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….

Who Inspires Me the Most? Reminiscing my days at Lakeside High School in the ’80’s


For those of us in my profession, I think that it is comical yet strange that WE ARE STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL. There is a transition from being a student to a teacher, and while there is a vast difference in those two periods, we think often about our own days as high school students. Probably with much more frequency than non-teachers do.

From my former life as a high school student, here is a list of my favorite teachers and WHY they made a difference:

Ms. Diane Loring (English) – Her sharp wit and sly (but loving) smile was so fun. I enjoyed trying to figure out if she was telling the truth or not. Her tall tales kept me wondering….I loved English, and I still do.

Ms. Mary Shelfer (English) – She and Ms. Loring were best friends, and I learned the value of strong relationships in the workplace. I also read great literature. She introduced me to one of my favorite books, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and to the great acting of Jack Nicholson in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

Ms. Charleanne Pugh (Biology) – She was the most bubbly, spunky teacher I had. I loved asking questions and kept my hand raised because I loved having a conversation with her. She never tired of all my questions and filled me with knowledge.

Ms. Joann Williams (AP Chemistry) – She showed dedication to teaching such a challenging subject, and her attention to detail in working problems was impressive. I ran into her recently at church with my parents, and while I spoke to her I knew that she wouldn’t know how often I think about her because I have grown up to do exactly the same job that she so expertly did.

Mr. Ralph Voris (Trigonometry & AP Calculus) – He was one of the quietest, most stoical men I have met, and his interest in teaching nutty high school kids intrigued me. He was filled with wisdom, and his motivational quotes in the top corner of the board were a window to his non-calculus thoughts. Those quotes are written down in a faded notebook that smells of old paper. I also discovered that the reward of learning something intensely difficult would prove greater than the temporary pain of the 2nd period stress-induced headaches.

Mr. Robert Koff (Math) – He was lively, kooky, and nerdy, and he was passionate about teaching us math. He ran around the room answering our questions, and he was the opposite of Mr. Voris. Teaching high school seemed like the perfect fit for him. (Kooky and nerdy are all GOOD things in my book, btw). One time I inadvertently wrote my last name wrong – I wrote the last name of my rock star crush. He quietly asked me if I had changed my name – out of concern for any changes in my family status. I was embarrassed, needless to say, and told him that everything at home was just fine.

Coach Phil Lindsey (Health, PE) – He taught me to understand the importance of nutrition and how I am ultimately responsible for my own health. He taught me the enjoyment of walking and running. Although I can’t estimate distances in feet or yards at all, I know EXACTLY what it feels like to walk (or even drive) 1/4, 1/2 or 1 mile because of all those laps around the track. He was head coach of the football team, but he made me, a small, soft-spoken fourteen year old girl, feel equally as important as as the touchdown-scoring, rowdy football players that were featured in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution every weekend.

Ms. Evelyn Brady (Spanish) – She told us funny stories of her crazy life. One story I remember was the time she bought a new Volkswagen bug, but before she drove off the dealership lot the salesman had to teach her to drive a stick shift. He probably regretted making the sale. She owned a big pet snake (a boa?) which always brought interesting stories as well. There was always a student who was getting on her last nerve, and with her exaggeration and big emotion, she could have been a standup comedian. Lucky for us, she was a Spanish teacher.

Ms. Diane McKinney (Chemistry) – She was famous for her molecule dance, and her high energy level kept everyone engaged. She laughed a lot and loved being outdoors. We used bunsen burners and created formal lab reports in composition books. I learned why scientists use pen, not pencil, for recording data, and I still  treasure my composition book from tenth grade.

Mr. Bill Driskell (World History) – Wow! There is so much to say here. Mr. Driskell created nicknames for us. He called me Miss Newhouse because of my last name, Villanueva (which means New House). I loved that. I was special enough to earn a nickname. Our class ate lunch together and had a longer period (due to the class being split with driver’s ed which was taught in Norcross). Because of our extended time he would sit and play games with us during lunch or participate in our teenage conversations. He talked about his family; he was silly, goofy, and way too much fun! He was so expressive and could have rivaled Mrs. Brady for being a standup comedian. Plaid pants and bow ties showed up frequently in his wardrobe.

The best part of the story is that Mr. Driskell’s son was Ken Milam’s roommate at the Sigma Nu fraternity house at Georgia Tech in 1991. Had it not been for Logan Driskell, I would have never met the man who is now my husband. I saw Mr. Driskell not too long ago and told him that I have been teaching high school in Coweta County. His face lit up, and a big smile, filled with years of memories, beamed across his face. “Isn’t it fun?!” he asked.

Yes, it is fun. There is no other job that I could enjoy as much as this one.

Not only did our teachers contribute so much to all of us who graduated in the 80’s, but their passion for teaching kids lives on through those of us who have filled their shoes….

Thanking you is not enough, but Thank You.

Photo Oct 05, 7 49 01 PMPhoto Oct 05, 7 54 58 PMPhoto Oct 05, 8 16 51 PM  Photo Oct 05, 7 49 49 PMPhoto Oct 05, 7 53 24 PM   Photo Oct 05, 7 45 56 PM   Photo Oct 05, 8 12 00 PMPhoto Oct 05, 7 47 29 PMPhoto Oct 05, 7 46 42 PMPhoto Oct 05, 7 48 52 PMPhoto Oct 05, 8 08 39 PMPhoto Oct 05, 7 57 00 PMPhoto Oct 05, 7 51 29 PMPhoto Oct 05, 7 51 12 PMPhoto Oct 05, 7 57 43 PMPhoto Oct 05, 8 13 41 PM   Photo Oct 05, 7 51 43 PM

Day Four: The TWO Things I Love Most About Teaching

I LOVE teaching. There are specifically 2 reasons that I enjoy my job.

1) STEM Career Coaching

My grandmother used to talk to her grown children frequently about their jobs. Of course she was concerned about family, kids, home, but career has always been important to my family. It’s genetic. You spend SO much time working. Not just the everyday, but across your entire life. It is important to have a fulfilling, enjoyable career because it is a huge part of life.

Many of our students don’t have someone who know much about the STEM in their careers, so I enjoy helping my students think about their options. Careers that require STEM include: doctor, electrician, cosmetologist, radiology assistant, auto mechanic, farmer, graphic designer, photographer, engineer, chef, builder, athletic trainer,…. You get the idea. Everyone uses STEM!

The students who take the hard core STEM jobs …I teach them in AP Chemistry, coach them in science Olympiad, or guide them to become a STEM intern with a local business. If they can narrow their focus in high school, they can get a head start on where to concentrate when they get to college.

2) I love high school kids. I can have regular conversations with them like I would with other adults, BUT high school kids like to have a bit more fun than adults do. And so do I. I like goofing off and being silly, and that works well in the classroom. I just read a great blog post by Heather Hollands and Amy Latinen, and Heather mentioned wanting to “engage all students” this year as one of her goals. Goofing off (in the right context) while teaching chemistry is my way of engaging students. They tend to stay focused a bit more because they don’t want to miss anything.

There is definitely more that I love about teaching, but this will be enough for now…..


Teachers Who Love Teaching Quote Back To School Quotes For Teachers

Day One: My Goals for the New School Year

What are my Goals for 2014-15? I love challenges, changes, and plunging into more projects than a person should tackle. So, my goals will be aligned to my list of commitments for the year. Here is my “To Do” List:

1) I will teach chemistry students using a “MODELING” approach. Yes, I will model, but not in the context of Vogue magazine. One of my amazing colleagues, Dr. Karen Pompeo, participated in an AMTA Workshop in the summer of 2013. AMTA is the American Modeling Teachers Association. She is sharing this methodology with our innovative chemistry team so that we can teach our students to understand how matter behaves based on logic, analytical thinking, and visualization of particle behavior. Gone will be the days of blindly rearranging equations and rote memorization of facts. After three weeks of school, students have already drawn numerous diagrams of particles in (and out of) boxes. They explain, through drawings, how particles behave when they are heated, when they are squished, when they combine with other particles, when they vaporize,…. I am the world’s worst artist, but that plays an important role, because my drawings will never intimidate and are a sense of comic relief, which is an important tool for teaching the sometimes overwhelming concepts of chemistry. Imagine how dreadful it could be for a student to sit in chemistry for 90 minutes without laughing or having a bit of fun. (another blog topic, one day)

2) I will focus my AP Chemistry Course more closely to the Learning Objectives that the College Board implemented in 2013. My AP Chemistry mentor is Adrian Dingle of Westminster High School in Atlanta, GA. I just completed one of his online workshops and have subscribed once again to his teaching resources, which are clear, concise and thorough. He is an enormously helpful and responsive teacher. Read his insightful blog to see that he respects that we all have different teaching styles but that we can empower our students equally well to succeed on the AP Chemistry Exam on Monday, May 4, 2015.

3) I will co-host a Technology Professional Development learning group for the teachers at East Coweta High School (ECHS). My partner from last year, tech expert Micki Byrnes, @mickibyrnes, and I are teaming up this year with one of our tech pioneers Matt East, @eccoacheast, to teach our colleagues new ways of implementing technology. Our topics include Google apps (hangouts, slides, docs), digital storytelling, presentations (Prezi, HaikuDeck), research (diigo),cross-curricular collaboration (Canvas) and all the features of Edmodo. I also hope to contribute manageable ways to incorporate STEM lessons into their classrooms.

4) East Coweta High School will present our first Invitational Science Olympiad Tournament in November 2014. Science Olympiad is arguably the BEST STEM extra-curricular organization available to students. It is the most exciting science competition for students grades K-12. Students are completely immersed into 23 science and engineering fields as they compete against their peers. Science Olympiad is a National Organization, and any school that claims to have a good STEM program, in my opinion, MUST have a Science Olympiad team.

5) I will continue the work on ECHS earning the title of STEM Program Certified School. Our magnificent science department chair Stefanie Easterwood and I have passed the baton to our dear colleague Candice Mohabir, who has fantastic vision and can make progress toward our school STEM goals.

5) I will apply for GRANTS to fund a newly renovated STEM Classroom through Contrax Furnishings. The furniture in my room is outdated. It is a tight, winding pathway for me to move throughout the classroom. This literal maze doesn’t serve our peer grouping or lab experience well. It is time to update and innovate our workspace. It’s not going to be cheap, however, and grant money is the only hope for a new look. I have written and won grants before, but it’s time to break out the big pens to be able to locate the funding for this HGTV-type overhaul. I am grateful for the confidence that our school administrators have in us, the teachers. Innovation leaders Evan Horton and Donald White always encourage me in these new endeavors.

6) I will make a presentation on, guess what, HOW TO WRITE AND WIN GRANTS at the West GA RESA Instructional Technology Conference on Sep. 8 & 9 at Callaway Gardens, GA. YES – I am combining two of my goals, a time-efficient move that I carefully chose. Creating a presentation will inspire me to WRITE the grants for my new furniture project and research all the available funding sources. Making this presentation is also my way of hushing up those teachers who complain that there’s no money for them to incorporate technology. Well, excuse me, Mr. or Ms. “My school won’t buy us anything, so I can’t use technology”, but if you really want to have the technology for your students, then spend a couple of hours writing a grant. Get off your financial soap box, get your tush in front of a computer, and find the money.

7) I will manage my time wisely. Time Management is not my strong suit, but I must work at it if I am going to accomplish these goals. If I am successful, then I will certainly write about it one day. Until then, I am off to reach my goals.


“Goals may cause systematic problems for organizations due to narrowed focus, unethical behavior,
increased risk taking, decreased cooperation, and decreased intrinsic motivation.
Use care when applying goals in your organization.”

Daniel H. Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

The 30 Day Blog of a High School Science Teacher

I am taking the challenge. Not the ice bucket challenge, but the blogging challenge. Apparently September is Reflective Teacher Month at TeachThought, an innovative teaching organization that inspires me via a Twitter feed. I would like to blog as a science teacher, but I don’t have a clear direction on creating material. Thank you to @teachthought for posting 30 days worth of blogging ideas. I am ready to start! Stay tuned for Monday, September 1…. #reflectiveteacher


wpid-wp-1409361558351.jpeg“We are our stories. We compress years of experience, thought, and emotion into a few compact narratives that we convey to others and tell ourselves…”—Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind
Blogger Challenge Badge 2014.png