We are proud to announce LearnZillion’s 2014 Dream Team

Over 4,000 people applied for the 200 spots available on the 2014 Dream Team, making it harder to get onto the Dream Team than get into any Ivy League school! Selected for their content knowledge, grit and humility, these impressive math and English Language Arts (ELA) teachers represent the best of district, charter and independent schools in 42 states and three countries (U.S., Singapore and Tunisia). Together, the 2014 Dream Team has more than 2,300 years of teaching experience, ranging from two to 42 years in the classroom.

The Dream Team will convene in New Orleans for TeachFest, a unique professional development event from June 4-7, where they will kick-off a rigorous summer-long collaboration to create high-quality formative assessment tools and resources that will support teachers implementing the Common Core across the United States. Following TeachFest, Dream Team members will return to their respective districts and continue to work in facilitated online professional learning communities (PLCs).

As the 77 returning Dream Team members will attest, being on the Dream Team is “the best professional development of my career.” However, being on the Dream Team is about more than world-class PD and creating great content — it’s about being a member of a vibrant and enthusiastic community of educators who are eager to help others and hopeful about the future.

 

2014 Dream Team Members

Dream Team Member State School District / Charter
Heidi King AK Little Rock School District
Victoria Whitfield AL Autauga County School System
Amy Ordonez AZ Kyrene School Distrcit
Ben Metcalf AZ Washington Elementary School District
Cheryl Martin AZ Dysart Unified School District
Deanna Jergenson AZ Deer Valley Unified School District
Jessica Finley AZ Wilson School District No. 7
Jill Patruno AZ Paradise Valley Unified School District #69
Cheryl Shay CA Berryessa Union School District
Debbie Neighbors CA Berryessa Union School District
Debi Bober CA Long Beach Unified School District
Helen A. Papadopoulos CA Walnut Valley Unified School District
Jaime Bonato CA San Juan Unified School District
Kim Bobadilla CA Davis Joint Unified School District
Kristen Miller CA Natomas Unified School District
Laureen-Nadirah Nayo CA Pasadena Unified School District
Lisa Stone CA Santa Clara County Office of Education
Marcello Sgambelluri CA Santa Clara Unified School District
Miriam Hannig CA Union Elementary School District
Nikole Gaines Reina-Guerra CA Davis Joint Unified School District
Rebecca Scarfone CA Temecula Valley Unified School District
Ryan Keeley CA Berkeley Unified School District
George Christopher Moore (Chris) CO Littleton Public Schools
Katherine Christie CO Littleton Public Schools
Kristi Steele CO Littleton Public Schools
Ruth A. Melendez CO Academy District Twenty
Wendy Turner CO Denver Public Schools
Colleen Haberern CT Watertown Public Schools
Jacqueline Kremer CT Ledyard, CT (JWL) & IDCS is its own district
Jameson Parker CT Danbury Public Schools
Lorrie Quirk CT New Haven Public Schools
Rachel Saunders CT Danbury Public Schools
Tiffany Dietelbaum CT Naugatuck Public School District
Tracy Yanouzas CT Monroe Public Schools
Becky Nolin DC E.L. Haynes Public Charter School
Jacqueline Christy DC Washington, DC
John F. Mahoney DC District of Columbia Public Schools
Lauren Jarrell DC District of Columbia Public Schools
Lisa Apple DC E.L. Haynes Public Charter School
Marija Crosson DC District of Columbia Public Schools
Michael Gueltig DC District of Columbia Public Schools
Valerie Krauser DC DC Prep
Caitlin Salmon DE Reach Academy for Girls Charter School
Christina Hanna DE Christina School District
Erica Matlock DE Worcester County Public Schools
Karen Warner DE Cape Henlopen School District
Kate Bowski DE Cape Henlopen School District
Kate Libby DE Woodbridge Elementary School
Margaret Brady DE Red Clay School District
Michelle Morton DE Red Clay Consolidated School District
Shani Benson DE Capital School District
Shannon Lapinsky DE Caesar Rodney School District
Jeremy Thompson FL Sarasota County Public Schools
Olga Westergaard FL Hillsborough County Public Schools
Ahmed Najm GA St. Martin’s Episcopal School
Amy Stanley GA Whitfield County Schools
Brenda Reagan GA Retired
Cathleen A Dees GA Clayton County Public Schools
Christine S Collins GA Edinburg Academy
EJ Sharif GA Richmond County Public Schools
Katherine Learnard GA DeKalb County
Lexie April Mobley GA Fayette County Board of Education Fayetteville, GA
Linda S. Smith GA Atlanta Public Schools
Linda Trawick GA Cobb County School District
Lisa Ashmeade GA Cobb County Schools
Lorenzo Dale Robinson GA Fulton County Schools
Mariaum Brunner GA Lumpkin County Public Schools
Melissa Huneycutt GA Gwinnett County Public Schools
Meredith Fletcher GA Houston County Schools
Michelle Blackwell GA Odyssey
Robin Valentine GA Gwinnett County Public Schools
Heather Dawn Harmon ID SD #271 Coeur d’Alene School District
Stacie Knight ID Meridian Joint School District #2
Alison Childers IL Carmi-White County CUSD 5
Andrew Parece IL Chicago Public Schools
Gabrielle Testerman IL Oak Park River Forest High School District/District 200
Jenni Iwanski IL Saint Charles Community Unit School District 303
Jennifer Rising IL Science & Arts Academy, Des Plains
Jessica Pilgreen IL Wesclin Community Unit District #3
Kathy Ogean IL Oak Lawn Hometown School District 123
Kim Stancl IL Illinois School District U-46
Kyle Harlow IL Herrin Community Unit School District No. 4
Terry Vaughn Jr. IL Germantown Hills School District 69
Bradley Mitchell IN Archdiocese of Indianapolis
Cory Howard IN Maconaquah School Corporation
Kristi Harris IN Wawasee Community Schools
Natalie Hines IN Indianapolis Public Schools
Ronald Shaffer IN Maconaquah School Corporation
Sarah Smith IN Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation
Holly Milam-Bush KY Warren County Public Schools
Kelly Boles KY Floyd County Schools
Kimberly Johnson KY Jefferson County Public Schools
Leslie Lloyd KY Bullitt County Public Schools
Katy Patterson LA Orleans Parish School Board
Laci Maniscalco LA Lafayette Parish School System
Stephanie Renoda Gullage LA St. Charles Parish Public Schools
Andrew Vickstrom MA Wachusett Regional School District
Barbara Delaney MA Bellingham Public Schools
Dorrian Galvin MA Oakland Unified School District
Jil Blake MA Hartford
Alison Giska MD Worcester County Public Schools
Analin Adriano MD Mary Mcleod Bethune Day Public Charter School
Ashleigh Swiontek MD National Board Certified//Graduate School
Jennifer Reynolds MD Frederick County Public Schools
Julia Hill MD Worcester County Public Schools
Meghan Hearn MD Howard County Public Schools
Nick Pyzik MD Frederick County Public Schools
Rafael Velez MD District of Columbia Public Schools
Shanna Williams-Carr MD District of Columbia Public Schools
Rebecca Schouvieller ME Falmouth Public Schools
Anita Vecziedins MI Grand Rapids Public Schools
Abby Kahara MN Barnum Publich Schools
Carol DeFreese MO Ft. Zumwalt School District
Carolyn Sue Nixon MO Willard R-II School District
Amanda Gosek NC Johnston County Schools
Amy Barsanti NC Washington County Public Schools
Amy Phillips NC Chatham County Schools
Anna Gustaveson NC Orange County Public Schools
Carol Sholette-Gillespie NC Cumberland County Schools
Dana Marie Stachowiak NC Guilford County Schools
Daylen Moore NC Onslow County Schools
Kimberly Shelor NC New Hanover County School
Michelle Barnhill NC North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
Rachel Sanchez NC Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
William Jarrett NC Guilford County
Lisa Vojacek ND Grand Forks Public Schools
Shana Lindeman ND Grand Forks Public Schools
Elisabeth Chestnutt NH Amherst School District
Steve Lebel NH Derry Cooperative School District
Tim Putnam NH SAU 41 – Brookline Public Schools
Dianne Leoni NJ Hillsborough Township Public Schools
Elizabeth Stupar NJ Point Pleasant Borough School District
Mary Jane Custy NJ Flemington Raritan Schools
Rebecca Alvarado-Alcantar NM Las Cruces Public Schools
Chris Hayes NV Washoe County School District
Jodi Westmont NV Washoe County School District
Richard Villanueva NV Clark County School District
Alice Lombardo NY Rochester City School District
Caitlyn Calabrese NY New Visions for Public Schools
Daniel Steinberg NY Harlem Link Charter School
Dennis Pawlikowski NY Oswego City School District
Jacqueline Wagner NY District 15
Jeanette Simpson NY Penn Yan Central School
Jesse Goodglass NY Syracuse City School District
Juaneika Agyeman NY Lansingburgh Central School District
Julie Bocciolatt NY LaFargeville Central School
Lauren McIntyre NY Great Neck Public School District
Leslie Hefez NY New York City Public Schools District 15
Luciano D’Orazio NY New York City Department of Education
Mark Anderson NY Bronx District 10
Sarah Merchlewitz NY Manhattan District 3, Childrens First Network 408
Sarah Peterson NY New York City Public Schools
Staci Intriligator NY Various
Tammy Plucknette NY Elba Central School District
Wendy Sachel NY Phoenix Central School District
Samantha Fales OH Nordonia Hills City School District
Sarah Cummings OH Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools
Sierra Cooley OH Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow
Susan Nolan OH Coshocton City Schools
Michelle Collum OK Tulsa Public Schools
Stephanie Eggen OK Oklahoma City Public Schools
Elizabeth Tautalamoto Ellis OR Portland Public School District
Erin Maass OR North Clackamas School District #12
Jaimee Massie OR Eugene District 4J
Lisa Nichols OR Salem Keizer School District
Elizabeth Kim PA School District of Philadelphia
Ellen Hartman PA Commonwealth Connections Academy
Emily Edmonds PA Charter School Network
Leah R Weimerskirch PA New York City Department of Education
Megan Maples PA KIPP: Philadelphia Schools
Michael Cote PA Commonwealth Connections Academy
Rebecca Ritenour PA Uniontown Area
Stephanie Clarke PA Commonwealth Connections Academy
Sue Choi PA Spring-Ford Area School District
Stephen Skaggs RI North Kingstown School Department
Ashley Gombar SC Dorchester District 2
Daniel Stewart Beasley SC York District 3
Elizabeth Beerbower SC Dorchester District 2 Schools
Melissa Huffman SC Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5
Michelle Greene SC Darlington County School District
Kimberly Clark SD Multiple Districts in SD
Terri McComb Singapore Singapore American School
Christina Foran TN Tennessee State Special Schools
Tifin Calcagni Tunisia American Cooperative School of Tunis
Jennifer Yu TX Richardson Independent School District
Leslie Hirsh Ceballos TX Richardson Independent School District
Jennifer Shirts UT Jordan School District
Lauren Burton UT Alpine School District
Melissa Hesterman UT Mountain Heights Academy
Christine Gault VA Prince William County Schools
Jennifer Newman VA Friendship Public Charter Schools
Lindsay M. Stuart VA Alexandria City Public Schools
Sara Elizabeth Equi VA Roanoke City Public Schools
Michael Signal WA Auburn School District #408
Sarah Spring WA Auburn School District
Aaron Beiniek WI Whitnall School District
Dr. Michele Schmidt Moore WV Loudoun County Public Schools
Kayleigh Gillespie WV Putnam County Schools
Stephanie L. Runion WV Harrison County Schools
Virginia Guynn WV Berkeley County Public Schools

Save time, reduce stress. Streamline planning and supercharge your professional growth with LearnZillion.

Learn how to integrate LearnZillion into your lesson planning process.

In this webinar we talked with Nick Pyzik, elementary school teacher and coach at Tuscarora Elementary School in Ballenger Creek, Maryland. Watch this recording to get Nick’s tips for using LearnZillion to streamline planning and developing classroom practice.

Here are some highlights:

(3:29) – Using one LearnZillion video as a basis for an entire class period of instruction.

(7:41) – Using the “Common Misunderstanding” part of the video lessons to engage student discussion.

(10:32) – Using guided practice and extension activities as a basis for in-class practice.

(12:00) – Personalizing and customizing LearnZillion’d downloadable powerpoint slides to create practice worksheets. Learn how you can do the same in this post: 5 ways to leverage LearnZillion’s Downloadable Slides 

(17:40) How planning and curriculum development can be imbedded in one’s own professional development.

(20:30) Using LearnZillion as a k-5 coach to help teachers transition to the Common Core.

(22:38) Using the LearnZillion math Lesson Plan resources to help teachers do all the planning components mentioned above and differentiate instruction. To learn more about lesson plans, check out this description, and this webinar recording about practical tips for using Lesson Plans.

(26:30) An invitation to viewers to share additional ideas about how they are using LearnZillion. Please email your ideas to feedback@learnzillion.com!

The secret to amazing Professional Development: The 3 P’s

When people ask me for the secret to great professional development, I share our 3 Ps.

Funnily enough, we discovered these 3 P’s by accident. In the summer of 2011, thanks to a Next Generation Learning Challenge Grant, we brought 20 teachers from around the country together to work on the first batch of LearnZillion lessons.  For two days we sat in a cramped room with math books, computers, and treats, working on lessons. At the end of the two days, several of the teachers said that it had been “the best professional development” of their career.

A year later it happened again.  This time we brought 123 teachers to Atlanta and called the event TeachFest.  On the second night, after a full day of working on lessons, we gave everyone an option.  They could go out on the town, watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on a large screen, or continue working on lessons in the basement.  At 11pm, half the teachers were still working in the basement.  Again, the feedback at the end of the event was, “this was the best professional development.”

It was a revelation that our content creation process was, in fact, the key to incredible professional growth, satisfaction and impact.  And when we analyzed why that was, it boiled down to 3 Ps: product, process, and people.

1. Product

DT quote 3 v2

The experience is focused on developing a final producta lesson.  The product is practical, meaningful, and challenging to create.  The teachers know they are going to use the lessons, and that other teachers and students are going to use them too.

Lesson on a computer

Most professional development focuses on professional development.  We have come to believe that professional development is most powerful when focused on creating something useful; professional development is the by-product of creating a product.

2.  Process

Focusing on a final product isn’t enough.  Teachers have to be set up for success.  There needs to be a roadmap that provides them with the guidance and resources they need to accomplish the goal – from initial research, to outlines, to drafting.  At TeachFest, we didn’t say, here’s a block of time to plan, go for it.  We thought through every step of the process and asked ourselves, “what does the teacher need to be successful now.  What about now?  What about now?”  And then we equipped them with those things.

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 4.22.32 PM

Here, for example, is an overview of our TeachFest roadmap:

LearnZillion Process

LearnZillion lesson creation process

3.  People

The final P stands for people.  The 20 teachers at that initial convening helped each other out.  

DT quote 1

When one of them had a question about their lesson, they would talk it through with a colleague or a coach.  They had opportunities to get feedback and then make revisions to their work based on that feedback.  This happened in person and then continued on-line over the summer as teachers worked on their lessons.  As a result, most of the experience looked like this…

Teacher Collaboration

Dream Team teachers collaborating at TeachFest

…as opposed to looking like an expert standing in front of a large group of people.

Put them together and what have you got…

McDonald’s talks about its “secret sauce.”  When it comes to professional development we believe the sauce shouldn’t be secret.  Just remember the 3 Ps.  Put them together and you create amazing lessons, build the capacity of teachers, and have a lot of fun.

DT quote 4

Dream Team 2013 group shot

National LearnZillion 2013 Dream Team

Apply to Join the 2014 Dream Team

Watch this short video to learn how to apply to the 2014 LearnZillion Dream Team.

 

LearnZillion is looking for 200 exceptional educators to join the 2014 Dream Team. If you are a teacher who wants to broaden your impact, learn from content experts, and challenge yourself in new and exciting ways, then this is the professional development experience for you. Watch this short video to learn more. Apply today at dreamteam.fluidreview.com.

Live, Laugh, LearnZillion

Rebecca Ritenour has been an educator for 15 years, she is a member of the 2013 LearnZillion Dream Team. Her thoughts were first published July 17, 2013.

After 15 years in the classroom, I realize that I am nearly to the halfway point of my career. At this point, it would be easy to put myself on autopilot. After all, I’ve taught every grade and ability level at my school and accomplished a lot in my career. But that’s not me. I can’t do the autopilot thing. I am constantly looking for ways to improve my own teaching and to gain more knowledge that I can apply in the classroom. It’s that drive that led me to pursue and earn my National Board Certification. It’s that drive that sees me working alongside other English/Language Arts teachers in my state capital every year as we review items that will appear on our state’s standardized literature exams.

So, when I noticed a blurb in a National Board newsletter about LearnZillion and applying to be part of their 2013 “Dream Team”, I thought “Why not?” I had no idea what I was about to experience.

LearnZillion’s purpose is to provide instruction to students all over the world as well as support parents and teachers in the process. Who knew that LearnZillion would actually be teaching ME a thing or two? Here’s what LearnZillion and the Dream Team experience has taught me that I will carry with me into my own classroom this fall.

1. Thinking is hard. Thinking hard is harder. All of it is worthwhile when you have a goal you believe in. When we see a real purpose for what we’re doing, we are much more likely to be engaged, to internalize corrections, to be resilient in the pursuit of the goal, and to be proud of the achievement when we’ve reached the goal.

2. I am not alone. Others are on this journey. That is comforting. Whenever I start to think that I am the only person out there who is experiencing struggle, doubt, or insecurity, it helps to know that there is an entire community out there who understands and can offer support. They, too, know these struggles. It is also awesome to know that when it’s time to celebrate even the smallest victory, that same community is there to cheer me on.

3. Missing the mark is the only way to truly learn and improve. Mistakes are not just an annoying part of life, they are an ESSENTIAL part of the process. They lead us to the next step and the next and the next. They move us towards our goal.

4. Getting the best out of someone takes time. Don’t be satisfied with “good” when “better” or “best” is possible. Don’t expect to arrive at “best” immediately. Be receptive to the guidance of those who have gone before you. Feedback that is offered in a supportive and encouraging way always gets me back on my feet and ready to start again.

5. There will always be bumps in the road. Laugh, learn, and leave them behind. (Note to self: remove the dog’s collar before using Screencastomatic to record lessons. Even when you do, the chipmunk outside will inevitably catch the dog’s attention just as you get to the last slide in your video anyway.)

I don’t quite have time to reflect on all of this fully, but when I do I will have an even better understanding of what my role as a teacher entails because of the Dream Team experience. The classroom that I create this year may very well be the best one I’ve crafted yet and what LearnZillion has LearnZillion has taught me will be an essential part of each and every school day. (Well, except for that dog thing…he has to stay home and protect us from those chipmunks!)

Continuing Education Generation

Rachelle Wooten is a member of the 2013 LearnZillion Dream Team and recently celebrated her 40th birthday. She first shared this insight with us on July 29, 2013.

It’s amazing the amount of reflection I have done as I approached my 40th birthday! Most of which revolved around where I am and where I want to be both personally and professionally.  See, I am the kind of educator that sets new goals for growth every year and I seek out opportunities to grow personally and professionally.  Recently, I read an online article “The Rising Ed-Tech Expectations of the Continuing Education Generation” by Calvin Hennick that stated, “members of Generation X are now midcareer professionals who pursue lifelong learning opportunities at impressive rates” and it resonated with me.

As a member of this “continuing-education generation”, I believe it truly exemplifies me! After all, it was this pursuit that led me to apply for the Learn Zillion 2013 Dream Team.  This same pursuit drives me to dig deeper into the content since I am not as strong in reading as I am in writing.  It’s also the reason I chase research, articles, and resources that help me explore and understand the Common Core standards, even if my home state of Texas has not adopted them. Most importantly, though, this commitment to lifelong learning will remain my life’s pursuit to scale my impact!

The Importance of Collaboration

Jessica Pitts is a middle school English language arts teacher from Little Rock, AR and a member of the 2013 LearnZillion Dream Team. This post was first published May 24, 2013.

I have recently had the opportunity to be in the presence of some really great educators working on amazing things. I was able to attend the LearnZillon TeachFest in San Francisco and an Achieving By Changing Curriculum Huddle with the APSRC (Arkansas Public School Resource Center) in my home state. Attending both of these conferences was so inspiring and motivating because it gave me the opportunity to be a part of a larger community of educators with the sole purpose of improving student learning.
It has been so great to meet people in my home state of Arkansas that had the same need and want for a community of passionate teachers that I found at TeachFest. All of the teachers that I met were excited to hear about my experience with LearnZillion. I found myself repeatedly saying, “It was one of the best weekends of my life.” I explained to everyone that the best part was meeting so many intelligent, creative, and most of all, passionate teachers! Before attending TeachFest, I was nervous that I would feel inferior because I am only a third year teacher, but everyone I met was so welcoming and willing to share their knowledge. Through hard work and collaboration, we all became a community by the Saturday night dance party. I will never forget dancing to “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Living on a Prayer” on a tiny dance floor with 200 other teachers. That moment was definitely a perfect moment for me. I couldn’t stop thinking about how we were all working towards the same goal, and as long as we helped each other and refused to give up, we would all succeed.

One comment from my time at the Achieving By Change Huddle that stood out to me was from a teacher who has been teaching for a while. She said, “I didn’t know that teachers did this!” She was referring to working together to build the best units and lesson plans we can for our students. In that moment, I realized how fortunate I was to have attended these two conferences in the same week. Collaboration is what teachers need so desperately. We need to feel like we are a part of the solution. Just as we have found through research that our students need to be given the space to create, so do teachers, and we create better as a team.
All of these experiences have helped me to realize that we are experiencing a really great shift in education. We are building a community of educators with the overall purpose of being the best we can for our students! I am so happy and grateful to be a part of education right now, and I can’t wait to see the results that we produce as a community of educators.

What Teachers Can Learn from Caine’s Arcade

Leigh Pourciau is a middle school creative writing and English language arts teacher from Jackson, Mississippi and member of the 2013 LearnZillion Dream Team.  This post was first published on May 28, 2013.
I recently participated in a well-earned standing ovation given by 200 teachers. The recipient of this applause was not a CEO, a principal, or a six-figure-earning educational consultant, but a ten-year-old boy – the son of an auto mechanic from east LA. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? Caine Monroy? If not, stop everything and watch Nirvan Mullick’s short film about his cardboard arcade before proceeding.

Caine's Arcade - educators cheer

Educators cheer for Caine and Nirvan

Back to that standing O. I was sitting among 200 other educators at LearnZillion‘s TeachFest. When the company’s co-founder Eric Westendorf opened the morning session by showing this film, laughter and sniffles spread throughout the room. We teachers were struck by the seemingly simple truths Caine’s story revealed about how we learn. We learn when we are self-motivated. We learn when we are doing something we love. In awe of Caine, we sat quietly as the lights in the hotel ballroom flickered back on.

Eric took the stage and announced that we had two guest speakers – Caine and Nirvan, in the flesh! Inspired by their shared creativity and what they had accomplished by pursuing their passions, all 200 of us rocketed out of our seats and began clapping. In that moment, I realized how strange it was that this was the first education conference I’d attended whose featured guest was a child, not an adult. Who better to teach teachers?
In the following Q&A session, Caine answered our questions much like any other adolescent boy might.

“How have you changed since this experience?’

– “I’m taller.”

“What’s next for you?”

– “Sixth grade.”

“Will you hire me?”

– “Yep.”

Until one teacher asked, “What is the best thing your father ever did for you to encourage your success?”

Caine paused, staring at the microphone and all four hundred eyes, and then simply said, “He gave me space.”

That’s it. He gave him space.

And that’s when I felt very conflicted. Am I consistently giving my students the space to explore their own interests? Am I engaging their natural ability to ask questions and seek answers? Am I making my job harder by giving them too much structure? Too many limits? What am I sacrificing by letting my learning style and interests take center stage in the classroom instead of theirs?

This was a very untimely epiphany as my plane back home landed right in time for standardized test prep. I had planned for students to do the same old prep packets – even though I’ve been long convinced that a demon gets its horns every time we bubble in a multiple-choice answer.

Instead, in a fog of jetlag, I dumped a bunch of supplies in the middle of the classroom and asked them two questions: “What type of question from the test scares you the most?” and “How can you create a board game that takes the sting out of that standard?”

Then I stepped back and gave them space. And they delivered. Homemade spinners were built, verbal Twister was born, and a satirical game of Life was hatched where bad grammar landed you in dead-end jobs. We laughed and sustained paper cuts and didn’t bubble in any little circles, but they still learned all there is to learn about tools of persuasion, complex sentences, and much more.

And I learned to listen to Caine and give them space.

The 3 Cs I Learned at LearnZillion TeachFest 2013

Andrea Lemon is a middle school English language arts teacher from Belmont, West Virginia, and member of the 2013 LearnZillion Dream Team.  This article was first posted May 21, 2013.

In January, I received an email from my state’s department of education listserv with the subject line: Summer Job Opportunity. Like many teachers, especially those of us raising families, I opened the email with an interest in earning a little extra money this summer. Little did I know that what I would receive from LearnZillion would be worth more money than any job I’d ever had. What I received was a personal and professional journey:
From the moment I clicked “apply here,” my professional understanding of how to teach literacy skills began to grow. I’m over half-way through a doctoral program in reading and literacy, so my mind is already pretty full of theories and best practices, but the application process to become a LearnZillion Dream Team member gave me the opportunity and the guidance to turn all that research into a product students and teachers could use to enhance their learning. It was a process that forced me to dig deep into the Common Core and into my own literacy practices. The emphasis on metacognition in the application process alone made me a better teacher for my students. I created, revised, sought feedback from colleagues, revised again, and finally, in late February, submitted three lesson plans and one PowerPoint lesson – grateful simply for the growth I had already attained – not really imagining that in a nationwide competition my application would be worthy of selection.

In late March, I got another email. I made it! I’d been selected – one of 200 out of 3,000+ applicants! My heart soared. My pulse raced! I was ecstatic to say the least. I clicked the link to accept the invitation and in doing so, saw something that I’d overlooked in my initial haste to earn a little cash this summer. Being a member of the Dream Team meant attending a conference called TeachFest – in San Francisco. My heart sank to the pit of my stomach. I felt ill. I almost backed out. I’d never flown. I’d never even been in an airport, and this trip would mean a transcontinental flight. I’d also never been to a big city by myself. I didn’t know anyone else who was going. I was paralyzed by self-doubt. I didn’t think I could overcome so many firsts and fears.

My husband, always my biggest supporter, looked at me that evening and said, “If you don’t go, you’ll regret it for the rest of your career.” It sounds dramatic, like a line from a movie, but he was right. I clicked “accept” and a couple of days later, I got a call from Posie Wilkinson at LearnZillion. She called just to welcome me to the team, and the warmth and enthusiasm in her voice made me feel so accepted that I knew I’d made the right decision. A month later, after receiving endless amounts of encouragement from my fellow Dream team members on Facebook, I found my COURAGE and stepped on that first, very tiny plane, navigated a second airport alone, and then stepped on a much larger plane to California. I learned that it’s okay to be afraid as long as you keep moving forward. At the SFO airport shuttle dock, I saw a woman wearing a LearnZillion t-shirt, jumped on the shuttle right behind her, and instantly struck up a conversation with five perfect strangers also headed to TeachFest and my Dream Team experience began.

Once at TeachFest, I looked around at the other Dream Team members, listened to their stories, and thought to myself, “Maybe my application was chosen by mistake. Maybe I’m not good enough for this.” I was filled with self-doubt until LearnZillion co-founder, Eric Westendorf, stepped on the stage beaming with energy and shared that the Dream Team only had a 6% acceptance rate. I realized that I had been selected to an elite task force and my CONFIDENCE began to bud. Next, entered Liz Striebel coaching me through my Lesson Set Outline with praise followed by a little push to go farther, do more, be more. My confidence exploded.

Most important though, in that four day crash course known as TeachFest, I learned the value of COLLABORATION. Digging into the Common Core Standards and uncovering how to teach with text-dependent questions and close reading is no easy feat. Without the professional development provided by the LearnZillion staff, and the encouragement and feedback of all of the other Dream Team members, I couldn’t have come this far so fast.

Now, back in my small school in West Virginia, I have the right tools to make a big difference. As I work with my school’s Literacy Leadership Team, I have the Courage and Confidence to provide support for my colleagues as they learn and grow in the Common Core and to push our school forward toward a brighter future for our students, our community, and, should the road get bumpy along the way, I know that I have amazing educators all across the country that I can reach out to for a little Collaboration. TeachFest 2013 gave me the tools to find solutions, make a difference, SCALE MY IMPACT! I never would have dreamt that something so simple as the click of a mouse would open so many doors, or lead me on such an incredible journey. Thank you LearnZillion for having faith in me and helping me find faith in myself.