Wall O’ Teacher Awesomeness

A view of a particularly exciting segment of the North Campus i2 Lab Writable Wall.
Note from Author: Yes, my handwriting may look as though I’m an eleven year old who includes hearts instead of dots on her “i’s”. But I promise I’m not eleven. . . . and I only use hearts over my eyes when I write notes to my five year old.

So I’m a relative newbie as an employee at St. Andrew’s. And in this new teaching and learning gig, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of popping into an incredible variety of classrooms. I cannot say this with enough emphasis: “OUR FACULTY ARE AMAZING.” Oh hey, that’s you.

Anyway, I know the word “awesome” is pretty much a hot button issue. People that use awesome are probably too young and too enthusiastic and are likely contributing to the ruin of the English language. But listen: if you saw what I saw and heard what I heard on a daily basis, you might accidentally let an “awesome” slip out your own mouth. Here’s just a smattering to wet your whistle:

  • David Bramlett’s use of wix to help with visualization and video making to show off student understanding of parabolas.
  • Margaret Taylor’s well-designed characterization centers, my favorite of which asked youth to choose which beautiful postcard best exemplified a character from their summer reading.
  • Marks McWhorter’s use of animal toys to serve as springboards for students doing incredibly complex diagramming of the relationships between the traits of different animals.
  • Karyn Kunzelman’s escape room activity that engaged youth in a review of all things space-related and had them focused and in complete delight at 2:30pm on a Friday afternoon.
  • Price Chadwick’s use of the cup throwing in the fountain and this “Ok Go” music video to illustrate the magic of physics.
  • Toby Lowe’s use of expert tables to enable youth to both teach and get peer to peer support on four math skills in preparation for a test.
  • Nancy Rivas’ ridiculously well-organized group project which required youth to audio record directions (in Spanish of course) to a mystery place on campus for other students in the class to later guess.
  • Grace Pei’s Chinese class writing a script for a version of Romeo and Juliet and then memorizing their lines and performing the play with great gusto on the stage in the Commons.

Here’s the thing . . .


And I don’t know about you, but I think that’s kind of awesome.

St. Andrew’s 2019 Faculty Innovation Share Out

Lower School Edition

Fourth grade students listen to their peers explain strategies during math “studio time”, one of the many innovative ideas shared by math teachers Valerie Dembny and Mary Grace Jimenez.

The energy in the south campus auditorium was contagious last Wednesday afternoon as faculty members kicked off the year’s “Work-Late-Wednesdays” with a share out of innovative teaching strategies and school-wide initiatives. The five sessions were led by teachers eager to inspire colleagues and share the ways they are redefining teaching and learning strategies in their classrooms. Teachers enjoyed snacks together while they listened to colleagues share ways to reimagine the 100’s chart in math, new terminology to promote positive classroom communities, QR codes as a presentation mode for students, and exciting events on the horizon for the lower school like an Innovative Reading Fair! These sessions were inspired by a variety of ideas that emerged from collaborative experiences among faculty from summer workshops in beginning and advanced Responsive Classroom practices, The Number Lab’s Educators’ Collaboratory in Austin, TX, and Summer of Excellence meetings that resulted in the formation of a Lower School Literacy Committee, just to name a few!

Summer Keane, kindergarten teacher, taught faculty how to use QR codes as an innovative way to share student work within the community.

If you missed the power-packed hour of inspiration, you can access presentations and additional resources that are hyperlinked in the agenda, which summarizes each session. Additionally throughout the year, the lower school will host Work-Late-Wednesday sessions dedicated to innovation share outs. The dates of those professional development meetings can be found here. Mark your calendars to join us for collaborative times when faculty share to inspire one another towards innovation school-wide and in the classroom!

St. Andrew’s 2019 Faculty Summer Share Out

North Campus Edition

Faculty lean in as Dean Julius, 7th grade ELA teacher, prepares to share tips for meditation and mindfulness and the classroom and beyond.

A long-enduring adage claims that many teachers choose the vocation of teaching namely because they get to take the summers off. Last Wednesday’s power-packed Faculty Summer Share Out, however, indicates that such a sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth. Last Wednesday at the North Campus, sixteen faculty presented resources, ideas, and wisdom gleaned from a variety of experiences they had this summer. The twelve separate breakout sessions were inspired by a range of adventures: from visiting The Number Lab’s Educators’ Collaboratory in Austin, TX; to finding a book that transformed their approach to writing assignments; to globetrotting travel/conferencing in Japan, Ecuador, and Malaysia.

Katelyn Kyser reports out on her summer adventures with the Library of Congress Teacher Institute in Washington DC, passionate about sharing the range of pre-compiled primary sources available to educators across a wide range of disciplines and age levels.

Bummed you missed the event or couldn’t make it to every session? Have no fear! Many presenters have compiled resources they presented which are hyperlinked to their session titles in our session schedule HERE. Faculty at the North Campus can also stay tuned, because there is talk of an encore session of the Faculty Summer Share Out in an upcoming Late Wednesday. Want another way to re-live the great conversations from last week? Click here to view pictures and videos from the amazing breakout sessions.

Faculty sharing, growing, thinking, and learning together. . . this is the heart of i2.

What I Mean When I Say “Innovation”

WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and 
measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much 
applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman 


When the word innovation enters the scene, Walt Whitman isn’t usually the first name to come to mind.  Innovation is supposed to be in the purview of the Bill Gates, the Mike Zukerbergs, Steve Jobs. Innovation elicits locations like Silicon Valley, materials that are sleek and digital.  It generally does not usher forth the “mystical moist night-air.”

I argue, however, that Walt Whitman’s “When I heard the learn’d astronomer” offers a stellar mantra for innovation.  And it may not be merely for the reasons you might think. Whitman’s poem is generally touted as a critique on traditional education, a big, sweeping, impossible-to-miss, “I love nature and am the most important poet of the American Romantic Movement” kind of gesture.    

But when I read the poem, I see something different.  I think that the narrator has a compelling encounter with nature, not in spite of, but because of that learn’d astronomer. I see the startling combustion of the theoretical lit up by practical, the juxtaposition of impressive academic knowledge and grounded, real world reality.  I think the “perfect silence” of the stars feels much more perfect when stargazing is informed by the science that has sharpened our imagination of the universe. Alternatively, “the charts and diagrams” of astronomy are only enlivened once they are experienced in concert with the night sky.  In the first half of the poem, the narrator is being invited into a discourse community with others, signaled by the reference to the “loud applause.” In the second half, he wanders off, drawn by his individual passion and experience. There, again is that magical combo of both being initiated into the scientific community by gaining access to shared knowledge and the opportunity to follow your individual interest, led by your heart.

I argue that the best education is never an either/or enterprise, but always both, and I think innovative teaching isn’t just about engaging this particular generation of youth.  It’s welcoming the synergy of the powerful one-two punch of logic and emotion. It’s about seeing how the content in the classroom is all tangled up with the swirl of the world. It is about becoming more human together.   That is probably why when I read this poem about the astronomer, it reminded me a lot of St. Andrew’s. In the five years I’ve experienced the school as a parent, I’ve watched my first-second-third child be both emotionally and academically engaged.  In the month or so I’ve been here professionally, I’ve seen both the spirit of the night sky and the lecture hall in vivid display, often in the same lesson. St. Andrew’s can continue to be both traditionally rigorous and pedagogically innovative.  There is room for both. In fact, the two bolster each other.  Innovation and inspiration emerge out of the collision of the academic and the real world.  That spirit is alive and well here.

As a celebration of that spirit, the i2 Team presents this blog as a space for faculty innovators to share highlights of what they have going on in their classrooms.  Every other week, we hope to feature another faculty member that is taking risks, trying new things, and making a difference from the lecture halls to the night sky. We hope to curate the hard work you all do across both campuses to spread the momentum, the spirit that has always been at the heart of the incredible quality of teaching and learning at St. Andrew’s.  We hope that this blog will emphasize the myriad of flavors of innovation and inspiration taking place in classrooms ranging from the effervescent three year olds to our seniors, on the cusp of world-changing themselves. Thank you in advance for sharing your stories with us. We will become better teachers, better humans because of it.