“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

 

The Importance of Goal Setting: The Educator Spotlight is on Teacher and Writer Mari Venturino

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

 Meet Mari Venturino. Mari is an elementary school teacher from San Diego, California.  An active blogger and editor of the book Fueled by Love and Coffee: Real Stories by Real Teachers, Mari is a reflective force.

Check out her interview, visit her blog and you will certainly learn new reflective strategies to help improve your own practices. Enjoy!

Without goals, I just go aimlessly through the school year. I’m always working to be a better teacher, and I don’t want to settle for good enough.


Besides being a teacher Mari Venturino is…

…an avid reader who loves YA and nonfiction. I also enjoy spending time with my boyfriend and dog.

Where do you currently teach, what do you teach and for how long?

I teach 7th grade science and 8th grade AVID at Mar Vista Academy in San Diego, CA. The 2017-2018 school year is my 6th year of teaching.

What is your favorite lesson to teach and why?

I love our lessons and units on health and nutrition. These topics are so applicable to students’ lives, and line up with my science passions. We weave in nutrition within our chemistry and properties of matter units, and students are especially engaged as we’re analyzing nutrients and food groups.

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

We would have a fundatory (you’re required to have fun, and you’ll like it!) spirit day with school-wide activities and games. When we laugh and play together, our school community is happier!

If you could write one quote on the board for your students what would it be?

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible.” -Aubrey Hepburn

On your website blog.mariventurino.com,  you write about teaching strategies and best practices. How has writing helped you has a teacher?

Writing helps me reflect on what works best for my students and my school, and figure out what areas I need to work on. I write to share just as much as I write as a personal reflection tool. I love the conversations that spark up from blog posts, and I find myself constantly improving my teaching.


In a recent post, “2017-2018 School Year Goals”, you discuss your classroom goals for the upcoming school year. Why is goal setting so important for a teacher?

Without goals, I just go aimlessly through the school year. I’m always working to be a better teacher, and I don’t want to settle for good enough. One of my favorite twitter hashtag’s comes from Lisa Thuman’s keynote, #onenewthing. Instead of trying all the things at one time, just focus on trying #onenewthing.

One of your goals for the 2017-2018 school year was to build relationships with your students first. Why is building relationships so vital for teaching and learning?

In our classrooms, the most important thing is to build relationships with our students. When we form trust and mutual respect, we build empathy and work better together. Our collaboration and cooperation improves, and all of us are willing to take more risks. Just as I need to get to know each of my students, they need opportunities to get to know me.

You recently published your first book, Fueled by Love and Coffee: Real Stories Written by Real Teachers. All proceeds of the book will be donated to classrooms and teachers ( which is totally awesome!). Why is it so important for teachers to share their stories?

I’ve seen too many teachers say “I’m just a teacher” when I ask them to share something they’ve done in their classroom, whether on social media or in person. My goal is to elevate the ordinary teachers to share the incredible things they’re doing. It’s an honor to take the lead on this project, and work to get more teachers’ voices heard. You can read more about the project here, and buy your copy of the book on Amazon.


My classroom superpower is… because…
My classroom superpower is bionic eyes because I can see what you’re doing, even with my back turned.


Mari can be found at…  
Twitter & Instagram: @MsVenturino

Blog: blog.mariventurino.com

Email: mari.venturino@gmail.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 

Bringing Stories to Light: WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight is on Julie Boulton

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

In the first edition of the 2017-2018 school year, WoFo features history teacher and blogger Julie Boulton. I would like to thank Julie for her interview and dedication to the teaching profession.

I love to bring stories to light that might have been forgotten otherwise.”


Besides being a teacher Julie Boulton is….

Wife, mother, sister, hiker, music lover, obsessive coffee drinker, history addict, blogger, traveler and nature lover.
.
Where do you currently teach, what do you teach and for how long?

I currently teach in Vaughan Ontario. I teach History and Social Science courses, including Law and Politics. I have been teaching for 10 years.

What is your favorite lesson to teach and why?

To be honest, I don’t know if I have one lesson.  I love simulations and mock trials. This year I ran my Congress of Vienna Simulation in October, and students were still debating the outcomes with me in May. I love that! I love any activity or lesson that makes the students passionate.

However, I also really enjoy teaching students history that they may not have learned. For example, I never learned about the Nanking Massacre. I was fortunate enough to apply and be selected as an educator for a study trip in China. I visited with government officials, survivors and various historic sites in four different provinces in China for about 3 weeks. I couldn’t believe that the Nanking Massacre had been left out of a lot of World War Two history. Now, I think it has become more well known, and I think it is because it is being discussed more in the classrooms and the media. I love to bring stories to light that might have been forgotten otherwise. I also love to do this as an ongoing lesson in all of my courses. I challenge my students to find ‘what stories are missing’ from our textbooks. We also discuss why certain stories are emphasized whereas others are ignored or forgotten.

Basically, if it is a lesson where my students are thinking, conversing, researching and asking questions than I am a happy teacher!

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

I would devote a day to staff and student wellness/community building. I find the mental health and personal struggles in our schools overwhelming and often overlooked. Our students have so much on their plates that we may or may not be aware of. I really think that our first job as educators is to build relationships with our students and support them. Similarly, I have witnessed teacher burn out, and have definitely felt on the brink myself at times. We can’t expect staff and students to thrive if they are not mentally well and provided with adequate supports.

If you could write one quote on the board for your students what would it be?

A good life is one where at the end of your life you can say that you have given more than you have taken – Ross Plunkett (My Dad)

On your website julieboulton.com , you write about teaching strategies and best practices. How has writing helped you has a teacher?

My blog is very reflective and honest. I strive to outline my experiences and ideas for teaching in the classroom. I also like to point out educators I admire and resources that I find helpful. I am not a perfect teacher, and my blog talks about my successes and my failures. It is very personal, reflective and I spend a lot of time thinking about what I would like to hear as a teacher. I am personally against professional development that begins by negatively talking about teachers and education. I know how hard this job is and how hard most teachers work, so my goal is really to celebrate educators and empower them with tools and resources that have worked for me.

What advice would you give to all new teachers?

Loving your students and trying hard is enough – you’re enough. I had an incredible Mentor tell me one year that if you try one or two new things each year, then you were doing really well. That message stuck with me. Professional development and ministry initiatives can be overwhelming, and sometimes out of touch with the realities of the classroom. I think that it is important for teachers to trust themselves and know that if they are working in the best interest of their students that is enough. If you love your kids and fight for them, than you are 80% there (maybe 90%).

If the best thing about teaching is the students, what’s the second  best thing?  
Being creative. I love creating a lesson or assignment. I enjoy the creative process, brainstorming, executing it and learning what worked and what didn’t. When you achieve that state of flow in your classroom, it is almost like a runner’s high – you feel so elated as a teacher. I love that feeling!

                                      Who inspires you?                                      

My Aunt Brenda. Unfortunately she passed away in a car crash a couple of years ago, but she was an incredible woman. Google Brenda Zimmerman and you can see what I am talking about. She achieved tremendous professional success, and used it to help others. On top of that, she somehow always managed to make time for and support the people she loved, and she loved to love. She believed in working hard, playing harder and giving back. She rarely criticized others and focused on helping others achieve their dreams. She was one of those rare people who loved to celebrate the success of others.  If I could be like anyone, it would be her. Also, my husband, Jeff, he is truly the kindest, most intelligent man that I have ever met.  I am so truly thankful for him.

My classroom superpower is… because…

Caring, because I have a reputation for supporting my students and my colleagues. I really believe in relationships first above all else, and I focus on building that before worrying about any content or curriculum expectations.

 Connect with Julie on Twitter @JulieBoulton12   

And checkout her awesome blog julieboulton.com


If you liked Julie’s interview check out “8  Simple Ways To Be A More Interesting Teacher This School Year”

 


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 

WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight is on Deb Dauer

Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight closes out the 2016-2017 school year with a very special guest.

The “Mighty” Deb Dauer is a teacher, wife, mother, writer and fighter I’ve been admiring from a distance for some time now.

It’s an honor to have Deb’s story grace these pages. Her courage, honesty and resilience are absolute magic.

I want to thank Deb for sharing her story, for modeling on her blog “Not Going to be a Debbie Downer” what it means to “write on, fight on” and for her relentless dedication to her students and the educational enterprise.

Deb Dauer (seated) with (right to left) her husband Adam and children Ian, Gillian and Sarah.
…We would take a break from “the regularly scheduled curriculum” and give students the opportunity to have the whole day to give to others.

Deb Dauer is…

I am blessed to be a daughter, sister, wife to an amazing man, Mom to three incredible kids, friend, teacher, writer, community volunteer, and an advocate. In September of 2016 I also became a person with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Describe your teaching career…

I have taught first grade at Sharon School for the past ten years. Prior to that I taught first grade in Ewing for a year. I also taught self awareness skills through storytelling all over Mercer County schools for CampFire USA; taught pre K at Do & Learn nursery school; Hebrew school at Har Sinai Temple in Pennington.

What’s your favorite lesson to teach and why?

It is VERY difficult to pick just one. I love teaching about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Young kids are so receptive to his message. When we learn about Dr. King we spend some time learning about each other’s similarities AND differences. I love giving my students the opportunity to do watercolor portraits of a classmate and then creating a Venn diagram with that same classmate to see what they have in common and what makes them different, and learn that all of it is okay.

On a completely different subject I love bringing this crazy haired puppet out named Math Madge, who teaches the kids about the less than and greater than symbols. She speaks in a combination of French, Spanish, and English and always ends her visit with puppet kisses. The kids love to learn and laugh with her.

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

I would implement a day of service. We would take a break from “the regularly scheduled curriculum” and give students the opportunity to have the whole day to give to others. And if I really had unwieldy power, I would make standardized tests go away forever.

If you could write one quote on the board for your students what would it be?

“There is nothing more important than being nice.” ~Adam Dauer (my husband) And I do often write it on my board.

If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be?

I would want to be children’s book author and foster dogs.

What advice would you give to all new teachers?

I would suggest to new teachers that it is really important to listen, and slow down. When you come out of school you are so gung-ho about jumping in and implementing all these ideas that you have been saving up for at least four years. But you are becoming a member of a team. A team of established colleagues that can teach you important skills; a team of the larger community that you are becoming a part of; a team with your students’ families who know these kids a lot better than you do. All of these team members have so much to offer if you listen.

If the best thing about teaching is the students, what’s the second best thing?

Establishing relationships, with fellow teachers and all of the other fabulous colleagues you get to learn from on a daily basis. Establishing relationships with the families of students – sometimes getting to know them over many years as you teach all of the siblings! As these relationships grow you learn about different cultures and religions, family dynamics and philosophies, and these relationships in turn help you grow as a person.

Who inspires you?

I think my take on this has changed since I have been diagnosed with ALS. At this point in my life I would say I find inspiration in those that can remain positive in the face of great adversity. For example, my friend who was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer yet still goes to work every day as an oncology nurse; or my kids who now live in an ever changing reality of having to help care for their Mom, but still laugh, and go to school, and maintain a normal life. The everyday people who do everyday things when the odds are against them – that inspires me.

My classroom superpower is… because…

The magic that takes over my classroom and my kids when I am reading a really good picture book.

Follow Deb and her inspiring journey with ALS at notgonnabeadebbiedowner@blogspot.com


The Teacher Spotlight will spend its summer sleeping in, watching high-caloric daytime tv and hanging by the pool. The series will resume in September and feature more awesome educators.

Your summer homework– if you know an awesome educator and would like to see them featured next school year on the Teacher Spotlight Series please contact Jay at writeonfighton@gmail.com

WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight is on Katie Manning

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

In this edition, WoFo features history teacher Katie Manning.  I would like to thank Katie for her interview and dedication to the teaching profession.

In these tumultuous times, it is essential that students understand exactly how our government and electoral process is supposed to work and the rights they have as Americans. 


Besides being a teacher Katie Manning is…. 

a mother, daughter, sister, aunt, & friend.   My family means the world to me & they continue to inspire me every day.

Where do you currently teach, what do you teach and for how long? 

Pond Road Middle School in Robbinsville, NJ.  I have been teaching 8th Grade Social Studies (US History) for the past 10 years.  Before this, I spent two years teaching in Florence, NJ.

What is your favorite lesson to teach and why?  

Anything related to the Constitution. I am so fortunate that the content area I teach allows me to explore with the students what it means to be an American.  In these tumultuous times, it is essential that students understand exactly how our government and electoral process is supposed to work and the rights they have as Americans If we are unhappy with the way things are going, we are fortunate enough to live in a country where we can affect true change.  An educated population can have meaningful dialogue that empowers citizens to change their government through non-violent means.  Almost everyday, I get the chance to create opportunities for students to discover what it means to be an American and a citizen of our world…I mean really…how cool is that??

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

I would do everything I could to provide opportunities for teachers to share experiences in their classrooms (in person).  The longer I spend in this profession, the more I realize how much there is that I do not know.  I wish we could set up some teacher exchange programs where we get to see teachers in other classes, buildings, districts, etc do this work.  There is so much talent out there. As teachers we could grow from one another if we could explore different classroom environments, teaching styles, student populations, etc.

If you could write one quote on the board for your students what would it be?  

“Without a struggle, there can be no progress”.  –Frederick Douglass

If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be? 

Probably a politician or government official. I want to have an impact.

What advice would you give to all new teachers? 

Probably two things…first, you don’t know everything, and that is awesome!  Let it be known that you are imperfect and that you are a work in progress. This lets students know that they are on a journey with you and that it is okay to make mistakes.  The second piece of advice would be…don’t ever think you can phone it in…they will know!

If the best thing about teaching is the students, what’s the second-best thing?  

The ability to be a vehicle of change, whether for your students, your team, your school or your district…you have the ability to bring about change in this ever-evolving world.  Your work as a teacher can constantly remind you of that. This can be an incredible challenge, but also an amazingly empowering experience if you constantly work towards using your role for the good of your students and your school.

Who inspires you? 

I absolutely recognize that this is going to sound cheesy, but my students inspire me.  I started out working in financial services after college and when I  began coaching, I quickly realized that in order to be fulfilled, I had to do something more meaningful.  I decided to change careers when I was about 30 years old. It wasn’t an easy transition, but trading in the income potential of my previous career has been made worthwhile by the achievements of my students.  When I get to witness, and sometimes be a part of those “ah-hah” moments that occur in my classroom the rewards are endless.

My classroom superpower is…

…connection because we seek to connect every day and laugh whenever possible (and probably more than we should). There is so much in the world to get worked up about and I find it essential my students feel welcome and enjoy coming to class.  I try to make connections and learn about the things that interest and challenge my class.  I love when we get to laugh at ourselves and the absurdity of the events that have happened in our history.

When kids are in my room and examine historical events, compare them to modern events, and make them relevant to their lives it can be difficult and sometimes disappointing.   We all work together to find the humor in it, while seeking out solutions for the future while there might not be any immediate answers, the fact that they are working through the process empowers them for the future.  If my students walk out of my room with the desire to know more about the world and a willingness to challenge it, I feel as if I have done my job.


Thanks for checking out this edition of Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight Series!

Do you know an awesome educator who makes school an exciting adventure? If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on the Teacher Spotlight Series. Contact Jay at writeonfighton@gmail.com.

WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight is on Robt Seda-Schreiber

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

In this edition, WoFo features art teacher, artist and social activist Robt Seda-Schreiber.  I would like to thank Robt for his interview, his dedication to the teaching profession and his courage to promote social change.

“Don’t ever, ever make someone feel wrong or shamed for who they are or who they love…”


Besides being a teacher Robt Seda-Schreiber is….

A lover; a pacifist & fighter; an avowed solipsist; a hustler of culture; an A+ son, a B+ husband & a C+ father; a tiny dancer; an imaginary boxer; a “Champion of Equality” (thanks, NJEA!); a teller of both truth & foma in equal measure;  a misanthropic humanist; an artist of some quality; a storyteller of great verbosity; a Courageous Cat (kudos, Kenneth Cole!); a tilter of both windmills & pinball machines; 日本の職人; colorblind & tone-deaf; a reluctant genius & an enthusiastic fool; a man of great fortune & good morals (tho’ sometimes both lapse on occasion); a friend to the friendless & voice for the voiceless; & (wait for it!) a Social Justice Activist

Where do you currently teach, what do you teach and for how long?

I teach at the Melvin H. Kreps Middle School: in my art studio; at the theatre; in the hallways as well as the greater community. I teach Art & Theatre & have had the pleasure of doing so for almost twenty-five years now. I teach in the same school that I attended as a student & it is truly an honor & privilege to give back to this community that has given me so much.

What is your favorite lesson to teach and why?

 Gonna’ cheat here & speak rather on the greatest lesson I was taught:

Few years back, I met Vincent V., a student at a neighboring school district, who because of his otherness was being bullied to the extent that he had to be home-schooled. I became his advocate & his family’s partner in a protracted legal battle with his district, resulting in him attending our school at that district’s expense. Whilst at our school, Vincent flourished: finally able to realize who he is & who she has always been. A life saved; a life realized: Vincent becomes Vee, our school’s first transgender student & she allows me the honor of helping her with that transition. Vee’s journey of self-realization is a tremendous gift to & a great lesson for our entire school & our greater community & to me personally: a concrete example of the power of outreach, an abstract made very concrete. She taught me & all those around her on a daily basis the true meaning of bravery & compassion & for that, I can never thank her enough.

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

Well, truth be told, my administration does a pretty wonderful job indeed, esp. our Principal Lori Stein but if I could run this town (as Jay-Z would say), I would, in no particular order, ask the kids & the teachers (& any parents who wanted to join us) to do a lil’ somethin’-somethin’ like this:

Take a communal walk; Read a comic book; Give the custodial staff the day off & clean the hallways ourselves; Take everyone out for lunch (vegetarian style of course!); Dance; Share one photo that makes you smile; End the day in contemplation & appreciation of what has come before & what has yet to arrive

If you could write one quote on the board for your students what would it be?

Here I go cheating again & am doubling my quota of quotes:

“Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things.
Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.”               -Lao Tzu, “Tao Te Ching”

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer & cold in the winter. It’s round & wet & crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies- God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” -Kurt Vonnegut

If you weren’t a teacher; what would you be?

A guy who would constantly be asked & then subsequently warned, “What are you doing in this classroom & if you don’t leave the premises immediately, we’re going to have to call the authorities!”

Original art by Robt Seda- Schreiber

What advice would you give to all new teachers?

Every moment counts, every word matters, both in & outside the classroom.

Please challenge yourselves as much as you challenge others.

Always try first to fight for something rather than fighting against something.

Remember to thrive & not just survive.

Don’t ever, ever make someone feel wrong or shamed for who they are or who they love; for the color of their skin or the texture of their hair; for the language they speak or the religion they practice (or indeed the lack thereof); for the gender with which they identify or name they choose to use; for the ideas they hold dear or the lives they choose to lead… & don’t ever, ever stand idly by & let anyone else do so.

Remember light will always dispel the darkness & love does indeed trump hate. The world can & will change—it’s entirely up to you whether you want to watch it happen or be the one who makes it happen. You cannot move forward without knowing where you are going & who you can bring with you; without seeing what is in front of you & what you can do to change it for the better. For all of us.

Eyes clear, hearts full, & minds free- boots on the ground.

Last but not least, as my man Chuck D would say, “Fight the Power. Fight the powers that be!”

If the best thing about teaching is the students; what’s the second best thing?

 The great pay, of course! (& by that, of course, I mean karmically, not financially…)

Who inspires you?

My wonderful folks showed me the path, my lovely bride holds my hand as I walk it, & my talented son shows me the horizon. My parents taught me love & respect for all, my wife helps me put it into practice, & my boy carries it upward & onward. I have always been inspired by those who speak out & allow others to rise up within their own communities. When one group overcomes injustice & inequality, it is a victory for us all. Whether it be MLK, Gandhi, Harvey Milk, Dolores Huerta, Muhammad Ali, Keith Haring, Kurt Vonnegut, or David Letterman, these men & women were true to themselves & true to their communities. They inspire all of us to be the best that we can be.

Finally, much respect & love to my administration, my colleagues, my students & the community at large in which I work. This oh-so-supportive crew have been nothing but encouraging throughout the years & I truly couldn’t do the do I do without them.

My classroom superpower is…

 The power of flight… of fancy.

Check out more of Robt’s artwork at his webpage Arty Goodness.

Lean more about Robt’s social activism and help him win the NEA Social Justice Activist of the Year Award!


Thanks for checking out this edition of Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight Series!

Do you know an awesome educator who makes school an exciting adventure? If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on the Teacher Spotlight Series. Contact Jay at writeonfighton@gmail.com.