A Blog Written by the #4OCFPLN
In the spirit of #GratitudeSnaps, the #4OCFpln Voxer group decided to do a joint blog post about all the things we are thankful for now that Halloween is in the rear view, and Thanksgiving is just a couple curves away. Our individual author information is listed prior to each post. I’ll kick it off on my site with my post, so grab a snack or refreshment, get comfy, and enjoy the reflections of our group.
Laura Steinbrink, HS English, Tech Integration, District Communications Director/Webmaster, Plato, MO @SteinbrinkLaura
My life is busy. It seems like my family and I are always on the go, sometimes in separate directions, for at least two of the three sporting seasons during the school year. Yes, you read that correctly. I said sporting seasons because that is how my school year is divided in my mind. Besides the titles of my job that I listed above, I am also the assistant coach for our volleyball and softball teams, and this year my husband, the tech director for our district, became the head cross country coach. So for the beginning of the school year through this first weekend of November, we have juggled schedules for my volleyball practices and games, my husband’s cross country practices and meets, and our son’s junior high basketball practices and games. This alone is enough to overwhelm a family, but me? I’m thankful. I spent a lot of time with my volleyball team, making connections with those students, watching them struggle, succeed, persevere, break down, and get back up again. Did I miss my son’s games because my coaching duties? Just one. My district honored my desire to be a mom first and a coach second. Did my husband regret his choice to coach this year? He developed close relationships with his team as they struggled and pushed themselves to get up and down the hills around our school and in their personal lives. At our son’s games, we connected with families and students too. His teammates will be in my classroom in a few years, and when they walk through the door and become officially mine, I will already have a solid foundation for a relationship with them.
Did we still attend other school events during our whirlwind fall season? Yes. We supported as many students and staff as we possibly could. Did we make it to everything? No. But I am thankful for all the things we were able to do, relationships we forged or broadened, the impact we may have had on students, and the impact those same students most definitely have had on us. We may not always be able to do all of the things we want to do, but I am very grateful for all of the things we can do.
Amy Storer, Instructional Coach, Montgomery, TX
“I am thankful for every moment.” Al Green
Every single moment that has occured in my life so far has led me to where I am today. Some of those moments were filled with love and laughter and some were blanketed in sadness and fear. But each turn taken and road followed has helped to mold me into the person that I have become today and who I will be in the future. I am thankful for a mother that fought for her daughters to have everything that the world could give them and more. She sacrificed so much for us, and everything we do as educators today is because of her and for her. I am thankful for a dad, who found his way back to us. We are so glad that you did. I am thankful for grandparents and their love and endless amounts of cookies and candy! I am thankful for a sister who is truly my best friend. Thank you for giving me one of my greatest gifts, Nancy and Finn. They crawled right into my heart and filled in the hole that momma left when she passed away. I am so incredibly thankful for them. I am thankful for the love of my love, Tony. Thank you picking up the phone when I bravely called you in the fall of 1997. Thank you for being my biggest supporter and for loving me for over 20 years. Thank you to my campus family for loving and supporting me in everything that I do. I am so lucky to get to work alongside each of you! Thank to all of my former students. You truly schooled me on school. I learned all I needed to know from each of you, and I am a better educator and human being because of you.
Louie Soper, 5th Grade Teacher, Philadelphia, PA
I am so thankful for the opportunity to teach in the city of Philadelphia this school year. Albeit some challenges, each day is an opportunity to learn and grow. Learning blocks can be challenging. Days can be challenging. Weeks can be tough, but I am so so thankful for the relationships I have been able to build with many of my students. From Fortnite dances to slime, the fun doesn’t end. I am so grateful for this group of students I have this year. We are all walking side by side daily in our journeys together in becoming the best versions of ourselves we can be. Lastly, I am so thankful for the regular reminders from the #4ocfpln for pointing out these daily opportunities for growth.
Kristi Daws, @kristi_daws, Technology Integration Specialist, Region 9 ESC
I am thankful for my journey. So thankful for the support of Bob Johnson who offered me an amazing opportunity to practice my love of music. I left for college a music major switching to math after two wonderful years thanks to Dr. Linda Fausnaugh. She awakened a Math Teacher inside me I did not know existed. After twenty, YES 20!!!, amazing years loving my career I stepped into the unknown and became a Digital Coach under the leadership of Brett Thomas. I was so fortunate to work alongside a leader who pushed, encouraged, challenged, and supported me daily. I followed this leader into my current position as the Region 9 ESC Technology Integration Specialist. I have learned so much in my first few months at R9 and I could not be happier. I don’t know where my journey will take me next, but I have faith that it will be an adventure. #Thankful
Rachelle Dene Poth, Spanish and STEAM Teacher, Pittsburgh, PA @Rdene915
I am thankful for all of the opportunities that each new day brings. Time to continue to build relationships, to connect with students and educators from around the world. For so many years, I was teaching in isolation and did not truly understand the value of being a connected educator and the importance of relationships. A tremendous mentor in law school helped me to see what it truly means to be an educator and the need to focus on the relationships first. His guidance has made such a difference in my personal life as well as my professional life and I will always be thankful for his ongoing support. There are often challenges that come each day, and sometimes it is the challenges we face as educators or it is something that our students are struggling with. We need to connect. As much as our students rely on us to care for and support them, we count on them to lift us up at times as well. Knowing that together we are creating a welcoming and supportive classroom, where students are comfortable asking for help and where they are willing to reach out and help others, is something that I am thankful for each day.
KathiSue Summers, Educational Mentor for 1st and 2nd year Teachers, Medford, OR
Do You Believe Relationships Are Important?
When I started teaching in 1986 in public education, I was a Lone Ranger. I was the only female teacher out of seven teachers in the small high school where I taught Business and Computers. I didn’t think that being alone in the classroom was uncommon in my educational career. Before coming to public education, I taught for several years in the private sector; there you were on an island.
What I learned quickly was that relationships with other educators and students was very important to me as a person; as well as a professional. It was easy for me to develop relationships with students, but it was difficult when I was the only female on the high school staff. It was hard for me to relate to the male teachers on staff.
I made it a point to become part of the community my first year. I developed many positive relationships and eventually, dear friendships that I still cherish after thirty-three years. There have been many times that a message, a visit or call have made my day. I am thankful that these individuals are in my life.
As years have passed, I have developed different relationships. I have relationships with professional people I never thought would be in my circle. I think about my Voxer group (#4OCFPLN), my Twitter #PLN and my local face-to-face PLN. These people have helped me to grow professionally.
Do I think relationships are important? Yes, Yes, Yes! And, I am thankful for all the relationships I have made along my journal.
Heather Young, Kindergarten teacher, Seattle, WA @msyoung114
I’m thankful for my students, who come to school with wide eyes every day, willing to dive into whatever we are going to learn.
I’m thankful for the families, who trust everyday to grow their children as learners and humans.
I’m thankful for my in-building colleagues, always willing to give perspective when my thoughts might be off track.
Lastly, I’m so thankful for my PLN, a crew of professionals from across the US. In close to a year, they have pushed my practice to new heights I never imagined reaching.
This list is full of people who believe in me, they are the foundation, the motivation and the joy in my life. I am so incredibly lucky.
Sarah Fromhold, Digital Learning Coach
McKinney, TX @sew1080 fromholdsblog @wordpress.com
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” ~African proverb
This quote sums up both my journey and my struggle, and I am grateful for both! My personality is one that I prefer to work alone most of the time. Going through school, I preferred finishing projects on my own rather than working in a group. Because of this, I usually turned in assignments early and had plenty of free time. However, looking back, I realize I was doing the bare minimum to satisfy the requirements of the assignment. There was no motivation to dig deeper into a topic. I was good to simply get it done. It was hard for me to find people I trusted to work with because I honestly thought it was better for me to do it alone.
My family, friends, coworkers, and the #4OCFpln have changed my view on the importance of relying on others. With two young daughters, a husband with odd work hours, and everything I aspire to do personally and professionally, I recognize I cannot do everything by myself (and that’s perfectly fine!). My coworkers and my PLN are constantly available for my questions and to bounce ideas around. Without my tribe, I would still be moving along in life, but with them, I’m learning, growing, changing, and truly living my best life.
Don Sturm, Technology Integration Specialist
Morton, IL @sturmdon
Thankfulness is something that is easy to take for granted. I am guilty of looking at situations and only focusing on those annoyances that get under my skin. This blog post idea came at a perfect time for me because I was getting stuck in the rut of not looking at the positives as much as I should. Honestly, I am thankful for those who are willing to make changes. I have learned that many teachers have a genuine fear of change and trying new things. It takes real bravery for some individuals to step out of their comfort zone and, as Tara Martin says, “Cannonball in!” My goal is to be more outwardly thankful to those who decide to throw caution to the wind and try something new for the sake of their students. These teachers and administrators need to realize that their willingness to conquer their fears sends a message to their students and staff that risk-taking is ok and necessary. Think about the domino effect of this risk taking. Relationships will be built, growth mindset thinking will become the norm, and an overall positive culture will emerge. All of this is needed for schools to be places of learning and inquiry.
John Martinez, elementary school principal, Rowland Hts, CA @jmartinez727
In 1963, my father Eduardo left his homeland to make a new life in America. At 31 years of age he arrived in New York leaving behind his wife Maria, four children, and all the people he knew. When he arrived in New York he began the journey of finding work and earning enough to bring his family together. He didn’t speak English and did not have a trade. So he took whichever job he could find: work in kitchens, factories, and more. He worked two to three jobs at a time and left one job for another if it meant he could earn more or learn a marketable skill. In the meantime, my mom was caring for her children not knowing how the venture would unfold. In six months my dad had earned enough to bring the family from Colombia to the United States. Seemingly overnight, my family’s fortunes had changed. Opportunities and life trajectories for my siblings, for my parents, and for myself were transformed. My dad’s journey continued – finding different jobs, taking classes at night to learn English, and connecting with other immigrants for support. Then he did it all again. He packed his bags and traveled across the country to Los Angeles because he believed there were more opportunities out west. My mom continued to be the rock of our family in the way she supported my dad and nurtured her children. My dad found more jobs, continued learning English, and made new connections with others. Not long after, my mom and siblings made the cross country trip by railroad and began their new lives in Los Angeles. All of this happened before I came along in 1968. By then, the the tireless of efforts of my mom and dad had set the foundation for my family’s success. For the next twenty years, they continued building on that foundation. My dad worked as many jobs as needed. My mom got jobs as us kids grew a bit older and more comfortable in our surroundings. Throughout my childhood I saw countless examples of my parents’ dedication to their family. The way they faced and overcame adversity taught me to persevere. The way they modeled the the values of family, faith, and country taught me to be loyal and sustain my beliefs. I learned about teamwork, integrity, and courage from my parents.
I am thankful to my parents for emigrating to the USA. Who I am, where I am, what I am, and why I am would not be had my parents not had their their vision and their courage. I am thankful to America, the fertile soil where my family could boom.
Matthew Larson, PE teacher, Trenton, NJ, @mlarson_nj
I am thankful for one, all-encompassing thing…my support network. This network includes personal, professional, and pseudo-family supporters.
My professional support comes from my place of work. I am entering my fourth year teaching in an urban charter school and it has been quite the growing experience since day one. Since beginning there I have started and finished a degree in Ed Leadership and been on the hunt to move into administration to pursue and accomplish my vision of education. My colleagues and supervisors know of my search and aspirations and have been in my corner supporting my attempts every step of the way from writing references to covering my class when I have to miss time at school in order to interview. For them I am thankful!
My pseudo-family of support comes from my PLF, professional learning family. This group came together as strangers around a book study in January of 2018 and has since stayed together, met in real life, presented at conferences together, and truly become a support network both personally and professionally. Everyday we continuously push each other to explain and rationalize thinking, challenge long-held beliefs, and grow beyond what we thought we could accomplish. They have truly helped my journey through the daily conversations as I have to constantly verbalize my beliefs, values, and transformations regarding education, children, and working with adults. I can honestly attribute the nearness to my professional goals to this collective group. They are the individuals writing this blog collectively. For them I am thankful!
My personal family is a group I am indebted to and thankful for beyond words. I have twin 11-month old girls, a four year old son, my partner Jackie, two dogs, and three cats. Four years ago I left North Carolina to be with Jackie and Hayden as they moved back to New Jersey to be nearer Jackie’s family. Since then Jackie’s family and friends have been the safety net for us young parents as we tried to build careers and roots of our own in The Garden State. Without Jackie’s family and friends neither of us could being doing what we are doing. Without Jackie I could not do what I do. Every day I am out of the house by 6am and don’t return until 6pm. During that time she is either at home with 2-3 kids by herself or she has childcare taken care–something she personally puts together because I have no connections within 400 miles to help with our children. Jackie knows and understands my professional goals and supports me through every interview and through every let-down. For her I am thankful.
I am also thankful for you, the reader, for taking time to read our collective work of #thankful thoughts.
Jennifer Ledford, 6th grade ELA teacher, Hammond IN
My one word focus for 2018 has been “SHINE” and when I chose that word, I could never imagine the journey that this year would take me on. I learned through these last 11 months what it truly takes for me to shine. There are some days that my light is easy to find and I simply project it at others and I am good to go. Yet there are other days that my light is underneath a thick layer of grime and muck, which is caused by stress and negativity. This is not the dirt you can simply wipe away but the kind that takes back breaking scrubbing.
This year has had its share of muck that has attempted to cloud the light I have to shine, yet I am so thankful that in January, I met an incredible group of people that continually help me clean the grime away. They do this by helping me find the courage within myself to combat all the dirt and muck that may come against me in life.
Many who know me know that I am a HUGE Wizard of Oz fan and the way that the 4OCFPLN has helped me through this year can compare to that of the Lion. The Lion lacked the courage to do much of anything and was even losing sleep because of his irrational fears. He then meets a group that soon become his friends and along their journey, he is given opportunities to show the strength and courage inside of him. When they finally reach the Wizard, the Lion realizes he does not need the courage from the Wizard, for his friends have helped him find it in himself.
While I may have not been afraid of everything, I would simply stand back and let some things go even if I knew in my heart they were not what was best. I would let negative words seep in and not do anything to redirect them. I was managing yet not thriving until I found my group, my tribe, my edu-family. They helped me discover the power within me to roar at the negative words (in the politest way possible) and to stand up for what I know is best.
As we enter this month of thanks and the last 2 months of 2018, I am very thankful for my 4OCFPLN and for all my additional support on Twitter and Voxer. These people have truly shaped me in the last year and helped me become a better educator and a better person. I am also very thankful for this new found courage. It allows me to do what I know should be done in all aspects of my life. While it is not accepted 100% of the time, others have said they have noticed a change for the better in me. As I look forward to 2019, I am excited for the opportunities that this courage can open for me.
I also want to encourage all of you to find your group. Find those people that will allow you to uncover things within that you never knew were possible. If you are open, these changes can impact your life in the most amazing way.
Maureen Hayes, K-6 Humanities Supervisor in Lawrence Township, NJ
As we enter the month of reflection and gratitude, I am thankful for those who encourage and push me every day to be my best….teachers & staff, administrators, students & my PLN.
The teachers and staff members I have the privilege to work with each day continually expect my best as an instructional leader. My job is to support them as they plan for instruction and work to meet the needs of all students in our district. They hold me accountable for being a researcher and reader, and sharing the my knowledge with them.
I am fortunate to be a part of a district administrative them that is continually pushing the limits and asking “why not” when it comes to serving our students. Each of the building principals on our team are true PIRATE Principals, and my fellow instructional supervisor team is a supportive group of instructional rock stars, especially my elementary counterpart Kristin Burke (kburke4242) who is the peanut butter to my jelly, the carrots to my peas, the macaroni to my cheese…
I am continually reminded of my purpose as an educator, and that is the students I serve. Every decision I make needs to be in the best interest of the students in my district.
Finally, my PLN/PLF, the #4OCFpln has by far been the greatest influence on me as an educator and leader, thanks to the daily talks, monthly book studies, and ongoing push-back and support they provide me. Each day spent in conversation with them is the best PD I have ever had.
Kimberly Isham, K-5 Reading Specialist, Greenville TX @Isham_Literacy
This past spring, my mother spent 2 weeks in a Critical Care unit about an hour away from my home. I am so grateful that we did not lose her. My parents have been some of my strongest supporters and most important critics. They have modeled hospitality and generosity throughout their lives. Their example and encouragement has been a big part of making me the person I am today.
My husband is my biggest supporter, whether it be acting as my cheerleader when I take on a project I am not sure about, or letting me vent when I am frustrated with something at school. He makes me laugh and lets me know in a million ways how much he loves me and our boys.
My children (biological and school) have challenged my thinking as I strive to give them the best of myself in helping them to be the best version of themselves.
My co-workers have caused me to question what I know as I work within the box we know as the public school system.
My #4OCFpln has been a serendipitous group that not only gets me, but also pushes me to do more, learn more, and be more.
I am thankful that God has brought all these forces into my life to help me continue on this path of growth to be the person He created me to be.
Cathy Hink, Kindergarten Teacher & Technology Resource Teacher
Washington @mshinksclass Website: cathyhink.com
I am thankful for relationships with…
the Trinity that gives all of life deep meaning and purpose empowers me with a strong faith, sense of hope and teaches me everyday what it means to love and be loved.
a daughter who has taught me the meaning of true love, courage and joy beyond measure.
Boo my loyal fur baby, who provides soft cuddles, smiles and giggles everyday.
family that has nurtured and shaped my character. For a mom that taught me unconditional love. For a father who taught me to work hard and be a problem solver. For siblings that have taught me acceptance and taught me the fine art of negotiation and compromise. ; )
friends who have added laughter, compassion, support as they accept me as I am and encourage, support and hold me accountable to be the best me I can be.
young students who remind me of the power and wisdom found in wonder and play and who daily model what it means to be resilient and trusting.
My #40CFPLN (a.k.a. My Tribe) who live out the honorable task of educating, loving and advocating for the children of this great nation. Their courage, intelligence, dedication, and passion consistently inspire, strengthen and motivate me.
Elizabeth Merce- Kindergarten Teacher Virginia Beach, VA @EMercedLearning EMercedLearning.com
As I reflect on all the things I am thankful for I keep coming back to the people. Each person I meet has changed me in some way, they have left a part of themselves with me.
I am thankful for my amazing husband and daughter who have given me the strength to try all the things. The unconditional love they give me allows me to dream big dreams and chase them. I have been blessed with an amazing support at home.
I am thankful for all the educators that have touched my life as a child and as an adult. I have learned so much from them. Sometimes it was just as an example of what not to do, but more often than not it was what teaching can be.
This year I also get to be thankful for my #4OCFpln. I have found my people in this group. I have had more support and growth in the past year than in any time period in my life. There are no words to adequately describe how this group of strangers have become my second family, my teaching home.
Mike Messner — High School Teacher, Los Altos, CA
This year, my thanks goes out in many, many directions…
To my wife Nancy, who sustains and accompanies me on my life journey and my teaching journey, and who always reminds me what those journeys are really all about.
To my son Stephen, who calls me to reflect on the job I do as an educator, and who has unflagging faith in his old man. Breakfast at Black Bear Diner this weekend, bucko.
To Snoopy, who is the single most loving creature with more than two legs that I have ever met or am ever likely to.
To my closest companions at Los Altos High School, Seth Donnelly, Chris Phipps, and Katherine Orozco, who have seen me at my most distraught and exhausted, and still take the time to fellowship and collaborate with me.
To the teachers who touched me most deeply and influenced my practice most profoundly: Dave Squellati, Mark Shaull, Wynne Satterwhite, and Jerry Messner (save me a seat in heaven next to you, Dad).
To my students at Los Altos and at Skyline College for allowing me to try out new ways of teaching and who forgive me when they go awry — and especially the members of Future Business Leaders of America for letting me take a fun and exciting ride as your adviser!
To the members of #4OCFPLN for their support, their exhortations, and their relentless drive to make our education system better; I cannot imagine where I would be as a teacher without this group of voices, and I can’t wait to see you all in person.
And to my Father in Heaven: Thank You for allowing me to shed burdens that might have destroyed me, for giving me a future that I think I understand, and the promise of an eternity in Your presence.
God bless us, every one. Happy Turkey.
Debbie Holman, Science 8, AVID, Wellington, CO.
I have so much to be thankful for. I truly feel as if I am blessed by all those who support, encourage me and help me learn.
I’m thankful for my family including my awesome sister my amazing parents my nieces and nephew and all of my extended family, that support me day in and day out and make sure that I am at my best. I would not be who I am without these people who have supported throughout my life.
I’m thankful for my husband who deals with the frustrations that come with being the husband of an educator. He constantly supports all of my Endeavors and all of the things that I use our hard-earned money for to bring things into my classroom to support the Science Education of all my students.
I’m thankful for my colleagues who understand the way I work and work with me as I am always challenging myself to try new things to make the instruction in my classroom new and better.
I’m also thankful for my tribe, my professional learning network, or my professional learning family, The #4OCFPLN They encourage, inspire, and challenge my thinking on a daily basis. I am so thankful to be part of such an amazing, brilliant group of educators.
I’m also thankful for my two fluffy amazing Great Pyrenees dogs, Bear and Taos. No matter the day I have, they always listen and are available for a good snuggle if necessary!