Blog Beginnings

Thursday, November 1, 2018

He Knows Not His Influence - Michael Abramczyk

I first met Michael in person at ICE's #TasteOfTech in August of 2017 in Aurora, IL. I was blown away by his enthusiasm so early in the morning! I was also a bit embarrassed, as he was lavishing all this praise on me for my own endeavors. I didn't know anyone there knew my name, much less what I've done or what I do. During his session that I was able to attend - on Scratch - I was ready to learn. He made us all ready to learn with his enthusiasm and passion for teaching. We continued talking during lunch that day, and I learned of his unabashed passion for connecting educators.

I have since been able to chat with him briefly at ISTE18, where I somehow earned the title "Aunt Joy," and we've also been able to have dinner together with his work wife (Megan Hacholski - another gem - they made a great team!) and my husband. This man acts so humble. He has every right to be confident and boastful, but he is just the opposite. I'm so glad he began his blog this year - he's got so many stories to share from his caring heart!

Joy Kirr
7th grade ELA teacher in Arlington Heights, IL

Looking for a picture of him is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, so we're using his current Twitter photo... it's not REALLY Bob Ross... that's Michael under that fun hair piece!

Mike is without a doubt the most influential person I have met in my teaching career thus far. I would not be where I am today without him, and that is not even close to hyperbole. Mike is my brother from another mother, the party-in-the-back to my business-in-the-front, and my all-time favorite person to "boooo" others with (sort of joking). In all seriousness, Mike is a humble, caring educator who wants nothing more than the best for others. He will consistently put everyone else before himself, singing praises for all to hear. He is supportive, encouraging and gives the best motivational speech you'll ever hear. I am so grateful to have worked with him for 6.5 years, but even more grateful to call him my friend for life.

Megan Hacholski
Brookfield-La Grange Park District 95
Digital Skills Teacher and STEM Lab Coordinator

Connect with Michael Abramczyk
Then chat with him a bit in person. 
You'll be very glad you did!

Thank you, Michael, for all you do for children and educators!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Lessons from 8,422 Miles Away - Sam Sherratt

I learn from so many educators on Twitter each day. I am currently "following" 4,625 of them. Some, however, I've latched on to because it seems as if EVERY DAY I'm learning something new, or I'm reminded of what I need to focus on, or I'm challenged by a question posed.

Sam Sherratt is one of those educators.
On my TweetDeck, he even has his OWN column. (He didn't know that before this post came out!) Here's the thing - It's like I have a mentor on my screen every morning. Here's what I saw first this morning. It caught my attention because he normally doesn't tweet his own thoughts many times in a row:

I found myself nodding my head, and feeling good about the track I'm on in my career.

I then saw a couple he retweeted that after reading, I, too retweeted:

It's as if he's already gone through his feed and culled it for the blog posts I need to read with my breakfast. Much as a mentor would do. I aspire to tweet such gems as he does each day! He is one of those educators who (currently) uses Twitter for professional sharing - I don't recall seeing tweets about his food or fun. I don't know much about the man (except from blog posts), but I do know he is passionate about making schools truly work for children.

If that's not enough - Sam blogs. His blog posts are from the heart, reflective, and many times present challenges for us to consider. His retweets from educators at his own school show us HOW to take on many of those challenges. So he not only poses the questions, but shares - in 140 characters or less - how teachers can begin tackling those questions.

I am so grateful for Sam for sharing his learning, the learning of others, and small bits of his day that can help guide other educators. I am so grateful I can learn from him, even being 8,422 miles away.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

My Dad Is My Pirate Role Model - Marly Schroepfer

This note of appreciation was originally posted here.

The more I have learned about Teach Like a Pirate (Dave Burgess), the more I believe that my dad is a pirate, too. Not in the same way that educators are, but in his own unique way.

Passion: My dad has an incredible passion for softball, playing in the over-70 league. He has played ever since grade school. Dad played on work teams throughout his career. Ever since he and my mom retired, he has played for the church league down in Bella Vista, Arkansas. In addition, he has been on various traveling senior softball leagues, playing in tournaments all over the south. He's won a wealth of accolades, including MVP of the World Senior Softball Championship. Did I mention that, in addition to his place as an incredible hitter and all-star outfielder, he's also his team's runner? Amazing!

Immersion: My parents both supported my siblings and I, attending every one of our games, concerts and ceremonies. Now that we are grown, they are still interested in our activities and achievements, although they don't always get to see us in person. Immersing themselves in softball, my mom and dad travel all over the country so my dad and his teammates can show those younger guys that they've still got it. My mom lovingly keeps score of every game in her notebook (and has kept all these notebooks dating back through the years). She also brings along a cooler with ice and cold rags to put over my dad's neck to cool him down in extreme heat. My folks don't just dip their toes in the softball water...they dive right in during every season.

Rapport: My dad has a sly sense of humor, and my mom can talk to just about anyone. They get along with everyone they meet, and take on any responsibility needed to help their teams (and their community). My dad has helped coach and create the lineups, and both of them like to socialize with the players and their wives during the out-of-town tournaments. My own family (husband and two children) has joined them for at least one softball tournament each summer, and we are always amazed at the camaraderie among the group. My son, who is almost 18, has joined the team as their bat boy for 10+ seasons. My dad's warmth and team spirit always made him feel like one of the guys. It has been amazing to witness their grandfather-son relationship grow stronger each year.

Ask & Analyze: My dad and I are Twins fans, and enjoy talking about our favorite team's wins, losses and player/team stats. Although he doesn't live in Minnesota anymore, my dad follows every game. We can talk each other's ear off about our shared love of Twins baseball. As for senior softball, after just about every game (and especially at tournaments), my mom will call or text the breakdown of my dad's successes. She shares how many hits (broken down by base), catches and runs he scored. It's almost like I was there. (Remember that it's all written down in Mom's notebooks.) MLB statisticians have nothing on her.

red shirt.PNG
Transformation: My parents have transformed what could have been a relaxing retirement into an engaging whirlwind of activity. They have also transformed an office space into a shrine to all things baseball, displaying every trophy, ribbon, medal and accolade my dad earned over his softball career. A few years ago, my mom had many of my dad's t-shirts from his tournaments made into a quilt (which is displayed in that room). It's like a softball museum in there.

Enthusiasm: Despite a scare years ago regarding his eyesight, my dad plays his heart out every game, and wouldn't miss a game or tournament if he can help it. In addition, you should just see my mom and the other softball wives rooting for their husbands. These guys play in the 100+ degree heat, with a genuine love for the game oozing out of their pores. They play for the pure joy. However, the championship rings, trophies, medals, ribbons, and plaques sure are nice.

So, I am the daughter of a pirate (actually two pirates). I owe my success to these incredible pirates who raised me.

*As further proof of their pirate-ness, they went zip lining on my dad's 75th birthday. Another adventure for these amazing people in the prime of their lives.

Happy 75th birthday, Dad! I love you!

This post was written by this wonderful pirate’s daughter, Sandy Otto.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

My Rock - Bob Kirr

He is my #1 Fan...    (Well, he may be tied with my mom...!)

My husband, Bob Kirr...

When it comes to my teaching career, he is my biggest support. I won't go into the rest of our life together, as it would take a ton more than just one post, so this one is all about how appreciative I am of Bob's support of me as a teacher.

Here is the physical proof of what Bob has done for my students IN the classroom:
 I chose the fabric, and Bob did the rest...

I bought the books, and Bob gave me a place to put them... (Over a bulletin board...)

I wanted to find a way to display certain books, and Bob made me a way...

I wanted to get the headsets out of the box, and Bob made me a rack...

I found an idea on Pinterest for whisper phones, and Bob glued them all together for us...

Behind all the fun supplies he supplies (hah!), he also holds me up mentally. Some instances of when he's helped me become a better teacher (ahem - a better PERSON)...

When a parent called Genius Hour "crazy," and said, "You should do more P.R.," he let me cry. When I was finished, he asked, "What are you going to do now?" My answer? Create the LiveBinder.

When (recently) another teacher called a meeting with me and the principal over something I had said, Bob let me know, "You did nothing wrong." When it was over, he asked, "What have you learned?" He helps me reflect - EVERY SINGLE DAY.

When I want to try something new, he's the one who challenges with one word - WHY?

When I'm on the laptop too long, he comes by and shuts it on my fingers.

When I get a wonderful letter from a parent, he's the only one with whom I can share it.

When I feel knocked down because other teachers and I do not agree, he calms me and reminds me that I used to believe differently, too. He also reminds me that I don't need to change the world - I'm doing a lot with the kiddos I have.

When I have the BEST DAY EVER, he's the one I run to so I can share my stories of the BEST KIDS EVER.

And, of course, after a difficult week, he's the first one who helps me celebrate the weekend...!
He is my love, my life, and my rock, even when he helps me feel as if I can fly...

With all the respect I can muster... Joy Lynn

Monday, July 13, 2015

Imagination and a Sense of Humor

My Mom came here as a LEGAL immigrant (from Italy) after waiting 13 years, (for a sponsor and honoring the United States laws). She only went to the 8th grade and yet she amassed so much - in love, in family, in friends, and financially. She took care of us and gave us everything we ever wanted!

My 88-year-old Mom Fernanda is a resident at Little Sisters of the Poor in San Pedro, CA. where I visit her everyday at 4:00. This morning I called her and when she didn’t answer, I left her a message to call me back. When she finally returned my call, she explained that she didn’t pick up the phone because she was at ‘gymnastics’.

This is another thing I love about my Mother - her imagination and sense of humor: It was a senior fitness class, but she calls it ‘gymnastics’. I’m envisioning tumbling, trampoline, pummel board, etc. I’m going to thank her in person later today when I go visit. 

Oh wait, today is Monday. 

She has her pole-vaulting class at 4:00...

Lovingly submitted by Justin Ezzi

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Everybody's Grammie

"Is Grammie coming today?" This asked by multiple students in my 5/6 block every Monday.

Grammie is one student's grandmother. She came to read us a picture book back in January of this year. She didn't know which to choose, so I asked if she could read The Sweetest Fig by Chris van Allsburg. She loved the story and she loved coming in to read it, and we clicked immediately. She then came again, to read another, and said she'd love to come by more often. I asked if she'd come in to help us with our Genius Hour projects, and her face glowed.

When you see Chris Avelle, a.k.a. Grammie, with this group of 7th graders, you immediately know she used to teach. She's a natural with children. She had "little ones," and has transferred all of her knowledge about how to work with them to this new age level. She loves to work one-on-one with students, and is very grateful for the time in the classroom and with children once again.

I don't think Grammie realizes that I feel just as grateful to her for coming to join us. She has been able to give all of her attention to one child at a time, and I am free to tackle short bursts with the rest of our students who don't need as much guidance.

I don't think Grammie realizes how much the students feel grateful having her presence in our class. They see her visits as a very special treat, and they want to show her what they're doing and all of their progress.

I don't think Grammie realizes what an impact she's had on the culture of our class and how these students will never forget that Grammie came in to visit with them for many weeks in a row.

I'm writing this as a public thank you to Grammie. I've made her a gift - sharing my passions for art and words, and students have signed their autographs and messages that we attached to the back of it. Her presence in room 239 has reinforced the idea that everyone is welcome in our classroom as a teacher, and we all have our gifts to share.

"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."
~Jackie Robinson

Monday, January 19, 2015

Always Present, Always Positive: Dan Kerr Makes Everyone Better

Every morning when students arrive at Academia Cotopaxi in Quito, Ecuador, they are greeted with a huge smile and a friendly, "Good morning," "Happy Monday," or one of any number of impromptu acapella songs. I've never been to Ecuador, but I know this happens every day - rain or shine - because Dan Kerr is there.

In his first year as the Intermediate Principal at Academia Cotopaxi, Dan is, without a doubt, bringing positivity and happiness to the entire school community.  I can be so incredibly confident that this is happening because I’ve seen it with my own eyes (and heard it too!)
Dan Kerr and I started out as mere acquaintances; we met at the Principals Training Center (PTC) in Miami, Florida.  We worked in the same small group and had many spirited conversations about education during our class time, on the golf course, and over a drink or two.  It was apparent to me that Dan’s zest for life was not limited to sports, his family, or school, but rather it encompassed every single breath he took.
Fortunately for me, Dan later became my mentor and one of my best friends in the world (which means something a little more special in the very transient international teaching community).  He encouraged me to join him in Shanghai, where he mentored me in my first years as a Middle School Vice Principal.  Dan’s guidance extended beyond the workplace.  He became a better friend than anyone could ever wish for, guiding me through any and all of the challenges life had in store for me.   Dan has impacted my life immeasurably; there are no words that can explain the gratitude I have for him!

I’m surely not the only person who is grateful for all that Dan has brought to their life.  Dan has become a widely read educational blogger at, as his weekly posts are shared out to tens-of-thousands of people via multiple social media and educational networks. With over 1.5 million views to his page as of May of 2014 (I snooped last Spring), Dan has surely had a positive influence on a lot of people around the world.
It speaks volumes about Dan that his former students (now in High School here in Shanghai) are brainstorming ways to celebrate his upcoming birthday despite the fact that he is literally on the other side of the world!
After more than 15 years in education, Dan has surely touched the hearts of many students, parents, and colleagues.  I am one of those lucky many that have been able to learn and benefit from the friendship and guidance of Dan Kerr.
On behalf of all those who have been fortunate enough to meet Dan and experience his infectious positive energy, I would like to say…
“Thank you for all that you’ve done and for being the presence you have become in so many of our lives!”

This letter of gratitude was written on behalf of all the lives Dan Kerr has touched...