All posts by pgilders

Superintendent San Antonio Union Elementary School District, CA


Love Never Stops

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“Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 

As educators of faith, let us remember that, love never stops…

…being patient Help us to remember to be patient with our students who struggle, with colleague’s who we may not see eye to eye with, with parents whose support we don’t feel, and community members that we work in partnership with.

 …believing Help us to remember that every child, every student, can grow and learn. Help us to remember that we do have the patience and the ability to support them. Help us to remember that everyone has the same goal of doing good work for children.

…hoping Help us to have the energy and enthusiasm to always bring our best, to know that we are making a difference in the lives of children and the direction of their futures.

Love never gives up. Help us to remember that through the challenges, You are by our side and the side of every student we serve. Help us to remember that when negativity comes our way, to stay true to the work of helping and teaching children, to supporting and accepting support from our colleagues, parents, and community. Help us to keep an open mind when listening to those who don’t agree. Help us to do work in the interest of all children unconditionally, to forgive, and give the gift of grace to ourselves and to others.


Leading During Times of Trial

I was given the book The Time of Our Lives by Peggy Noonan by a community member with a note that read, “May this book bring you inspiration during times of trial.” Remember, sometimes doing the right thing is hard!”

The gift and the note were timely. I had just been on the receiving end of some strong criticism.  I was challenged in a public a meeting with statements of, “I don’t care what the law says,” and “I don’t care if there isn’t money in the budget. Make it happen,” and finally, “So, what are you saying? We’re not going to get our way?”

This reminded me of a popular cartoon in education circles:


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While satirical, the cartoon has become well known among educators because it is often how we feel things are. It was certainly how I felt as those comments were called out.

But, back to the book…

As I read the introduction, I was struck by the opening quote, from Laurens van der Post “We live not only in our lives, but, whether we know it or not, also the life of our time.”

Noonan writes of being a pioneer. Initially, as a part of the “first great wave of women” to enter the field of journalism during the 1970s, then as a female speechwriter for the President during the Reagan years, and finally as one of the first internet columnists for the Wall St. Journal. She writes of a society looking for a “shock to the system” in the last presidential election.

As I read her words, I was struck by the “shock to the system,” the changes in education have brought over the past ten years to what once seemed very standard and therefore safe. There was a perception that grandparents, parents, and children would ultimately have pretty similar school experiences and stories. It may not have been exciting, but it was safe.

The past ten years have brought significant changes to the standards that are taught, to the methods used to teach them, to the technology that is still being experimented with, to keeping children safe and emotionally regulated, to the classroom and furniture design, to the way schools are funded or underfunded. Our children’s classroom and play experiences no longer look like those so fondly remembered by past generations. To some this is exciting; to others this is frightening. When we become afraid or nervous about something it is because we sense danger. What is unfamiliar or unknown can bring forth strong reactions.

It can be scary to not understand a once familiar system. It can be scary to not understand the changes. Statements such as, “I don’t care what the law says,” and “I don’t care if there isn’t money in the budget. Make it happen,” and “So, what are you saying? We’re not going to get our way?” can come from a genuine place of seeking what one believes is in the best interest. It can bring genuine frustration that while the concerns are heard, they are not changing a course of action.

Changes to our education system, the way students learn inside and outside of classrooms are going to continue. We will either adapt or we will risk becoming irrelevant. It does not feel safe to move forward into the unknown, but it is clear that we must nevertheless move in that direction.

Even with this knowledge, these statements have continued to make me uneasy.

In a  homily, given by Father Kelly Vanderhey at Mission San Luis Obispo, he stated, “Freedom against the law is freedom against humanity.”

“Freedom against the law is freedom against humanity,”

The sermon continued with the reflection that there are seven really difficult years in everyone’s life. Seven years of pain that we all struggle through. Those seven years are from the ages of 13-19. These are the years during which we most struggle for freedom. We struggle for freedom from our parents and from rules. We seek independence. Yet, we are not ready to accept the full responsibility and accountability for those freedoms. We also seek to avoid the consequences for not following the rules.

It seems we may be in the teenage years of transformation in education. We seek independence from a system we know wasn’t working for children. We struggle with the transition. We want the freedom to explore and experiment to truly meet the educational, social, and emotional needs of every child. We have to be strong because it can feel easy to give in to the pressure that is loud.

While laws, rules, policies, and regulations can be boring, it turns out that these are what ultimately do keep us safe during times of change, struggle, and disagreement.

In her book, Noonan also quotes Pope John XXIII:

Do not walk through time without leaving worthy evidence of your passage.

Continue to lead during times of trial for it is when we are out of our comfort zones that the magic will happen.


Leading Courageously

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 2.21.19 PMACSA’s Superintendent Symposium recently brought together leaders from the forefront of California’s schools. The symposium provided the platform for sharing the vision, learning, and successful practices that are moving the State’s public schools forward. While California’s public schools rank 41st in the nation for per-pupil funding, the State’s superintendents contributed successful practices that are bringing creative and visionary leadership to the challenge of being underresourced. The goal – to provide rigorous academic instruction highlighted by preparing students for rapidly changing workforce skill sets while instilling a strong foundation in local, national, global, and digital citizenship. The methodology – putting structures and systems into place in cultures of support and caring for students and the adults who serve them.

Achieving this goal comes, first and foremost,  with an investment in people. An investment in the professional learning of the people who work with students every day. An investment in the teachers who design lessons. An investment in the support staff who keep things moving behind the scenes. An investment in all those who are supporting the learning and the social/emotional development of the children who attend our schools. Students come to school each day with a variety of needs. Some students show up from strong, supportive homes ready to be challenged. Some students show up for the only two meals of the day they will eat and a safe place to spend their spend time. Others show up needing social/emotional support, extra help to work through the challenges of a disability, or trying to learn English while also keeping up with grade level curriculum. Our schools are filled with caring staffs rising to the challenge of serving every child.

Calfornia’s school superintendents gathered to share successes and strategies on how to lead and support this very important work. These leaders were inspired as they focused on what it takes to prepare today’s student for their future within the structures that are being defined by rapid change and a need for adaptability. Keynotes by  Thomas C. Murray of the Alliance for Excellent Education and Future Ready Schools, as well as Travis Allen of the iSchool Initiative, were energizing. The messages and resources provided forced deep thinking about how we are engaging our students in classrooms right now while simultaneously being tasked to prepare them for the world they will live in as adults.

 I left inspired! 

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 2.28.53 PMUpon coming home from this week of professional learning, I, like the rest of the attendees, needed to catch up with mail, bills, email, laundry, grocery shopping… One of my first stops, as I embarked on catching up on the home and work fronts, was at Albertson’s. As I shopped for the upcoming week’s groceries, I noticed how engaged a three-year-old was with his grandparents as they too did their grocery shopping. I began gently “stalking” and eavesdropping on them.

I first met them in the meat department, where the full of life and personality three-year-old showed that he has great taste in the type steak he would like to eat – top sirloin. His grandparents were far more partial to the hamburger, but he had outstanding self-advocacy skills and, ultimately, the top sirloin made its way into the grocery cart.

As his grandparents hesitated to buy the steak, he took it upon himself to look around for and connect to other resources to help himself get what he wanted. He received support from unsuspecting customers in the meat department who responded to his requests for assistance. The first customer he reached out to, grabbed a plastic bag for him. He took the package of steak he wanted and the next customer he approached helped him to get the steak in the bag. All this, while his grandmother’s hand rested on his shoulder as she perused the hamburger options with her husband.  I became cognizant that in this brief moment,  the child had shown me that the at the age of three, he is already able to identify his preferences, speak articulately, advocate for himself, and collaborate with those around him to assist with problem-solving. These are expectations that are addressed specifically in the standards and strategies taught in our schools. Yet, there continues to be discussion and pushback in some circles on giving students voice and flexibility in their learning.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 1.39.43 PMThe final stop of the shopping trip was at the Redbox. As I was selecting a movie, this toddler stood at the machine to my left while his grandparents watched him from the check-out line. As his grandmother paid for the groceries, he tapped through the prompts to get to the video game he wanted.

I watched and listened as his grandfather approached and asked him what he was doing. The young boy, confidently responded that he was renting a video game. His grandfather responded that they couldn’t rent the video game. “Why not?” asked our clearly well-developed consumer. Grandad replied, “Because the machine isn’t working.” Without skipping a beat, the gentleman‘s grandson responded, “Yes grandpa, the machine does work. Here, let me teach you how. Can I have your credit card? All you have to do now is swipe your credit card and confirm your email. It will give you the game. The machine is working.”
I thought,”What an incredible spirit of generosity ready to teach, not to mention, great use of the word ‘confirm’.” I saw the beginning understandings of financial literacy. I saw the medium that is most engaging to this young man. I saw that he wanted to share this knowledge and was excited about his ability to do so.  I saw self-advocacy skills.

I also saw that despite being told no twice, his spirit continued to remain positive, his ability to problem solve on his own continued to remain strong, his confidence to speak up continued to remain intact,

I kept this in mind as I thought of the research and data that Tom had presented from the “Engaged Today: Ready for Tomorrow,” Gallup Student Poll, 2015 during his keynote. It is disheartening to see how students respond by grade level to the prompt of whether they are having fun learning while at school.


The graph clearly shows the rate at which the level of enthusiasm for learning at school declines.

Travis Allen, college student, and entrepreneur shares a story about the skills he learned through video games that serve as the foundation for his successful business. I appreciated his encouragement that as adults we should sit down and play these games with children so that we can see the skills they are learning from gaming. Games such as SimCity, Diner Dash, Roller Coaster Tycoon, and the Angry Birds series are only a sampling of games that develop skills such as urban planning, creativity in problem-solving, managing a budget, paying attention to details, pulling information and details out of situations.

This wonderful three-year-old boy, grocery shopping at Albertson’s with his grandparents, made sure that the learning and the thinking that happened at ACSA’s Superintendent’s Symposium solidified an understanding of what our call to leadership is. We must support our public schools with adequate resources and the freedom to explore how to engage students. This boy will come to us with some understanding of financial literacy. He will come to us as a child who is curious, creative and a problem solver. He will come to us with strong verbal communication skills, already applying critical thinking to come up with solutions for real world day to day challenges and problems.

It is up to us, as educators, to put structures in place that allow for the freedom and flexibility needed to change a system in which data points demonstrate a decline in student engagement the longer they attend school. It is up to us to continue to engage this little boy with the learning tools he has already started developing during his toddler years. It is up to us to provide him with an education not just from the point of view of adults, but also from the point of view and expectations of him as a learner. It is up to us to capitalize on the skills he is already bringing with him

He will be in one of our classrooms in a year and a half. Will we be ready?


A Powerful Personal Moment

As I tried to leave work, one thing after another kept coming up that, moment by moment, began putting me behind schedule. I was heading to an ACSA Personnel Academy in the same town that my son attends college. My hope was to grab a quick Starbucks Frappuccino for some caffeine to help me get through what would end up being a 14 hour work day and to be able to stop by to get a quick hug from my son, while also getting to the Academy on time.

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I finally got on the road. One slow vehicle after another kept getting in front of me. Driving along the 101 in California, there were several construction sites and thus rightfully slower zones. These had been planned for in the original departure time goal.

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.37.58 AMI pulled into the Starbucks drive-thru to discover the line was longer than expected. Orders were being filled slowly. Another car had pulled in behind me and I couldn’t back up and skip the stop. I started taking deep breaths and texted my son, “I’m running behind schedule. Not sure if I’ll be able to stop by.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.09.23 AMBack on the 101, the two cars ahead of me drove side by side at 55 mph in a 70 mph hour zone. I couldn’t pass either one of them and could feel myself getting frustrated. Yet, all of a sudden a very calm feeling came over me. The words, “I’m protecting you,” came into my mind. The calmness was so sudden and out of the blue. It really caught my attention. I took a deep breath and said a prayer, “God, thank you for slowing me down and protecting me from whatever it is that I may never know. I trust that You are taking care of me.”

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Ten minutes later, I drove past a six-vehicle accident. Several volunteers had already pulled over to assist, but emergency personnel had not yet arrived.Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.02.23 AM


Not only did I stop to get and give that hug to my son, but I took some extra time to buy him dinner and tell him the story. I ended up getting 5 incredible hugs during those twenty minutes, was able to hear some wonderful stories from him, and am now looking forward to a bonus Monday night dinner date with him.

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Yes, I arrived late to the Academy. When I got there though, I found the session was just getting started.

I thank God for the gift of faith He has given me, for protecting me, and for helping me keep what is really important in perspective.

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Shifting the 21st Century Conversation

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 3.47.48 PMIt’s 2018 and we’re still having conversations about what it means to be a 21st Century Leader and Learner in education. We are still having conversations about what a 21st Century education should like. Nearly one-fifth of the way into the 21st Century, it’s time to shift these conversations and focus on the actions needed to ensure that we are providing a relevant education to today’s student that will prepare them for their tomorrow.

What exactly does this look like:

  1. Design learning experiences and spaces that will allow students to develop the skills they will need to be successful in careers that will take them into the 22nd Century: Adaptability, Communication, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Relationship Building.

     2. Understand that National, Global, and Digital Citizenship can all be rolled into one.             Citizenship. Being a person of good character stands the test of time.

     3. Engage each generation’s student in learning with the tools that are being used by             their generation.

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 3.50.49 PMMaking the commitment to being an educator is making a commitment to the future. It is making a commitment to empowering each generation with knowledge and skills.  The responsibility for educating children and students of all ages has always been an important one. Yet, our generation has been given the gift of living in a time marked by rapid shifts technological growth and in how the world does business.

The education system is still in its infancy in responding to the needs of the globally connected, digitally literate student. Courage is needed by educators, parents, community members, legislators, and students to move from accepting the transferring of past practice to digital formats towards practices that enhance and accelerate learning that is engaging and relevant.

We must bring an open mindset to our roles. We must embrace innovation and lead by investing in people. Teacher leaders invest in your administrators. Site and district office leaders invest in your support staff, classified staff, and classroom teachers. Educate parents, community members, school boards and legislators to bring an understanding of what it looks like to prepare students for their tomorrow. Share resources and professional learning that support the growth and adaptability of the education profession and the system that supports it.

Preparing students for their future is a call to action. Whether in a small school district or a large one, whether in a small school or a large school, whether in a small community or a large community, invest in, learn with, and educate. Shift the conversation. Embrace what is possible and make it happen.


Cybersecurity Awareness – A Future Ready Imperative

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-9-40-22-amAlmost every adult has had an experience with some form of a cybersecurity breach – spam email, malware, viruses, identity theft. Yet, this is an area of professional development and student education that has not yet found its way into the mainstream of instruction. We are more aware of the stories of such breaches than we are about how to proactively avoid them. We know that we have the potential to be targets of phishing and other cybersecurity scams. We have become aware of the high need to protect student data. Yet, it is not uncommon for us as educators to continue to rely on others, or most specifically an IT department, to address these concerns on our behalf.


Image credit – TAPD Cybersecurity Course, Emil Ahangarzadeh

There are however basic cybersecurity habits that we can all practice such as having strong passwords, using secondary authentications for log-ins, making sure there is a lock screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-8-57-33-amin the address bar whenever submitting secure information, hovering over unknown links to see where an address might really be taking us and not responding to emails from unknown senders with news that is just too good to be true.

It is not uncommon to see the strength of cybersecurity awareness and knowledge of safe practices fall along generational lines. Newer teachers are coming out of their college and teacher prep programs with some knowledge of these concepts. They are comfortable navigating the web and doing their due diligence to implement safe cyber practices and research web based educational resources. They are part of a generation growing up with the first vestiges of digital citizenship knowledge.


Yet, many of today’s educators did not grow up with an emphasis on digital citizenship as a part of their formative education. The concepts are new, the speed of change and adjustments to be made in the digital world are perceived as scary or overwhelming and “just one more thing” to keep up with. Concerns around cybersecurity and fake news are used to justify avoiding  the incorporation of current technology to enhance their instructional programs or engaging with social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Voxer to connect with other educators and educational resources. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish the sincerity of reasons given to avoid engaging the abundance of resources available to today’s educator on the internet. Is it complacency? Fear of the new? Being overwhelmed by the abundance? Concerns about cybersecurity?

It is important that these concerns are heard and that educational institutions respond by providing training that empowers staff with the knowledge to safely and confidently engage with digital resources. Providing a comprehensive education program will assist in steering the cybersecurity conversation in a direction that supports providing today’s student and today’s educator with access to today’s technology. Cybersecurity education programs allow staff to move forward with more confidence while also keeping them and our students safe in addition to enhancing digital citizenship skills.

Educators and their organizations can connect with user friendly and robust courses through groups such as the the K12 Super Highway Network (K12SHN) and the Technical Assistance and Professional Development (TAPD) program. The coursework  on cybersecurity benefits both educational institutions and the personal lives of educators. The K12SHN and TAPD are offering  this course to districts in California free of charge. There is an initial commitment to have two staff members preview the course and lay the foundation to support a successful rollout of the program. This is definitely part of the brilliance in the design of this course. 


Designing With Not For

use-of-space-and-time-gearFive years ago this week, I posted the TedTalk, Teaching Design for Change by Emily Pilloton, on my Facebook page with the comment that the content of the talk was great advice for rural school districts. At the time of the posting, I was a principal with a great team overseeing the special education programs for a county office of education. Little did I know that five years later, I would be the superintendent of a rural school district that would pass its first bond measure, Creating Class A Schools, under my tenure and that I would be working with another great team of educators as well as a school board that exemplifies what it means to put students first. In addition to this, I would also be knee deep in becoming increasingly versed in what it means to design a Future Ready instructional program.

As our team dives into the design work of redefining learning spaces so that they allow for flexibility and the incorporation of today’s learning tools, combining the advice of Emily Pilloton with the Future Ready gears of Collaborative Leadership, Community Partnerships, Budget and Resources, Curriculum Instruction and Assessment with the Use of Space and Time couldn’t be more opportune. As we dive deeper and deeper into the process of working with the architect and his team, it is clear that the concept of “designing with not for” is more intuitive to some than others.


It is easy to take a look at designs for layout, furniture and infrastructure that have been implemented at other schools. It can even be tempting for professionals to suggest that a school or district use the work that was done elsewhere as their model. Yes, it’s easy, convenient and might even feel like it saves time. However, the perception of time saving and efficiency only applies to the front end. It creates far more work on the back if staff voie, student and community voice aren’t specifically and intentionally incorporated into the process. While schools have many similar characteristics and needs, each school design and culture has its own nuances. The location of a particular room or door can dramatically impact the flow and use of space. Classroom design and furniture layout may  impact student learning differently from year to year based on the characteristics of the students in each and the strengths of the teacher.

Bob Dillon, author of Redesigning Learning Spaces, gave some simple sage advice at CUE’s BOLD Classrooms event in Northern California to help prioritize instructional space design projects that can be applied to undertakings of all sizes. As schools dive into modernizing learning spaces, let us ask “What is neat to have and what is need to have?” as we move forward with construction and design projects. This concept applies both to things that we purchase such as furniture, lighting, flooring, whiteboards, screen technology as well as to how traffic flow and visibility will impact the use of spaces.

The California voter, this past June and November, has been generous to schools in passing both local bonds and a state school facilities bond. This allows for a great opportunity for schools to take a look at how facilities, infrastructure and learning tools engage today’s learners, prepare them for tomorrow’s careers and stay flexible to adapt to the needs of the next generation of student. This is a great opportunity to show leadership in bringing teacher, student and community voice to the table. This is a great opportunity for collaborative partnerships to leverage social media and professional learning networks to share their work to engage in local, statewide and national thought partner conversations to support wise decision making in design, use of time and space as well as budget and resources to influence curriculum and instruction. This is a great opportunity to invest in the future.







Future Ready’s Impact on Digital and Personalized Learning

As part of the Superintendent’s Future Ready Briefing with U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, we have been asked a series of questions. The first question, “How has or how do you foresee Future Ready supporting your district’s transformation to digital and personalized learning?” is one that establishes the visionary foundation.


I believe that it is through the focus of the seven gears that districts will be able to embrace just how truly intertwined and essential each component is to developing a comprehensive personalized learning program. Each of these gears has historically and frequently  been addressed in isolation rather than a part of a whole. It is through defining and redefining our learning vision, as we grow in our knowledge base, that we consider each gear and plan for it while curriculum and work product become increasingly digitized and personalized.

Take a look at the seven gears. What do you think Future Ready’s Impact on Digital and Personalized will be?


Future Ready and the Small School District

It is inspiring to connect with the work being done to move the Office of Educational Technology’s Future Ready Initiative forward. It is energizing to be able to support a vision that has such a clear and profound impact of setting up our next generation of citizens for success.


School districts making the investment of time and resources in becoming familiar with the Future Ready Initiative  have embraced this bold movement that is providing educational institutions across the country a robust network of resources to embrace and leverage digital learning. The seven gears embedded in the Future Ready vision are well thought out and a district’s use of the Interactive Planning Dashboard yields meaningful insights into the structures of its organization that supports learning and encourages developing a mindset of preparing today’s student for a future with tools that we can only imagine, but that will exist in workforce that students sitting in today’s classrooms will be a part of.

Going through the dashboard, its resources and implementing an action plan founded in the research based practices that are provided at the culmination of this process is a comprehensive effort. The tools and the information provided through the Future Ready process are robust. They support strong, action based initiatives to provide an educational vision focused on more personalized learning through a systematic approach that includes the smooth integration of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, Use of Space and Time, a Robust Infrastructure, a focus on Data and Privacy, Community Partnerships, Personalized Learning, and Budget and Resources. Follow through on this effort takes a significant amount of organizational capacity and strong leadership. It is also an effort that today’s forward thinking schools are ready to embrace. 

Allocating the organizational resources to fully leverage the resources made available through the Future Ready Initiative are not readily available in all school districts across the country. According to Using Data to Improve Student Learning In School Districts, written by Victoria Bernhardt, about 60% of this country’s school districts have fewer than 1500 students. This puts a clear limit on a district’s available resources  to allocate the personnel needed to fully leverage the robust suite of resources available. In addition, this constraint of resources puts a strain on the smaller school district’s ability  to implement the complement of structures recommended in a systematic manner.

Yet, innovative leaders of small school districts  across the country are jumping in feet first to embrace the Future Ready mindset. Leadership teams are making adaptations to the process of the Future Ready Leadership Self Assessment and the resulting self assessment reports to create modified Future Ready Action Plans. Small school district teams are creating action plans that embrace the personnel, budget and infrastructure resources that are available to them. Non-traditional leadership teams are being created that allow for the amplification of the teacher voice as well as that of the classified employee in planning and preparing schools to deliver a robust 21st century education to students. Educators from smaller organizations strive to create the opportunities for students in small districts that will make them equally competitive with the students of the 6% of the nation’s school districts that educate more than half the students in our country. These efforts seek to equalize the playing field with students who are able to benefit from districts with greater organizational capacity, more robust infrastructures, access to more community partners and internal professional expertise, in addition to access to greater financial resources to support the implementation of Future Ready organizational structures.

Today’s successful educational leader must embrace the philosophy of and understand the power of the collaborative relationship. For today’s educator and Future Ready Superintendent this takes the form of a robust professional learning  network. This network includes and values personal face to face relationships while also relying heavily on social media. Superintendents and leadership teams should bring energy, innovation and an open mindset to the their positions. Leaders should be able to support action that moves the vision of preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s careers forward. They should be connected on social media and should be able to adeptly move the Future Ready conversation forward by connecting with other administrators from across the country. Professional connections and partnerships can be created quickly via Twitter, LinkedIn, Voxer and Facebook as well as through membership in professional organizations. 
The California School Board Association defines small school districts as those that serve 2500 students or less. These districts make up 55% of the districts in the State of California. One of those districts is mine, the San Antonio Union Elementary School District in Lockwood, CA. We are a Future Ready school district and I, as the the superintendent with a passion for education and a passion for supporting small schools encourage my colleagues of districts both large and small to take the Future Ready Pledge and dive into its supporting resources.


Change is an Opportunity to do Something amazing!

Change is an opportunity to do something amazing!                                                                                            –George Couros



Change is an opportunity to do something amazing – a simple statement with great insight. Social media has created a platform that has allowed educators to connect in such a way that our profession now has legitimate Edu Rockstars who are currently practicing while also being recognized for their craft. These Edu Rockstars are also influencing innovation in districts, schools and classrooms across the United States as well as outside the borders of our nation. Add to this the incredible influence the Edu Rockstars of other countries are having on educational practice in the United States and it is no wonder that teachers, administrators and classified staff are becoming more and more comfortable pushing at perceived boundaries to create more innovative educational environments that are relevant, engaging and seek not just to educate, but to inspire a love and a passion for learning.

It was perhaps inevitable that the creation of the internet would eventually lead to social media platforms as it builds on a basic human need for social interaction. Yet, it was not inevitable that educators such as Jon Corippo, Director of Academic Innovation for CUE, Adam Welcome, Director of Innovation and Technology for the LaFayette School District and Tom Murray, Director of Innovation for the Alliance of Excellent Education would all cross paths and be recognized amongst other outstanding leaders as 20 to Watch Education Technology Leaders by the National School Board Association. Their collective influence over the past couple of years has created a dynamic shift in the conversations and the actions educators are taking to redefine how instruction is delivered and how school culture is developed.

District leaders such as Michael McCormick, Joe Sanfelippo, and Candace Singh, are setting powerful examples of what it looks like to embrace innovation and risk taking from a systems approach. They are leading by modeling and telling the stories of their districts, modeling how to use the budgeting process to revolutionize the way work is being done and the use of Open Educational Resources (OERs) to support an educational model that embraces today’s tools and resources as part of the educational process.


Site leaders such as Jennifer Klozco, Catinas Haugen, Amy Fadeji, Brad Gustafson and Ken Durham have created cultures that serve as models for embracing teacher voice, academic risk taking , innovation and joy. Whether dancing to the music with Mrs. Klozco and her disco ball, embracing the power of glitter with Mrs. Fadeji, being empowered by Mrs. Haugen, going on a PokemonGo style tour of the school with Mr. Gustafson as a new student or being given an influential voice by Mr. Durham, these Edu Rockstars are changing the landscape of how business is being done in schools today.

Classroom instruction is being redefined by innovative teachers such John Miller, Ed Campos, Marianne Emery who are embracing game based learning, active instruction and redefined learning spaces to increase student achievement. John Miller’s book, coauthored with Chris Scott, Unofficial Minecraft Lab for Kids, is a great example of the influence he is having beyond the four walls of his classroom. Ed Campos has created enthusiasm for 360 Math, active and engaged learning through his day to day work and CUE RockStar presentations. Marianne Emery’s work in her own classroom design is being passed on to other educators through her Twitter account and events such as BOLD.

Former teachers and current educators such as Sam Patue, Brian Briggs, David Culberhouse, and Ben Cogswell continue to light up the landscape of innovation as well. It is impossible to list all the great educators taking advantage of the change social media has brought to the landscape of education. The one thing they do have in common though is that they have embraced change as an opportunity to do something amazing!