Posted in Admin, Education, Professional Development, Sketchnote

Rich 227 Administrative Retreat Takeaways

A week of ice breakers, activities, tech tools, feedback, presentations, data, laughter, competition, and work is the quick version of the administrative retreat for Rich Township District 227.

You Will Live as a Team, You Will Die as an Individual

I loved the focus on teambuilding and ice breaker activities.  Some of my favorites included the team scrabble tournament, brown bag introductions, crowd cheering rock paper scissors tournament, the communication line activity (similar to the game of telephone but with motions and no words – HILARIOUSLY awesome and drove home the point, ESPECIALLY with the video), land mine trust walk, and find your team karaoke sing off).  I think we ignore doing these activities throughout the course of the schoolyear beyond the first week.  I would love to incorporate these activities both in class as well as with my division or grade level time.  I’m pretty excited to use one or two with the students who plan to come help with freshmen next week.  Additionally, Jeff Bonomo showed this video (spoiler alert: you might need a tissue) about how students react to hearing that you believe in them and I would love to incorporate this idea into something that I do this year.

Dr. Thomas spoke about our targets and goals and it was a breath of fresh air that the message seemed the same as the previous year as to how we will proceed with working to attain goals related to math, reading/writing, and AP.  It is good that the focus remains tight and on the same goals.

Shadow a Student

I am most excited about one of the big takeaways I had from our all admin team read, Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.  You can read more about my reflections in this post.  I plan to shadow a student on September 10, 2019.  I plan to use a freshman student and, just as Couros did, I plan to do everything that they have to do for a day.  I am really interested in what life is like for a typical student.  I already put this in my calendar so I am pumped :).


The thought that I kept having throughout the week is how to build and maintain trust.  It is key to so many aspects of the job.  I learned last year that to be clear is to be kind.  I am working on ensuring that my communication is much clearer than before.  I think at times I have been hung up on being liked or being nice when really people seek out good feedback that will help them in their future pursuits.

All I Do Is Win, Win, Win No Matter What

This week was filled with wins which I have to admit felt pretty good.  I was on the winning escape room team.  Our team won the land mine teambuilding/trust building game.  We won the transportation competition (nice job Whitaker with your “prize”).  We won the Kahoot for the Operations Day Kahoot.  How can I give my staff and students more opportunities to win because it is a pretty awesome feeling.

READ THE FINE PRINT! Nicely played Mr. Whitaker.

Illusion Versus Reality

We had the awesome opportunity to see The Spellbinder Show.  He is an illusionist and was very talented.  I was intrigued by what seemed to be real but I knew really was not.  I considered how this idea of how things appear versus reality plays out in our schools.  How Rich South admin celebrated as if they won the bowling game but in reality, when you look at the scores, they were so very wrong 🙂 see the pictures below…. just kidding, or am I?  For real though, with our school, illusions are everywhere.  How our school building appears just fine from the outside, but really has a plethora of life safety needs.  How our students come to school and maybe don’t wear it on their face but have a home life that makes it impossible sometimes to come to school.  It really drove home the point to me that you need to look underneath what you see to really understand what is truly going on.

Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

One of the recurring themes throughout this experience was one of relationships.  I learned last year as a new administrator that relationships are HUGE to being able to do my job effectively and efficiently.  I want to pour into my relationships even more this year so that our staff truly knows how awesome they really are.  I appreciate the dedication and time they give to the work and to our students and I want them to know they are noticed.


Last year was the first time I tried to play Spades.  I felt so out of my comfort zone.  Although this year was not my first time with the game, it was the first time in a while.  Ms. Glenn and I did pretty well 🙂 and it was fun.  I was vulnerable, made some mistakes, but overall was impressed with being able to hang in there.  I need to continue to take risks to remember how that feels and help my students



Here are my sketchnotes for the week.











Ready, Set….

I haven’t felt this excited about my job since last year this time.  I have so much work to do but it will be totally worth it for our students to make gains toward their future.  I am excited for year two as I kinda have an idea of what to sometimes expect (but like Big Brother on TV, you always have to expect the unexpected).  I am hopeful that I can get back to blogging on the regular and I can’t wait to see what I will learn this year.

Let’s Go!





Posted in Admin, Books, Education

Innovator’s Mindset Reflections


I’ve really enjoyed reading books through Audible and Hoopla.  It has made the commute to work more enjoyable and productive.  I’ve read more books this way than through traditional ways.  I wonder if I would have been able to do a better job of reading books in high school if this format was more readily available?

I would like to find a way to take notes while listening and driving though.  This is more challenging now with the Illinois Laws related to cell phone use and distracted drivers, a necessary law and I am not complaining.



I’ve found that when I traditionally write up my thoughts on a book I’ve read that I haven’t done a great job of implementing the ideas I’ve garnered through the title.  Therefore, I am going to limit my takeaways from this book to hopefully improve the impact on my career.


TAKEAWAY 1:  Blog, girl!  BLOG!

I realized when I went to my mailbox and saw this book in it as an all administrative staff read that I was lucky as I had already read the book last summer.  I fired up WordPress and searched and searched but found no mention of Innovator’s Mindset in any of my blog posts.  Then I questioned my memory and wondered if I had indeed read it and searched Twitter as well and found a single, solitary post on the subject.  This is such a shame because the book was really good, encouraged readers to include student voice and blogging which are core beliefs that I have carried forward since reading it last year.  Long story short, I need to blog more.  Couros often empowers readers to find their voice and challenges that even bad bloggers help move us forward.  Although I am not winning Pulitzer prizes with my blog posts, I have recognized my growth through using the medium to connect with other educators and push my thinking when it comes to educational policy.  Blogging is helpful for me and the profession and this book has inspired me to continue blogging as well as find a way to implement blogging in my classroom this school year.  Additionally, as soon as it goes on sale I would like to have my own domain :).



As a math teacher, I have felt tasked with giving students the skills they need to attack any problem that they encounter.  Often students have been upset with my assignments when they do not mirror the problems we encountered in class, but I remind them that it is not my task to show them how to do every problem, but rather, provide them with skills and opportunities to be able to work through the problem to answers.  Couros says on page 50 that “While everyone looks at how we could help young people become better problem-solvers, we’re not thinking how we could create a generation of problem finders.”  This really stuck with me, and convicted me.  I have spent so much of my professional life on problem solving but have often neglected problem finding.  I think that in recent years I have attended to this more through my deliberate use of notice and wonder in my class.  Reading this book has cemented the need to adhere to this strategy not only on a more regular basis but maybe even on a daily basis.  Problem finding is essential because you cannot solve the problem that you cannot define.




I love EdCamp.  Every time I attend I am inspired to try new classroom techniques that I learn.  Here are blog posts related to my experiences (here, here, here, here, there are others but you get the drift).  I love the voice and choice involved with this mode of presenting Professional Development.  I know that it has catapulted my use and knowledge of online tools such as Google Apps for Ed, Twitter, Tweetdeck, various poster making sites, etc.  I know that other educators in my school would enjoy the experience as well.  I need to make this a reality for our staff because I truly believe that it could foster better relationships and innovation at our school.  Couros tauts the importance of relationships, voice, and choice throughout his book and this idea of EdCamp as PD is one that I truly want to make a reality as it plays into all three of those ideas.


It was amazing when Couros described the images created by Sylvia Duckworth related to his ideas how I was able to immediately conger up the picture he was refrencing.  Pictures are so central to conveying ideas to others.  I’ve often been mocked for my sketchnoting, but now more than ever I believe in the power that sketchnoting has on my learning.  I would love to employ this technique in my classroom and encourage others to use it more for their own learning purposes too.  I want to reread Make It Stick and read Powerful Teaching to be able to support my claims with the evidence that I know resides in those books.



Whether I need to connect to the heart of my students or staff, that connection is huge.  I plan to shadow a student for a day this fall to really get an idea of what our students do on a daily basis and what their experience is like.  I really want to get to know students and their goals and aspirations more.  I want to do something everyday that I can point to and say “I connected to the heart on that one”.

What do you want kids to do with technology.png




Posted in Admin, Education, Professional Development, Sketchnote

Impact and Legacy Summit 2019


I had the pleasure of attending this inspirational conference hosted by Humanex.  There was careful attention paid to details such as promotional materials, variety of speakers, and a fantastic venue.  I really enjoyed getting to know my counterparts better while learning best leadership practices from across a variety of industries.  Major themes came through to me from this conference, that I believe, are applicable to not only education but management in general.




There is dignity and we need to honor excellence in every role

– and –

You are not “just a” anything

I loved how this idea played out again and again throughout the conference.  All of the roles we have in our organization are important.  While talking to one of the other division leads, we realized that often we will say “I’m just a Division Lead for ____ at my school”.  There is nothing “just a” about the roles we serve in.  Additionally, if you have ever had a day when you felt more like 70% than 100%,  it is important to then give 100% of the 70 as opposed to anything less than your best.  This resonated with my current state of affairs given the many directions I have been pulled in lately.  I really made the effort to give my most and best throughout this conference and I believe my experience was richer because of it.  Jimmy Casas mentioned that “people who feel valued and appreciated will always do more than expected”.



Whether it was creating the “diamond drops” to recognize the work of others to sending a quick text to someone that is important in your life, taking the time to be intentional to honor those who inspire us daily is important.  Finding a way to be authentic and ensure that my team feels seen and heard is very important for me moving into next year.



What did you say in the interview chair?

I loved the session by Jimmy Casas.  He was incredibly honest and authentic with his message which can be challenging to do when you have a past that isn’t rainbows and unicorns.  He posed the question of “What did you say in the interview chair?” and then reminded us that we should live into that passion even into today.  That brought me back to when I was interviewing as a first year teacher.  I remembered how nervous I was to do a good job and I think in my years of experience have given me a degree of comfort and swagger with what I do.  I’d like to recapture a little of that innocence as I believe that it could help drive me to really put student needs at the forefront of my instruction.


Our Dream Box

Opportunity for growth at our school based on last year’s data

During the breakout sessions, one of the presenters talked about their dream box through Humanex.  I was curious about our data so I looked up the information provided.  We celebrated our success with staff as we really made huge gains with earning and I am so happy that we have moved in the right direction with them for they inspire our students daily.  When I looked through the student data I saw a great new opportunity to work on goals to improve their engagement and satisfaction.  The overall dream box for our school was at 49%.  We are at about half of our population feeling engaged in their environment.  I think that we need to get a better idea of what the student experience is like in our schools so that we can find ways to improve this engagement.  Shadowing students might be a good opportunity for us to see our classrooms from a different lens and consider the possibility for making changes that improve student success.


Toyota Lessons

Bill Taylor mentioned lessons that companies were able to learn from the Toyota company as documented in Good to Great.  One of the lessons learned by a hospital included getting rid of waiting rooms and posting actual prices on the wall.  This made me think that we could post the cost or financial benefits of the high school education earned at Rich East High School.  I also loved this idea of “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”.  We claim to be lifelong learners but are we actually learning?  I considered my most recent endeavor of getting Google certified, which was a great experience but one that already resides in my wheelhouse, and this experience reminded me that I need to be cognizant of the leadership areas that I need to work on and I need to actually put in the work.




Are you proud of the work or are you defending the work?

I love love LOVED seeing Joe Sanfilippo speak.  He was totally fantastic as a public speaker and was completely energizing.  I saw hints of my previous Athletic Director come out when he spoke of his #gocrickets tagline.  I loved how he interwove moments of levity with audience interaction (get 2 inches away from the face of the person next to you) to take home lessons on gratitude (take out your phone and text someone that means something to you.  The messages were simple yet powerful.  He was able to show that you can change culture in less than 30 seconds…what you do for less than a minute can be remembered for a lifetime…so we need to make it count.  His enthusiasm was contagious and inspired me to bring that back to my staff.








I did not know who Inky Johnson was prior to this event but his message will help me never forget him.  It was a nice way to finish out this experience as he reminded me about the “What is your why?” that our district worked on last year.  Your why will drive your what.  He said that “people do not burn out because of what they do, they burn out because they forgot WHY they do what they do”  What legacy do we want to leave?



One of the characteristics of many of the leaders who spoke was the ability to reframe situations.  Often, they would speak of things that would be considered drawbacks but many times they reframed the idea as an opportunity for growth.  I love this idea.  I changed my mindset on a situation like that just tonight and realized that this is a powerful idea.  When we consider data next year that might not be the best, we need to remind ourselves that this is just a benchmark to eventually look back upon and tell the world about how far we have come.


#sketchnote and Blogging 

It’s been a while since I’ve sketchnoted.  I didn’t realize how much I missed it.  It helped me remember the tenets of the Make It Stick book (I remember from that book that I shouldn’t reread it, however I REALLY want to now – maybe a good opportunity to turn it into a book study at school?).  I forgot how people will look at your strangely as you draw pictures during lectures, but I also remembered that I don’t really care what others think 🙂 .  I liked this opportunity to step back into blogging.  As I spoke of before, my lack of blogging lately is not a drawback but rather an opportunity for growth in the coming year – year TWO of administration!


Posted in EdTech, Geometry, Math, My Favorite Lessons

First Time I Created a Custom Polygraph Desmos Activity

My goal this year is to become even more knowledgeable in Desmos and hopefully get invited to join the Desmos Fellows next summer.  Part of the application process requires you to submit an activity that you created.  The one that I submitted last year was very rudimentary.  I knew that it was a weakness of my application, but am glad that I went through the process last year so that this year my application will be VERY solid.  To that end, I thought it would be a GREAT opportunity for me to create my own Polygraph this week.  My first attempt was actually pretty good and I was impressed at how easy it was to create the activity (less than 20 minutes).  I created the images in SmartNotebook as I am much more familiar with the drawing tools in there than I am with the Geometry tools available in Desmos (another area that I can work on this year).  One area that I “improved” for the next iteration this week was made all of my lines MUCH thicker as when the sixteen images appear on a Chromebook they must be very bold to highlight the subtle differences between rays and lines.  Overall, I am happy with my progress and look forward to more opportunities to create this year.  Want to check out my most current iteration of the activity?  Here ya go!


Posted in Admin, Blaugust, MTBoS

Top Takeaways Week 7 – How Jackie Got Her Groove Back

This week I finally felt like I knew what I was doing.  Maybe it is because the first week of school is over.  Whatever the case may be, I am just excited to finally feel like I am living into this new role and liking it.  I knew I really liked this role when it was the first Snowball Tuesday and I only missed the being with the students part of Snowball.  I thought it was going to be harder than this to walk away from being a director as I aspired to role for so long.  However, the role taught me so much before I stepped into this role, I really felt like it prepared me for what would lie ahead.  Without further ado, here are my top takeaways this week.

1.) Single Moms/Dads Are Amazing…and Deserve GRACE

I have said this line 100s of times since my son was born.  Anytime mommin’ gets tough, I get thankful for my husband’s role in my life and can’t imagine the struggle of the single parent who has to go it alone.  The last three weeks have really tested the generosity of my mother, mother-in-law and even good friend as my son’s camp ended in July but school did not start for another three weeks.  So each week on Monday through Thursday I had to arrange care for him while Eric worked.  This would involve either the additional pickup at my parents’ home, my in law’s home in Aurora, or out in Lockport at Shannon’s place.  It made me have to leave work much earlier which usually was not a problem, however, this week already involved a late night.  The agenda for a meeting I was requested to attend said the meeting would end at 5 which would be perfect for getting out to pick up my kids by the 6pm cut off (did I mention the fine is pretty hefty for picking up my daughter late from daycare?).  Anyway, the meeting was still going at 5:15 when I had to leave or I’d be late to the pickup.  I hated leaving.  I don’t like being judged but on the other hand I truly had no choice in the matter.  As I was beating myself up on the way home for leaving when I did, I realized it was a moment to be thankful for the situation I am in to I 1.) have kids 2.) have a husband who loves me 3.) a great daycare to go to 4.) a job.  I am trying to give myself some grace but it is hard.  I just hope to channel the feelings of guilt and badness into giving a single parent grace when they need it.

2.)  Stay In Your Lane

I love to problem solve. Makes sense since I became a math teacher.  When I see problems, I naturally tend to want to help out.  I have discovered the longer I stay in this position sometimes it is best to just stay in your lane.  When I dabble outside of it either I get swatted down for not staying in my lane or the problem I would have attempted to solve comes to a resolution anyway.  This does not mean I should give up helping others.  However, seeking first to understand a problem and whether my services are necessary is a good step to prevent the smack down to my lane or unnecessary  worry on my part for a problem that will come to resolution anyway.

Loved this game for killing 5 minutes in class.   Students have to guess my number between 1-1000.  I love how it gets at place value, factors, and a variety of other “boring topics” but gives students a way to practice those skills in a pseudo-authentic way.

3.) Seek First to Understand

This week we had a problem in a classroom with a substitute.  I was made aware of the problem and talked to the substitute to get a better picture of what exactly happened.  Additionally, I spoke with the teacher upon her return to widen my knowledge of the situation.  Had I acted before talking to either of these individuals, I would have totally made some mis-steps.  However, after the situation came totally into focus by taking into account all of the sides of the story I realized no action was really necessary on my part.  Seeking first to understand and then to be understood is applicable in sooooo many situations.

4.) Seek the Good

I was talking with someone who was pretty pessimistic this week.  Despite the HUGE walls they put up in our conversation, I was absolutely RELENTLESS with my pursuit of seeking the good in any situation and IT WORKED.  Honestly, I was astounded by the result.  As I was chatting with the individual, I had doubts that my positivity would bust through the seemingly brick walls that were created in the conversation.  However, focusing on the good and seeking it out in this person paid off.  I will think back to this situation in the future when I doubt my positivity and will fondly remember how this person TOTALLY changed their tune.  Even in the face of a super challenging conversation, there is good there.

5.) Feeling the Flow

Friday this week was amazing for me.  I had many great conversations with staff members about improving practices at Rich East, a fantastic lesson with my Geometry class where students almost literally felt the headache for which math was the aspirin (separate blog post coming), and I left work a whole hour earlier than normal and didn’t feel guilty at all because the major stuff was basically taken care of.  I finally felt in the groove with this whole administrator job.  I believe this can be accredited to working with teachers.  Since this was the job I was hired to do and it was the majority of the day I honestly feel like this is the reason why I felt in the flow on this day.  I’m hoping for more flow days in the future but will appreciate this one until those ones appear.

This lesson from Desmos on Finding Midpoints totally gave my students the headache for which math is the aspirin.


Posted in Admin, Blaugust, CTE, MTBoS, Sunday Funday

Top Takeaways Week 6

This week was amazing.  Our staff returned last week and this week heralded in the Rocket class of 2022.  2022.  What?!  When did that happen.  I mean I graduated in 1997….how did we get HERE!?  It was awesome to cheer them in :).  I was sidelining and my principal coach, Dr. Brass, goes to me “Jackie, they need your energy”…. and that was my call to action.  It was HOT out and I sweat at least a pound off that day but it was totally WORTH IT!  Check out a post by my fantastic Associate Principal, LaTanza Boarden.

On to my takeaways this week…

1.)  First Division Meeting…Teaching Skills Totally Came In Useful

The original agenda allowed me an hour and 40 minutes with the division teachers.  Due to some great data conversation, and I am totally serious about the quality of the conversation here, coupled with some previous day agenda items moved to this day due to some fantastic collaboration and networking among our staff my time shrunk to about just 35 minutes.  However, as a teacher who ALWAYS over plans for any given day I was able to cut down to the nuts and bolts of the meeting and it went well.  It’s amazing how applicable teacher skills such as flexibility, pedagogical understanding, and communication skills are to other arenas.  Additionally, the activities that I cut (a fun little getting to know you Quizlet and a nice little data activity powered by Desmos activity builder) will be readily accessible for the next meeting.

2.) Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood

This theme will probably be a regular occurrence for me.  Some situations I learn from along the way are not appropriate for discussion on a public blog, and this is one of those situations.  However, I can say that this idea of listening and really trying to be in the other person’s frame of mind really helps in almost ANY situation.  I totally saw it come into play in a hostile situation that I dealt with as well as a benign situation at a party.  I just wish that I had learned this lesson way before this point in my life.  I did not realize how powerful it is to understand the other person’s point of view when it comes to making your own point of view.  Additionally, when you understand the other side, sometimes your opinion will change and that is ok.

3.) You Can Do Notice and Wonder EVERYDAY

Finding balance between the administrator life and the teacher life has been a challenge.  Shoooooo balance in general has been a huge struggle for me.  But I digress.  As I began teaching Geometry this week I thought “hmmmm, maybe we can do Notice and Wonder today”, so we did.  Then I read this article for probably the 10th time, Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say, and realized that Notice and Wonder TOTALLY allows students to say what I want to say.  So I am kinda on a mission to do Notice and Wonder EVERYDAY 🙂 well at least the first week of school.  The students have responded sooooo well and I love seeing their insights.  I’m excited to use Notice and Wonder this week as we introduce real curriculum.  I am hoping that I can start to create the headache that math is the only aspirin for (not my idea, but totally stealworthy from Dan Meyer).

4.) CTE is the BOMB

I love the CTE part of my job.  Most of the teachers come out of industry and have awesome stories to share from the real world.   Their passion for their craft is palpable and I am psyched to see what students will be able to learn from these amazing people.  I love our new robotics teacher.  He has some amazing experiences in engineering and has a verve for electronics. In addition to being exposed to amazing people, the students have the opportunity to get dual credit and sometimes certifications that will allow them to get jobs immediately.  I always talk about how my brother uses the CAD skills he learned in high school to do his everyday job now.  I always used to think that college was the answer however working with CTE has opened my eyes to a whole new set of possibilities in which college is an answer but that other options are just as viable if not more so.  It is all a matter of finding out about students’ why and then getting them exposed to opportunities that let them live into that why.

5.) Everyone Needs Feedback

I love doing name tents with feedback and I did it again this year with my students and it has really made me think about feedback in general.  Last year one of my biggest complaints was that administrators would come into my classroom (sometimes a group of up to six at a time) and not give me any feedback (heck, they wouldn’t even say goodbye on their way out).  We are looking to change that narrative.  This year we (administrators) will pop into a teacher’s classroom two times a week each month.  Then on Friday that teacher is invited to a VOLUNTARY meeting with us to receive feedback or ask questions about the feedback they received regarding the pop in visits.  I personally am coupling this with an initiative I was interested in doing last year called #ObserveMe.  I was too afraid to step out of my comfort zone last year but I felt like with this year that if I am going to be going out of my way to provide feedback for my teachers, they might appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback in return to me.  If you would like to give me feedback on my form, I would love a comment below.  Here is the form.  Check out the poster for my classroom and my office.

Observe Me Poster - Made with PosterMyWall (1)



Posted in Geometry, MTBoS

Popcorn Prisms

popcorn prisms

My Honors Geometry students Monday lesson was inspired by a lesson posted by Fawn Nguyen that related to surface are and volume.  I loved the idea of it and figured that the day after Spring Break that also happened to be the day before all school testing would be a great one to review the topics from two weeks ago (and enjoy a snack, yum! 🙂 ).

I totally overestimated my students ability to perform this task.  I was really upset about the experience until I remembered this awesome quote:

“If you haven’t failed in the classroom lately, you aren’t pushing the envelope far enough. “Safe” lessons are a recipe for mediocrity at best.” ~

I like how this quote gives me liberty to try things outside of my comfort zone, potentially mess up and come back and try again.

Very few students were able to construct the prism, measure, and calculate the desired quantities.  I was impressed with the variety of rectangular prisms students created.  However, I found students had a number of difficulties with this project that made it hard to assess students understanding.  The activity was super beneficial and eye opening to me.  I’m writing this post to highlight the fact that I take full responsibility for their errors because I as a teacher did not 1.) give them enough to understand my expectations and 2.) assumed that they had background skills in measuring with a ruler and finding area and volume.  There are so many areas that I need to work on with my students based on their performance during this activity not to mention that surface area and volume are real life skills so I can’t just pass the buck and hope they get it next year. I am struggling with which area to address FIRST.

  • constructing the prism
  • measurement
  • surface area
  • volume

Where would you start? What would you do?