Coffee.Connections.Conversations: How to Host a #CoffeeEDU event

Not too long ago, I read a blog post about creating informal opportunities for educators to come together to discuss topics related to teaching and learning through the concept of a #CoffeeEDU. Aligned to the idea of an EdCamp/Uncoference, the goal of a #CoffeeEDU is to provide impromptu and conversational learning opportunities in a short amount of time. #CoffeeEDU events are limited to 1 hour.

I set out with the support of our district 1:1 Professional Learning sub-committee to launch our first #CoffeeEDU. Creating a plan for a #CoffeeEDU event is as easy as:

  1. Setting a date and time
  2. Establishing a location
  3. Communicating and sharing the event with other educators
  4. Connecting and conversing at the event

Some optional details to assist in creating a successful event can include:

  1. A personalized logo to spread the message. I used Canva to create the one below                                                     
  2. Create signage and guidelines to display at the conversation tables. I pulled the guidelines from the CoffeeEDU site to give direction for conversations and connections.
  3. Conversations and topics should be participant driven as they are in an EdCamp or Unconference, but to give direction and start some conversations off, create Table Talk Cards. I pulled questions from of my favorite professional books to guide the conversations and printed them on strips and laminated them. Books I used as a reference for questions included, “Kids Deserve It,” “Shift This,” and “Innovator’s Mindset.”
  4. Give-a-Ways! I solicited copies of books and gift certificates from a local pizza place to award as raffle prizes.
  5. A hashtag! Be sure to share it at the event and follow the tweets and reflections!
  6. A sign-in sheet or digital platform to collect participant’s information so you can follow up with an email or tweet.
  7. A digital badge to award to attendees following their participation. I used Credly to create a digital badge and the platform also allows you to issue ‘credit’ to participants easily and efficiently.
  8. A sticker to give to attendees for their electronic device with the logo or image from the event. I had 2 inch decals made at our local printing store quickly.

You can view these documents below as well.

Ditch that Textbook Book Study Review

I read “Ditch that Textbook” by Matt Miller early in 2016. It was among several of the “Dave Burgess Consulting” titles that I had on my nightstand. It only took me a short time to finish the book, mark up the pages with post-its and notes and knew I had to share this book with my staff.

With our professional learning days accounted for and the end of the year approaching, I decided to launch a twitter based summer book study that teachers participated in on a voluntary basis. I sent out an email and was floored that the majority of my staff wanted in! We extended the invite to several other teachers and before we knew it we had our staff collaborating with teachers across the country on the topic of revolutionizing their classrooms!

The first week was simply introductions. Teachers shared their position and a selfie of themselves with the book. It was an easy way to get acquainted with the hashtag, meet the educators participating, and dip our toes into the twitter book study waters. The teachers below are just some of those that participated!

The remaining weeks of the book study focused on each chapter of the book. There were opportunities for goal setting, resource sharing, and celebration of success. Teachers shared their favorite educational book titles, hashtags, digital resources, and more. Staff set goals for integrating technology in meaningful ways in the fall. Mystery Skype Sessions, Twitter Chats with authors, Hyperdocs and digital badges were all shared as goals for teachers. It was uplifting to see many ‘likes’ and “retweets” of their posts as others validated their tweets and learned from their posts!

I embedded some digital badges in the study to recognize those that participated as well. A the conclusion of the study, they were awarded a participation certificate (linked below).

It was empowering to see how many educators sought to be connected and learn through the summer months. In Matt’s book he indicates the importance of being connected for so many positive reasons: inspiration, motivation, challenge, camaraderie, apps, humor, and collaboration (pages 97-98). Each of those elements was evident during the book study. As teachers used their time on vacation to learn and grow, they were filling their teacher tool belts and making their classrooms better places to teach and learn!

Parent Lunch and Learn: Sailing the Seas of Literacy

literacy-lunch-and-learnDunlap Grade School hosted its first “Lunch in Learn” of the series on November 16, 2016. The topic of the month was focused on literacy and fostering a love of reading at home. 2nd Grade Teacher, Mrs. Pitzer, facilitated a parent discussion on essentials of reading, ideas, and resources. This event was intended to engage parents in a learning opportunity to extend teaching practices in the home. In addition to the resources shared, parents were given copies of several books to support reading at home! You can view the Facebook LIVE Video HERE

We will continue the Lunch and Learn series in December with the topic of “Educational Gift Giving” on December 14th at 11am.






Environment of Numeracy Strategy: School-Wide Number Talk Padlet

If you give a fifth grade student and a kindergarten student the same number, they will look at it in very different ways based on their mathematical knowledge and understanding. Number Talks are a strategy to develop mathematical thinkers and to interpret numbers in various ways. As a school, we’ve launched a school-wide approach to number talks in which students are presented a number and have to represent it in as many ways as they can. It’s powerful to hear a second grade class review fourth grade posts and comment on their use of multiplication or students in 5th grade begin to use fractions, decimals and negative integers in their posts. A padlet is created each week with a randomly selected number and students add to it and review peer posts as they develop number sense and build on mathematical conversations and collaboration!

Made with Padlet

Title 1 Informational Presentation

I will present information regarding Title 1 Intervention Identification and Intervention Support Services on Tuesday, October 4th. Below is the informational overview that is covered as part of this presentation.

As a parent/guardian of a student at a school receiving funds under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, you have the right to request the professional qualifications of the teachers who instruct your child and the paraprofessionals, if any, who assist them.  You may request the following information about each of your child’s classroom teachers and/or their paraprofessional assistants:

  1. Whether the teacher has met State certification requirements;
  2. Whether the teacher is teaching under an emergency permit or other provisional status by which State licensing criteria have been waived;
  3. The teacher’s college major;
  4. Whether the teacher has any advanced degrees and, if so, the subject of the degrees; and
  5. Whether any instructional aides or paraprofessionals provide services to child and, if so, their qualifications.

If you would like to receive any of this information, please contact Charlotte Ferris ( at the District Office.

Class of 2029: Kindergarten Orientation 2016

Dunlap Grade School Kindergarten Families,

I am eager to welcome the Class of 2029 to our school as our newest group that we will be able to lay the foundation of lifelong learning for. If you are like me, you look at the children sitting next to you and feel like it was both a moment and a lifetime ago that they came into your lives. You are beaming with both pride and excitement as much as you are with worry and trepidation as they are on the brink of starting kindergarten.

To the kindergarteners, look up at mom or dad right now and tell them, “I got this.” One more time, “I got this.”

And they do… Sure there may be some hesitation, worry or concern, but they are going to amaze you. They are going to grow, develop, and make you proud. They are going to learn how to read letters, words, and sentences. They are going to learn to write to share their feelings and ideas. They are going to learn about numbers, shapes, and math-problem solving concepts. But, they are also going to learn to become more independent. They are going to learn to be a good friend.  They are going to learn that mistakes are ok and we learn from our failures. They’re going to learn all of that and so much more.

But what’s more, just as they will learn from the fabulous educators in this building, we will learn from them and just as quickly as they went from being a baby to being here tonight embarking on kindergarten, you are going to blink and this class of 2029 is going to be graduating high school and you’re going to remember the day they started kindergarten and smile and remember how far they’ve come. Because… they’ve got this.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About DGS

  1. The sunrises are beautiful. If you pull into the parking lot early enough, you can see some of the most beautiful light displays bouncing off the clouds and fields just in front of DGS. My favorite mornings are those that I can stand on the front walkway and take in the quiet splendor of the natural beauty before our day starts. Depending on the season, the colors range from vivid oranges and reds to glittering golds and yellows.


2. There is a DGS Costume Closet in our teacher workroom. After reading “Teach Like a Pirate,” staff have increasingly used props, hats, wigs and costumes to hook and engage students. Staff can be frequently seen wearing these in their classrooms and we got to a point that a central location was needed. Since the below picture was taken, it has even evolved to be a larger cupboard that houses anything from Pirate and Cat in the Hat Costumes to tiaras, tutus, and even a brain hat!


3. Our DGS technology device to student is currently 1:2. With the support of our Parent’s Club, we have been able to put a cart of devices at every grade level! Students and teachers use the device to enhance the educational experience for students and differentiate for their learners. Our devices consist of iPads, Chromebooks, and Touch Chromebooks. Our computer lab was also recently outfitted with new desktop to computers to ensure our students have access to the technology they need to support their learning! Our staff will participate in a summer book study of “Ditch that Textbook” by Matt Miller to learn additional ways to enhance their teaching to engage students in meaningful learning!



4. Staff meetings at Dunlap Grade aren’t always traditional, but they do provide opportunities for ample learning, participation, collaboration, and FUN! This past year, teachers have gone on Pirate Treasure Hunts to find important elements of learning, artifacts related to standards, and develop appreciation for each others’ classroom spaces. Teachers have also used twitter and Canvas to hold virtual discussions on the topics of student engagement, technology integration, and classroom learning environments. Teachers also participated in a Book Bingo meeting in which they shared the latest titles in children’s literature with each other to stay abreast of titles that are engaging and meaningful in the classroom.

12274601_1053464344685419_6770068291022947252_n5. Our staff shines! All of our classroom teachers and most of our specials areas teachers have a Master’s Degree or are currently enrolled in graduate programs. Our staff demonstrate the importance of lifelong learning by making their own professional growth and learning a priority. Many of our staff members have also been recognized as award recipients for their contributions to the education profession! Way to go DGS Staff!


Refreshing the Traditional Staff Memo

Earlier this school year, I learned about a newsletter creator from reading posts on Twitter. I dabbled with SMORE until this New Year, when I made a concerted effort to refresh my traditional staff updates to my team. For the past three years, I have sent a “Friday Focus” via email to my staff. The memo consisted of the following components:

1. Great Things I Noticed This Week: An opportunity for me to recognize the great learning and teaching that is going on in the building.

2. What’s on the docket: This bulleted lists just details lunch menu, events, professional development opportunities, or scheduled changes.

3. Nuts and Bolts: This is the ‘business’ section of the memo that lists information pertinent to the logistics of running the building; when report cards should go out, information about an upcoming assemblies, or updates about assessments, ect.

4. Pins, Tweets, and Blogs, Oh, My! : Various posts from Pinterest, Twitter, or blogs that I have found that are valuable to share. Often times I focus these on particular concepts or align them to our school goals.

5. What I’m Reading: A simple update to staff that includes a picture of the title or titles that I am currently reading.

Despite my satisfaction with the content of the memo, I was underwhelmed with how I was sharing this information. SMORE seemed to be the perfect answer for refreshing my traditional written memo! SMORE is available for free to educators with some limited functionality or costs $59.00 a year for extra features that include personalized backgrounds, analytics, and group emailing features. Whereas I was satisfied with the free version, I did recently upgrade for the year to have some of the Pro features.

The best part of SMORE for me, is the ability to embed video links and play the videos within the context of the newsletter as well as embed the finished newsletter in a blog or other platform. After reading “Your School Rocks, So Tell People!” (Ryan McLane and Eric Lowe) I decided to do video updates. The main structure of my newsletter is the same, but I now have the ability to embed this video component and model for my staff effective strategies for engaging families or students. The interface is easy to use and allows me to simply upload photos, videos, links, articles, and more!


You can view a completed newsletter below:

Challenge Accepted: Honoring Voice and Choice in Teachers


This past summer, I spent a day running the St. Jude Dunlap to Peoria race in honor of two of our students at DGS. At the last leg of the run, we jogged to Rachel Patten’s song, “This is my Fight Song.” One of my favorite lines from the whole song is, “I only have one match, but I can make an explosion.” This prolific sentiment speaks to the power of one action, one word, or one conversation can have on lighting a metaphorical fire!  This #leadlap challenge of ‘honoring voice and choice’ in teachers resonates with that portion of the song. As leaders, we have the ability to light this spark of creativity, innovation, and passion in our teachers.

“Like a small boat, in the ocean, sending big waves into motion” was also a key phrase in her song that applied to this challenge. With small, brief, and intentional offers of support, our teachers can make a big impact on student learning as they develop professionally!  As a result of the challenge, I followed up with each of my teachers regarding their professional development plans. These plans are created each fall as a professional goal for each educator. I touch base with them in January regarding these goals, but it is fairly self-guided and initiated by the staff member. As I reached out to each teacher, I offered my support and time to help them reach their goals. What resulted was:

1. A classroom teacher asking to observe in a different grade level on their implementation of their RtI block groups and data collection tools. I will cover her class on Tuesday so that she can take this professional learning opportunity to observe a colleague implement best practices!

2. A specials teacher reflecting on benefits of video modeling and taking the time to consider alternative uses for this strategy in her computer lab.

3. A classroom teacher taking a risk to start a professional reflection blog to capture her thoughts and share her learning with other teachers.

4. A classroom teacher sharing with me her PLC team plans to flip reading instruction of their ‘big book’ and another teacher preparing to flip her math lessons. She even had a parent that is also a teacher ask how to flip her lessons… The fire is spreading!

I also had a lot of thanks for checking in, thanks for asking, and I appreciate the support. Honoring the voice and choice in teachers not only sparked some ideas for implementation, but also continued to build respect, rapport, and a positive culture of trust.  As I continue to hold these conversations and offer anchors of support and encouragement, I am confident that my little boat in the ocean at DGS can set big waves into motion! I look forward to continued efforts of innovation, creativity, collaboration, and awesomeness in teaching and learning.

My goals moving forward as a result of this challenge include:

1. Follow up on professional goals monthly with teachers.

2. Continue to provide class coverage for teachers to observe other colleagues

3. Continue to promote the use of the Pineapple Board

4. Strategically spark innovation by being an effective listener during collaborative conversations

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