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When was the last time you did something for the first time? - Presenting at ISTE 2018

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I'm a big country music fan. I have had Darius Rucker's "When was the last time" stuck in my head this week. As educators, we encourage our students to try new things and take risks, but how often do we do this same? This week, I stepped out of my comfort zone and did something new and terrifying. I presented at my first international conference, ISTE 2018.

I applied on a whim last year to present on "Launching Computer Science for Every Student in Your School", a topic I am very passionate about. I knew that getting accepted to present at ISTE was unlikely because they receive so many applications, but I applied anyway. 
Rewind to several months later. The ISTE application was barely on my mind as I was in the heat of the semester. I was walking down the hallway after mock trial practice with a few students and my colleague and I audibly squealed. I was convinced I was misreading the email because I was full of self doubt. I had been accepted to present in…

Launching something new? Step 1 - Get Buy In!

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The end of the school year always seems to soak up all the free hours in my day. As many educators can commiserate, there seems to be endless grading, organizing, and cleaning. Now that we are into our first week of summer, my reflective juices are flowing and I am looking forward to a restful and educational summer.

I have had the pleasure to be apart of several launches during my time as an educator. I have watched others launch, I have been part of launch teams, and like every classroom teacher I have launched countless projects, events, lessons, and new ideas in my class. As I sit back and reflect, each of these launches has something in common, they all require buy in.

Let me give you an example...

In my first year teaching, I went to NSTA's national conference. I saw Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams present. I knew as soon as I saw their presentation, that I wanted to flip my class. When I cam back to school, I launched one lesson and the following Fall, I completely flipped all …

Measuring Success- Anecdotes from Teaching AP Computer Science

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This year, I was able to teach our first class of AP Computer Science Principles. It was some of the most fun I have had teaching, though that is not to say it didn't have it's challenges. It was challenging to have days without internet when we were programming on a cloud based platform. It was challenging to have 5 snow days in the months before the AP exam. It was challenging to have Prom on the Friday before digital portfolios were due.

When I started this course, I was thrilled to have almost 30% of the senior class enrolled. This year it was all seniors. They were excited for something new, and from the beginning identified that CS would be important in their futures somehow. I had them take a survey on the first day to get a baseline. I tried to get them to take the survey again on the last day, but anyone who teaches second semester seniors knows I didn't get a response from all of them.

Since my survey data is a little lacking, I would like to share with you a few…

Find Your Teacher Tribe

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When I started teaching, I started building my tribe. My tribe is the group of teachers that builds me up when things start to fall down, who inspire me to be a better teacher and a better person, and who are always there day in and day out.



Six years in, these are a few of the "go-to" people in my tribe. I cannot fit them all in one blog post, so stay tuned for the second installment of my teacher tribe. 

The one you met on day one - She is the one you met at orientation for your new school or first day teaching. She is motivated and passionate, just like you and she cheerleads for all your new ideas as you do for hers. She is a crucial member of your tribe because she started it. She's your first teacher friend.

The one who motivates you - She might not be at your school or in your grade level, but she is always willing to try new things because she loves her students and she loves learning. She steps out of her comfort zone to take on new challenges and she encourages yo…

5 Tips for a Great Conference Experience

If you're like me, you might be spending your Spring Break at a conference or convention soaking up all the tips and tools you can absorb over just a few days. I was very luck to be able to attend my first large scale event as a senior in college when I was sponsored to attend NSTA (National Science Teacher Association) Conference in Indianapolis. I am so grateful for this experience because it immediately showed be the value of getting out of your own backyard, growing your network, and continuing to be a good learner.

Over the last several years I have attended and now presented at many conferences. Here are my top 5 tips to make your next conference experience a great one!
#1 Plan your first conference day before you leave home Conferences are incredibly busy, full of a multitude of sessions, exhibitors, special events, and meals squeezed in between everything else. When I arrive in my final destination, frequently after a flight and a ride to get to my hotel, I am typically hu…

My Top 3 Ways to Take Advantage of Cyber Days ❄

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I'm not sure what part of the country you live in, but I live in a part where it snows. Growing up in New England, we missed a lot of school. We had days where it was snowing, days when everything had iced over, and days when pipes froze. All these days required us to have "snow days". This was all before the age of 1:1 technology in schools.



Things have changed. Instead of snow days, we now have cyber days.
Here are my top 3 ways to take advantage of cyber days!

#1- Have a plan. Make sure your students know how you will be communicating with them. Should they expect an email? Will you post an assignment on your LMS? Will it be posted on Google Classroom? Make sure you have established a plan with your students (and guardians) before the first flake falls.

#2- Use discussions. Find a way to be available to communicate with your students. Initially I held "email office hours" and told students I would be available between certain times to answer their questions.…

Why I Teach Respect First

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Over the last week I have spent a lot of time reflecting on what students are learning through my class and the experiences they have in the extra curricular activities. While I hope they are learning about molecules and reactions in my chemistry class, I also hope they have learned skills they can take with them to help them be successful in life. 
As I mentioned in a previous post, I spend my time outside of school teaching martial arts. I talk to my taekwondo students about respect. It is part of our curriculum. Students learn the importance of respecting themselves and others. It is a critical aspect of learning to be disciplined athletes and citizens with a desire to serve. Because of my unique inspiration to become a teacher, I keep these very fundamental (sometimes referred to as "soft") skills at the center of what I do in my classroom. 
On day one each year, I tell my students that I don't have many rules. I tell them I expect them to show respect. Respect them…