#DBCBookBlogs: Drawn to Teach

When I’m reading a book, I take it everywhere I go. Several folks have asked how I read books so quickly (especially during #DBC50Summer). This is how. The book is always with me, so if I have a spare moment or two, I grab it and read another page. Naturally, I kept Drawn to Teach by Josh Stumpenhorst with me and it got quite a bit of attention everywhere I went! I noticed that the reactions ranged widely based on the age of those giving the reaction. Students were pumped to see me reading it while adults gave me odd looks. Curious about why? Check out the cover!


Check out the inside of the book in this Twitter post from Dave Burgess.

Isn’t it incredible? Trevor Guthke, the artist who created the amazing graphic novel illustrations knocked it out of the water! This awesome book is brought to readers from the IMpress label of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.

What Dave doesn’t tell you is the graphic novel portion is hilarious! Josh’s humor is infused throughout and I laughed out loud more than once while reading this book!


What’s more: the messages contained within the book are spot on! Josh shares his heart when talking about relationships, what really matters in education (hint: it’s not the test scores), motivation, innovation, technology, and reflection.

Some of my favorite quotes include:

  • “If you are going to ask for feedback, you must act on it.”
  • “…Gold stars and candy will only get us so far.”
  • “If the kids have a positive learning experience, the data will take care of itself.”
  • “Joy has value and we should encourage more of it”
  • “Learning is not a competition with others, but with yourself.”
  • “Students are motivated when they have some level of choice and agency over their learning.”

I believe my absolute favorite quote from the entire book comes from the section that allowed me to relive my time in #DBC50Summer with The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. Within the “Innovation” chapter, you’ll find this gem!

“Students who are not allowed to fail at an early age don’t develop the coping skills needed to navigate the bigger and more consequential failures inevitable later in life.” ~Josh Stumpenhorst

Mic. Drop.


So… if you’ve been with me for long in these blogs, you know that many times my implementations are not as obvious as trying an idea straight from suggestions in the book. That’s the case here, as well. I already have a rather large collection of graphic novels in our media center, and students check them out all the time! Their understanding of the nuances of reading graphic novels is impressive, and I want to give them the opportunity to take their ability to read a graphic novel a step further. We’re talking consumption to creation!

Here are some awesome graphic novel/comic creators available for free (or with limited features for free) online!

You can also use sites like Canva, Google Drawings, and even use Google Slides in tile view.

I can’t wait to see what my students will create to show their mastery throughout the year using these sites. I’m so pumped to share these with the teachers I serve so they can use them as another option for students! I’m excited to see how my students will react after seeing their reactions to this book. I think they’re going to love it!

Be sure to connect with Josh on Twitter and check out his website here. You can join the conversation using #Drawn2Teach on Twitter! Get a free preview of Drawn to Teach by scrolling to the bottom of this page! You’ll see where you can purchase the book there as well! Because you’re going to want to do just that after you see for yourself how cool this book is! Enjoy!

Innovation Engineers

As part of #DBC50Summer journey, I chose to implement at least one thing from each of the first 50 books in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line of professional development books for teachers. When I read the second book, Pure Genius by Don Wettrick, I was blown away by the Innovation Course he taught at the high school level and I wanted to replicate something similar in the middle school I serve. I just wasn’t exactly sure how to make that happen. You can read more about his book in my #DBC50Summer blog post here!

By the time I reached book 35, The Wild Card by Hope and Wade King, I knew I had to create an opportunity for any student to dive into their interests at school, outside of the curriculum they were learning in the classroom. With our tight schedule and limited availability, I was unsure about how I was going to make this implementation work, but I knew that I had to work within the hand I was dealt to still be the wild card! Check out the #DBC50Summer blog post for The Kings’ book here.

Prior to the 2018-19 school year, I “hired” Makerspace Managers to lead the way in our school makerspace. These students filled out an application and Makerspace Mentors, students who had served as previous managers, selected the best from the applicant pool. (Names were hidden on the form responses.) I had also worked in the opportunity for future Makerspace Advisors who had served as managers and mentors, and wanted more responsibility. For the past two years, I had a ton of responses, but in the 18-19 school year, I only had 9 students respond. Each of them appeared to be great candidates, so we selected all nine to join our team. Then… school happened. There was too much going on and the meetings of Makerspace Managers just got lost in the shuffle. What ended up happening was so much cooler than I imagined though!

It’s funny how unintended success can arise from what others might consider to be an epic failure.

Upon seeing that the Makerspace Managers weren’t going to serve in the same capacity as they had in the past, I recalled my implementation plans for Pure Genius and The Wild Card. Talking with the students, I found that their schedules were so packed, they didn’t feel as though they could commit to a year-long once-per-week meeting and they wanted more flexibility.

Thus… Innovation Engineers. This group, which was not a “group” at all, would meet whenever students needed to meet. It could be a small group of students, a partnership, or an individual who wanted to learn more about something they were passionate about. They might stick with I.E. the entire year, or maybe just long enough to complete a project and move on. Some took time off during athletic seasons. Some were there every morning, while others were there every other afternoon. Some stopped by during their lunch, and some popped in during class change to check on their creations. There was a constant flow of students learning about things that they were interested in!Β  My only requirements…

  1. You must check with me before coming before school or after school to be sure the space is available.
  2. You must have something to show what you’ve done with your time.

It was incredible! In a given week, I’d have a variety of students come by at various times to work on projects. I just opened the space and was the adult in the room. They didn’t need me to do anything but be a listening ear & provider of materials (and in some cases, they didn’t even need that). Here’s some of the projects that came from the Innovation Engineers:

  • A sister duo (6th grader & 8th grader) authored and illustrated a children’s book about fish that blew bubbles of various shapes.
  • Two 8th grade girls wanted to do more about preventing and reporting bullying in our school so they created Safe Haven, a google form created by students for other students to report bullying anonymously. The responses were to go to our principal and school counselor.
  • A 6th grade partnership created an Animation Club. They developed their plan, pitched it to our administration by requesting a formal meeting with a prepared presentation, and successfully held 4 or 5 meetings throughout the spring semester, teaching students how to create animations on iPads, iPhones, and Chromebooks.
  • A 7th grade boy created stop-motion animation videos with Lego bricks.
  • A group of students created YouTube playlists sharing what we have available in the makerspace and how to use it (still working to get these edited and put on the school YouTube channel).
  • A group of students met in the mornings to play chess and discuss the Hamilton musical, learning the words to every song (yes, even the rap in Guns and Ships!!!)
  • A quiet 6th grade girl worked outside of school to create an amazing graphic novel called Wolf Stone!

Check out some of the pictures I was able to grab of students learning more about their own interests or click the links for examples and more information!

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There were many projects that blew me away, but one student in particular worked at least three mornings per week learning a new skill! He spent hours upon hours measuring, cutting, and sewing together fabric for a quilt! His mom’s favorite holiday is Halloween and he wanted to surprise her with a Halloween-themed lap quilt. He worked from October until March proudly showing me when he had another row done each time! He learned the ins-and-outs of our sewing machine in the makerspace. When he realized that our little sewing machine would not be powerful enough to stitch through two layers of fabric and the batting that was placed between it, we were both a bit heartbroken that he likely would not be able to finish it at school. I contacted a community member (my mother) who brought her heavy-duty Husqvarna sewing machine to the school! The student’s teachers allowed him to miss a day of class to work with the seamstress as he finished the quilt! He did every single stitch on his own, learning how to center a quilt and how to finish with the details around the edges! I am so proud of him and can’t wait to see what he does next year! He started knitting at the end of the year and suggested that a friend of his created sketches of clothing design and he’d like to make those designs come to life! It’s going to be so exciting to see what comes next for this amazing young man!

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What I learned through this implementation of Pure Genius and The Wild Card was so much more than I ever dreamed. I knew that the interests of our students are wide and varied, however this experience showed me exactly what our students are capable of when we get out of their way and allow them to dig into their passions!

These students learned so much more than curriculum; they went above and beyond and each student created something they are so proud of! Not a single grade was given. With the exception of the one day with the seamstress, very little was done during the instructional day.

If students are interested and passionate about their learning, they will knock down doors to get in to learn more!

I will definitely be continuing Innovation Engineers in the 2019-2020 school year; it required very little planning on my part & minimal time commitment as I was already at the school for the majority of the time students spent working.

All I did was open the space, gave them ‘supervision’ (as if they needed it, they were engaged and excited the entire time), and got out of their way.

And look what they created! Wow!

Definitely check out the books Pure Genius and The Wild Card and see how you can implement something from each in your own environment!

*It also should be mentioned that every student in our school participated in a Passion Project during their media time with me during this school year, so the opportunity to explore their passions was open to every student. The blog about the Passion Projects will be linked here when it is published!

#DBCBookBlogs: I Want to Be a Lot

Like many kids, I went through multiple career choices before being serious about becoming a teacher in high school. I wanted to be a veterinarian (until I discovered I’m allergic to anything with fur), I wanted to be a marine biologist (until I realized I’m not a great swimmer & not a fan of the ocean), and for most of high school, I wanted to go into the United States Air Force.

I also dreamed of being a singer/songwriter! I used to travel as a teenager singing anywhere they’d let me. My mom took me to Nashville to record a 3-song demo CD when I was 16; the CD is hidden where no one can ever find it. I even traveled to perform on a stage in Ohio at 15 years old. I guess you could say that I wanted to be a lot! Ashley Savage, a 19 year old college student, also wants to be a lot and she gives us permission to dream big in her picture book, I Want to Be a Lot – the 77th book in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line (and the 4th picture book)!


Let me first just say that this book is stinking precious and everyone should buy a copy (or two or three) right now! Ashley’s book is BEYOND perfect for graduation gifts! It’s an epic baby gift! I would purchase several copies to give as teacher gifts for your own children’s teachers! It needs to be in every media center in the world! I’m not joking; it’s that precious! My daughters have asked me to read it to them countless times since we received it!

I love this book because it frees our students from having to make up their minds about what they “want to be when they grow up.” Ashley writes, “It’s okay to love a lot of things… The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to give up loving one to pursue the other.” As an adult, that’s liberating! I want to be an educator, a speaker, an educational consultant, and an author when I grow up… and I love that I don’t have to give up loving one to pursue the others! Maybe, just maybe, I can have my cake and eat it, too (as the saying goes).

As for my daughters, the Pre-Kindergarten they attended does a graduation ceremony and one of the questions the children are asked is, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Check out their answers below!

Bailey, 4 years old, PreK graduation (she’s now 10 years old)

Yes… you heard that right! She wanted to be a football player! And you know what? We watched professional football with her every Sunday, Monday night, and Thursday night, as well as college football most Saturdays. What’s precious about this is that she is the most meek, mild-mannered child you’ve ever met!

I asked her tonight what she loved and wanted to explore more and she said that she “loved to read, so maybe a librarian, or an author, or book reviewer”. She also “loved math, so maybe working in a bank, a cashier, or owning a business”. Finally, she “loved animals, so maybe a vet”. It warmed my heart that she didn’t feel that she had to choose one thing. Sometimes she’d get very worried when she didn’t know the answer to that question. Ashley’s book made her feel that it’s perfectly fine to be unsure and I’m so grateful for that.

Bailey’s favorite page of the book:

Sophie, 5 years old, PreK Graduation (she’s now 6 years old)

Ladies and gentlemen… she did say that she wanted to be a horse! As in a four-legged mammal that trots, gallops, and grazes… a h-o-r-s-e. Bless her! We didn’t quite indulge her the way we did Bailey with playing football for obvious reasons, but it certainly made us smile. For the record, she wanted to be a horse until around Christmas last year.

After reading Ashley’s book, she’s decided that she wants to be a photographer! She wants to “take pictures of wild animals in nature”. My sweet husband is determined to find his fancy Nikon DSLR camera before he takes the girls to the zoo in a couple of weeks so Sophie can take pictures of the animals she sees there. She was so excited about taking pictures that she was still smiling as she fell asleep. She may change her mind tomorrow about what she wants to be, but I’ve got to tell you – I’ve always seen her going into the arts somehow. When you meet her, you’ll completely understand! Photography sounds like the perfect fit for her. It’ll be hard to hold the camera with her horse hooves when she magically changes form, though. Bless.

Sophie’s favorite page of the book:


The implementation for this one is easy-peasy! I’m buying this book for our middle school media center and using this as our kick-off for passion projects in the fall! The message that Ashley shares is so important for our students (and adults) to hear! You can follow multiple passions and be successful!

The little girl in the illustrations by Genesis Kohler reminds me so much of a student that I teach at school that I’m going to have to purchase a copy for her! Her mannerisms, hair, and indecisiveness are exactly like my student and I can’t wait to share this story with her when we return to school!

You’ve simply got to get a copy of I Want to Be a Lot by Ashley Savage! This fourth* picture book from DBC, Inc is adorable and, true to DBC form, has a wonderful message for both children and adults alike! I can’t wait to see what this 19 year old author Ashley does – and hopefully she won’t choose just one thing; she’s obviously got a TON of talent to share with the world!

*The first three picture books from DBC are Dolphins in Trees by Aaron Polansky, The Princes of Serendip by Allyson Apsey, and Zom-Be a Design Thinker by Amanda Fox!Β  The titles link to their #DBCBookBlogs posts, and you can find author info on those links.