Teaching financial literacy to students? Sure makes ‘cents’!

This year, the New Jersey Department of Education released revised standards that make financial literacy a requirement for all public school students. While I am fortunate that we had many lessons in place before the mandate, we will never say no to a great opportunity to learn more and in an innovative way.

On April 24, 5th & 7th grade students from LAC school were featured on a nationally televised webinar on financial literacy. The webinar was hosted by Steve Stewart, a financial coach who consults in St. Louis, MO. It was a fantastic experience, full of great information about how to save, how to spend, and those evil credit cards!

Like many of these great opportunities to participate, I found this out through a friend on Twitter. The power of the PLN and being a connected educator never EVER ceases to amaze me.  Had I not been connected, I would have never been able to arrange something like this in such a short period of time, if at all.

Handouts from the presentation can be found by going to the lesson on his website.

For additional information on Steve Stewart, click here.

Don’t vote for me; vote for WE! #BammyAwards

The Bammy Awards is a cross-discipline honor that identifies and acknowledges the extraordinary work being done across the entire education field every day — from teachers, principals and superintendents, to school nurses, support staff, advocates, researchers, school custodians, early childhood specialists, education journalists, parents and students. The Bammy Awards were created to help reverse the negative national narrative that dominates the education field.

For the second consecutive year, I am humbled and honored to be nominated in the Superintendent category.  I was nominated by Steven Santilli, a middle school Principal and BAMMY winner, who shares the same ideals as I do:

-Boots on the ground

-Making decisions on what is BEST for our learners

-No limits, No excuses

After hearing about the nomination, I took at look at those fellow Superintendents who are nominated, and feel that I don’t even belong on this list. You have some incredible movers-and-shakers who  have the drive, bleed the passion, and deserve the recognition.  Staying on that note, I’m taking an off-beat approach to the voting cycle; don’t vote for me, vote for WE!

Wait, what does that mean?

It means as long as you vote, you’re partaking in something awesome for others. You’re giving someone the chance to be recognized in a GOOD way; you’re letting an educator who is connected and who is doing wonderful things in public education be placed on the pedestal that he/she belongs on. WE are all educators looking to achieve the same goal; to ensure that every learner does just that… learns.

To quote the creators of the Bammy’s: “Perhaps the greatest threat facing all educators today is the relentless national criticism of America’s public schools. The national narrative that is driving the negative public perception of education is leading to a decrease in public confidence and calls for reduced financial support. Today, educators face intense scrutiny and criticism, while what is right in American education is largely ignored.

The Bammy Awards is a cross-discipline honor that identifies and acknowledges the extraordinary work being done across  the entire education field every day– from teachers, principals and superintendents, to school nurses, support staff, advocates, researchers, school custodians, early childhood specialists, education journalists,  parents and students.  The Bammy Awards were created to help reverse the negative national narrative that dominates the education field.

The Bammy Awards acknowledge that teachers can’t do it alone and don’t do it alone. The Awards aim to recognize the collaborative nature of education, to encourage respect in and across the various domains, to raise the profile and voices of the many undervalued and unrecognized people who are making a difference in the field and to elevate educators, education and the value of life-long learning in the public eye.”

So please, take a few moments and vote for SOMEONE for this year’s Bammy Awards. You know you had/have a teacher, administrators, Board Member, or someone in the education field that influenced your life in a positive way.

Do it for them.  Get started now: click here to vote.


Can we get back to the #chat, please?

Image credit: http://preventionlifestyles.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/infomercial-guy.jpg

We’ve all seen them (but yet we don’t admit to).  Those rediculous info-mercials that promise to make you lose every ounce of fat, clean every item you’ve ever had, and deliver millions of dollars to you by flipping real estate.  You may even even bought a few (I’m guilty – I can’t tell you how many exercise videos or nutrition plans I’ve purchased).  Recently, I’ve noticed a new trend on twitter amongst some PLN members – relelntless bombardment of self-promotion.

What happened to educators talking about education?

What happened to people joining and having a conversation?

What happened to the learning?

For a few months, I’ve been in a chat, and then get a tweet along the lines of “buy my book at ______” or others where every other tweet on their account is simply “please register for _____ and see me at ____”.  Really?!

I know some are young and hungry to take the next step, and some are happy to be published… but do you have to clog everyone’s feed with a tweet about a discount code off of a conference or a link to buy your book?

Stick to the basics.  We know you do this and that.  If we want more information, we’ll go to your website, or we’ll even DM you.

Sure, I can unfollow you, but I don’t want to do that.  At one point, you had TONS of GREAT stuff on your feed.  No, it’s just advertising. I’m hoping, and sticking around, to get back to the message.

OK, I feel better 🙂 Now you can see me present at… oh wait…


It’s #BammyAwards nominating season — BREAK THE SILENCE!

Help Us Find Them & Break the Silence >>>>

What If Everyone Really Knew?

How would education change if everybody really knew what teachers, principals, all school staff and students are doing daily? Much of the great work being done in our schools every day by teachers, administrators, school staff, parents and students is unknown to the general public. The exceptional commitment, extraordinary contributions and innovative collaborations among educators around the nation are generally hidden and unrecognized. This largely persists because a culture of humility has created a climate of silence.

Today, changing conditions, a new culture of transparency and the need to share best practices and inspire others is breaking the historical silence among educators.

Your Stories Matter

  • “Because we believe that our story is worth telling, we are actively seeking out forums through which to tell it. And while the national media continues to blather on about the education crisis… we are changing the story, bit by bit. We are being the change we wish to see. You can, too.” – Shawna Coppola, Literacy specialist
  •  “But until we take control of the story, others will write it for us. Teachers need to be sharing the good news of education.” – Craig Williams, a 22-year teaching veteran
  • “We also need to add our voices to places that offer inspiring ideas and uplifting stories from those that best exemplify what it means to be a teacher.” – Brian Sztabni, High school teacher
  •  “A critical mass of media-savvy educators shouting their positive results from the proverbial rooftops can echo far and wide. So let’s elevate teacher voices!” – Flora Lerenman, Elementary school teacher

Movers and Shakers

This year a passionate network of educators and education organizations are working together to encourage educators in every sector of the community to share the stories of the great things happening in their schools.
Example 1 | Example 2 | Example 3 | Example 4 | Example 5

We all know amazing teachers, principals, superintendents, school nurses, engaged parents, school librarians, school custodians and caring school staff. Taking a moment to nominate any educator is validating to the entire education community, creates enormous good will and helps tell the stories of the great things happening in our schools.  Use the button to make a nomination and grab the code below to place the “Break the Code” video on your web site. Your stories matter!

Proud to be joining the innovateNJ community!

The New Jersey Department of Education, Office of School Innovation is pleased to announce the inaugural members of the newly formed innovateNJ Community. The Division of Innovation launched the innovateNJ Community initiative and website in spring of 2014 as part of the Department’s goal to support schools and districts in the exploration and implementation of innovative instructional practices and programs.

This list is comprised of ten school districts that have demonstrated significant efforts in improving the learning experiences and outcomes through the use of innovative next generation models of instruction that are student-centered and promote college- and career-readiness. The innovateNJ Community members were selected from a group of districts and charter schools who responded to the innovateNJ Community application and were able to articulate a strategic vision that incorporates innovation and demonstrated a capacity to implement their vision and a commitment to the work of the Community. The Department is thankful to each of the selected districts, not only for the work they are doing to support innovation in their classrooms, but for their commitment to this state-wide initiative. We are also aware that there are many more districts and schools across the state that are developing and implementing innovative practices and programs, and we encourage them to participate in future application rounds for the innovateNJ Community or in other innovation initiatives identified on the innovateNJ website (http://www.state.nj.us/education/innovateNJ).

This post is for you, Dad; I’m dropping my red pen.

I promised everything on here, so here it is.

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My father died last Friday. He was 61. Thankfully, I never knew him with that mustache.

My Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on the second day I was at my new position as a Superintendent.  He went in for an emergency surgery known as a whipple (which is suppose to have a 50% survival rate), but the cancer was still around.  He could have opted for chemo, but he chose not to.  For almost three years, he suffered.  The suffering has finally come to an end.

I flew down the day of and began making arrangements.  In between logistics, I began filtering through all of his things.  My dad must have had at least ten laptops.  Why? I have no idea.  As I was destroying hard drives, I came across his most current laptop – – he actually used this one for the past three years! I logged in and see if this could be salvageable for my mom (who still yearns for Word Perfect… nuff said).  In it, I saw that not only did he have a twitter account, I saw that he was an avid reader of my blog.  I never knew.

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The more I clean, the more I was reminded of who he was. He was the epitome of a blue-collar worker. A tool-and-dye maker by trade, he worked hard and tried his best.  Like all relationships, we had our moments. Adolescence was no picnic – and occasional sibling rivalry was present – but, he always tried.

Dad was not the fan of school.  He wasn’t dumb; school just wasn’t his thing. He was a bit of a rebel as a teen – he wasn’t a fan of ‘The Fuzz’ either.  So when I told him that I wanted to either be a cop or a teacher, he just thought it was me being a punk.

In my first year teaching, my Dad often saw me grading papers with the infamous red pen.  He hated it.  In fact, during just about every conversation I’ve had with him since I started teaching, he asked if I stopped using the red pen to grade.  He never really shared much other than “everyone should get an A” and “knock it off with all of that red ink”.  I found some report cards from when he was elementary and junior high school.  I understand.  His report cards were laced with red ink (D’s and F’s).

As a Superintendent, I typically only use my red pen to sign forms. To honor my Dad, I’m going to be retiring my red pens.  I was infamous for a green signature for a numbers of years (thanks to my 6th grade music teacher)  – looks like I’ll be making my way back to such.

On a fun note, I can see where I get my need for organization and properly labeling everything.  My Dad had a knack for the label maker – and I got to experience it in the flesh.  The best thing I found labeled: a lantern.  Because if we all go out with our lanterns, it’s paramount that he get his lantern back 🙂


Rest easy, Dad. I hope you continue to read and lurk; I hope you continue your passion for cooking (even though you only ate hamburgers and hotdogs); I hope you keep an eye on me as we all move forward.

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Flipped School Board Meeting

Pretty cool. Any Supts interested?

Adjusting Course

Background Information: We believe that the most important voices in a school are those of its students; they are central to our mission.  The purpose for highlighting pedagogy via video is to amplify student voice when we are together in person.  We want the walls of the Wayzata City Hall to reverberate with authentic student sharing and stories about their learning experiences at Greenwood Elementary.

Providing content prior to a lesson or presentation is often referred to as “flipped” instruction.  We’re applying the same basic principles to maximize our face-to-face time and to facilitate deeper conversation at the School Board meeting.  Please watch our five minute video before April 13.

Focus: Meaningful Technology Integration

Learning Targets:

  • I can identify at least two approaches teachers are using to help students discover their unique talents.
  • I can evaluate how students are experiencing a “connected pedagogy” by articulating how technology is being used to…

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