of my present, they will be a part of my past.

When it comes to the Grad school, I won’t miss the homework, I won’t miss staying up until midnight cramming the last bits of research and APA formatting to make the final touches on a project. I won’t miss the constant due dates looming over my head. But I’m a learner, and I thrive in that environment. In many ways, the last three years of grad school have taught me more about myself as a learner than all of my previous years of undergrad. I finally found my calling, my niche, my tribe.

When it comes to teaching English, I won’t miss the hours of grading essays; I won’t miss re-reading novels and articles I’ve read 8 times just to sharpen my lessons; I won’t miss the late work, or even the excuses that come with it. But the last 6 years have taught me so much about being an educator that I can’t help but wonder how I ever survived my first years of teaching.

I could list thank yous to every administrator, teacher, and student that has had an immediate and lasting impact on me, but I know that there isn’t time for that. So now, it’s not about looking in the past and reminiscing or missing, it’s about taking every opportunity I have in front of me to continue the work of a passionate educator.

It’s a bittersweet moment. I am in a liminal state of trying to find where I belong, of where I fit, of where I call home in a school. But I know having the experience of teaching for the last 6 years and completing my Master’s in Information and Learning Technologies has armed me with the tools I need to begin this new journey. To pave the way for my next adventure.

Onward and upward. In education, the journey is so much more important than the destination. It’s time to embrace my own motto of:

“True education is a kind of never ending story — a matter of continual beginnings, of habitual fresh starts, of persistent newness.” ~Tolkien

To everyone who has helped me, guided me, counseled me, laughed with me, here’s to you. Here’s to my never ending story!


Everyday Carry #MTV16 Edition

Anytime that I go to a tech conference, I have the essentials that I carry with me. Because I have the privilege to attend the Google Innovator Academy that I am heading to on Wednesday, my normal everyday carry items will be a little different—a little more techy and .

I thought it would be fun to do an everyday carry  version of what I will be carrying to the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA.


It’s so much more than an application; #GoogleEI #MTV16 Acceptance Reflection

It’s been a little more than two weeks since I submitted my application for the Certified Innovator Program and a little more than a week since being accepted. I wanted to take a moment and share the soul-searching process of applying to be a Google for Education Certified Innovator. There are hundreds of teachers who weren’t accepted and hundreds still interested in applying the next time around.

I’ve been hesitant to write this post and share my application process because it’s hard to know what was different this time around. My answers, Circumstance, fate, act of God, etc.

This is my third time applying to the Certified Innovator Program (previously the Google Teacher Academy). Each time, the application process has looked very different. And each time, until now, I got a rejection email from the program. It’s hard to stomach that rejection letter when you put so much time into the application. Each time I applied, I probably put around 10-15 hours into the application process. It’ always felt like someone telling me that I wasn’t good enough (which totally isn’t the case—there are many more factors that I can’t even imagine). I am also living in a small sense of disbelief  that I was accepted because I was ready to be rejected again.

Over the last weekend, I was doing a keynote with my friend Chris, and as we were planning it out, he mentioned several times how he thinks that everyone should have to write a keynote at some time. It really helps to ground you and confirm what you believe to be true—a way to focus on the reasons we do what we do. In many ways, this is exactly how the application for the Certified Innovator program worked for me…each time.

I am sharing with you my application below, because it serves as a reflection of who I am as an educator, and it’s me laying everything out on the table.

But here’s the thing: it’s so much more than an application. It’s me. The time spent on each application? The times being rejected? It has all been worth it.  I am forming connections with my cohort that I know will last a lifetime. Sometimes we don’t know why things work the way they do, but I know that this group of #MTV16 #GoogleEI is on fire and ready to change the world, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

My Application with Questions and info from the application in Blue:

If a friend designed for you a t-shirt that described you perfectly, what would it say?

Let’s grab some nachos!

Transform: Tell us how you have transformed your practice, your classroom, your school, or your community. Maximum of 1000 characters

My education training was very similar to how my teachers learned to teach. How was I to know that it could be different? I was prepared to teach as I had experienced school even though so much was different. Luckily, my first transformation came early in my career. It started with a tweet, and then, one thing led to another: my first EdCamp. This is where it all began. I met people who did not accept the status quo and wanted to be better; it changed my life, but more importantly, my students’ lives.
My eyes were opened. Student-centered learning, blogging, PBL, 20% time, and more. In my second month of being a teacher, I realized that there was more I could and should be doing for students. I immediately started shifting my instruction. I changed my desks from rows to groups. I let students be the experts. I didn’t just open the door to my classroom, I flattened the walls. Students own their learning. Transformation happened when I became comfortable as a learner in my own classroom.

Advocate: Link to a piece of content you’ve made: Show us a blog, a Hangout you’ve done, a poster or Infographic, a presentation resource, or something you’re really proud of online that you’d love to share. Include your link here!

Grow: Where do you find new ideas and inspiration?

Maximum of 1000 characters

Pinpointing where I find new ideas and inspiration is difficult: reading blogs, watching movies, observing my nieces and nephews tell stories with tech. These are all things that have inspired me and helped me think differently about education. But the place where inspiration really strikes is around a table or on a comfy couch. The truth is, I am passionate about helping students learn amazing things in interesting and innovative ways. I get my best ideas and courage when I can have meaningful face to face conversations with people I trust and who will challenge me. Building my PLN was essential to my transformation as a teacher, but meeting my PLN in person has given me so much more passion for my job. A stronger connection can be made in person than over a tweet or hangout. My most memorable realizations about teaching have come from the people I have sat around tables with. We laugh, cry, tell stories, and try to solve the problems in education—more than 140 characters at a time.

Vision Deck:

This is an opportunity to share your initial vision for an innovative solution to a current problem in education — at any scale… from classroom concerns to global issues. Please articulate the problem you hope to solve, and explain your idea for an innovative solution. If you are selected to participate in the Innovator Program and attend the Innovation Academy, you will have the opportunity to iterate on this initial vision, so please focus more on exploring new possibilities with great potential rather than fleshing out a complete solution you’re already confident in.


Vision Video: You have one minute to creatively explain your problem and your vision for tackling it!

Imagine you are able to have coffee with one person (currently living) who would mentor you in support of your vision. Who would you pick and why? Maximum of 1000 characters

I want to have a standing coffee appointment with Tony Wagner. He was an English teacher like me before he became a thought leader with international education influence. Tony is currently an expert in residence at Harvard’s Innovation Lab & has written several books/documentaries about education. Tony is passionate about creativity, play, and passion & how it is missing in education. The great thing about being mentored by someone like Tony is that he wouldn’t let the imitations of our current system hinder or stop his ideas. He calls for a dramatic reimagining of what education looks like. I would love to sit down with him & not only discuss our education system but to brainstorm ways to fully enact change in the system. One coffee date with him would be a gift, but having him actively working with me as a mentor would be amazing. I would be challenged to push boundaries of the current system and see real disruption in education. My vision is exactly this: mentorship for innovation.

Design your ideal learning space:


How an Education Conference is Like the World Cup

There is an inherent buzz around the World Cup – a global community is actively following the results of 22 men kicking a ball around a field. Even in the United States where soccer isn’t a popular sport, fans jump on the proverbial bandwagon and get hyped for this large event.

I’ll admit it, I love futbol (soccer). And not because the World Cup is going on right now. In fact, I am watching a game with teams I don’t follow as I type this post. However, after just finishing up at InnEdCo (Innovative Education Colorado), I realized that there is a close similarity between education conferences and the World Cup in the U.S.

During the 3 years and 11 months between World Cups, I am following my team; what players are hurt, what players are getting starting time, when the team is playing, attending games if they by chance come to Colorado, etc.

The same thing applies to any education conference I go to. In the 360 days between conferences, I am following trends in education, reading blog posts, finding research, practicing new techniques, connecting with other teachers,  and figuring out the best way to teach my students.

Education conferences tend to have the same effect as the World Cup.  Educators come together from different districts, regions, and states to teach each other and learn from each other.  After presenting or talking to other teachers at a conference, I see a smile on teachers’ faces that says, “I can’t believe how this will help my students”.

I see teachers connecting through backchannels and collaborative documents. There is great learning happening.  There is great conversation happening.  Teachers are reaching out to people they don’t know to share resources and ideas.

After the conference ends, the hype goes down, the conversations diminish, and the people left talking are the equivalent to US Soccer fans between World Cups.  We are few, but strong. We carry on the conversation and try to keep up the hype all along hoping that more people will join us.

Chances are that if you are reading this, you are with me.  You are some of the educators who keep the conversation going.  But how can we keep the hype up between conferences?  How can we continue the collaborative learning? How can we engage in the conversation with people that don’t know about the conversation?

The biggest thing is staying connected – and that doesn’t just mean digitally.  Find other ways to meet up with colleagues and friends who challenge your thinking or who inspire your teaching.

The most important thing: invite someone to join the conversation personally. Sending a tweet to a user who only checks twitter during conferences won’t help. An email lacks personality. Some people don’t know that Google+ exists.

Your smile and your invitation can be contagious. Your passion is infectious. Help someone see that the conversation is still happening. Invite them in.


And for my fellow US Soccer fans, #IBelieve: