August 5th, 2019


Melissa Wilson

ISTE Conference

June 23-26, 2019


I attended the ISTE conference in June. I found the conference to be overwhelming, but inspiring. There seemed to be a session for anything you might want to learn more about. Beyond all of the amazing sessions, every educational company you can think of was in attendance along with many I had never heard of. I was able to talk to representatives and learn about the latest updates as well as things that are coming soon. I have been attempting to gamify my classroom since I first heard about it at Educon. I now have the beginning of a plan. I was able to talk to several educators that have gamified their classrooms. Tisha Richmond’s session was very helpful in developing the plan for my game. 


G Suite Secrets to Success


As a heavy Google user, I loved this session. Click the link above to see all of their notes. I’ve listed a few of my favorites below. 

Tab Management Tip – Tab Cloud

Google Calendar “find a time” 

You can see your calendar along with the person you are scheduling a meeting with side by side. It will tell you when they are free or busy. Great if they use Google Calendar. 

*All-day events don’t show as busy

G Suite Session Dashboard

Shows problems in the various Google services. It allows you to see if Google is experiencing a problem. 

Slides Carnival -professional-looking templates

Paint Roller– format documents with font color, size, etc.

Click and drag an image from another website or use Explore tool. With Explore tool it brings the link with it. 

Google Sheets

Awesome Table- allows you to use filter on spreadsheets

Glide-easily create an app

No coding needed. This is what they used to create an app for the presentation. 


10 Ways to Inject Creativity Into the Classroom with Adobe Spark

Monica Burns

Collaboration is now available. Students can’t work at the same time.

Adobe is linked to Classroom. 

Students can share link in Google Slides. Teacher creates slideshow. One page per student. 

Students can choose the music and pictures. It will put credits at the end. 

Spark Post can be used to make memes. 

Backchannel Chat

Templates for social media. Can be downloaded to jpeg or pdf

Can share with Flipgrid and Nearpod

Soundtrap to create music

Video can be as long as 10 min


Magical Adventures in the Gamified Classroom

Tisha Richmond

Game Mechanics (How can these be incorporated into the game?)










What’s the Story – start with your story and let the game develop from there. 

  1. Tap into what inspires you. (tv shows, games, etc.)
  2. Create your story.
  3. Create a video to introduce the game and make them curious.
  4. Game Mechanics (currency, upgrades)
    1. Block
    2. Sabotage
    3. boomerang
  1. Mini-games
  2. Mini challenges – Top scoring teams win a chance card

Example: Mystery Box Challenge


How to start:

Think small




Game Mechanics- Choose 1 or 2 to begin. You can always add more.

Breakout Game: Make Learning Magical (available in Breakout Edu)


Joy Hacks 

Michael Matera and Jon Spike

This session focused on small ways to inject joy into the classroom. 

Can I go… Magic Eight Ball

Improv Deck Template

Snake Oil- game (How would I strategically pitch this product?)

Balderdash Hack can have 25 free responses


Kahoot Hacks (How can you take a normal game and change it up?)

Answer on the run!- Students at the back of the room. Must run to one of four computers at the front.

Ball Toss- Teams toss the ball to each other. Last person catches ball and hits the button. 

Gladiator Fight- Put same number in their name Melissa7. When game is over sort by number. Only the top person in that group wins. This could work for Fanschool. 


Google Image Battle Royale Hack


DIY: Digital BreakoutEDU

Stella Pollard

Lots of resources in the slideshow. 

Data Validation to create a lock

Open a new Google Form

Type a question

Short answer

Click 3 dots-response validation




Still locked


Just have to change question and response


The Group Smackdown 

Members of the audience came forward and introduced tech tools they find useful


Noun Project-icons for everything

Draftback-chrome extensions

Shows you a video of their revisions

Flat for Docs – chrome add on

Epic Academy-Quest-PD for teachers

Paste in an article and it will give a summary


Immersive Learning

Michael Matera

Using the most motivational aspects of games applied to non-game settings.

Game Ideas

10 seconds to write as many words that start with the displayed letter

When time is up switch teammates

New letter appears, and you have 10 seconds! Repeat 5 times.

Can’t help the writer.


Themed review

One person faces screen

Second person can’t see screen 


Display a sunset timer from Youtube (google for the correct time). Don’t tell the students the time. Students must be finished before the sun is gone. 


Game ideas to get started in gamification.

Design Around a Theme

Each class is a different “house”

Boss battle = test

Wix is a free web builder

Fiverr cheap voice

  1. Intro video
  2. Creating the World
  3. Become the Game Master


Cascading information- it’s okay that they don’t know all of the rules

Create a restriction so that you can create a way around it

Create Rules and be Flexible—innovate

Create quests- these are optional tasks

No rubric

Very little direction

Not for a grade

Weapons (game cards) help during review games

Something that increases the points of side quests

There will be early adopters

Adventure path-harder path that can’t be left


Practical & Innovative Ways to Infuse ISTE Standards in the Classroom


Teach to the Trouble

Twisted Wave for podcasting

How would you like to show me what you learned?

Be Internet Awesome – ISTE curriculum to teach internet safety

Esports possibilities: Games that other schools are using

League of Legends

Rocket League



July 30th, 2019

2019 Belfer Conference for Educators at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

On Thursday, July 25 through Saturday, July 27, Lacey Anderson had the opportunity to attend the 2019 Belfer Conference for Educators at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.  The following is a summary of key learnings and reflection from the conference.

The great Bill Flaherty let me know about this conference during the 2018-2019 academic year.  Besides a mini-vacation away from my responsibilities as a wife and mother, I wanted to attend this conference for several reasons.  I teach the Holocaust to 9th grade students when I am lucky enough to teach American Cultures, I would like to write a genocide unit or mini-unit for 10th grade students in World Cultures, and I would like to somehow incorporate this into Introduction to Psychology for seniors.  I also just wanted to be around really smart educators interested in innovating social studies curriculum.

“Life-changing” is a trite, over-used phrase these days, but this three-day experience was just that.  I thought I knew a lot about the Holocaust, but my insight merely scratched the surface.  On the first day alone, we have over an hour to wander the fourth floor of the permanent exhibit.  This detailed the Nazi rise to power and the slow elimination of Jews’ political and economic rights in Germany.  We met as a large group altogether and then in smaller “classrooms” that were facilitated by Belfer Teaching Fellows who are also teachers.  The best part of the day was when we could work in our smaller classrooms to digest the material as well as discuss how to incorporate the primary sources available into our curriculum.  Some “big questions” that we brainstormed were: what is the role of information & media in our society, how do values and beliefs impact behavior, turning point – when could the outcome have changed, do individuals have a choice, how does individual choice impact the event, who writes the story & what other stories do you need to know, how do we really understand people’s motivation in a society, and how is power gained, justified and lost, to name just a few.  We also began to think about our own rationale for teaching the Holocaust within the context of state and national standards.  Lastly, we discussed the guiding principles for teaching the Holocaust and these principles could fit any unit in history.

Guiding Principles when teaching the Holocaust:

  1. Define the Holocaust (museum definition)
  2. It was not inevitable.
  3. Avoid simple answers to complex questions.
  4. Strive for precise language.
    1. Auschwitz was a killing center located in German-occupied Poland (not just Poland)
  5. Strive for balance in establishing perspective.
  6. Avoid comparisons of pain.
  7. Don’t romanticize history.
  8. Contextualize history.
  9. Translate statistics into people.
  10. Make reasonable methodological choices based on rationale & accuracy
    1. Try to stay away from simulations in this case.

The second day was the longest and most intense day.  On this day, we examined the third and second floors of the permanent exhibit (in that order).  These exhibits showed what Jews actually went through during the Holocaust, from being deported by train, to the different types of camps they arrived at.  In one exhibit, thousands of shoes were displayed to represent all of the people killed.  There was also a reconstruction of a crematorium created by the Nazi followed by photographs of real people who were wiped off the face of the earth.  At that point, I had to take a break and just let my tears out.  It was overwhelming.  In one exhibit, I saw an impression of a pathway created by the Nazis at the killing-center at Treblinka.  The pathway was cement created with the tombstones of Jewish cemeteries which has been in Europe for several hundred years.  You could still see the Hebrew letters on them.  The Nazis wanted to not just murder the existing Jews in Europe, they wanted to wipe them from European memory.  It was not just a physical war, but a psychological war as well.  At the end of the day, a Holocaust survivor shared her story with us.  She was born in Holland during the war and hid with her family in Amsterdam just five blocks away from Anne Frank.

On the second day, my biggest lesson was the power of individual choices.  The Nazis could not have accomplished the Holocaust alone, especially in occupied areas where they spoke a different language and had no idea who was Jewish.  There were many collaborators, or people who just watched it happen.  It is hard not to judge them with hindsight, but it brings to mind the current immigration crisis.  A “decent” American might think we always need to follow US laws and policies.  However, if policy says we always have to turn in undocumented immigrants to authorities in all cases, we have the individual choice to do what is best for our students, or follow the law.  History will be our judge.

On the last day, we had time to investigate the temporary exhibit called “Americans and the Holocaust.” This exhibit explored what Americans knew and when.  It also looked at the actions that groups and individuals took.  Ultimately, the United States could not have stopped the Holocaust alone, but we could have done more.  However, many individuals did try to do something.  Some were successful and some were not.  It was very bizarre to experience this exhibit because up until 1941, the same themes and ideas are issues we are still dealing with today: xenophobia, economic fears, labor questions, racial tensions, and more.

I am still unpacking and digesting the whole experience, but I did have some takeaways.  Namely, I plan to write that unit on genocide and maybe a course (we’ll see).  I have a variety of new hard copy resources for my classroom and I know where to find many more if I need to.  Mostly, I completed my rationale for teaching the Holocaust:

We must be willing to bear witness to the very best and worst of our history, human history.  We must be willing to ask the difficult questions we may not have the answers to.  We must continue to tell the stories of those who can no longer speak for themselves. 

And because Ellie Weisel, author or Night and Holocaust survivor is so much more eloquent, I will end with his words:

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” ~Ellie Weisel

“Oh, I don’t believe there are answers. There are no answers. And this museum is not an answer; it is a question mark. If there is a response, it is a response in responsibility.” ~Ellie Weisel at the opening of US Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1993


Theme of the Museum

The bogus “science” behind Nazi race theory – “science” can be used to justify anything – students needs quality sources of information

My children are half-Hispanic and this chart of who is German and who is not really hit me.

“We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses.”

Just a sampling of all the documents required to immigrate to the US during the WWII era. – Why didn’t they just leave? Well, it was complicated.

This picture made me happy – until I realized they must have been protesting Nazi-sympathetic American Bund – yes, there were Nazi in the USA too!!

“For the dead and the living we must bear witness.”


July 16th, 2019

ISTE 2019 – Barge

I was fortunate to be able to attend the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference and Expo in Philadelphia, PA from June 23-26. Over the course of the four days, I attended multiple sessions each day and talked to many EdTech vendors. My main focus for the conference was to learn more about Computational Thinking and Design Thinking in order to write curriculum for the new Computational & Design Thinking course at the middle school. Here are highlights from some of the best sessions I attended.

Mainstage Session (Sunday 6/23)

At the mainstage session, multiple speakers welcomed attendees to the conference and discussed themes to keep in mind throughout the week. Speakers included Pedro Rivera (PA Secretary of Education), Danielle Feinberg (Pixar Animation Director of Lighting), and Mike Walsh (speaker and self-proclaimed “futurist”).

Main Takeaway: Danielle from Pixar  shared an amazing story of her journey through computer science, education, and into her career at Pixar. She shared about the challenges she faced, the educators who inspired her along the way, and how that impacts her work now. She shared the challenge from the movie “Coco”, where the director told them to “create something that’s never been seen before”. While she and other designers first saw that as a challenge, the realized as they progressed through the project that it pushed them to keep innovating and getting better all the time – and challenged us to do the same as educators.


Design Thinking & UDL: Connecting the Dots (Monday 6/24)

During this session, four presenters from different areas shared about the ways that their organizations are using Universal Design for Learning in coordination with Design Thinking to create learning experiences. Presenters included Mindy Johnson (CAST – a leading organization with UDL), Sean Arnold (STEM Coach for New York City Department of Education), Amanda Armstrong (New Mexico State Learning Games Lab), and Rhiannon Gutierrez (Boston Public Schools).

Main Takeaway: This session was a great recap/reminder of how the UDL framework and also gave some good connections with design thinking. First, the presenter talked about concepts of good and bad design – from simple overlooks to a staircase/ramp combination that looks great but is actually difficult for people in wheelchairs to use, which defeats the design. The main thought behind UDL is “When you design for the edges, you cover everything else in between.” This applies to design thinking, also; design thinking is a human-centered process typically designed for a specific user group, but it can also apply to other users as well. Finally, this session introduced me to the idea of “Journey Mapping”, which is a way to track user emotions through a lesson or activity which helps to identify barriers and high/low points of a lesson. I am hoping to look into this more and use it in my classes this year.


Employing Design Thinking with 3D Printing and Code (Monday 6/24)

This session was run by Jared Mader and Ben Smith from LIU12 and covered ways to incorporate design thinking and coding with 3D printing. 

Main Takeaway: This session gave great insights on how to get started with incorporating 3D printing and coding. In these lessons, students design a tool that can be 3D printed to help meet a specific need for users. The lessons hit what the presenters called the “four STEM strands”: code, build, design, create. The coding strand of the lesson focuses on computational thinking; the build strand covers the engineering design process; the design strand correlates with design thinking, and the create strand correlates with the ISTE standards. They also gave great strategies on how to get started with a project like this in one of three ways: 1) Fix something that’s broken at school or at home; 2) Improve something that already exists, and 3) Create something that does not exist. Ideas that they suggested were creating a better toothbrush holde or making a grocery list holder for a cart. Additionally, they showed how to use BlocksCad for students to create and code in the same program. This was by far one of the best sessions for me and I am hoping to use a project like this with my 8th-grade students.


EdTech Tips & Tricks for a Modern Learning Environment (Tuesday 6/25)

This session was run by CDW, a company that provides technology and furniture consulting and design for corporations and education. The presenter, Jennifer Brown, had a list of five different presentation topics that the audience voted on – the topic that was chosen for this session was modern learning environments.

Main Takeaways: The presenter did a great job at presenting the research behind modern learning environments and flexible seating. While she did talk about flexible seating, she focused more on what teachers can do in their classrooms as they are now, without expensive and flashy items. Jennifer made a few main points; first, you have to change the way you’re teaching depending on the environment you are teaching in. As always, this comes back to the notion that pedagogy always comes first; and, if you don’t change your pedagogy, it doesn’t matter what you do to the layout of your classroom. Second, she gave one way to start creating a modern learning environment: eliminate the front of the room. Finally, she gave the suggestion to find ways to make as much writing space as possible, whether that be vertical (on the wall), on tables, or in other ways.


ISTE U Course Spotlight (Tuesday 6/25)

This presentation showcased and advertised different ISTE U courses. These courses have been designed by ISTE and are offered to any educator on a variety of different topics. The courses run for 8 weeks and require about 15 hours of work that educators can complete on their own time at their own pace. 

Main Takeaways: I attended this session to learn more about the computational thinking course, which is offered for free through a collaboration with Google (all other courses have a small fee). The main course teacher shared great information about computational thinking. She shared a resource that would be great for an enrichment group, where students use the Google Books tool “Ngram” to see how often different words appear in books. They can then analyze this data and find trends to connect it to history. Finally, she shared an activity that I plan to use in my class where students work on the “Towers of Hanoi” problem that involves moving rings between different towers and write an algorithm on how to solve it in as few steps as possible.


Design Thinking in the STEAM Classroom (Wednesday 6/26)

This session was facilitated by two STEAM educators – Katie Manzanares, a technology integration teacher from Colorado, and Liz Reale, a 6-8 grade computer science and technology teacher from New York City schools. They shared their experiences with using design thinking in the classroom. In particular, Liz Reale had a very similar class description and goals to the course I am developing at the middle school.

Main Takeaways: Liz shared a lot of great ideas and considerations for projects. First, she shared that projects need to be somewhat focused; leaving design challenges too wide open allows for too much choice and does not allow solutions to be very focused. She also shared a project where she had her students redesign the cafeteria for a student with a disability. This is a great way for them to go through the design process, but also to learn how to build empathy for others. This is another idea I am hoping to incorporate into my 8th-grade curriculum.

April 11th, 2019

2019 Migrant Education and English Language Development Conference

2019 Migrant Education and ESL Conference April 2-3, 2019

Each year the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Center for Schools and Communities host a Migrant Education and English Language Development Conference in Harrisburg.  This conference allows me to gather with Pennsylvania educators in my field, and to discover promising practices in support of my English Language Learners.  During the conference, I was specifically looking for ideas to develop and support a Family Engagement Program for our English learner (EL) population in South Western School District.   Communicating with families who speak a language(s) other than English can be challenging, but it is our legal responsibility to include EL families in the education process by providing access to information and activities in their preferred language.

On the first day of the conference, I attended an all-day institute titled:  It Takes a Village.  This session focused on building positive relationships within the school between the ESL teacher, staff members, the students (ELs and non-ELs), EL families, and the community that surrounds them all.   Katherine Musselman and Holly Niemi, ESL Program Specialist from Baldwin-Whitehall School District near Pittsburg, emphasized that building positive relationships can increase the success of our ELs.  Positive people have the power to inspire and create everlasting and sustainable change.  We have the ability to turn problems into challenges and create critical thinkers, not critical people.  Throughout the day, attendees examined how they, as ESL teachers, currently connect with school staff, students, EL families, and the outside community.  Next, the presenters gave examples of how to connect with these four different groups.  In the end, we were able to collaborate with colleagues on how to transform these relationships to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of immigrant, refugee, and native-born ELs.   I walked away from this day with plans to create an ESL Google Classroom as a resource for content teachers, and ideas for Family Engagement Nights to build strong and meaningful relationships with families and parents.

On the second day of the conference, I attended three different sessions.  Two of these sessions continued to focus on family engagement, and the third session was about using oral language activities to support ELs in building academic language.  I was most excited about our round table discussion on how to communicate with families who speak a language other than English.  This discussion provided access to information on how we as individual teachers might improve our communication methods with families.  It gave us ideas on how to encourage and increase EL parents and family to become more involved in our district while meeting the demands of language accessibility.  I walked away with resources and plans to establish a Family Engagement Night in the fall.  With the help of interpreters, we can review information in the Schools’ Handbook, and show parents how to access Sapphire information and how to communicate with the school and teachers.  I also have ideas on how to integrate EL families to the outside community.


April 5th, 2019

Diversity by Design- Pennsylvania School Librarians Association 46th Annual Conference

Diversity by Design- Pennsylvania School Librarians Association 46th Annual Conference March 28-30, 2019

The K-12 Library team was fortunate to attend this year’s conference in its entirety or in part, to attend relevant workshops of our choice, to peruse pertinent vendor offerings, and to network with other colleagues across the state. The following workshops were attended or presented by one or more of our team:


After a further explanation of the new AASL National Standards and how they align with the PA CORE Standards as well as ISTE and Future Ready Standards, we partnered with other similar grade level librarians to take the lesson plan(s) that we brought and worked to turn them into an action plan that we can use in collaboration with classroom teachers for increased information literacy competencies for our learners. It was also shared that our PA Model curriculum is going to be updated beginning this summer.


Notable blogger and ultimate book fan, John “Mr. Schu” Schmacher serves as the Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs.  His expertise in children’s literature coupled with his passion for reading promote a culture of reading among students, staff and parents.  He discussed the importance of telling a school’s story and librarians walked away inspired (and some tearful!) to implement heart-growing literacy practices that make the world better and brighter for readers.  Very inspirational and motivational.


Park Hills librarian, Shannon Resh, presented this workshop for the second year in a row to compliment the conference theme of Diversity by Design.  Attendees explored the concept of using literature as “Windows and Mirrors” into the world as the perspectives of others is such an important and relevant topic today. Diversity by design happens when pairing readings with text that showcases a continually diverse and ever-colorful world as well as reaching out within the school culture and surrounding community to provide opportunities for conversations and experiences that combine resources.


STEAM/Literature activities along with two specific STEAM units were shared that followed the 5 E’s : Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate with an emphasis on UbD. The district these librarians were from have a partnership with Delaware Valley University through which they acquired a STEM specialization. Their focus to “stemify” lessons for the library- a user-centered flexible space that encourages reading, facilitates higher engagement, and is a safe place to fail.


Collaboration between a Franklin Institute teacher and an elementary librarian brought forth a plethora of STEM activities that were paired with favorite children’s books.  The presenters discussed each of the children’s books individually and how they would connect a STEM activity to each book. Time was then given to walk around and try many of the STEM activities that were discussed for each book.


Four Pennsylvania Librarians shared different ways to connect the ISTE and AASL standards to makerspace projects.  Multiple projects and activities were discussed, showing how the projects can be connected to the standards to make the activities more meaningful.


To prepare students to do more than read- to also think, do, and create- a whirlwind of children’s books were presented with ideas to incorporate no, low, and high technology.,, and were referenced as resources.


This session challenged participants to review the cultural norms centered in learning environments and teaching practices; reviewing if collections reflect students’ diverse needs and identities; and how to work to engage in critical conversations about bias, racism, and equity, all with the ultimate goal of developing a more culturally responsive approach to text selection and instruction.


Ever since the new Standards were published in 2018 librarians across the state have been learning how to integrate and align the standards into their lessons and curriculum.  This session was an extension of an earlier session which was an introduction to the new framework. Attendees learned how to analyze the new standards and how they correlate to lessons they already teach.  The proper citation format was also explained.


The PSLA Literature Review committee reads and reviews hundreds of books each year.  In this session they booktalked the best in fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels in grades K-12.  The focus was on books that included diversity in character, settings, and genres. The session handout included all the books that were presented with cover photos, book review, book talk, and the reviewers own thoughts about the book.  Also included with each title were ideas to make connections to other books or learning activities, lists of starred reviews, and awards. The handout is especially helpful in choosing new titles for the library collection.


This elementary focused session took a look at the challenges of librarians feeling obligated to provide books that students will read verses feeling obligated to build a collection of books that reflect broader representation of the world. The answer can be both. Attendees looked at literature through a more critical eye to determine if a text was written to learn more about culture, by a person in the culture sharing a story, or an everyday occurrence that happened to have diverse characters -and the need for all three in collections.  Many book lists were provided.


Diversity in the library needs to go beyond having diverse books in the collection but should also include the physical space, interaction with students, technology, and electronic resources.  The presenter first asked “What is culture?”. We usually think of ethnicity and race but it also includes ability, gender identity, language, religion, sexual orientation, belief systems, and socioeconomic status.  She also explained that we need to move away from giving students equality (all students are given the same resources – same) and move towards equity (all students are given access to resources they need to succeed – fair).  She charged the audience to work to become more “culturally competent” and to engage in discussions about equity and inclusivity.


Kim Briggs, an author and speaker, shared how females can advocate for their own bodies and voices through the use of literature. She shared books that have strong female heroines that we can recommend and share with our students. There are many ways that a female can be fierce including: innerstrength, strength through intelligence and knowledge, strength of hope and courage, strength by protecting those who need us, strength to admit the truth, strength through special gifts, and strength of those who fight mental illness and loss. Many other librarians in the workshop also recommended titles with strong female characters. The titles will hopefully encourage not only our females but everyone who sees a need to stand up and speak out when needed.


Sandra Reilly, a Pleasant Valley High School Librarian, along with a panel of other grade level librarians shared challenges that they have faced as they have tried to progress to 21st century libraries and how they have overcome those challenges. They offered many ideas and solutions to implement some of which will be helpful in our district libraries. Ideas were shared to make our libraries more comfortable and inviting, with flexible seating, creative displays, collaborative spaces, and STEM opportunities, etc. We discussed some good time management, advocacy, and curricular/collaborative strategies to use in our libraries. We also discussed Google Classroom tips and techniques as well as other tech tools we can use effectively in our setting. She had a great presentation and also provided us with additional reading (both links and print) on these important topics.


Jennifer Hendry, from Milton Hershey School, and Jane Farrell from Dallastown Intermediate School shared pertinent information about staying relevant by providing student centered digital resources in school libraries. These resources can be accessed 24/7 and can satisfy the diverse population of learners we all work with. Redesigning your website and library spaces to include eBooks, STEM and STEAM, Breakout EDU activities, and educational research databases will not only enhance your program, but they are necessary to meet the needs and interests of our students and staff. We are definitely ramping up our digital resources at SWSD, but I learned about some new tools as well as ideas for implementation. Jane Farrell was also named PSLA’s 2018 PA School Library Innovator and a great person to reach out to for inspiration and support.


Newbery Award winning author, Matt de la Pena shared his personal journey from reluctant reader to writer, with a focus on the barriers against working class men and boys when it comes to literacy. His moving and poignant story of coming from a working class, mixed-race, mixed-culture family left many participants eager to do more for children and literacy.


As a member of the Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award, grades 3-6 Committee Strand, Park Hills librarian, Shannon Resh, participated in this panel sharing.  Attendees were given an overview of this statewide program and how books are selected before breaking into grade level strands. In smaller groups, committee members and attendees discussed the fifteen titles on the 2019-2020 reading list, as well as programming ideas for implementing PYRCA in individual schools.


As librarians, we have the opportunity to reach a tremendously diverse audience.  Stories aid students in empathizing with “the other” – those whose lives either through circumstance or choice may vary greatly from their own. Resources were explored to better aid in studying these topics.  There was a focus specifically on Holocaust studies, as the presenter was a former fellow through the United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum.


In addition to making the Keynote Address, John also presented a session booktalking some of his favorite reads and authors. He shared a number of titles that will be released this year, many sequels and must-haves for every school library. In addition to upcoming releases, John showed book trailers and activities that could be added to school library programs. His love of reading and excitement for these new titles was infectious!


Collette Jakubowicz, from the Wilson School District, shared how she incorporates centers into her elementary library classes. Her use of Google Classroom helps her manage the activities and track each student’s learning progress with the paperwork. Some of the topics she covers in the centers include research, resource citations, and digital citizenship. This concept allows students to work at their own pace where they earn badges as they complete the various centers.

April 4th, 2019

Teaching American Seminar – The Great Depression and the New Deal

The Seminar series for educators is sponsored by the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. The Ashbrook Center was established in 1983 with a goal to restore and strengthen the capacities of the American people for constitutional self-government and American history. The Ashbrook Center fulfills this mission by offering educational programs nationally for students, teachers and citizens through a variety of mediums, such as the Seminar series, the Ashbrook Academy, the Website and its Saturday Webinar series. As a result of its efforts to promote the use of primary sources nationally, the Ashbrook Center has found itself as a leader in the efforts to prepare future American History and Civics teachers to educate future generations of students in the United States.

The seminar that I attended was on the New Deal and was conducted by Dr. Eric Pullin, Professor of History at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The seminar discussion was based on the use of primary sources found in the book, “The Great Depression and the New Deal,” by John E. Moser. The first session was titled: Hoover, the Depression and the Election of 1932. This session compared and contrasted President Herbert Hoover with challenger Franklin D. Roosevelt. The  discussion revolved around a number of primary sources that compared election data from the 1928 Presidential Election to the results of the 1932 Presidential Election. The readings were designed to illustrate the differences in the strategies for dealing with the effects of the Great Depression that Hoover and Roosevelt had campaigned on in 1932. Dr. Pullin broke down each of the primary sources during this part of the seminar. I found this to be enlightening as the participants were able to discuss each of the primary sources with Dr. Pullin serving as the moderator and often stimulating new discussion with thought provoking information in regards to presidencies of Hoover and FDR.

The second session, “The New Deal and its Critics,” was supposed to be designed around primary sources that covered the “First One-Hundred Days” of the Roosevelt Administration. Due to the lengthy discussion on the “Election of 1932,” this part of the seminar was cut short. Dr. Pullin did lead a discussion on the  “First One-Hundred Days” that was centered around primary sources such as FDR’s “First Inaugural Address” but it was cut short due because so much time had been taken up by the first session of the day. The session ended with a brief discussion of the problems that they New Deal faced in the Supreme Court. This discussion was centered on a series of political cartoons that were critical of the NRA and the AAA. I found that cartoons to be an interesting way to stimulate discussion amongst the students as to why the cartoonist would be comparing New Deal figures to Hitler or Joseph Stalin.

This seminar was designed to expose the teachers who attended to a variety of primary sources that are found on the Ashbrook Center’s website and provoke discussion amongst the participants on their meaning. It was very informative from an academic standpoint. Although this approach led to great discussions on the whose approach was better for the United States at the time, it was also part of the reason that Dr. Pullin failed to cover the majority of the topics and primary sources that were listed on the syllabus for the seminar. The seminar did not present any new strategies for using the primary sources in the classroom. I believe that the Seminar Series has a lot of potential for our teachers at South Western and highly recommend them. However, they are more about expanding the knowledge base of the teachers and exposing them to primary source materials, than presenting them strategies to incorporate their use in the classroom.

March 25th, 2019

PSEA Special Education Conference 2019

On March 23, 2019 Ashley de Salis, Heather Cooper, and Lauren Cromer attended the PSEA Special Education Conference. The sessions were very informative and led to many great discussions. The following notes from each session were compiled.

PSEA Special Education Board Meeting

During the board meeting, the staff reviewed things that their schools are doing right now. A lot of regions are having substitute issues. Others are working on changing their school times to late starts. Some other schools are working on changing how paraprofessionals are used and limiting their time off. Most of the regions shared that they are having similar concerns with behavior issues that are not being handled properly in the school setting due to more prominent mental health issues.

One member shared her unusual journey to becoming a Special Education teacher because of her child’s health challenges as a small child. She suggested that teachers simplify their language so that parents can understand what is happening or going to happen with their child.

Applied Behavior Analysis for Educators: A Review of Philosophy, Concepts, and Efficacy

Dr. Bieniek is a professor at Slippery Rock University. He has a lot of experience in working children on the autism spectrum. Dr. Bieniek spoke about the science of ABA, assessment, intervention, and data use.

ABA was described as the study of socially important behaviors. B.F. Skinner explained that scientific attitudes such as determinism, empiricism, experimentation, replication, parsimony, and philosophic doubt guide scientific work. Watson also asserted that subject matter for psychology should be the study of observable behavior as opposed to mental processes.

The seven dimensions of ABA were explained. These include: applied, behavioral, analytic, technological, conceptual, effective, and generality. When looking at intervention, the environment should be considered. A review of concepts such as antecedent, behavior, consequence, stimulus, response, reinforcement, punishment, functional behavioral assessment, and positive behavior support plan.

There was a reminder to think about the context of the student’s life before placing demands throughout the day. There needs to be motivation for students to perform the desired behavior. A discussion of reinforcement versus punishment revealed that positive reinforcement is the most likely method to help the child modify behavior.

Assessment in the realm of ABA typically takes the form of a functional behavior assessment. They are legally mandated and need to be done effectively to help students meet their behavior goals. We need to choose a functionally equivalent behavior goal that serves the same function as the undesired behavior. There needs to be a replacement behavior for escaping the room instead of forcing the child to jump right to completing the assignment in the room without a constructive way to escape.

The session ended by explaining that ABA is truly a science that takes time and energy to use. We need to persevere in helping our students to be successful in the school setting.


On My Grid – Dr Gina Scala, department chair at East Stroudsburg University

Iceberg graphic – Dr. Scala stressed that the paperwork and labels is only the smallest piece of the puzzle when it comes to special education placement and scheduling.

Special Ed needs to be equal at the table in all things – scheduling, placement, co-teaching.

Co-teaching – Dr. Scala talked about co-teaching and stressed that it is not the special ed teacher working only with the special ed students or, worse yet, acting like a paraprofessional.  True co-teaching takes time and effort and a commitment from the administration.

Mental health needs – why is money reactive not proactive?

Giant shortage of teachers in Pennsylvania now and in future yet Pennsylvania is issuing emergency certificates like never before. Unfortunately, the most needy students get the least qualified teachers.

Our time is precious and taken up by so many demands so how do we effectively collaborate? Dr Scala presented several ideas for mini professional development. Some of these were quite unique and easy to implement.

She also explained the leading by convening way of collaborating and implementing initiatives.

Dr. Scala is a trainer in suicide prevention and the question persuade refer technique. She talked about that and showed a graphic on the increase in mental health issues. Highest risk age group is 10-14.

Overall, many great take aways for working as a group to support students.


Striking A Balance: Managing Compliance, Achieving Results!

Ann Hinson-Herman discussed Special Education and the legal implications as well as getting results with and for kids.  Ann delineated 6 elements to a compliant but exceptional Special ed system. These include: programs, achievement, transition, behavior, community relations, and compliance.

On the topic of programs, inclusion was discussed. Inclusion is a concept. Ask – where can the student be successful without accommodation? Then ask – where can the student be successful with SDIs? Then ask – where can the student be successful and maintain the LRE?

On the topic of parent partnership, team members were discussed. PEAL parent Education and advocacy leadership is the state parent outreach and education group. Training materials and trainers are provided.

Take away quote – compliance is crucial but it will never be enough to improve results.

Math – CRA concrete representational abstract on PATTAN website. Free techniques available. The state has very low proficiency in math among Special ed students. Mostly because we skip representational step.

Schools should have:

Welcoming climate

All kids considered

College, career, and community readiness – Good quality employees come from good quality training

Daily preparations

All invested people working hard

People who follow the rules

Quality instructional time

Prepared teachers

Good decision makers

Take all students and “grow” them from where they are

Special ed monitoring for compliance is changing. Data being used to tier districts. Days for monitoring will be leveled by the data. Exciting possibilities. More information forthcoming.


Trauma Informed IEPs

When talking about trauma, we’re talking about kids who do not have regular meals, kids who do not know where they are sleeping at night, kids who deal with substance abuse situations, kids who deal with varying degrees of abuse, and kids who do not have traditional family living arrangements. This breakout session will discuss classroom and school-wide practices designed to meet the social emotional needs of students.

Shift from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”

Trauma is not one of the thirteen Special Education category, but it does impact academic performance and social relationships. Some impacts on academic performance include reduced cognitive capacity, sleep disturbance, difficulties with memory, and language delays.  Some impacts on social relationships include need for control, attachment difficulties, poor peer relationships, and unstable living situations.

Students who have experienced trauma are two and half times more likely to fail a grade, score lower on standardized achievement tests, have more receptive and expressive language difficulties, get suspended more often, and are more likely to be referred for Special Education services.

Responsive schools benefit all children whose history is unknown, whose trauma my never be identified, and who are impacted by their traumatized classmates.  

We have to focus on the alterable, not the unalterable.

Positive steps to create a trauma sensitive and responsive school:

  1. Engage leadership
  2. Perform needs assessment
  3. Review literature
  4. Provide training so all staff are aware of the impact of trauma on behavior and learning and can help to develop strategies to support these children
  5. Implement classroom strategies to establish safety, empowerment, collaboration, choice, and trust

We are the most structured part of life and nurturer for some of our kids.

504 Accommodations Guide authored by Dr. David Bateman, professor of Educational Leadership and Special Education at Shippensburg University will be released next week. It will provide examples of disabilities, resources, and lengthy accommodation lists.

School-Based Strategies and Interventions

Tier 1 – Universal Strategies: morning meetings and mindful moments

Tier 2 – Selective Classroom Strategies: collaborative problem-solving

Tier 2 & 3 – Targeted Counseling Strategies: individual counseling

Rather than simply reducing a behavior, a trauma-informed IEP focused on skill building; and in this case, such an IEP could focus on building self-regulatory skills and identifying alternative behaviors to interrupting. Student IEPs should also consider the educator’s role in achieving goals.  The IEP can specify the role of the educator in his consequences are administered. Simply reducing a behavior benefits the educator, though building skills and establishing adaptive alternative behaviors benefit both the educator and the student.

Goals should be measurable and related to academic performance and/or functional performance. Functional goals include skills or activities that include a focus on reducing/preventing triggers, increasing predictability, providing opportunities to assist others, building peer supports and relationships, collaborative and ambitious goal setting, and movement and sensory opportunities.


March 22nd, 2019

Math Modeling & 3D Printing Workshop

On March 22nd, two EHMIS teachers, Brent Barge and Jana Bonds participated in the Penn State University workshop on “Teaching Mathematical Modeling through 3D Printing” at Penn State Harrisburg.

The day began with opening remarks from 3 of the professors at Penn State Harrisburg and an overview of the day. We continued with a survey on prior knowledge on Mathematical Modeling, which at least for Mrs. Bonds was a bit outside of her wheelhouse.

Mrs. Bonds and Mr. Barge were lucky enough to be selected to work with and be trained with Dr. Reuben Asempapa, professor of Mathematics and a specialization in Mathematical Modeling for our first session. We quickly learned he was an “awesome – papa” as he referred to the pronunciation of his last name. Working collaboratively with another math and technology education teacher from Northern Lebanon SD we progressed through the morning defining what math modeling means in schools, looking at how it is defined, and how it applies to the standards of mathematical practices, and where it appears in the NGSS standards.

A majority of the workshop was learning exactly what math modeling is. We discovered with the help of Dr. Asempapa that math modeling has two pillars, the real world and the math world. How do we take a situation from the real world and take that into the math world to investigate it. Models come in to play when we investigate, manipulate, and visualize the problems that occur in the real world or math world. It is a process where one identifies a situation in the real-world, makes certain assumptions and choices, and then uses a mathematical model to obtain a solution that can be translated back into the real-world. It is a process that uses mathematics to represent, analyze, make predictions, or otherwise provide insight into real world phenomena. Math modeling has 3 components: a process, mathematical equations, and real-world applications. Modeling is critical to student learning because it builds student communication, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and iteration to name a few.


The afternoon session was led by Dr. Tyler Love, Professor of Education in Elementary/Middle Grades STEM. He specifically covered using the MONOPRICE, MP Voxel 3D printer we will be receiving and also how to use various 3D printing software. We began with an overview of TinkerCAD software and learned how to make a basic cube shape with subtracting material. We also covered using the SketchUp software and OnShape Software. It seemed that TinkerCAD was the most user friendly to use, but is more about combining shapes than it is designing from scratch. The OnShape seemed to be the most advanced software and what would allow the most detailed designs. This left Sketchup as the middle of the road software. Overall this session was very technical on what we would need to run the printer and how to use the software. It was pretty overwhelming with the amount of information taught, but we were given a flash drive with lots of files to access as a review and more help if needed.

The final session of the day was building lessons and design challenges that are collaborative and can be used with what we learned during the workshop today. Because of time constraints we were showed some examples and then only given 30 minutes to work together to brainstorm some ideas about how we could use these tools at EHMIS. We thought that having the 7th grade students in Mrs. Bonds Tech Ed class  and/or 7th grade Mr. Barge Math class do one of the following.

  1. Once they have completed their full scale model prototype for their boat, they go back through their initial designs and use their knowledge of proportional scaling of an object to create a 3D file to be printed and then tested at the half scale.
  2. After completing research, students would design and 3D print their own propellor (air or water) to be used with their propulsion system.
  3. Students work to model the most efficient layout for a new cafeteria using given criteria. Students work on maximizing area and geometric design. Students would then create and print a 3D model of their proposed design for a presentation.

So why should we teach 3D printing and math modeling? There are many answers to this question, but a few answers we pulled from this are: Students can understand formulas and the volume of shapes much easier as they see the full object begin modeled via the 3D printer, there are real-world connections that can be pulled from the use of the 3D printer while using mathematics to aide in correct design and touch upon many concepts, and finally this process is incredibly engaging and show students the connections between content areas and that STEM is everywhere in their lives.  We are extremely excited to continue to collaborate and learn about the possibilities between mathematical modeling and 3D printing.


March 18th, 2019

National Art Education Association 2019 Boston/ 5000 art educators/ 1000+ session/ 3 days/ 1 city

Art shapes human potential no matter where you are.  It was a pleasure to attend the National Art Education Association convention in Boston this year and to be immersed with 4,999 other art educators.  Because of communing with those who share the same vision, I know that student artists receive the best possible art education all over the US.  Beginning with Amy Sherald, the artist who was chosen and painted Michelle Obama’s portrait and ending with Dr. Howard Gardner, famous for his theories of multiple intelligences, his work with Project Zero and newer work, The Good Project and the 1000 sessions, it was a busy three days.  The sessions were pertinent to today’s technology and showcased the latest in research, teaching, and assessment of art education.  I am inspired to create the next iteration of the sessions I sat in on, the super sessions and artists’ who talked and inspired with their words.  I’m ready for art to shape human potential in Hanover.

March 12th, 2019

WEB Where Everyone Belongs

Conference Report for WEB (Where Everyone Belongs) Training

Alicia Amspacher, 8th grade math teacher

Jessie Gobrecht, 7th grade school counselor

Andrea LaManna, 6th grade school counselor

Jeffrey Smale, Principal

Travis Wildasin, 8th grade school counselor

On February 24-27, 2019 the 5 South Western employees mentioned above attended a WEB (Where Everyone Belongs) conference at Skytop Lodge in Scranton, Pennsylvania. All staff members listed above contributed to this conference report. At the training we received an official WEB Coordinator handbook, full access to online resources at, and a book written by the founders of WEB entitled Springboard Quick Creative Activities to Launch Learning. The agenda of this training was rigorous and packed full of engaging practice and discussion.  The days started at 7:00am and worked through to 7:45pm or 8:15pm at night.

The mission of WEB is to help 6th graders create bonds to our school community through the connections they make with their 8th grade WEB leaders.  Potential leaders who are interested in WEB attend an informational meeting and then submit a video application to the WEB advisors (above mentioned advisors and Mrs. Bowman, Mrs. Kauffman, and Mr. Heist).  Seventh graders (soon to be 8th graders) are selected by the trained WEB advisors based on various criteria such as work ethic, enthusiasm about helping our incoming 6th graders, and commitment. WEB leaders are invited to a play day and bowling event to learn about WEB and start making connections to each other.  

Over the summer the 8th graders are trained through a two day process by WEB advisors.  In August there is a 6th grade orientation day where the 8th grade WEB leaders do all of the activities they were trained about earlier in the summer with their assigned 6th grade students.  Throughout the school year the WEB leaders help with social events and teach lessons to the 6th grade homerooms. The WEB leaders also check in with their 6th grade students throughout the year.   

One thing we learned at the conference is that we already have a magnificent WEB team here at EHMIS.  The original group of teachers who were trained over 9 years ago have done a great job in staying true to the mission of WEB.  

Some additional WEB components we learned at the conference to enhance this already awesome organization include the following key items:

  1. Many additional “mojo” and “celebration” activities and chants that are used often to encourage our 6th and 8th graders when they are doing fantastic work.  These activities are vital to helping our students feel connected to others in the school and to also have FUN! We recorded many of these in the “Beg, Borrow, Share” section of our binder.  
  2. We decided to host a staff meeting which we have not done before to revisit what WEB is and the intent of the program.  We also plan on having our staff participate in some of our favorite WEB activities that we do with our students. We hope this will allow our staff to better see the value of this program and see how much fun it truly can be for the kids.
  3. An additional idea we are considering adding to the program are “Legacy Leaders.”  These are former WEB leaders that are now in high school who would come back to briefly talk about WEB and maybe even lend a hand during trainings or orientation day.
  4. We discussed how we can get the word out about WEB to parents, community, and staff  in ways we have not done before which included: Social Media, Newsletters, having a presence at Back to School Night, and attending PTO, Guidance Advisory, and School Board meetings.

On September 25, 2019 there is a Follow Up Conference that is already paid for with the cost of this initial conference. A binder is provided for this portion on the training as well. We hope to all attend this special event as well.

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