Moving on the HISEF and AZSEF

Congratulations to our 12 science fair teams who are moving on to HISEF and AZSEF.


Have you #Eduheard?

LISTEN flickr photo by brittreints shared under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin’ a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it’s a movement.

Arlo Guthrie, “Alice’s Restaurant” (1967)

Let’s do it. Let’s start our own movement. A movement of listening, of truly hearing and reflecting on what happens around us every day.

For me the #eduheard movement started in May 2014. It started when my colleague Jennifer Nusbaum (@NusKnights) Tweeted the following:

Not something you hear everyday in a 5th grade classroom. But this is no ordinary classroom. But you wouldn’t have any sense of our classroom community – or maybe just a limited sense – if you didn’t live and work with our team of gifted learners. Sure we post pictures and videos on Instagram daily. Sure we use Remind to communicate to parents about homework and classwork and upcoming events. But there’s something special about the words coming out of our students’ mouths that is challenging to capture at that moment. We could ask students to repeat what they said, assuming it’s #eduheard worthy, but it lacks the magic the first time it was spoken.

So how do you capture these moments? Well, it’s certainly not about tools like Soundcloud or GarageBand. It’s more about being a deep listener and taking time filtering all of the words you hear throughout the day.

You might hear something unexpected.

It might be content related.

It might be deep.

It might be how young people understand their world.

It might be something so ridiculous that you simply have to preserve the memory.

And that’s what #eduheard is all about. Preserving the words we hear every day that will disappear if we don’t listen, reflect and share. #Eduheard is not a movement…yet. That’s why we need your help. Listen to those around you. Your students. Your colleagues. Your family. Your community. Share on Twitter or any of your favorite social channels. Be sure to include #eduheard so we can all listen to what you hear and bookmark the Twitter stream.


(Re)Engaged for 2017


flickr photo by buistbunch shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Engaged. Or rather (re)engaged. That’s my word for 2017.

Every day for the past six months that word has stared at me, a sticker on the left side of my laptop’s keyboard. But was I really engaged? Did it mean anything to me, a constant reminder of part of my role as an educator? At times yes. But more often, no. It’s hard to admit to yourself that you’re not giving 100% every day. That you’re not being the best you that you can be. That you’re not being the person you need to be to those around you, who depend on your attention, guidance, and leadership.

When I chose the word in July, it meant something to me. It meant that this year, my 19th as a teacher was going to be different (as each year always is). But more than different, it was going to be better – dare I say the best? I had just come off a tremendous professional high, being recognized as the city’s top educator, and honor I shared with one of my dearest friends and colleagues. So the pressure was on. If I was truly THE educator of the year, then I better start acting like it.

I could feel it slipping over the past several years. The passion, the stress, the commitment. All dipping to all-time lows. 2016-2017 was going to be the year. It was going to be the year that I (re)defined myself as an educational leader. But things got in the way. Things like prostate cancer. And while any cancer is a BIG thing, it was certainly not the end of the world for me. Thanks to my wife, I caught it early and appear to be cancer free. But the reality that I was sick, the unknown, the recovery certainly took its toll. I’ve been back at work for six weeks now and I’ve haven’t caught my wave yet. But I know it’s coming, because my students deserve the best me I can be.

So I plan to re-engage with each and every student each and every day for the rest of the school year…and beyond. A handshake. A high five. A hug. Positive feedback on an assignment. Helping them fail. Helping them succeed. Asking them to answer questions. Asking them to question answers. Whatever it takes for me to be whoever 112 Knox Gifted Academy 5th graders need me to be or need me to do or need me to say.

But re-engaging doesn’t just happen for me in the classroom. I need to re-engage with me wife. We need to be a couple again. We need time for the two of us. I also need to re-engage with me two daughters. We need to talk about life. We need to work on our relationships.

I need to re-engage with my PLN. I recently read a post by Dean Shareski about making a conscious effort to make social media more social. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook should not simply be about posting content, but rather it should be about building relationships and creating stories. I need to be more in tune with my Voxer groups. I need to participate in more Twitter chats, maybe even initiating some. I need to contribute more to Slack groups. I need and respond to read other’s writing. I need to have conversations about books I’m reading.

I need to re-engage with incomplete projects. I need to finish the Arduino tutorial. I need to redesign a 3D print for Ultimaker. I need to learn Raspberry Pi. I need to learn how to sew.

I realize I have a daunting task in front of me, re-engaging in almost every facet of my life. The good news is I have 365 days to accomplish my goal. But I’m not going to wait to get started. In fact, I’m re-engaging with writing by publishing this piece.

So my goal for 2017 is to re-engage. What’s yours? I’d love to engage in conversations about what’s on your horizon.




It Doesn’t Hurt To Ask

Photo Credit: cpalmieri via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: cpalmieri via Compfight cc

You know the saying, “What’s the worst thing they can say, no?” Well that certainly applies to social media. I asked Nirvan Mulick (@nirvan) to Google+ Hangout with our 5th graders when they built their own cardboard arcade. I asked several teachers in other states to collaborate on a problem-based learning project – thanks @MrBillySpicer, @LLacrosse, and @venspired. I’ve asked parents to share their field of expertise with my students. In every one of these cases, I’ve used Twitter orFacebook or Google+ to connect with others.

Recently I began following @AstronautAbby. Her dream of becoming the first astronaut on Mars made me think about a project we’re working on with our fifth graders from Knox Gifted Academy. As I began to dig deeper into her blog, I realized that this was someone I had to have my students connect with. So I asked. And she said yes.

Below is the Google+ Hangout from Thursday, March 28.

The power of social media is that is connects people who might not otherwise have a reason to meet in person. I can ask a film director in Los Angeles to check out our cardboard creations. I can ask teachers in Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri to work together on a series of engineering tasks. And I can ask a 15 year old aspiring astronaut to share her story to a group of fifth graders.

One person’s connections can help another person meet or exceed their goals. So if you’d like to contribute to Abby’s mission to get to Kazakhstan, please visit her RocketHub site.

And, Abby, thanks for saying yes.

Thanks For My Pen

Photo Credit: cygnoir via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: cygnoir via Compfight cc

Tomorrow morning the school district for which I’ve worked for the past 15 years will be honoring me and other teachers based on milestone years of service. In fact, the 15 year milestone is the first time teachers and classified staff are recognized. And for our dedication to our craft, we get a pen. Now I’m not being ungrateful. Quite the contrary. I will cherish this pen, because it means so much to me.  And I wouldn’t be walking across the Chandler Center for the Arts stage tomorrow without the help and support of some significant people.

First, I want to thank my parents. Sandra Wilcox and David Buist supported me as I made degree and career changes. They supported me when I made both good and bad choices. They pushed me to be the best person I could be.

Next, my wife deserves much of the credit for my success. Being a teacher herself, Melissa Buist recognizes the sweat equity that goes into being a great teacher.

In my 15 years working for Chandler Schools, I’ve had a chance to work with and learn from some amazing people. I want to thank John Kiemele for giving me a chance and hiring me for my first job as a 6th grade teacher. John taught me the value of professional development. I want to thank Gina Vukovich for pushing me to be the best teacher I can be, not just for underprivileged students but for all learners. I want to thank Diane Hale for supporting me and teaching me what it means to be a great teacher for gifted learners.

Finally, I want to thank Jennifer Nusbaum and Albert Notley for being tw0-thirds of an amazing 5th grade team at Knox Gifted Academy. In my 15 years, I have never worked with such a positive, supportive, and creative team.

So when I receive my pen for 15 years of service to my school district, I will be thinking about all the people who have helped make me the teacher and learner that I have become. Thanks for my pen.


International Dot Day

Copyright 2012 Peter H. Reynolds
A FableVision Learning Mini-Poster
This work is licensed under Creative Commons

Several weeks ago I saw quite a few posts from FableVision (@FableVision) about International Dot Day. No disrespect to Peter H. Reynolds (@peterhreynolds), but I didn’t pay too much attention to the event. It wasn’t until I saw a post from Billy Spicer (@MrBillySpicer) that he was participating which made me rethink International Dot Day.

I knew Reynold’s story The Dot, as well as his “sequel” Ish, but didn’t know how the books related to International Dot Day, celebrated on September 15 (the publishing anniversary of The Dot). As I dug deeper and checked out both books from the local library, I realized this day was perfect for my students and the rest of my campus.

Knox Gifted Academy (@KnoxGifted) supports a STEAM curriculum (STEM with Arts). Unfortunately we’ve just begun to tap into the arts and integrate them into the curriculum. Peter Reynold’s message of creativity would be perfect for our kinder through 6th graders.

To prepare for September 15ish, we focused on our own creativity as problem solvers, as artists, and as writers. As a class we spent quite a bit of time planning our Dot Day. The kids wanted to use water colors, make sculptures, play Twister (it’s dot-ish), use the SpinArt app on the iPads, and have a dot-ish snack.




One of the greatest parts of the day was watching my students wear Make Your Mark headbands all day.  It’s clear that these amazing young people get Reynold’s message of making your mark on the world.

Thanks to all of the families who donated supplies for our Dot Day. Thanks to Mrs. Braddock and Mrs. Peterson for volunteering to help some of the art centers. And special thanks for Mrs. Cvijanovich for rallying the troops and making this day possible.

Copyright 2012 Peter H. Reynolds
A FableVision Learning Mini-Poster
This work is licensed under Creative Commons

Singing in Mandarin

As we began to create Knox Gifted Academy (@KnoxGifted), one of the questions that kept coming up was what specials would we offer. Since our focus was STEAM (STEM plus the arts) we knew that performing arts options were paramount. Another idea that came up was offering a foreign language. And based on parent input, we decided that Mandarin Chinese would be the choice.

Once every six days the students in grades K-5 (K-6 next year) are immersed in Chinese culture and language. And while it is a challenge for our non-native Chinese speaking students, all the students are focused, do their homework, and actively participate.

Yesterday, several of my students wanted to spend a few minutes before Mandarin class practicing a song that had been assigned for homework. Within minutes, the students organized themselves from individual singers to small groups to one large Mandarin chorus. Here is what they sounded like.

When Mrs. Zhou entered the room yesterday afternoon she was welcomed by an impromptu chorus and you could just see the joy in her eyes. Way to go, Bunch!