The Outlier

Today’s keynote at #SASinstitute2018 was dynamite!  Dr. Tony Wagner, author of “Creating Innovators”,  left me in awe as he connected data to the burning topics of education.  It is powerful to hear others speak of their passions and what resonates with them, but something bigger started to formulate in my mind as I soaked in the experience and research that was connected to his words.  He took us on a journey of curiosity, problem solving, the assembly line approach to teaching, connecting innovation to team sports, referencing the silos that should no longer exist in learning, extrinsic and intrinsic rewards, mindfulness and accountability.  Yet the simplest share out, possibly a side thought or reflective moment, of remembering “the outlier” is what left me nodding my head in full agreement.  He mentioned that if you ask a child who their favorite teacher was… or even their favorite year of school, the answer fell with the outlier… the one flying solo… the “different one”.  Yep, no doubt… every time!

The outlier!  Beyond a statistics class, I am not sure that I really thought about it, but that is exactly where the innovation in education is taking place.  That teacher that students remember…

the one that was different

not status quo

a disruptor

a risk taker

the playful


student centered

and full of driving purpose.

A teacher of impact!

It leaves me thinking… when did such impact become the outlier in learning?  How did creativity, failing, imagining,  perseverance, empathy, and passion get so far out of reach from the norm that comes with developing as a child?  It truly amazes me the amount of conferences, blogs, books, and professional development on a whole that is needed to create change so that students are not left with a silo experience of one teacher making a difference.  When did the average experience become acceptable for our children?  When did conformity become so comfortable?

When will you… become the outlier?

Thank you Dr. Wagner for never losing sight of our most precious part of the future, our children.  Thank you for continuing your journey with education to allow others the opportunity to question our practices, as I have done today.  May we all come down from our “ivory towers” and allow for experiences that pave the way for our young people that are ready to change the world! 




Tis’ the Season to Create Opportunity

Tis’ the season…

for true insanity!  The kind that comes in the form of 

gift brainstorming



shopping til’ I drop

(let me toss in the excitement of presenting at my first conference)

and…. oh, yes…

planning engaging lessons that supersede that of the jolly ol’ man himself!

Now that last one is a dooooozy!  So how on earth can we as educators keep learning at the forefront of the holiday season.  Quite simple… just ask our students!

What would you like to do in math for the next couple of weeks? Their eyes were wide open to match their little voices that were going nonstop as they talked over one another to get their idea out.

We had just finished up celebrating our Chick-fil-A luncheon reward for embracing flexible seating in the classroom.  Our local Chick-fil-A in Robinson Twp. had closed one store to build a new and better establishment across town.  In turn, they offered out their used furniture to anyone interested.   My fellow colleague Olivia, who formally worked at their business, called me up to see if I was interested.

Interested? Ummmm… YES!  I brought home tables, chairs and stools that have added more awesome options to our already flexible classroom.  But the one thing that I felt would take our learning right over the edge was the ENTIRE LIGHT UP MENU BOARD!  You heard me!  Yes, I’m the one that looked over at the heap of metal stacked up, ready for the dumpster and said, “Any chance I could have those too?”  I remember the look on the manager’s face as if that was far from something that she envisioned we would desire.  “SURE!”, she said.  Oh yes, this was the game changer I was looking for… math would never be the same in the most exciting way possible!

Rewind… If I am being totally honest, the menus sat in a stack for almost 3 months.  They were huge and heavy.  The idea had gone from complete excitement to… what was I thinking?  Then the day came.  The reward luncheon was about to unfold and what better “decoration” to have than the menu boards, right?  I brought each one in with the intention of having a simple “REAL-WORLD” math lesson and then off to the stack they would go again.  I mean, come on… where on earth was I really going to put all of them?

But when the hype of Christmas came barreling in, and I found myself questioning my plan to move into a new unit so I had to ask the experts… the students themselves!

“Let’s run our own restaurant!”, one said.  WHAT? HOW? WHEN?  We haven’t even learned decimals yet… or money.  Wait, we don’t even know the first thing about running a business.  How will this take shape?  All these questions whirled though MY mind.


Crazy how I thought this was a PROBLEM that had too many hurdles to make happen.  In reality, it was an INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY with a personal invitation to authentic learning at its finest!  Even crazier to think I felt it was MY problem and not an opportunity to problem solve in the most authentic way possible.  A restaurant… WOW!

A new space was created for the menu boards

Well my friends, that is exactly what we will do for the next 2 weeks of school.  I smiled and said, “Let’s get this plan in place.  Remember, we have to connect it to our learning goals… whose in?”

“WE ARE!”  And off they went.  The research began instantly.  They began talking about managers, shift managers, cost, employee responsibilities, resumes, interviews, and so much more.  We have reached out for a little more support from Chick-fil-A to donate bags and paper products to give our “business” life!  Students are ready to bring in their kid friendly cash registers, along with additional play-dough and other materials they have listed.  Over the next week, my students will be creating their own math journey.  One that I know will leave a lasting mark.  All of this excitement has unfolded because I simply asked one question.


Tis’ the Season!

L.E.G.I.T. Summer- Together

The T in L.E.G.I.T. is what I needed to bring my summer to a close and transition back into what I love professionally and personally.  The T stands for Together.  When it comes down to it, we are all better together.  Time to revisit trust!  To create opportunities.  To feel confident.  To own my summer.  To be the best version of my vision.  To open my eyes, my arms, and my heart… to find that place that I strive to be.  To Be ME!  But this could not be done alone… I needed my people and together we built a better me for a greater tomorrow!   

I find that when I am on a specific journey in life that I have a tendency to walk alone.  Not because others are not there for me.  It is more like me being me… I go back to my childhood instincts.  My survival mode.  My way of fixing things… on my own.  I admit, this is not the best laid plan.  But that is an issue in itself.  When was the last time I created a plan for me?  Not me the teacher.  Not me the wife or the mother.  Not me that others need in their world.  Me.  Simply Me.

It’s not easy to do… to take time for yourself.  We often tell ourselves that there is “No I in TEAM” and when do we really allow ourselves to be anything but a team player?  I am built to take care of myself so that I can serve others.  I just forget along the way that I need others too.  Others help to create a better me.  Others push back on my ideas and help to grow them into something larger than I could have dreamed.  Others add their perspective to remind me that mine is simply that… mine.  My guard goes up… my heart tends to fight the sensible understanding that I can lean on others, but then comes the jolt…

The jolt of reality that I can be me, broken me, put together me, flawed, imperfect, risk-taker, and at times too much me and yet I will always be better when I am TOGETHER with others.

To be a better me definitely means being with others.  Crazy, but true.  Being with others that pour goodness into my life the way I try to do to theirs.  Here are 4 ways that I made sure I was intentional about putting myself out there with others when my instinct said otherwise.  

  1. Put it on the calendar! There is something about putting a date on a calendar that tells the brain don’t you dare break that plan.  I was raised that when you make a commitment you fulfill it.  End of story.  So I did just that.  Bike ride with my son… on calendar.  Lunch with good friends… on calendar.  Read a book that I had been waiting for the release date for over a year… put it on calendar.  Stop into a friend’s office to see what his new job is about…  calendar.  Jump into a teacher Twitter chat that threw unfamiliar questions at me… calendar.  Dinner with hubby… calendar.  This is how I became intentional about being with others that filled my heart, fueled my soul, and rekindled the fire that burns inside me.
  2. Say yes! Often I tell myself to say no in order to not add too much to my world that I continuously strive to balance.  But this summer I wanted to say yes.  Not the easy yes, when my make-up is on and I am feeling fabulous.  I am talking about the times I am being reclusive, not feeling like getting ready, or do not want others to see inside my heart when I am not completely put together.  The times that I may not be able to help them or be my bubbly self.  So I did just that… yes, I will go to the museum even though my heart is beating out of my chest and I feel like I am going to cry.  Yes, I will meet you at the pool even though I don’t know if I am ready to be seen by others who will ask me if I am okay yet with the passing of mom.  Yes, I will leave my house a mess so that I can grab a few hours of catch up with a colleague.  Yes… the kind you say when it is not comfortable.  The kind that puts you together with others and sends you home a better you.
  3.  Sit On Your Thoughts!  I use this with my students and my own children, but somehow it slipped my brain to use myself.  I could be surrounded by 50 people, but when I was too busy chatting up a storm it felt like I was alone.  One isolated point of view… one long winded rambling sentence.   Then I would walk away no better than when I entered the conversation.  Now, I am intentional about sitting on my thoughts so that I can hear those of others.  Together we create a vision of what life really looks like from different perspectives.  When you have a spunky, outgoing spirit it takes some getting used to… not only for yourself, but for others.  We all become accustomed to what we know.  Others were used to me being a chatterbox (and still am, ha!) so at times I would get the question of,  “Are you okay? or is something wrong?”  Nope… I am just realizing I talk too much!  haha!   I look at it like I am passionate and it exudes from my being.  Yes, that is true, but others are passionate too and if I don’t stop and let them in I will be alone…. alone in my own thoughts.  I prefer together.

Here I am ready for the new school year.  I am filled with hope, love, excitement, joy, curiosity, and so much more.  I have a support system of pure goodness around me on every side.  I am loved, supported, pushed, and believed in.  I have my family, my friends, my faith, my colleagues and my #PLN (that is growing by the day) that are in this with me… the kind of support circle that only happens together.  #BetterTogether


L.E.G.I.T. Summer- IMAGINE

Imagine all the possibilities.  Imagine what could come from your dreams… a chance to create new opportunities.  Go ahead, visualize pure goodness!  What an awesome vision, right?  The I in L.E.G.I.T.  stands for IMAGINE… something we never want to lose hold of in life.  So what are you doing to get there… to get to the better you?  I hope you are dreaming.  I hope you have set goals.  This is your masterpiece… IMAGINE and BELIEVE!  

Imagine a Better YOU!

When I was a little girl I used to walk down my road to a little one lane bridge.  I would boost myself on top of the cobblestone wall and look down at the stream below… and dream.  I saw my future in the ripples of water that flowed.  I would toss in small stones and watch them make their impact on the world below.  Sometimes they hit into other rocks and other times they sank straight to the bottom, but the one thing they always did was make ripples.  Those ripples mesmerized me. They spoke to me. They made my imagination wander.  I could sit there for hours and at times I did just that.  It was my getaway.  My place… a place that I could block out all obstacles in my path and simply imagine.  I would imagine a better me.

At the time a better me would look more compliant… more like my peers that were able to focus on all information that was being poured into their minds.  I was different…. for me it was more like the information was being poured over mine at a rapid pace.  So rapid that only little droplets were being absorbed.  In place of a sponge of a brain like my peers, mine was more like a sieve or it would simply runoff leaving me in the deficit… dried up and always a step behind. Why was this?  Well for starters, I am a passionate person that thrives on my interests and what I was learning on a regular basis didn’t come close to them.  My imagination was always wandering… imagining the better me!

I never lost myself in my learning the way I did in those quiet moments sitting by the water.  I wanted to, but I didn’t. I was the kid who learned the game of school and tried to play it the best that I could.  I didn’t go to school ready to give my best every day and I didn’t even try to pretend that I did… so sad for this passionate educator to think back on.  Instead I did what I had to do to get by because what I wanted to do was never an option in the traditional mindset of teaching that I had experienced. I wanted to wish it all gone so that I could live in my passions… that’s what made me tick!   

The crazy thing is that was not the impression I got of learning when I was 4 years old.  At 4, I was begging my mom to send me to preschool so that I could do all the great things that school had to offer.  I was begging for books to “read”. I was inventing a world of learning in my backyard and giving myself homework that I found relevant to my 4 year old self.  

Preschool was spectacular!  I was submerged in wonder!  Every day was new and exciting.  I was an explorer, doctor, inventor, and teacher.  I was an artist and gymnast.  I conquered the highest mountain and roamed the grassy plains.  I saw magenta if that was the color I chose to see.  I had the world at my fingertips and it was all surrounded by LOVE!  It was truly magical!  Each day was set for play… what little kid didn’t like to play  Well, there was one girl and her name was Alison.  It wasn’t so much that she didn’t like to play as it was that she was shy.  She needed a spirited, fun-loving friend like me… I just knew it.  So I sat down next to her and introduced myself.  We became best friends all in a matter of seconds.  Alison was tiny and truth be told her family nickname was Peanut. Only her closest friends called her that though and I was one of them!   Yes me… the girl who was ready to conquer the world.   The one that was set to be a teacher or a nurse or maybe even the first woman on the moon!  I was the spunk in spunky… the fire in firecracker and the joy in joyful!  I was the best friend.  WOW, preschool was AMAZING!

This summer I did a lot of reflecting.  I took time to think back on what sparked my love for learning.  I also took note of what created sparks for my students over the course of my career.  I sat by the water and tossed a few rocks in… actually tried to skip a few while I was at it, but my knack for that needs a little more attention these days.  I took in beautiful walks in the calm of the morning.  I sat fireside and stared into the flames.  All this was done while imagining.  I imagined…


a better me,

a better school year,

a better way of creating sparks in learning,

a way of making every day like preschool… submerged in wonder.   

Imagine the possibilities!

imagine 2
-John Lennon

L.E.G.I.T. Summer: GOALS

“Week 3ish” is a Kristen Nan way of saying I was caught up in the joys of my L.E.G.I.T. Summer and the days got away from me!  Can you say the same?  If so, we are both on the right path.  It’s kind of crazy when you stop and think about how much joy comes from the summer when you stop and take it in.  I have been embracing…

the sun,

more time in the day (okay, at least we get more daylight in our days),

the more relaxed vibe of having time to stop or pick up and go,

the scent of something yummy cooking on the grill,

the sounds of laughter as the kids are running around playing freely,

and the opportunity to write a bucket list!

At the start of summer, I headed to Bakersfield, one of my favorite places in downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.  The street tacos are amazing and the organic Margaritas are truly refreshing.  I always feel alive as I walk in… the upbeat vibe puts a smile right on my face and the friendly service keeps me coming back for more.  Even better is the company I take with me.  This particular adventure was with my dear friend Tammy.  We sat and laughed and talked about the months ahead.  We both agreed that a bucket list of joys was a call to action moment for each of us.

Oh yes, the G in L.E.G.I.T. is for Goals.  This summer I decided mine would come in the form of buckets, just likes the ones a mentor of mine challenged me to fill during the school year.  So we made our lists and off we went.  At times we flew solo on our own journeys and at times we conquered the list together.  Either way, the goal was to not just look for joy, but to create it.  My list started something like this:

  1. When a friend calls, drop the laundry and go!
  2. Head to Pittsburgh as much as possible
  3. Summer Concert
  4. Bike ride on the Montour Trail
  5. Time by the water
  6. Meet up with my friends I haven’t seen in awhile
  7. Go to Phipps Conservatory to view the beautiful flowers
  8. Work out
  9. Eat breakfast at Waffles Incaffeinated
  10. Make time to write my book

Well, the list is coming along great!  I have accomplished a lot of other things too like cleaning out the top and bottom of the garage (WOWZERS).  The reality is, if I wouldn’t have intentionally made time for this simple list of obtainable goals, I may have let the summer slip right through my fingers.

My summer isn’t the only area of my life that I have created goals.  I have a list that I am generating for the fall when I return to my other family… my school family.  I cannot wait to try new things that I have learned this summer and I look forward to filling buckets with my students.  It is moments like this that always remind me that in order to dream big, I must be willing to take action.  The simplest dreams are only that if we do not take time to bring them to fruition.

Set goals

Fill those buckets… mine’s half full, what about you?


The EDURelevance In Social Media

Two, maybe three years ago now, I opened my first social media account.  Not because I wanted to, but because I was challenged to do it by my then new assistant superintendent Jacie Maslyk.  She had a reason.  A purpose.  Relevance!  Behind her challenge was… GET CONNECTED!  Connect to other educators.  See what the world is doing WITHOUT you!  The relevance behind that one simple challenge gifted me a new life in education.  A new life for me.  A new life for my students.

Opening my Twitter account was not an easy task for me.  I seriously had no clue what I was doing.  However, my teenage son did and after chuckling a few times that his mom was about to “connect” with the world he was living in, he gave me a hand.  From that point forward, Trent and I had a new connection too.  My purpose may have been slightly different than his, but we had common ground to share in conversation.  This one platform led to every single opportunity that has unfolded for me to date.

Every part of my PLN.

Every conference I have attended.

Most every idea that I have taken into my classroom.

Every single book I have read, starting with my first… Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.  That one book has led to over 30.  That one book has led me to connect with educators all over the world through IMMOOC.  That one book set me on fire and gave me purpose to find conferences connected to this network of incredible educators.  That one connection pushed me to…

be a better me.

offer a first ever book study in my district for fellow teachers.

build relationships and value their importance.

take risks.


Yet, the naysayers still pushed back on teachers putting themselves out there on social media.  So, I felt as long as I stayed on Twitter and journeyed as an educator, I could at least defend myself.

What to the what?  Defend myself?  Defend relevance to my growth?

My family kept asking when I would jump on Facebook so I plunged right in… relevance.  Family ties, enough said.

Then I started to blog.  Oh wow, was this relevant to my world.  I have always loved to write, but lost the time to do so when juggling mom, wife, and teacher.  Not to mention all the other relationships I attempted to hold on to… but in order to share my blog I needed social media connections.  Perfect, I got this!  I was already on Twitter with other educators.  Facebook connected me with family, but why not educators too?  So I went on the search for my global network of #eduawesomeness.   Wow, another moment forward for me.

You are not on Instagram?  Friends asked me this often, but I felt I had enough to juggle and already had great connections so I was okay without.  Then came George’s newest adventure… A Book Study on Instagram!  What?  Come on George… I’ve been in the last 3 with you on Twitter and Facebook… can’t we just use those platforms?  Ummmmm… NO!


Relationships (L.E.G.I.T. Relationships)


Triple Threat… jump in or be left behind!


I logged onto Instagram 2 days ago.  Created an account.  Asked my son Trent AGAIN, to give me a hand.  This time he didn’t chuckle.  He smiled.  Then he said mom, that’s cool… now follow me!

#relevance #growth #gift


L.E.G.I.T. Summer- EMPOWER

There is no other way to enter the 2nd week(end) of my summer journey, than with EMPOWERment!  Such an incredible word with so much meaning.  Something I must create.  I find myself talking endlessly about it with my students, colleagues, friends, and family, yet I have fallen short on walking the walk at times.  With many articles, books, and blogs on this one topic, along with living life, I feel I have narrowed down the top 4 ways that I can make this happen and in turn it may just be what others are looking for too.

The E in L.E.G.I.T. is what I need to move forward.  To create opportunities.  To feel confident.  To own my summer!

The E stands for: EMPOWER and move forward.  Try these top 4 ways that are guiding me on my journey:  

  1.  Take A Time Out!  BOOM! Tap out… take the phone off the hook.  Set your cell phone on vibrate.  Shut down the computer.  Take a day away from networking.  Do not put anything, I repeat ANYTHING, on your calendar!  Say no… to whatever it is that wants to schedule your day for you.  Then ask yourself… what creates joy for you?  Whatever that is… GO DO IT!
  2. Give Yourself Permission and Release The Guilt!  Do it WITHOUT saying sorry.  Do it without regrets.  Do it without thinking or overthinking.  There will always be someone or something that could take your attention, tis life.  But it is YOUR life… one chance.  A better you creates a better you to share with others.  Take care of yourself.  This doesn’t have to be at the cost of others or quite frankly the financial cost of your family.  I’m not suggesting jetting off to the islands (although if you want to call me we can talk), I am simply saying that empowering yourself to make decisions about your day without any obligations is okay.  No Regret!
  3. Forgive!  Most often this word is used when thinking of others.  When you have wronged someone or have fallen short and need to ask for forgiveness.  This time I am talking about YOU… YOURSELF.  I’m talking about ME… MYSELF!  I am so far from perfect it literally makes me chuckle and then sigh.  I mess up a lot.  I fall short as a mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, teacher, community member and the list goes on and on.  What I don’t do well is forgive myself.  I say it to myself… I lift it up to God, but then I hold on to it like I deserve to be punished or something.  I didn’t always do that, but as time moved on I found myself living the life I wanted in place of what others wanted for me, or from me, and in turn I have did this (and still do at times).  I must take the time to acknowledge my imperfections that I must walk this earth with… and forgive myself.  When I do that, my shoulders are lighter, my body is less tense, my heart doesn’t hurt, my smile is bigger, and I can share a better me with others!   However, if you find yourself needing to forgive someone… do it.  Life is simply to short.  Your heart will thank you… your soul will love you, and I am certain your mind will open up even bigger for joy to come in.
  4. Find Your Joy and Share It!  Once you have it, don’t keep it to yourself… GIVE IT AWAY!  This is when the magic happens and your joy begins to multiply!  The thing is, when you empower yourself… I mean truly take care of yourself without guilt, joy will find a way in.  That joy is a sparkle waiting to shine for others.  It is a feeling inside that nurtures the soul.  Joy is magnificent.  Find it, love on it, and then pass it along.

This past week I took a time out and shut off my phone… not for an entire day, but for a few hours.  It was a start.  I kept my computer on to blog… my passion.  I read a lot!  I had coffee on my patio.  I created a few ideas I had in my head.  I found my balance.

I gave myself permission and turned down a few invitations that came my way, not because I wanted to, but more so because I wasn’t sure how to fit them in to my already packed day.  Before, I would have tried to make it all happen… at the cost of myself or my family.  This week I didn’t.  I took an afternoon with my boys and let them lead the way… this brought me joy.  Listening to their ideas, stories, goals, and dreams was music to my ears.  My heart was light and full all at them same time.  I gave myself permission and did not allow guilt to settle in to my mind.

As for forgiveness, this was a little tricky.  I had this intense feeling of guilt related to my mother in law‘s passing.  It wasn’t the kind of guilt that was meant to happen, but it did.  Mom wanted to die at home, a place that she found comfort and love.  With this wish came responsibility on us as a family.  It meant bringing in hospice, something that no one was ready for, but I knew it was the only way to honor her wish.  So I did.  This in itself brought on heavy feelings for every one of us and I was the one making it happen.  Then came the emergency comfort kit of medication.  The one that scared each of us for an abundance of reasons.  This was the kit that would bring her comfort, but also the one that would be helping her to end her life… comfortably.  I knew I had to understand it… to learn about each one and when they needed administered.  So I did.  Then the morning came that I talked dad into going to church because he needed to take time for himself.  This was the day that mom’s breathing took a horrible turn for the worse.  I went to the kit and found the right one.  I gave it to her.  She found comfort and fell asleep immediately.  My heart knew where we were at with this journey and my mind didn’t know how to prepare everyone else.  When mom awoke, I told her what happened.  I explained to her that this was going to happen more often and ultimately the mediation would help her from suffering these last days here on earth.  She held my hand.  We both knew what was unfolding.  We sat together.  Prayed together.  Learned as much about “life” as she could possibly teach me to be able to help dad once she was gone.  Once dad was home, she sent me to the store (the worst trip I ever made hoping that she would be there when I returned).  She had to buy her boys their Valentine’s.  She needed one for her precious grand-kids Trent and Jack, but also for dad.  Whatever she needed I promised to make it happen.  I returned and helped her prepare her cards.  She didn’t want me to leave that night, but dad needed his time (little did we know this would be her last night).  The next morning I arrived to another hard turn in her path.  I went into action and continued to administer all of her medication until her final breath that day.  My mind knows I did what she wanted and what she needed, but my heart has not been on the same page.  My own heart feels her absence and with each member of my family hurting I have placed guilt on myself for “being the one” to take her away from them.  I never blamed the cancer… not once.  I somehow took it all and placed it on myself.  I know that sounds so crazy, but I’m owning it.  The logical side of me says there is no reason to forgive myself, but somewhere in my heart I needed to act on it and I have.  I am not a nurse.  With all my resources around me, nothing in life could have possibly prepared me to take on such a huge responsibility, but I did.  My love saw no other option.  She was my rock and for once she needed me to be hers.  On this very day, I am letting it go… I am crying out my guilt so that I can lighten my heart and continue on my journey for joy.  It is time.

I am finding my joy… this blog is a start.