classroom community · collaboration · culture · leadership · learning · professional development · professional learning · professional learning community · professional learning network · school leaders · teacher leadership · Uncategorized

The Shift from Teaching to a Culture of Learning

As educators, we talk all the time about creating a culture of learning in our classrooms.  We want to inspire our students to be intrinsically motivated to learn, but we often fail to model those expectations for them nor do we provide the classroom climate to provide space for it.  Creating a culture of learning requires that we put intentional thought behind the environments we create for learners of all kinds.

It’s clear from the absence of blog posts in the last two years on this page that my mind has been occupied elsewhere.  I took a chance in the summer of 2019 for a new job at a new school in a new district and ended up exactly where I was meant to be.  If you know anything about my journey up to that point, you know that it was not easy.  I’d always had a knack for dreaming big and stepping outside of my comfort zone in the classroom.  Being innovative and thinking outside the box are kind of my jam.  And I am and always have been a champion for students.  I believe that they can, and will, make our world a better place.

More than anything, I love to learn about how to be a better teacher, how to better serve our students, and how to collaborate better with my fellow teachers by listening to a good podcast or reading a book that challenged my practices.  In the past when I went to share my learning with others, I was usually on an island.  Every once in a while I’d find a willing colleague who’d say, “Why not? Let’s do it.” In my last year as a classroom teacher (2018-2019), that support was non-existent.  I struggled with burnout, frustration, workplace bullies, anxiety, depression, and more.


When I took the leap and stepped into my new role in the summer of 2019, I had no idea what to expect other than I’d get to work with students and teachers, which is something that I’d been looking to do for a while.  What I found were my place and my people.

In my current role, I have the perfect blend of a classroom teacher and instructional coach.  While I spend two hours of my day teaching community-centered courses (where I implement a project-based learning approach aimed at transforming community), I spend the rest of my day supporting teachers and staff in pursuit of a true student-centered vision for learning.  I work in a community that values the power of people and the gifts they bring to the table and is actively working to elevate those gifts for the good of others.  However, I think my absolute favorite part of my “new’ position and the team that I work with is that we embody a true culture of learning.


As educators, we talk all the time about creating a culture of learning in our classrooms.  We want to inspire our students to be intrinsically motivated to learn, but we often fail to model those expectations for them nor do we provide the classroom climate to provide space for it.  The same is true for those in teaching roles and those in support roles, such as instructional coaches, as well as school and district leadership.  If we want students to develop a lifelong passion for learning, we have to show them what happens when we have one.  A learning culture hinges on two main dispositions: reflection and inquiry.


First, we must be constantly reflecting upon our priorities, practices, and progress.  In schools, it’s easy to roll out an initiative at the beginning of the year and not touch it again until May.  Learning requires that we continuously reflect upon what is and what is not working.  As a first-year teacher, I kept a journal to reflect.  These days, most of my reflection happens in collaborative teams where I can share my ideas with others and get feedback.

Reflective Questions for Small Groups:

  1. What’s going well right now?
  2. What tensions do we feel?
  3. What’s one thing we can do tomorrow/next week/over the next month that will move us forward faster?
  4. What has been most helpful?  Least helpful?

Secondly, we have to acquire a sense of curiosity and inquiry.  If we are not asking questions, we’re not growing.  At the beginning of the year, I developed a driving question that has guided my work throughout the year.  This question, which is “What does it mean to be a community?” is on my classroom website so it can be viewed by students and colleagues alike.  I am not going to lie to you and say that everything I’ve read or listened to this year has directly tied back to that driving question.  However, it has helped me develop a lens through which I’m consuming content.  The professional books and podcasts I’ve dug into this year have helped to contribute positively to the work my team and I are doing.

Ways to Develop Sustained Inquiry:

  1. Develop a driving question that guides your work.
  2. Get good at asking questions.  Ask them for yourself and those around you.
  3. Gather others to learn together.


A missing piece between learning and reflecting is often creating.  We have to do something with what we learn so that we can reflect upon its impact in our classrooms and/or our lives.  Whether you are reading this as a fellow educator, an entrepreneur, or you just stumbled upon this post after a random sequence of events, you know of stagnant people.  There are those who, it seems no matter how hard they’re working, fail to make progress.  That’s because in between inquiry and reflection, there has to be a change or, what I call, creation.   When one of these three pieces is missing, it’s hard to make or see progression toward a goal.  This constant cycle of inquiry – creation – reflection – inquiry will ensure that we are committed to learning and growing as individuals, as organizations, and as a community as a whole.

I am so fortunate to be working in a place that really embraces a culture of learning from as small as the classroom environment to the broader community as a whole. My colleagues and I are actively working to create change and see an impact.  I’d love to hear more about your personal journey in being part of a culture of learning.  What made that environment powerful to you?  What are some other ways to build a culture of learning in our schools and organizations?

Curious about some of my older blog posts around classroom culture?  Check out this post about how I built classroom community or this one on my favorite hour of the week.

behavior management · classroom · classroom community · classroom management · collaboration · cultural competency · culturally responsive teaching · new teacher · Uncategorized

Leading Your Classroom Community on Love

Here’s the truth about me:  I run a classroom on love.

Here’s another truth about me:  I am a terrible teacher.

No really, I am.  If you were to walk into my classroom at any given moment, I cannot promise that you won’t see students up walking around, talking to their neighbors, making jokes, laughing, and sometimes yelling (hey, passion is loud).  The floor is probably messy, there are papers hanging out of desks, books are scattered all over the carpet, and there are half-finished posters hanging on the wall.  If you were to pass by us in the hallways, you may see students smiling at each other, laughing, and, I promise, we are not standing in a straight line facing in one direction.  There are probably shirts untucked, belts missing, and a couple of my students may be wearing a jacket with a logo on it.

It drives people crazy.  I know it does.

What Other People Think about a Classroom Community of Love

I see the looks of disapproval in the hallway and the stress on their faces when they walk into my room.  I see that uncomfortable look on their faces and for a second, my stomach drops.  I get nervous that I am not doing something correctly.  I quickly think about the student who’s crawling across the floor looking for the pencil and I snap at them to get to their seat immediately.

“We have to look presentable when others walk in.”

It’s what I immediately think.  I apologize to whoever walks in and tell them they walked in during a transition and that it doesn’t always look this crazy, but deep down, I know the truth.

My students know the truth too.  The visitors probably know the truth too and I am naively assuming they think I “have it all together.”

I don’t have it all together.  But my students and I, we’ve got it all, together.

That’s cheesy.  I realize that.   But I wholeheartedly mean that.

What My Students Think about a Classroom Community of Love

I came back to school on a Friday after being out for a conference.  In my mailbox, there was a stack of letters from my students that they had written for me for Teacher Appreciation week.  They said things like:

“I like my teacher because she’s fun.”

“My favorite thing about my teacher is she is always herself.”

“My teacher’s superpower would be creativity.”

“My favorite thing about my teacher is she always makes boring stuff to halfway decent stuff.”

“She gives you chances.”

‘My favorite thing about my teacher is that she’s funny.”

“My teacher’s superpower would be nerd power.”

“My favorite thing about my teacher is she lets us get on the Chromebook almost every day.”

“One thing I want my teacher to know is that I love her.”

I know some of you reading this are thinking:  What is wrong with her? They never do any work.  They spend all day having fun, playing on the computer, and folding paper planes.

Actually, no. Not really.  We do work.  We do a lot of work.  We do a lot of hard work.  But my students don’t think of that when they’re asked to reflect on their relationship with their teacher.  They don’t think of their relationship with me tied to work or learning.  Why is that?  Is it that they haven’t learned anything all year?  Is it because they aren’t working daily on improving who they are as readers, writers, mathematicians, and critical thinkers?

No… it’s because while they’re working on all of those “school” things, they are also working on becoming better friends, sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters.  They are working on becoming kind, compassionate, creative, strong-willed, independent, self-reliant, and loving human beings.

They won’t remember that six-page reading assignment aligned to the Common Core standards that took them an hour to do in 10, 20, or 30 years.  But when they look back on their time with me, they will remember…

  • times during recess that they busted out laughing with their friends;
  • the puzzles and projects they worked on together;
  • the jokes that their teacher made to lighten the mood and wake them up in the morning; and
  • the fact that their teacher loved them.
Proof that I am, in fact, a mess.
What I Think about a Classroom Community of Love

I’m going off on a tangent here, so let me get back to my point.  My point is that I am a terrible teacher.   Let be super clear with you here:  I am a terrible teacher in the sense that I can’t always get my students to stand in a straight line and I haven’t figured out the best way to remind them to put their names on their papers.  I don’t always remember where I laid down the papers I was about to hand out five seconds ago.  I trip over my words, I make mistakes when teaching math, I sometimes let my students work on busy work while I sit at my desk for a few minutes and take a breather.

However, those moments are rare because I hate pushing students to be compliant for the sake of being compliant.  So, to outsiders, it might look like my class is out of control and all over the place.  In fact, in talking to a parent the other day, my principal referred to my classroom management style as laissez-faire and I took it as a compliment (and I think that’s the way he meant it) until I looked up the actual definition.

LAISSEZ FAIRE:  a policy or attitude of letting things take their own course, without interfering

In truth, if my classroom was run in a true laissez-faire manner, it would look the scene from Lord of the Flies where there is a pig’s head on a stake and blood all over the place.  The real truth is that my classroom environment is not the result of accidental neglect, but rather months and months of intentionality.

The Intention Behind a Classroom Community of Love

You see, every year, while I’m building classroom routines and expectations, signing classroom constitutions, and trying to review with my students how to subtract with regrouping, I’m also working on several little things that I didn’t even realize were a part of my classroom management plan until, well, this week, when I felt like someone brought them into question.  These things, I’ve realized recently, are what keep my classroom functioning through the chaos.  Even though we have a classroom set of rules designed by students that focus on responsibility, respect, and safety, I have two additional unspoken rules for myself that guide me through the year.

Love them first and always.


Make things fun.

Love Them First and Always

My first unspoken rule is to love them first and always.  On the first day of school, as my students are leaving the classroom, I tell them, individually: “I love you and I’ll see you tomorrow!”  Most of them are taken aback at first because they’ve never heard a teacher say I love you to their face.  And, truth be told, it feels a little forced on that first day for me too.  But it sets the tone.  It tells them that I love them, unconditionally, JUST BECAUSE they are in my class.  I love them, even though I don’t really know them, and that they don’t have to earn my love, they already have it.

Then, I say it every day after that and I show them that I love them through my actions by caring about their problems, working with them to find solutions, treating them with respect, and listening to them.  It sounds woo-woo, but it works.  When students realize that you love them, even when they act unpleasant, even when they forget their homework, even when they make a mistake, a strange and wonderful thing happens:  they develop a love for you too.

A lot of teachers will say that their classroom runs on respect, but I caution you to consider that respect will only get you so far.  You may respect your boss, but you’re not going over a bridge with them.  People will literally do anything for someone they love.  (Disclaimer:  I AM NOT ASKING MY STUDENTS GO OVER A BRIDGE WITH ME.) Those tough kids, they need your love most of all, and once they understand that you’re not going to take it away because you’re not “feeling it” today, they will work for you.  I promise.  I’ve seen it over and over and over again.

Make Things Fun

My second unspoken rule is to make things fun.  I literally cannot stand even the most mundane tasks (must be the Aries in me), but it is so much harder watching someone else do mundane tasks just for the sake of doing them.  Every day, I try to add a little something-something to the classroom to make it more fun.

Sometimes, it’s playing a game as part of a lesson or working with partners or sitting wherever they want for a half hour.  Sometimes, it’s cracking a joke in the middle of class or busting out a dance break.  Sometimes, it’s a fully-designed flipped lesson on the Chromebooks, which they love and takes most of the work off of me.  Whatever it is, I try to make sure that there is something joyful in every day so that they can remember that fun thing they did today with Mrs. Woods, even if it has nothing to do with the actual work they did.

I am a terrible teacher, in that my room is always a little messy and I may not return graded papers in a timely manner.  But, I am also a good teacher.  I love my students and we have fun together, all while working and learning and growing and being better versions of ourselves.  My classroom isn’t run in a laissez-faire manner, it’s run on LOVE and JOY and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Reader, as you’re reflecting on your own classroom management style and your interactions with your students, I challenge you to think about unspoken rules that you have in your classroom.  Are there underlying themes that help your classroom run?  What would they be?  Please share them in the comments below – I look forward to reading all about them!

classroom · classroom community · education · Uncategorized

How I Build Relationships with My Students in Just One Hour

My absolute favorite part about being a teacher is the relationships that I get to build with my students.  Strong relationships are something that I pride myself on as a teacher and I am constantly working on building those relationships.  At my previous school, it was super easy to build those relationships.  I lived and worked in the same neighborhood, so volunteering after school was an activity that I did often and I was able to spend tons of quality time with my students (and coworkers) outside of the school day.  In addition, I saw my students out of the school building all the time.  I would run into them at the grocery store, parks, and restaurants and I absolutely LOVED hearing my name being yelled when I was out somewhere.


Since I moved schools and I live almost a half hour from my current school, building relationships with my students and their families have been more difficult.  In fact, it has made teaching almost unbearable, though I’ve made a strong effort to change that this year.  The first step that I took was moving from teaching third grade to fifth grade.  I knew that I would have many of the same students for a second round, so I was ecstatic to make the jump and continue building those relationships that we started in third grade.  That move was only the tip of the iceberg, however.


At the beginning of the school year, I told my students about how my husband and I enjoy playing table-top role-playing games (RPGs) like Dungeons and Dragons.  While some of them laughed at my nerdy-ness, more of them were intrigued about what roleplaying games were and how you play them.  I’m not going to lie, I indulged them every question because I absolutely LOVE talking about it!  Soon after, they started begging me to teach them how to play during our short 20-minute recess block.


If you know anything about table-top RPGs, you know it is impossible to play during a 20 minute period, so I recruited my husband we started an after-school RPG club for 4th and 5th-grade students at my school.  We spend an hour a week playing a watered down version of the Pathfinder game.  We use a simplified character sheet that I found online and spent a couple of sessions introducing races and classes, as well as building characters before we split the 24 kids into two groups to start campaigning.


One hour a week has made all the difference.  For the last 4 months, I have been spending time with my students – inside and outside of the school day – discussing and playing a game that we both love.  I get to use my creative juices as the game master (which I’d never done before!) and my students get to build their critical thinking, imagination, and teamwork skills.  It has changed the way that I interact with my students the classroom, it has changed my enthusiasm for going to work, and it’s given my husband a chance to feel connected to my work as a teacher and spend time with the students I can’t stop talking about.  It’s a win-win for everyone involved.


Maybe table-top RPGs are not your jam and, maybe, you struggle to find the time to volunteer after school, but I challenge you with this:  Find something that you and your students can connect through.  Maybe it’s an afterschool art club or board game club.  Maybe you want to have a short before school coffee chat (with hot chocolate for the kiddos, of course!) or a writing club. Find something that creates a true, genuine connection and builds lasting relationships with your students, so that when they look back on their time with you, they remember how much they enjoyed being with you.



My Week of Teaching in Review: November 11, 2017

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post.  To be honest, I have a hard time coming up with ideas that I think might be of interest to you.  But I love writing, so I decided to start a weekly post called My Teaching Week in Review.  I love, love, love the time I spend with my kiddos each week and I can’t wait to start sharing that with you.  Here’s a peek into what we did this week!

Literacy is my absolute favorite subject to teach and I love using Pixar shorts to expose students to new concepts.  These short videos are not only extremely well made (uh, hello, Pixar!), but they’re also usually dialogue free.  Students have to use their inferencing skills to figure out what is going on.  This week we continued learning about central message and talked about character motivation.  To help us understand what motivation is and how it affects a story, we watched Partly Cloudy, a film about a cloud who creates babies to send to Earth.  It is such a cute story and my students LOVED watching it.  Plus, it helped their understanding of character motivation so much and they were able to apply the concept to the story we were reading.  I can’t wait to use La Luna next week!  Check out the full list of Pixar shorts and literacy strategies here.  I apologize because I found this list on Pinterest years ago and I’m not sure who or where it came from.  If you know, please do tell so I can give credit.

My students completely engaged during a viewing Partly Cloudy.

We got to have a board game party this week!  My school implements a school-wide behavior incentive program called PAWS.  If a class or student is caught showing exceptional behavior, they earn a paw and the class in each grade level with the most paws for the week wins.  For every 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 10th time you win, you get to spin the wheel of rewards – and this week, we spun to win a board game party.  Thursday afternoon we took a field trip to the cafeteria and students got to choose from a variety of games to play.  They had a BLAST!  It was a nice break from the normal day-to-day routine, plus it allowed them to work on social and cooperative skills… which some of them really needed.  😄  In addition, it allowed me to see some of their strengths and skills outside of the classroom, which I always love!

Since today is Veteran’s Day, we also had a visitor from the Army National Guard come to our classroom to speak about her job and other military jobs on Thursday.  She is the mother of one of my students and my class loved asking her questions about how difficult her job is, the food she eats in the military, and more.  I was very proud of how respectful they were, even if their questions were a little weapon heavy sometimes.  😒

Army National Guard Member Sturtivan visiting our classroom for Veteran’s Day.

Finally, I spent most of the week assessing my students using the Developmental Spelling Analysis.  It was developed by Kathy Ganske.  We took this assessment when school started back in August, so it was great to see how much growth they’ve made since then.  I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a nerd, so I loved pouring over the data and creating new word study groups for my students.  I’ll let you know more about that next week!

Oh – and the best part of the week – I got to spend a night out with my teaching besties!  We enjoyed a night or dinner and fun.  It was nice to step away from the classroom for a little bit and spend time with each other.  We should definitely do it more often!

Enjoy your week, teachers!


You. Are. Enough.

It’s that time of year.  The never-ending month that is March is coming to a close and Spring Break is here.  After break, we have 4 weeks until the dreaded K-PREP test and only 33 days until the last day of school.

It’s one of my favorite times of the year:  the impending summer, the smell of freedom is in the air.  But it’s also a time of reflection.  I start to worry:  did I do enough?  Could I have done something differently?  Do I have enough time to help *that* student make at least some progress?

The answer to all of those questions is yes.  Yes, I did enough.  I worked my heart out, as I’m sure you did too.  I put my sweat and tears (more than I’d like to admit) into helping my students grow.  Did it work?  For most of them, yes.  I have the data to prove it. (Don’t we all?)

Yes, I could have done a million things differently.  I could have taught that unit a bit slower, should have spent more time on this or that.  As a teacher, we make adjustments every day.  I learn from one class to the next, from one week to another.  I made constant adjustments.  Could I have made more?  Absolutely.  But I did what I knew in my heart to be what’s best for my students at that particular time.  Next year, I will review and do better.  I will do in my heart what is best for the next group of kiddos when they get to me.

Yes, I do have enough time to help *that* student.  It is never too late to make a difference.  I cannot and will not give up on him or her.  We will keep working until the last moment, when I hug them goodbye and send them on.

My point of is this:  You did fine.  You, with your tired eyes and weary heart, you did fine.  You made a difference.  You helped students grow.  You spent hours and hours slaving away, in and out of the classroom, dreaming of them and talking your significant other’s ear off about them.

I know you’ve talked about them, dreamt about them, cried about them.  I know that, at this point in the year, you are about ready to say “Good riddance!”  But I also know, if you’re anything like me, you will cry your eyes out when they walk out those doors for the last time.

You’ve only got a few weeks left.  Enjoy them.  Make the most of them.  Keep the learning going and keep the excitement high.  Go out big!

You can do this, teacher, because you are enough.  Remember that.


My Thanks Givings

Did you know that the Pilgrims would not have considered their first harvest feast a true thanksgiving?  To the Pilgrims, thanksgiving was a day for giving thanks to God for their many blessings.  Their harvest feast was simply a feast, lasting three days in which they sang secular songs, played games, and danced.  Definitely not true “thanksgiving” activities.

It is incredible that the tradition of a true Pilgrim thanksgiving and the celebration of the harvest have combined over the last nearly 400 years.  Most modern day Thanksgivings involve feasting as well as giving thanks to God for the blessings of the past year.  In a world where we are faced with numerous daunting challenges, it is nice to pause and remember the blessings we have received, whether you believe they come from God or not.

My Forever PLC

As a teacher, I have much to be thankful for.  I am thankful for starting over at a new school this year and feeling welcomed.  I am thankful that the transition has been smooth and that, while I’m still adjusting, I know that I have a full system of support from colleagues around me.

I am thankful for my Forever PLC from Watson Lane.  While I don’t get to see them or work with them every day, I know that I can call on them whenever I need.  They are always there with good advice and understanding hearts.

I am thankful for the teacher leadership opportunities that have been introduced to me this past year through Twitter and my #JCPSForward tribe.  Over the past year, I have attended EdCampJCPS, EdCampKY, ECET2Ky, and am helping to plan ECET2Lou.  These opportunities have renewed my teacher spirit and passion for teaching and learning and I am excited to see where they take me.

Having fun at EdCampJCPS

I am thankful for the Bellarmine Literacy Project for helping to transform reading instruction not only in my classroom, but in so many classrooms across JCPS.  I am thankful for my instructors and their ability to constantly fuel my passion for literacy.

I am thankful for a husband who understands the long hours I spend “working.”  I use quotation marks because while I am technically working, this job is a job that I love.  Education is my passion and I would do the work I do whether or not I got paid.

Most of all, though, I am thankful for my students.  My current students, my former students, and my future students.  I do what I do because of them and for them.  I aspire to make the most of my time with them.  Not just for their learning, but mine as well.  I am thankful for their passion for books, their eagerness to learn, their excitement for new things, and their hugs on a hard day.

Take a few minutes to think about what you’re thankful for as a teacher this year.  If nothing else, it will remind you why you get up each morning to do what you do.

Keep inspiring, teachers.


ECET2KY Reflections

I am not a blogger.  The evidence is right here on this blog. I like to write. I journal constantly, but blogging for an audience is a completely different experience.  I’d like to change that, however.  Especially after attending the Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (ECET2) Conference Kentucky state convening this past weekend.  I am ready to share my experience with others!

I have never attended another event that was so laid back, but also extremely professional and packed with inspiration.  ECET2Ky was an experience that was life-changing!  I drove to Lexington, Kentucky from Louisville on Friday night for a meet-and-mingle session and BreakoutEDU game.  If you’ve never played a BreakoutEDU game – either with your students or with other educators – you need to try it!  It is a great way to break the ice and get everyone up and moving.  The best part of the Friday night mingle was getting to meet people that I have followed on Twitter for months.  It was great to finally put a real face with the Twitter handle.

The actual ECET2Ky convening was on Saturday at the Embassy Suites in Lexington.  Over 100 educators from all over the Bluegrass were there to share and learn together.  The day was organized with breakout sessions and short, inspirational speeches by fellow educators reminding us how important our job was and continues to be.

The first breakout session I attended was called “Educational Resources” and was presented by Kentucky teachers Jana Bryant and Kelly Stidham.  These women know their stuff.  They discussed the shift occurring statewide and nationally with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and offered resources to help close the achievement gap.  Some of my favorite resources that they shared are:

They also shared about Educators Rising, which is a program much like Future Farmers of America design to encourage high school students to start thinking about a career in education.  High school educators, does your school have an Educators Rising chapter?  It’s free!
The second breakout session I attended was focused on networking based on the Kentucky Teacher Leadership Framework. The framework itself is a thing of beauty.  You can find it here. This session, moderated by Kip Hottman, Suzanne Farmer, Amy Clancy, Missy Callaway, Meme Ratliff, Jennifer Cox, and Mike Paul (some downright amazing KY educators, if I do say so myself), was all about how to build your teacher networks.  I sat down with Jennifer Cox, principal at East Middle School in Shelbyville, and discussed how to bridge the gap between teachers and administrators.  I walked away with an action plan, probably my biggest take away from ECET2Ky.
from the Kentucky Dept. of Education website
Another one of my favorite parts of ECET2Ky was Colleague Circles.  We wrote and reflected upon individual problems of practice within our schools or districts and then, as a table group, followed a discussion guide to get to the root of the problem and offer solutions.  The intention of the discussion was to propagate a variety of solutions to take back to our individual situations.  My table had a passionate discussion on the disconnect between learning and standardized assessment.  It was inspiriting to see teachers from all across the state come together over such a unifying topic.  And, better than that, each of us walked away with a few strategies to combat the dreaded standardized assessment headache.
We also got goodies.  Who doesn’t love a good professional book?

 I’m not even going to lie to you, my favorite part of ECET2Ky was probably the drive home.  I had almost a full hour and a half of pure reflection.  I was able to process all the events of the day and was able to think about my short and long-term goals proceeding from here on out.  But the most important, most inspiring reflection I had about ECET2KY was this:  It is all about our students. 
I get up every morning for 23 of them.  I get up, take my shower, get myself dressed, and drag myself to school every single day for them.  It is not for the paycheck, though it is nice.  It is not for my colleagues, although they are great.  I get up every day because my students need me.  They expect me there every day to teach them new things, to let them have fun with their friends, to eat lunch with them, and to let them tell me silly stories about their weekend.  I teach them standards, sure, but that is only the tip of the iceberg of what I do.  Our job as educators goes so much deeper than just teaching and assessing.  We have the ability to create the ultimate butterfly effect (see Andy Andrews book above). Each action we make throughout a school day can change the trajectory of a student’s life forever.  The burden is large, but the reward is so much bigger.
I could talk forever about my experience at ECET2KY, but it really is something you need to experience for yourself.  To my fellow JCPS educators, go ahead and nominate yourself or a colleague for #ECET2Lou in February.  You can find more information and the nomination form here:  I’ll see you guys in February!

UPDATED 2-2-17:  ECET2Lou 2017 was a success!  Check out one of our most memorable moments here.