Posted by: iplantes | October 19, 2014

Connections make learning more impactful #edscape reflection

As always happens when I spend a day of learning and connecting at a conference, my head spends some time processing what I learned.  Yesterday was another Saturday, another day that my time was spent learning and engaging in professional development…it was awesome.  I spent the day at Edscape, a fabulous day orchestrated by Eric Sheninger that kicked off with an amazing keynote by Josh Stumpenhorst.  As my Twitter followers will attest, I couldn’t stop sharing out pieces of what he conveyed about pushing thinking around what we do as educators with, for, and to our students.  That was followed up by an impactful talk by Lyn Hilt that again filled my twitter feed with key points to consider on today’s face of in district/school professional development.

The drive home had my brain putting all the pieces together….but there was something different in my mind than just the content and concepts I learned.  It is something that I have noticed more and more of late after I attend conferences, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  Then I just read two great reflections by educators I value, Chris Casal and Starr Sackstein and reflected back to a post I did after EdCampNJ and it clicked. Chris and Starr were sharing what I was feeling.  It wasn’t just about the conference, which in and of itself made the day so worthwhile with amazing educators sharing, it was about the connections.

After EdCampNJ and EdCampNYC last fall, I was able to meet in person people I had been connecting with on Twitter, and add a few more to that list.  It was truly amazing to meet these people in person….but as the months went on these people went from not just being an occasional connection, to people I truly call friends.  I knew the shift began when we all started not just connecting on Twitter, which for most of us is the professional space, but also on Facebook and Instagram.  I recall it being kind of funny when it started happening, but these people are amazing and I truly feel lucky to have them in my life.  So why does this matter with a conference?  It’s the connections that make the day even more impactful.

I used to go in a conference, know no one, quietly go through the day of learning, eat lunch quietly with others who were doing the same, and go home to put all the days thoughts together on my own.  Yesterday I got up early to drive eagerly to join Brad Currie, Billy Krakower and Scott Rocco on #satchat.  I walked in the door and gave hugs to Starr Sackstein, and even Ross Cooper (he was just glad I brought pizza!) They along with Sandra PaulElissa Elliott Malespina, Rob Pennington, Jared Wastler, Chris Casal and Amy Traggianese, along with all the valued educators I mention in this post, became key parts in my day as we talked, tweeted, threw in some snarky fun, and just connected in the live space, as well as the virtual space.  We discussed sessions to attend, what we wanted others to share with us from sessions we were not in, and lunch was spent in dialogue of what we had learned so far, what we were attending for the afternoon, what our personal/professional lives were up to. We attended each other’s presentations to engage, to document for the virtual world, and to support each other.  At the wrap up we engaged in #selfies just to document our fun and friendships.

All along the day conversations were had about sessions, about the greater extensions of that, about our own professional lives and how we can support each other in that.  Twice in the day a simple tweet had the very generous and kind-spirited Kyle Calderwood giving me things! (Susan Bearden he needs another TweechMe pin now!) It was amazing.  The impact of being a connected educator means attending conferences is so much more engaging.  I can talk with others to process ideas, collaborate on what it all connects to, and discuss ways to bring it home.  The day then extends with our tweets, posts, Voxer chats and such as we continue the conversations.  It makes a day of learning so much more.

Even at a post conference get together, the conversations were on what we heard, what we saw, what next conference would people be at, what book should they write, what presentation people could do together at another event…it was still about education, learning, students, and what impact we all could continue to make…and make together.

So thank you to all the amazing educators who are part of my PPLN (Personal and Professional Learning Network).  You all make me a better educator and make my life that much sweeter.


Posted by: iplantes | October 14, 2014

Today was one of those days…

From the title you probably think I am going to lament on the woes of a weary day….so wrong.  Today was one of those days that solidify why I love being a teacher.

“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.” ~ Marian Wright Edelman

My day began with an email from a parent, quite unusual for our school as each child has an advisor but the email began…”(my child) wanted me to email you directly since he feels most comfortable with you.”  The nature of what it was about and why is not the story…it’s not what made it “One of those days”… it was the meaning behind that first sentence.  I only came to know this student last year in class, where I had him once a day, and was a so glad to get back again this year, but again only once a day.  But apparently in all those once a days in his day of many interactions, I got to make a difference.

There is nothing more powerful than to find out that in the simple interactions, you make an impactful difference. Apparently all the while of working on comprehension strategies, building study skills and vocabulary knowledge, and work on executive function tactics, along with all the other academic dealings we had… there was a rapport building that was so meaningful to this student, he trusted me to help in this trying time get into his day and cope with a situation, and I had no idea.  This student knew that I would go to bat for him, support him, and guide him to get through.

I feel I have done nothing special with this student, I actually find days wishing I could do more, but I wasn’t looking at the right picture.  He didn’t need more strategies and skills (well okay he does but…) he needed someone he felt was in his corner.  That was not a lesson I directed or taught, but he has turned around and taught me.

So today was one of those days, when I remember why I am a teacher, why I do what I do…I teach reading, I teach writing, and all those other academic things teachers do…but in the end when you find out you have reached a student…really reached a student to make a greater impact, then you have done the job that matters most.

So while I got the thank yous from him and his mom, I truly thank them for making me feel so proud to be his go to person and his teacher. It is so humbling and meaningful.

“You really can change the world if you care enough.”~ Marian Wright Edelman

I add that I included quotes from Marian Wright Edelman for I immediately thought of her book today: The Measure of Our Success. For while receiving there recent honor from The Academy of Educations Arts and Sciences and definitely humbled by that….this incident today is more powerful. This day was a measure of my success and impacting students that I interact with each day.  So I dedicate my honor to this student, for he and others that cross my threshold are the inspiration for my dedication to education and the needs of students with learning differences.


 As usually happens with interactions on Twitter, especially during chats, a connection, idea, and motivation develops.  This past Saturday (10/12/14) #satchat, not unusually, led to one of those moments.  The conversation centered around engaging stakeholders for the benefit of students.  A question arose as to how the greater community could be involved, and given recent experiences, I immediately threw out the idea of a local version of the Bammy Awards. 
The Bammy Awards are the brainchild of Errol St. Clair Smith who founded the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences:
The Academy exists solely to recognize what is right in education by identifying, honoring and celebrating the collective contributions of professionals, paraprofessionals and support staff across the entire education community.
I hadn’t really thought about how that would occur, but as is the amazing part of chats and a rocking #PLN, Steve Guditus (@sguditus) jumped on it and asked how could the concept be imagined into a reality. I thank him for collaborating on this post to contemplate just that….

 The Story: Honor and Celebrate Locally

Educators are not ones to naturally go seeking recognition for what they do.  Given their general nature, they seek to highlight the accomplishments of their students, their schools, not themselves.  When a community recognizes its schools, students and educators for the hard work and dedication, it acknowledges the value and importance of student, educator and community growth and success.  This could not be a reality without the guidance and support of our local school committees, school boards, communities, parents/guardians, educators, and most of all, our students.

Too often the reports out of schools are when an educator does something wrong.  It is so easy for those stories to take down the greater good going on in education.  For every one person in the news, there are so many others doing amazing things in education every day.  What change could happen to a school, a district, a community if the stories regularly being told were about the educators who deserve recognition not retribution?  What if we highlighted the ongoing growth, commitment and risk-taking that goes on in our schools everyday? 

Leaders in local communities need to follow Errol’s role to find that path, for it can only better the collective whole of stakeholders.  The empowerment it would give educators to do even more is evident from those who blogged about their experiences of being nominated for and attending the Bammys.  Principal Ben Gilpin shared how the whole experience he kept quiet at first but in the end:   “I was proud to represent Warner Elementary, I was proud to represent The Western School District and I was proud to be an educator.  As I look back, the Bammy’s were about much more than me.  It was about our staff, students, community and my supportive family.”  Todd Nesloney  additionally shared “I dedicated the award I was given to every child out there who dreams big.  To my students.”   These are the people that should be put on the news, have stories written about on the front page of local papers, who should be the focus of chatter among parents and community leaders.

Together, Sharon LePage Plante (@iplante) and Steve Guditus (@sguditus) challenge you to create a local Bammys award.
 A few ideas:
  • Request nominations from educators, students, parents/guardians and community members
  • Celebrate successes at:
    • School Committee/School Board meetings
    • Staff meetings
    • After school meetings/receptions
    • Early release/late starts
    • Community based-sponsor (restaurant/community center)
    • Town meetings
  • Ask for donations from the community to fund and recognize
  • Publicize with local media outlets


This part is up to you. Please share your thoughts and ideas on how to bring educator recognition and acknowledgement of what is good in education to the forefront of local conversation. Additionally, share steps you move ahead with to inspire others to make this a reality.  Make the story have an ending that extends the passion behind what the Bammy Awards are intended to foster, and include so many more dedicated educators in the process of being acknowledged for the dedicated work being done for students.  Let’s change the conversations to the positives of education.
Posted by: iplantes | October 12, 2014

Would you want to be a teacher in your district?

Originally posted on Ross Cooper:

I was recently out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant with a friend, and I was asked if I was enjoying my dish (Mexican chicken mole, which was excellent, by the way). I quickly replied something to the effect of, “Yes! I would order it again.” In my mind, whether or not someone would order the same food again is the true litmus test in determining if the food is truly worthwhile. Now, while eating I was thinking about all that has been taking place in my school district, where I am an assistant principal. Then, somehow I managed to make a connection between “Would you order the same food again?” to “Would you want to be a teacher in your district?” The latter question is the litmus test for whether or not an administrator is happy in the district for which he works. (See the connection?)

So, here are…

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Originally posted on Dyslexic Advantage Blog:

Whether a person believes that intelligence is something that can develop and grow (growth mindset) vs. a trait that is fixed and unchanging can have profound effects on self-perception, motivation, and ultimately achievement. The pioneer of the psychology of mindsets is Dr Carol Dweck at Stanford and she is having a free online streaming talk next Tuesday. Register for the Dweck Mindset Research Roundtable HERE. Understanding the power of a positive and growth mindset can have dramatic consequences on dyslexic individuals’ approaches to challenges, setbacks, and academic efforts, especially in the K-12 years of education.

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset Dr Carol Dweck Nigel Holmes

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset Dr Carol Dweck by Nigel Holmes

Like to hear more? Check out Dr Dan Peters’ wonderful webinar for Dyslexic Advantage. Dan has the added perspective that he and his wife are both dyslexic as are their wonderful children.  Dan Peters’ webinar on Resilience and Dyslexia.

See more of Nigel Holmes fantastic…

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I am honored by June Behrmann for this amazing blog post:

A 2014 Bammy Winner’s Targeted Instruction Juggles Tech with An Evidence-Based Approach

Posted by: iplantes | October 1, 2014

A Night to Education

So my head is still spinning and trying to put the pieces of this last weekend

Saturday morning started in DC and my husband and I took off on the days adventures not unlike all the other times we have visited the area. It was a typical day.

Fast forward to late afternoon as we would normally be unwinding from a day of sight-seeing, and we are instead dressing in our finest, something we never do, and gather with others awaiting a limo to head to the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences Bammy Awards

.IMG_0033#edtechchat team @ThomasCMurray @S_Bearden @KatrinaStevens1 @iPlante @ajpodchaski

I recall reading posts last year after the event with people’s concerns and disappointment in how the event went, so I held some trepidation in attending. However I also had excitement to be nominated and to present Edtech awards with my #edtechchat team.

The evening welcomed us with music performed by the Washington Youth Orchestra, and amazing group of student musicians and how appropriate for a room of educators. Eric Sheninger and Kristen Swanson kicked off after a wonderful introduction from Errol St. Claire Smith, Founder of the Academy. I was in awe as the evening went on seeing people I so admire get recognized as finalist and winners in their categories.  The privilege I felt being in that audience among so many amazing people from all aspects of education was overwhelming.


The addition of the i3Talks were so inspirational.  Educators were selected to give 3 minute TEDTalk like presentations that were insightful, funny, invigorating, and inspiring.  The evening was a true tribute to education. I was proud to be an educator and I was humbled by being considered among the people being award for I see them as leaders in the global education conversation to truly impact learning for students.


Errol St. Claire Smith

I was nominated in two categories, one with my rockstar #edtechchat team, who inspire me daily, and in the special ed category.  While I had my fingers crossed for my #edtechchat team, as they are an amazing group of people I feel honored to be part of, I did not even consider my chances in the special ed award.  I am relatively new to this bigger realm of educators and considered it just lucky to be a finalist….and yet I was given the honor of the 2014 Bammy Award as Special Needs Staff.

So what did I learn that evening…that there are many awesome educators across the country that I value as part of my #PLN.  There are also many awesome educators who need to be recognized for their efforts, achievements and accomplishments more regularly.  For if this educator, a simple teacher who has combined her love of working with kids with learning disabilities and technology can be privileged to attend a red carpet event and some how get honored, then the Academy is on the path to reach places far and wide to highlight great things in education.

IMG_0064  With Errol St. Clair Smith

What does it mean to me now to be honored, it means I have a greater mission to make more of a difference for students and education.  This award isn’t about me (while I did enjoyed a glass of champagne and a fun celebration at my school) it’s about my students at Eagle Hill Southport, it’s about students in any classroom across the country that need support in their learning process.  I will take this 5 seconds of fame to try to be a greater steward in the grand movement of #dyslexia #assistivetech #adhd and other areas concerning Special Education.  I do what I do because it is what I care about passionately.  If this platform can for a short time give a greater voice to what students with learning disabilities need and how education needs to change to benefit them, then I must try…for them.

As part of the Council of Peers for the Academy, I will do my best to nominate other educators for the 2015 Bammy Awards, for there are many that need the same night of inspiration, invigoration, and honor that this years honorees experienced.  Thank you to the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences for a night that truly made education shine.

Posted by: iplantes | August 7, 2014

Teacher Leaders at #EdcampLdr 105:365


I thank Brian for being such an integral part of the conversation Billy and I set out to facilitate at EdCampLeadership.

Originally posted on Teach Between The Lines:

This was the best open conversation session I took part in during the day.  It was inspiring to see and hear from so many leaders working at different capacities in the school.  It was equally exciting to have a handful of teachers stepping up and sharing their experiences in being leaders and the obstacles they face.

I have interacted with Billy Krakower and Sharon LePage Plante via twitter a few times before this day.  I knew them as intelligent, passionate educators.  Having this conversation with them in person built that greatly.  Talking about teacher leadership with them and others made me feel a connection that I had not experienced with other teacher leaders before that day.

Being a teacher leader often puts you in the middle.  On one hand you were working closely with administrators to develop and implement ideas that make the school better or fill needs, on the…

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Posted by: iplantes | July 13, 2014

Twitter is Google for Educators

I know many of you read the title are were thinking, “Huh? I don’t use Twitter the same ways as Google.”  Courtesy of, consider the following definition:

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 1.15.27 PM


Amazing how a company name, is now an action verb, and one that is part of common culture.  We google anything and everything.  I google solutions to tech issues, hiking trails in the area to try, and what to make for dinner with what is left in the refrigerator.  It is so easy to find answers to so many different things with just a few clicks of the keyboard.

However, on Friday Nancy Blair (@blairteach) inspired my thoughts for the focus of this post:Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 1.27.11 PM

I saw this post and responded with a few tips from my personal experiences recently with Bluetooth connectivity issues.  Luckily, these ideas helped Nancy solve her problem.   This interaction is not unusual I realized.  Just a day before I had posted:

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 1.31.37 PM


Within minutes, I heard from Robert Kelly (@robertk600) who was willing to connect and share his experiences.  Later that night during #isedchat (Independent School Ed Chat) with Lorri Caroll (@lcaroll94) a per chance side conversation led to Mark Crotty (@crottymark) also becoming a great resource to my call for information.

Daily there are questions and requests going between the wonderful educators that connect on Twitter.  There are calls for study participation, Mystery Skypes, global classroom collaborations, and reply tweets to show the worldwide scope of Twitter.  Educators answer without a further thought, but to be helpful, just as we would for questions from students in our schools.  That is who we are and what we do.  What I realized is that Twitter is that place to search for answers just like Google.  Getting answers and information is one of the powerful components of Twitter, along with the power that a #PLN (Personal Learning Network) can provide to discuss and collaborate solutions.

On Twitter we are all experts and we are all learners.  There are people who have experiential knowledge, areas they have explored to build their own learning, and there are those that have studied and built their base of information.  However, none of us has all the answers.  What we do have in the connected education community is the power to share and learn from each other for the betterment of our students, our colleagues, and the education field as a whole.  So next time you have a question or need some inspiration don’t “Google It”, but rather “Twitter It”!  You will not only find a supportive base of information, you will likely make some wonderful new connections.




Posted by: iplantes | June 21, 2014

Educators Field of Dreams: will you come?

“If you build it they will come”

Funny watching a piece on the 25th anniversary of “Field of Dreams” this week, how iconic that phrase has become. In today’s education field there is a lot of building going on…for teachers and for students. Not necessarily in the physical brick and mortar sense, but technologically. There are networks, access points, BYODs, 1-1s, acceptable use documents, and academic integration projects just to name a few. These are built to engage and enhance learning and instruction for all learners. Differentiation and accessibility are more easily addressed, with common place, everyday tools becoming the way to bring #UDL (universal Design for Learning) back to a forefront of conversation. We are building the face of today’s education, and the students come everyday to find their dreams.

With Edcamps, Twitter chats and Google Hangouts, the new field of professional development is being built right in the dugout. Educators are building teams of #PLNs (Personal Learning Networks), weekly Twitter chats and @voxer groups to chat and share! They are connecting in 140 characters, over wifi, over hills, mountains, seas and time zones. Just see the list of chats complied by @cybrayman. Educators taking to the field to build their own professional development and they are building for others. But do others dream to come?

A common theme being discussed is how to get others in our buildings to come to this dream of the future for students and education. The field may be right outside their door, but they do not come, they do not engage. The glove, bat and ball may be put in their hands as they had hoped, but they still want someone else to do the catching and hitting for them. Daily teachers hope that students will find the personal motivation to want to learn and grow, but are they modeling that? Technology is making it easier to make it around the bases for students, but is doing the same for teachers too.

I am continually amazed to see and hear about educators who have it built for them, but do not arrive. It is hard to learn and grow, but no learning can happen if you don’t even take the field or come up to the plate. The amount of opportunity to find professional development is today’s field of dreams…are you coming to it?

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The EdVenturist!

Speaker, consultant, public policy & leadership advocate for students, teachers, & learning differences like dyslexia....

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