OCCUE: Thank You!

The goal of attending a conference is attain resources that are applicable to your content area/grade level. OCCUE did not disappoint!

The day began with a wonderful presentation entitled “Let’s Get Serious About Play”. Kelly Hines (@kellyhines) discussed the cognitive, social, and emotional benefits of play. She also shared the Bloomberg Job Skills Report 2015. Desired skills include: Strategic Thinking, Creative Problem Solving, Leadership Skills, and Communication Skills. How do we foster these skills in our students? Let them PLAY. Let them CREATE.

Brandi Miller (@teacherbrandi) and Myra Deister (@shhsMath) kept the day rolling with presentations which focused on a variety of engaging apps that can be used in the classroom.

Myra shared an app called Smart Seat which is iTouch, iPhone, and iPad compatible. This app costs $4.99, but she explained that she can easily take roll, call on students during a class discussion, and create a list of detailed data for each student.

smart seat

Screenshot from Myra Deister’s presentation.

Brandi’s presentation focused on Multimedia. There are so many ways in which we can apply multimedia to our classes. We can share content and collaborate during a unit of study. We can also share the information with colleagues, parents, and community members after our unit of study is complete.

Throughout the presentation she taught us how to use Thinglink (@ThingLink), Chatter Pix (@ChatterPixIt), Tellagami (@telligami), and Smore (@SmorePages). While not all of the apps are appropriate for my middle school students, I see the benefit of each. I loved the way that Brandi showed how each of the apps can be used with any age student, and how the students can “mash” these apps together to create an inviting presentation. I am going to share these with my students and see how they use it in their upcoming PBL.


Screenshot from Brandi Miller’s presentation.

Our Keynote Speaker, Sylvia Martinez, shared her expertise in a presentation entitled  A Global Revolution Goes to School: The Maker Movement. I have begun to dabble with this a bit this year, and was excited to learn more. Sylvia discussed the Maker Movement in terms of Fabrication, Physical Computing, and Programming. She discussed the importance of peer mentoring; a necessity for success in a maker space.  I am thrilled because our Technology Coach, Jody Green (@peerlessgreen), and I just put together a wishlist for our STEAM Playground. I can’t wait for our students to get an opportunity to explore! Sylvia encouraged us to follow these hashtags as we explore maker spaces: #makered, #makerspace, and #elemaker.

Gina Whitcomb (@dlfyngyrl76) shared her resources for Going Global: Connecting Students Around the World. Global competency is a critical component of education in the 21st Century, and Gina connected Global competency to the existing 4 C’s (collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication). Gina discussed a wide variety of opportunities for connecting including: Mystery Skype, Global Penpals (www.epals.com), Global Read Aloud (www.globalreadaloud.com), and Global Math Task (www.gmttc.blogspot.com).  I connected with Gina on Twitter, and she has already helped me connect with a classroom in Australia who would like to be blog pals.  I am so excited!


Screenshot from Gina Whitcomb’s presentation.

My day of learning ended on a high note with Wes Kriesel’s (@weskriesel) presentation entitled “Give Me a Camera and I Will Change the World”. This presentation focused on the achievements of the Santa Ana Unified School District. Wes started the day calling each of us by name and welcoming us. He then shared the power of #IamSAUSD. This district is transforming the way that schools and students interact with the community. Such a strong sense of pride! I am so inspired by the work he shared, and I am looking for ways to enhance the community outreach in my own district. Wes, you are more than “just a man with a camera”. Thank you for your contribution!


Screenshot from Wes Kriesel’s presentation.

Yesterday was an exceptional day to learn something new!



Who Am I?

Justin Birckbichler (@Mr_B_Teacher) and Mari Venturino (@MsVenturino) recently started a new slow chat on Twitter entitled #Teach20s.  Last week we focused on Personal Identify Statement.

This week we were asked to explore our Professional Identity. This is a more challenging task since my Professional Identity has grown and evolved over the course of my career. When I was 23 and a new teacher, my focus revolved around Classroom Management and learning new content as I was teaching.  I was energetic and optimistic. I volunteered for every extra curricular opportunity that was available. I was selected for various training opportunities and committees; I was dependable and eager to please.

My Professional Identity changed when I became a mother. It wasn’t until I had my son, and began leaving him in daycare that I understood the importance of trusting and believing in the person who is caring for your child. I began to understand the parents who questioned me about having “children of my own”. I have changed how I interact with my students. I think about how I would want my son’s teachers to speak to him. I “get it”.


I decided to reflect on what I am doing in my classroom this year that has altered my Professional Identity. This year will be known as the year of Twitter. The resources and learning opportunities that I’ve gathered since June have culminated in the classroom that I’ve created this year. My students and I are eternally grateful!


My Professional Identity Statement:

I am Teresa. I create a learning experience where ALL voices are heard and valued. I embrace mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow. My students explore their passions and take risks knowing that I am there to support them along the journey. We challenge each other in an effort to become our best possible self.

I am once again excited for the new adventures that await me and my students. We are on a journey together and we embrace each day as an opportunity to learn something new. 


Bedtime Stories

Day 11: publishing based on a prompt

This assignment was more challenging than I envisioned. I scrolled through the suggested prompts at least ten times. Now I know how my students feel. I looked at each prompt and thought, “Seriously? This has nothing to do with me” or “How am I supposed to write about that?”

Thankfully I found a prompt that asked me to think about a bedtime story and its influence on me.

Rather than focus on myself, I am going to turn my energy to my son.

One of my favorite parts of my day is getting to read with my six-year-old. He has quite an eclectic collection of favorite books.

He enjoys the strong characters who face off in battle, the silly characters who never seem to learn from their many mishaps, and the “educational” books that teach him a lesson. My son loves hearing the daring adventures and the silly tales. I enjoy listening to him as he predicts what will happen next. I love that he challenges the characters and wonders “why”. As a parent this makes me proud. As a language arts teacher, I love the rich vocabulary and varied sentence structure that these stories provide. (I’ve even been known to use them in my classroom.)

I look forward to spending countless hours lost in books with my son. Each story provides an opportunity to learn something new


Collaboration Time!

Rather than make a resolution I was not going to keep, I decided to choose a word that would permeate my personal life and educational endeavors. My 2016 word…


I am pleased to say that I have been very diligent in focusing my efforts in this area. During the first 8 days of 2016 I have:

  • participated in new chats on Twitter
  • grown my PLN by following new people from various fields
  • collaborated with two of my colleagues on two different projects

Yesterday was an amazing day of collaboration at IMS.  My morning began with a great conversation with Jody Green (@peerlessgreen), our Tech Coach.  I needed additional support with resources for our 6th grade Project Based Learning (PBL).  Jody provided numerous resources, and helped me focus on the crafting of the various lessons.   We discussed multiples ways I could share the lessons with the team of teachers. After discussing the options, we decided that lessons will be created using various media. With multiple options, each teacher could choose the lesson format that will meet the needs of their students.

The afternoon was spent working with Brenda Valencia (@mrsvalencia201) and her class of 6th graders. Both of our classes are working on creating websites and blogs.  Since her class began the journey first, her students taught my students how to customize a website. It was wonderful to see the students in charge of their learning.

My students love having control over their site, and I love seeing each student’s personality in their creation.

I am thrilled to be collaborating with both Jody and Brenda this year!  I understand the importance of working with others, and want to extend collaborative efforts to other members on my grade level team. Brenda posted this quote on Twitter recently, and it is perfect…


Yesterday was a great day to learn something new!

Let’s Try Something New…

Blogging 101-today’s assignment: “new-to-you” element.  Well, it’s ALL new to me.  I managed to figure out how to get a picture in my post (I realized that it works best when I’m on my iPad since my schools pictures are stored there). Tonight my plan is to embed tweets to share the excitement from earlier today.

Here goes…

My colleague, Mrs. Valencia, and I spent our Winter Break learning and sharing resources on Twitter. We both joined Professional Development sessions on Voxer, and engaged in wonderful discussions on a variety of topics. One of our topics focused on blogging. We knew that we wanted to have our students write blogs, but neither of us knew where to begin. At the conclusion of the session, we had a plan. Today that plan came to life.

Mrs. Valencia could hardly contain her excitement. Her students began to build websites that surpassed her expectations. I could hardly wait to get in her room and speak to the students firsthand.

Then it hit me-our classes should collaborate! Teachers don’t need to tell if students can show.

Mrs. Valencia loved the idea of having her students work with my class. I immediately shared the news on Twitter. First, I shared on my account.

Next, I switched the class account to share the news.

My students are extremely excited! I can hardly wait until our classes can join in a discussion about how to build a website.

Friday will definitely be a great day to learn something new!



Blogging 101: Let the Adventure Begin

Good evening!  My name is Teresa Lee, and I am a math and language arts teacher from California.  This is my 19th year teaching middle school, and I am loving the changes that have happened in my classroom this year.

My students and I have started Genius Hour and we are having wonderful results. As part of the Genius Hour process, the students are expected to blog about their project and share their project with others. I am a firm believer in never having my students do anything that I would not be willing to do myself. That is why I am here today.

The purpose of this blog is twofold: 1) share classroom projects and day-to-day events and 2) reflect on the teaching/learning in my classroom. My first two posts came pretty easily since they focused on reflection. I stalled on classroom projects and “sharing” for a variety of reasons.

I am participating in this Blogging 101 session so I can improve as a blogger, and so I can become more competent when I am working with my students on their blogs.

I am excited to begin this process. I look forward to connecting with other bloggers so I can learn from their expertise.

Today is a great day to learn something new…


2016: My One Word

As 2015 came to an end, everyone on social media began to focus on resolutions for the coming year. Personally, I don’t make resolutions. Why? I never keep them. Sad, but true.  After participating in #lhcsdchat I realized that I wasn’t alone.  Many of my colleagues were in the same boat. We vowed to set personal and professional goals and to hold each other accountable.

Although I am opposed to resolutions, I did start thinking about my goals for 2016. Reinvent. Explore. Grow. Collaborate. I realized that these are all possible, yet in isolation difficult to obtain. Then it hit me: #myoneword:


The last half of 2015 was focused on making changes. Changes in both my personal life and in my professional life. It was at this time that  I truly embraced Twitter as a means to grow as an educator. Prior to June I didn’t realize its value. Now it has become an invaluable resource.

Twitter has become a part of my classroom life this year. My 6th grade students and I have a class Twitter account so we can share our learning. Although it is still in its beginning stage, you can follow us @imsknights210 and using #tbhhonored (language arts) and #210scholars (math). The hashtags were chosen by my students since my goal for this year is to have a student-driven classroom.

My focus for 2016 is to Connect.

Connect with other educators and grow my PLN through Twitter and Voxer.

Connect with educators in my district and at my site.

Connect with family and friends.

2016 will no doubt bring many opportunities to learn something new

Year in Review

This school year marked the start of my 19th year in education. I have had the privilege of working with an amazing administration team and cadre of teachers during my tenure. I have grown and evolved over the course of my career, and I’m proud to say that I continue to grow each and every day.

I spent the summer pouring over resources and reading published works by a variety of educators. #tlap, #LearnLAP, #geniushour, and #ditchbook became guiding forces in my educational rebirth. As a result, I am a completely different teacher from last year, and I couldn’t be happier!

I vowed to relinquish control over my classroom environment to my students. No longer would the boards be perfectly decorated and color-coded to start the year. No longer would I agonize over every staple and die cut letter perfectly placed on each bulletin board.  Room 210 belonged to my students.

This was my classroom on Day 1:


This was the first addition. My students wanted an Art Wall.


Each student created a personalized piece of art for decoration.


Students created displays to reinforce expectations for the school year.


As a  school teacher I always wanted my to students to be responsible for their learning, but I never gave them control of “what” they were learning. I realized that I had only been asking my students to be compliant.  That was about to change! I vowed to empower the students. The work of Paul Solarz and Don Wettrick provided the foundation for student-driven learning.

In his book, “Learn Like a Pirate”, Paul Solarz shares his strategies for creating a completely student-driven classroom. I had many “a-ha” moments while reading this book. The most powerful change I made in my classroom this year was in the use of the phrase “Give Me Five”.    No longer was it going to be used to quiet a room; instead, it was to be used to guide learning. This single phrase has changed the climate in my room. The power shifted from me to everyone in the room, and that has made all the difference.

Don Wettrick introduced me to the idea of Genius Hour, or 20% Time. His book, “Pure Genius”, inspired me to include Innovation Time in my language arts class this year. My students have truly embraced this time, and have been using the allotted time to explore their creativity and pursue their passion.

Here are a few samples from our 20 Day Challenge:




I am blogging for the first time in my career. Why? I want to set an example for my students.  I want my students to engage in writing experiences for an authentic audience. I spent the last few days exchanging ideas with educators during the #EdCampVoxer PD session which focused on blogging. I have gained so much insight from this diverse group, and  I am excited about the possibilities that await my students.

I am proud of the work that my students and I have accomplished, and I know that this is just the beginning. 2016 holds new challenges and new opportunities to learn something new every day…

The Power of a PLN

This school year I implemented Genius Hour, and I wanted to include blogging as part of the reflective process. I am a firm believer in never asking my students to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself.  I started this blog as a way to practice so I could better assist my students. My first post was fairly easy to write. I was excited to be implementing this new approach to learning, so the ideas flowed. My second post came out of desperation. I had hit a wall with Genius Hour, and needed help from my mentor, Jody Green.

My third post…

My fourth post…

November and December passed without a single post. Why? Was I too busy? Possibly. Did my life as a mom get the best of me? Possibly. Did my class stop innovating? No. Did I start to doubt that I had something meaningful to contribute to the blogging world? Probably.

I recently joined #EdCampVoxer personalized PD sessions. One of the sessions focused on blogging. I was so inspired to return to blogging, but each time I sat in front of the keyboard I found that I had trouble writing. So many possibilities, but nothing sounded “right”. I have started this draft over so many times that I’ve lost count. Nothing seemed worthy of sharing with others, so I stopped once again.

My fear is twofold: 1) looking foolish and 2) nothing important to say.

I am not an expert. I don’t have all the answers. I am a math and language arts teacher who wants to be a role model for her students. I am here now because someone encouraged me to share.  Thank you David for taking the time to send me a message and provide encouragement. Your words were not only comforting, but inspiring.




Innovation Time: Importance of Mentors

I am new to the #GeniusHour concept, but I have fully embraced it and its powerful impact in the classroom. I introduced the concept to my 6th graders, and they were hooked! Students jumped on the chance to customize their learning.  We brainstormed possible projects and created an Innovation Journal to help curate ideas throughout the year. One period each Wednesday and Friday is designated for Innovation Time. Teams formed immediately and project creation was underway.  A few weeks later we even took our first steps with our class Twitter account (@imsknights210) and sent tweets to possible mentors.

The first four weeks were great! The following week, however, I noticed that the energy began to wane and frustration began to trickle into our room. Teams dissolved. Project ideas changed multiple times. This was not a shock to me.  I did not expect everything to progress perfectly. I did not give up. Instead, I sent out a text to my mentor Jody Green (@peerlessgreen).

Mentors are an important component of the #GeniusHour concept. Jody provided a fresh voice and was able to help the students work through their obstacles.  She showed them the power of collaboration, and reinvigorated my class.

Today she returned to work my class on using the power of blogs to extend collaboration beyond our classroom and school.  I had been wanting to blog with my students for a while, but never did. After spending the summer collaborating with others on Twitter, I knew that I had to incorporate it this year!

Thanks for getting the ball rolling, Jody!  Soon our class blog will be live, and we look forward to collaborating with others throughout the year.