Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Vermont Teacher Licensure... and losing common sense

It's a time when we need forward thinking in education. There's so much to do, so many challenges... especially in the institutions of public education.

Today, my path was delivered some tough medicine.. and so was the path of others in similar shoes in Vermont.

I was informed the Vermont Agency of Education now gives no credit for years of experience to people who taught in independent, private or international schools who are now applying for VT State teaching licensure.

So... teach abroad for 20 years and apply for licensure in Vermont... you'll be listed as a teacher with "zero" years experience.


You guessed it... according to the AOE I now have "zero" years teaching experience. For nine years I taught at a premier Independent school in Vermont. The programs we built there helped inform the Winooski iLab, Mt Abraham Horizons programs, Vermont Act 77 (personalized learning plans) and also numerous other visitors to the lab. I managed over 100 independent student projects per semester... over nine years. I can't imagine, in this context, that all that work now carries absolutely no benefit to me as I seek a Vermont Teachers License.

I'm currently taking licensure classes to get certified as a career tech ed director and a principal... the latter, of course, requires teaching experience.  In order to get a 'Principal's License' now, I'd have to leave my current position, teach for three years and then go through the teacher peer review program, finish my school leadership courses, and then apply / seek out my 'School Leadership' license via another provisional license or peer review program.

It means... I won't be pursuing a principal license in Vermont.  I'm not sure if it makes sense for me to continue on this path I'm on for licensure in Career and Technical Education either. I'll have to give that a great deal of thought over the coming months.

Vermont is progressive educationally in so many ways. I feel this is a major step backward. Imagine the lost opportunities to hire incredible teachers with international teaching experience.  At a time when Vermont could and should be recruiting these people... I'm heartbroken.  Imagine the folks who are teaching at private and independent schools across the world who now won't venture into Vermont public education.

It's likely that this would take years to of lobbying to remedy this impulsive and ill-informed decision.

I'm ready for a vacation. I'll hopefully have some time to reflect and do some future thinking.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Dynamic Landscapes 2017... A Smash Success!

The Dynamic Landscapes Education and Innovation Conference, by the customer satisfaction surveys and discussions board members had with attendees was a smash success.

Student Keynotes, and student led workshops at last!  Our student keynote folks knocked this out of the park this year. It was the first time in Vermont Education history that students have keynoted a conference.

What a privilege to help the board shift practice at these conferences over the years, streamline decision making, involve more people in create roles, and help people communication and collaborate. 

It's been an exhausting year in so many ways... but the fruits of this conference certainly help rejuvenate me.

As emcee I receive a lot of credit, but there are so many people who did extraordinary work. My thanks to all involved, attendees, presenters, workshop leaders, organizers, Makerspace artisans and organizers, Vendors (shifting to hands-on demonstrations and tutorials, and of course our esteemed VL Board Members... we all did something special here, a new pathway in Vermont Ed conferences. 

We win!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Building Better Ideas... at Educon 2017

When the theme for Educon 2017 came across... 'how do you sustain innovation?' .... it got me thinking.

I started talking it over with David Jakes and we landed on 'ideas' as a critical source of sustaining innovation. 

One of David's many fortes is on the subject of 'ideation.'

We decided to craft up a discussion at Educon on Building Better Ideas.

What are some common obstacles and ways to overcome them...

  • when you're problem solving? 
  • when you are working with a team? 
  • when problems are complex?


Why do great ideas stumble?

Some ideas, well... suck ; )  Why do some horrible ideas gain traction?

These are timely questions for people in education. There's no shortage of things to do, initiatives, or needs.

How can you 'Build Better Ideas'?

Come with questions... Leave with an understanding of common pitfalls, strategies, creative ways to open up perspectives and... some pathways to build better ideas! That's our goal ; )

We're lined up open up a discussion on this Saturday, session 3 at Educon.  Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Dynamic Landscapes Education and Innovation Conference, May 22-23, 2017

Dynamic Landscapes May 22-23, 2017 at Champlain College is lining up to be... what we started working toward four years ago.

Your feedback, your passion to innovate... we listened and have worked to create a space to showcase it, share it and build strong collaborative bonds.

Here are the new additions this year...

Student keynote competition: YES! Students will keynote our conference this year!

Student and Adult presentations... and the call for proposals is open! YES! Student strands at last! 100 students get in for free.

... hey, the theme is Authentic Student Voice!

And the tried and true staples return of...

Hands-on innovation lab makerspace

Immersive workshop leaders... 1/2 day and full day. Dive in with an expert and dig deep.

Conference sessions of all shapes and sizes. Build your own schedule and pitch a plan to setup your own workgroups.

Social events to bring people together.


What can your students present here? What problem are they trying to solve? What's 'their' opinion?

Come in and tackle tough issues in education and explore innovation with peers and students.

Customer satisfaction has reached new heights... and DL 2017 is geared to be our best conference yet!

David Jakes, Diana Laufenberg, Matt Kay and Brad Latimer are just a few of our workshop leaders this year. Sign up, and dive in deep with these incredible people.

Check out all the details at the DL 2017 website.

Hope you can join us Dynamic Landscapes Education and Innovation Conference at Champlain College in gorgeous Burlington, VT in May, 2017 ; )


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

First Day, Post Election 2016

It's been a challenging day... a draining day in education.

Planning a faculty meeting three weeks ago for the first morning post election was a good move. Regardless of the outcome... I figured we needed time to have a discussion prior to students arriving. I certainly did this morning.

I offered the following and then we had an incredible discussion.

We could talk all day about who won, how it happened, why and our personal beliefs about it all.


The messages relayed in this President Elect's campaign draw deep concern in me as a father, husband, and educator... and as a human being.

There's a simple message here...

We want our students to know that we care for them. All of them.

Many students will be apprehensive today. Some will be scared. Some may be brash. Some will be uncertain. Some silent. Some, worse I think... simply won't care.

Many kids, and adults for that matter, don't feel safe as a result of the hateful rhetoric in this election.

In all cases... we need to relay a simple message.

Our students need to know they are safe and supported here. All of them.

We will not accept the hate that took place in this election regarding different ethnicities, sexual orientation, faith, physical disabilities, or the the objectifying and degradation of women.

Discussing it openly is educational. Silence... pretending this doesn't exist is not educational after all. Silence on these matters won't improve our society.

I encourage you to open this up today in class with your students.

Facilitating discussions in class is on this... will be a challenge. I encourage you to open the conversation with kids and see where it goes. Be open to what they need. Be open, honest about your feelings... and make your expectations about ethical and moral guidelines of how we conduct ourselves clear. That's my best advice.

We want all of our students to know that there is no place for bullying, hazing or harassment here.

We want students to know we can help them unpack all these emotions and find a path.

This is not a 'one and done' conversation. Should the campaign promises of this President-Elect hold true, the challenges for kids and adults will be constant. We need to have an ongoing discussion promoting a broader understanding of empathy.

Beyond curriculum coverage and standardized testing goals... it's reinforced yet again that we need to discuss empathy at a much broader level in education... throughout the entire United States.

Your discussions on this today, with kids and peers... can help start moving that important message.

We have a lot of important work to do in education.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

To boldly go...

It's been a busy few months.

July and a large chunk of August flew by with many plates in the air. VT Fest Fall conference prep, two consulting gigs, teaching a grad class, Spring conference development, a very busy Summer baseball season and a consuming post-season tournament, and a lot of research and reading.

Then I was presented with an offer I couldn't refuse... to be the Director at Burlington Technical Center (BTC) in Burlington, Vermont.

I've had a number of offers to enter the admin realm over the years. None of them seemed a good fit... until this one came along.

Helping BTC in a leadership role presented a chance to continue development projects I did with them last year. That work included facility renovations, program relocations, creating new programs, a new website, marketing development, building community connections, and tossing our hat into the CTE Makeover Challenge Grant contest. That grant proposal... the culmination of many years of hard work introducing kids (and adults) to project-based education and developing students personalized learning plans was selected as one of 10 winners Nationwide. WHOOHOO!

It also presented a chance to continue working with Tracy Racicot, former Director at BTC who moved next door (so to speak) to lead Burlington High School, Herb Perez - Assistant Principal, and new comers Mario Macias - Guidance Director, and Noel Green - Assistant Principal. These folks are innovative and team oriented. I am looking forward to working with them on student centered development and systems thinking and innovating.

The Tech Center itself has a great crew as well. This was another reason I signed on. We have a great balance of experience and new faces to build with.

I'll tell you... starting the job two days before in-service was exhilarating and also a challenge. I had two major consulting gigs in tow, was teaching a grad course and working on State conference development for VITA-Learn. But I'm over that bridge finally... and starting to get some sleep again ; )

Personally... finding balance in the 12 months ahead will be key.

With this innovation work and systems focus at BTC... I start a two-year process to gain an official admin license... take certification classes, tests, and build a portfolio. I'll continue to take interesting consulting gigs as I can, presentations, and serve as President of VITA-Learn to continue conference development and expanding PD offerings for teachers and students Statewide.

We'll mix in some baseball too ; )

Here's to it.

Friday, June 24, 2016

BTC chosen as one of 10 CTE Makeover Challenge Grant Winners!

What a privilege to lead a team and author a proposal representing Burlington Technical Center in the CTE Makeover Challenge Grant.

Our proposal was one of ten selected Nationwide as grant winners!

My thanks to the development team, the students, BTC, Burlington School District, for helping build this innovative concept.

The grant was built off the foundation of work I did with students in the rLab years ago.

Our work builds from a few essential concepts...

  • Collaborative Maker Space where all tech center programs collaborate and help students create individualized learning plans. This design creates cross curricular (program) collaborative learning opportunities.
  • Artist in residence program: Brining in community expertise with stipends to share their innovation and creativity with students and community
  • Community Learning Center: Hosting community events and building explorations to connect the school to innovative people

Here's a caption from the announcement from the CTE Makeover website:

"We are thrilled to share that today the U.S. Department of Education announced the ten prize winners in the CTE Makeover Challenge. Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education, announced the prize winners at the White House Champions of Change for Making event this afternoon. The Challenge launched in March, calling on high schools to design makerspaces that strengthen next-generation career and technical skills. Over 640 schools from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. entered the Challenge. Eligible schools were invited to participate in a 6-week Bootcamp program to further develop their makerspace ideas, and submit their final plans to be considered for prizes. 
Join us in congratulating the prize winners! 
  • Burlington Technical Center, Burlington, VT
  • Capital City Public Charter School, Washington, DC
  • Carl Schurz High School, Chicago, IL
  • Clearwater High School, Piedmont, MO
  • Dominion High School, Sterling, VA
  • John H. Reagan Early College High School, Austin, TX
  • Palisades Charter High School, Pacific Palisades, CA
  • Theodore Roosevelt High School, San Antonio, TX
  • THINC College & Career Academy, Lagrange, GA
  • William B. Travis Early College High School, Austin, TX
The prize winners were recommended by a panel of judges composed of high-profile leaders in maker education, tech, and industry. Each winner will receive $20,000 in cash and a share of in-kind prizes from the $375,000 sponsor prize pool to build or renovate their makerspace. Please check back here later this summer for more information on the prize winners’ makerspace plans."
We're excited to explore the proposals from all participating schools and to work with the array of organizations who've donated expertise and materials to the 10 finalists.

Our thanks to the CTE judges, facilitators, and sponsors for recognizing our work as innovative. We are thrilled to begin collaborative efforts.

Development is underway... along with an array of facility renovations at the Tech Center over the Summer too.

Keep moving forward... indeed. ; )