Scholarship Awards In Educational Leadership


VCU Scholarships 2016

I was very honored to receive the following two scholarship awards from VCU in Educational Leadership. These scholarships are going to help immensely next year and hopefully in my final year of the program as well. Thanks to the Department of Educational Leadership for giving me this opportunity!

2016                Mary Ann Wright Scholarship in Educational Leadership         Virginia Commonwealth University
This scholarship was endowed in 2014 by Mary Ann Wright (M.Ed.’84, Ph.D. ’97).

2016                Dale Kalkofen Scholarship in Educational Leadership         Virginia Commonwealth University
This scholarship was endowed by Dale Kalkofen (M.Ed. ’76)


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.

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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!

Globalizing Your Curriculum: Promoting Global Citizenship by Bringing the World into Our Classrooms

Global education allows you 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 exposes your students to life outside the walls of their school and helps to foster curiosity of other cultures and countries. 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.

The powerpoint that accompanied this presentation is here. Please feel free to follow up with me regarding questions about the content found within. I am happy to help!


Empathy and Understanding

My students have been working through their latest #pbl in my honors Biology classes. We have been focusing on Mendelian and Non-Mendelian Genetics in class while they have independently been working on their human genetics disorder #pbl outside of class.

The project started with my students doing basic genetic disorder research on the most common human genetic disorders that genetic counselors will see. They were to pick 21 disorders to do very basic, introductory research on so that they could identify possible areas of interest for their PBL activity. From this research, they were asked to identify a disorder that they wanted to learn about in depth. Each student then worked independently to learn about their disorder and plan a presentation for their peers about this disorder. I gave them a detailed rubric of required content that I wanted them to research so that I knew they were going deeply enough into their research, but the way in which they presented to their peers was up to them. While most students will use powerpoint as their medium, I have had students use Prezi, create a digital storyboard, make a brochure, create a video with voiceover, etc…they never run out of creative ways to present information.

The #pbl aspect of this project came into play when I let the students know that they are going to function as genetic counselors who will be counseling their patients through a diagnosis of the disorder that they have each been researching independently. I explained that they will need to write a detailed letter to a family explaining that they have been diagnosed positively with this disorder and present to the family all of the necessary information and options that they will have. I also explained that this is where they need to pull in their emotional intelligence and work from a place of empathy and understanding. A large portion of the disorders researched were terminal and affected children, this is a challenge for them to be able to do in a professional and caring manner.

Dr Kelly Fulk - genetic counselor

I had a local genetic counselor come in to talk with my students about the process of diagnosing someone and counseling them through that diagnosis. The letter written by the students serves as their summative assessment for this unit.I really love this experience for the students and I always receive good feedback from them about the process and what they learn. To make this a true #pbl experience for my student, I am going to ask Dr. Fulk (pictured above) to have some of the counselors in her office review the letters that my students write and ask them to provide some valuable feedback on their writing and the process.

Simon Sinek – Start With Your Why

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 Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, Start With The Why, was pretty inspiring to me. This is the second time that I have viewed this particular talk and in both instances, It struck a chord with me. I think he is correct in his assessment that everyone knows what it is that they do and that most people know how they do it, but few people actually know why they do what they do. In order to know why we do what we do, we need to take the time to be reflective enough to our purpose to identify our whys so that we can be inspiring to those around us. I don’t believe that most people don’t care about why they do what they do, I think that most people are so darn busy that they can’t take the time to reflect on what it is that they actually do and why they are passionate about that.

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I like Sinek’s graphic of the Golden Circle. Though simplistic in design, I liked how it addressed, quite specifically, the same concepts addressed above. In working through his ideas pertaining to the Golden Circle, Sinek introduced some powerful examples of individuals and organizations that lead from within the circle. These individuals lead from their whys, versus the organizations that lead from the outside in, from their what. The example that he used that spoke to me most readily was Martin Luther King, Jr. and his “I Have A Dream” speech. He talked about how thousands of people traveled hundreds of miles to march on Washington DC on this day and that this was all organized before the internet. Trying to fathom how something like this could be organized before the internet is tough to even imagine. Sinek remarked that the people that showed up on this day did not do it for MLK, they did it because they believed in his why, in his mission. As an aside, Sinek made the distinction that MLK gave the “I have a dream” speech, not the “I have a plan” speech and that made a huge difference. He is so right about that.

I also liked how Sinek said, over and over again, that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. This really stuck with me this time and the last time that I watched this Ted Talk. After watching this Ted Talk last time, I immediately implemented the “What & Why” moment into my classroom. At any given time during any class period, I will stop what I am doing or what the students are doing and ask them, “can you tell me what we are doing and why we are doing it?”. At first, this really caught them off-guard and I think they believed I was trying to catch them at not paying attention but after this conversation one day I had a student ask, “Mrs. Cooke, we were talking about this with students from your other classes and they said you ask them the same thing. Why do you ask this all the time?”. I told him that I believe that if they, as the students, don’t know why they are learning what they are learning, and they are just going through the motions in the class, then being in the class is a total waste of time. They agreed that they feel like they are just going through the motions most of the time in most of their classes. I told them that they need to take the time to reflect on what they are doing in life to make sure they understand why they are doing it. We all need to take this time for reflection and repurposing our energies as our own whys change and evolve over time. I really liked Sinek’s talk but I think he needed to take his speech one step further and give some tips on how to understand your why; things that people can do on a daily basis to reinvest in their professional and personal lives to help them stay attached to and focused on their whys.