Powerful Memories

New York.  From the very first trip we made going to New York, I think it might have been with Mrs. Austin-Richardson’s class when I was teaching at Seaford actually, I was inspired.  I remember thinking, we are going to New York. We should create a project, and remember on that trip, we did recordings of individuals in New York about various topics. I never knew what that would lead to.

For years, while an educator at Seaford, we began attending workshops in New York at the CSPA Conference as an Aloha Yearbook staff, to gather ideas on the latest trends, practices and approaches to designing a yearbook, ad it was just amazing.  Amazing to be among such an atmosphere of learning, be amid the city, simply BE.  We began to tack on side missions while there, finding cool places to check out, individuals to interview and whoa. did things occur after that.

Taking a whole city for granted is unfortunate, and when the events of 911 occurred, of course everyone was in shock.  I remember finding myself as a Middle School, Language Arts Teacher in Lusby, Maryland, and students I was not quite familiar with, burst into the room and rambled something about a plane, a building, and we began to see the events that truly seemed as a movie, unreal, not happening.  Every one of us has a memory of where we were when this occurred and the feeling we could probably attach a hundred emotions to at one time.

I think this could be part of the attraction to New York that I was not aware of when it came to becoming a pilgrimage from those years on 2011 forward.  Whether I realized it or not, I felt I could give something back, even if it was in the form of projects we listened to and archived.

I recall the year after 911 when we visited the site, and the smell of concrete and dust permeated every step we made. The interviews we listened to when people broke down about the event because no one had ever truly straight out asked them about this event.

The fire station right beside the 911 site that firefighters took us into, showed the memorial to firefighters that never returned from the rubble, the damaged door from one of the first trucks excavated from the site and returned to the station, the flag that was flown in Afghanistan in memory of those fighting from that very station.

The interviews from so many years past are hidden away in my storage among cd’s that contain those recordings and still will remain a project to recapture these and preserve them, from the many amazing experiences we found ourselves in each year we traveled to New York.  We started a project that we just have not returned to.

Still one of the most amazing moments to me, was being able to visit New York from Mexico City, and still attend the CSPA Conferences on behalf of Repentino. magazine, and still include interviews and extended stops in New York that made a week long adventure within New York.  The first year we did, we were amazed to meet with Mr. Michael Arad, architect of the memorial at 911, as he has attended ASF in Mexico City, and at the time, counselor Chris Hill – then counselor, enabled that meeting to happen.  The small Repentino. staff,303386_10150610857256003_1517789571_n the first Repentino Staff, to attend CSPA found out so much about the 911 memorial thanks to Mr. Arad (page 31 of the FOCUS issue)

That original interview we did remains somewhere as well, and will be amazing to find after located. I remember still this day the panic I went through as I thought we would not make the appointment to meet, and then seeing him stand with an ipad held high as we made our way to his ipad standing in the middle of the memorial.  Yet the impact of he events, despite that cold day, we just realized what we were seeing for the first time.408529_10150610858781003_808494576_n

All of these memories come back to me as I work my way through the book, Battle for Ground Zero, and inform me of the battles that occurred during the planning phases of what is now Ground Zero.  it is shocking to not know the amazing feuds that existed for what is now the site that holds so much for so many.  Being able to go to this area tomorrow, with Math/Science Upward Bound, it is just so solemn and I feel as I hold in my hand so many years of experiences that I was lucky enough to have experienced with students that are now all over the world. We each hold a part of an experience that not only was New York as an adventure, but the lesson of what happens when tragedy hits a city that becomes a nation, that becomes a world event.  

Looking back I relish whatever motivated me to want to do something more than be a tourist when we went and travelled to New York, otherwise, I would not have these memories felt, shaded, and expressed with so many talented young  (then students) now members of society.  Despite the worst that occurs in the world even today, that fact that hope exists and should and can be passed on? That is the reason everyone should be excited about a tomorrow. I am wondering how I will feel tomorrow as I return tomorrow with so much that has changed since these journeys we have made through so many years to New York.

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“The eye is that of a poet who has decided to interrogate beauty and try to capture it in the splendor of light.”

It happens every summer – necessity pushes me forward to seek out employment over the summer and catch up on the year’s expenses and then that experience becomes so rewarding, it sticks.  Necessity certainly fueled my need to “catch up” the first summer of a major move from Mexico to the United States, and I stumbled luckily, thanks to some influential and experienced friends, into Upward Bound.

I mainly had always been familiar with Upward Bound and Talent Search from a teacher-inside the-school position, starting when I was an English educator in Seaford, DE.  Beyond the occasional pull outs and weekly appointments, I literally realized I knew very little about the program.

What I DID begin to realize is this is a program that infuses the expectations of success on students from the very beginning, from balancing knowledge about maintaining a personal checking/savings account, to managing the options for financial security when thinking about education beyond high school, understanding the role and importance of being an involved member of society when it comes to non-profit organizations, discovering the strength of an environmentally strong community, connecting with individuals that have strong ties to inner city and rural programs, developing paths where science, math, technology, engineering, art, communication, and expression all meet and can benefit the community, these are only SOME of the aspects that enable students to strive for success in their lives.

Building in a system that congratulates students on their attendance, grade point average, as well as acquiring new information and applying it to the world around them, Upward Bound certainly does provide a path for students to aim up, but also out, exposing students to REAL community aspects and not just experiencing these in a textbook, but interacting with these elements on a daily basis.  This daily intervention of education that involves the community on such a rapid schedule, is the real deal, the realty of why being educated today can go hand in hand with the world as it operates today.  

I realized on a trip with students to Shriner’s Hospital and Mutter Museum, there is still so much more I do not know and am familiar with, and being able to learn alongside students was the best way to soak in information and figure out together, students alongside students, how to apply these new paths of info to have it last longer than the visit itself.  

Add to the the amazing ceremonies of math and Science and Classic Upward Bound students (two totally different programs) – and you see the pride, determination, challenges and motivation that many of the students might not be receiving in areas outside of this program.  I realized this program has allowed alumni of Upward Bound, as well as future scientists biologists, engineers, and countless other professions to actually be a part of a profession those students take to heart, care about, and with this program HAVE the chance to grab the opportunity to move into what they have dreamed about. 

Yes, it is summer, yes most individuals are vacationing and NOT working, and yet, that was the beauty in seeing students attending and sacrificing those opportunities for the opportunities that will ultimately decide a better future.  That speaks volumes and I would have to say I am not sure I would see that motivation in the regular school day without Upward Bound opening the window, so that can see what lies more than one day out for each of them.

As instructors, despite being the summer, there were some concrete ways to show how you take extensions of the past years and apply them to the world around us.  Math, Science, English teachers combined to create a murder mystery scenario, using actual DNA samples and fingerprinting to show how the forensics path involved STEAM and STEM objectives, while taking the aspects students learn in high school and explaining how these areas impact a future career – vaidating the why and how using hands-on projects every day.

Being able to tap into students I knew from Mexico, to not only help judge and comment on a career photography competition from within Upward Bound, but showing that our past should be connected to what we are doing in the present, is a powerful tool.  Every step of the way, it was exciting to see how relationships formed from education contributed to PBL projects of the present.  Mohamed Zaki (Tony) – who visited American School Foundation in Mexico City Google live on Air’ed with us to discuss the idea of realities in another country such as Egypt, (as well as answering ?’s from students and that is found here)  Alina from Mexico City chatted with us from India, describing the experiences she’s had from Mexico City to volunteering in India, to studying at Yale,

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alumni from ASF Mexico City, studied the events of Upward Bound students for the past year to create a soundtrack for the banquet occurring here in Delaware,

Educator Paul Allison enabled students to be involved with a Current Talk course that enabled students to explore how to be effective when opinions differ, in a positive and not hateful way. Students would have a chance to turn their issue posters into shared commentary among other students with LRNG. Ms Grice’s career photography competition connected individuals from Korea, the U.S., Mexico, Egypt to name a FEW, and connected their voices in comments about what made the contributing 12 photography students’ images moving.  Add to this the generous contribution of Louis Cotto-Vasallo’s photographic book for the top three winners of the contest –


Taking on the challenges of virtual reality  with James Wheatley to take students to Mexico City and show the myths of the country heard through media and seeing the virtual realityScreen Shot 2018-07-29 at 1.51.03 PM through the lens, priceless. Students utilizing donated books from Bethany Beach Books, the title Unwind from Neal Schusterman, and discovering connections to social topics that need a voice.  Creating the medium of ‘Zines to show youth have a creative tool in reaching the masses and educating and informing.   This is only a peek into what occurred in the summer weeks at Upward Bound. 

Certainly if the PBL approach to these themes were presented day in and day out, these approaches to education were widespread, every student in every school would be bringing the ideas inside the classrooms – into their own communities and their energy would not be stopped – and would be contagious among community leaders and other educators to change as well.  Some of these colleagues do already teach like this day in and day out, which gives me the enthusiasm to push this approach more and more.  I would have to say, students such as those I found myself surrounded by in Upward Bound? – it was no longer a summer duty, it was a summer privilege to figure out new ways to learn alongside students and place a new stamp on what education can be.

Take all this into consideration and then try to put into a category the true poets who see this transformation in students and press on to make sure this happens every single summer – Ms Rebecca Evaristo, Ms. Cheryl Miller, Ms. Megan, Mr. Connor, Mr Billy, Ms. Lois, Ms. Cenicola, Ms. Davis, the whole Talent search team, Screen Shot 2018-07-29 at 9.13.13 AMand you have individuals that change students’ lives every single day, and create a future that never existed before.  I have never, hands-down, seen such a program that took students that felt they had no future, and nothing but dead-ends, and surrounded them with the ability to change their future for dreams they’ve had all along, and follow the students as they do just that.

I would say the true poets that continue to interrogate beauty are those individuals above, along with the willing educators, that have allowed this program to continue, that allow the additions for Delaware’s future to increase exponentially.  When you have a collection of former students and adults from other countries willing to discuss via Google hang out on air, on their time, key issues that need to be questioned amid the mainstream media, when you have teachers and organizational members from Toastmasters, local museums and organizations like The Shriner’s organization willing to open their doors and spend time to validate how they impact their communities, when you have individuals willing to validate photography at the drop of a dime, when you have these same individuals willing to pay tribute to these students as they have reached another amazing year of accomplishment, you have a community of possibility for positive change.  Despite what the government, media, and local and international politicians say, express, or translate, these very individuals that are provided dreams learn nothing can break or deter the enthusiasm and possibility of one’s voice an activism.  That alone will enable change that communities need to become more positive and influential.

Surrounding yourself with individuals that believe positive change can occur, and believe this starts with youth and occurs alongside the very individuals who want a better future in the form of educators, this opportunity is one that can not be validated enough.  Kudos to Ms. Evaristo and Ms. Miller how know how much this opportunity will sow the opportunity for a better future for all of us.  One year, of many, seems to have the ability to change the whole future for so many.






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Up, Close, and Personal

In education, you realize, every opportunity is a teachable moment, and that certainly does not reside only with students.  That is if you are an educator that truly cares about education.  You have to be willing to accept the educational moments as well and run with them if you expect others to do the same.

Steel Case.  Awhile ago, one of the grants I was exploring and writing for was a company I was unfamiliar with, that being Steelcase.

Later, Was was called to followup with Steelcase and possibly talk with them.  I noticed they were located in Pennsylvania, near King of Prussia, the east side of Pennsylvania. I thought why not? 

When I made it to Corporate Interiors headquarters, I found an amazing design in a building, and took several snapshots.  As I walked into the suite of , it as easy to see, as I would learn later, there were several various options that made Steelcase who they were.  From Audio Visual sides of things, to education, to design and 3D design, to so much more, it was exciting to learn how so many components were under one roof, as well as Industrial Design having the option of many various designers and providers to create designs that truly were futuristic.  

Through the sit down discussions we had, it was motivating to have individuals from all various backgrounds and facets of the design world involved.  There was so much that makes you realize how diverse education is and can be – 

The room we started in was welcoming right away due to the fact that there was a Welcome Woodbridge screen

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with our homepage right on there!  What I learned while in there was the way rooms such as this could be so quiet due to the seals that were on the doors as they closed.  In addition the versatility of the table, with controls on both end that allowed input for almost any form of communication/media transfer to occur – awesome.  Built into the table you had all the adapters and connections needed to facilitate any form of conferencing and software out there.  Add to this the microphones that were made for a conference call that would come down from the ceiling, and of course, add the paneling of the room that could be replaced and moved around easily to accommodate screens and monitors of all types as could be moved from one time to another as the design of the room changes.  Only upon leaving did I notice the custom shaped table fit the room design as well and realized how rooms can be fit to all types of technology experiences to enhance the education that occurs in those rooms and among other people.

When we walked out of the conference room it was really we easy to hear the noise, which was not much, but sounded like much when you noticed there was no noise in the conference room (lol), and wow – the seal that were used completely silenced that conference room!

Also, being shown how transmitters in the ceiling allowed voices to be heard clearly among individuals and conversations muted out around the room, not silencing them but allowing you to concentrate on the conversation happening in front of you – really showed how technology helped focus on all conversations and specifically one among many,  

Also, the monitors and wall screens that were shown not only showed the capabilities of how announcements specifically for the library could literally run across each screen, across the wall, to allow specific event within a contained area to be noticed more for a specific area.  Add to this the monitors that existed outside room that could tell you this specific area was taken, reserved, from what time to what time, as well as being linked to a main scheduling point so all the lab/room monitors could be up to date with specific reservations – I was thinking of all the long methods I had used to reserve, account for, and maintain spaces when they were being reserved.

Wiring for electric was pretty amazing as was the models for wiring that involved wi-fi and internet.  From mobile units that could serve as power towers around the room, to beneath the floor constructions so space was made tor wiring to rung beneath the floor everyone walked on ( and being able to see a cutaway section of what that looked like in the floor) all showed how intelligence is used to streamline the best possible space for a learning environment.

Furniture also that was made within this company (it is exciting that every single item is made in-house, so this also shows the design and functionality as being used is practical) was comfortable and simply reminded me of goals like Ikea, creative, space-saving, very new design that takes a space and literally conserves space instead of just taking up space. From chairs that allowed the maximum structure for getting work done, to being ergonomic in feel and work style, to being fully mobile and adjustable – the amazing methods I saw to allow spaces to be flipped from one moment to another was a lesson in showing how education itself is constantly changing, and how a room can easily fit into that ideal of constantly shifting knowledge.

Also being able to see how 3D works into this scenario, not only as part of the design of a specific learning area, but also having the capability for Industrial Design to tour your existing learning facility, note the needs of a space and then be able to show the proposed ideas in 3D virtual reality to be able to take a “walk” through several scenarios, provides a taste of what education, technology, and engineering all have to do with education today as it is still evolving.  

Mentioning how possibilities could exist where students could visit Steelcase/Corporate Interiors and see how aspects of STEM and STEAM can be incorporated into educational design was exciting.  I think it is vital to continue to how students how aspects of education can be so aligned with corporate, engineering, and design in working with existing companies today, that could create a larger understanding of concepts that can’t be fully realized in a classroom alone.

After the tour, with so many features more presented, from an OWL that can detect the voices that are speaking and follow with the appropriate image upon detecting voice, to the puck devices that are found in tables that hold a variety of adapter connections for a variety of computers, to the audio and visual creation that enhance stereo, individual, and conference-style meetings, to portable rooms that can be used for recording AND moved, to walls that can create a new room and be taken down and located in another position to create new rooms for various needs, to taking in the countless styles of furniture for every possible function imaginable, it seemed this was a imagineers school for educators, as well as for students.

One of the most electric moments was the mention of how many students have an opportunity to reach out to companies and visit them, while in school, just as if they were opening their eyes to the type of campus or college the envision.  In doing so, they begin to see the facets of the work force that is not described on a job description,  They see what is possible, they see that truly their talents can be utilized in ways that are not written on any job descriptions, yet, but they could be.  The idea from Steelcase that students could visit their office and see how designers impact education in their setting was a powerful idea, an idea educators should be directly involved with to led student to areas they may or may not be interested in. Waiting until they get into their first year of college to do so, too late.  They should be exploring possibilities and ideas alongside seeing how and where the talents they possess can be applied in the best scenario for them.  This does not necessarily mean a four-year college, but could also involve artistic approaches to education found in the trade/technical field, as well as in a hundred different places that often do not fall into the category of the four year college and beyond. 

But it could be that possibility.

That is the beauty of education, together, educators and students can find a path that both works for them, and discover what can be done that isn’t, and what can’t be done, can be done. It takes a vested interest in the student, the field of education, and wherever that might take both, and not being prescribed – as the world today doesn’t seem to exactly follow a for-sure definite pattern of certainty.  I do believe companies like Steelcase and educators that believe in infinite possibilities, and that guide students that way, will indeed personalize education and possibilities that we can only dream about, but begin at glimpse at today.


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World Cup, Elections, Pinche Gringo, The Comic Book Store, Cultural Studies, Opening Opportunities.

Wow.  What a welcome onrush of exciting events recently to counteract so much dread, negativity, and what sometimes seems one sided- banging your head off the wall sanity at times.

World Cup. 

Wow.  Never would I have thought I wold have cared and I am SO SO excited I was able to have so many close friends like Javier, Mocte, Julien, and so many more that got me into futball and created a love of the game as I did when in Mexico.  The respect shown when I was what seemed to be the only American in the stadium watching the U.S. team play Mexico almost 6 years ago? – That never left me from the first time I went to the last time I went and – watching the World Cup first in Mexico and now from the states – it is – I never realized how addicted I would become and knowing the players I have become familiar with and – it was DRIVING ME CRAZY that the 10:00 match between Mexico and Brazil was on at 10:00 AM today – how students and I vocalized how excited we were, nervous, how we monitored out phones for the updates, how yes, devastated we were to see the final outcome today but the amazing energy futball brings to so much, not just countries, nationalities, but so much more when you have the opportunity to know the world a bit more through positive means such as sports, competition and getting to know Flopping (LOL) and just so much more. A priceless gift I was lucky enough to receive while in Mexico and that endears me to changing my view about certain sports I used to pay attention to.  Mexico you rocked today and Brazil you rocked a but more so VERY excited to see what happens from this point out, even though I was so hoping Mexico would play a crucial part.

Elections in Mexico. Wow.  I vaguely remember being in a new country of Mexico when elections were held and Enrique Peña Nieto was elected and learning the in and outs of Mexico history, and then latching onto almost anything I could get my hands onto, to learn about the history and sources of so much concern, disappointments, and possibilities that sit with the people of Mexico when it came to elections.  Yes, I do remember as well, Andrés Manuel López Obrador running for President when I first arrived in Mexico and now, elected as President.  I am privileged to have been in a country like Mexico to appreciate how much the citizens of another country take to heart elections and the results outside of a country I have always lived in.  It changed me forever and garnered a deeper respect of how incredibly large and yet how incredibly similar individuals are when it comes down to basic expectations and desires.  An exciting exciting time in seeing this second election and being tuned into the details for so long.

Cultural Studies, Current Talk, wow.  The opportunity to take experiences that were new to me and how I transitioned through learning SO MUCH about myself by taking myself out of a country I was born and raised in and then seeing that homeland from the outside –

I realized every single moment – how much I appreciated being able to do that, being able to appreciate individuals who I only learned about from the radio and television, and the reality changed me to the core and helped me challenge so much I simply took for granted, and continue to reflect on with so much happening around us.  In presenting so many amazing perspectives that differ from my own, and being able to discuss these views with students from so many different countries, the awareness that a lack of sitting down and finding ways to discuss opposite points of view rather than spewing inaccuracies, hatred, negativity, animosity and so much more – it is SO REFRESHING to be able to communicate with younger generations how there is a MUCH better way to solve problems than we have been doing for the last 15 or so years – and being able to dissect so many past and current difficulties and come together on those topics – I am truly fortunate to know individuals such as Dan Defossey

that owns Pinche Gringo and is a huge impetus, and example, of the change we discuss and  for the possible, positive change that can occur within another country- and show – all it takes it ALOT of hard work and MUCH initiative to want to be a beacon of change to allow change to occur.  I am so excited to how younger generations have the energy to make some MAJOR changes in how we can come together to change our own futures but those of others, positively, but simply staying in the race and with patience, and kindness, and not negativity.  

When bringing up this about the things we DO NOT HEAR on the radio, television, etc about other countries, the impact I had experience firs-hand on how so many individuals from different learned about each other’s traditions and belief over Thanksgiving dinners, World Cup matches, and election time at Pinche Gringo, the conversation allowed itself to grow and experience how much education depends on diversity.  

It is so ironic to see as a media Specialist Librarian, and hear the remark that there has been such a push in the last many years to lay off librarians because they are not deemed as vital and an asset in the educational system as other positions and then hearing an


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outcry for resources and individuals to help steer younger populations from discerning between fake news and real news. HYSTERICAL.  What did you think would happen by deeming individuals that go to school to get Master’s in education and learn how to use technology for the purpose of fining unbiased, neutral, factual information

(while many are sure the only things librarians do are sit behind a desk and die to shelve books),

LOL and to my chagrin, some librarians have used this position as that and that alone, (SUCH a WASTE). The opportunity to belong to groups of individuals that see this different IS the change that can impact so many more.  It is exciting to see the chance to have these discussions with so many young people who will be voting this year, next year, the year after and seeing that there is a way to have a more educated, positive, and connected relationship with so many people, so many cultures, so many countries, and that there is the chance to improve – it is refreshing once you find the opportunity to be able to advance this reality and pass it on to others.

Graphic Novels. Sounds silly but let e tell you.  WOW.  When Donna Carter suggested having a Comic Con at Greenwood Library I thought yeah, cool!  What ensued was amazing.  I was able to witness the generosity of what it means when people genuinely interested in education will do cool things to make a difference.  Sarah  and  Titus from The Comic Book Shop in Wilmington –

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AMAZING.  They made these two baskets of AMAZING gifts to provide for the Comic Con at Greenwood Public Library,  and whether they were aware or not, this went to benefit the mini Comic Con we held at the Woodbridge High School TOO – not possible without the amazing generosity and foresight of what would interest youth, and how they could provide for not just one, but multiple chances at attracting youth.  The day I drove to Wilmington with my three canines, Sarah welcomed the dogs, watered them with fresh water, showered me with AMAZING donations and a basket

Basket.jpg that was like – you could see a MILE AWAY how much thought and effort went into something as taken for granted as graphic novels can be for youth.  

It Worked. It drew so many in based on these events at Greenwood Public Library and Woodbridge High, youth that would have never participated in such an event had it not been for using an educational tool as graphic novels and comics to inspire, excite, and cause enthusiasm on MULTIPLE levels.  Funny, this resembles willing to know more about something you know nothing about and willing to extend your time to get to know the unknown, and make a difference.  We are learning every day how this occurs in opportunities to teach and discuss with youth in courses like Cultural Studies, Current Talk, motivating teachers to buck the crazy illusion that dittos and formats that have not worked for years are not the way that inspire students today, finding opportunities where discussion, thoughtful discourse, positive ACTION (not just rhetoric-  blah blah blah) and being a mover and a shaker among adults, students, and future leaders WILL be the factor that turns so much negativity around.

That’s alot to realize in a day, but realizing what the impacts of individuals and organizations such as Upward Bound led by Cheryl Miller and Becky Everisto, companies like Dan Defossey and Pinche Gringo that are making a difference across countries, companies like The Comic Book Shop

Screen Shot 2018-07-02 at 10.51.03 PM.pngthat can use a medium to impact change in the community and schools – priceless.  It is totally fine there are large populations not buying into making a difference, because there are so many more ways that individuals like these will make the world a better place, day by day that truly see the light.  Kudos to these and all the heroes that show the difference is not division, but finding ways to show that humanity is the true party, not decided by walls, borders, political parties, issues, race, religion or beliefs, but by supporting and believing in each other through action.  It doesn’t get any better than seeing and being involved with individuals that believe in humanity and not just one particular type of human being.

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Oh Lord, a World Building Space Force at Woodbridge? It Happened?

That it did.  Tabitha Lord that is.  On May 7th Tabitha DID visit Delaware for the first time – and spent generous amounts of time at Greenwood Public Library‘s reading group, as well as an open night of discussion, adding to the visits of hours at the Woodbridge High Media Center with several groups.  From individual discussions, to group discussions, to gathering a class set of Horizon for study on how Holocaust, discrimination, and other civil issues come out of Science Fiction to….okay yes. there was much to unpack.  Yet. so many distinct aspects of this author’s visit remain behind.


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“I can’t believe a science fiction author of her interest came to little ‘ol Delaware!”

This particular quote stuck with me on so many levels.  I had just returned from Mexico City, a country and city that changed me in so many ways, including realizing how large an international city like Mexico City was in relation to departing from Delaware.  Coming back to a smaller state/town situation to many sounded like, seemed like, a concession.  You could look at it that way after having such an international eye-opening experience, as well as events in an international setting compared to a domestic one, then take the amazing temperament of how I was treated by so many Mexican citizens, and okay THAT is a different post and has been for some time now.  YET, I realized it takes a huge international perspective to appreciate a small town / state opportunity.  I felt the same way when I heard this student say this above – so many students do not REALIZE what is possible and when they do, when they have someone willing to take the time to show how any situation, small, large, international, local, far, near, once a risk is taken and students are encouraged, pushed into a new level of confidence, and shown how much opportunity that is available based on the wide horizon of their imagination, then that “huge international perspective to appreciate a small town / state opportunity ” occurs.  

Students and myself, have been blessed to have the courage to reach out and have the opportunity to have had major experiences with some pretty amazing artists of all walks of life, Neal Shusterman, Scott Westerfeld, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Justine LarbalestierAdi Alsaid, Louis Cotto, Dr. Robert Snyder, David Lida, Oscar Ivan Hernandez Carvallo, Eric Smith, Zoraida Cordova, Osseily Hanna, and as of late Tabitha Lord, to name a FEW – and students have fueled that excitement and created many events that were literally dreams, and turned them into reality.

Tabitha Lord jumped right in to Greenwood Library’s book discussion club and her influence and mere presence initiated some amazing conversation about an author and book I never read, but it was an amazing night.  Donna Carter once again swooped in to have an amazing Greenwood Library staff facilitate an evening of conversation and literary merit that is one of the unsuspecting evenings you wish you COULD have predicted.  Add to all this the random writer that visited Greenwood Library to ask simply stylistic questions about writing, to the onslaught of so many students during a day that had so many, SO MANY fruitful questions, ideas, and thoughts that Ms. Lord brought out – and you have the amazing creativity that comes out of being a Media Specialist Librarian, an educator (not just a teacher), an author, an aspiring artists, an aspiring game designer, science fiction entrepreneur, and it no longer matters how large or small an area you are from.  Never did matter.  What matters is what fuels your heart, your mind, and your creativity.

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We STILL have audio excerpts we have not unpacked yet from Ms. Lord’s visit (stay tuned!) but as we move and present these excerpts that link back to the inspiration Ms. Lord left behind, she left perhaps one of the most priceless gifts not found in any book, written on any page, or heard . by any author.  In writing about so much that has to do with world exploration, Ms. Lord planted so many paths that can lead to worlds no one has seen yet.  From becoming an author late in life, with a family already established, the talent, vision, and energy Ms. Lord brought to Delaware was one of the most inspiring and generous gifts given in the life of an author.  Being able to see inside the life of publishing a work, and seeing what motivates someone to push forward in anything they deem as personal, motivating, and POSSIBLE? – we need more of these inspiring moments no matter where we find ourselves – internationally, locally, the sky is the limit.  In this case, it became reaching for the stars and beyond thanks to Ms Tabitha Lord!

Check below for her Monday Musings blog post about her visit to Delaware (I will let you wonder where some of the best crab cakes were . 🙂 )

“I’m in Delaware doing some bookish activities this week – a few library visits, book clubs, and meetings with high school students. As I get to travel and meet people from all over, I’m struck by the fact that everyone has a story. Everyone. And each story is uniquely molded by their individual life experiences. 

I probably think about things this way because I’m a storyteller. I’m always listening. I’m always wondering what brought this person to this place at this moment in time. What motivates them? What are their dreams? Their fears?

Every person I meet has a full, messy, rich life they are trying to navigate. Holding this perspective makes me feel connected to them – at home, even when I’m away from home. From the yoga instructor I practiced with this morning, to the international teacher who invited me on this particular adventure, to the Starbuck’s barista who enthusiastically chatted with me about the virtues of cold brew, I connect with them. I want to hear their stories, because our stories matter. Through them, we can learn to see from another’s perspective.  

Wishing you a peaceful and productive week.

p.s. Here’s a pretty picture from Rehoboth Beach, where I had the best crab cakes last night! “

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Turning the pages of civility…

Changing the power dynamic in any spotlighted profession is one of extreme adversity.  In our present time we have seen explosions of revelations in Hollywood with the Me Too Movement,  fair pay for women in all fields of acting, and lately, the grounds of a media specialist librarian has become a little more cautious ground to walk on.

Monthly displays and annual celebrations are a small part of what can draw patrons into a library – from March Madness, to National Novel Writing Month, to National Library Week, to a host of SO MANY MORE.

As a graduate student at Slippery Rock University – I received an amazing education, some professors there literally propelled me into levels of success I never knew awaited me, that follows me around forever.  What had been a lesson in retrospection also has been to expect the unexpected. As a graduate student, my thesis Opening the Windows of Time involved a passage from a Native American author, Sherman Alexie. which involved this quote – 

There are things you should learn. Your past is a skeleton walking one step behind you, and your future is a skeleton walking one step in front of you. Maybe you don’t wear a watch, but your skeletons do, and they always know what time it is. Now, these skeletons are made of memories, dreams, and voices. And they can trap you in the in-between, between touching and becoming. But they’re not necessarily evil, unless you let them be.

What you have to do is keep moving, keep walking, in step with your skeletons. They ain’t ever going to leave you, so you don’t have to worry about that. Your past isn’t going to fall behind, and your future won’t get too far ahead. Sometimes, though, your skeletons will talk to you, tell you to sit down and take a rest, breathe a little. Maybe they’ll make you promises, tell you all the things you want to hear.

Sometimes your skeletons will dress up as beautiful Indian women and ask you to slow dance. Sometimes your skeletons will dress up as your best friend and offer you a drink, one more for the road. Sometimes your skeletons will look exactly like your parents and offer you gifts.
But, no matter what they do, keep walking, keep moving. And don’t wear a watch. Hell, Indians never need to wear a watch because your skeletons will always remind you about the time. See, it is always now. That’s what Indian time is. The past, the present, the future, all of it is wrapped up in the now. That’s how it is. We are trapped in the now.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Think what it meant to have Mr Alexie sit beside me at dinner during a visit to SRU and be able to discuss the origins of this quote, as well as discuss elements of my thesis, and meeting Alexie in the flesh.  It was priceless.

As a librarian always promoting his writing, as well as he Native American voice as a modern representation, it is pretty accurate to say Alexie has represented the Native American wandering in the modern age, and if you have ever delved into his older and most recent writings, mesmerizing is an understatement.

When news broke of several instances of improper conduct on his part, as a promoter and archivist of all things literary, it was a shock and quite devastating. It sometimes felt as waiting for someone to leap out and yell, “I told you so!” yet no one had until that very moment. How do you as an individual or promoting the best possible treatment if individuals retrace the steps of what you have been promoting?

I realized as difficult as a pill it is to swallow, as a media librarian specialist your modeling lies with the best possible path to dealing with obstacles.  The obstacles of the last year have involved name calling, slander, negative portrayals of individuals that others do not align or connect with, racial stereotypes, proper conduct when in public for individuals of all races, on and on – and this is just simply obstacles that deal with those in public offices.  While the cloud hangs heavy over individuals that you might have lauded due to their amazing work, the real work lies in showing individuals that are growing up in the ranks of schools into young adults of voting age, you deal with these setbacks, redial the controls of how you handle misconduct, and learn through the proper channels. no matter how difficult it is, to reset your temperance to treat those around you the best you possibly can, and use the negative, and obviously the positive examples as a guide through these murky waters.

Add to this personal experience with letdown an author that had acclaimed as much if not more attention – the author Junot Diaz. Again, over the last few years, Diaz would have been one name that no one would deny not knowing, even if nothing had been read by any individuals the name would still create discussion based on the writing that would cause you to sit up and pay attention.  When news broke of a similar situation concerning Diaz,

this occurring before the news about Sherman Alexie, I immediately thought of the controversy surrounding James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces , although the issue surrounding Diaz has made the impact much more disheartening as it affects so many individuals personally.  I had only picked up one Diaz, This is How You Lose Her, and as a avid book reader and Library Media Specialist, when it comes down to the end of the day, the main audience you look out for, despite your reading selections, are your patrons.  These in the form of adults, colleagues, parents, and students usually dictate the actions of what happens in and out of the library. 

I can only speak for myself but, the only way I have found to bounce back after formally lauding the writing of an author that has not been the author you thought has been this:

  1. The writing is the writing but as a Library Media Specialist I am unwilling to simply sweep deeds under the carpet and act as if the author is more important than the message.  Yes I had promoted an author that has shocked me with revelations of characteristics unbecoming of someone I want to put on a pedestal.  It is vital to point out, unbiased, how we deal with this so those we model literature and suggestions for have a path to follow when this occurs.
  2. There are authors that are also deserving of leading patrons to the more optimistic path.  Recently we had the pleasure of having author, Tabitha Lord, one of the few female science fiction writers that would take the time, hour upon hours, to talk with students and light excitement from within about their writing, provide avenues of where life can lead them with positive influences surrounding them, and believing in their own talents.  
  3. DO SOMETHING instead of silently wallow in someone that turned out to be a shocking disappointment in some fashion.  Their writing still has something to say, maybe even abut the situation they found themself in.  Also, what is stopping you as a Media Specialist from creatng a mini course on how to guide these precarious waters of interepretation? I have been fortunate enough to have been allowed to create a course that allows individuals to find resources that are reputable, to address questions that individuals have the tenendency today to fued on, but never come to the table to discuss.  Learning to disagree peaacefully, find unbias resources to back up issues and opinions (without slandering), shying from fake news (which has been around always), and finding information without putting down, without negativity is a challenge when so many individuals in the spotlight do today.  Yet, this is a chance to market the traits of a Media Specialist Librarian and show how these murky, negative waters can be navigated into more positive oasis areas.  

Certainly I wish I could see the future and know if a wrong turn or a cataclysmic event is about to occur, dont we wall.  However, in the light of shocking, suprising, and often what can be negative discourse, individuals have the opportunity to take advantage of positons that are often taken for granted (I point to School Media Specialists), and show what power such a position does have to benefit socoiety as a whole.  Turning the page is a way to show that you can deal with shocking and embarassing actions of those you were unaware they were involved with – but using that knowledge to better society turns out to be the best read book of them all.

I would like to hear from other instructors and Media Specialists to see how they feel about dealing with authors that were lauded, but now have redemtion to the public due to past actions.  Do you still study their past writing the same?  Different?  At all? I would like to hear your views on this – thanks for being amazing in a field that is often considered a lesser known and appreciated asset to education, but in reality is one of the most powerful depending on what you decide to do with it.  Next post will discuss the amazing effects we had of Tabitha Lord, Science fiction writer, coming to our School and inspiring so many.  There are many different pages to turn, and leading others to turn the most inspiring is a day to day lesson, every day.



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THE Difference.

“Due to inclement weather, the 2018 WHS Graduation will be inside.”  Ms. Short, the guru and master of planning what would be a HUGE successful gradation greeted us in the AM on June 3rd.

Surreal.  The voice starting the day just reminded me of what the day would hold.  I had seen the stage and chairs all arranged in the middle of the WHS stadium and it still didn’t register that I was not in Mexico at this year’s graduation class, but going to be going to the Baccalaureate and graduation ceremony of Woodbridge High School – the 49th graduating class.  Yet, get THIS connection.  Aisli Alondra Torres-AisliLanderos  – coming up to me in the library in our Independent Study “Mr. Brake – I want you to introduce me at graduation. if this occurs that I am salutatorian”  Seriously, I was about 10 seconds from a dropped heartbeat and just froze.  “What? Um, what?”  I remember the first time I was asked to capped Camila, Alice and a host of still AMAZING students in Mexico City and every single time – even when I am not capping and simply watching the ceremony, it is an honor to see students that have become a part of you walk across that stage and we all know, is bittersweet to see them go. 

A country away ANOTHER MAJORLY AMAZING student, Lisa Yu was ASF’s Salutatorian, and still a student I was lucky enough to have some amazing moments and can never forget.  Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 12.12.18 AM  Yes there are weeks and days that you are like “HOW MUCH LONGER” but things change so crazy fast – every single time I was privileged to be asked to cap in Mexico.  A country away, an amazing graduation was occurring with MANY AMAZING students in Mexico City – and missed completely as well    (This is powerful).

I simply said “Yes Aisli, of course!” having no idea what I was going to do but get this impressive fact – Aisli was the FIRST to graduate from her family and she taught herself everything in English from the start and thankfully for the amazing educators that pushed and encouraged her, she has turned out to be one of the most successful young ladies I have had the privilege of being in school with, (and as you know, the young ladies and gentlemen from ASF in Mexico City and Seaford have turned out to be total rock stars).  I remember when Aisli took the photo wishing Mexico good luck during the initial earthquakes, as well as helping push out a card of thanks and hope to Mexico – and saw the same determination, intelligence, and work ethic I was lucky enough to be surrounded by every single day in Mexico – and I can’t put into words how much her request meant to me seeing her in just one year achieve what most could not in 12 years – words will not, cannot do her justice.

I also realized how amazing it is that the graduating class of 2018 was mentally tough in so many cases I witnessed, and devoted to pushing and helping each other succeed – sometimes with lives that defied the imagination to rise above and graduate.  Countless students I was so lucky to have come into contact with, within one single year, and it felt like six years of appreciating the talents, determination, bravery and courage they brought to the finish line.  Add onto that the fact that you have so many educators I remembered pulling late nights, early days, extenuating attempts to make sure they pulled their graduates towards the ultimate goal SO MANY COUNTLESS TIMES – this whole mixed one year but feeling like six and seeing this all happening and being able to be among these amazing graduates? I was not worthy, very simply put.

Getting it together and dressed up and  out the door – I made it to the Union United Methodist Church for the Baccalaureate Service –

the rain was pouring – the cold was everywhere – and what an experience of warmth inside.

As I was sitting in the pew, taking in the views of the soon to be graduates in the front, younger WHS students in the side ready to put on a special performance, two ladies from behind me tapped me on the shoulder and complimented that I had such nice looking grey hair.  It was such a nice compliment but you know me, GREY HAIR?  AGH!  I always freak out when people notice that my once dark head is not well, less than that for sure – it was hysterical.  We sat and between those ladies and the man beside me, we discussed the genes in our families and having hair opposed to not having hair, HYSTERICAL.

The total service was pretty unable-to-be-captured in words. It was AWESOME to see admin Heath Chasanov, Kent Chase, board member Walter P. Gilefski,  and even former colleague Math Teacher Sean Knowles in the church celebrating the service among WHS graduates, it was truly surreal.

Amazing songs were sung – and pretty awesome favorites, “How Great Thou Art” and certainly one of my all time favorites – “I’ll Fly Away.”  but there was so so much more.  Watching the WHS ensemble sing “For Good” – supported by WHS’s own Ms Workman and Ms. Jones – seeing the emotions open from the students during this – there simply cannot be no words that could capture this, there were NONE.

Sitting beside me about halfway through the service, a young man sat beside me that just seemed to remind me of someone and only later, as I made my out to say hello and see you soon to graduates as they ate in the annex of the church, I say a really great student Garret beside this same man sitting beside me and turned out, it was his BROTHER!!!!! GET OUT!!!!! – I mean the frequency of the coincidences that occurred and that did occur already – at some point my head just shut down and let them roll over me.

During this Baccalaureate Service, the amazing poise, spirit, and energy of Myra, Morgan, Tatum, Tanner, Brooke, Hunter, Morgan (#2) and alumni Shawn – just take a look at this star cast in the bulletin) – I was reminded in seeing and hearing each of them how lucky I was to be there celebrating them.

Despite the crazy, wicked weather that had descended on the WHS 49th Graduating Class of 2018, for all the above reasons (and the ceremony had not even started) – I felt I was with the colleagues and students I had been privileged enough already to share their amazing days with, as I saw so much of their qualities in these amazing students among me for today’s ceremony.

Fast Forward to Woodbridge High School, and heading to the library, everything just simply began and it as a blur.  I remember how I felt, kind of in a coma state when I was walking through the graduation ceremony, and so much happened to me that unexpected day and here I was, stomach in knots and just wondering, how will this all unfold? and I was pretty worked up but I tried to push that down to a place of ignoring it (and folks, I was not graduating).

Robes began to be put on, sashes, colors, students poured in and the reality that this was our last true gig together seeped in all along the way. I did not expect the number of attendees.  The auditorium held 750 – but 300 seats had been set up in the cafeteria and HAD to be close to 100 standing among the the chairs and then it hit me, over 1000 people and – OVER 1000 PEOPLE – HARRY!  WHAT THE HECK!  I worried – will I be able to truly represent my portion of what Aisli and this class has been able to tackle and get through – is that even possible?  I was so lucky to have Mr Weiler as the introduction to the Valedictorian, Kathlin Dinh (amazing young lady)  and I knew I could crash and burn and his eloquence would easily bring a rhythm of success to the event. I remember so many snippets –

including the infamous WHS lip dub: 

Mr. Weiler capitalizing on the fact that Salutatorian was my complete NEMESIS for the evening – seeing the board members donning robes, seeing so many State Troopers, faculty, admin, students, friends supporting this event and making this occur – you want to talk about overwhelming – and I thought I saw HUGE events in Mexico at ASF’s graduations, yes I did and this just felt like we were in the middle of it ALL. The one thing never doubted was the amazing journey so many of these students had made and I was truly humbled by being able to see their last year and make it a complete success thanks to the support of so many, that same support we discussed that Mr. Weiler gave his students the day after this graduation with the “This I Believe” speeches.  I love how things become full circle and how easily they can be missed.

My Speech – with some critiquing from another amazing student in Mexico City – Bessy Hernandez adding some extra’s that would make it resonate – and I felt I was walking two worlds at one graduation.  So hard to explain.  The speech morphing, changing every minute came and went like a blur, with so much on your mind that you can’t push down, I stumbled on the word Salutatorian of course, and did not follow exactly my speech

(as nervousness tends to do) — I did plant the Hand Mud that all the students had played with every single day in the library (look at that silver thing in the pictures) –

Mr Weiler was great, Kathlin as Valedictorian and Aisli as Salutatorian were 100% inspirational but as I looked at the WHS graduating class of 2018 and saw so many AMAZING students that inspired me in one short year, that seemed a lifetime, I also saw something so powerful.  I saw every student I had been lucky enough to come into contact with in my educational career, I saw every colleague that worked, supported and guided me from the very beginning and made me who I am today, EVERYONE, and realized that these students were seeing those people in their lives too.  Add onto that when you see the very people that are part of your school, there that day you are seeing it come to fruition, there again are no words and just emotion remain.  It is a spiritual experience of the highest degree if there ever was one, and we are all lucky to feel that thanks to the hundreds, maybe thousands, of family, friends, students, colleagues, and more that let you marl this moment in time, this very moment thanks to all the moments they gave of themselves for this very moment right now.  

Aisli’s Speech spoke to the determination, emotion, and utter strength that defines the true American Dream and power that so many people deserve and show as  their success, that are often not credited, but tonight their due credit was due for sure.  Mr. Weiler’s amazing allusion to art and symbolism of the art Kathlin made as a student and inspirational individual, to Mr. Chasanov’s moving reminder that these are songs, daughters, and family we also remembered making this amazing journey that would lead to so many others.

I want to say there are few days as great as this one I can recall, but I can say that is not exactly true.  EVERY SINGLE play production, graduation, Open Mic, and event that occurred in Mexico, Woodbridge, Seaford, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, that occurred with the amazing names of students and colleagues I have referred to here – all made this day and future days always feel that personal.  In a time in our world where there are so many individuals that disparage differences, as well as disparage each other, it is heartfelt that so many young individuals will be able to change that negativity and narrow view that is so rampant – and create many more days like this for so many more people.

Aside from these amazing students THIS Graduating class that made this year a personal one, these amazing individuals showed the WHS graduating class they were there for them this whole time:

The WHS Board Members for making sure students knew they were seen on their special day:  Mr. Breeding, Mr Rudy, Mr. Gilefski, Mr McCarron, 

The WHS admin and faculty that made this event occur: Mr. Chasanov, Mr. Prillaman, Dr. Long, Dr. Hall, Mr Chase, Ms. Thompson, Ms. Short, Ms. Margaret Workman, Ms. Little, Ms. Feeley, Ms. Lynch, Ms. Martin, Mr. Weiler, Ms. Gephardt (with amazing new baby), Mr. Emert, Mr. Faulkner, Ms. Reardon, Ms. Jones, Ms. Jolene Workman, Ms. Sharp, Mr. Bell, Ms Webb, Dr. Cole, Ms. Stiles, Ms. Zanowic, Mr. John Davis and every single one of his amazing Custodial SUPER TEAM

You might have missed it but – the AMAZING stature the WHS ROTC gave in the form of standing at attention for the graduates on behalf of SGT Stafford and Davis – as well as the ROTC members were a major touch of class for the night- and beyond.

Add to this Ms Lynn Schofer and Mr. Todd Dudek in capturing these moments, the amazing State Troopers that managed a crowd I think hardly anyone could imagine, 

can you see how such an immediate list of individuals supported such an event that has lasted over 12 years to make this goal, and this is just ONE NIGHT.  I kept being reminded those years Aisli had labelled herself “dumb” because she felt left behind and yet how determined she was to change her future – (and certainly not even CLOSE, not in the same ballpark, let alone COUNTRY to being DUMB) and how so many supported her to do so.  How Kathlin fought for the very right to insure she would succeed on behalf of her family from Vietnam, and what an incredible treasure she became to so many.   Multiply that by the individuals that did the same in this class, so many names, from Tatum, Morgan, Myra, Jayden, Darshil, Kristen, Alexis, Alyssa, Heather, Cassidy, Sofia, David, Jeremy, Yasmine, and I am not even close to so many that made such a n impact in such a short time-  and you have an evening that is in its own category.  Is life good?  Better than I could ever imagine, even on my bad days, thanks to the highest caliber of these individuals around me.  These individuals are ALL the DIFFERENCE. 

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I Believe…in the Difference Made.

In receiving an invite to hear Mr. Weiler’s class present their This I Believe mimics of their experiences, I was like 100% absolutely.  I LOVED the This I Believe series that had aired on NPR and always wanted to do this, we did this one year in AP English and it ROCKED.  My favorite podcast was this particular one –

Thirty Things I Believe

I figured the same experiences of inspiration would today.  What I heard and experienced, it will be pretty hard to put into words.  Over the next hour – I witnessed autobiographical accounts of students that had lived through periods of abuse, self-mutilation, thinking suicide was an option at one point in their lives because people hated them, individuals raising their younger sister or brother, living in hotels, and stories that had me frozen in my seat.  THESE WERE STUDENTS I SAW EVERYDAY AND HAD NO IDEA THEY HAD SUFFERED THROUGH THESE FEELINGS or EXPERIENCES – and most of these occurred in elementary school all the way up to the current year. 

The bravery and therapeutic nature I witnessed as they were as nervous as the graduates that stood on this very stage the night before, in front of that very podium, and yet, they breathed in that anxiety, and after realizing people in the audience were taking in their stories, applauding their bravery and willingness to share such too old experiences for students this young and you realize this –

– the moments you think a student does NOT need an acknowledgement of hello, or getting to know them as a member of the school community, whether they initiate that first encounter or not, I saw so many needs to just simply feel they belong and often knowing someone is looking out for them and wanting them to be safe, all starts with just a hello and showing they have a place to feel safe.  This hit me like a tractor-trailer as I witnessed student after student sharing accounts of watching their parents shoot up on heroin with their sister in the car, and having to act as a father, to the absolute ridiculous situation of children living on their own in a hotel and trying to not let others know so they would not be separated and more and more stories that I COULD NOT BELIEVE happened to these students.  Full of potential and needing the support to grow from these experiences.

This is how strong these students were too while finding the strength to share this – at one point the intercom came on and it was like God calling from above and the current speaker looked up and yelled – “Oh Yeah?! Is that all?  Are you done?” Granted some stories were simply about believing in dogs, Their belief in Nick Foles, soccer and more – every student had an amazing impact.


Is that God or the intercom?!


Amid this such high tension storytelling, these students found moments to reassure the “It is okay” by laughing over mistakes, over odd moments like this, as well as letting these instances lead to ways these students have found a way to find themselves again.

I realized how much more the students in all schools rely on someone – whether they know them or not – to simply say hi and ask how they are doing – so much rides on it and I realized how much “un-normalness occurs among the students who we see as “normal.”

When one speaker relayed how his six year old sister called him Dad – her brother and he now in his “This I Believe account”  explained how that shattered his heart – I just couldn’t believe how much these students rolled through to even graduate and that is what took me to last night’s ceremony.

I found myself so pushed to provide a haven for students at times in the midst of realizing their hardest days are 20 times harder than my hardest  – as we all should try to not forget – not knowing how grown up these students have had to be already – to make it where they are right now.  I realized that was part of the gratitude I saw last night at WHS’s graduation, but before I go deeper, I will devote the very next blog to this amazing night, WHS’s graduation day.  The connection between these accounts and the graduation day-  I saw from this brave student’s chances to show that these students are stronger than they know sometimes and also our chance to celebrate  their stories on their terms – there simply are no words.  I realized there should not have to be, when there should be 100% action to show how many supporting individuals there are for others that need to find their way.



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Precipes to Conquer.

There are so many precipes that present themselves.  What are yours?

I am continually surprised by what life offers for the taking.  Or maybe what I feel needs to be taken as if an offer might be taken away.  This stemmed from my own personal motivations – each of us have many.  years ago I lost a dear friend, a close friend who wrestled with depression and ultimately ended his life – despite many long nights of reassurance – and it you can imagine – and that pushed me to feel as if I was responsible for leading a life not just for me, but for Dave.  I wore the shorts he had in my runs and I improved every single 5k, every single 5k, and it seemed to be a message and a reminder.

I have a tradition I pass onto seniors ever since my Dad left my family unwillingly – and he left such a legacy among us, that I leave this message with every single individual that touches another in some way.  My Dad touched so many,  in so many secret and public ways, another obligation internal grew inside me, and I felt if I was to carelessly ignore any moment that something could be turned into something else, I was not to be the one to miss that opportunity.  The lives I felt I needed to lead for Dave and my Dad just became a natural part of my being, again thanks to the legacy left behind from these two important individuals occur.  My brother Randy fought a fought so bravely and when I was grateful enough to move back to the states and see my dear brother before he left, I felt even more responsibility added to not take anything that so many individuals might take for granted in life.

When I came to Seaford High School in Seaford, Delaware, I fell into a rhythm that I did not exist – and Coach Vince Morris was there as he was there for so many of us.  Internally, externally, everywhere.  I remember the one single memory of Jackie and Vince, the story I always tell, perhaps the hottest day I can remember and Coach Morris and Morris (both) were out repairing a batting cage in the middle of the athletic fields of Seaford High.  It as so humid and hot that there was haze that made it almost appear as a mirage.  it reminded me Vince was there through the hot and cold, his life and Jackie’s life have always been a testament to weather through anything that occurs.  I STILL remember being in Mexico City, daily encountering what I would call the “Moctezuma Stairs” above the Observatorio metro, over 180 stairs that, at the top, no matter how many times you encounter, make you winded and breathing HARD – with a view on the clearest day of the volcanos and mountains that is breath taking. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 2.55.10 PMI remember in the middle of when I would feel I had nothing to give, I heard Coach Morris in my ear, saying “if I could I would” and it pushed me up and forward without hesitation every single time.

When we had the Vince Morris and Dr. Betts 5k on May 13th – there were some amazing standouts that make this not a normal or ordinary 5k.  One – having the Nanticoke River Watershed Conservancy as a co producer of this event says alot about what the NRWC stands for and tries to do in a community that has so much potential.  But it made me look outside of our community by having entrants from Texas, Johns Hopkins and more – it shows that countrywide, it is vital and important to create events that bring individuals in from outside our own familiar communities so we can open our minds and bodies to the possibilities that are communities – within and outside. I am shocked at how many people are unaware of what the NRWC, The Vince Morris Trail at Chapel Branch, or the other aspects of Seaford, lower Delaware, or Delaware itself are.  We have alot to do.  Then add the interested parties that believe in events that bring a tight, local community to those in the community and without.  These businesses and community members walk the walk and go the extra mile (so to speak) to make sure Coach Morris, Dr. Morris, and Relay for Life do not go beyond the scope of memory- ever:

ASAP Printing for the tough Bluejay Design that iconically represented all there was to know about Coach Morris and Dr Betts

Betts & Biddle for spreading the word and representing an event that brings out the best of everyone just as Coach Morris and Dr Betts have done.

Cory Darden – He always stops by and always supports – he had a gig this day and STILL stopped by and checked to see what was needed – priceless.

Covey’s Car Care for providing new, innovative metal signage for such events as this

Hungry Howie’s and Rita’s under the care of Craig Dimes who ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS goes the length for community events that tie individuals together

Crown Trophy who always sweeps in and provides the exact details needed

Delaware Correctional Industries who helped insure budgeting would not be a factor to allow this event to occur

Invista that provides the clear path of mowing and maintenance to alow such events at Chapel Branch

Nanticoke Hospital that came to the defense of such an event and to get the word out to so many

Michael Betts LPMH who always was on hand to bring the trail up to par with repairs and additions

Ms. Betts who ALWAYS generously donates to this event to allow its continuance

NRWC for representing all that is good and possible in a community, create new trails, clear obstructions off the trail, and work tirelessly to educate the community about the treasures in the Seaford community’s own backyard

Pizza King in Seaford who again always stands behinds events that help tie a community together

The Seaford Florist to NEVER fails to provide flowers to the mothers and daughters of this event and symbolize what a community means to everyone involved.

The Seaford Star who always take space and time to commit to getting such community events out that bring the possibilities to the front pages.

Sherman for always providing portable restrooms that top off the requirements for such an event

As you can see, events like these so not just happen by themselves, and believe it or not, there are STILL loose ends happening with this event that are still happening.  Individuals have requested

Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 3.00.09 PM.png

 shirts that go towards the funding of this event, (harry.brake@gmail.com) –

but a final report will still be coming on this after we receive the final shirts (we keep adding logos to all the supporting individuals responsible, so hang in there more is coming about times, participants, the amazing trophies, and more!

Finally, traveling to Lums Pond on Thursday,

Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 3.01.32 PMand being a part of a new group of graduating 2018 seniors was simply amazing. Amazing because this park is the epitome of organization, nature, collaboration, as well as community.  In less than a year, a group of seniors learned to come together to support each other and also accepting me and I had to stop and ask – How did I not know these amazing individuals a year ago?  That is the most amazing thing about being able to push yourself to experience other communities, other countries, other neighborhoods, and change your perspective continually, it opens your mind, your world, your life.  I was the lucky one to be among so many gifted individuals.  From encourage each other when our knees were knocking and trembling on the zipline, the climb up over 50 feet in the air, you realize how much the outdoors, our community, our neighborhoods, give the chance to for each of us to learn how to live for ourselves, for each other, and for others. I was in my glory as long as I surrounded myself with individuals and organizations as these.

I still carry lives of others with me for personal reasons and it becomes easier to reveal these personal inspirations when you are surrounded by individuals that need inspiration and give it at the same time.  Yet, this all depends on the willingness to be inspired, to put in a hard day’s work or even that might not be the most popular – but the realization –

the most meaningful moments are not about popularity or numbers, they are based on the deeper inspirations that remain in our heart and keep us going.

I love I still learn so much every day from this life, but this comes from the lives I propel myself forward for in my past and the lives that are our present and future.  There is so much to improve and represent, and we can pass that onto others by our involvement and activity.   

I stood on precipes ziplining in Mexico and my heart beat like CRAZY – standing among some of the best students I never knew existed in Mexico, students everyone in the world should know.

I found myself among paths that Coach Morris had nurtured, cared for, and nurtured and felt at peace like nowhere else – even in another country.

I stood on precipes ziplining in Delaware and my heart beat like CRAZY – standing among some of the best students I never existed in Delaware, students everyone in the world should know.

What is your precipice?  Who will help you over them?  I am excited to see as well – and am grateful for the bridges so many lives have provided.  Lives motivate me,  What motivates you?

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“Mr. Brake, Have You Ever Been in Love?”

Okay, seriously, this question.  I NEVER, EVER thought I’d be asked this question by anyone.  EVER.

Times Change.  There I am, in school, sidled by a student that was in the worst times of his life due to being told his girlfriend needed to break up with him to focus on issues in her family, and he is desperate from some words of advice to ease the pain.  

Asking me.

Me, the bad luck charm of anything, remotely related to relationships.  Being asked this question.

“Of course I have, and as you can see – it just doesn’t work out…”  as the phone rings, students approach behind, in front, sometimes ON my desk  – there are two things I know for sure  1) My devotion to turning a space into a safe space, an interesting place, a place where everyone wants to be instead of a vacant wasteland (formerly known as the library) have worked, the phone rings, the emails, the masses, the masses of tid-bits needing to be shared with me – all evidence.  2) The opportunity to play into the hands of modeling caring.

I explained in the best possible student/teacher way – “Yes, this is something that is probably the most difficult and most trying aspect of life, LOVE, it is something that can not be brushed off lightly, cannot be under, or over estimated, and it is ALOT of work.  Me, I have decided I would devote the work I would and could put into a relationship into the students that surround me, hence, I go home at the end of the day, I have nothing left because I have voluntarily decided to give it to each one of you.  You see this, right?” I laugh hysterically and go to the phone that rings yet for the fifth time in one 90 minute period.

Over the next few days, I would find this student coming automatically to the library, and also referring him to the counselor, where he would spill out the pain he was feeling – and if I paused a bit to get past the sense of dread of what I was going to say I haven’t said already, I would realize I felt the same so many times working my way through high school, and it is easy to be irritated and forget what it felt to be like.  But I am glad that I did give him this piece of advice: “No matter what you do, if you do not carve out something of your own, something you can claim for yourself, be it a hobby, a skill, or an interest, without that, it will be next to impossible to be able to share a healthy portion of yourself with someone else and to be able to be healthy and supportive for them.”

When I transitioned back to the states, I forget momentarily the issues that students in a rural (and yes urban, but in this case rural) area struggle with, on such a high daily level, when they have sometimes parents that are gone more than home, no parents at all and possibly foster parents, or grandparents as parents, having one parent working nonstop to bring minimal funds in, parents that might be addicted to substances that push the students to be on their own in many different forms, coming to school hungry almost every day, coming to school hiding the fact that students are homeless, students that struggle with a form of abuse recently or n their past.  I am not indicating the fact these were or were not the issue with this student, however, these already have been reasons why many students have claimed the library a safe place that helps relieve the pain in these situations, even if but for a day.

Let me make this clear, the fact they find refuge in the library fighting these demons of their life, honestly, is about allowing a place to be that refuge and not about me as a person.  It certainly drains me from head to two every single day, and yet, I am merely the door keeper to allow students to find a place they can express, relax, hide, or vent, as well as being a product of years of amazing students and colleagues, parents and family, friends and peers that have helped me become a better person to allow this to happen.  This is why this is able to happen and how I am lucky enough to be able to provide this little reprieve to students in the form of a Media Center Library.  The same can be said of the purpose of a Media Center Library to the school as a whole as well, but…

..the fact that students need a slight bit of encouragement – from someone they see every day is a REALITY of the stress and work that teachers, and sometimes those teachers that become EDUCATORS (what is the difference?  I have wrote a blog post or two about that LOL) is a reality) –  In a fiery storm of shootings in our country, a lack of politeness and caring in voices of those that represent our country / other countries on different stages verbally, in an era where money talks and education is deemed something to deal with, students say all the time “You should get paid more” or “You do not get paid to be a counselor, wow”, and yet, educators can choose to watch their watches and leave at the drop of that bell and close the door everything erases. but then there is the other side of being an educator that consumes you because you know things consume students.

This (minimal skills in education) honestly is the way to burn out and not last in a field where it takes all your energy to be qualified and to earn a living, paying off the debt that it took to get that living, and no one said anything about having to lend an ear after taking four hours of papers home every night aside from checking standards to curriculum, watching that students are contained in the day AND learning something they can answer to pass the state test and…

You have summers off right, easy gig, right?

Anyone that knows an educator knows the summer is a small way to clear minds and retain some sanity while planning the next year all summer long.

IEP’s, parents expectations, students expectations, followup emails, calls and this is JUST to be a mediocre teacher.  To be an involved and dedicated teacher you find yourself doing what others do not do first, all of the above and going beyond the measure of taking care of yourself as a 9 to 5 employee and bringing the troubles, fears, and excitement home with you to sort out and let your students know that it can be sorted out with someone willing to lend their time to make them see there is a better day on the horizon.

To be an educator today, and not merely a teacher, you need to model that there is more than enough time to be there for each other, and maybe, MAYBE if you are lucky, individuals will learn that there are others pulling for them, supporting them, cheering them on, amid the chaos and crazy pace of assignments, hurdles, and expectations to get to the next grade.

Students will see and understand sacrifices when they understand that visible sacrifices are also made for them, because as an educator you will take lengths to see them to the end, despite the times you lose.  

This is something that teachers, cannot learn, but educators do by cheering on students at their games after school, calling parents when something amazing happens, and making mark son papers that point out amazing ideas that could lead to others.  This takes an amazing amount of person time.

” You see XXXX (name withheld), I SUCK a relationships of the heart, but when it comes to seeing my students feel and see way through the madness of rhetoric, politics, hurt, shame, racism, and exploitation, and have a chance at succeeding, well, I am getting better thanks to students like you, and yes, you matter”

A pause, a silence.

Comments come out like “You are the best librarian I ever met – This is the best library I have ever been in! – You would be my pick of the best teacher I ever met” _ I have received cookies (fried oreos no less, placed on my desk with A note “You ARE WELCOME – ALI” .  (as I think which one is Ali and not Alison or Allison? – I get cookies, brownies, chips, not at first this took months to happen and yet –

I am a total FRAUD because – I get these compliments because of:

-the amazing way I was treated by students faculty, and friends living in a country called Mexico that took me in without a moments hesitation and taught me what love is, even when I sucked at Spanish and do not understand how to do something, they recognized my attempt to try; they embraced me as a person for wanting to, they taught me what indviduals living out of one country can do for others and letting me see inside their own lives and be a part of their lives and respecting me for so many things I was not worthy of being respected for

-the amazing colleagues that were by my side from my first days of student teaching, to the students who were patient with me in those early years, the colleagues and peers that studies alongside me in college, friends that supported me in Phi Kappa Psi and every college I attended

-amazing friends that stuck by me – from high school, college, and beyond that supported and instructed me in being a better person from the time they met me

-the amazing educators at Slippery Rock University, Butler Community College, Mansfield University, Colorado University, even Butler High School

-family that still accept me when I left so many years ago and have not had the pleasure of being with them for so long, and losing family and yet – their support all the time when we talk

-amazing new faculty that took me in and have guided me back to a population of students that latch on to models in and out of school that help them feel as if they might be able to make that next major trail in their life while succeed in obtaining an education

“Have you ever been in Love Mr Brake?”

“Yes, I have been loved by some of the best people in the WORLD that have shown me that love is possible, but love takes many different forms.  IF we are lucky, we will recycle that love and be able to change things around us, including ourselves and not forget that what me feeling is annoying form others, at times, can actually be a cry for help. We all have that strength to find something for ourselves first to share with others.  When we do, all else falls into place.”

He walked away with a smile on his face.

So did I.

I have not quite recovered from the amazing love I left in Mexico – and yet, the students back here in the states have pulled me in so fast to their lives, and yes, not most times let me explore what life might be life without them (trust me, some daaaaayyyyyys) – their suffocating ways have made a difference as graduates of 2018 become survivors in so many ways.  As educators, the world can change when we do not forget a glance, a compliment, a 3 minute chat, despite the most frustrating rapid days we have, will indeed make a change in situations around us. As with anything in education, this only happens in a realization package, years from now.  It has happened for over 15+ years I have been in education, and THAT is something, NO ONE will experience unless putting their all, into ALL that surround you in a given day.

Being an educator is a village that some disconnect from and those that do not, control the pace of love in so many forms.  For all the thank you’s and gratitude I am sent, I know each one is a result of every single individual that took me in and showed me the way.  

Thank you.

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