About the Author
Passionate and curious about technology, smiles, special education, differentiated instruction, forests, graphic novels, accessibility, anti-oppression, and warm beverages. Can often be found laughing with young people and improvising songs on the spot. @teach_tomorrow

20. Teachers who run (a mini-series) with Keila Merino

Okay, I get that this sounds like the set up for a corny joke, but what does teaching and running long distances have in common? Today I am launching a mini-series about teachers who run.

If you follow me on instagram, I have shared with you that I have been selected to be part of Team TCS Teachers and run the New York City Marathon.

When I was submitting my responses for the contest that put me on team TCS Teachers, I had to stop to pause to consider how my identity as a teacher influences my identity as a runner. What if the reason why I am a teacher and the reason why I am a runner spring from the same source?

In mini-series of episodes, leading up to the New York City Marathon on November 3rd, I am going to talk to teachers who run and how their running and teaching selves overlap. My goal is to talk to people whose experiences are intriguing, universal, and profoundly moving so that even if you are not a runner…or not in education…that you can hear yourself in their stories.

And that brings me to my first guest.

Keila Merino is not only a deeply impressive and well decorated ultra-runner, but she is also a teacher to young people in Queens, New York. Keila WON the Great New York Running  Exposition 100 mile race in 2012 (that’s about 161 km or 3.8 back to back marathons), came in second overall at the 50k Staten Island Trail Festival in 2014, and as placed top in her age category for many other races. In other words, she can run far and she can run FAST!

But more than just being a regular on the podium, Keila balances her running life with her profession in the classroom and uses her time running as fuel for her passion  helping young people fulfill their potential.

In this conversation, we talk about using running as a tool for self-reflection, the similarities between running your first marathon and your first year in the classroom, how to work through big set backs, and the importance of taking on big, audacious goals in our lives.

I so loved connecting with Keila about two things that I personally love and I hope that it resonates with you as well.

(Now would be a perfect opportunity to press play and listen to Keila!)

Personally, what I took out of this conversation is that if we are going to be highly effective teachers, we have to take time to do the things that we love. That might be running, but it might also be writing, gardening, cycling, spending time in the trees…whatever helps hit your reset button so you can be fully present with your students! And when we have big, juicy goals to work towards that we declare publicly…like writing your first book or running a marathon…or you know, running across a country…it can help teachers leave their marking for the next day and practice self-care!

If you know of a teacher who also runs, please share this episode with them…or better yet, connect with me with them on Instagram. Who knows, they just might be a future guest on our show.

That’s all the time we have for today folks…let’s go run the world, and remember we are teaching tomorrow.


Extra Fun Resources / Stuff Mentioned in This Episode:

Keila on Instragram
An article about Keila from The New York Times

19. Applying to and interviewing for jobs in education with Barb McLean

What is the one thing that you should never be afraid to say in a job interview? Today Barb McLean sits down to talk to me about the business of school.

Barb McLean is a legend in my books. For many years she has served The Bishop Strachan School as the assistant head of Human Resources and professional growth––which basically means that she is responsible for all of the “adult issues” in the building.

I have wanted to sit down with Barb since I started this podcast. I am so happy that Barb took the time to chat and let me  tap into her well spring of knowledge on the experience of applying for and interviewing for jobs in education before she began her retirement the very next day. They very fact that she was happy to record an episode while I’m sure she had so many other things to finish up is a clear testament to how much she values people, this profession, and continual  learning.

I so loved this conversation. We talked about how to make a resume and cover letter stand out, how can make a cover letter work for you, some crucial interview do’s and don’ts, as well as some key reflections Barb has had about diversity, equity, and inclusion in her profession.

The first time I met Barb, I was interviewing for a position at BSS and I instantly knew that I wanted to learn all that I could from this woman. Today, I am so excited to share a few kernels of wisdom from my chat with Barb McLean.

I hope you got something valuable out of this conversation and experienced first hand the deep wisdom, impressive institutional knowledge, and commitment to excellence that Barb has brought to her career.

If you enjoyed this episode, reach out on twitter @teach_tomorrow on Instagram @teaching_tomorrow and let me know what resonated with you. The hardest part of the podcast medium is that there is very little way for you as an audience to engage, so come out from under your headphones and please say hello!

That’s all the time we have for today, folks. Get out there and go be the passionate learner you are, and remember we are teaching tomorrow.

18. Everyone belonging at school through diversity, equity, and inclusion learning with Rosetta Lee

How can we create spaces in our school communities where everyone feels like they belong? Today on the podcast, I talk to Rosetta Lee, a professional outreach specialist and middle school educator at Seattle Girls’ School.

Rosetta Lee is a force within the world of education. I was first introduced to her work when she came to my school to talk about microaggressions and affinity groups and loved her vulnerable and hilarious presentation style. I so appreciated getting to sit down with Rosetta for this interview and talk to her about these topics that I feel so passionately about and hear her mic drop worthy wisdom first-hand.

In this conversation, we talk about affinity groups and how to overcome some of the barriers that may exist to getting these brave spaces off the ground in your school. Rosetta offers so many practical tips and considerations for diversity, equity, and inclusion work that I wouldn’t be surprised if we need to invite her to come back once you have had some time to digest and experiment with some of these ideas in your own school context.

Enough intro already, go and listen to my talk with Rosetta!

You know how I ask almost everyone on the show who their favourite edu-celebrity is, well Rosetta is definitely one of mine! I think that might one of the best parts about this podcast adventure: having one and one conversations with people that I truly admire.

If you were touched or inspired by something you heard today, please share the podcast with someone that you think would like it. That’s how we grow and get into the hearts and ears of more teachers.

Until next time, we are teaching tomorrow. And here are some of the links to things that were mentioned in our talk:

17. Simple inquiry with Eric Daigle and Jeff McClellan from Start Sole

What happens when you lose your voice and still have to teach the next day? On this episode we have two special guests joining us on the show to talk about one way for teachers to smile more and talk less: Self Organized Learning Environments or SOLE.

I for one am all for resources that make the lives of teachers easier and the learning of our students more dynamic and powerful. A big thank you to Eric Daigle, Jeff McClellan, The Hilfield Strathallan School, and the entire Cohort 21 community for making this show today possible.

Here are some of the resources referenced in the show:

16. Librarians as gateways of information with Laura Mustard

How can school librarians work to move away from being gatekeepers and towards being gateways to information? Today I am joined by the brilliant Laura Mustard and we discuss this question.

Laura Mustard has been a coach with Cohort 21 for a few years now, but more relevantly, she is the librarian at St Clements School in Toronto. One of my favourite things is to talk to Laura about what books my students should be reading, how to instil a love of reading in young people, and what innovative projects she is developing in her space.

In our conversation, we talk about the privilege that librarians have to not only watch students grow up through literature, but also the profound role that she plays as being an adult that doesn’t grade children. This unique position allows Laura to help students engage with learning for the sake of learning, which is really what all of us hope for with our students.

Laura and I chatted in her house and her adorable cats also wanted to make an appearance on the podcast, so if you hear some cute little mewing in the background, you can just picture them crawling all over us while we were trying to sound composed.

This conversation is totally worth checking out, so let’s book it and get circulating. Those are all my library puns out of the way, click the link above for my talk with Laura Mustard.


Additional Links:

15. Making Social Studies learning sticky with Vanessa Vanclief

Okay so history could be considered a little…um…dusty…in some circles, but Vanessa Vanclief has another approach to teaching social studies, that might make some children cry.

I have fully claimed Vanessa as my work wife at school: our classrooms are beside each other, we teach the same Grade 8 students, and our curriculums often overlap. We are both country girls growing up very close to the same small town and love a good run in our local ravine. I asked Vanessa on the show today not because we have so much in common, but because Vanessa teaches social studies in a way that makes her students feel something. Whether she is leading students through a simulation, engaging them in a rich role play, or taking on a character to highlight a big idea, Vanessa is a teacher who definitely understands how to make learning sticky. After listening to this chat I had with my friend, I am confident that you will have the inspiration you need to switch things up in your content area or just flat out steal one of her awesome ideas.

I think we can all agree that it is a good thing that Vanessa didn’t have a backup plan if teaching didn’t work out, because she is a force and an inspiration to so many people. If you liked something you heard on the show, please share this episode with a friend that you think might get something out of this conversation.

Okay folks, attached is my conversation with the very thoughtful Vanessa Vanclief.

14. Drama and radical hope with Dr. Kathleen Gallagher

What advice does an award winning researcher have for turning your classroom into an educational inquiry? Join one of Canada’s leading education scholars, Dr Kathleen Gallagher, as we discuss drama, research, and radical hope.


I met Dr. Gallagher when I was completing my Master’s of Teaching at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. I worked as a grad student on her “Putting Inner City Students First” project and then later Kathleen asked me to house sit for her. She was leaving on a European trip to attend a conference with her wife and then two year old child. I jumped at the chance to get out of my musty basement apartment and hang out with her adorable golden retriever.


Well, flash forward and I also have a wife and two year old and golden retriever, and this is largely inspired by that time I spent in Dr. Gallagher’s beautiful home. While I know I was helping out Dr. Gallagher, I really felt taken care of by her and, of course, her dog during this trip. As I find out in my conversation today, care taking and how we take care of other people has some pretty remarkable implications for the classroom. You definitely need to keep listening for this because I think it’s going to surprise you!


I also just want to say that this is the first time that I am releasing two episodes in one week! I wanted to get this episode out to you now because Kathleen Gallagher’s research on drama and radical hope has been transformed into a play by the immensely talented playwright Andrew Kushnir. It is playing right now at Crows Theatre in Toronto and is an incredible glimpse into the drama classroom and how young people experience this unique form of learning around the world. The ensemble is powerful, the storytelling is breathtaking, and obviously the research is brilliant.


If you can get yourself to see this show, by all means GO! It’s playing now until March 16th.


Here is my talk with Dr. Kathleen Gallagher.



13. (part 2)Using design thinking to improve professional learning with Jennifer Bairos

Welcome back to the Cohort 21 Face to Face session. This is part 2 of a short series on the podcast chatting with teachers who are actively engaging in the design thinking process to improve one aspect of their practice.

If you have never heard of Cohort 21, it is essentially a community of teachers in and around the province of Ontario who gather together four times a year to plan, refine, and execute action research in their classrooms to improve teaching and learning. I love getting to record conversations with teachers about their journeys with Cohort 21, as I see this professional development as a kind of incubator for educational innovation. If you don’t have access to the Cohort 21 experience, I actually wrote an article on how you can emulate this kind of PD in your own backyard and I’ve linked to it in the show notes.

Today, I talk to Jen Bairos, a middle school French teacher who wants to help her students embrace the ambiguity, uncertainty, and “grey area” of oral communication in another language. Like our guest last week, Mary Ellen Wilcox, Jen hopes to instil in her students a sense of confidence, especially as they try to do something that is actually really hard and they might not be at yet. Mary Ellen and Jen are both Middle School teachers, so the questions relating to building confidence at this developmental stage of children I don’t think is a coincidence.

Let’s get right to it: here is my conversation with Jen Bairos.

One aspect of Jen’s practice that is clear to me when re-listening to this recording is that Jen is modelling for her students exactly the kind of learning that she hopes to inspire in her classroom: she is fully embracing that “grey area” of not quite knowing something. This is basically what I was trying to say at the end of our conversation: when we ask a question that we truly don’t know the answer to, it’s a little scary. I think this is why even as adults who are trying to design action research in our classrooms that we gravitate towards the safe questions that already have the solution in mind. When we ask questions that we genuinely don’t know the answer to, we acknowledge that we don’t know something and I think this is often outside of our wheelhouse as teachers. I can only speak for myself, but I definitely gravitated towards this profession because I liked being a student and getting things right. So when we are putting ourselves in the position of not knowing, it is risky!

This following segment of conversation with Jen happens about two months later. Listen to how her thinking evolves and shifts as she investigates her dilemma a little more closely. Jen is willing to let her learning shift the question she is asking and embrace that beautiful messiness that is learning.

This is the thing about teaching: it is tangled, endlessly complex, and our learning as teachers doesn’t end just because we have finished a unit, a project, a semester, or a year. I loved Jen’s grappling with how she knows that her “end” isn’t going to naturally coincide with the final Face 2 Face session for Cohort 21. And this is exactly how real learning looks. I remember when I participated in the Klingenstein Summer Institute, the head of food services at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey spoke to our whole group about the the process of improvement. This man ran an incredible kitchen that produced incredible meals that would have made many restaurants blush. His takeaway message was just be 1% better than you were before. Those small incremental improvements add up and after you have been at your practice for 10-15-20 years, you might have made drastic improvements, but only because they built on each other over time.

So for anyone listening that is engaging actively in their own improvement as a teacher, whether through Cohort 21, another PD group, or through your own self-driven inquiry, my advice from my conversation with Jen Bairos is to just be a little better than before and allow yourself to go slow.

That’s all the time we have for today folks, keep slowly getting better, and remember we are teaching tomorrow.

13. (part 1) Using design thinking to improve professional learning with Mary Ellen Wilcox

Welcome to Cohort 21’s face to face session. Well, not actually. We are a podcast, after all, and not being face to face is kind of the whole thing.

But this is the first of a two part episode where we talk to teachers about their action plans.

Today, I share with you two conversations I had with Mary Ellen Wilcox, a middle school science teacher and steam coordinator at Rothesay Netherwood School in New Brunswick. The first conversation we had was in November of 2018 and this was Cohort 21’s second face to face session. I stole Mary Ellen away for a quick conversation to capture a moment in her thinking about a current problem, dilemma, or challenge she was experiencing in her practice. This whole day of learning for educators uses design thinking protocols to better understand what is actually happening in our school so that we can design an action plan that will have a meaningful impact on students and learning.

When Mary Ellen and I sat down and recorded, she was just in the process of coming up with a guiding question that would help her navigate her learning. We call this the “How Might We” question and it is the bedrock of good design. I love that it involves “we”, reminding us that we can’t do this alone. I love that it uses the word “might”, which suggests that there isn’t one right way.

Getting behind the right “How might we” question is everything and this first conversation with Mary Ellen unpacks this challenge for one person.   

This thoughtful dance that you can see Mary Ellen engage in around the maypole of dilemmas and challenges is exactly what we hope for from teachers. She is careful, she is thoughtful, and she is spending a tremendous amount of energy ensuring that she has the right how might question.

The next time I connected with Mary Ellen, two months had rolled by, which in the world of education is really like 2 years and some change. In the span of time between the two face to face sessions, we had gone through report cards, winter concerts, final class parties of the term, our December breaks with our families, the return to school after the holiday, and probably a handful of assessments thrown in there somewhere too. So in the next clip, notice how Mary Ellen’s thinking evolved and how much more clear she is on how she wants to narrow in on her focus for this year. It’s clear that Mary Ellen was behind the right question back in November, but this new conversation reveals how zooming in on one aspect of confidence and resiliency is the key to her making this action plan much more manageable.

When I stole Mary Ellen from the rest of the group, they were just about to start a protocol called the 5 why’s and Mary Ellen was gracious enough to let me run the protocol with her and record it for this episode.

I really mean it when I say that I wish that I could have Mary Ellen as my science teacher: her reflectiveness, ability to think critically about her practice, and sheer joy in her students’ success make her such an incredible leader in our community. I love how perfectly Mary Ellen modelled how to be vulnerable with her practice and actually learn how to be better through the support of a peer. She clearly walks the walk that she is scaffolding for her young learners!

In the part 2  of this episode, we share another “before and after” for a different Cohort 21 participant to see how another teacher makes sense of design thinking protocols to improve one aspect of their practice.

Even if you are not an educator in an Ontario Independent School and eligible to participate in Cohort 21, I share these conversations with you to give you a flavour for how teachers can use the power of design thinking, protocols, and peer feedback to develop and grow their practice. You do not need a professional development network to make this kind of thinking happen: in the show notes I will include some awesome resources for how you might simulate this experience in your own practice if you are outside of the Cohort 21 umbrella.

A big thank you to Mary Ellen Wilcox for her modelling of vulnerability, Sarah Craig for her relentless support of this project, Garth Nichols and Justin Medved for their mentorship and inspiring leadership, Mary Anne Van Acker for her editorial oversight, and the entire Cohort 21 community for their powerful blend of professional playfulness. Now go ask some juicy questions and remember we are teaching tomorrow.


Helpful Links and Resources:

12. How to help students actually learn from your feedback with Jodi Rice

“It’s not necessary to be perfect in order to be good”. Master teacher, Jodi Rice, joins me on the podcast to talk about this idea, especially in the English classroom.

Jodi is a bit of a celebrity in my books who just so happens to teach with me at The Bishop Strachan School. Through her active online presence and role on the College Board, Jodi has been a leader in the AP community and is currently teaching AP English for Grade 11 students, and an online course,  “Challenge and Change”.

Advanced Placement is a program run by the College Board (the makers of the SAT) that allows you to take courses at your high school, which can earn you college credit and/or qualify you for more advanced classes when you begin college.

I invited Jodi on the show to share her strategy for how she helps students actually digest their feedback in her English classes and how her very do-able strategy helps young people take responsibility for their learning. Jodi’s system can make your report card writing easier, your parent-teacher conferences more productive, and your students more self-reflective learners. We also touch on the ways that she helps students in her English class manage perfectionism.

Speaking of perfectionism, I’m going to be straight with you and acknowledge that this conversation was only my 11th recorded interview. If you have been listening from the very beginning, you will know that I am wholeheartedly embracing the steep learning curve that is starting a podcast. That said, after recording this conversation, I was disheartened to realize that the sound on my mic was not picking up my voice, so I will sound a little echo-y in this episode. I totally had the impulse to just beg Jodi to re-record this one with me, but I’m embracing this idea that “good is better than perfect” and just sharing this episode anyway. Hashtag growth mindset y’all.

Now let’s jump right in to my dining room conversation with the brilliant Jodi Rice.