Wednesday, May 20, 2015

ATPE Summit 2015

Are you a Texas Educator? Have you marked your calendar for ATPE Summit?

Educators have spent their year changing the lives of the various students that have walked in and out of their classrooms and schools.  With it being the end of the year educators are still working hard to make sure that their students have every opportunity to succeed and the Association of Texas Professional Educators is doing the same thing.

One of my favorite times of the year is the ATPE Summit.  This year the Summit takes place July 7th-10th in Austin, Texas.  It is important as professionals that we grow with other educators and professionals.  The ATPE Summit provides this opportunity.  ATPE provides a wealth of great keynotes, information, and even more importantly connections with other like minded people.

Although the information that I have learned at the Summit over the last 2 years is impressive, the most notable part of the Summit is the House of Delegates. The House of Delegates allows members of ATPE from across the state to have a voice.  This is a time where we can vote, discuss, and collaborate with what we would like for our lobbyist to work on during the year.  It is a chance for Texas educators to have a larger voice outside of the classroom.

My favorite part of ATPE?  Many times as we get frustrated at what is going on our professionalism is questioned.  ATPE continues to be professional in all matters and looks at all of the different views.  The Association helps educators and professionals see all sides of a story.

As educators we are constantly changing lives.  As legislators they are changing educators lives.  As ATPE members our well being is advocated for.  I look forward to the ATPE Summit.  I look forward to the Summit for collaborating with like minded educators, having a voice when often our voices seem to be lost, and making a difference for all educators.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Rocking The 80's- Teacher Appreciation Week

We celebrated Teacher Appreciation this year by going back to the 80's. (get ready for picture overload!)

Each day was a different 80's theme.  With the help of our administration and my over achiever partner in crime Mandy Madden.  With that, follow along with our week of totally rad good times.  I have linked some of the various websites that I found ideas from, but honestly I enjoyed using more to search ideas and then recreate them myself.

Monday- Who you Going to Call? Elliott Teachers!
We pulled several of our Destination ImagiNation students and remade the Ghostbusters Theme Song. (I am an 80s movies fan anyway.. but it was SO much fun pulling out some of my faves!)

How did we make the costumes you ask? They are painter suits that you can find at Home Depot (and.. our Home Depot in Irving is the BEST!- We always take our DI kids to Home Depot and their staff is always the best with our kiddos)
Our awesome Ghostbusters

Check out our remake

Like, this video was way fun to make, but we had to give out goodies to start the week.
So our administrative team dressed up as Ghostbusters and passed out colossal cupcakes that Kroger had made (these are my FAVORITE cupcakes by the way-90 of these good things!) 

Tuesday- Back to the Future Breakfast
We asked each grade level to bring a different ie. kinder- juices, first grade- donuts and so on.  We set up the teacher lunch room with a large breakfast buffet. 
Bright table clothes and cut out eyes out of paper and taped on

Added various movie posters around the lunch room- but of course we had to add this to a corner!

Wednesday- Was a surprise! Staff was invited to wear their best 80s duds (and there were some great outfits!) The principals had lunch provided to us by food services catering. But that afternoon we had a staff meeting where at the very end our principal directed us to go to the gym because she was so disappointed that she had to show us what happened.  Before school let out (and with the great help of one of our awesome PTA volunteers Heather) we had decorated the gym to look like an 80s prom.  There were balloons everywhere, lots of snacks and drinks, 80s music and a photobooth.

Part of our Rocking Leadership team

Elliott Teacher of the Year through the years

Photobooth- backdrop is a bright green table cloth with 80s streamers on it.  Rubik's Cube made out of boxes covered in black paper and then construction paper.

Of course I didn't get pictures of the whole gym, but I do believe it turned out pretty awesome.

Thursday- This where the Pac-Mans came into play.  The giant Pac-Man began the game. Throughout the school there were 3 other Pac-Man ghosts (all of these were created out of post it notes by the awesome Madden) Coming from each ghost was a certain color of dots (those dots took forever to put up, but there was not a hallway wall that was untouched) Teachers were instructed to meet in their team leaders room for their conference period.  I then gave instructions to go a certain ghost and follow the dots. The dots led out a door and to a waiting car where our admin was waiting to take them to Sonic for drinks.  Thanks Josh Workman with Capitol Wealth Strategies for taking good care of us!

Friday- We offered a VIP Badge (new badge lanyard and nice acrylic badge holder) and a Rockstar VIP lunch.  
We started the day with remaking the Breakfast Club commercial

VIP Badges

26 pounds of brisket, corn, beans and bread

Thanks Eat_Catering_Service for the awesome lunch. Chef William always does a great job

So, the power went out during lunch- I continued serving- however, I am the worst meat cutter EVER.. and I don't really like brisket.. but I knew the staff liked it :)

We survived the week, and as soon as I left school on Friday Madden was already calling me about planning for next year (yes, we know our theme and we have ideas!)  What did you do for teacher appreciation?
A few extra pictures:
Filming our Breakfast Club remake

each Mixtape had a teachers name on it

My partner in crime!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

National Infertility Awareness Week- You are Not Alone

Last week I wrote about Strength.
Next week is National Infertility Awareness Week.  You can find more about it here.

I have written before about my infertility journey before- you can find it here.
I do have another blog that is more for health and wellness, but this is such a part of who I am.
Here is my disclaimer: I am SUPER happy for all the families out there.  I am blessed to know so many wonderful families.  I am happy where I am.. and who I am.  That does not mean it is not hard to be happy when sometimes sad.

But this blog is more of reminding people that they are not alone.

This past year I went to my annual well woman visit at a doctor that I have been visiting for almost 7 years.  We have discussed my infertility in the past, but more importantly.. my PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) But at this point in my life.. my well woman visit was more of how I am trying to change my eating habits, using oils to be more calm and centered, and the other things I was doing.  

-You are not alone- your infertility hopes can easily change knowing your financial limits 

During my well woman visit I had the conversation of where I was going next in my infertility journey. Now, remember I had said that I had been with this doctor for almost 7 years.  During this 7 years he had recommended me seeing a true infertility specialist. I had spent thousands of dollars for medications, shots, procedures. But our time for this whole journey is not for right now.  We discussed that when I was ready to really start trying again that it would be when I had my weight better under control and would try some new medication other than clomid.

-You are not alone- know that your journey is your journey and although the time limit might not be on the timeline that you expected- strength will get you through.

So, my well woman visit finished and I went about my way.. walking past all of the young and old mothers in the waiting room.  Wondering when my time might be to sit in the waiting room with a round belly. 
My whole visit- the regular well woman visit, a few questions about my PCOS, and where I was going next- all reasonable questions so I thought.

-You are not alone- having your doctor know all of your inner secrets, wants and needs is a normal procedure

I recently contacted my OB because of a charge that I had.  It was only for $26, but it was for my last well woman visit.  The well woman visit that is covered by my insurance.  After being on the phone for about an hour with 2 different nurses and billing.  I discovered that my OB had coded me extra for my PCOS and also for having longer than a 15 minute conversation.  The $26 was not going to break the bank.  It was the principal of the matter.  The doctor that I had spent 7 years with, had shared my secrets and longings had charged me extra for asking questions.  That $26 hurt my heart.

-You are not alone-

I will not be returning to that doctor or practice. 

-You are not alone- your journey will take you to many doctors some who have your best interest and some who do not.

I have been so very blessed to be a part of so many wonderful lives. I have families that I am close to and have had a chance to watch their children grow and be a part of their families.  I have had many wonderful students that their parents have opened their hearts and arms to me. I am constantly surrounded by amazing people that support me and love me for who I am.  I also wouldn't change all of the adventures, journeys and lives I have had a chance to be a part of.

-You are not alone- there are people that surround you both young and old to help you make it through whatever journey you might be on.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


This year my word has been strength.  This quote is pretty perfect for it as well. This year I started off persistent.. and have continued that on.  When someone asks how this year is going.. I can only reply busy.  I don't even have another word to describe my life.. other than busy.  I have accomplished a ton.. and I feel that I have grown in my position, but because of this growing in my own profession have lacked in other areas.

However, this weekend I realized something...
I have failed as a friend.

I can't tell you how many text messages and/or facebook messages that I have.. that I read and respond in my head.. but don't actually respond to in real life.  Who does that!

I hope that all my friends/colleagues still know that if they ever need anything.. I am there in a heartbeat.

So, it is April.. the year is almost over.. and I am going to consciously work to be a better person and friend. To those friends that I have been terrible about responding too.. thank you for still loving me!

Here is to finishing out the 2015 year out strong.
-I will take more time for myself (have already packed my lunch for the whole week)- This means eating healthier, getting outside more, reading more.. and being with FRIENDS AND FAMILY!
-I am already front loading for next year.. I can be busy and be accomplished.. but I can't be so busy that it takes me 2 hours of working in the quiet when I get home. (did I mention that I am starting another masters next year)

Most importantly.. I will still have my word STRENGTH with me, but now it will be more geared towards having STRENGTH to be a better person.  Thank you all for always supporting me and putting up with me.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Autism Acceptance Month

I have been so lucky to have worked with so many amazing students, family, parents, and staff that are all on different journeys.  I spent 12 years in a LIFE (Living in a Functional Environment) classroom and I was always truly amazed by what every student could do without any limits of whatever their ability might be.

My word has been and always will be BELIEVE.  We need to BELIEVE in every student that enters our classroom.  We need to BELIEVE in every person that we come in contact with.  I have a heart for all kiddos, but a big piece of my heart has been for students/people with autism.

I have appreciated that many families are now considering April to be Autism Acceptance Month.  I love my friend Aimee's blog  for this month.  The most important thing that I have learned from the families and students I have come in contact with.... is that EVERYONE has differences.

I LOVE what @venspired always shares.  Check out her website here

So, this month.. I would like to give back.   So many students have given me so much in the way of learning, accepting and being a better person.. I would like to give back.  Yes, I volunteer, but I would also like to give back monetarily.  I have 2 fundraiser parties open right now.  My goal is 22 Buy 3 Get one Free! When the parties reach $500 I will match the donation.

Support Turning Point Christian Academy- check out the Jamberry Fundraiser Here
Support National Autism Association- check out the Jamberry Fundraiser Here

If you participate in supporting these fundraisers.. I will have a drawing at the end of this month for a $25 gift card.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Verso Learning

Have you ever had one of those years where you have about 5000000 blog ideas running around in your head, but then it takes you at least 3 months to get one written?  Welcome to my life lately!

Let's take a moment to travel back in time to TCEA15 in February....

TCEA always offers so many opportunities for me to connect with fellow educators, learn about the latest tools and meet cutting edge companies.

Many of my friends have joined the Flipped Classroom idea and Verso Active Learning is an amazing platform to get started in.

During the lunch I attended I was able to easily log onto the app as a student and join the classroom that was created.  

Things I loved on the student end:
-The ease of joining the classroom across various devices
-The importance of student voice.  Many times students will wait to answer prompts or questions, Verso uses anonymity when answering prompt.  Being a special educator I had many students who would not answer questions for this very reason.  I love this part!
-The ease of the teacher being able to track all of the comments and information coming in from the various classes/students.

In creating my own class through Verso I was excited to see how streamlined and easy it was to maneuver between classes, information and my dashboard.  Working in the education field my time is very limited and having access to all that I need at my fingertips is a great plus.

Things I love on the teacher end:
-The data that it gives me. I know that many teachers become overwhelmed with data, but good data allows us to be better teachers and also for our students to grow.
-The voice that it gives students.  How can a teacher not love student voice.. and this platform allows for students to feel more open to answering and commenting.
-Did I mention the ease?  This platform is super easy to use. You can connect it with your Google account.  You can also record on the go (which if you know me.. being mobile is a HUGE deal!)

I look forward to learning more about Verso Learning.   Have you used Verso and how has it changed your classroom?

Sunday, March 8, 2015


Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the North Texas Teen Book Festival. Now, when I put this on my calendar.. I really had NO IDEA how awesome it would be!  I had received an invite from one of my favorite friends (a young woman who I used to nanny for.. and is graduating this year!)  The Festival took place just down the street from my house and when we walked in I thought.. oh.. I am just going to spend a couple of hours and then head back to the house.. I could not have been more wrong.

The festival had a robust schedule of author panels, book speed dating, book sales and the end of the day an awesome book signing.  Did I mention that it was FREE?

I dropped my counterparts in the Book Speed Dating area (To attend the book speed dating, attendees had to have a wristband to attend.  The wristband got them into the area where they chose a table and learned about 4 or 5 different books.. and then were able to choose the one that spoke to them the most.)  I headed to my first panel.

It's the End of the World as We Know It
Explore dystopian and science fiction futures.

I admit it.. my favorite books are young adult books and I love series.  I sat on this panel because I am loving Patrick Carman's books.  (I might or might not have gone through the line and purchased the Pulse, Tremor and Quake)  After sitting in on this panel.. I backtracked through the line and picked up Alex London's books Proxy and Guardian.

I had a chance to sit in on one more session One Story at a Time: Discuss the challenges and freedoms of writing stand alones with Adi Alsaid, Karen Harrington, Claire Legrand, Julie Murphy, Sara Zarr, Jennifer Ziegler and moderated by Carson Thompson

This panel really made me take a second look at the stand alone books.  It was great to hear the authors talk about how they plan out books and how they plan out characters.

My Top 5 Take Aways from #NTTFB15
5. The volunteers that put this on where AMAZING!  There were so many librarians and teachers that had brought groups of students.  Did I mention that it was the Saturday of spring break?  I attend conferences often where I am googly eyed over the different presenters. It was so amazing to see these students/kids so engaged in the author panels.. who gets a chance like that?
4. The panels were fantastic.  There were so many options with so many awesome authors.  These authors really knocked it out of the park (at least the ones that I had a chance to view) 
3. The students that were there.  At each panel they opened up the floor to questions from the audience. The questions that these students came up were AMAZING!  They were so well thought out and such good questions.  It also takes a ton of courage to get up and ask a question.
2. The joy of all attendees.  It was PACKED for this event (I mean, there were buses lined up dropping kids off)  The excitement and book conversations that I overheard were wonderful.  I am an avid gadget girl, but I love the feel of a real book.  There were thousands of young adults, students, and adults alike with their arms full of books and having conversations about all of the topics.
1. "The worst writing I have ever done, is better than the best writing I have never done." said by Alex London.  These authors inspired young learners (and adult learners) how powerful it is to share their work no matter if it is good or bad.  That it is important to be rejected, because that only makes you better.  

Tomorrow I head for #SXSWedu where I will be talking about digital storytelling.  Being a teacher of children with various disabilities I learned how important it is for everyone to have a chance to share their story.. whether it be digital or paperback.  

Thank you #NTTFB15 for an absolutely wonderful event.  I want to volunteer next year!  Happy Reading! I leave you with the lines to get books signed. This just proved that books are awesome and authors are rockstars

Selfie with Alex London

Selfie with Patrick Carman

A great article about it from the Dallas News.