“Questions help us wonder”: The Educator Spotlight is on Noa Daniel

 Write on Fight on’s Educator Spotlight features insights, reflections and best practices from passionate classroom teachers and school administrators.

Meet Noa Daniel. Noa is teacher, educational consultant, and Chief Building Officer at Building Outside the Blocks. An active educational blogger, Noa believes authentic learning and effective questions are the key to inspiring students.

Check out my interview with Noa, visit her blog and enjoy!

  “Questions take us beyond the status quo and help us wonder and be thoughtful about the world.”


Besides being an educator, Noa Daniel is…

….many things to others and herself. We have three daughters who help me be a better person and educator. Raising them with my husband is the greatest challenge and reward of my life. My girls call me a meacher because I’m a very teacher-ish mom. Even though they do it to make fun of me, I know that it’s out of love and appreciation because teaching is so much more than my profession. Okay, I know that you said besides education, but that is a tough ask. Education is always on my mind and in my heart.

I am a very creative person who loves to write. I am also a connector of people and ideas, which actually helps to feed my creativity. I am a risk taker. Though I am often afraid to take risks, that has  never stopped me from trying new things. I often do it in spite of my fears and in view of the greater good. I either succeed, or I collaborate and create something totally different than what I set out to. Alternatively, I learn. All are worth the leap.

Tell us about your experience as an educator.

My experience as an educator has been an adventure. I started off as this young sit-on-the-desk, dramatic, we-can-find-a-way type of educator. Now, I am a better educated, seasoned sit-on-the-desk, dramatic, we-can-find-a-way educator who feels lucky to be able to engage in meaningful conversations about teaching and learning. I am an educational leader and change agent.

 What is the one book ever educator should read? Why?

There are so many great books out there, but if I could only pick one, I would have to say Daniel Pink’s Drive.

ASDC did a great interview with him  that articulates the key need for change in education. We must move from compliance to engagement. In order to do that, we must understand what motivates our students. This book helps the reader understand why external motivations like rewards or grades actually impede deep learning. Ultimately, the understanding the reader gets about intrinsic motivation is essential to teaching and life. The text takes the reader through autonomy, mastery and purpose. Drive helps the reader understand these fundamental aspects of education.

You have developed an educational initiative known as “Building Outside the Blocks” (BOB). A BOB approach uses personalized projects to enhance student learning. Why is autonomy such a crucial component of the learning process?

Autonomy allows students to be part of their learning equation. It is an essential ingredient in engagement and in owning their learning. Using a BOB approach, students choose their presentation dates for the projects, within the teacher-determined timelines. That helps students learn to own their calendars and organize their home time in view of this self-selected date. They backwards design the time and effort required to create and prepare to present their work.

Further, they chose the product that best suits their needs and interests or the product is something that comes from their personal lives and interests. I will co-create outlines and rubrics with them to deepen their sense of agency. In order to move students from compliance, they have to have a say in the learning journey. It is important to give students opportunities to have and use their autonomy.

What has been your biggest roadblock as an educator? And how did you overcome it? Or what are you doing now to overcome it?

My biggest road block is my greatest gift- the whole “outside the blocks” thing. I have learned that the only way to overcome it is to embrace it and let the creativity flow. It’s about autonomy and being able to use my drive to find new roads. When I am on a journey without a horizon, I stop looking for one and start constructing it. Whether through the projects that I develop or the leadership offerings that I create for students,  I respond to road blocks by making them into a foundation and building over them.

 If teachers want their students to be curious, teachers must design curious questions.Why is designing good questions so important to enhancing and improving student learning?

Besides fostering curiosity, it is the pursuit of the question more than the answer that matters. In our world, questioning skills are paramount for critical thinking, developing global connections and appreciating the power of perspectives. Questions are catalyst for inquiry. Questions take us beyond the status quo and help us wonder and be thoughtful about the world. Questions beget questions and allow people to grapple with ideas that drive deep learning. Inquiry is also a way that people can reach inside themselves and ask meaningful questions about who they are and where they are going or want to go. I am on a journey to help teachers reach and teach every child using questions that propel a personalized inquiry.

 The BOB approach relies on making real-world connections. Why are real-world connections so fundamental for creating active learners?

Real world connections are important because learning shouldn’t be an isolated experience. Beyond the classroom, there is a big, beautiful, crazy world. Teaching content and skills should enable people to be global citizens. Creating awareness of global or local issues or connecting with yourself are authentic tasks that make the learning more transferable than the alternative. When learning is oriented to reality, it becomes more meaningful.

What is the worst piece of advice you have heard given to teachers?

After a recent #ONedmentors show, I recalled that I, too, was told to be careful about how much energy and passion I put into my work because I would burn out. Not only have I not burned out after over two decades in the classroom, but I continue to improve, grow and be infused by teaching. I think that teachers have to be mindful to nourish themselves and that self-care is important in any profession, but your can’t burn out if you live every day being true to you and doing what you love.

 Who inspires you?

Many things inspire me. People fighting daily battles, facing each new sunrise with optimism amazes me. The innovators who aren’t afraid to share their ideas and keep moving forward in view of a big vision, in all areas of life, inspire me. Educators who work tirelessness to reach and teach every learner in their space are an inspiration. Kids, with all of their curiosities and wonderment amaze me. I am inspired by nature, music, art, poetry, prose, and other forms of creative expression. Grit is also a pretty incredible thing to witness, and that can be a real motivator. My daughters inspire me all the time.  As you can see, I glean inspiration from a variety of place and spaces.

What is your favorite non-teaching quote?

There are few a quotes that are exempt from a teaching application. One that keeps me moving forward, especially when I hit a road block and am creating something new, is Erin Hansen’s: “What if I fall? Oh, but my darling- what if you fly?”

Those words, as questions, become a mantra for me and are part of my mission in supporting educators. Change is scary, but with the right support, the possibilities are limitless.

Connect with Noa at…

blog: noadaniel7.wixsite.com/bobblog 

twitter: @noasboabs

podcast: VoicEd Radio 


Do you know an awesome educator dedicated to inspiring and teaching others?

If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on Write on Fight on’s Educator Spotlight Series. You can contact me at writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Be well,

Jay

 

“Travel is the best teacher.” The Educator Spotlight is on Spanish Teacher Michele Hill

Write on Fight on’s Educator Spotlight features insights, reflections and best practices from passionate classroom teachers and school administrators.

Meet Michele Hill. Michele is an high school Spanish teacher from New Jersey.  An active educational blogger, Michele believes engagement is the key to inspiring students. She recently took a group of students to Costa Rica to further teach them a lesson in altruism.

Check out my interview with Michele, visit her blog and enjoy!

I believe that an empowered student is one who is in charge of his/her learning and wants to pursue it with or without a teacher.- Michele Hill


Besides being an educator Michele Hill is….

a mother, wife and a grandmother, and a world traveler and a kind humanitarian.

What school and what subject do you currently teach?

I work at Delsea Regional High School. I teach Spanish and a special program called SWAG that works with our most at-risk students.

What is the one book ever educator should read? Why?

    There are so many to choose from. I think all teachers should read Todd Whitaker’s “What Great Teacher’s Do Differently”. It’s easy to understand and full of great advice that will help all teachers be successful with their students. It is sage advice on how to connect and manage all of the challenges that teachers face.

On your blog spiritededucator.blogspot.com you shared how you recently took a group of students to Costa Rica. Why are new experiences, such as your trip, so vital for student development?

I love taking students to new places to experience the world around them.  I think that it is so important for our students to be globally minded in the world that we live in today. I also believe that the greatest learning occurs when students are engaged…and new experiences keep them engaged! Travel is the best teacher of all… reading about the Colosseum is one thing, standing in it is another!

What has been your biggest roadblock as an educator? And how did you overcome it? Or what are you doing now to overcome it?

My biggest roadblock is being so passionate about education that others find it annoying. My family certainly gets tired of hearing about school and my students. Fortunately, I have developed great relationships through my PLN,  they have affirmed my desire to make education better and welcome my enthusiasm.

 What is an empowered student?

I believe that an empowered student is one who is in charge of his/her learning and wants to pursue it with or without a teacher. They are on a quest for knowledge and experiences!

 If, for one day, you were in charge of your school what would you do?

Make everyone feel welcomed! Celebrate staff and students and let them know that they all matter. Make school a place where everyone wants to be!

 Movie or book– what is your favorite work of fiction?

    Freedom Writers– Love that Ms. Gruell found a way to build meaningful relationships with ALL of her students!

Who inspires you?

Wow! This is a BIG question! I am inspired everyday by the teachers who care for their students, love them unconditionally and make them stretch and grow. Teachers are altruistic by nature. What they do day in and day out is inspirational for everyone!

What is your favorite non-teaching quote?

No matter how talented, educated, rich, or cool you think you are, ultimately how you treat people tells all!

Connect with Michele…

Twitter:@HillMrispo

Website: spiritededucator.blogspot.com


Do you know an awesome educator dedicated to inspiring and teaching others?

If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight Series. You can contact me at writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Be well,

Jay

“If we’re not taking risks we’re not growing”: WoFo’s Educator Spotlight is on Principal Eric Fieldler

Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight features awesome educators who are dedicated to teaching and inspiring young people everyday.

In the second edition of the 2017-2018 school year, WoFo features elementary school Principal Eric Fiedler.  I would like to thank Eric for his interview and dedication to the educational enterprise.

Taking risks in both teaching and learning yields far greater growth and achievement then playing it safe.


Who is Eric Fiedler?

Besides being a principal at Forked River Elementary School, I am the son of William and Barbara Fiedler, brother to William Fiedler III and Carolyn Sheppard, husband to Kara Fiedler, and father of Dylan and Dakota Fiedler.

Personally I am passionate about all things outdoors, daily workouts, and visiting cool places with family and extended family.

Tell us about your background in education.

I am a career change educator who left the financial world after working for Merrill Lynch as a financial consultant to attain my elementary education degree and certification from Richard Stockton College.  I went on to earn my graduate degree and administrative certifications through New Jersey City University.

I taught first grade for five years in the Little Egg Harbor Township School District.  I then moved into administration as a vice-principal and curriculum coordinator at Sea Isle City Public School and then  Elementary #1 in Middle Township Cape May County.  In 2007 I was hired by the Lacey Township Board of Education to serve as the principal of the Forked River School in my hometown where I have spent the last ten years,

If you could give your entire staff one book, what would it be and why?

I would give our staff a copy of The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney  I would want this wordless adaptation of one of Aesop’s greatest fables to serve as a reminder to our elementary educators that despite the pressures of our current standards based environment, every child should be given opportunities often to create their own versions of stories free of the confines we find in so many “teach to the test” educational climates within today’s classrooms.

What is the one essential ingredient needed to build a successful school culture?

Trust.  The development of trust between all stakeholders provides the necessary safety for risk taking without fear of judgement or any other negative repercussions.  Taking risks in both teaching and learning yields far greater growth and achievement then playing it safe.  If we’re not taking risks we’re not growing.  If we are not growing we are not striving for self-actualization.

If you could build the perfect leader, consisting of three leaders, living or dead, who would you pick and why?

I would choose Walt Disney for his transformational leadership style that motivated and inspired his employees to achieve using their own personal beliefs, creativity, and strengths.

Next, I would choose Harriet Tubman for her servant leadership that modeled humility for the selfless-sacrifice she endured for the betterment of humanity.

Lastly, I would choose General George Patton for his situational leadership that provided the flexibility necessary to read and react to the ever changing and complex situations of our world past and present..

If you weren’t an educator, what would you be?

If I wasn’t an educator my third attempt at a career would involve pursuing a job as a harbor pilot.  I enjoy time on the water and the challenges of operating complex machines.  Navigating a harbor provides discrete technical challenges in a maritime environment without enduring the long-term passages that take ocean going captains away from their families for extended periods of time.

What advice would you give to first year teachers?

Plan and develop your lessons based on the most current research and best practices.  Self-assess your lessons often using your own video/audio recordings and communicate with professionalism and care with students, parents, and colleagues.  Lastly and most importantly, have fun and don’t sweat the small stuff!

What is the worst advice you commonly hear given to teachers?

In various phrases with the common message being “Fly under the radar and get the job done…” is the very worst advice that I have often heard be given to new educators. 

I expect all staff members to play an equal role in the collaborative environment of the school house.  Everyone has their own unique educational, career, and life experiences that bring perspective and innovation to the team.  This serves to enrich and improve upon the collaborative efforts of our mission.

What is your favorite movie?

One of my all time favorite movies is The Man Without a Face (1993).  Based on Isabelle Holland’s 1972 Novel of the same name, it teaches us the importance of tolerance and reserving judgement.   It also demonstrates the incredible influence an educator can have on his or her students.  An influence that is boundless.

 Who inspires you?

This is always an interesting question.

Certainly my family members each serve as inspiration for me in unique ways. Rather than sharing specifics regarding the inspiration provided by my family, I am going to choose a more broad response as to who inspires me.  I find myself absolutely in awe of and drawn to those folks who I encounter in life who have reached our ultimate goal of self-actualization.  I find these folks to be incredibly genuine, kind, and free of judgement and negativity.  They bring out the best in those around them and are inspiring to be around!

 

Follow Eric on Twitter @FRSprincipal and can be contacted by email at efiedler@laceyschools.org .

You can also check out Eric on the Forked River School website.


Do you know an awesome educator dedicated to inspiring and teaching others?

If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight Series. You can contact me at writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Be well,

Jay