Who/what inspired you to enter into the education field? 

Unlike many people, my desire to become an educator didn’t surface until after I was in college. Though I had some incredible teachers as a young student–my sixth grade teacher Pat Large being the most memorable– I always planned to follow in my dad’s footsteps and have a career in law enforcement, specifically criminal psychology. During college, I had a visit with an FBI agent about potential jobs in the field, and he suggested that I really consider what I wanted my life to look life post-college and to see if this type of career would align with what I had envisioned. In the weeks after, my grandmother had a frank discussion with me about my future, my talents, and my goals and suggested that my true gifts were in teaching and coaching and that I would be wasting them by not pursing a career in education. The next week, I went back to college, changed my major, and began studying English Literature. After being hired to coach collegiate volleyball & working in college admissions at a school in Chicago, I realized that I really could see myself working with students and athletes and enrolled in a master’s program that would prepare me for that career.

Tell us about your family? (children, pets, etc) 

I’ve been married for 17 years and have 3 children: Marcus, 14; Audrey, 12; Bennett, 7.

What is your Teacher Leader Mission? YOUR WHY in the classroom? How do you #LeadTheCHARGE daily? 

My mission as a high school ELA teacher is to facilitate learning opportunities & experiences that challenge my students to think beyond the classroom and develop the thinking, speaking, interpersonal, and problem solving skills necessary to be effective, passionate, and contributing members of 21st century society. I want to make my classroom a space where students can debate, explore, create, and discover not only information about the world, but also about their own thoughts, beliefs, and who they are and want to be in the future. This means creating opportunities for my students to think deeply, write expressively, read extensively, and not only take in the information, but be able to do something with it.

What is one attribute of leadership that you think is critical to possess as a Teacher Leader? Why? 

All leaders need to have the ability to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses. This attribute allows teacher leaders to seek out people, training, and opportunities that will help them to improve their craft. Having a willingness to surround oneself with people who can teach you, train you, and make you better and find resources and learning opportunities to help fill the gaps in your practice & knowledge will ultimately lead to better learning outcomes for students.

What are ways that you engage families as part of the learning in your classroom/school? 

Family engagement is an essential part of what teachers do. As educators, we want to have a holistic approach to helping students learn and grow. This requires that parents work along side educators to ensure that students are supported both at school and home. I try to develop close relationships with parents at the beginning of the year by sending out surveys to be filled out by parents that provides information on the best way to contact them, things their students like, and information they think I need to know about their student. Also, I try to send home positive texts, emails, and notes and focus on the positives as much as possible. Recently, I have discovered how to utilize Wakelet & Flip to digitally showcase to families what my students are doing in the classroom.

What “fingerprint” or lasting impression do you want to leave at your school or on your students? 

Above all else, I want my students to know that they have someone who cares about them personally and individually. My goal is to make personal connections with my students so that I can inspire them to be the very best versions of themselves they can possibly be. That includes giving them the confidence to try new things, develop new skills, and make mistakes all in pursuit of whatever it is they want out of life. I hope they always remember that my high expectations and toughness existed because I could see their potential and wanted them to see it too.

How do you maximize the strengths of those around you? 

I am always looking for ways to help my students and my colleagues showcase the amazing things that they can do and then provide opportunities for them to continue to develop those skills or abilities. I think ultimately simple recognition and acknowledgment go a long way.

What do you like most about teaching? 

The very best thing about teaching is the long-term relationships that I have developed with my students. Nothing is more rewarding that when former students reach out to me to help them in some capacity or share with me a success they are having in life. That reaffirms for me that what I am doing is meaningful and that I am having a lasting impact on the people I encounter.

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