16 May 2015

My Favorite Books of All Time

What's your favorite book? Often a dreaded question because, as an avid reader, I think it's difficult to narrow it to just one. Narrowing it to ten isn't much easier. However, in the spirit of The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, I'm sharing my favorite books of all time.

Don't think I've taken this list lightly. In fact, I've been creating the list, refining it, revisiting it, and starting all over again for the past seven years. Seven years ago, a student and her mom gave me a book edited by J. Peder Zane The Top Ten. Zane continues working to curate top tens lists and to interview authors, so visit the site to learn more from some of your favorite authors.

At the end of last year, I shared my top 14 reads from 2014, and I suspect I'll share my 2015 list from my book a week reading in late December or January. Until then, my top ten of all time goes back many years. When I finally selected my favorites, I made my decision based on books I return to, books I recommend to others, and books that for one reason or another I haven't been able to get out of my mind.

My top ten (in no particular order)

1. Othello by William Shakespeare
2. The Way to Rainy Mountain by N. Scott Momaday
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
5. The poems of Pablo Neruda
6. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
7. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
8. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
9. The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
10. Night by Elie Wisel

What's on your top ten list?  Please share below.

26 April 2015

Sunday Salon: What I Read Online April 2015

It's been a while since I've shared a Sunday Salon post and that's because I've been reading, writing, traveling, parenting and enjoying life in general. Here are links to some of my favorite online readings in the past month.
Musical Instruments at EMP in Seattle!

April is National Poetry Month, and since I'm a long time Shakespeare fan, I loved this article, Shakespeare's Sonnets, All 154 Reimagined Through a New York Lens

Why Creative Writing is the Better Way to Study English on a blog by my thoughtful friend, Gwyn is worth your time because it's a good reminder about why we need creativity in learning experiences.

Innovation for improving life. This Guy Invented Shoes That Grow Five Sizes in Five Years for Kids in Developing Countries.

Creative Picture Books for Young Hearts is a fun read for parents and their children or for anyone who enjoys music and art.

As a long time believer of the importance of liberal arts, and as a liberal arts graduate myself, I loved this article Why We Need the Liberal Arts More Than Ever in Today's Digital World.

Yet another great article read earlier today about liberal arts.

Another amazing article about the work of Sir Ken Robinson.  "The real driver for creativity is an appetite for discovery and a passion for the work itself"


Vocabulary, Wonderous Words or Busy Work? by Todd Marshall on the Literacy Learning Exchange speaks to the ever important topic of vocabulary which I, too, have previously blogged about.

Literacy Coaching in the Classroom on the LDC.org Blog. Read results here.

Don't miss this free article from NCTE on math and rhetoric working together.

I'm a long time fan of Nabokov's Lectures on Literature, Maria Popova at Brain Pickings shared the article What Makes a Good Reader.

Not to be missed--What Books Do For The Human Soul by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.

Learning and Teaching

When Students Become Entrepreneurs, Real Learning Happens. Yes!

As a National Board Certified Teacher, I'm always interested in reading research that shows NBCTs are more effective. This article explains policy implications from a new study.

Read My Teacher Leader Manifesto by Sandy Merz to hear her vision of the profession and ask yourself what your vision is too.

Testing isn't going to cure what's wrong in education from this blog Our Top Priority is a blog that should be shared widely because the author, Tricia Ebner, clearly captures what so many of us feel right now about over testing and insane test prep that's ruining our children's education.

I found the article What Undocumented Students Bring to the Classroom to be extremely interesting and meaningful to me because I have a fourteen year old niece exploring immigration issues and expanding her own values and thoughts. Sharing this article with her was meaningful for us both.

From the Atlanta judge trying the case of the educators convicted of cheating in one of the biggest cheating scandals in America, "We have messed up schools so much. Well, tests and grades do not make you educated."

Five Reasons Why Math Worksheets Don't Work! It's always nice when to know I'm not the only one who does not prefer worksheet driven learning.

We can't let testing companies control how we run our classrooms or how we interpret the standards.


It's always interesting to read about up and coming advancements where I live right here in Lexington, Kentucky. This article is especially interesting to me because of the focus on improving our community.

We knew our Kentucky Education Commissioner planned to retire, but something about seeing it in national news makes it more official. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Dr. Holliday.
Dr. Holliday awards me KDE Employee of the Month Feb.2011
(Trophy rotates each month)


Cake and Whiskey launched the Sip and Slice blog recently, and not only have I enjoyed contributing to the blog, it's also been fun to read many of the posts, including this post about celebrating birthdays in Germany.

Eleven Lesser-Known Cities for Street Art explores cities from around the world that value art in their communities.

I enjoyed this inspiring article about a woman running in Saudi Arabia and hoping to send a powerful message.

I enjoyed this article by Jessica Lahey because she writes about the way we are solving math problems, and she challenges parents to consider the way they learned mathematics and whether or not that's really the best way for our children to learn.

Certainly I can relate to this mother's thoughts on Proving Parental Love, on Snowshoes and Roller Coasters.

A Teenage Speaker's Mom On How She Encourages Her Sons to Innovate. Loved the TED Blog, and since I had the great fortune of meeting Jack Andraka and hearing him speak earlier this year, this post was even better for me as a mom of two sons.

18 April 2015

Visiting Piedmont College for Alumni Weekend

Piedmont College

Nestled beautifully in the mountains of Northeast Georgia, Piedmont College offers a top-notch liberal arts education. Read about what it did for me.  On a recent Saturday we returned to our Alma Mater for Alumni Weekend. My husband and sons as well as my parents and in-laws all met in Demorest where we stayed in an amazing house my in-laws found and rented for the weekend.

View from bedroom window at house we rented in Demorest
Though we hadn't been back to Piedmont in fourteen years, my husband and I were warmly welcomed back by professors who reminisced with us about the days when we were students. They also dreamed with us about the future of education (higher ed & K-12). Our conversations focused on the importance of education being

  • thoughtful
  • purposeful
  • creative
English Professor Lisa Hodgens thoughtfully nominated me for the 2015 Excellence in Education award which I accepted at a ceremony on Saturday night for my contributions to education on the local, state, and national level. Knowing the nomination came from Lisa made it meaningful, and when asked to give a few words at the ceremony, I became choked up from gratitude for my experiences at Piedmont. Without a doubt, Piedmont provided the understandings I needed to develop a thoughtful, purposeful, and creative approach to teaching and learning.

At the awards ceremony, the Alumni Office (some of the friendliest staff) played a video of snapshots from my time at Piedmont with photographs of some of my favorite people and experiences. My opportunities at Piedmont included traveling each spring to the Southern Literary Festival where we would hear great authors read their works of literature. In 1995 we visited Ole' Miss in Oxford and toured Rowan Oak where we saw William Faulkner's penciled handwriting on the wall.

We also traveled with Dr. Hodgens abroad to England the summer after graduation. There we studied Shakespeare with the Royal Shakespeare Company, attended numerous plays, and explored the historical cities of Oxford and London. Experiences such as these can't be traded for book work, and I'm grateful for the thoughtfully and creatively designed programs Piedmont offered.

Not all of our experiences involved travel; we also engaged in meaningful discussions in our classes. My entire Master's program provided a purposeful look at education, and especially worth noting was a graduate school course titled American High School taught by Dr. Hilton Smith. We read books by John Goodlad and George Wood and discussed numerous critical studies by Ted Sizer and Debra Meier. Our open-ended discussions of these texts encouraged us to develop our own philosophy of education and mine certainly included an emphasis on student choice and interest.

Piedmont College

During Alumni Weekend, we enjoyed touring the campus, seeing all the renovations, attending a reception at President Mellichamp's house, celebrating at the awards banquet and attending a play afterwards in the new Swanson Center Black Box Theatre. Fortunately, we made it back to campus for brunch on Sunday with Hilton Smith and his wife Sara Tucker. Our conversation went straight to catching up on education trends, policies, and practices as we exchanged ideas, perspectives, and stories--the kinds of stories that keep us going in a world of education where we feel like people have sometimes forgotten to be intentional. However, with our dedication to the larger purpose, we carry-on hopeful to make an impact through thoughtful, purposeful, and creative education geared toward providing students choice and interest in their learning. Of course, you might recall my previous blog post where I discussed my correspondence with Hilton and my dream of a starting a Teacher Powered School.

We enjoyed this fantastic play by the Theatre Dept. Alumni Weekend

15 April 2015

Blogging for Cake & Whiskey Sip and Slice

I delightfully announce that I've been selected as a contributing blogger for Cake & Whiskey Magazine's new blog Sip & Slice.  As you know I've previously contributed to the print magazine, so when they decided to start a blog and began accepting applications, I jumped at the chance to contribute to this source of inspiration for women in business.

Some friends have been surprised that as an educator I am writing for an audience of women in business. Why, they ask?  Why? Because just like I believe our students have stories to share, I also believe women from all walks of life have stories to share, and I believe in the Cake & Whiskey mission seeking to share women's stories with the world.

My contributions to the blog will be focused book reviews aimed at providing busy women (and men) a tiny glimpse into various books by women authors. The first review comes from one of my February books of the week, Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer. You can read the post on the Sip & Slice blog. I also encourage you to check out other blog posts and even subscribe to the beautifully designed magazine to read stories about women and to find delicious recipes.


You can access links about my experiences writing for the print magazine here.

An American Educator's Thoughts on Girl Rising
Writing for an Inspiring Business Women's Magazine

03 April 2015

Turning My CV Into a Resume

Asked recently to provide my resume to our organization's files for new board members to learn more about our staff, I reluctantly submitted my ten page curriculum vita because I didn't have a traditional resume. My CV has worked for a career in teaching, but as I continue in the world of education nonprofit, the situation demands a more traditional resume. For the past several weeks I've been thinking and working to create a resume. I read What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles, visited multiple websites, and spent hours over a few weekends distilling my professional career experience and skills into a shorter three pages (still not the ideal 1-2 pages, I know).

I found it difficult to admit that all my conference presentations and teacher publications don't mean anything in my new world. Seriously, I love public speaking, facilitating learning sessions, teaching, sitting on panels, writing curricular documents, and serving on review boards for various topics, and these things apparently don't really matter in my new world. Sadness. At least at first. When I got over myself about this though, I realized that an organization might not care about my academic persona as much as they care about what I can do for the organization. So, I tried to highlight specific skills such as grant management, supervisory experience, and strategic planning instead.

Likely, with one complete draft, I've only just begun this resume writing process, and since I'm not searching for a new job (I love the one I have), my new resume is not specific for a particular job search. If you're curious though or if resume writing is your speciality, and you'd like to provide me some feedback, you can see my ten page CV here and my new three page resume here. (I left my street address off both documents for privacy purposes, but I do know that and my telephone number should be added if I ever submit this for a job search.)

What do you think? Do you have a CV or a resume? Have you ever tried to turn a CV into a resume? Please share your thoughts so I can continue learning.

29 March 2015

Sunday Salon: What I Read Online February 23-March 29

A month of balancing out of state travel and family life leaves me full of good online reads to share. Obviously, I won't be sharing everything here or the blog post would be way too long, but here are some of my favorites in the past month.
The hotel in Seattle where we met for our NT3 Learning Session 

New Ways of Thinking About School

I Wish Someone Had Intervened  by Heather Costaras conveys the story of a young girl whose needs are not being met in a traditional sit still school environment. Posts like these further emphasize the reason I remain in public education. We've got to make some changes for kids.

Every Child Deserves a World Class Education. Check out the #UpforSchool campaign.

In this post, an NBCT explains how she persevered through the National Board Certification Process even when it was tough.

Yet another reason to re-think our school models--Suspended Students Lose Millions of Days of Instruction While Out of School, a Washington Post article by Donna St. George.

We Should Be Teaching Our Students Like Yoda Taught Luke, a terrific article about personalized education by Vicki Phillips in Wired.

In The Power of Professional Capital by Andrew Hargreaves and Michael Fullan I learned about other countries in the world who treat their teachers like professionals who build a better nation. We can do this, America! It means we have to change our ways of thinking about teachers and teaching though.

Why I Quit Teaching by Adam Kirk Edgerton serves as an excellent reminder of why teachers should be treated like the professional adults they are.

Students at this School in NYC Get Jobs, Not Grades
. Imagine the possibilities if we would think about making this type of school more accessible to more students in America.

Teenagers need playtime too. Nothing reminds me of this more than my own sons who consistently complain about how much they have to sit still at school.

The power of we in distributed leadership models within schools. Read this article if you care about new ways of leadership in our public schools.

Women, Leadership, and Self-Improvement

Read about amazing women who have accomplished much in life and also think about why we still need more women in particular fields Women's Work: Why We Need More Women in Media by Paula Kerger.

The 7 Habits of Truly Genuine People was a good reminder to me as I think about improving myself as a person and leader.

I've been thinking lately about the important connection between leaders and readers, so I found a few articles online on the topic including this one titled Is Reading Boring?

Though I'm not hugely into fashion, the article For Michelle Obama, Clothes That Lean In caught my attention because of the focus on Mrs. Obama wearing appropriate clothes for her mission to promote girls' education worldwide, and I certainly am into that.

This App Makes Your Phone Buzz When You Approach Places Where Women Made History. Not much else to say. Love it.

For fun & because I like to travel and enjoy watching Kentucky basketball...
Though it was a close call last night when Kentucky played Notre Dame, I read this second article a week earlier--Kentucky basketball is huge around here, and the biggest story right now relates to the historic number of wins. John Clay claims Kentucky will go all the way unbeaten. Of course, it's always fun to see Kentucky reflected positively in The New York Times.

As we continue planning our family summer vacation to Colorado, this article from The New York Times caught my attention since we will be staying in Steam Boat Springs for a large portion of our trip. The restaurant sounds lovely, and I look forward to trying the delicious sounding foods mentioned.

A view of the Space Needle from my room
Seattle, Washington remains one of my favorite cities in America to visit, and fortunately, I had the luxury of working there most of last week.

My work in the past week highlighted again the importance of teacher leadership. In our third learning session of the Network to Transform Teaching (NT3), we shared ideas across states and we made specific goals around the two aims. Read more about that work here.

I appreciated the focus on improved learning experiences for students as the reason why we need teachers leading in our schools and districts.

17 March 2015

Thoughts on The Opposite of Loneliness

Browsing the newly released books in our small town local bookstore, I paused in my tracks upon seeing a book jacket portraying a young woman in a yellow pea coat smiling brightly. When I picked up The Opposite of Loneliness and read the back cover, I was instantly jarred to read renowned Yale Professor, Harold Bloom, refer to the book’s author in the past tense. “I will never cease mourning the loss of my beloved former student Marina Keegan.“

The passing of a young woman leaves me thinking about what could have been—the talent, the beauty of a writer and reader of literature. I didn’t know Marina or even of her until the release of her book, but I was drawn to this young woman’s story because it reminded me of one of my former students, Morgan, who also died instantly in a car accident a year and a half after Marina’s tragic accident.

Instead of dwelling on what could have been, I find comfort in reading the writing left behind by Marina. A lover of nonfiction myself, I quickly read her short stories, aiming to speed through the nine works of fiction so I could feast on my favorite nonfiction. But then something happened while I was reading. Marina’s stories took me to different places, both literal and figurative, and I found myself devouring her fiction with rapid intensity.

From “Winter Break” in suburban Michigan when Addie is home from college on vacation hooking up with her boyfriend and visiting her parents as their marriage declines to “Reading Aloud” where Anna, an older woman, calls on Sam, a man who is blind, to read aloud to him his mail, his textbooks, his cooking directions. Marina’s writing transports us into the lives of ordinary people carrying on with life. The vast differences in the subject matter of the nine short stories struck me because some of the stories surely required research as they were well thought out beyond Marina’s 22 years. The stories conveyed a sense of hope, a hope we find when we connect with people. A feeling, the opposite of loneliness, that Marina found at Yale.

 In the essay with the same title as the book, The Opposite of Loneliness, optimism abounds. "We're so young. We're so young. We're twenty-two years old. We have so much time." Marina's last essay, written for the Yale Daily News upon her graduation went viral. Indeed, Professor Bloom's assessment of her talent reminds us of the "extraordinary promise that departed with her."
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