Festival of Words…You NEVER Realize Where Reading Will Take You.

I honestly cannot remember a single time is has occurred, close at times, but never to this extent.  Reading this made me realize how much school libraries and the experiences that occur outside of them, as much as what happens inside of them, matters to so many more other than the school librarian themselves.  Add to this the partnership of public libraries with school libraries, the sky is the limit. The students from Woodbridge High as well as Greenwood public librarian never cease to surprise me with how committed they are to what is in front of them – it motivates me so so much. Then there is Andrea Rashbaum who I remember as in December of 2018 – no speakers and look where we were March 2019? – making it look like a wave of the wand occurred.

I am referring to Festival of Words that occurred on March 9, 2019.  Of course I am referring to the student presenters that attended with me and while I could go into detail about this event, how much it excited me etc I will only relay one event then premiere the essay a student chose to write about this event as an assignment.  I can honestly not remember a time when a student wanted to choose a school library event to use as the focus of an assignment, let alone writing something so honest and personal, and taking in so much of the day – and that is what make this so powerful to me, the power that school libraries, school librarians, and the effect they can have on students in and out of the library.  Powerful.

The one memory I do have is figuring out another school’s project and laptop configuration, having the excellent luck to be supported by a student named David at that school, and then once figuring out that system with our school’s laptops, I heard – “Hey, can you maybe come down to the next classroom and help this presenter’s situation as well….” at first I panicked with about 10 minutes left to go for the keynote and thinking “I don’t have time…” and yet, what if it were me?  I knew I’d desperately need help and be worse if I was the presenter and in the same situation, so I thought, “What the heck…”…and ran to the next classroom.  After trying every possible connection, I was desperate, and ran back and grabbed the laptop I had brought assigned to me from my own school.  By SHEER luck, the HDMI cable that I took out of another connection in that room, and attached to the back of the school laptop I brought – BING!  it worked! Eureka!  The feeling was amazing…then the next door classroom heard we discovered it and asked, “Hey, can you…”  yes.  I ran to the next door classroom, tried the same thing with THEIR laptop and yes! it worked!  With only three minutes late, I tore down to the keynote with author Paul Volponi, and from that moment on, I was hooked into Festival of Words from the very beginning.  Every ounce of passion, interest, and energy that the authors  Paul Volponi, Cordelia Jensen, Juliana Baggot, John Micklos, Chimere McLean, LaVern Robinson, and The Twin Poets – every bit,  oozed out into the attendees.  I could keep going but I saw on the end of the program, there on the stage, was author John Micklos, who I had JUST helped with the HDMI cable, who I realized I had run into and seen at Bethany Beach Bookstore when I had FIRST returned to Delaware a year ago, and it was true.  You NEVER realize where your reading interested will take you.  As you will see from the essay below written by one of our very talented student presenters, a day can change everything.  Thank you Festival of Words and thank you Alastornia, Alexis, Donna, and Regan.

Alastornia –  March 9th, 2019

Festival of Words

    Saturday morning. The morning teenagers look forward to to sleep in and relax for the day. When a teenager is awake at 6:30 on a weekend, something important has to be going on. Waking up early to go to a festival that you have never even heard of, with no expectations on what is going to happen while you are there, and being a presenter on top of that, is nerve wrecking. Recently, I attended the Festival of Words, in Wilmington, Delaware, at DelCastle Technical High School. Festival of Words is filled with students, librarians, educators, authors, poets, coordinators, and writers. When I first woke up to go to this event, my expectations were in the middle, I knew I would enjoy the ride to the school and the company of Regan Todd, Alexis Durham, Harry Brake, and Donna Carter, all people that were presenting that day for Channel Surfing Your Community and The One Memory of Flora Banks discussion with myself. After going to the event and seeing what it is all about, if given the chance, I would definitely attend again, if not as a presenter but as a guest, to explore all of the workshops available.

    Festival of Words is a free workshops designed for students, teachers, and civilians of Delaware and other states to “encourage a love of reading and writing” (Delaware Festival of Words 2019) in the youth and adults that attend. Festival of Words has been held annually for 19 years, with the most recent event being held on March 9th, 2019. This year, the festival had more than four hundred people, with a turnout from a mixture of middle and high schools, along with public libraries from all over. All the people that I met at the event were extremely friendly and willing to help, and everyone that was there shared something in common. They loved to read, write, or both. The Festival stuck to a schedule, starting with a keynote speaker, author Paul Volponi, moving into the first workshop of the day, which everyone attending got to choose where they went, this being the first year where a journalism workshop was available. After the first session came lunch, where everyone that had registered was given a turkey sandwich, potato chips, a rice crispy treat, and a small container of macaroni salad. Not able to eat meat? The coordinators thought of the vegetarians and made a vegetarian option lunch available for those who wanted it. Lunch was a 45 minute affair and then we moved on to the second workshop, in my case, a discussion on the book my group and I had read, The One Memory of Flora Banks. The second workshop concluded at 2:10, and everyone gathered back into the auditorium for a raffle of free books, and a presentation by the Poet Twins, who had earlier done a poetry workshop and shared not only their own poetry, but the poetry of those who attended the workshop. The Twin Poets concluded their reading and a book signing occurred of all the authors who had attended, from Julianna Baggott, author of the Pure Trilogy, to Paul Volponi, and Cordelia Jensen, author of Skyscraping, The Way the Light Bends, and more.

    Paul Volponi, the first person the group heard from at the Festival, set a high bar for whoever was too come after him. Paul Valponi is an author who has written several books, many based off of things he has seen in real life, or things he made up using a photo, including; Black and White, Rikers High, The Final Four, Top Prospect, Game Seven and others. He was very interactive with the crowd, getting people out of their seats and up to the front of the auditorium to speak, play games, and demonstrate parts of his books. Valponi was a very relatable keynote speaker, relating to the students and the educators. One of the most memorable things about Paul Valponi was how he connected education into his whole speech. While he was discussing the books he had written, the literature he has seen, the history he has learned, he shared random knowledge with the crowd. After Valponi finished his kick off speech for the Festival of Words, I asked him why he decided to come today, in which he answered, “…because I love connecting with students” (Paloni). With such a strong start from Paul Valponi, I looked forward to the rest of the event, and I was not disappointed.

    Upon registering for the event, everyone that was attending got to pick two workshops in which they wanted to attend. Since I was a presenter, I had to do the two workshops that my group had been assigned, which was a community workshop and a workshop on the book The One Memory of Flora Banks. First up we had the community workshop, which about 8 people attended. Not many, but they were involved and interested in what we had to say. Being from Sussex county, the only presenters from Sussex County, many of them had never heard of the events we were discussing. Donna Carter, head of the Greenwood Public Library, talked about as librarians, the goal is to create workshops and events that everyone wants to attend, educators, students, and children. When Donna finished discussing the programs she has at the library to try and make Greenwood a more connected atmosphere, Harry Brake, the Library Media Specialist at Woodbridge High School took the stage. Mr. Brake is constantly working to improve the school, planning gaming competitions, open mic nights, and battle of the bands. This workshop was very informative, it told people how they can help in their community, where they can go to see all the things happening around them, and what they can do to make more things happen. The set up of the workshop was intriguing as well. The workshop itself was about 45 minutes, so how does one fit all that information into that one period? We channel surf. We had 5-10 minutes per topic, depending on how much needed to be said on it, and when that time was up, whether we were done talking about it or not, we had to change the channel, and if anyone in the audience had any questions, they could talk to us after.

    The second workshop we did was about the book, The One Memory of Flora Banks. We had read the book, and had been anticipating that everyone who had signed up for the workshop had read it as well. Wrong. Half of the people attending had just bought the book that day. How were we supposed to talk about  the mother giving Flora the drugs ; was that ethical?  Also, the emails, the trip to Svalbard, the trip to Paris, without giving away any spoilers, how? Well, we decided to talk more about the setting and the symbolism in the book. The One Memory of Flora Banks is about a 17 year old girl who has no short term memory. Anything that happened after the age of 10, she can’t remember. Well, except one thing. The kiss. She kissed her bestfriends boyfriend, Drake, one time. But that memory stuck with her. It’s all she could think about. She believed that Drake could help her memory come back. So, what does she do? She takes a trip to Svalbard, since he moved there for college. The book takes us on this journey, giving us many twist and turns along the way, making us question our own memory. Before the workshop began, we set up bear prints all down the hallway leading up to the door, with messages on them. Messages that Flora told herself throughout the journey, from “Be Brave”, to “Just breathe”, and “The Kiss”. For anyone that had not read the book, all of this would be confusing, and confusing it was. Even more confusing, why did the three teenage girls giving the workshop have writing all over their arms? To represent Flora. In order to remember, she wrote herself notes, constantly writing on her arm reminders of everything she needed to know. Our idea was to have the crowd write on their arms as well. As a group, we thought they might be a little hesitant, but they jumped right in and didn’t even question why they were doing it, and when they finished we told them the whole point to our introduction.

    These may have been the only two workshops that I was able to attend, but there were so many more available. The Twin Poets had a poetry workshop where they aided guest in writing poetry, Paul Volponi hosted a writing for fun workshop, there were community workshops, like the one we had started the day with, librarians and teachers had workshops on books like The Hate U Give. Authors gave insight on how to review, analyze, and publish works. Whether you are a reader, a writer, an artist, or a critique, there was something here for you.

    Andrea Rashbaum, the director of The Festival Of Words for this year, has been helping to plan the festival for 7 years, and this was her first year doing it alone. Festival of Words used to be “more focused on book discussion” (Rashbaum) but over the years the festival has integrated poets and authors, making it “50% authors and 50% books” (Rashbaum). Andrea hopes that the festival will continue to grow in the years to come, and would like for it to become a school and state wide phenomenon. With a festival like this, a lot goes into it. In order to fund it, they rely heavily on grants and donations, never asking the students and educators in attendance to pay a fee. The whole atmosphere of the event was welcoming, organized, and friendly. The volunteers there were always willing to show us where to go, and all of the presenters helped each other along the way.

    The end of the day came around and everyone joined back in the auditorium for a raffle of free books, a discussion from the Twin Poets, and a book signing. The Twin Poets did not focus on themselves in the end. They brought up three people that had attended their workshop and had them read aloud the poems they had written. Everyone was quiet, ears open, to see what they came up with. The Twin Poets then shared two of their poems, “Science” and “Homework for Breakfast”, both filled with comedy and a message

    Festival of Words just celebrated its 19th annual festival, and after going to one, I hope to attend again next year, if not as a presenter but as a guest. This festival is an amazing opportunity for anyone to learn more about writing, reading, and analyzing in a fun manner. It allows you to meet published authors and get advice from them on how to do things. The event lasted from 10:00 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon, but it went by so quickly I wish it were longer. The festival really encouraged students to write and do what they want to do. The speakers there really connected with the students and made everyone feel welcome. As someone that is not big on writing workshops and activities, I suggest this event, there’s no pressure, you can learn things new in a fun way, and you can meet extraordinary people and see how they do everything they do in their career, getting advice, tips, and if it’s Paul Volponi, extra credit.


Works Cited

“DELAWARE FESTIVAL OF WORDS 2019.” DELAWARE FESTIVAL OF WORDS 2019, www.festivalofwordsde.com/.

Rashbaum, Andrea. Personal Interview. 09 March 2019.

Volponi, Paul. Personal Interview 09 March 2019.






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“Act Today for Impact Tomorrow”

professional development march 8

Photo by H. Brake

March 8, 2019 – Our District-wide Professional Development Day at Woodbridge High – some of you may hear that soundtrack of Jaws in the background, but do not fret – think more like the soundtracks of Han Zimmer, because sure enough, the competitive edge was on.  How so?  Even from 2 weeks ago when we were choosing which sessions to attend – (I love the fact we can choose from more than a basic number of sessions, and do so ahead of time virtually, to fit into crazy schedules we have leading up to the PD) – you could sense some workshops would be PACKED fast and that was competitive in a sense – and all attendees had that chance to find their “fit” as there were many different perspectives to meet so many different needs that helps set a tone of positivity.

From the start of the registration being informed we would be given tokens for the Raider apparel we had – that was a challenge from the very beginning and I was glad to say, a year later after starting at WSD, thanks to a lot of students’ fundraisers, I donned the last year Blue Raider Band Shirt, the black long-sleeved senior 2019 shirt, the Woodbridge white lacrosse sweatshirt, the blue Woodbridge zip pull up, the black Woodbridge fleece jacket, and my Woodbridge backpack and Woodbridge thermos, and yes, not a bad start with seven to start and towards an all jean day – let’s do this – and it didn’t hurt to grab a couple danishes and OJ to jumpstart.

Key note was nice to hear from our own WSD teachers of the year as well as the variety of schools represented in our district, funny, inspirational, Home school pride – very good start to a Friday.  Ms Baerga’s first intro speaking part for the day also welcomed all to the day, and personally, I have to say I appreciated to date the appearances she has made to students at WHS when she is in the admin building, but her appearances have definitely made a difference among students who may not know who our admin is aside from a brief cameo in the yearbook.  I have liked that about our district that admin are seen regularly right in the mix with students, and to me  as an educator that makes a world of difference, so I know it does for the students too.

As I was worried I would be receiving the same information from my first workshop – “Tool Time” as I had attended Ms. Duncan’s a previous PD. 

that be me

Photo by Graham


Nope, not to worry, amazing insights into how Schoology to start with and dataservice would play a huge role for insights so much more than could be tapped into by most.  Being aware of the very resources that exist and not are used currently is one of the most priceless tools to avoiding obtaining more tools that are not needed in a district.  The valuable information about what is being covered from class to class among teachers, without having to go to each current teacher – priceless. 


Photo by Marine

This helps truly build a stronger curriculum among teachers when students are concerned, as well as finding even more direct ways to support students when we (educators) think they are at a dead end.  This all helps support a more promising, positive touch for tomorrow. VERY MUCH NEEDED in an educator’s world today.  It is ALWAYS a bonus to leave a PD experience with more information that is and CAN be used than just theoretical.  Learning that model placing post it’s on a monitor sounds – simple but it is simply and so much more efficient for an educator to see when a student is where they need to be, or are falling behind, from the front of a room as an educator.  LOVE when new approaches are modeled from a teaching point of view when as educators, no time during the school day exists to observe those other class techniques that will make our days easier.

Sliding between the start of the next session we stopped at our High School table in the lobby and picked up our between session #1 competition, Tragedy in the Bathroom, hysterical. 


Natalie Gordon called the doctor and said, “My husband had a fall and he’s lying unconscious on the bathroom floor. I think he must have been taking a shower and slipped on a cake of soap. I did not move him. I threw a blanket over him and called you immediately.”
When the doctor arrived, he saw the scene as depicted and pronounced Francis Gordon dead as the result of a fracture at the rear of his skull.
You are the main detective in this case. Can you tell what happened by looking at the crime scene below? Kaset 


This was a mini break to solve the crime and WHS students, STUDENTS!, that offered to come in on their day off were there to work the tables- wow!  I did see a glimmer of their realization of what a crazy teacher day is like when everyone is shouting out answers


Photo by Marine

and you are trying to rapid-fire answer back solutions, and they handled it SO WELL! (Welcome to our world!) I on the other hand did not do so good on this one, something was wrong in my answers ….so good thing I wore a gazillion clothes in the AM to match the incompetence I had with this mystery!!!

Onto session #2 and I felt a little less worried in seeing something repetitive since I worried about that from the first session, and it was unfounded.  I remember attending the Project Based Learning session in a previous PD day, but NOT to fear!  Again!  New exciting approaches to motivate students – I have to say, I have ALWAYS believed in Project Based Learning and it has always motivated my students!  In attending “Students Own Their Project Through Project Based Learning” wow – it was motivating to everyone as educators, (aside from the amazing candy also provided).  Teachers of the Year Ms. Fisher and Ms. Thompson, teachers of the year for a reason, showed how and why.

From the references to Project Based Learning , to ROCKET BOOKS (this is my next best favorite loved item, solving a lot of problems for those without computers but WITH phones, this is AMAZING) – this excited almost everyone in the room about showing how to change tomorrow for educators and students at the same time.  The tie to Google was perfect as well complementing Project Based Learning, and Ms. Kasey was able to enhance PBL with the intro to a math site, Classic Kick,  that allows students to work through problems, answers, and all AND check and correct them for students all online.  I WILL BE BACK WITH THE LINKS ON THIS ONE FOR SURE MONDAY, as I do not have my notes with me, but this is a powerful powerful tool to again trim efficiency for educators! Think how amazing and inspiring it is to give students something that breaks down technological barriers that they cannot fathom to overcome – it is MAGICAL.  Another priceless and powerful workshop – BONUS!

Mini break before session #3 solve a mystery #2 – sorry no image.  Tried to find this image and the larger mystery is not sure WHERE it was found, on the internet,  but imagine an open window, and some things dropped and arranged suspiciously, and outside the open window a few stories up, you see a fire ladder going to another building….somehow, I did get the answers for this one all correct! YES!  A token!   The WHS students were still fielding a lot of shouting and answers from everyone, so I figured by 3:00 they will look like we feel on those wonderful, assembly line teaching days, lol.

Session #3 – ExcELLence – GREAT play on words showing how we can reach out to ELL students and use tools in our own district to locate information to assist ELL learners succeed.  Using tools such as Dataservice and seeing it as more than a tool for ourselves, opens a brand new toll that can help see how and what our students are capable of. This was enlightening again to see something we have in our district all the time and help assist with the very extensive process of meeting the needs of so many diverse ELL learners, and knowing we can have more insight into that planning piece as we work through curriculum.  The fact we were doing this on new Chromebooks also helped put the educators in the role of using the actual technology we have at our fingertips to advance the curriculums in our school. 

Powerful even further was the fact that when we first walked in, we were given an assignment in all Spanish and expected to solve the problem, allowing MANY to see what it sounds like for many ELL learners to jump right in (CHARLIE BROWN WAH WAH MACHINE!) Even being in Mexico, and being able to work out a lot of the words, unless it is used daily, it is so easy to fall out of practice, but I did find, it is impossible to forget the need for exceptional colleagues and educators to learn how to survive in another country!  I was lucky in Mexico, and we need to get across the feeling of students being lucky to be at Woodbridge with supporting those needs of ELL students, priceless to be able to be put in their seats and feel as they do.

DID SOMEONE SAY LUNCH!  HECK YES! While the line was a MILE long on both side, the tortillas, chips, salsa, cheese, pretzel salad, are you kidding me?  IT WAS AMAZING – and hit the spot and I literally was having a party with my tastebuds and a wrestling match with my stomach to hold more – DELICIOUS.

Session #4 of Decoding Dyslexia allowed me to see out Middle School Librarian, as well as internalize the myths surrounding Dyslexia, and know of the experts in our district that can detect and treat a path for those that have Dyslexia (if I spell it right enough of times I will remember how to on my own…).  I LOVED the fact that so many myths regarding Dyslexia were touched upon  which also led to what we can do regarding comments when this is suggested to us as educators as being a potential problem/issue, and signs to look for.  This truly was a clinical step in the right direction to show how individual steps can lead to positive impacts tomorrow.

Minibreak and competition #3 – LOVED the chance to make an airplane and make it good enough to pass through two cones.  I always prided myself as an expert paper plane


Photo by Marine

folder (is that a possible profession in the future?) Ten minutes to do all the above, but fun and yep, token please!

Session #5 – yes, this one had me smiling based on the unknown before I entered the chorus /band room, “Uke’N Do It!” and yeah, from the Open Mics we held in Mexico and in Delaware, knowing someone is going to even HOLD a ukulele, well instant gratification.  Really my first time holding a stringed instrument the proper way, and then learning to use fingers to hold for a C, G, F note, MUCH different than playing a piano – and harder on the fingers! However, AMAZING atmosphere that is changed when music is introduced into a space, I noticed this in Mexico as well, it had the ability to change EVERYTHING. 


Photo by Graham

With Ms Graham and Ms Martin, you never know what is going to happen.  Add to this that we were “accompanying” songs by Taylor Swift and to Funkytown? – the whole period FLEW as we laughed the WHOLE time and delving into music to enhance it being a Friday, IT WAS awesome!

Dropping off coins at the end of the day to see who wins a jean day – well yeah we found we all did get a jean day but I have to say, it was well worth the effort as all day, I simply saw so many people competitive and into it, and that had a lot to do with the planning and support of the day thanks to Donna Hall, Kylie Cross, Elyse Baerga (and hysterical comments at the end of the day), the admins from each school, and the WHS IT – it worked SO WELL.  If you have to have PD days, I am glad I have the ones we have at WSD, and seemingly gone are the days of dread when you go into the day searching how to be better, how to be motivated, how to put a fresh mind and perspective.  With the choices we were given ( I only listed five of the many workshops available) this becomes VERY easy.  No, I did not even get to do the two other possible competitions of taking selfies with forming the word ACT with as many faculty members during the day and taking selfies of the conference and posting them to #WSDACTFORIMPACT- but a lot of others did.  It was exciting to see


Photo by Marine

the enthusiasm in WHS students, faculty, and admin all during the day.  I mean, how would have thought I’d get a chance to see Ms. Thompson (Our Assistant Principal and  DASL Admin of 2017-2018) jamming on a ukulele at the end of the day?







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A talented colleague of mine from Mexico wrote the following:

“Had a profound, perspective changing evening yesterday. Those of you who tend to enjoy this type of introspective thought process (TJ Larum, Suzanne Grundyblum, Paula Roufs, Ellie Briana, Samantha Ayers and any others?), I would love to hear your thoughts and/or your five things.

These last two or so weeks, I have felt very “heavy,” for lack of a better way to describe it. I’m behind on tasks, I’ve missed appointments, nothing has seemed to go right, etc.

Yesterday, I was at an event with a choir I sing in and I mentioned this to a fellow member. He empathized with the statement and told me that I should try to think of 5 times (either in general or specific moments) when I have felt like I am either most proud of myself and/or being the best version of myself.

I didn’t think much of it at first, but I decided to start writing some down, which was a more difficult task than I had imagined. The result was a huge shift in perspective and a realization of what has, perhaps, been missing recently.

* When I have shown love without condition
* When I have listened without judgement
* When I have taken a risk even though I was afraid of what might come of it
* When I have actively seeked out being a friend to someone else without expectations
* When I am able to stay on top of necessary, yet sometimes mundane tasks (laundry, grading, dishes, etc.)

Thoughts? What are your five?”


The wording of his post just made me stop and realize how many of us do NOT stop to reflect on such things, and that is necessary for us to have a even more meaningful life, taking time to do things that connect our heart to our brain through reflecting. These are my five:

  • Seeing what people point out things they say I that sacrifice  too much, be it a portion of my day, week, month or year to send someone into the world; knowing who is better than me and sending them into the world to make the change against negativity and ugliness, when it comes to how people treat each other verbally and physically. I have been given the privilege of interacting with individuals and hopefully letting them know, in their darkest hour, they have the power to change everything for the better.  They changed mine. That is worth anything more than I could want in my own life. They make me better as a person by having the privilege of sharing the short time together.
  • Knowing I have received one of the best gifts ever from my parents and family before them.  A will to push through with even more vigor, energy, and channel any frustration and anger into producing even more opportunities.  Someone may run faster than me, may outperform me in the NOW, but I know I have a limitless poll of want that can outsupply anyone around me, an energy that is fueled by the motivation of those around me (colleagues, students, family, friends).  It is what keeps me going long after everyone else. It is my strength in my strongest and weakest hours.
  • The ability to see what everyone else does and says and thinks, and wanting to do something unlike anyone else.  That striving for finding something that does not exist keeps me hungry for always evolving, and wanting the same in those that are around me.  This insures that life will never be mundane and average, unless I want it to be.  Knowing we each possess a creativity that exceeds our capability, if we choose to tap into it.
  • The ability to come back to something, often when others think it is too far gone to recover to do, and always coming back to something and wanting to finish.  I do allow my to-do inventory to fill up higher than the Tower of Babel, but I have a determination to never let the end product go.
  • To be trusted to be confided in, approached, befriended, and allowed the opportunity to share my life in hopes of trusting to improve someone else’s.  That is a level of trust there are no definitions for.

I will tell you Rob, one of the toughest decisions I had to make was leaving a discovery I made when I thought I had my life planned out in front of me.  Then Mexico popped up. I realized in 6 years how crucial it is to see life through other’s eyes than your own.  Mexico taught me all over what family, friends, loyalty, and respect is when it comes to those around you, and those around me, turned out to be another were country and see in first hand instead of through a lens that was put in front of my eyes in the U.S..This was perhaps one of the GREATEST gifts many will never experience, how lucky are we?

Leaving Mexico in the summer and not saying so much to so many around me was – I just can’t tell you how hard. After carrying a large depression with me in a cold cold winter stuck inside after having left that behind me, what kept me up was the gifts given me in those 6 years in Mexico, everyone I ever met carried me through that rough rough transition period back.  I also realized, the amazing things I learned could and would be lost on those that could receive even more benefit from if I hoarded these gifts in Mexico and did not bring them back to those that never had the chance to know what I had learned, or see the new life I had from what Mexico gave me in six years.

The sometimes hardest thing to realize is how I carry what I learned with me every single day.  There is a lot of ugliness of words, actions and thoughts among people that are different than each other. I learned that as an individual, I do not have to live quietly with those stereotypes places on people who truly do not know, because they have never experienced anything except what they have always known.  That was me.  And now, I am viewing the state I left in different eyes, given the opportunity to model and teach what and how things are so different than the majority sometimes tries to convince you of, and now, have an  even larger body of family from my time in Mexico. 

Giving yourself time can be bad sometimes because dread can creep in, true.  But coming back to these five things as you so importantly brought up today – will keep you coming back to the table and reinventing yourself thanks to the people that helped reinvent you along the way.


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Working for Living…

Taxes came back today – that was the fastest I ever received a return – Spring 2019 semester paid off, some bills paid off, next paycheck will jump ahead to getting my storage out of storage from Mexico and finally, each month will be about saving a little more than I did from the previous paycheck…
I can’t tell you how many cans of tuna, slices of PB & J, learning how to get 2 weeks of gas back and forth from school with my SUV, getting by on 80.00 of groceries for 2 1/2 weeks, all the while putting in over 50 hours a weeks at school – school loan debt is ridiculous and when you do not qualify for discounts despite working sometimes 2 – 3 jobs, financially starving for months to get ahead, and picking up jobs like judging for Columbia, tutoring, working all summer JUST to get BY – and to be able to do this from going to college – there definitely needs to be a fix for people that are earnest and work around the clock and still are pushed down down down every time they turn around. 
I hope in the next say, 9 years, politicians and leaders will find someone that can look through the eyes of a student when making decisions instead of looking through the eyes of someone that can’t see because so much money is already there in their pockets. 
Thanks to my cousins, Aunt and Uncle, and friends
and especially my friends in Mexico who made me realize how strong I am- making me stronger than I thought I was before leaving for Mexico…
who stood beside me and encouraged me when I would not go out for WEEKS trying to save it all to just make my school loan payment.  It has taken me  three Master’s Degrees (third one started now), tons of double duty jobs to get to a level where I can even have a chance to help my family, pay my school loan, and the rest of the bills after. 
It is amazing to finally see a point where I now can budget and have enough $ left over to SAVE – and thank goodness I am only 46 – amazing.  MANY many needs for better programs to support those willing to put the time in and work – but there has to be better incentives for those willing to do so.  Not everyone is a go to college degree individual and that opportunity needs to be available to EVERYONE wanting to pursue a career they are good at, are trained in, and ENJOY, else sticking in a position for 30+ years is just a waiting game and not having your heart in it. 
I still remember the countless days I would be out, on paper routes, mowing lawns all summer, picking weeds out of cracks of sidewalks from the pickiest customers of landscaping, working the PA Turnpike, sometimes a double shift, juggling the job at Friedman’s and the lawn business on the side – and wondered – this working 24/7 around the clock JUST SUCKS! lol but even at the end of those days, I realized how little some people appreciated the “things” they received, the money they were often given, and the way they treated others because of it, and I realized, I am a better person because of the work ethic I had to grow into and grow up it. 
Heck, I am more than thankful for that way of growing up today.  
As a teacher, I want to see better opportunities for young (and some not so young) colleagues of mine to go on and have the memories, the travel, the friends from all over the world and be able to separate themselves from the often ridiculous hurdles put in their way to simply want to TEACH. NOT to fill out forms, not to be in debt for the rest of their lives, but to be as much as a celebrity (since they help most of the celebrities get where they are) and have the constant sacrifices they put in day in, day out, night in, night out, for years on end to make other’s lives better. 
There is much light at the end of the tunnels of work – but those of us that can, need to demand for a better for us that are talented enough to prepare so many future generations for…the future.
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Heavy Weight in the Stacks We Choose…

Hour 33, Day Two of 24in48… and what does 24in48 reading marathon mean so far?

For sure despite wanting to roll through a stack of books, I had to find a way to remain connected to 24in48 without accomplishing a stack of finishers, BUT I am planning on making progress with some picks I did start and I WILL FINISH ONE!  Books I love that I have started – A Few Red Drops – The Chicago Race Riot non-fiction by Claire Hartfield – is AMAZING and a read everyone should delve into.  I think it amazing to find out from various authors – via historical perspective, of cites we come to know as tourists.  It is scary how many relative incidents can be pulled out and pointed to, today as well and contemplated amidst events in the last 2 years or so as well.

Secondly – The Journey Home – My Life in Pinstripes by Jorge Posada was a book I would not go out and get myself (those are the best gifts!) and yet it is an account of how a family life and lessons learned shaped his life playing in New York; sometimes you get a book not well written by an athlete and this one DEFINITELY is –wow.  Success marked his personal and professional life for many deep seeded values he was instilled with.

Lastly, I made a vow to dive into books that I know nothing about and answer – or try to find out- why are they in our high school library? – if not obvious.  The Wheel on the School addresses these points made – “…We can’t think much when we don’t know much! From now until tomorrow morning when you come to school again, will you do that?  Will you wonder why and wonder why?”…all centered about why storks stopped coming to a village of Shora in Holland.  Taking place in Holland, this novel by Meindert DeJong to me, seems to be a hidden treasure that while geared towards children, has a more important message to adults and all individuals, that they need to stop and wonder why and then try to work together to make something happen that would be good for the world around them – this simple, elementary approach to the story carries a much heavier Adult theme if readers take time to view it that way, which today applies to preserving on the verge of extinction animals, wildlife, issues of food and water shortages, preserving our climate in the midst of recycling, waste, and ecosystem issues, political, social, historical divides and quarrels, and about 100 other issues that COULD be solved if we agreed that we disagree, but our biggest goal is to solve for our generation and for future generations.

Yes, I am not content that I have not started and will finish with a stack of 20 books this 24in48 episode, but am thankful for other reasons for this January 2019’s 24in48!

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The “Little Things” Have Something Bigger to Say

Blogs are amazing. I mean, take the chance to check in, write what you seem, experience, and realize – record it in time, and then when you come back to years later, you can revisit that moment and recollect where you are at this moment in time, pretty priceless.

Whirlwind weekend speaking of reflecting, but without going into details that ruin the chance for a future conversation starter – in one day I jumped right into the 24in48 hours reading marathon, trekked to Takoma Park, Maryland, with cousins in tow we headed to Cumberland, MD to grab a Penske rental, a little further in La Valle, MD, grabbing a pics 1.PNGpreserved marlin, a couch, an amazing historical story battleship in glass case, thanks to dear friends of my cousins, trekked back to Takoma Park, MD, unloaded, truck, reloaded truck, headed back to Delaware, unloaded tons of “fill in the house” items, and jump back on the 24in48 reading marathon and found it WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!!! 

hour 24 2.PNG

LOL – I was thinking…what the……*&$*()~#!#!+@)~  LOLLLL

What others consider little things, but what you as a person desire and consider huge is priceless….for me, I never had time to sit down and write, and reflect, etc – and one of the largest things Mexico ever taught me was to take time out to do that, take time to read, write, reflect and do the things personally, that add a complete picture to your life.  Those kind of lessons are priceless.  

National Novel Writing Month and participating and see your name and an excerpt of what you wrote announced on a live YouTube sit in that people watch because they love to write, winning during the 18th hour of 24in48 reading marathon, finding out you get to participate in the Delaware Association for School Libraries, helping lead community events that people like coming to, participating in, etc these are not Emmy award winning events and yet, they often are felt more inside at the heart that the big time showlight events we see on tv, because they mean something more inside to us – that is the key.

Notoriety for the sake of being noticed is temporary, but being noticed by yourself for the very things you intrinsically find valuable, taking the time to find and search out those very things you find valuable…a better life awaits as a result.

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Still Clamoring in the Room of Requirement…

Going back to school – after a vacation – let me tell you- harder than most think.  I think I found the key to getting past that feeling of dread.  It worked today heading back to work after a well-needed Christmas break.  Setting up a 12:00 – 7:30 PM 20lb frozen turkey turkey for the after- Christmas, Christmas party – it made the whole aura of returning – well amazing, easier, and actually something to look forward to  – not necessarily LAST NIGHT during the cooking and this morning with loading the vehicle and unloading vehicle before anyone was at school but then…it just unfolded into the Necessary Room of Requirement…



…not the same as Harry Potter, but magical just the same.  The smell of food, the exchange of presents, the food, the time to simply sit down and stuff ourselves and be able to celebrate each other in the library.  I wanted to be no other place with none other than the students coming back from holiday thanking I am around them – .this american life and in that place – it was the best way to start 2019. It felt more right that I thought it would be.

Which brings me to these three acts of This American Life – not endearing to me because they have to do with libraries, but the stories they tell about the people within them.

“Libraries aren’t just for books. They’re often spaces that transform into what you need them to be: a classroom, a cyber café, a place to find answers, a quiet spot to be alone. It’s actually kind of magical. This week, we have stories of people who roam the stacks and find unexpected things that just happen to be exactly what they required.

  I could say more, but nothing more needs to be said if you listen to these three stories, I still am wanting to listen all over again.  So much to say about these three stories and SO GLAD someone spent the time to do this segment, and let these stories speak to you.  Find a quiet place, and play this episode,

and let these dreams, memories, and recollections surround you and celebrate the moments they churn up in your mind as well 🙂

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What You See/Expect is Not All That There is to See/Expect

Shriner’s Hospital.  I was struck by the latest commercial – this is a great one:

and this came to hit home this past year.   I was lucky enough to witness the many many opportunities that Shriner’s Hospital offer as a chaperone for the Upward Bound program this summer – and Shriner’s showed the opportunities in careers for those graduating in the culinary field, medical field, X Ray field and more, aside from the magic that is worked in the carpentry and mechanical shop that design cool and trendy tools that help children walk, reach and more.  Aside from what I knew Shriner’s was known for – in helping so many individuals, children and adults alike.  Add to this repertoire the nurses we talked with and why they chose to work at Shriner’s versus a higher paid position at a comparable medical facility, but they in fact did get to travel abroad to share care to other countries as well, not just isolating the good work they are a part of in the Shriner’s Hospital alone – in this case Philadelphia.

Yet, the biggest surprise was to come – when I encountered a group called FIERCE.  I was intrigued that this program targeted young women and opened them up to the information that they need in today’s age – what they are capable of as women challenged in many various areas, as well as health, physical, and social – it sounded pretty awesome.

Over the next few weeks, I tossed the idea and despite the program being within a fifteen mile radius of the Philadelphia area, and not receiving the grant I wanted to facilitate the choice of bringing them outside that circle I wrote to the Shriner’s.  Thank yo Mark Bulson – he facilitated the go ahead. Thanks to Ms. Kotowski, she laid the plans to happen with out administrator Mr. Chase and Ms. Thompson.  Thanks to our Bay Health staff (Andrea Smith, Suzanne Chafin, Joanna White) nurse Dawn Ellis who had personal experience with BayHealth, our Technical crew members, our PE Trainer Chona Carmen, the WHS coaches, WHS teachers, a GREAT cafeteria staff, led by Terri Hartzell, and that was just the tip of what happened.  We managed to get this elite team of experts to WHS to visit:

Dr. Corinna Franklin, Dr. Bethany Lipa, Dr. Heather Russel, Melissa Cramer – Physician Assistant, Courtney Mullen – Physical Therapist, Mike Szymendera – Dietician

and the thought to involve local, within the area sources of help to compliment these services also hit me, and thank goodness, thanks to the help of Greenwood Librarian Donna Carter, La Red CAME to the school December 6th as well! and thanks to 

Gaby Perez, Lorina Sellers, Pamela White, Juanita Morales, Brian Rodriguez

from La Red- let me just tell you briefly and this says it all.  Several students asked to speak with the counselor Brian Rodriguez about various issues related to social/personal needs and broke down in tears needing to hear from even more support teams how and what they need to do to cope.  It was amazing to see how the call for help being provided from new faces could indeed reach them and direct them to the resources we do have in school already, and allowing these students to hear from a different voice, what they need to do (often this is all it takes, a fresh message and face to realize that is around them that can help!) – in fact – that was what was happening to me in seeing the impact of the FIERCE team and La Red together this day!

Also add to the day a senior was able to enhance their senior research project by interviewing one of the attending surgeons from Shriner’s, and the fact that a roomful of young ladies received a lot of info and accessories that opened their awareness of how strong and power they hold with the right proper health and view, a positive one of how THEY Themselves can hold themselves to a higher standard, and not relying on others alone to do that.

What would have happened if this would not have happened? One of the most powerful impacts of this visit was the way students views the individuals that work at the High School ; students were able to see the talents that instructors, coaches, nurses, Health professionals all serve in AND out of the classroom in providing resources that not only affect their academic needs, but their social, personal, and mental states to be as healthy as possible. Seeing such a need, and connecting our school with community resources that many do not realize exist, is part of the overall educating process. Putting out students in touch with these resources in one of many steps towards seeing what is not known or expected and being able to do so more in the future.  We were so lucky and privileged to have Shriner’s FIERCE team and La Red to be on hand to also show that to so many in need as well.

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Resolutions of Opportunity & Impact- What Changes Everything.

A year in perspective, many changes and ups and downs for all of us.  In seeing myself relocated a lot of changes in a new school district for the first time, and in the states when that was not at all in the long-term plan (so much of that walks alongside the whole resolution plan made by so many in the new year!) – I realized so much is not checked personally, not examined and evaluated accurately unless a situation forces you to look within.  Sure, we all try to make resolutions that will somehow make our lives better in the new year.  Yet…

… I have discovered the best resolutions that appeared throughout 2018 were from the movements I continued to try and improve elements of my community, that being the community of school, town, county, state.  I was extremely lucky to be surrounded by colleagues, friends, and professionals in Mexico City that helped me want to create, develop, implement ideas I never even had existed or could become reality.  They came to reality due to the ability, energy, and belief that “new” could mean meaningful in the actions we do and how we apply ourselves to develop something new, to improve the community around us.

Bringing back the ability, energy, and belief that I witnessed by so many around me, and applying it to opportunities that did not yet exist but could emerge, it motivated me to see how much a community can grow, morph, and change if you have the commitment and belief of those around you.  Prior to moving back to the states after 6 years, the tumultuous events to make that happen, and that did happen, so much.  From politics, to changes in public school legislation, personal changes, financial changes, and so much more, it was a daunting change – but one important lesson kept revealing itself.

No matter the hits/hurdles/ setbacks that increased on a personal level, repeatedly sometimes and back to back (I know you know what I am talking about), the increasing opportunities that occurred in my professional world made me wonder when the former would catch up with the latter.  It was depressing at times and I often found myself depressed and my first cold, winter and inside dealing with these issues didn’t help.  I also realized the amazing experiences I had in Mexico due to amazing people, the amazing family and friends and colleagues I had surround me BEFORE I left Mexico, I was fully equipped to hang on through the toughest of times, I had in the past, thanks to the friends, family, and colleagues (yes, at some point students had become my colleagues as well) to weather through those and soon both would catch up to each other.

I had not run in a race since I left the states, I had gained weight others could not see in the first year I returned, and felt awful due to the extra weight, lack of exercise I was not getting and had in Mexico, and it had also affected me mentally.  Add to that being behind the odds due to a blown engine, a new house and adjusting to countless costs of renting a vehicle, new home, extra costs hidden into getting back on track (there is a whole set of nuances being in the states when out of the country from so long, cultural and financial). Yet, there was one MAJOR realization along the way.

Despite the thought that those above us dictate the direction of the future, this year we have seen this vein of thought come through the channels of politics and the Me Too Movement, what REALLY is true is change that does not matter if individuals have the heart to make a change and every time, individuals can make the positive change that can override the majority.  Positive wins over negative every time.  The majority thought is superiority wins over everything.  Not so.  If that was the case I would not even have half of the accomplishments I have seen, thanks to those around me that motivated me.

I am the type of person that the more I get pushed back, the more negativity, I need top call it a day after so much, but after a short recovery period, I am just PLAIN angry.  I channel that frustration into creating new events, plans, ideas and implement even more than I am usually capable of.  I fuel my anger into projects and to do’s.  Luckily, I have those around me that support that plan, and they believe the impossible can be made possible.

The world, the  country, ours and others, education, community, and ourselves can be changed for the better and can roll over any authority that bangs back and tries to rule the day with negativity, pushback and detrimental methods.  Patience. and faith.

I look forward to these realizations and “move-forwards” to make the past two years part of a new year full of moving forward.  Thanks to brand new students to a high school in 9th grade, they ran for the first time on a XC team that made me run, and in turn, shed pounds and gained endurance that I had not had in seven years.  The XC team did that for me, as well as an inspiration coach that took the challenge to bring XC back to the school district.  That was one isolated example.

I had family that supported my move back in the way of furniture, moving things in, moving things out, dealing with transportation needs when my truck was down and out, support from students, friends, colleagues from Mexico, from Delaware before I moved away, and with teams like the above – anyone that is considered ‘above” you in position or authority that you feel can make your energy and ideas moot, the key is pushing that aside.  I was doubly lucky to have schoiol adminstrators that bought into positive changes, creative ideas, and rventuring into the new – and we were off to the races in my school district.  This sounds strange, but my dog and cat rescues from Mexico, always weathered anything that would often cause crazy behaviors in the short time that they occurred in 2 years, and all they wanted through all that is to be with me and people, they rolled with every change.  I felt I needed to take their lead and do the same.

I witnessed and witness state legislation that nixes the national level decisions that can cripple environment, politics, international relations, and more, showing, INDIVIDUALS MATTER.  You have to believe your energy, your possibility, your moment matters but you also need to gather those around you that believe your dream, and that one dream, goes from YOUR dream to OUR dream.  That changes everything.

I owe everything I achieve to those that continue to believe in the dreams I have and make them reality – pushing through obstacles that come our way, some thrown in our path and some that fall in our path. I could not shake the last Northern Male Rhino in existence to die.  I realized how far we have to go to preserve that which cannot be replaced by items like money, greed, authority, wealth, position cannot replace.  I remember being a young boy in the Carnegie Museum looking at stuffed versions of the Dodo Bird, and wished I could have seen that in real-time.  Not a preserved version.  I want that for our world, the world to be preserved and positive steps forward that preserve the beauty that is possible, not the monetary first and foremost.  Each of us have that power, voice to make a positive change to all around us rather than lament the hits that inevitably, will keep coming.

I look forward to a 2019 that realizes these realizations, (yes I did that) and use the past two years to blend with the accomplishments possible in a 2019. Not to put away the past year or two, but to use it to advanatges for all of us.  We are more important than the common thought that there is nothing more we can do – our communities, world, relationships with each other are more important. 

Let’s do this.



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Twelve Hours in a Bookstore, Pages Turning…

The last two days were exactly that, 10:00AM – 10:00PM on hand wrapping gifts and filling time when that did not occur.  Sunday, completely different looking day.  Arriving at 10:00 AM, and by 11:00 AM, I was surrounded by gifts needing wrapping, a line of individuals waiting to have gifts wrapped and wondering WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED since LAST NIGHT? The next time I looked down at my watch, 1:L17 PM – Seriously, how can that happen?  

In the course of those four hours that truly disappeared, I had met Darlene and Bob Jones, a retired husband and wife that were so easy to talk to and get to know them quite well.  It was a pleasure wrapping their mountain of gifts with the good conversation that was to be had.  It was great to just have a conversation about their grandson, their life in retirement, and just aspects in general.  I guess wrapping gifts paves the way for that.

A second man that worked for the Post Office, chatted with me as I wrapped his gifts and we discussed the misconceptions regarding that occupation versus the reality.   I relayed my holiday break experience at one time when I was in Edinboro realizing the seasonal position I maintained at UPS while studying school and in awe of how the misconception of what a job entails and the reality clash.  He stated, “When I have the job that people think I have, then I will let them know!” and we chuckled much.

Before you knew it, 2:00 PM came through, and my relief came and even though I felt so much better than yesterday’s relief time (Thank you Jady and Sydney!) – it still felt amazing to be able to get a change of scenery.  I do have to spend some time explaining how successful we have been this year as a Junior class due to the motivations of the students themselves.  As in any group, you always try to measure and outweigh the individuals that are there for the minimum,  versus the individuals that should not get burned out and be motivated to keep moving the group forward.  Indya and Jasmine are two of those individuals.  I remember last year a slew of events that barely were pulled off and we had some reliable members as well thank goodness in the resources of Rachel who really came through, and we were lucky enough to have a great collaboration with the then freshmen class to simply make things happen.

Indya and Jasmine continue to come to the table and expect others around them to do the same based on their commitment to move the Class of 2020 forward, and that is exactly what it takes.  Their commitment to planning at meetings in the morning that are way to early to think about anything, their follow through with fundraisers that continue to bring in at times hundreds, even thousands, make an impact overall of where the group will be headed.  At Apple Scrapple, had it not been for Rachel and family, Indya, Anthony, and Jasmine, we would not even be halfway where we are now, not even close.  It showed so much selflessness to come in on a day that was so close to holidays, allow me to see a portion of a football game I would obviously due to the long day, and return refreshed and able to do the best I possibly could.  Extra duties we do while being a guest at the store, straightening the magazine racks, directing customers to the correct area, wishing people happy holidays as they entered, and more left a great feeling 20181223_174824 (1)working with a company that in turn supports us every year.  Yet, without the energy and willingness to push forward when you have an off day (Saturday), when you have team players like Indya and Jasmine, it is priceless to see them be able to turn the group around at the turn of a dime based on their ability, motivation, and optimism. Certainly it makes the long hours in as well as the road to what the future holds a little bit brighter to see, their involvement just in one day in a span of hours brought the Class of 2020 on track to rebound from one bad dad, to an amazing one.  What matters in the success of any group, is the willingness of a group to contribute a little at a time and all combined, one huge masterpiece.  

While on my break, even more conversations that tied ourselves to individuals occurred.  While sitting down for lunch, a couple beside me began a conversation with how their ties to graduating from the former high school in Bridgeville, and the antics that he put on while a student at the high school.  During the lunch, we visited connections that did not contain itself to just Woodbridge.  We discussed a sad event to a young lady from Seaford that is remembered by a concrete bench at the Seaford High School, a sad event that tied a tragedy to a very sad event, and I just marveled.  Marveled at the connections that go beyond the borders of specific school districts within one state, and go to the very people that make the borders of one state.  it is such a shame during the holidays to not peel through the layers of meeting people on the pretense of shopping and make it to the layers that reveals stories, connections, and relationships you discover that do indeed go beyond the surface.  We are very lucky in the state of Delaware to have this open door open to us and the offer and opportunity just needs to be taken to full realize these experiences, and enrich the life you can and do find along the eastern shore.  I found it amazing how many times I found this myself, being in Salisbury and meeting so many individuals that connected to Woodbridge almost 40 minutes away, but yet individuals all day that were right along each of us where we lived. 

Again, I met a sprinkling of information and ties to Woodbridge in the remaining time until 10:00 PM.  It was a crazy length of time to put in right before the holidays, hard to get there and a long trek, and a long day to sidle with over twelve hours each day.  I did still realize working each day the information and conversations we had during those two days of conversation while wrapping gifts, creating wreaths, and straightening /helping those around us, it was worth it.  Hard to image this from the beginning, and jumping right in did have its priceless benefits at the end of the experience.  The trick is find those individuals and involve them, that can also bring you along to the trek and that have the foresight of where you can go, not being there yet!


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