The Aftermath

Guest post by Teresa Lien @5liens

Opinions expressed are those of the guest blogger

The perfect storm hit the teaching field in March 2020. For awhile, it appeared the field was going to survive and thrive through the turmoil. Teachers were being hailed as heroes as they persevered through the changing environments determined to keep students connected to learning.

When the 2020-21 school year started, school districts faced a paradigm shift. As the months passed, it was evident teacher knowledge was not going to be systematically included in the structures being built. The collective wisdom of teachers were ignored and teacher voices were disregarded.

This was a colossal mistake and a missed opportunity. Although I was sitting on the sidelines newly retired (1983-2019), I had high hopes that teacher expertise was finally going to be able to seize the field. Teachers are the primary sources of knowing how to engage students in this current reality. I anticipated the value of teachers to soar and for teachers to be relied upon to design solutions for learning. Instead, the players who hold power took control with rare amounts of funding to make decisions and teacher judgement was widely rejected. This has clearly exposed how teachers are marginalized.

Not only is teacher experience minimized, they are not provided with the full extent of proper resources to do their work or respectfully compensated for the important work they do. There are a whole host of other inequities to list but the point is that school districts had a promising opportunity to elevate teacher expertise in the new normal of educating students.

We are living in the aftermath of the perfect storm. The teaching crisis has shattered schools and harmed student learning. The teaching field is in ruins. The cost to communities across this country is $8,000,000,000 annually.

For decades, the wake up calls have all gone unanswered. Perhaps the response to this wake up call is most insulting to teachers. The popular remedy has been to provide professional development on self-care to teachers. It is generally a “one size fits all” approach and offered when it’s convenient on the school calendar. It is disturbing when open resources are shared as links to reference in communications. This lacks effort or genuine interest in caring for teachers. The message it sends to teachers is that they have been remiss in their self-care and that’s why their job are stressing them out. Their jobs are stressing them out because of the insurmountable workloads and impossible working conditions. Does anyone else see the indignation of this? It’s not the teacher that needs fixing, it’s the system. Regardless of how much self-care they practice, teachers have to return to the preposterous and stressful conditions of teaching.              

Teachers have been pleading for changes to their working conditions and workloads for decades. Today’s teachers are fearless and bold. They will not be victims of a broken system. This generation will exercise their options. The question that remains is what will society do with a teaching apocalypse?

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Edtech confidence comes with practice

Two people looking at a computer screen

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

With technology becoming increasingly present in classrooms, it’s an exciting time for education. Teachers across the board recognize its possibilities for innovation, communication, and learning, but it is still the case that some feel daunted by its complexity and anxious about using it with their students.  

It’s understandable. If teachers are simply given a whistle-stop tour of a solution for an hour or so during a training day, they are unlikely to be confident enough to immediately put it to use in the classroom. What’s needed is the chance to get their hands on it, practice, and become familiar with it on their terms. Without this time factored into their timetables, they will struggle to gain a working knowledge of the edtech or use it meaningfully with their students – and so the cost of buying and implementing it is wasted. 

Getting started

Even if you do work in a school that is committed to helping you develop your technical skills and has allocated time to do so, where do you start? Being left alone with unfamiliar technology can be intimidating, so receiving practical training that you can subsequently try out on the actual devices you will be using in class is vital.

Accessing the technology as soon as possible after the training will help you consolidate what you’ve learned. Taking it slowly and becoming familiar with one feature at a time means that your knowledge and confidence will build together before you put things to the test in front of your students.

To achieve fluency in any new skill, repetition is the key. This rehearsal time is where making mistakes is beneficial as it provides you with the chance to find out how to fix things without being under pressure; minimizing the fear factor and leaving you better prepared for the classroom. Some teachers I have spoken with say they have practiced by videoing themselves and, when happy with the results, have then incorporated the feature into their video exemplars for students or parents. This is a useful tip because you can review and adapt as you go while building up a bonus library of instructional resources at the same time.

Four stages of learning

When learning new edtech solutions, there are several stages teachers may identify with. These are defined by Mandinach and Cline (1992), who outline the phases of survival, mastery, impact, and innovation.

In line with this, if you hand a new solution to a teacher and provide little or no training, that places them in survival mode. They are not sure how to use it properly and, under pressure with 30 eager faces in front of them (either in class or at home), confidence does not come into it; it is just a case of whether they will sink or swim!

Once teachers have learned the basics, they move to phase two: mastery. This is where they have received training and have had the opportunity to practice by themselves. They have also tried things out in lessons and, when they have worked, this has begun to boost their confidence. 

Schools invest in devices, software, and training so that their teachers can generate an impact that their students can benefit from. In this stage, teachers are no longer afraid of the technology, can cope when things don’t go to plan, and they and their students are using it effectively.

The final step that every school aspires to is to generate innovation. Here, teachers are using technology intelligently and appropriately; they feel digitally literate and that their technical knowledge is on a par with their pedagogical and content knowledge (TPCK). So much so in fact, that they can share those skills with others and, in effect, become mentors for those less confident than themselves. 

Use it, don’t lose it

Throughout these two years of the pandemic, through necessity, technology has taken center stage. So, whether collaborating and communicating in Teams, Zoom, or Google Meet or helping students to learn via ClassDojo or Seesaw, many teachers have worked hard to raise their edtech skills in a short time – and for that, we applaud you!

It’s so important that these newfound skills are not lost once we begin to move past the pandemic when the urgent need for remote teaching and learning inevitably diminishes. For that not to happen, the progressive use of edtech needs to become embedded across the school. Schools can achieve this by reviewing and standardizing their solutions; making things easier for educators moving between sites within a district, and easier to support. So deciding, for example, whether you are an Apple/Google/Microsoft school is key and gives leaders the foundation on which to implement complementary applications that are most accessible for teachers.

A fundamental part of retaining any new skill is continued learning support. This can take various forms, such as ongoing formal training sessions, top-up training, peer sharing, solutions champions, or interacting on dedicated online forums to ask questions and share answers and experiences with others. The key is to keep your knowledge ticking over and evolving with changes in the technology, rather than letting your skill level drop and having to play catch-up. This way, you will gain the knowledge and confidence to use edtech as an innovative tool, rather than simply just ‘use’ it.

Skill up for the future

Being digitally literate as an educator has never been more important – and the pandemic has been a huge catalyst for change in this respect, with the need to teach children remotely and maintain communication with parents to support the continuation of learning. The work teachers are doing to increase their digital confidence right now will help to integrate technology into their teaching practice, so that it moves from being a box they must tick to being a tool they automatically use to achieve their pedagogical aims. 

Al Kingsley is Chair of two Multi-Academy Trusts in the UK. He is also the author of My Secret #EdTech Diary, a book that examines the past, present, and future role of educational technology and how it influences and shapes our education systems.

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My #OneWord for 2022: Purpose

Guest post by Barbara Bray

My #OneWord2022 is Purpose - Barbara Bray

2022 looks like it will continue to unfold the uncertainty we have been living through with the pandemic and rethink how we are handling what is going on in our lives. I saw this Google ad on the review of 2021 that made me think about what we’ve been through and still find ways to be stronger together. Here is the description from Google:

“In a year that continued to test many, the world searched “how to heal” more than ever. Whether they’re taking care of mental health, honoring a loved one, or reuniting with family, people are finding ways to come back stronger than before.” Explore more trends from the year at

We need to consider in 2022 what is happening to our kids, schools, and teachers.  Mental Health is a real issue. I’ve heard from teachers around the world that times are tough and that they are struggling. Too many teachers and school staff are stressed, depressed, and leaving the profession. 


Everyone needs a purpose and to feel they are living a meaningful life with a reason to get out of bed each morning. Educators went into the profession even though they knew they would be paid less than other professions. Teachers work hard and want to make a difference in children’s lives. They believe each child is unique, amazing, and can learn. When teachers are not supported for the awesome work they do, they feel conflicted about their purpose. 

Think about the teacher that made a difference in your life. Have you thanked them lately?

What can we do to bring value to the profession? Where would all of us be without our teachers? 

When teachers leave, kids are confused. When a teacher or principal who really cared for the students leaves or is told to leave, kids talk about it with each other and get angry and sad. If class sizes grow during the pandemic, the kids and teachers trying to manage are overwhelmed. Kids are having more symptoms of depression with the stress about falling behind and missing out on what it means to be a kid. When we continue to live with chaos and uncertainty, it takes a toll on all of us, especially our kids. It is difficult for us to live our own lives when the stress is huge and has an impact on our lives. 

2022 is going to be the year we need to learn to listen deeply to each other and to each of our stories. This will be the year we learn WHY empathy matters and WHY we need to listen to understand, not to reply. We need to listen more than ever before.  I reviewed my #OneWords for the past 3 years:

2021: Stories
2020: Gratitude
2019: Possibilities

I’ve been focusing on the WHY for some time. That’s why I wrote, “Define Your Why.”  I get how important PURPOSE is for us now. It made me realize that my #OneWord for 2022 had to be PURPOSE.

I believe that if we focus on our PURPOSE of why we are here, we can…

♥ listen deeply to understand the other person and their story
♥ build a community of learners who care about each other
♥ create a culture of kindness, love, and joy, and
♥ bring us together in a world where all of us have hope for the future by living meaningful lives.

About the author

Barbara Bray

Barbara Bray is a Creative Learning Strategist and owner/founder of Computer Strategies, LLC with its divisions, Rethinking Learning and My eCoach ( where she shares her resources, stories, and more about learning and life. Barbara is the host of the Rethinking Learning Podcast where she has conversations on learning and reflections with inspirational educators, thought leaders, and influencers! She is the co-author of Make Learning Personal and How to Personalize Learning. Barbara is the author is Define Your WHY that is all about owning your story so you live and learn on purpose.

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Guest post by  Barbara Bray @bbray27 on  the @Rdene915 blog  Submit your guest post today! #education  #educhat #rethink_learning #oneword

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The Imaginary Me

 laura steinbrink,


As I scrolled through Twitter recently, I happened upon a quoted tweet by Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon. The tweet he was quoting was making statements about him, and his response in the quoted tweet was simply, “The imaginary version of me has many wrong opinions. Here’s a sample.” Regardless of how you feel about Scott or his cartoon Dilbert, that phrase, imaginary version of me really struck me as something I could use with students. We all must handle critics at various times in our lives, and we also know that we can frequently be our own worst critics. I always work with students on positive thinking strategies as part of my Train Like a Navy SEAL SEL program, and when I saw this phrase, several ideas hit me all at once.

We’ve all had to deal with others who call us names, and those who make assumptions and judgements about us. How we handle those and the resulting after waves of self-doubt can determine current and future successes, well-being, and resiliency. I’ve frequently looked back on that old saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me,” with amazement. Words certainly can hurt us. I remember a parent telling my mother, after our 4th grade music concert, that I couldn’t sing but was really loud. Those words haunted me for 30 years. As an adult, I battle them each time they crop up in my mind, but I know now that they aren’t true. I’ve sung in front of hundreds of people and have been paid to sing, and still those words make an appearance periodically. Now I know what to say to those words: That’s the imaginary me, the one who can’t sing. That’s not the real me.

So how do we use this with students? There are a lot of possibilities, but here are just a few that I’ve come up with so far.



Introduce the idea of “The Imaginary Me” during the first few days or weeks of school (or anytime, really). Find your own story of words that hurt, and then explain how those words must fit the imaginary version of you, because they are certainly NOT true of the real you. Then, like me, you might be tempted to have students share out things they have been called or assumptions or judgments that have been made about them. Don’t. As my friend, Elizabeth Merce, reminded me when I ran my idea by her, it is best not to have students share those negatives out loud in class. That kind of information in the hands of other students with whom a relationship hasn’t been solidly built yet can be very detrimental. I knew this, but in my excitement of the possibilities with this strategy, I forgot about Piggy. Piggy, you ask? Yes, for those of you who haven’t read The Lord of the Flies, Piggy is the only character whose real name we never learn. In the very beginning of the book, he tells the Ralph, main protagonist, that he could call him anything other than Piggy, which is what the bullies at his school called him, and so Piggy wasn’t known by any other name throughout the book. So, to avoid another Piggy situation in your own classrooms, let’s look at ways to utilize this strategy without giving undue power over others to our students before solid relationships and trust have been built.



After you introduce the idea of the imaginary version our ourselves to your students, you now have some options for using it as an activity. Students can think up the UNTRUE things people have said about them and then for each untrue statement or adjectives, they come up with statements or adjectives that are TRUE about themselves. Those are what you build the following activities on:

  • Word Cloud (individual or class)
  • Class word wall
  • Poster silhouette
  • Affirmation cards (use index cards & have students write ONE of their Truths on it for a class set or all of their truths, one per card, for individual sets)
  • Reflection/blog post writing
  • Graphics / comic strip stories
  • Our Truths bulletin board (anonymous)


I will likely start my high schoolers off with affirmation cards, and possibly a word cloud for the whole class first, but all of these activities are in play throughout the year. January is a great time to do some activities like this since the start of the second semester can be hard, and you can also tie it in with One Word (students think of one word that can shape, guide, or theme their new year instead of resolutions) activities. For a digital version of affirmation cards, students can use Google Slides, and then those could be combined for a class set, either all of their affirmations or just one per student. It may also help to give students a number of the UNTRUTHS and then corresponding TRUTHS to brainstorm and then use for the activities so that you can manage the amount of time and or responses for the activities you choose. Each class I have is different, so the activities will be tailored to suit the needs of those students. I will add to this post once I have examples from our classrooms, but I’m sharing the idea now so that you can also find ways to adapt it for your students. Happy new school year.


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Guest post by Chris Chappotin

Me after looking at the calendar this morning:

Can you believe that we are at January 11, 2022?

Have we stopped asking, “When are things going to return to normal?” Have we also stopped asking, “What will the new normal look like?”

I am confident in asserting that most of us were over 2020; and yet, cognizant that moving forward is not as easy as flipping the calendar page or swiping to the next day in our favorite calendar app.

As a result, while living in the present and now entering 2022, what will be necessary in order to move education forward? Restated in the context of Infinite Game by Simon Sinek, how can we remain players in the infinite game of education?

Here are 3 actions for thinking differently that will help us shape the future during these critical times.


Everything I learned about school leadership, I learned from High School Musical. As I write the previous sentence tongue-in-cheek, there is no denying that “We’re all in this together.” Facing the challenges of the future requires that we presume positive intent with each other. Are we all in this together at varying levels and responsibilities? Absolutely; however, in order to effectively navigate the waters ahead, we must unite through assuming the best in each other. Here are some self-reflective questions to consider when being purposeful about presuming positive intent:

▪️ What is my teammate seeking to communicate with me?

▪️ What factors inside and outside of the work environment could be impacting this conversation or situation?

▪️ How can I be a peacemaker in this conversation or situation? How can I contribute to the quest for solutions?

▪️ What action step(s) will facilitate increases in student learning? How can I support the success of my teammate?

Presuming positive intent nurtures the teamwork necessary to overcome expected and unexpected challenges. If we can presume we are all doing the best we can with the gifts and experiences we have, together, we can grow into the continuous improvement needed to face the future.


Presuming positive intent helps develop and sustain necessary relational bonds that will be necessary to withstand the consistent onslaught of challenges. In fact, as I type, I am wondering if presuming positive intent is somehow related or included within Dweck’s work on Growth Mindset. Regardless, as relational bonds grow stronger and trust is rich within the organization, purposefully stopping for times of communal reflection are important and meaningful exercises to keep us moving forward.

If we can retrospectively reflect through situations by honestly considering the strengths and limitations of how we handled things, together, we can enjoy the multiplicity of perspectives available in such a communal exercise, learn new ways of behavior, and grow relational capital amongst the team. As this becomes a go-to method for processing situations, we maximize our leadership capacities by sharing experiences, tools, and think-alouds with our people. In addition, we empower our people with the safe space to share and process the nuances, situations, and relational dynamics of the work. If we can do this with appropriateness, honesty, and a commitment to continuous improvement, I believe we can multiply our effectiveness and form encouragement bonds we can lean on throughout our careers.


Care about your people enough to facilitate their next steps. Consider skills they are excelling at, and how those skills will help them accomplish their dreams. Consider skills they need to practice at, and how to provide opportunities for the strengthening of those skills. Provide consistent encouragement, conversation, and questioning that will propel your people forward.

A signpost is a noun: static, cemented in the ground, unwaveringly pointing toward a destination far away. Signposting is a verb: action, ongoing, along the way, continuously pointing toward a destination far way, and making progress toward that destination every day.

Be a signposting leader for your people. One that points them in next-step directions, but also journeys with them toward their desired destinations. Care about them enough to facilitate their pathways forward: possibly into deeper levels of influence within your organization, and possibly into deeper levels of influence outside of your organization. Either way, by signposting your people into next-levels, you are continually building up the quality of your people as well as the impact of their service to you, each other, and your students.

Buncee-ing in the new year: Six Ideas to Kick Off 2022

We love using Buncee in my classroom and in the middle of December, my students enjoyed participating in the Holiday Hugs initiative and creating Buncees to add to the Board. Not long after that, my students wanted to know when we could create with Buncee again. The students in my upper level Spanish classes have used Buncee for the past couple of years, but for my Spanish I students and some new students in my classes, this was their first experience and they loved creating a Buncee for the Holiday Hugs initiative!

New year and new ideas!

Now that we are in 2022, the beginning of a new year is always a great time to explore new ideas. Not sure where to begin? Don’t worry, Buncee definitely has you covered when it comes to trying new ideas, promoting student engagement and curiosity in learning! There are endless possibilities for using Buncee regardless of your role in education or grade level of students. The Ideas Lab can help you to find exactly what you need or just start from scratch and have some fun creating with your students! Sign into your account, click “Create” and look at the newly added templates or search from the possibilities from the menu on the left!

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is so important for our students. Finding ways to help students to build SEL skills is essential. Buncee is a fantastic choice! I recommend taking the course called “Creative Expression and Social-Emotional Learning with Buncee” available in the Microsoft Educator Center which was co-created by Francesca Arturi and Laura Steinbrink. After taking this one hour course, you will better understand SEL, the five competencies and how Buncee helps students to build their skills in these areas. The five SEL competencies are: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills. Also explore the Buncee SEL toolkit with template activities for grades K-6 and 7-12 that will help all educators with bringing SEL into the classroom!

  • Check-ins and SEL There are a lot of ways that we can help our students to build SEL skills. With Buncee, using some of the ready-to-use templates, students chart their emotions or set goals which will help them to process and manage stress.

There are many ready-to-use choices available within Buncee for goal setting. Select one to use with your students and they can make it their own! Students can even create a reflection journal and use their Buncee to add audio or video reflections too!

And don’t forget about the Buncee Boards! Check out this post on 10 ways to use Buncee Boards in your classroom! Such a great way to collaborate and share ideas, connect with others, and build a learning community! Use Buncee Boards to share lessons, projects and more!


For even more ideas, join the Buncee Educator Community on Facebook and connect with educators and their classrooms from around the world. It is a great community to learn from and share ideas with.

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Dear Teacher, If You Only Knew: (What Truly Energizes Educators)

This collaborative piece by Nick Strope, a high school math/AVID teacher, and Kecia McDonald @McDonoald_Kecia, a district resource teacher and parent of a high schooler, intertwines the unique perspectives from a student, parent, and teacher point of view.

Mom, I really like the way Mr. Strope assigns work that is relevant. He gave us an essay, and I usually don’t like writing essays, but I didn’t mind doing this one. It’s something I can use again when I apply for college, so it wasn’t a waste of my time. I wasn’t doing it just to do it.”

Kecia: I knew my son was not looking forward to returning to in-person schooling. During distance learning, he had enjoyed the independence of getting school assignments done at his own pace while using his free time to practice life skills: getting a job, working on cars, and taking on digital media projects with a small business owner. I feared he would quickly lose interest and become disengaged entirely when he returned to an all-day school schedule. I couldn’t believe it when he was excited about writing an essay and was proud of his work.

Nick: Teaching the AVID elective is both a privilege and a challenge. Since it is designed as a college preparatory class, it is hard to find the balance between assignments that lend themselves to the idea of college-level rigor while also engaging high school students in completing them. Writing is a key component of the class, so for their first major writing assignment, I decided to have them use the CommonApp essay prompts to write for their first major writing assignment. I was blown away by the quality of stories told in the essays and I’m glad that they benefit the students in the future as well. What started as an assignment to help me not have to struggle with planning turned out to be a very powerful assignment for my students and me.

“I couldn’t think in the cafeteria with all the kids in there making noise. I went into Mr. Strope’s room, and he let me work there.”

Kecia: When my son told me he went to work in his teacher’s classroom, my first question was, “You didn’t disturb his class, did you?” I quickly started to tell him how precious and essential teacher break or planning time is, and how lucky he was to have a teacher who was willing to allow him to interrupt it. “It’s okay, Mom. I got a computer and sat on the other side of the room while he still did his work.” I wondered if Mr. Strope knew how much it meant to my son to be able to find a quiet and peaceful place to go to in his school day.

Nick: One major challenge that many schools face is the shortage of substitute teachers. Classes that aren’t covered are sent to the cafeteria for the period so there can be supervision. There are 5-6 classes full of students trying to work in the cafeteria on any given day. Trying to get work done with all of those people and distractions must be very challenging. With that being said, I usually have students come by my room throughout the day asking if they can work in the backroom for the period. As long as they can get work done, it does not bother me. Even during my preparation period, I would rather have students working safely and productively in my room. These are the times that allow for authentic relationships to be formed.

Reflections from Kecia

When I was a classroom teacher, I used the “What I Wish My Teacher Knew” activity to invite my students to share information with me so that I might be able to empathize and support their life inside or outside of my classroom. Few of them used the opportunity to tell me something they were really proud of, and the majority of them used the activity to divulge a difficulty in their life.

This year, after the freedom and independence of distance learning, my son was not looking forward to returning to school. I thought I was going to hear a constant stream of negative narratives. Stories from school are often the less than positive ones detailing grumbles about an assignment, the quality of the cafeteria food, unreliable group project collaborations, or unclear grading practices. I never wanted to pull the “teacher card” and use my insider knowledge to pepper my children’s teachers with questions. Parent criticism is heavy for any teacher, and I did not want to contribute to that burden by sharing negative ʻreviews’.

When several positive tales came home, I was pleasantly surprised. My son told me how Mr. Strope was creating meaningful assignments and how he would visit him when he needed a quiet place to get work done. My instinct was to share this feedback with his teacher, but he would get embarrassed. It made me wonder, how many times are good things happening in our schools and the teacher has no idea of the impact? How many moments mean the world to a student, but are not communicated to their teacher?

Reflections from Nick

Like many educators, establishing a supportive relationship with my students is at the core of everything I do in my classroom. From the way lessons are delivered, to the work assigned, to the physical setup of the room, I try to make sure that my students know they matter and are safe. In the end, I want to make a positive difference in their lives. But as any teacher knows, we often don’t get to see the impact we’ve had on our students until much later. With some, we will never know.

Getting to the heart of how a student feels in a school is a difficult task. I often ask my students for feedback, and it typically requires asking guiding questions and leaves me questioning if what was said is accurate. Rarely did I communicate directly with my teachers about how I was feeling in the class or about an assignment. I remember being a kid in high school and having the same conversation with my parents daily:

“How was school today?”

“It was good.”

“Did you learn anything?”


Negative news was the only time I expanded. It makes me wonder what are the conversations my students are having with their parents when they get home. Did the assignment today make an impact? Do my students know that they are safe in my room?

For me, there is so much power in hearing from a student or parent that I made a difference, that the discussion I had today made a student think critically, that the assignment I put time into creating achieved its purpose, that the student knows I care. It is those comments that keep me motivated when the challenges of the profession set in.

Final Thoughts

Communication is imperative. Helping students means taking the time to share perspectives from both the parent and teacher. Just as a robust learning environment and relevant work can bolster student engagement, feedback is elemental to bring purpose for both parents and teachers at this critical time in education. When we think of significant systemic issues such as attendance, learning recovery, or teacher burnout, it can be overwhelming to an educator—but connecting over stories and partnering for the good of a child/student? We can do that together. By sharing these positive moments, we build a healthy community that sustainably supports both our students and teachers.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at

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