Day Ten: Random Lists – 5,4,3,2,1

Learn this, Know this, and LIVE this. You know who you are. Start counting your own blessings instead of (making me feel guilty for) mine.

5 Random Facts about me:

1) My biological father and his family traveled to the U.S. from Cuba to escape Fidel Castro. My last name is no longer Villanueva, and my parents didn’t stay married for long, so it always surprises people that I am Hispanic. Plus, my stepdad is from Pittsburgh, and people always see a resemblance between the two of us.

2) I used to travel to Southwest Harbor, Maine in the summers to visit my aunt and uncle. The smell of evergreen and blueberry bushes bring back great memories for me.

3) I have lived in Greenville, South Carolina – Dothan, Alabama – and Houston, Texas. I am back home in Georgia now.

4) I learned to water ski when I was 40. Probably the biggest “fear” I have overcome.

5) My husband has completed 3 Ironman Triathlons: one in Panama City Beach, FL, another in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and the third in Madison, Wisconsin.

4 Bucket List Items. I would like to do the following:

1) hike part of the Appalachian trail

2) travel in Europe

3) take an Alaskan cruise

4) be a published author

3 Things I hope for this year:

1) to be more organized with paperwork

2) to balance my time more efficiently

3) to be kind to my students (even when I am frazzled)

2 Things that have made me laugh or cry as a teacher:

1) The last day that our seniors attend school in May is a bittersweet day for me and always leaves me in tears.

2) Last year an AP Chemistry student (who is dear to me) answered an FRQ (Free response question), and in her answer she made an analogy between chemical kinetics and teen pregnancy. She made the statement that the molecules in chemical reactions are like high schoolers with raging hormones. They just can’t wait, and just like the chemical reaction takes place, teen pregnancy results. I couldn’t figure out if she got the answer right or not, because the rubric failed me at that point. We all laughed really hard at this, and I am sure that I saved her paper.

1 thing I wish that more people knew about me….

I am working on writing a young adult novel about a group of teens who have unique challenges and secrets but work together to solve a series of crimes using their STEM skills. It is still awkward for me to discuss because it is such a new adventure. Kind of like when you get married and you find yourself talking about your “husband” when it is still such a new part of life. The best part of this work is that it’s so intertwined with everything I love to do: hang out with teenagers and talk about STEM. (Plus it’s on my bucket list!)

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.ย  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 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.


โ€œGoals 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.โ€

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