05 July 2015

Women in Wyoming Equality State

A red-haired retiree (Liz) from Oregon greeted us when we began our guided tour of the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historical Site. We learned Liz and her husband travel around the USA volunteering at various historical sites. When we met them at the end of June, they had been in Laramie, Wyoming only since May. Lucky for us, our guide's love of history made for an interesting tour of the facility and grounds.
Wyoming Territorial Prison

One of my favorite parts about our visit included learning about women in Wyoming, including these interesting facts shared with us by our guide as I asked her questions about women's rights in the state.
  •  In 1869 Women in Wyoming were granted the right to vote, and Eliza Swain of Laramie cast the first vote.
  • Nationwide the first female Justice of the Peace was in Wyoming.
  • Wyoming elected the first female governor in our country in 1924.
  • Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cody Stanton traveled to "the land of freedom" in 1871 via the Transcontinental Railroad.
While there were some female prisoners housed among infamous outlaws such as Butch Cassidy, the woman who captured my attention on our visit was May Preston Slosson, who was one of the few women granted the right to purse a PhD at Cornell University before the twentieth century. She served as Chaplain at the prison from 1899-1903. She was also an advocate of the women's suffrage movement.
Replica of wagon used to transport the prisoners

Slosson gave many speeches about her time as a female chaplain in Wyoming--The Equality State and proclaimed "a woman's rights to absolute equality with a man, in education, financial independence, social and political opportunities." She eventually moved to New York City with her husband and there remained a strong advocate for brining a better world for women, even marching in the 1917 Women's Suffrage Parade.
Slosson was a painter, poet, teacher, speaker, and advocate for women
Other reasons to appreciate Slosson include the facts that she was an artist and had a love of learning and knowledge.  She "cherished books, especially literature and poetry." She at one point taught at at Hastings College in Nebraska and believed that her one gift, one thing she could do--"I could sway an audience."

We spent only 24 hours of our vacation in Wyoming, but I must say it was an experience not to forget, with the massive amounts of open land and the history represented in Laramie. 
Wide open land in Wyoming
I'll leave you with a photo of a beautiful sunset from our one night in Wyoming and a quote from May Slosson "Literature has been the passion of my life, my chief recreation and a resource when in trouble. A long walk under the open sky is reading's only rival."

Sunset in Laramie, Wyoming

25 June 2015

Hiking Upper Fish Creek Falls in Steamboat Springs Colorado

Fish Creek Falls
Amazing sites and a steep hike topped our day yesterday as we hiked Upper Fish Creek Falls in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Our hike started off easy with a 1/4 mile hike to an overlook for viewing the beautiful Fish Creek Falls where we snapped photos and stood in awe of the 300 foot waterfall. Refreshed, happy, and at ease with the start of our hike, five of us continued on with the next section of the hike to the first bridge about a 1/2 mile in on a gravel trail. We stopped to look at signs about the various trails and determined that we would hike above the falls, taking us slightly closer to the Continental Divide Trail (since reading about people thru-hiking the trail last year, I've been curious about how close we could get when we ventured to Colorado).

This also provided an opportune learning time for my sons to ask about the Continental Divide. What better way to learn this aspect of geography than hiking within miles of the Great Divide of North America?

From there we began our hike upward on a moderate to difficult hike slowly and steadily gaining elevation. After another 1/2 mile, two members of our group of five decided to turn back because the incline takes a toll on unacclimated lungs. My sons, however, were determined to move forward, and I, too, wanted to challenge myself with a more rigorous heart pumping hike, so we pressed onward with the climb. After approximately 2 more miles of hiking up, we came to another bridge with more incredible views of the water and forest.
Rocky path near the top

From the second bridge we had about another 1/2 mile traverse of rocks to make it to the top of Upper Fish Creek Falls. At times, we climbed using our hands to keep us steady. Making it to the top with my sons was exhilarating (and exhausting). We spent only 10 minutes at the top before climbing back down the rocks and heading the path to the bridge and foot path to the bottom of the falls.
Climbing with our hands
The hike down took us much less time, and my oldest son, a cross-country runner, enjoyed taking the lead and hiking solo to the bottom to meet my husband and his brother who awaited us. Ever the runner and lover of outdoors, he made it to the bottom and came back up to find my younger son and me carefully working our way down the rocky pathway. Seeing him made us smile, knowing we were that much closer to the finish.
The cross-country runner taking a break to wait for us
We experienced feelings of joy, happiness, and accomplishment upon making it back to the first bridge and the bottom of the falls. Elated for the heart pumping and view inspiring experience with my sons, we walked the 1/2 mile back up hill to the parking lot. 3 1/2 hours start to finish. Total elevation 8,770 feet.
Three of us at the top

At the top

23 June 2015

Re-Imagining Public Education: Thoughts on Creative Schools

Nearly three and a half years ago I began this blog with an intense passion about re-imagining public education. During this time, I have continued to learn, encourage, advocate, and speak out about ideas for making school a more enjoyable place for students to learn.

Early posts included Stop Squashing Creativity in Education, written after I saw Sir Ken Robinson speak at NCTE and after I viewed his TED Talk. I offered five ideas for intentional teaching and many of my other posts elaborated on these ideas.

After finishing Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That's Transforming Education, Sir Ken Robinson's newest book, I find myself hopeful and eager to continue the conversations about schooling and transforming the system. While many would say the whole system needs an overhaul, I am interested in Robinson's statement that "it's also essential to make changes within the system as it is." An idea like this means we can begin now, wherever we are.

We can begin changing the conversations, practices, and emphasis we place on test-preparation as a primary means of teaching. We can begin (or continue) listening to students and empowering them to own their learning by providing them choices in what and how they learn. We can involve families and communities in making decisions in our schools to ensure the goals in the schools represent the goals of the larger community. We can redesign school schedules to allow teachers time to collaborate, plan, and create learning experiences for students.

Three of my favorite quotes from the book 

"The fundamental work of schools is not to increase test results but to facilitate learning."
"To transform any situation you need three forms of understanding: a critique of the way things are, a vision of how they should be, and a theory of change for how to move from one to the other."
"Making education personal has implications for the curriculum, for teaching, and for assessment. It involves a transformation in the culture of schools. What does that look like in practice?"
I selected these three quotes to share here because they are the three ideas I've been exploring through blogging for the past several years. 

Since I prefer to be solutions oriented, I suggested that we read up, team up, and speak up. In another post, I suggested that we change the conversation and work toward making schools intellectually engaging and curiosity promoting places where students want to be. Most heart-wrenching in my posts about testing was this post written when my youngest son finished his first year of required state testing and asked me if he could chicken out of testing.

My promise is threefold. I will continue offering a critique of the parts of the public education system not working well for all children. I will continue sharing my vision for change, and I will think more throughly about my theory of change. 

     Whether you've read Creative Schools or not, how do you imagine public education changing? What critique do you offer? What is your vision for change? Your theory of change?


My friend, 
Gwyn, also writes and speaks about creativity in schools. After she read my Stop Squashing Creativity post, we exchanged emails and determined that we share many ideas about the education all students deserve, so I asked Gwyn to guest blog. Her two part post continues to be one of the most read posts at Learning to Muse. Read her two part post here and here


07 June 2015

Sunday Salon: What I Read Online May 2015

Another busy month, but I've also been taking more weekend time to relax and enjoy my family, so my blogging has fallen slightly behind. Anyway, here's some of what I read online in May.


Margaret Hamilton, The Engineer Who Took Apollo to the Moon serves as a reminder of women in STEM.

With so much of the tech world focused on men, a fun and important post to read is Women of Silicon Valley is an Even Cooler 'Humans of New York'

Women in Leadership: Gender Bias and the Confidence Gap by Jennifer Abrams on Peter DeWitt's blog featuring 18 women all K-12 educators should know.

50 Motivational Quotes from Disruptive, Trailblazing, Inspiring Women Leaders

Working with people most interested in preserving the status quo? If so, check out this article titled Thinking Big from Cake & Whiskey's Sip & Slice blog.


Jessica Lahey continues to be one of my favorite authors writing about parenting issues. Check out her post titled: For a Child With Learning Differences, Making Home a Safe Harbor.

Shared with me by my 14-year old son, this video argues video games improve your reaction time.

Reading is Fundamental Combats Summer Slide, another article by Jessica Lahey. This one is relevant to me as a mom and an educator. Plus, I have two friends from the eastern part of our state who both maintain the Book Mobile turned them into readers.

School's Out Forever, a father writes about his views on public education. Worth reading, for sure.

A totally relatable article 40 Things You Should Never Ever Say to Your Teen.

What's Your Teenager Doing This Summer? In Defense of Doing Nothing.

Books and Reading

My book review at Cake & Whiskey. A review of Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis.

Top Favorites by progressive educator, Nicolas Meier, offers suggestions of professional books to read and includes a few of my own favorites.

47 Books Every College Grad Should Read on Buzzfeed Books offers a few titles you may or may not have on your won reading list.

Ali Smith wins Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction for the book titled How to Be Both. Sounds like an interesting read worth adding to my book a week reading list.

Re-imagining school

When magazines such as Wired begin featuring articles about education, you know we've reached a new era in public education. Check out the article Inside the School Silicon Valley Thinks Will Save  Education.

Common Assignment: An Opportunity to Learn From Collaboration and Researched Practice by Brison Harvey explores what happens when teachers are provided time and resources needed to collaborate in designing lessons for students.

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you won't be surprised that this article made my list. Prioritizing the Arts Over Test Prep.

How Not to Get Fired Implementing Next Gen Learning by Tom Vander Ark is well worth your time if you are interested in new ways of teaching and learning.

Students Need Social Studies Now More Than Ever  by Brison Harvey is one of a few social studies posts I read this month, and I'm still working to curate a few since one of the recent #kyedchat conversations focused on social studies.

The CEO of the organization where I work wrote a blog post in honor and appreciation of teachers during teacher appreciation week. Working with someone who values effective teachers is a bonus in my world.

The Kentucky state education commissioner wrote a letter warning my district of state action if they don't improve assistance to low-performing schools, including the school where I used to teach. I'm still working on a blog post on this article because I'm fearful of the actions the district will take as a reaction to the letter.

177 Days encapsulates the reflection and thinking of a thoughtful mathematics teacher, Brooke Powers.

In Big New Idea: Next Generation Instructional Design, Susan Weston shares her thoughts on the newest project I'm leading.

Politicizing AP US History by Daisy Martin argues in favor of comprehensive social studies instruction to continue the importance of helping students know and understand why we should be involved citizens and why we should learn from the past.


Kindergarten Can Wait. Meet Buddy Backpacker the five-year old Appalachian Trail thru-hiker.

Dean Potter Lived Life on the Edge was a never before published article about the late hiker and climber who inspired many before losing his life this spring.

What to do if you see a bear (not really).

Scott Jurek is attempting to beat the current record for the fastest thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail.


NC Bill Could Send Teachers to Jail for Wearing a Red Shirt.

Chinese Billionaire takes 6,400 staff on holiday to Paris.

The Top 25 Hedge Fund Managers Earn More than All the Kindergarten Teachers in the United States.

An Eleven Year Old Graduated from College with Three Different Degrees.

Authorities File Charges Against Family Members Over Loud Cheering at Mississippi Graduation.

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

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