Forums for Futures

It would be pretty easy to just let some pretty outstanding moments slip by, and yet, the whole purpose of this blog was to be able to capture some of the most amazing moments that often defy explanation.  I am about eight posts behind so hang on – these are necessary.

Last Saturday, Soroptimist International hosted the 2019 Youth Forum: 2019 Title: Behaviors and Choices: Thinking Beyond the Moment. I honestly was not even aware this was a THING, I had heard about it in March and thought, that might be kind of cool considering some students in our school that had risen to the top of their individual forum 4groups like FFA, BPA, and threw this idea out to several.  By random chance, I was able to get two young ladies, Alyssa and Nina, 9th and 11th grade to turn in their permission slips and there we were, 8:00AM ish at Trinity Logisitics in Seaford and I honestly had NO IDEA what was going to happen.  I did know this was a non-debate format but beyond that I knew little except for the possibility I thought these two young ladies from Woodbridge had based on the talents they possessed.

As we were in the upper office meeting room at Trinity, we began to see some pretty influential members of the community and I was getting a little nervous not knowing how to best prepare the two representatives I brought from Woodbridge. From directors of the Public Librarforum 1y in Seaford, to the Chief of Police, to Supervisors at the Morning Star Publications, a lot of community leaders were here to help moderate and judge a great topic of discussion for today’s youth and currently a hot topic in the media every day. One thing I have to summarize after seeing this occur – with the students not being aware of the topics or questions asked ahead of time, I was more proud of them for giving up an early morning Saturday to yes, compete for a potential cash prize for their participation but also, they way they conducted themselves gave me hope for the future.  Nina pounced on every single question to the first and would come back to the questions with a follow-up if she felt it was necessary.  Alyssa was willing to be there surrounded by people obviously well practiced in public speaking, and yet still jumped in the middle of the foray and held her own constantly presenting how to discuss a view opposite of what everyone else had voiced.  This takes extreme guts to jump into a group of 14 other students and just part the water so to speak to get your point across and be heard.  AND ALL THESE STUDENTS TOGETHER, ON A SATURDAY, WILLING TO PUT THEIR BEST EFFORT FORTH – on issues pertinent today – more people need to see events like this happening in our community – I was like YEAH!

I learned much just from hearing from students from all the varying school districts, and seeing their approaches.  forum2.jpgThe top place finisher had handouts on the general topics that were brought up based on the introductory themes, and that was definitely, first place impressive being able to hand out percentages and tie to questions no one knew exactly yet.  Second and third did well too, but, call me bias, and it is okay, I was impressed with how our ladies threw themselves into a forum of topics that have everything with today’s generations and be able to provide analogies of how these topics have influenced them.  One specific question Nina responded to inquiring about how she consider who has influenced her much, and she pointed out alongside her parent Mr. Shelton, who is her BPA and instructor as Woodbridge High. I had to tell him this, but it made me feel so honored to see educators also do play a role in how individuals can make individual and personal gains in areas of their lives.  I thought, “How crazy proud would he be?” and I was crazy proud of her for point of fact stating this and giving Mr. Shelton credit for so many of the accomplishments she has achieved over this past school year.  I also admired Alyssa in a differing answer mentioning how much her family/parents have influenced her, and realized that she did not hesitate in the least in answering those questions, and as these forum 5young ladies went along, they did get bolder, more confident, and strategic in their responses. 

I was proud these ladies never wavered to approach something such as this forum that was unknown to them, and jumping right into the middle and holding their own.  The sacrifice they made on this first of “I can’t remember” Saturdays was noted and said volumes about what they were willing to sacrifice if they believed in themselves and an event itself.  Sure, money was a possibility but you saw after a while in their concern and care with the topics – that was an aside compared to the effort they put in. Not to mention after this event, Alyssa would go on to support a Junior/Sophomore mulch fundraiser AND a Lions Club Spaghetti Dinner and not getting home until 9:00PM at night, leaving that morning from her home around 7:30 AM.  That was certainly not in the plan book and yet she went crazy lengths to support so many other “not on the agenda items” in the absence of others.

Educators of all areas certainly do put in their share of hours and then some, and I thought about  the fact that sometimes, the moments that fall outside those hours seem to be reflected even more in letting you see the growth of students and how the react and perform outside the classroom.  This particular event certainly did that and reflected outforum 3 the potential that every student can have outside the classroom when ideas, strategies, and lessons are applied to the real world outside of a form school setting.  I felt that these two young ladies applied so much that was not in a planned lesson in one day, you couldn’t help see how bright their future would be – that is a true education at work thanks to the support of organizations like Trinity Logisitics, Soroptimist of Seaford, parents, peers, and yes, educators.  It certainly takes a community to show the extra possibilities that exist outside of what many consider an education. You will not want to see how food for therapy has been taken on to connect with fears about food for so many teens.  Another story of how young students that are inspired by conflicts that seem larger than they are, make amazing success stories out of those obstacles.  You will LOVE and maybe even cry when you see the inner strength that a story about a young lady that took food as her worst fear and turned in into her connection to others to become a healthier self.  Stay tuned!


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The Families of Families – The Addams Family…

There are Methods to the madness.  Take for example, YES! It is Poetry month and there is such a smattering pf poetry in this production, could it be by chance?  I do not think so…

First, I love unexpected – I LOVE the perverse and the unexpected.  I LOVED the Addams Family theme song, LOVED the Addams Family original series, loved every single quirky character that came across the screen with the Addams Family.

addams family

I have to also say having the privilege of seeing so many students in a progression of so many roles, actually helped emphasize the awesome opposite roles I witnessed on this first night of The Addams Family at Woodbridge High. Instead of jumping right into listing every character by name and the specific things that stood out to me, I am putting that on the backburner and urging you, if you know any students at WHS, then go see The Addams Family – because it will show you an opposite side personality of the person you see everyday in school – LOVE LOVE LOVE.  

I realized this opening night showed me that sometimes the opposites help you see the normality that actually exists in all of that.  Not sure that makes any sense at all, but it is so so true.  The truths about relationships, full disclosure, that life is about celebrating the dark as well as the light, being able to see something opposite of what you are used to seeing, to realize what you are familiar with.  It all sounds goofy, but not at all, and seeing The Addams Family brings it all home. I love the fact too that these students were not born to see the original and yet – their on stage performances helped portray the very opposites and similarities that The Addams Family represented. 

On the way home, literally, I was hearing a cherished student’s voice from Korea as we went back and forth talking thanks to the miracle of technology, and discussing her adventures into making Utube videos that have her recover from fears I never knew she had when we were alongside each other in Mexico, I did in fact see the last few years of my life, flash in front of me, but not due to any impending disaster (thank goodness). Her personal hurdles and confronting them and wanting others to relate, connect and  overcome. 

I marveled at living a life in small town Seaford, escaping to a country and city as large as Mexico City, and the life I never would have dreamed of living among some of the highest populations in the world, and returning to a small town design and seeing a performance among students I did not even know three years ago, so much that was so unknown to my just three years ago, and at the same time relishing the ability to see the contrasts on these students’ roles based on seeing their roles just a year ago, and knowing I am seeing them change in front of my eyes.  

You can realize so much if you are given the chance to see differences in the common which is what we are so used to seeing- The Addams Family cast helps bring that home with some awesome scores throughout the musical, some great interpretations of the various numbers – and the super fact and witty remarks that some don’t grab due to the pace of the musical, and it all works.  It all works great as being a quirky, totally different yet, deep  down, dead on target messages.  Every single character has that something that will make you remember long after the initial performance.  Isn’t that what we all need out of life as well?

There is much The Addam’s Family brings to light, through revealing the dark – and doing it so very well.

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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


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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