STEM Georgia Educator Laureate Awards

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Today I am giving a presentation along with 5 other STEMtastic teachers. Felicia Cullars
Danielle Gibbs, and Ashley Greenway actually WON the Georgia Educator Laureate Awards this year. Chinita Allen, Pamela Sanford, and I followed behind them in earning badges for doing STEM activities.

At the 2015 Georgia STEM Forum, Dr. Lyon asked us to speak to other STEM teachers about our journey through the program.

You can see the presentation here: STEM Georgia Educator Laureate Awards Presentation



Day Eight: My Desk Drawer – my battle with purple pens & how I plan to win the war with the pen!

What’s in my desk drawer? Lots of pens, pencils, highlighters, erasers & whiteout. I use purple Bic pens for grading, and there is always an unbalanced distribution of those pens in my life. I keep the purple pens in one of these places: my car, my kitchen, my purse, my briefcase, behind my ear, and in my desk drawer at school.  Today I reached into my purse and found four purple pens. I don’t need four purple pens in my purse. I have to redistribute them tomorrow. Mondays are always busy, and the redistribution of pens isn’t important enough to make it to my “to do” list, but if I don’t do it, I will feel scattered. That is an example of why Mondays are “Mondays”. Reorganizing the little things requires time and distracts from the higher priority issues.

Tomorrow I am going to start using and I am really looking forward to it. It is an online quizzing tool for my students that will require less usage of pens. is another tool I plan to implement this week – designed for fewer pens and more online grading. I will report later on how those are working for me. Thanks to my colleague Matt East for introducing these to me. He works on the other side of campus, but we communicate often through Twitter, my favorite social media tool.

One quick note: I am slowing down on my blogging. I plan to continue my 30 day challenge, but it will take me longer than 30 days to write 30 posts. Yes – I am differentiating from many of you by going at a slower pace than I originally anticipated. I have gotten behind on grading, planning, and family time. I love the reflection, but I have to do some actual/real work so that I can find material to reflect on! Thanks to those of you who are reading, and Blog Day 9 will be coming one day soon….

Day Five: How Can I Change My Classroom? Bring Out the Demolition Crew!

This is the only way problems will be solved. Just look at science. Theories are disproven in order to be proven. Not all scientists took the same practical means in order to discover their theories. They tested their experiments differently from the aforementioned scientists.

My classroom is a good size, and we have lab tables that work well for doing labs and for group work. Below you see an older photo, and the desks are lined up in traditional rows. Better for lecture days, but not as good for labs and cooperative learning. For the new year I arranged the tables lengthwise in pairs that seat a group of four students.

We are lucky that we are undergoing renovation right now, and I am only 6 weeks away from getting a bit of an update on my room. I mentioned on “Day One: Goals for the New Year” that I intend to apply for some grant money to get a whole new set of furniture that is up-to-date with technology and efficient learning methods. If I can obtain the needed money, I anticipate that it will still be over a year before any new furniture arrives.

My room is just too small for the way I have it arranged. I cannot easily walk between the desks, and the students are not very mobile either. What I need to do is get rid of the big, huge, enormous demonstration desk-table that is built into the floor. In fact, I am considering asking that the construction crew chop it down. Demo it. Axe it.

While the table space is great, its monstrous size completely BLOCKS me from my students when I am teaching them. I use a Ladibug, a document camera that I love, to work problems for them. You see a pic of me (in a purple shirt) behind the desk working problems, but where I like to be is in front of my desk, in close proximity to the students. In the photo of me in the lab coat – my position is ideal in that spot, but there is no work surface for me to use the Ladibug. SO – I rarely stand there b/c I can’t be productive and model problems.

Getting rid of the desk would allow me to bring the students closer to me and give us all enough space to walk around the tables. A smaller, mobile desk would be perfect for the Ladibug station and would have plenty of room to store my stuff. All the file folder drawers that were originally installed years ago are no longer necessary. I use Dropbox.

So, bring on the construction crews. Let’s do some demolition and give the kids the freedom and space they need to learn.


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Day Two: My Technology Goal for the Year – Designed for Cross-Curricular Learning

One of our school STEM goals for the year is to create and implement cross-curricular (integrated) lessons. I am hoping to partner my AP chemistry students with students in both AP Literature and AP Microeconomics. In order to connect students with classes that do not meet at the same time we will use a web tool like Canvas Infrastructure. This platform allows teachers to assign lessons and allows students to communicate with one another and with their three teachers (yikes!). Canvas Infrastructure provides a user-friendly forum for cross-curricular projects and learning.

Read Ben Johnson’s blog featured on for inspiration and guidelines on how to plan with a cross-curricular team. Also see a video produced by Ken Ellis on the topic of Integrated Studies.


The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. —Abraham Lincoln

Whenever you're feeling like giving up, remember these words.