Join Barbara Bray in her conversations with inspirational educators, thought leaders, and change agents to define their WHY and reflect on how they learned from their experiences and challenges. Each conversation is complemented with a post on her site that includes images, videos, links, and more that illustrate the stories of their lives. Join Barbara and her special guests as they share their personal journeys that will inspire you, touch your heart, and might even touch your heart.
The Art and Science of Designing Inspirational Learning Spaces of the Future with Robert Martellacci
Robert Martellacci is the founder and president of the International award-winning MindShare Learning Technology. He’s a champion for igniting student success to help all students thrive through innovative solutions and partnerships in Canadian schools. Often referred to as the ‘connector,’ Robert specializes in forging mutually beneficial partnerships between education and technology solution providers.
A passionate lifelong learner, Robert pursued a transformational learning journey earning a master’s in educational technology from Pepperdine University Graduate School of Psychology and Education. His Pepperdine experience inspired the creation of the MindShare Learning Report—Canada’s Learning & Technology eMagazine.
Robert’s innovative spirit and desire to see an accelerated pace of change in education led to the creation of C21 Canada–Canadians for Learning and Innovation. A not-for-profit he co-founded and currently serves as its CEO.
“My WHY is really about connecting industry and education, and finding the best products to make the greatest impact to support student success.”
Your Journey to your WHY
I didn’t find my passion until my 3rd year at York University when I changed my major from Economics to Sports Administration. I discovered my passion when playing hockey for the school team. My skills as sports information director doing PR game management and promoting team travel challenged me in every possible way. It instilled in me a growth mindset and I still play lunchtime hockey focusing on healthy living. I’ve been fortunate to have many role models and mentors along the way.
One of my mentors, my coach, asked me to interview a star athlete so I interviewed the legendary Johnny Bower, Hall of Fame Goalie. I didn’t realize that was going to be the start of my podcast career. I asked him if he ever thought he was going to make it since he started playing at 35. He said, “I always believed I was going to make it.” One of my teachers wrote in my yearbook, “the only sign in life is growth.” and she drew a little flower. Teachers don’t realize the power of their words and the impact they make. It was all about having a growth mindset. We remember those teachers and mentors that cared for and challenged us.
I challenge myself to stay in shape. I rollerblade. One tip to stay in shape, rollerblade, don’t run. Running pounds the joints.
One big focus that changed my life was working with Kevin O’Leary, Mr. Wonderful from Shark Tank, who started SoftKey Software Products as an opportunity to aggregate many companies under the Learning Company.
Episode #135: We Learn From Everyone with Celeste Endo
Celeste Endo is Computer Science Lead Learner and an HSTE Board Member in Honolulu, Hawaii. She is a @tinkthinktank coach, leads the way with CODE dance parties and Cosplay was the 2020 Kaimuki McKinley Roosevelt Complex Area Teacher of the Year and is a 2022 Hawaii KidsCAN Legislative Champion. Celeste shared “whenever we get over the rainbow creative in our work and play, we encourage our learners to do the same.”
Every interaction, every moment, and every step we take is an opportunity to be better than we were before. These are chances to improve ourselves and become the people we wish to become. As time ticks away, what if we don’t think of it as a fleeting moment? What if we think of each moment as another opportunity to better ourselves from the version before? We have so much to learn, grow, and share with each person we are lucky to cross paths with. We can truly learn from everyone.
Let it grow!
Born and raised in Honolulu Hawaii, I had an amazingly supportive family. I was lucky to be born into a loving family of educators who did everything they could to nurture and help me grow. The school was a stark contrast to my home. I remember being pulled out of the homeroom with two other children every day to what I thought was a Special Ed class. It was so embarrassing for me and every time a little bit of my soul shrank. Years later, in my 40’s I spoke to my mom about that Special Ed class. She told me that it wasn’t Special Ed, it was a Reading class, like English Learner classes of today… but I had no excuse not to know English. I came from a family of English-speaking educators! Haha, I can laugh about it now, but it sure hurt back then.
Let’s not erase or throw away the tough times. They are an embedded part of us and help us appreciate the good. Life challenges make us more empathetic to the people we get to teach. Let’s try to be more understanding when learners don’t quite get it… yet, and try to find new ways to spark deeper learning.
I graduated from the University of Hawai‘i with a Bachelor’s Elementary Ed in 1996 and a Master’s Educational Technology in 2000. I’m currently a Computer Science Teacher for Preschool-5th grade at Queen Ka‘ahumanu Elementary, where I have found a home away from home, an ‘ohana. I love my school, admin, teachers, and growing lead learners! I drew this picture and wrote this chant that students lead us in, to start our Computer Science classes.
Why did you become a teacher?
My grandpa once told me, “Celeste, I think you will be a good teacher.
Episode #134: Learner-Centered Leadership: Blueprint for Transformational Change with Dr. Devin Vodicka
Dr. Devin Vodicka is an award-winning superintendent, educator, speaker, and nine-time White House invitee. Currently, Dr. Vodicka is the Chief Executive Officer at Learner-Centered Collaborative. He is the author of “Learner-Centered Leadership” where he shares the power of reimagining schools as centers for the intellectual and social development of lifelong learners prepared for a rapidly changing world.
Growing up, I always felt like I didn’t quite fit in at his rural California school.
Culturally, I was an outsider. The son of immigrants, I was the only kid who wore traditional Czech clothes that his grandparents sent as gifts, ate kolache pastries at lunch, and celebrated his “name-day.”
I also felt like an outlier academically. Throughout my education, I continued to pay keen attention to differences—my own differences and my classmates’ differences. I came to understand that being different was not the exception; it was the rule. And yet, I realized that each child was given the same treatment at school. These early experiences inspired a desire to change how children learn and, in turn, a lifelong career in education.
Your Journey to becoming an Educator
I was inspired to be an educator by his mom who was the high school computer teacher during his childhood. She was an innovator who saw potential in emerging technology resources and she was optimistic that the future of education would be improved through the combination of excellent teaching and tools that were more flexibly designed for every learner.
Determined to help schools nurture children as individuals and shed the “one-size-fits-all” approach, I became a teacher in 1996. In the decades since I started in education, my impact grew, and I held a wide variety of positions from educator to principal to superintendent.
I was hired as Superintendent of Schools for Vista Unified School District in July 2012. Vista Unified received numerous awards and recognition while I was Superintendent, including a $10 million award as an XQ Superschool and acceptance into the prestigious League of Innovative Schools.
Embracing a Different Way (Tedx Talk) 2016 TEDx ElCajonSalon
Embracing a different way to bring strength to education. I did a Ted Talk describing the need for looking at students’ individual strengths, traditions, and personal academic goals.
At Learner-Centered Collaborative, we envision a world where learners have agency, skills to collaborate with others, and opportunities to engage in solving problems that matter to...
Episode #133: Discovering Your Journey to Advocacy with Dr. Sheldon Eakins
Dr. Sheldon Eakins. is the Founder of the Leading Equity Center and host of the Leading Equity Podcast. He is also the author of Leading Equity: Becoming an Advocate for All Students. With over 11 years in education, he has served as a teacher, principal, and Director of Special Education. Dr. Eakins has a passion for helping educators accomplish equitable practices in their schools.
Sheldon shared his story with me about his passion for helping educators accomplish equitable practices in their schools. Listen and enjoy the podcast and make sure you read the post below that Sheldon added about his journey.
Never in a million years did I think I would end up in Idaho. And not Boise, Idaho. Everybody’s heard of Boise, but I live in a small college town in Southeast Idaho. As a black man, the idea of moving to a place with a 0.8% African American population in the entire state is a heavy decision to make. So you might ask, what made you end up here and what brought you to do this work?
At the time, I was looking for work. I just finished my doctorate and was looking for higher education positions. Initially, I didn’t have any guidance or knowledge of what you do after receiving your doctorate.
Higher education was the path that I thought I was supposed to take.
I remember my dad telling me, “Hey, there is this job here at Idaho State University that’s perfect for you. You’ll work at the university and get the opportunity to work with high school students as well.” But in the back of my mind, I thought there was no way I could move to Idaho. However, I put my application in just like I put in applications across the country, and guess who was the first to offer me a position? Idaho State University.
I moved to the state of Idaho not having much knowledge regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion terminology. As a black man, I was very familiar with a lot of experiences that I encountered, but I wasn’t always keen on the definition of those experiences.
About a year into living in Idaho and working with students and dealing with personal challenges, such as microaggressions and listening to the stories that my students were telling me, especially my students of color were telling me with regards to how they were treated, I wanted to help them, but I didn’t have strategies to assist my students.
I did not have those tools, strategies, or resources, and I figured I couldn’t be the only educator with this problem.
Episode #132: Potpourri of Clues with Dr. Colleen Kelley
Dr. Colleen Kelley embraced the use of case studies in her chemistry courses for the past few decades. She has used these in graduate-level courses in medicinal chemistry and most recently in her 100-level course at the University of Arizona that led to a series of chemistry mysteries in a comic book format for students ages 8 to 12.
Over the course of my 25-year career teaching chemistry, I noticed that many students appeared to be overwhelmed once they took chemistry at the college level. Through conversations with middle and high school science teachers, I embarked on a mission to identify the shortcomings in chemistry curricula that leave many learners struggling with the subject in college.
I saw that there is a massive leap between what is expected of students taking chemistry in middle school and what is expected in high school. This prompted me to think of ways I could help bridge that gap. However, once I began to interview middle school chemistry teachers, I saw another issue – many of them seem to not enjoy chemistry in the slightest, so I looked for ways that would inspire them to teach a curriculum that’s more robust and accessible to the students at the same time.
Some knowledge of chemistry is important for incoming college students. Majors related to biology, environmental sciences, atmospheric sciences, and pre-medicine, for example, require two to three years of chemistry instruction as a prerequisite. I believe early exposure to molecular models and other ideas unique to chemistry is the best way to prepare students.
My theory is to get them in as early, eager learners and get them accustomed to symbols, and later introduce some math and conceptual ideas, so by the time they get to high school and college, they can take off.
Background, where you grew up – your family
I am a first-generation college student from central Pennsylvania. My grandma worked at a bookstore and from a very young age, I loved to read. She lived close by and was always bringing me books. There were two series that I read when I was in elementary and middle school that have influenced my comic books. The first is the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries which I devoured in 3rd and 4th grades. The other one is the mystery series by Agatha Christie – I read all of them! Solving mysteries was fun for me!
Science per se wasn’t part of my world as a child. My parents owned an insurance agency and my older brother was an artist. I liked to invent stories as a child and create games around these stories. We had ‘woods’ (a forested area) near our home. My friends and I would play in the woods and pretend that a ...
Episode #131: Making Schools Places of Wellness with Kecia McDonald
Kecia McDonald from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, is the EL Resource Teacher for the West Hawai’i Complex Area. She is one of 49 public school educators chosen to be a 2022 Global Learning Fellow by the NEA Foundation. The fellowship includes a two-day professional development workshop in the fall and a ten-day international field study to South Africa, where Kecia lived for 14 years. She was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho and also lived in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
To help create the conditions that allow others to succeed at what they are being asked to do, and support them to go beyond and pursue what they want to do.
Joe Sanfelippo talks about focusing on the “get-to”s instead of getting completely mired in the “must-do”s and this is part of my WHY, too. We all have things we must do, and I love to help people succeed at those, but then also to help them utilize their gifts and talents to go beyond the “must-dos” and enjoy the “get-tos.”
Your background, where you grew up
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, more specifically the East Bay. My dad was born and raised in Oakland, California, and was a career firefighter there. I lived in Castro Valley and went to HS in Hayward, California. Castro Valley was very unique, as it was part of this larger, more cosmopolitan area yet had a small-town feel. We still had a rodeo and a festival every year, there was a saddlery shop in town, etc. So it was the best of both worlds, growing up with a small-town sense of community then also running around Berkeley and San Francisco, getting exposed to more urban, multicultural trends.
What it was like for you as a student
I was a traditional, successful student. Straight As, involved in sports and clubs, student leadership, and the whole package. Success at school came easily to me and I totally conformed to the system. Now I can see that the ease of navigating school does not come naturally to many, but at the time I just thought it was straightforward and how “everyone” experienced school.
Your journey as a teacher
My journey as a teacher has not been traditional or straightforward. Teaching is something I came to later in life, and I never had any intention of becoming an educator. In fact, I was that person who would claim loudly and vehemently, “I could NEVER be a teacher!” I didn’t think I had the patience or the ability to instruct. I felt like if I knew something, I would not be able to break it down in pieces to help others understand. Of course, I have since discovered that it’s not about imparting knowledge but facilitating learning.
I completed an alternative teaching program and started as a Teen Health teacher at an intermediate school.
✨Deep conversations with education thought-leaders✨
Barbara is an amazing host guiding thought-provoking conversations in a very natural, engaging way!
This podcast connects me to others
Thank you, Barbara, for these conversations and connections. Especially in these isolated and lonely times, I’m so grateful to come to know other educators.