Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Journey in Learning

I never would have thought that when I named my blog “Journey in Learning” that I would write an entire post on it, but 2017 has definitely been a Journey in Learning

In 2017, after, well, many years, I found my personal strength, my voice, my passion. I found my fight, my determination and my resiliency. I found me! I encourage others to do the same.

Build on Your Passions

Special Education will ALWAYS be a passion of mine. I’ve taught Special Education for over 15 years at various levels. So this spring I ran with it! I am humbled to share that I was able to create, organize and run Ohio’s first SpEdCamp! In its first year, over 75 educators came together to talk about supporting students with special needs. SpEdCamp 2018 is already being planned with plans to be bigger and support even more people and students!

What’s your passion? Turn it into reality!

Take Risks - Try Something New

This year I took risks and tried new things! I hosted Twitter EdChats, mentored, presented at a conference, switched jobs, created an online mentoring community (see below), hosted book chats, started a website, and attended conferences.

Spread your wings -- fly!

Things to try in 2018:
  • Voxer Book Chats 
  • Twitter Chats (host or co-host one!) 
  • Attend an EdCamp 
  • Present at a conference 
  • Create a MakerSpace 
  • Blog 
  • Try a new teaching strategy or implement something new in your building 
  • Join a committee in your school/district 
  • Volunteer 


This summer I dreamed of creating a mentoring program for aspiring leaders such as myself. Waiting to be mentored until I got into the field seemed counterproductive. I want to learn and better myself now. So, I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and created the #AspiringLeaders cohort! We are a small, mighty group of dedicated future and current school leaders that are learning and growing together through organic mentorship relationships (connecting through email, voxer, telephone) and bi-monthly webinars! Check us out - Dream Big Mentorship

The biggest thing I learned in 2017 is that you need to have a vision and you can’t lose sight of it! People may tell you no, that you won’t be successful, that you lack skills, etc. Nonsense. Go after it! #DREAMBIG

Reflect and Be Resilient

After another round of applications and unsuccessful interviews, I reflected and realized that what I thought were the “perfect” jobs, probably weren’t the right ones for me after all. I learned from all of these. After each interview, I took notes. I’ve refined my portfolio and resume. I’ve increased my skills. I’ve talked to my mentors. I’ve read, and read, and read!

I’m ready to conquer 2018!

If I had successfully found a leadership job I’m not sure the 2nd half of 2017 would have been as epic as it has been! Good things come to those who wait, right?

My Journey in Learning has been filled with many other life lessons this year. I grew. I continue to grow. I am happy, but I am also ready for 2018! How would you define your Journey in Learning this year?

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Impact Makers

I’m an avid reader, usually having a couple of books, journals, magazines all going at once. I’m currently reading (and loving) David Geurin’s (@DavidGeurin) Future Driven and Dale Carnegie’s classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People (which is also part of a book chat I’m participating in). Both books talk about the importance of showing others they matter.

I strongly believe that we should acknowledge those who have made an impact on us. 

There are many people this past year that have allowed me to reflect, push further, dig deep, cry, smile, laugh out loud, and lead me to be a better me. They are impact makers! These people are educators, leaders, students, parents, family members and even the local postmaster!

So this weekend I sat down and wrote them all personal notes. Twenty-two notes. Yes, it took time, but for every note I wrote, I reflected and thought about that person and only that person. They need to know that they had made an impact. One of my impact makers has passed away. Her husband will receive my note.

It was an amazing feeling to write these notes. As educators, we need to think about the people who inspire us, make us think, and make us better. We may give them a shout-out tweet or say something in an email, but an unexpected handwritten note just does something more!
I encourage all of you to think of at least five people to write letters to this week. One a day. Tell them you’re proud of them. They motivate you to be better. Share how they've made you be more reflective in your practice. Tell them you appreciate them. Five people.

Who are your impact makers?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

I wonder...

This weekend I went to see the movie Wonder.  I cried.  A lot. Auggie Pullman pulled at my heart. I wonder, isn’t everyone a little like Auggie though?  

Maybe everyone doesn’t have something physically different.  Maybe it’s something that others can’t see but affects them just as much.  Something that they personally struggle with every day. Are we acknowledging that?

It shouldn’t matter whether or not our differences are physical or internal.  We have to get better at treating everyone the same.  We have to be kind, show empathy and show understanding. It's more than teaching our children and students this, it's modeling this ourselves!


Auggie, as many of our students that fill our schools, are wonders!  They are courageous and brave and stand up for themselves. It may be an identified student, it may be the basketball star.  It may be the student council president, it may be a wallflower. Our students are facing things we never had to face as children and teens. THEY are wonders.

Our students are coding in elementary school and running businesses in high school!  Our students are young artists and musicians!  Our students are on sports team for our schools and in the community (Special Olympics too!) Our students are advocates and fundraising for causes that may not even benefit them.  Our students are wonders!

There are many wonders in our buildings!  How are you going to make sure they know they are wonders?

If you haven’t seen this movie, please do.  It’s truly for everyone.  
Kindness does matter, words matter, no matter what age we are.
Auggie teaches us ALL a lesson in this great movie!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Extreme Gratitude

My heart is full of happiness and gratitude as I think about what my life is blessed with today.  I get to wake up every day and go to a school I love to work in, with students and colleagues that make me better.  I also get to connect with friends from around the United States that help me grow, learn and dream every day. When you’re surrounded by greatness, you can’t help but to feel blessed.

When I reflect upon my year, it’s hard not to recall a short period of time where my life felt different. A little darker.  Lots of questioning.  Hurtful words. But as I processed through these; reflected, forgave, and learned, I realized that I am grateful for them as well. It evoked something.

I started dreaming.
I made an action plan.
I had a vision.

I found people like me!
I found people who wanted to support people like me!

Being able to bring like minded people together is a dream come true.  I am humbled and now tears of joy fall from my eyes. I realized that with hard work and perseverance dreams do come true!

So today, my heart is full, happy, and excited about the future. I am so grateful for those in my circle who support and encourage me.  I am thankful for those who were once part of my journey too. Many people have provided building blocks to who I am and who I'm becoming.

I am filled with hope and inspiration.
My vision is clear.
For that I am grateful.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Mentoring Cohort Ready to ROLL - LAST CHANCE!


I am so excited to have so many aspiring leaders join this first cohort and honored to have so many dedicated, experienced school leaders as mentors.

We are READY TO ROLL but want you to join us!

If you are a new or aspiring school leader and are looking for mentorship please complete this form!

If you are A ROCKSTAR leader and want to mentor, please complete this form.

***We need to have these by the end of the week***

Webinars are scheduled to start in November and will include topics such as: Importance of Relationship Building, Resumes, Cover Letters and Portfolios, The “Down and Dirty” of Leadership, Interviewing Tips and “Behind the Scenes” - What they DIDN’T Teach you in Grad School.

What are you waiting for??? Join this movement!!!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

#ThankAPrincipal #ThankALeader

“Every great achiever is inspired by a great mentor.”
-Lailah Gifty Akita

I’ve always believed in the power of collaboration!  I’ve collaborated on blog posts with amazing educators, worked with others to bring Ohio’s first Special Education based EdCamp (@SpEdCampOH) and collaborated on many book chats.  We truly are better when we work together.

But I am overwhelmed and humbled by the dedicated school leaders who are offering their time and dedication to collaborate with me to provide mentorship and webinars to aspiring school leaders this academic year.

Twenty aspiring leaders are benefiting from the generosity and power of paying it forward by the following educational superstars!  They are definitely why I celebrate National Principals Month and why I #ThankAPrincipal

Please help me thank these leaders and follow them for more inspiration:

Allyson Apsey @allysonapsey
Asia Armstrong @1AVA3
Alyse Consiglio @alyseconsiglio
Mark French @PrincipalFrench
Lori Green @Loriannegreen
Dennis Griffin @D4Griffin3
Jennifer Hogan @jennifer_hogan
Tia Holliman @Ms_Holliman
Dr. Jacie Maslyk @DrJacieMaslyk
Dr. Tim McDermott @tim_mcdermott1
Ann Oro @OroAnnM
Starr Sackstein @MsSackstein
Theresa Stager @PrincipalStager
Dr. Sarah Thomas @sarahdateechur
Craig Vroom @Vroom6
Jessica Webster @jgroteweb
Jon Wennstrom @jon_wennstrom
Karen Wood @karenwoodedu

The first cohort of #AspiringLeaders are sure to learn from their wisdom and expertise.  Be sure to follow our journey, join our webinars and share your insight too, because we truly are #bettertogether

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Top 5 Reasons YOU should MENTOR

 Top 5 Reasons YOU Should Mentor an Aspiring School Leader

Mentoring often occurs organically once a new school leader enters your building or district.  You take them under your wing, you help them through the paperwork, you’re the listening ear that they need.  It’s a friendship that forms and often lasts for years.

But have you considered reaching out and mentoring ASPIRING school leaders?  Guiding them and encouraging them prior to them entering the field?  You MUST!  Here’s why:

  1. Aspiring School Leaders learn pedagogy and theory in leadership programs.  It’s YOU as practicing school leaders that can share with them the day to day “real life” of a administrator.
  2. Remember your first year?  Wish you knew something more prior to going in?  Now’s your time to give back and help others!
  3. You know what you’re looking for in a fellow administrator.  Share this so the TOP candidates are out looking for jobs.  GROW our profession.
  4. Think of a person who has made a huge impact on you - now pay that forward.  
  5. It’s such a HUGE gift to give that takes little time each month.  Make a phone call, Vox, do a Google Hangout, email.  Relationships matter and help mentees tremendously!

Mentoring is a small thing that adds up to BIG rewards to a future leader. Are you ready? Do you support building greatness for our students by bringing top leaders into schools? Can you commit to having this authentic, helping relationship for the next ten months?  No set times, you and your protege decide what works best for you.  
We have a cohort of aspiring leaders ready for you!  Please sign up here to mentor TODAY! We  are in need of assistant principals, middle school leaders and directors of SpEd, Curriculum, Tech, etc. especially!

We are also hosting short webinars for these aspiring leaders.  If you would be interested in sharing your experience this way we would also appreciate your support.

Our *DREAM* is to get enough sponsorship to have the aspiring leaders meet up with current leaders at NPC18!  You could be part of this inaugural EPIC event!!

Mentoring does change lives!

Please contact @jodiepierpoint with any questions

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Aspiring School Leaders -- THIS is for you!

Having a mentor at any stage of your career is so beneficial, but often doesn't happen after student teaching, unless people personally seek a mentor out. Time constraints and location can often prevent strong mentoring relationships from being formed.

Today, online relationships are often how we connect for personal growth and learning - edchats, blogs, webinars and personal PLNs  --- strong mentoring relationships can also be built through these same digital means!

There are SO many great leaders across the United States that are willing to reach out and support the next generation of school leaders! Our goal is to support aspiring leaders through a series of webinars held by some of these inspiring top leaders.

Webinar topics could include:
  • Interviewing tips
  • The “behind the scenes” of administration
  • Tech tools and tips for growth
  • Work/Life Balance
  • Resume / Cover Letter Building

In addition to the FREE webinars, we want to match experienced leaders up with future leaders in mentoring relationships. We have personally experienced and know the value of mentorship and know it doesn't have to occur face-to-face.  Tools such as Voxer, Google Hangouts, FlipGrid, etc will be utilized to make these unique relationships happen.

Could you use the support?

Know someone who could?

Even if you are thinking about only watching the webinars, please take a few minutes to complete this quick Google Form below. This will help us see what webinar topics would be most helpful to you as an aspiring leader.

We would greatly appreciate you sharing this with others so today’s leaders can help grow tomorrow's!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Words are Tools - Choose Carefully!

Words are tools.  They can sharpen us, make us brighter, fulfill us, or unfortunately drill us down. We need to choose words wisely. You never know what effect they will have on others. My father always said “You can have 100 great interactions with someone, but one sour one can ruin everything.”

I’m so excited about starting the new school year - seeing new pictures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  As I head into school year 17-18 my goal is to conscientiously think about the power of the words that I use with my students, colleagues and friends.  Positivity will always win out - sharpening others, building them up, making others better.  That’s truly what education/life is about.  

When speaking to others, both students and adults, the way we deliver our words are extremely important.  What we may see as joking or sarcasm, others may not.  We must keep our intent positive.  Tone and cadence is something that we need to think about as well.

Words that dull us, drill us down, rough up our edges are tough, even as adults!  But as adults we are able to forgive and move on, but our students are not always given this privilege or have the skill set to do so.  These are the students that become chronically absent from school, cut classes, exhibit behavior problems, etc. often because of a word or comment that we didn’t think twice about.

Noticing small accomplishments, saying good morning, giving a fist bump or even knowing someone’s name can change a day for someone.  Sending a note home, making a positive phone call, tweeting or sharing a picture can be a memory that a student (or adult) holds on for a lifetime.  Additionally, “I’m sorry” is one of the most powerful tools for those times that we may have slipped.  

My friend Allyson Apsey (@allysonapsey) and her staff at Quincy Elementary in Zeeland, Michigan even shared a blog (HERE) recently of various ways to greet students and staff as they head back to school!  These "back to school" words are also powerful tools.

I wish everyone a great 2017-2018 school!  May words fill you with cheer, joy, hope and happiness!
Let’s build a better us!


Friday, July 28, 2017

What are you waiting for? Make that PORTFOLIO!

Creating a portfolio is a way to sell yourself and your talents. A friend and I were talking last night about portfolios and I shared that I am constantly updating mine.  It is important that we continually keep our portfolios up to date. In today’s generation, it is crucial to have both a traditional and an online version of our portfolios.

For the past few years I have used www.livebinders.com as my online portfolio.  It worked well and I was pleased. It is free and user friendly.

Recently I found www.portfoliogen.com. This free website is made with educators in mind.

There are many ways to create an online portfolio and many websites that will assist you in creating one.  I have used different websites for many things.  For instance, I use Blogger to host my educational blog, and am starting to use www.wordpress.com as a professional website.  All are free or have upgrades available depending on your needs.

The key is to make a portfolio to represent who you are. Highlight your attributes and share with others prior to even applying for or looking for jobs!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dreamers Never Give Up

I spent a lot of time this summer reflecting on the past few years.  Although things have not turned out as I might have liked, I’ve decided I need to see these as learning experiences instead of setbacks.

As educators and professionals we cannot focus on the “fails” or negatives.  We need to see them as growth opportunities.  In what areas can we improve?  Where can we make a bigger impact? What have we learned?

It is a choice to allow the negative to build, gnaw at our guts, consume our thoughts, or we can choose to be resilient.

I choose resiliency.

I choose to take action instead of staying stagnant.

I choose to allow myself to let go and move on from things that aren’t beneficial to me personally or professionally.

I choose to continue to connect with others who support and encourage me.  

I choose to take risks and try new things.

I choose to reach out to others who will help me on my journey.

I choose to continue to dream and set goals.

I choose to encourage and support others in their journey.

I choose to grow and learn from others in as many ways as possible.

I choose to stay determined, passionate and persevere.

I choose resiliency.

Friday, July 14, 2017

National Principal's Conference 2017

Late last Friday night I found out I was going to be able to attend the National Principal’s Conference in Philadelphia.  I literally booked a room, packed a bag and started driving!  My heart was still racing, along with my now overloaded brain, as I drove home in pure encouragement, excitement and renewed hope in my leadership journey.

The conference was a different experience for me than it was for most I am sure.  I am not currently an administrator, but aspiring to be one. I took in everything - I took copious notes, many pictures and journaled ideas throughout the two and a half days that I was there.  I concentrated on people’s words and expressions and the passion that they had for making education great.  There were times that I laughed, times that I was confused and admittedly, times that I cried.  

What I learned though, is there are great leaders and educators that want our educational system to get better for the people we serve.

For example:
  • Brad Gustafson and Todd Nesloney presented on Building A Culture Conducive to Change.  Granted, many leaders talk about culture changes, but to see the pictures and hear the excitement in their voices as they talked about their schools and their students was refreshing. It was the little things like the teaching with their teachers, giving “spark plug” awards, and having students record messages through green screens in their offices that showed they truly put their students and staff first.
  • Jeff Zoul and Jimmy Casas always amaze me.  They go out of their way to greet attendees in their sessions and make sessions personal.  I am humbled by how both of them would remember who I was from an encounter months ago, but that truly demonstrates who these leaders are.  Their session on their recent publication Start.Right.Now was filled with personal stories and encouragement.  These men are truly humble educators and leaders.
  • Meghan LeFevers led an intimate, small session on Inclusion and the IEP process that I wish more people could have attended. It is so important that as leaders, teachers and educators we fully understand the IEP process and involve ourselves in it.  It’s not just another meeting - it’s about a student and their plan to succeed in school and, ultimately, in life.
  • Todd Nesloney, Ben Gilpin, and Brad Gustafson once again blew my mind with their “This is Us - Ideas to Expand Your Leadership” session.  Leadership and successful school culture truly is about bringing everyone together and realizing what makes your school special.  “Dinner with Gentlemen” rather with “Donuts with Dads” promotes ANY male role model in a student’s life being welcomed into the school. “Tech Taco Night” encourages students to be tech leaders and share what they know with their families.  It’s little things to bring BIG smiles into the building.

This conference was about more than the sessions though.  It was meeting people that I had connected with through twitter for the first time face-to-face (like the AMAZING Sean Gaillard), reconnecting with old college friends (how random!) and meeting new people and having great conversations about our shared passion for students and education.

Aspiring leaders need the opportunity to experience what I was blessed to experience.  School leaders who are reading this, please mentor others like me and find ways for them to attend learning events such as this conference or even state level conferences.  Introduce us to others and help build us as we become the next generation of leaders. We need strong mentorship and role models. NASSP and NAESP - please continue to find ways future leaders can attend this great event.

To my fellow aspiring admins --- don’t quit dreaming!  Don’t give up!  Get involved, attend events that keep you motivated and inspired.  Find a mentor that will encourage you through your journey.  Reach out to me - I’ve been, and I’m in, your shoes.  The world awaits us!!!

Finally, a huge thank you to A Pass Education (apasseducation.com) who provided me with my opportunity to attend this year’s conference.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Embracing Feedback

I overheard a conversation yesterday that really has me reflecting.  (Caveat, I wasn’t really eavesdropping, our beach chairs were placed so close to one another that privacy was at a minimum!) A small group of ladies were talking about teaching and the school year that just ended. One lady shared that she was quite upset at how many times her new principal came in to observe her this past year.  She further stated that he left her “areas for improvement” and wondered how could she possibly need improvement when she has been teaching for over thirty years. I fully acknowledge that I know nothing about these ladies or their teaching abilities, and that beach time is meant for friends, relaxing and “venting”, but it provided me with genuine reflection time.

Feedback is crucial to our growth as educators. In order to improve for our students we must not only be reflective in our practices, but listen to what others have to say.  It is important to invite others in (not just for formal observations or performance reviews) but on a regular basis to get a second perspective on what is happening in our classrooms and schools.

As educators we must be open to listen to all types of feedback, positive and constructive. Education changes so quickly and fresh ideas and different ways of thinking only enhances what we are doing. I love the idea of the “observe me” signs outside a teacher's door with the QR code.  The teacher gets feedback from anyone that comes into the classroom.  Feedback isn’t just for teachers either, leaders can also ask colleagues or someone in their PLN for suggestions.

It is equally important to seek out quality feedback if you feel you aren’t getting enough.  Feedback needs to be timely and specific.  Ask questions, ask for support and resources.  It is important for us to seek out what we need for growth.  Observations and visuals are one of the best ways for this.

Equally, don't be afraid to offer feedback. I think as educators we aren't willing to share with others, perhaps thinking we will hurt feelings or come off as egotistical. We can't think that way as we all have areas that we are stronger in than others. Share your strengths and suggestions to others. Provide professional development in areas where you see weaknesses. We need to keep in mind that we are bettering education for students, not ourselves!

From feedback we have the opportunity to reflect, research, take risks, and experiment.  Growth is inevitable.  Take everything in.  See feedback not as a requirement or criticism, but as an opportunity!

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Role of a Mentor

I’ve said it before, I am a huge advocate for mentorship.  Regardless of where we may be in our career, having, and being, a trusted mentor is crucial for growth.  This year I learned a lot, actually more than I ever thought I would, about mentorship.  I’ve been lucky to have mentors who established a framework for me, current mentors who encourage me, and am lucky to be a mentor as well.

What is a mentor?

A Collaborator - Mentors should work with their mentees and offer opportunities to work with others within their organization.  They should introduce mentees to others who could also help them with their career goals. Have a plan or project you want to implement?  Ask your mentee to assist.  This is a great way for them to learn and build their own skills as they advance in their skill set.

A Visionary - Where do you see yourself going in the future?  What steps do you take to get to the next level?  Mentors share visions with others.  They share their struggles, their successes and the steps and obstacles one may face on their path to the next level.  Mentors look forward and see opportunities instead of looking back at failed attempts.

An Encourager - Starting out in a new job or field could be intimidating at first.  Mentors encourage mentees through support and words of wisdom.  Mentors encourage mentees to take risks and are there by their side throughout the process.  

A Believer - A great mentor believes in their mentee’s potential and future.  They provide resources and opportunities for growth. They have conversations about the future and set up guides and pathways with their mentee.  They dream big!  They encourage others to dream big.  Great mentors have a strong “yes” “let’s do it” “how can I help” mentality as dreams are planned out.

A Dreamer - As I stated above mentors should set dreams for themselves and share these with their mentees. If we don’t constantly dream -  dream BIG - we’re not living life fully.  Mentors need to constantly evolve and demonstrate this passion of constant growth to their proteges.  

An Inspirer - A mentor inspires everyone around them to be better and to do great things. Mentors are chosen, selected, respected. They are looked up to and admired for the work that they have accomplished.  Strong mentorship leads to inspiring others to greatness.

A Role Model - By far the most important quality of a mentor.  Being a caring, empathetic, supportive role model will bring this out in the next generation of mentors. It’s ok to have tough conversations, they are needed. It’s ok to not see eye-to-eye on everything too. There is a huge amount of respect and admiration that goes out to one’s mentor, it’s a title to not take lightly.

Again, thankful for those who guided me in mentorship,
and those who honored me with the opportunity.