Episode 009: Interview with Andrew Rose

Education, Education Podcast

Andrew Rose in an ELL Instructional Facilitator in the OKCPS district with a background as a high school World History and English teacher. He works with teachers in specific schools through professional development and in Professional Learning Communities on ways to support English Language Learners.

For my interview with Andrew, we spoke specifically about Newcomers. Newcomers are English Language Learners (ELL) who have recently arrived to the United States. They may be in Kindergarten or 10th grade. The focus on teaching Newcomers has become an education hot topic – so much so the US government has created a resource for teachers to guide them through meeting the needs of students who fall into this category. Check it out here – Newcomers Toolkit.

Below are the questions I prepared to ask Andrew (there were some follow up questions in the podcast that are not included below):

  1. Share about your background/experience in education.
  2. Explain the work you do for OKCPS.
  3. When are students considered a newcomer and what does that term mean?
  4. What is the difference between the classification of a newcomer and the umbrella category of English language learning student?
  5. Why is it important for teachers to understand this difference? Should it impact the teaching strategies that they use?
  6. What are the main obstacles teachers come across when teaching students considered to be newcomers?
  7. What are the main struggles for students who are considered newcomers?
  8. What interventions are most effective for teachers to use when working with students considered to be newcomers?
  9. What recommendations do you have for teachers working with parents of newcomers?
  10. What are some resources that you direct teachers to?
  11. What other advice do you have for teachers?

Design Tunnel

Education, Podcast

I’m so excited to announce that we are now recording at Design Tunnel studio in downtown OKC. Design Tunnel is a marketing and video production company. You can check out their website or connect with them on Twitter @DesignTunnel_OK and FacebookDT logo

DT Pic

First interview at Design Tunnel with Alberto Jiménez Hidalgo. Talking about technology in the Early Childhood Classroom.

Episode 008: Interview with April Mickelson

Education, Education Podcast, Instructional


April Mickelson is a remedial specialist at Jackson Enterprise in Oklahoma City Public Schools. She started out as a kindergarten teacher (which is my favorite grade too) and now as a remedial specialist she serves her school as a reading interventions, lead professional development facilitator and a literacy coach.

The Balanced Literacy approach has 8 components: read aloud, guided reading, shared reading, interactive writing, shared writing, Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop and Word study. Balanced Literacy combines the ideas behind whole language and phonics programs. This approach to literacy allows the ELA teacher to look at the big picture of teaching reading and language arts.

Below are the questions I prepared to ask April (there were some follow up questions in the podcast that are not included below):

  1. Share about your education background/experience.
  2. What is the Balanced Literacy approach?
  3. What are the main components of Balanced Literacy?
  4. Why is the Balanced Literacy approach superior to other literacy programs?
  5. Describe a Balanced Literacy lesson.
  6. What would the lesson plan need to have in it? i.e., what would need to be different about lesson planning for a Balanced Literacy approach has opposed to other lesson plans?
  7. What are mini-lessons? What should be included in a mini-lesson?
  8. When you enter into a classroom, what do you look for in a classroom using a Balanced Literacy approach?
  9. What are the practical steps for teachers who need to being implementing a Balanced Literacy approach?
  10. What advice would you give teachers who are on the fence about implementing a Balanced Literacy approach?
  11. What are your go to resources for Balanced Literacy?

Episode 007: Interview with Brandi Sickler

Education, Education Podcast

Brandi Sickler is one of my favorite people. I could have interviewed her about anything! She is a kindergarten teacher at Tulakes Elementary in Putnam City Schools. Brandi has taught in early childhood classrooms for 11 years, has her masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), and runs a blog called Teach.Empower.Kinder. You can find her on Twitter @brandi_sickler and on Facebook.

For this interview we focused on Brandi’s passion for Flexible Seating (linked is her blog post that includes pictures of her classroom). Flexible Seating has recently taken off in classrooms from PK to twelfth grade. I love the idea of having a relaxing and open classroom. In this episode, Brandi talks me through how she finally took the plunge and gives her practical advice to teachers considering a change in their classroom set-up.

Below are the questions I prepared to ask Brandi (there were some follow up questions in the podcast that are not included below):

  1. Tell us about your teaching history/ educational experience.
  2. What gave you the idea to start flexible seating in your classroom?
  3. How did you get started?
  4. What types of flexible seating do you provide in your classroom?
  5. What materials and supplies do you provide to your students that support flexible seating?
  6. How have your parents responded to flexible seating in your classroom? Students?
  7. Have you noticed changes in student engagement? Achievement?
  8. What advice would you give other teachers interested in making the change to flexible seating?

Episode 004: Interview with Jamie Gibbons

Education, Education Podcast, Policy

The Teacher Walkout! April 2, 2018 has come and gone and educators across the state of Oklahoma are in Day 5 of the teacher walkout. So much has happened and while I wasn’t planning on releasing an episode of Passing Notes this week, I felt like I needed to. So, I sat down and interviewed Jamie Gibbons, an OKCPS teacher about her reflections on what has happened and the work that still needs to be done.

Share your thoughts and reflections from this week in the comments section.

Episode 003: Interview with Claudia Swisher, Part B

Education, Education Podcast, Policy

Interview with Claudia Swisher continued.

Episode 002: Interview with Claudia Swisher, Part A

Education, Education Podcast, Policy

I have followed Claudia Swisher on Twitter @ClaudiaSwisher and on her blog Fourth Generation Teacher for years. She has truly been an advocate for education throughout her 39-year teaching career and now into retirement. Over the years I have learned from Claudia the importance of advocacy and persistence in the face of seeming defeat.  Claudia has taught students at every grade-level in the K-12 system as an elementary classroom teacher, a school media specialist, a multi-categorical resource special education teacher, a title 1 remedial reading teacher, and a high school English teacher. She is certified in English Language Arts, library media, and reading specialist with a graduate degree and 20 hours past a masters in special education. Oh and she is a National Board Certified Teacher.

However, this quote by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, which she proudly displays on both her Facebook and Twitter pages, sums her up and her life mission: “Be a nuisance where it counts; do you part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged, and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics – but never give up!”

The Teacher Walkout in the state of Oklahoma has been a true grassroots movement, spring boarded by the 9-day teacher walkout in West Virginia, where teacher pay was ranked at 47th. Oklahoma teachers banned together through the use of social media to plan, strategize, and get union leaders on board. The potential walkout in Oklahoma is remarkable, as it is not been pulled together by teachers rallying around a bill, was not union started, and is coming on the heels of two failed special sessions that failed to fund core services in our state. Further, this upcoming walkout is inclusive and is calling for state employees to join the cause. It is not just about teachers but our legislators failure to increase revenue and fund the government. The OEA has demanded that the legislator fund a teacher and support staff pay raise, increase funds to education, and fund a raise for state employees.

It is truly amazing what a group of dedicated, civically involved individuals can do to better our society. Further our students and children are watching. We are modeling for them democracy in action.