We’re always looking for new ways to insert ASCD voices into our conversations on Inservice. With this in mind, we’ve developed a fun question and answer session for our ASCD Emerging Leaders. The Emerging Leaders program recognizes and prepares young, promising educators to influence education programs, policy, and practice on both the local and national levels. Learn more about Emerging Leaders on the ASCD website.
Tell us about your role as an educator. What does your typical day look like?
At Pottsgrove, I work with the 6th through 12th grade English language arts, social studies, science, world language, and encore teachers. We develop units of study, create and administer common formative assessments, assemble the data team around the results and select appropriate research-based instructional strategies, support instructional technology needs, and develop performance assessments.
Through Thom Stecher and Associates, I teach graduate and master’s level courses on social emotional learning (SEL), accredited through Neumann University. Topics include teaching to diversity, closing the achievement gap, whole brain learning, 21st century skills, and curriculum development. In addition, I work with teachers and students in districts across the state as a consultant focusing on topics such as bullying, diversity, healthy relationships, and social emotional learning in general.
What’s your education philosophy summed up in one sentence?
To prepare students socially, emotionally, and academically for a productive life in a 21st century world.
Why did you become an educator?
I intended to go to law school after undergrad; my education major was originally a means to an end. However, I quickly realized through courses and prepracticum experiences at Penn State that my heart was in education. I felt great fulfillment in working with teenagers and contributing to their growth academically, socially, and emotionally.
As an ASCD Emerging Leader, how do you hope to have a greater impact on education in your community and beyond?
I hope to help bring more awareness to the value of educating the whole child; the importance of purposefully integrating social emotional learning into K–12 curriculum, especially in this age of high-stakes, rigorous standardized testing; and ways in which this can be seamlessly accomplished.
What professional development (books, DVDs, webinars, courses) have made a difference in your career?
- The 7 Habits of a Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
- CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) meta-analysis
- Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets
- Rigorous Curriculum Design by Larry Ainsworth
Was there a pivotal moment when you realized your career choice in education was the correct one? Describe that time.
This occurred for me when I recognized that I was not teaching social studies, but teaching students. My most notable moments over the last fourteen years have occurred outside the classroom environment and were not directly connected to academics but rather celebrating their achievements or supporting them through difficult times. It was the time in my career where I realized the importance of educating the whole child.
If you could make one major change in education what would it be?
This might be very unpopular given the already packed schedule, but I would endorse time in the school day for social emotional learning; it could be time solely dedicated to SEL or SEL integrated into core curriculum. Studies show that when students feel emotionally and physically safe, when they are respected and their thoughts valued, deeper cognitive learning occurs and achievement increases an average of 11 percent. I believe the key is to not make it “one more thing” to do, but to show teachers they already do this. Let’s just make it more purposeful.
What’s the craziest thing a student has ever said to you?
One specific occasion that comes mind involves a young lady who divulged explicit information about her parents’ personal lives to the entire class. I was amazed, and shocked, at her comfort level to share such personal information with the class at large.