About stilliamlearning

As the Director of Curriculum in Liberty Public School District, I know now more than ever that the more I learn, the more there is to know. I am challenged daily by my peers, fmy children and my husband to be the best learner, mother, and wife I can be. I pray daily for grace to serve, wisdom to lead, and I give all the glory of any successes in my path to God.

Still I am Learning!

Novus casus.  A new adventure.  I realized this week that I am at the dawn of new learning.  The new adventure will begin at MindFuelED in Palm Springs, CA with my dear friends Kara Vandas and Ashley Duvall, where we will come together with educators from around the world to focus on learner agency.

The new adventure will include a session in the conference where we present examples and ideas from our book, Learner Agency: A Field Guide for Taking Flight, which will launch at the conference.  I am actually super excited to write my next blog (this is just as much a statement for me as a hook for any reader) and share our book cover (it’s super cool – thank you to Mimi & Todd Press and the design team) as well as insights to the purpose of our field guide sharing examples and ideas for growing agency in schools.   Our book will have a digital landing page, so I am excited to include that in a future post as well.

More than anything, I wanted to take this moment to thank all my friends and family for their part in this new adventure.  As the sun sets on my time working in Liberty Public Schools, I know the past 10 years with LPS has been something I will always value and never forget.  It is the foundation for the learning shared in our book.

And now – for the new adventure.  I am excited for the people who will contribute to the next chapters, the next flight, and the next stories in my journey of learning. Because it really is ANCORA IMPARO.  Still I am learning.

Incipimus iterum

It’s  2021.  It’s been a minute since I last posted.  Three job description changes.  Two sons married.  Three grandchildren later. One pandemic.  And still, I am learning.   Over the past five years, I have had so many topics I could have and should have written about.  But for now, I will start here.  I was encouraged by my dear friend, Kara Vandas, to think out loud about learning this past year, and I realized I had some very strong feelings about the year – my greatest around how we adapted on-line learning from the start of the pandemic to the beginning of the end (hopefully).

We spent so much time with too many students learning from home.  I feel like it’s a good place to start by recognizing what good we have learned from this experience instead of continually drowning in the idea of learning loss.  Here is a small piece I shared with Kara…

     As I connect with different friends and acquaintances around the nation who work in the world of teaching and learning, I hear too often how much learning loss there is with children over this past year.  What I really wonder is if we, as educators, should be so quick to make such an overarching claim?  And if we do, perhaps we will unknowingly bring it to be. 
[Before I go any further, however, let me say that I understand some children have been in dire circumstances this past year away from school, and that certainly may have caused great trauma to them in their learning.  This is not uncommon to educators; the pandemic made it even harder for us to address.] 
     One notion I just feel we should be more willing to accept is that the learning loss we are so quick to call out is measured by some very traditional, and not necessarily super accurate, measures of learning.  I think we do ourselves, our students, and so many of our parents a disservice as to how much our students DID learn.  Let’s just break that down for a minute.  During our time of with on-line learning,  hybrid learning, or masked-up in-person learning, our students have still been doing just that – they have been learning. To say they have not would be completely inaccurate, and I feel everyone can agree to that.  The difference is that the learning our students have gained is not necessarily measured only by adaptive software, district benchmarks, or state assessments.  I think it can be measured by something more. And I wonder if we should not look at some uncommon measures in order to build a student’s learner efficacy.  
    Self-efficacy, according to social scientist Alfred Bandura, is the belief in one’s capabilities.  Those capabilities are tied to what and how one approaches what they are doing including but not limited to – learning!   Bandura states in The Encyclopedia of Human Behavior (1994) that, “By sticking it out through tough times, people emerge from adversity with a stronger sense of efficacy.”  Our learners certainly had tough learning through the pandemic.  If we only look to measure student learning only through traditional measures of standardized testing – limited in its illumination of learning even in the best of times – we are limiting the efficacy of learning.  
Perhaps it’s time to look at what we can celebrate around learning instead of what we can not.  Bandura also states that, “People’s beliefs about their abilities have a profound effect on those abilities. Ability is not a fixed property; there is a huge variability in how you perform.  People who have a sense of self-efficacy bounce back from failure; they approach things in terms of how to handle them rather than worrying about what can go wrong” (Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control, 1997).  [How can that not make you stop and think?]
One uncommon measure would be to look at learner dispositions. What skills have students gained over the pandemic?  How do they approach learning now that is different, stronger, and more self-directed than when they were in the classroom?  Learner agency is the ability for students to understand, guide, and reflect on learning themselves.  What if we looked to measure the level of agency a student has gained during the pandemic and then worked to build that skill in our learners to help navigate the academic knowledge we also wish to grow?  
As we move forward out of this interesting and challenging school year, let’s find those wonderful attributes that have served our learners well and build upon those.  Instead of reminding ourselves over and over of how terrible the learning loss is, let’s build the efficacy of learners by building their learning dispositions.  Start with praising their grit, noticing and noting their curiosity, facilitating their adaptability.  This is the way to address learning in the setting sun of the pandemic.  Our learners can be resilient – if only we believe and help them believe they can be.  

It is great to start up this publication again.  I’m excited (and more than a little bit nervous) to put it out there again.  Either way…Incipimus iterum.

#28daysofwriting – Day 1

Leadership and learning are my focus for the next 28 days.  I’m not sure where the reflection and learning will take me, but I know what will keep me grounded – this quote from Alfie Kohn..

Alfie Kohn quoteWriting for 28 minutes a day will be a challenge for me, so I have decided to start by scaffolding my time.  One minute each day reaching my goal of writing for 28 full minutes and pushing publish.  My dear friend and my writing hero – Kelly Lock – will be proud of me for tackling this task.  I remember a day long, long ago sharing with her that I would rather stick a pencil in my eye than “write for fun.”  And yet here I am.


And with a view of leadership – it makes me realize that my writing helps me think about my impact.  I appreciate the many leaders who really consider the sphere of influence made by what they think, and by what influences their thinking, and from where that influence emanates.   My minute is complete.  Tomorrow – two minutes on leadership influence.  I’m actually excited to share.


Fostering connections today in learning how to become a better learner is exciting.  As I sit in Mooresville, NC visiting Mooresville

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Graded School District  (MGSD) and learning about how they are continually learning step up their game – it’s exciting to be surrounded by adults who have a strong desire to learn about how learning in schools could be better in their districts.

The MGSD story is captured in Every Child, Every Day.  They had me with the title.


How can you work in education and not believe that whole-heartedly?

Working in a district that is on the journey of digital conversion, there is a strong sense of gratefulness for the gift that Liberty Public Schools and the Liberty community offer in their support and continual INVESTMENT in our students.  Our active learning lab school, EPIC Elementary, which opened this fall, INSPIRES us all to transform learning for every child.  I can see so many connections of the vision of the learning processes offered in this school working its way to the other schools in our district.

Learning with MGSD has really pushed our thinking on INNOVATIVE ways to support our teachers to diversify their own instructional portfolio adding PERSONALIZATION to their stock.  My favorite read in the last year has been Learning is Personal.  I suggest this as a read for any educator looking for taking the classroom or district to active learning. Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 10.38.07 AM

What’s on Your Stick?

StickWhen Liberty Public Schools Tech Instructional Coach Tracey Kracht asked for volunteers to contribute to our district blog, I admit I was excited and nervous at the same time.  I’m not new to blogging in education.  I maintained a leadership and operational blog for some time now called Ancora Imparo.  My audience was primarily my own high school staff, but it does provide an interesting archive of the journey our high school was taking.

When I began my digital learning journey, I will never forget my dear friend, mentor and building instructional coach Sean Nash (Nashworld) sharing insight on so many different tools that teachers could use to integrate technology into a classroom.  The term he initially used was “23 things on a stick” which is a great Google search to learn the history.  CLEAR-Stick-AtlasIt boils down to 23 foundational activities, tools, or processes that one should absolutely know in this century as a digital learner.  I can tell you honestly that I never hit 23.

On July 9th,  Ian Jukes (Fluency 21/Committed Sardine) authored a post of “9 Learning Tools Every 21st Century Teacher Should Be Able to Use” that provided a more focused and attainable goal for me as a learner.  It’s a great checklist for anyone building a first digital toolbox, and a great reminder for those who have been working on one for several years.  Check it out.  You will be glad you did.

Images from Google images:  “Stick” and “CLEAR Stick Atlas

Listen Up!


Continually building your Personal Learning Network (PLN) is important, and  learning from a podcast is one cool avenue (and tool) for teachers and learners.  A podcast (taken from the original location device – iPod added to broadcast) reminds me of listening to a radio show.  There are times when that just really fits into my life like when I’m out for my afternoon exercise or driving to work). I read somewhere that the best way to really get the most out of podcast learning is to subscribe to one through your RSS feed.  My two sons subscribe to an interesting (if not educationally controversial) podcast called “My Brother, My Brother, and Me.”  They are dedicated listeners, often times when they are together,  and I know from the continual laughter that they are the intended audience.  Honestly, that’s where I first learned about getting hooked on podcasts, although my podcast preference runs more along the lines of the “Freakonomics” radio podcast.

Recently, I sent IT Coach Tracey Kracht a link to this great podcast list of “50 Educational Podcasts for Teachers’ Professional Development.”  If you started down this list, you would be sure to find at least one you would absolutely have to subscribe to.  Happy listening!

Quotation image from:  Wisdom Quotes on 7.26.2013


The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government. ~Thomas Jefferson

CARdinal Excellence is no joke.  There is nothing April foolish about the fact that we are about to enter the EOC testing arena after preparing for this moment all year long.  As the students begin their final preparations and reviews for testing in their Biology, Algebra 1, CA9 , CA10 and Government  classes, it’s important for everyone to remember that each of you also had a part in their testing readiness with your work on text complexity and vocabulary study.  Since we each contributed to their learning, we each will share in the reward of their increased performance.  Take time this week and next to step up the practice before we start the testing.  Help students understand how their strong performance will help them earn A+ funding, improve their grades, and make their school show strongly in state rankings.  It goes a long way with your students that you support them in their achievement, and show them the importance of claiming their hard work with this summative assessment.  Benton students are amazing.  It would be foolish for anyone to think otherwise.

Week 30 – A Look Ahead

Tuesday — NHS Induction practice (student list will be emailed) 10:00-11:10 in Auditorium

Wednesday – BLT Meeting Canceled; NHS Induction @ 6:00 p.m. in Auditorium

Thursday – EOC training @ 2:45 for all staff giving EOC in Spring in Mail Room Conference Room

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images available in CC on Flickr: “Innerlife” by ecstaticist.

CARE about your Library

“What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education.” ~Harold Howe

Another victim of our recent district budget reductions (check your local blogs and news outlets for specific information) is our library budget.  According to the most recent notification, our library budget for next year has been reduced to zero.  After thinking about how to respond to that predicament, I realized others have already said it better.

Doug Johnson, Director of Libraries and Technology in the Mankato (MN) Schools, offered this to consider about library resources: The Blue Skunk Blog.

We need to consider how we will continue to meet the future expectations of Common Core State Standards in respect to literacy.  Doug’s writings will certainly give us ideas to ponder and consider.

Week 28 – A Look Ahead

Tuesday – JEPD (Red Day Schedule) in the library

March 26-29, 2013 => Spring Break

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images available in CC from Flikr: “Day 106 – I am a Librarian” by cindiann’s photostream

CARE to Intervene

Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get. ~H. Jackson Brown Jr.

As we enter the final and fourth quarter of our school year, it’s good to go back and examine our priorities from our beginnings.  Each year, we create and then address our school improvement plan, which by nature is grounded in student achievement.  This year, we focused on data teams and literacy.  Those two areas of our professional development focus were intended to make us more adept at helping students achieve academically.  As I look at our progress, I am happy to celebrate that we are indeed more focused in our pedagogical approach with our teams analyzing data for success in our selected Power Standards as well as continually embedding of text in our lessons through which we implement close reading and vocabulary study. That implementation of our PD has greater impact than you can imagine.  Research from the RTI Network shares that, “The expectation is that if the Tier 1 program is implemented with a high degree of integrity and by highly trained teachers, then most of the students receiving this instruction will show outcomes upon assessment that indicate a level of proficiency that meets minimal benchmarks for performance in the skill area.”

It’s funny how often we take our professional development and subsequent classroom implementation for granted, as the results of our work are often not noticeable immediately.  The fact is, if all teachers were to continue to stay the course of best practice implementation and focus on strong classroom instruction each day, the results are not additional, but exponential in a student’s learning.  In the recent Phi Delta Kappan article, “Seven ways to kill RTI,” author Brandi Noll shares that, “Thirty minutes of intervention [such as tutoring] can’t make up for poor classroom instruction during the other five to six hours of the school day.”

As we enter the final weeks of school, with our summative assessments on the horizon, it’s imperative that we all stay strong and focused on our classroom instruction and respond appropriately to the data we gather.  Our students count on us to guide them strongly to the finish line.  There are no quick fixes to student achievement.  It takes hard work and focused effort.  Together, we can all provide instruction – and interventions – that will make a difference for a child.

Week 28 – A Look Ahead

This week we have Parent/Teacher Conferences.  Please make sure all guests sign in to the attendance office and are wearing a visitors badge.  Make sure to keep record of your conferences on the form and turn that in to the Mrs. Fry prior to leaving on Friday.

Monday – Safety Assembly at 1:40 (adjusted schedule)

Friday – 3 hour early out (all students and staff)

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images available CC on Flickr: “Myrtle Station” by Яick Harris’ photostream; “Impatience” by mdezemery’s photostream.

Carnival of CARE

A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside. ~Denis Waitley

This week we welcome our next class of Cardinals: the Class of 2017.  Thursday night, March 7, 2013 is the Cardinal Welcome for our incoming Freshman Class for next year.  It’s important to remember the reason for making sure of the transition from middle school to high school is implemented with fidelity – to ensure we create an environment and atmosphere for our newest students that create a bond and affection for Benton that will last for a lifetime.

If you are a Senior CAMP teacher, a teacher who has freshmen in your classes, or you are a athletic or activity coach, it’s important for you to be a part of welcoming this incoming class of students.  These students look for us to see what their future is going to be.  They are looking to see if the light is on in the window, and if they are welcome to come inside.  Let’s make this 8th Grade Orientation night one of the best.  Please make sure you have a table or sign ready, and you have materials to share with our future Cardinals and their parents.  We get one chance at a first impression. Let’s show the Class of 2017 what it means to be a Benton Cardinal!

Week 27 – A Look Ahead

Monday – Blood Drive all day/Modis Gym

Thursday – 8th Grade Orientation & Activity Fair (showtime 6:00)

Friday – Opening Night “Sarah Plain & Tall”

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Image available CC in Flickr: “Exploring an idea” from JJay’s Photostream; “Cardinal” by me.