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I HAVE BEEN AN EDUCATOR since 1991, the year I graduated from Michigan State University’s College of Education and accepted my first job as a third-grade teacher at Colony Meadows in Fort Bend ISD, Texas. There, I taught for three years before making my way back to Port Huron, Michigan, to Garfield Elementary, where I taught fourth grade. Throughout those early “new teacher” years, I deepened my understanding of gifted and talented education, literacy practices, and differentiation. Then, in the Novi Community School District, I found great joy in working with children, adults, and administrators--as an elementary educator, PBL Specialist, and instructional coach--for more than 20 years.

AS A TEACHER, I always believed in the power of student voice and the importance of creating a culture of thinking and collaboration in the classroom. Questions and curiosities were always welcomed and encouraged. Inquiry was a natural way to engage students in learning and motivating them to reach their potential. Identity was important in what I taught and how my students learned, so my library and content reflected the identities of my students and those of a diverse society. Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s 1990 essay, “Mirror, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors,” truly made an impact on my literacy instruction. Dr. Sims Bishop explained how literature can be the vehicle for equity for our students. Throughout the years, I have had former students come back and thank me for not “giving up” on them, regardless of their gender, culture, or background. The irony of being called “teacher” for over 25 years was that the relationships with my amazing students taught me more about life, learning, and being the best teacher I could possibly be. As much as I set high expectations for my students to reach their potential, they set high expectations for me to be the best educator for them.

AS A PBL SPECIALIST AND CONSULTANTI used the lessons I learned from my own challenges in the classroom to guide teachers as they embarked on their PBL journey.  From 2013-2015, with the support of my district, I led two PBL cohorts of K-12 educators in implementing technology-integrated projects in their classrooms. Using an inquiry approach, I facilitated the whole group and job-embedded professional learning. We culminated each school year with “Project Palooza,” where students presented their classroom projects in an exhibition format to an audience of over 300 attendees. It was an extraordinary experience to witness student leadership and voice at its finest. Since 2011, I’ve been a National Faculty Member for PBLWorks (by the Buck Institute for Education) and have had numerous opportunities to present on related learner-centered topics for other organizations. For the past ten years, my PBL path has been filled with designing curriculum content, sharing my ideas in writing, and traveling the world coaching teachers and facilitating workshops on PBL. With each experience, my PBL toolkit of resources and expertise has grown.

AS AN INSTRUCTIONAL COACH,  I believe that coaching is the secret ingredient in empowering teachers and leaders to grow in the art and skills needed for their professions, for their callings. In my interactions with adult learners, I wear the hats of coach, consultant, facilitator, and presenter interchangeably, but coaching, in my opinion, has the most impact on deepening understanding and pushing thinking. Through questioning and active listening, coaching helps create the best possible environments for educators to learn for themselves. I am always looking for ways to further my knowledge and skills as a coach, and most recently I have had the opportunity to deep dive into the areas of cognitive coaching, transformational coaching, and the GROWTH coaching framework.

AS A LEADER, I found the skills and strategies I gained from my Master's Degree in Language Arts from Oakland University, my Educational Specialist Degree in Administration from Wayne State University, and my two years of professional learning in the Galileo Leadership Consortium invaluable. I wore many hats in my educational journey – PBL Specialist, Literacy Content Area Leader for our district, and instructional coach. Whether I was leading students in the classroom, teachers in a workshop, or speaking to a roomful of administrators, my leadership style of “relationships first” set the tone for the culture in our space. Relationships built on honesty, trust, and mutual respect were the foundation to enable learning and effect change.

I HAVE EXPERIENCED many milestones professionally and personally. When I’m asked what accomplishment I’m most proud of, it’s a simple answer: my family. My husband Rob and I are raising three wonderful individuals. Our hope for them is that they help change this world to be a better place. I describe our children as “day, night, and eclipse” because of how different and unique they are as learners, as thinkers, and as doers. As I watch my children learn and grow, I am continually reminded that at the heart of learning should be an intellectual curiosity, a desire to seek the truth, and an ability to find joy not only in the destination but in the journey.

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