We are hearing more and more about creating equitable spaces and classrooms within schools…and it is about time! I am so excited about this work because for a very long time, a large number of our students have felt left out, marginalized, less than, or invisible. I have yet to come across another profession that is as intentional and self-reflective as education. We are CONSTANTLY looking at ourselves and our schools for ways to improve; improve our teaching, our testing, our connection with our students, the way in which we push our students to connect to something bigger than themselves and with each other. Finding space for equity is an incredibly important aspect of focus but can seem overwhelming. Where do we start? How do we know how we are doing already and how far we have to grow? My suggestion is to start with your classroom and your curriculum. This checklist provides hard data on 27 observable teacher behaviors that contribute to culturally responsive teaching and equitable classrooms. This is a good place to start to see where your strengths are and where your growth areas are. CSTP has published a rubric that teachers can use when creating lesson plans to ensure that you are being culturally responsive with your planning and activities for student development. The Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium has put together a school-wide equity audit rubric that covers curriculum inclusion, teacher behaviors, school-wide policies, and classroom practices.

Some of the changes that need to happen may be small. For instance, my son, who is in third grade, has a reading assignment this quarter that requires that he read three biographies with no stipulations other than he be interested in the people that he is reading about. After learning about this assignment, I told him that he needs to choose one female biography, one person of color biography, and the third can be an open choice. That would have been a very small change for his teacher to make to this assignment, but one that would have provided an opportunity for students to explore people that they otherwise would not intentionally look for.

Some of the changes that need to happen may be large and overwhelming like the design of whole educational systems in places, practices in and out of schools, and the way in which resources are allocated. Keeping focused on the outcome of more engaged and successful students who feel supported and inspired is important enough to put in this good work.In focusing on the pursuit of equity in schools and in classrooms, my hope is that this newsletter will provide guidance on how to begin making those shifts, both big and small, in your classrooms and in your schools. The hope is that this newsletter will help you begin to take steps away from talk and into action by providing a framework for an action plan that you can commit to now and into the future. We love each and every one of our students, of course we do, but learning HOW to love each of them in a way that resonates with the student is the important piece that we need to begin to really focus on. If you have any thoughts, ideas, practices, or suggestions that you use in your own classroom or school that focuses on the pursuit of equity, please share with me.


As we continue to focus on creating equitable spaces for our students, I think it is important to listen to what other educators are doing in their classrooms. Depending on where you teach and what your student make-up looks like, the creation of your own equitable space might look very different than someone else’s. I like this article by Shane Safir as it offers tangible suggestions from knowing each child well, understanding how their life stories influence their learning stories, and how to remain mindful of the idea that a “one size fits all” approach to learning is really a one size fits none approach. This work is hard and uncomfortable but every moment of critique and reflection are worth it when your students know that you see them and that you cherish them as much as every other student in the room.


Pedro Noguera is a founder of UCLA’s Center For The Transformation Of Schools. In this podcast, Noguera shares ten specific actions educators can take to pursue excellence through equity. Some of these are things we need to speak up about, some are shifts we need to make in our own mindsets, and others are changes we can implement in our own practices. Noguera goes step by step through each of these specific action steps towards more equitable classrooms.




Screen Shot 2019-09-10 at 12.26.48 PM.pngI first read this book in my doctoral program and thought it was an excellent way for educators to use the power of equity audits to help eliminate achievement gaps and educational bias in their classrooms and in schools. This text provides a set of “inequity indicators” for evaluating schools, generating essential data, and identifying problem areas for school leaders. There are also nine skill sets for improved equity-oriented teaching for classroom use. There really is something for everyone in this text and I can’t recommend it enough to help you with this work.


Onward, Elena Aguilar’s newest book, tackles the problem of educator stress, and provides a practical framework for taking the

Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators

burnout out of teaching. I LOVE this book and the accompanying workbook. I could see schools using this as an ongoing PD for educators for the entire school year. This actionable framework gives concrete steps toward rediscovering your self, your energy, and your passion for teaching. You’ll learn how a simple shift in mindset can affect your outlook, and how taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally is one of the most important things you can do. The companion workbook helps you put the framework into action, streamlining your way toward renewal and strength.

  • Cultivate resilience with a four-part framework based on 12 key habits
  • Uncover your true self, understand emotions, and use your energy where it counts
  • Adopt a mindful, story-telling approach to communication and community building
  • Keep learning, playing, and creating to create an environment of collective celebration


This month, I challenge you to identify two areas within your classroom, curriculum, or school where you can begin to create a more equitable space. Use this Action Plan Framework (PDF version as well) as a way to organize your priorities and your timeline for this process. Check in with me throughout this process and let me know how it is going for you!
Have a great month and, teach well Friends!

This is the year. This is YOUR year!

THIS IS THE YEAR. THIS IS YOUR YEAR! (watch this video for some inspiration!)

August always brings so many emotions for me. The idea that the summer is almost over, that it is time to begin transitioning my thoughts away from the simplicity of summer days where, for me, the greatest decision is which flavor of ice cream to eat, to thoughts of the school days on the horizon. There is nothing like having a good chunk of time in the year to step out of your professional life and back into yourself, finally reflecting on YOU and your needs. Now, that is not to say that teachers do not work over the summer. I do not know a single teacher who does not continue to develop curriculum, read current books related to their content areas and pedagogical exploration, reassess and rework projects and PBL units that need a little love, and think about strategy regarding assessment throughout the summer. However, there is something great about being able to do it over a cup of steaming hot coffee in your PJs (or is that just me?).

August also brings a wave of excitement for me. I still get those butterflies in my stomach when I think of the first day of school and meeting all my new students. There is so much possibility in that first day. The untapped possibility that fills the room with nervous energy as the students survey you and their classmates. The brimming possibility of meaningful relationships with these developing humans. And, the possibility of inspiring these incredible young people to find and develop their own sense of purpose; who they are, where they fit in the world, and the responsibility that comes with that. We teach our content, of course we do, but we do so much more than that. We cheer these kiddos on when they finally understand the problem, we pat them on the back when they demonstrate that they get it, and we beam with pride at the end of the year when they walk out of our classrooms, ready to take on the world. Is this a bit idealistic? Yes. Is every day this inspiring? No. But could it be? Absolutely. I worked with a teacher this summer who told me that her goal was to make every student that comes into her classroom smile, every day. Will that happen? Who knows but let’s high five to her for trying. This is the year. This is YOUR year! Let’s make it happen!

Teach well friends!


As we prepare our classrooms for the new group of students that will come in on day 1, each wearing their own armor of protection, be it humor, silliness, nonchalance, disinterest, or disengagement, it is important to be ready to meet them where they are and to really SEE them. Getting to know our students and forming relationships takes time but Janice Wyatt-Ross shares six tried and true ways to embrace each student so that they feel seen and welcomed into your world from the beginning. This article offers suggestions from learning your students names and how to pronounce them correctly to seeing yourself as your students see you as a few of the ways to engage authentically with your students from the very beginning of the year.



I have shared this video before, and I will undoubtedly share it again because I LOVE this woman and her message. At one point in this TedTalk, Mrs. Pierson says, “while you won’t like them all, the key is that they can never ever know it ” and the very first time I heard her say that it stuck with me and does to this day. We have ALL had those students that we DREADED every.single.day and it takes all the reserve that we have to make it through the class with this kid. But, what Mrs. Pierson says rings true. These children deserve our best, and our hearts, every single day, no matter what. There are plenty people in their lives who don’t believe in them, who will hurt their feelings, who will try to break them down; don’t let one of those people be you. You are building a legacy of relationships with each and every student that you teach and in doing so, you ARE changing lives, every single day.




Thanks to modern technology, we have learned a great deal about the complexity of the brain and the learning process. Unfortunately, however, we have not learned very much about how to teach in a way that takes full advantage of how the brain learns. In this book, Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa describes Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE) science as the intersection of neuroscience, psychology, and pedagogy and draws on research from each of these areas to offer 50 best practices that teachers can employ to maximize student learning and achievement.

The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace


Catch the vision of authentic appreciation! Learn the foundational concepts by reading The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. This book helps supervisors and managers effectively communicate appreciation and encouragement to their employees, resulting in higher levels of job satisfaction, healthier relationships, and decreased cases of burnout.


Purpose In Learning

I have been doing a lot of work over the past two years at World Leadership School to define what Purpose Learning is and what it can look like in schools. Clearly, the idea of purpose identification and clarification is not new and something that people struggle with seemingly as they get older and more settled into their lives and careers. What we have been considering is how can we help students begin to clarify their own sense of purpose at a younger age. This generation is under immense pressure to perform. They are put onto the conveyor belt of education as soon as they enter formal schooling with one goal in mind…COLLEGE. They are pushed along and encouraged to take this class but not that one for fear they might not get an ‘A’ in that one, to play this sport but not do that play, to not get a job because it would distract from their school work, to volunteer a prescribed number of hours to boost their resumes, and to focus 100% on themselves all the time so that the can achieve “their” goal. If this is so satisfying and clear for students, then why does the data suggest that students have never been more dissatisfied? Depression is at an all time high, disordered eating and self harm are sky-rocketing, (attempted) suicide rates are astronomical, and our kids are stressed out to the max. Bill Damon, of Stanford’s d.School, has said that “the biggest problem growing up today is not actually stress, it’s meaninglessness”. Our kids don’t know what they are doing or why they are doing it. College is a goal thrust upon them rather than one they identify for themselves and we, as the adults in their lives, need to reconsider what we are presenting as important to students. Hence, this deep dive into Purpose Learning. So, the more I thought about this the more it became clear that we need a framework that we can use as supportive measures to our curriculum that will provide tools for deep engagement and opportunities for purpose exploration WHILE we teach our content.

Purpose Matrix This matrix presents the WHY of Purpose Learning, which is to develop the whole child, the head (which we do an incredible job of already in schools), the heart (connection to the world outside of self), and the hands (taking action). The HOW component was taken from Andrea Savari’s Redefining Readiness Report (2017) focused on core social emotional skills. The HOW component of each are the tools that teachers can use to get at these skills through their curriculum and their teaching. My hope is that this framework will provide ideas for teachers to shift from content centered classes to more skill development and purpose exploration classes through the lens of the content.  Let me know your thoughts on this and if you think it would be useful for teachers.

The Great Necktie Debate!

My students have been doing research and data collection of microbial populations on neckties worn by their faculty. The project is described below in detail. We are currently still collecting and analyzing data. I imagine this phase will take approximately one more week before we transition into the actual analysis of findings and writing up the report. This is one of those awesome projects that will never be able to be replicated, unfortunately, but it has really required true meaningful work on the part of my students and I have been so impressed with their abilities and developed techniques when dealing with microbiology.

If you are interested in the process or the findings, please contact me.

Project-Based Learning Title: The Great Necktie Debate

Grade: 10th

Project idea: Students have been charged by a male faculty, who happens to dislike wearing ties on a daily basis, to see if there is a “health risk” to wearing ties as they contain a lot of microbes. This research spans all three sections of regular biology and these students have taken this charge and decided that they will research it.

The students in all three sections used the collective Google platform for uniform access to information. The students researched the historical purpose of the necktie, they have researched different career paths that have done away with idea of wearing a tie because of health concerns (dentists, doctors, etc…), the students designed the experiment and performed the experiment over the course of multiple weeks, students analyzed the data, and, students reported out the data in the form of a formal journal article.

(My students are working on their scientific understanding and writing. Therefore, this DQ was formulated in the spirit of a hypothesis) If neck ties are swabbed for bacterial growth then large quantities of bacteria will be observed because neckties are worn for many years and rarely cleaned and therefore contain an excessive amount of microbes.

microbial growth (microbiology), bacterial plating techniques (microbiology), bacterial species identification (microbiology)

Major Products:

  1. Swabbed ties of all Upper School male faculty and administrators
  2. Plate all tie bacteria on nutrient agar
  3. analyze plate growth and re-plate a colony for a pure culture
  4. Use excel to analyze data and create meaningful infographics
  5. Write a formal scientific paper describing research and explaining results
  6. Publish paper in Collegiate School Journal of Microbiology

Public Audience: US faculty; US Administrators; Alaina Campbell – Department of Biology, VCU; Dr. Berry Jacques – Tufts Medical University





The Great Necktie Debate

It is difficult to determine exactly when the necktie first made its appearance, and exactly where. Some sources state that the necktie first appeared in the Chinese army, over 1000 years ago (Ashley, O., 2013). Other historians agree that the necktie appeared in the 17th century, during the 30-year war in France (Hendrick, 2013). Whatever the origin, the fact is that neckties have been a fundamental accessory for predominantly male fashion for centuries.

Though adding to the air of professionalism, there is potential for the necktie to be harboring potentially dangerous pathogens, especially in professions that have excessive contact with children or the sick. A study performed by researchers at the New York Medical Center of Queens found that nearly 50% of neckties worn by physicians harbored bacteria that can cause disease (Science Daily, 2004).

If neckties do harbor abnormal amounts of potentially pathogenic microbes, should faculty members in a school be required to wear them?

You have been hired by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Microbiology to determine if neckties worn in a 9-12 school setting have an excessive amount of microbes contained on them. The results of your findings will be published in the Collegiate School’s Journal of Microbiology and you will be asked to present these findings at a national high school science conference.



The students are wrapping up their scientific method and process of science units, as well as moving quite quickly through their microbial pathogenesis unit. Prior lab work for these classes included: pouring agar plates, streaking plates with populations of E. coli, looking at antibiotic resistance of E.coli, looking at antimicrobial properties of E. coli and B. cereus with respect to common household cleaners, analyzing CFU (colony-forming units) growth on Petri dishes, practice using an incubator and practice using an autoclave.


I introduced this unit by playing this video, found in the beginning of this PowerPoint. On the video, a well-respected male faculty member in the upper school was interviewed and addressed his concerns about the potentially hazardous nature of wearing a necktie every day and he asked the students to gather data to support his hypothesis.


Students started by creating a google document shared between all three classes. The students volunteered themselves for various duties throughout the research. The students split into the following teams: Research & Problem, Hypothesis, Materials & Methods, Survey Team, Tie Swabbers, Petri Dish Inoculators, Petri Dish analyzers, Data analysts, Excel Professionals, and each student would contribute to the Conclusion and the formal writing process.

  • Research & Problem – students began by doing extensive research on the necktie and it’s historical purpose in male dress
  • Hypothesis – students created a working hypothesis in an If, then, because format (it should be noted that this took quite a long time for the students to agree on a workable hypothesis – good collaboration and communication of ideas)
  • Materials & Methods: determined how they were going to sample tie microbial growth and what materials they would need to do so. Students decided to sample all US male faculty and all administrators and compare the tie growth between the two divisions. Students decided that each tie swabber would need to sample with a partner who’s job was to gather data for the survey that correlated with the sampling work.
  • Tie Swabbers: students met in the teacher’s classroom each morning before school to gather materials, determine which teachers needed to be sampled, and would go out and sample as many ties as possible. The sampling process took two weeks of morning time.
  • Survey Team: students created a survey to correlate with the microbial data collected. The students asked faculty members how old their tie was, how often it was cleaned or dry cleaned, whether they liked wearing ties and whether they believed ties should be mandatory or not.
  • Petri Dish Team: this team was responsible for removing the petri dishes from the incubator, analyzing and recording the growth on the collective google sheet. After analyzing growth, these students were responsible for re-plating an original strain onto a new petri dish to isolate pure cultures of bacteria. The re-plate would go back into the incubator for 24 hours, the original plate would be sealed and placed in the fridge. After 24 hours, the re-plate was taken out of the incubator, analyzed and recorded, sealed and placed in the refrigerator.

Before beginning the research, the students composed an email to the senior administrative team requesting permission to perform the study. After receiving permission from the administrative team, the students then created an email for the faculty explaining what their purpose was, the research needed and asked the faculty for their help by allowing the students to swab their ties.

After collecting the data students worked collectively to write the formal laboratory report and literature review to present their results to the faculty and administrative team.


Collective Google Doc

Tie Survey

Tie Data

Petri Dish Pictures

Photos of Student Work:

Global Education Benchmark Group

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 11.24.44 PMI had the distinct pleasure of presenting at GEBG’s annual national conference in New Orleans this past weekend. I was so nervous because it was my first national presentation and I wasn’t sure what to expect, however, the presentation was received so well by so many attendees and I have since received some great feedback about my presentation.

My presentation was entitled Globalizing Your Curriculum: Promoting Global Citizenship by Bringing the World Into Our ClassroomsThe purpose of this presentation was to address teaching global competencies to students and how they are an essential part of being an educator in the 21st century. The benefits of teaching these skills to students and, in turn, future generations are immeasurable. Global education develops a skill of being able to view the world from different lenses; to develop a sense of empathy that is essential as part of the human spirit. The question is, how do we do that? Where do we start? This presentation will give tips on how to incorporate global issues into curriculums with specific examples that have worked in a science classroom. From weekly “hot topics” to in-depth Project-Based Learning initiatives, globalizing your curriculum is a way to expose your students to life outside the walls of their schools and helps to foster curiosity of other cultures and countries. We live in a world that grows smaller every day, as advances in technology have shortened the distance between “us and them”. It’s important for our students to develop the perception that there is unity within diversity and give them a sense of belonging to a larger world community.

As educators, we need to make a commitment to real world learning for our students. We need to provide opportunities for our students that encompass authentic and meaningful learning experiences that will encourage our students to become the solution-seekers and problem-solvers of the 21st century. The development of students as global citizens is a monumental task turned over to the teachers that guide them through the learning process. There is no specific place within our curriculum that speaks specifically to “global education” because it is a fluid and all-encompassing focus that should be interwoven throughout. The question is then, how do I bring the world into my classroom in an authentic and meaningful way?

The secret to globalizing the curriculum is that it can be done in small pieces, one at a time, that add up to a comprehensive world-view by the end of the year. In my curriculum, I set aside time each week for my students to present their “hot topics”. Hot Topics involve any topic pertaining to biology that is new and exciting around the world. The student researches and plans their mini-presentation (as a homework assignment) and is prepared to take questions after they present. Each presentation takes 2 – 3 minutes and inevitably leads to in-depth discussion about a region or the research that was presented.

I also use Project-Based Learning (PBL) activities to incorporate intensive global study. PBL is the tool that allows me to cultivate these essential skills with my students: collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and empathy. These skills are what will be useful to our students as they enter the global workforce. It is clear that they will be called upon in the near future to solve immense global challenges, and in preparation for these challenges, I ask them to solve real world problems in a very authentic manner. From designing a cell-based sensor for early detection of an Ebola infection, to creating recipes for the World Food Bank to aide the global food crisis, to using cellular respiration/photosynthesis as a platform to research and propose solutions to our energy problems, my students are thinking, designing, researching, and intelligently proposing solutions to very real world issues.

Because I teach biology and infectious diseases, the entire world has a place in my classroom. When we are talking about Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration, I can ask my students why deforestation in Brazil is negatively affecting Greenland; which allows for discussion of these regions and their ecosystems, the different environmental concerns for each region, global climate change and how much humans are contributing to it, and I can then ask my students to propose a solution to this problem. The Ebola outbreak has been a fantastic case study for my Infectious Diseases class in terms of immunology, epidemiology, socio-economic status and the relationship that has with access to appropriate medical care, medicine, ethics, the geography of Africa and specifically the “malaria belt” and why this area is so prevalent with disease. I ask my students to propose a solution to the late identification of an Ebola sickness or a solution that address the reintroduction of survivors back into their communities. The possibilities are endless when using strategies of project-based learning with students and these projects require a level of critical thinking, empathy, and collaboration from our students that other learning tools simply do not.

I have a number of specific examples that can be modified for immediate use in classrooms across division and subject area. This presentation will cover various strategies for incorporating global awareness into the curriculum that will be beneficial to students but will not be overwhelming for the educator. As with all things, this kind of teaching takes practice but, the difference in the classroom once it is implemented is incredible. The discussions that evolve from this globalization of the curriculum are so valuable to the student and to the educator.

Specific examples that this session addressed:
“Hot Topics” – these are a 2 – 3 minute presentations by the students, on a weekly basis, that discuss a hot topic in science. This is not limited to global issues or research but generally revolves around both

Project-Based Learning Experiences – These projects provide authentic learning experiences for students that require in depth research and understanding of larger global problems that need solutions. PBL examples are:

  • The Ebola Pandemic
  • “Feed My Starving Children” Campaign
  • Human Genetics Disorder Project
  • Photosynthesis: How does deforestation in Brazil affect the poles?
  • Microbial Pathogenesis Paper
  • History of HIV
  • The Malaria Belt in Africa
  • The Flu of 1918 – how an epidemic becomes a pandemic
  • Invasive Species Pop Up Books

Weekly podcasts and discussions – stitcher
Case Studies
Guest Speakers

This presentation also listed a plethora of ideas for educators to use to globalize their classrooms throughout the year.

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 11.20.56 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-17 at 11.21.06 PM

Before I had even left the room, I was already getting supportive tweets from people that attended the session and found it helpful. I had one Head of School from North Carolina ask if his Department Head could contact me to talk about globalizing the curriculum and project based learning. I had another teacher ask if she and some of her colleagues could come observe me teach. And, I had one amazing non-profit group from California ask if I would be willing to consult with them on science curriculum for international trips. All in all, it was a great presentation!