Curiculum Studies and Secondary Education Archives

Call for Nominations for the 2015 Jack London Award for Educational Innovation

By Pamela Van Halsema on January 13, 2015 8:59 AM

The 28th annual Jack London Awards for.png

"He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars."
Jack London, The Call of the Wild

Inspired by London

Local hero Jack London was a brilliant writer who pursued life with a sense of adventure much like the characters in his books. He took a non-traditional approach to living and learning, and embraced risk to spur his imagination.Tapping into those experiences, he was able to spin classic tales like The Call of the Wild, White Fang and dozens if not hundreds of other stories, novels, poems and plays.

Here at Sonoma State it is London's rogue ambition and creative fervor that we memorialize in the Jack London Award for Educational Innovation program.  For 28 years, the award has celebrated exceptional programs and the creative people who took risks, energy and time to make them successful for the children of Sonoma County public schools. 

Call for Nominations

We now invite nominations for the 2015 Jack London Award.  Representatives from throughout Sonoma County are invited to nominate innovative programs for this honor. Nominated programs may serve early childhood, elementary or secondary education populations either as part of the school day or as an extra-curricular program. 

Think about  what creative risk-taking is happening in the classrooms, labs, art rooms, playgrounds, gymnasiums and auditoriums at your schools. Have you launched any new and innovative  programs that build student engagement and advance learning? Tell us about them! Our advisory committee reviews all the applications and selects a few finalist programs for a team of judges to visit and evaluate in person.

Nominations Due February 12

Apply by Thursday, February 12, 2015; application is posted on our website at

Direct questions about the Jack London Award for Educational Innovation to Pamela Van Halsema at 707-664-2132.

Webinars Explore Making in Schools, Features Panel of Maker-Educators

By Pamela Van Halsema on December 2, 2014 10:38 AM

Making in K-12 Schools Webinars: Part 1, Wednesday, December 3 and Part 2, Wednesday, December 10, noon PST

To join the webinars, go to

2 webinars december 3 and 10 for Making in K-12 Settings

Join School of Education Assoc. Professor Jessica Parker, along with several Bay Area maker-educators as they discuss the role of "Making" in schools.  Set up as a forum, these teachers will share stories from their own experiences in the classroom--from elementary up to high school--incorporating making into the curriculum and both creating and maintaining a culture of creativity

In Part 1 of the two part series, on December 3, the panel will focus on how to set things up to foster hands-on, interdisciplinary maker projects and events which successfully support student learning.

In Part 2, on December 10, they will discuss the kind of professional development that they themselves need as educators to implement these programs and adopt a 'maker mindset' as a teacher.

The Maker Movement

Making emphasizes learning-through-doing In a social environment. Maker culture emphasizes informal, networked, peer-led, and shared learning motivated by fun and self-fulfillment. Makers encourage taking risks and experimentation with materials from simple to high tech equipment, they set up opportunities to build and tinker and create. Robotics, woodworking, crafting, 3D printing, and machining are just a few examples of projects used in Maker Spaces all over the world top inspire through project-based learning.

The notion of tinkering and Making has become popular world-wide and is now truly a movement capturing the imagination of young and old, across cultures and disciplines. Maker Media, based here in Sonoma County, has been the hub and helped build this movement around the world with their publications and their Maker Faire events.

This global community consists of inventors, artists, engineers, and many other types of people with all kinds of backgrounds. This movement is taking many in the direction of successful independent creativity that is allowing for outside the box thinking and knowledge expansion and growth.

This kind of thinking is a great fit for project based learning and creative problem solving curriculum in schools, as well as creative and artistic development.

The Maker Educator Certificate Program

This webinar is hosted and produced by the National Writing Project's Educator Innovator initiative (, and is affiliated with the Maker Educator Certificate Program offered by The Startup Classroom at Sonoma State University. The certificate program offers a selection of mini courses to help educators of all kinds (not just school teachers) learn how to start and maintain MakerSpaces in their own setting, and become part of a network of Maker Educators.  

To learn more about the Maker Educator Certificate Program visit 

Education Graduate Research Fair Thursday Highlights Current Work by Master's Candidates

By Pamela Van Halsema on November 17, 2014 4:45 PM

Grad-Research-PosterThe Master of Arts in Education Program at Sonoma State University is pleased to present the Fall Graduate Research Fair on Thursday, November 20, 2014 from 5:00-7:30 PM in Schulz 1121.  

In this poster session style event, sudents who have just completed the program will present their findings related to their thesis and cognate projects Programs represented range from Curriculum, Teaching and Learning to Special Education to Educational Leadership and more. The Fair provides these students an diverse audience of faculty, local educators and fellow students to share and discuss their ideas and research.  

For local people contemplating entering the Master's program, this a wonderful opportunity to get a closer look at the kind of in depth work that candidates pursue in the program. The School of Education is accepting applications now for admission to Master's programs to begin in Spring and Fall.  The application window for Spring closes on November 30.  To learn more see

The event is free and open to the public.  

Math Educator Megan W. Taylor on KQED to Discuss Innovative Professional Development Models for STEM Teachers

By Pamela Van Halsema on October 8, 2014 12:18 AM

Mentor teachers and teacher candidates working together at a table

Today's KQED public radio program Forum with Michael Krasny brought together education experts to discuss the best models and reforms in teacher preparation programs.  Sonoma State School of Education's Asst. Professor Megan W. Taylor was a featured guest on the program along with SFSU's former Dean of Education Betsy Keane, Stanford's Linda Darling-Hammond, and EdSource executive director Louis Freedberg. 

The radio discussion was prompted by a new report from EdSource entitled "Preparing World Class Teachers". This particular report is intended to highlight the most promising reforms to create a more effective teaching workforce. The article suggests that such induction programs could benefit from innovation and reform.

Listen to the Forum podcast from KQED

 Implementing Innovative Models for New Teacher Support

Megan Taylor, Asst. Prof. of Curriculum and Instruction in the School of Education at Sonoma State is a sought-after expert in mathematics education, teacher development, and curriculum design in the Bay Area and beyond. Her recent work with Sonoma Valley School District is notable.  Taylor worked with Sonoma State University teacher candidates and ElevatEd fellows (undergraduate and graduate students in Math and Science) at Adele Harrison Middle School in early September as part of a year-long pilot of a professional development school partnership between Adele Harrison and the Sonoma State University School of Education. 

Megan Taylor

Megan W. Taylor, Asst Prof. of Curriculum and Instruction in Mathematics, SSU

In the program Taylor facilitated teacher candidates and ElevatEd Fellows as they observed lessons across the classrooms of the math teachers at the school, with an eye on rich classroom discussion, then participated in structured debriefs with each other and the teachers they observed. 

Principal Mary Ann Spitzer, Director of Curriculum & Instruction Karla Conroy, and ElevatEd CEO Zach Levine observed and participated in the work as well, reflecting the belief that teacher education "takes a village." 

As discussed on KQED's Forum on October 8, this experience is part of a long-term effort by SSU to strengthen the partnership between the mentor teacher and the student teacher candidate. The strong partnership is formed through key strategies, making the clinical experience for its students more effective and the return for mentor teachers more substantial. 

Another new innovative initiative, the CalCorps program strives to be the "gold standard" in teacher education and professional learning for secondary STEM teachers in California, guiding new teachers for a full 6 years from pre-service to in-service teaching. (much longer than the standard one year credential program plus two years of induction that most teachers experience) 

CalCorps focuses on creating the first, research-based, practice-focused, long-term program for the recruitment, education, support, retention, and development of outstanding STEM teachers. CalCorps is different from other models because it provides a cohesive trajectory of professional experiences for new a teacher that spans the moment they choose the profession to their 6th full-time teaching year. Find out more at:

To learn more about professional, university and research based teacher credential programs visit us at

Alumna Kaki McLachlan selected as 2014 PBS Digital Innovator

By Lina Raffaelli on June 20, 2014 3:15 PM

Kaki McLachlan at the 2013 Teacher Technology Showcase at Sonoma State

Kaki McLachlan shares an interactive project at the 2013 Teacher Technology Showcase at Sonoma State

As education is rapidly running to catch up with today's digital advances, institutions have begun to acknowledge and reward educators who are helping pave the way through useful and creative classroom strategies.

PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators Program is a year-long professional development program designed to foster and grow a community of ed-tech leaders. Each year PBS hand-selects 100 digitally-savvy K-12 educators who are effectively using digital media and technology in their schools to further student engagement and achievement.

School of Education Alumna Kaki McLachlan, graduate of the Single Subject Credential Program and Master's in Education in Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning, has been selected for this honor for the 2014-2015 school year.

"When students use technology in the classroom it allows them to take ownership of what they are learning," said McLachlan. "It is also an engaging way for students to gather up-to-date information in a variety of ways and share what they have learned in more exciting ways then ever before!"

Kaki McLachlanShe acknowledges that all the new technology can be confusing for teachers. "New amazing resources are available each and every day for teachers. At times, it can be overwhelming, but it's not necessary to know it all!" Trying a new technology with students can be a risk, and doesn't always work perfectly. She notes, "It's important to remember, as a teacher, that not every lesson is going to be a success. This is especially important to remember when you begin to implement new projects with technology in the classroom. It is okay to fail! We are students too."

McLachlan teaches science and technology to 6th-8th graders at White Hill Middle School in Fairfax. In addition to teaching life science, this year she took on two brand new technology elective courses focusing on digital citizenship and media.

Throughout the year McLachlan will participate in various virtual trainings in educational technology. As a Digital Innovator, she is expected to lead several professional development activities in the 2014-2015 school year to share her innovations with other educators within her school and district 

The PBS Learning Media Digital Innovators Summit was held in June, hosted at the PBS headquarters in Washington D.C. You can learn more about Digital Innovators by following the event on Twitter at #pbsdigitalinnovator and #pbsdisummit.

Why Learn About Being an Entrepreneurial Educator--an #Edupreneur?

By Pamela Van Halsema on June 13, 2014 11:38 AM

Guest Blogger Dr. Paul Porter, SSU Professor of Educational Leadership


Educators + Entrepreneurialism = Edupreneurialism

"Edupreneurialism?"  Just another term or something meaningful?  As an instructor in this course The Entrepreneurial Educator, of course, I lean towards the term having great meaning.  For too many years educators have avoided any ties to business, and business has criticized education's graduates.  This artificial separation has led to neither side being able to benefit from the depth and wisdom of the other.  Every business must see itself as a learning organization.  Every school and student must see themselves as a bit more like a business. 

If we are to truly move to 21st century learning and embrace the concepts of the Common Core, our students (and teachers) must begin to think of themselves not as passive recipients of knowledge but as finders and shapers of their own future.  In the course we explore the concept of every student and teacher seeing themselves as an "economic unit of one,"  not in just a financial sense, but with the belief that each student must, early in their education, begin to see themselves as responsible for developing themselves, for marketing themselves, for discovering their passions and for aligning these passions and interests with the realities of today's world.  This is not a task for a career project as a senior in High School, but a way of thinking that needs to be nurtured at an early age.

Come and join us in exploring this concept. Begin looking at yourself as an entrepreneurial educator. Our course begins on June 23 and is hosted on  Enrollment is free.

ieSonoma Event June 9 Features Design Thinking in Education

By Pamela Van Halsema on May 21, 2014 10:00 AM

Sonoma State School of Education is pleased to be a co-host of the 2014 ieSonoma event on Monday, June 9, 8:30am-12:30pm at Sonoma Country Day School in Santa Rosa.  The event is focused the changing demands of the 21st century and how our community, and its schools, must respond to meet those demands. Two keynote speakers will be featured, Dr. Sugata Mitra and Nirvan Mullick. A discussion on "Design Thinking in Education" will include a panel of experts, including Greg Bamford, Kristen Swanson, and others to be announced.

Sugata MitraDr. Sugata Mitra is Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, England. His 30 years of research spans a wide range of disciplines, but he has earned the greatest recognition for his creative experiment known as the Hole in the Wall, which showed that children can teach themselves and each other when they're motivated by curiosity and peer interest. This work inspired the book and award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire. Dr. Mitra received the 2013 TED Prize and was named one of the Top 10 Thinkers of 2013 by CNN.

Nirvan MullickNirvan Mullick is a filmmaker, creative consultant, speaker, and entrepreneur. His animated short films have screened in festivals worldwide. In 2001, he began an ongoing collaborative experiment called The 1 Second Film, which was one of the first crowd-funded films. In 2012, he directed Caine's Arcade, an 11-minute film that became a viral phenomenon, receiving over 8 million views and sparking a global movement of "cardboard creativity." Mullick subsequently founded the non-profit Imagination Foundation to find, foster, and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in children. He has received the Dan Eldon Creative Activist Award and Innovation in Action award.

Registration is free for teachers and students using the promotional code innovate14 on the registration form, but tickets are limited.  General admission is $40 for non-teachers.  To register, see this registration page


About ieSonoma

ieSonoma is a partnership of educational institutions and the larger community dedicated to exploring the research, theory, and practice of transforming education for the 21st century. The partnership was initiated by SCOE in collaboration with founding partners Sonoma Country Day School and Sonoma State University and is aligned to the Cradle to Career Sonoma County goal of ensuring that every child succeeds academically

Making Student Teaching a Rewarding Journey: Tips from Suzi Fischer

By Gabrielle Cordero on May 7, 2014 1:53 PM


By Guest Author: Suzi Fischer

Tips from a Student Teacher: Suzi Fischer

I contemplated what might be more helpful for prospective and beginner student teachers--a glimpse into the life of a student teacher, or a list of suggestions to help create a successful student teaching experience. I decided to follow in my colleague's footsteps and share the personal insights that I have discovered on this incredibly rewarding journey. Some of these tips might be repeated from other blog contributors--that just means they are extra important!

1. Get to Know Your Students

They are the entire reason you're considering this profession, so make sure you take the time to really get to know them, and enjoy the process of learning more about their unique interests, personalities, and backgrounds. This is my favorite part about teaching--forging these relationships and being a positive force in these students' lives. Knowing your students also helps immensely when formulating your lesson plans--it allows you to create a lesson that meets the specific needs and interests of your particular class and students.

2. Show Them That You Care

When students know that you care about them, not just their interests and background but their well-being and individual growth as well, they begin care about you too. So greet your class every morning, express that you're happy to see them, check in on them one-on-one to make sure they're doing alright, and support them. This means carving out a chunk of your busy day to go to their basketball game, or show up at their band concert, or even just take the time to sit and talk to lonely students through lunch instead of rushing home to finish that 459 assignment or grade that mountain of papers. Even if they don't verbally express it, they care. They care that you care. Additionally, showing students that you care also ties into your classroom management and creating a safe environment for your students.

3. Consult with Your Mentor Teacher, and Often

Where would Luke Skywalker be if he didn't have an Obi-Wan or Yoda to guide him through the challenging process of becoming a Jedi Knight? Just as your students look up to you as a role model and guide, so too, do student teachers need to rely on an experienced mentor to navigate the murky waters of first-year teaching. It is so important to have easy and open lines of communication with your mentor teacher. I meet with my mentor teacher twice a week to collaborate on lesson plans and assess how previous lessons have gone; on top of this, we email and text regularly to ensure that our co-teaching flows smoothly and we are on the same page. It's all about teamwork, collaboration, and constant self-assessment and reflection.

4. Feedback is Your Friend!

The feedback that your mentor teacher and SSU supervisor provide for you is extremely helpful--take their constructive criticism to heart to learn from mistakes and benefit from their wisdom. Now is the time to create positive habits and correct negative ones before they become routine and are ingrained in your everyday teaching.

Also don't be afraid to ask for feedback. There is no such thing as too much feedback, as long as you take the suggestions with a grain of salt and make sure that you stay true to your style of teaching. What works for one teacher may not work for another--it all depends on who you are, the relationship you have with your students, and how you approach teaching.

The advice that helped me the most was gathered from a survey I took from my Senior Honors English class, in which I asked them to anonymously and thoughtfully give suggestions and feedback that would help me to be a better educator. They took the task to heart and I was rewarded with a treasure trove of insightful and helpful information. They were very honest, and while some of the criticism was hard to hear, their willingness to help and perceptive observations aided greatly in my growth as a teacher. I had a short discussion with the class openly examining areas where I need improvement and discussing specific ways in which I could strengthen my skillset. They were pleased that I was genuinely interested in what they had to say and the entire experience was very rewarding for both parties.

5. Be Prepared!

I cannot stress this enough! Always, always, always have a backup plan! Teaching demands flexibility, thinking on your feet, and being able to roll with the punches. One of my favorite sayings is "keep calm and pretend it's on the lesson plan--" it's funny to laugh about, but you will face the unexpected--even when you're expecting it! There have been many times when the classroom wifi has failed when the entire lesson depended on our ability to access the internet. Additionally, you will have days when equipment breaks (like a projector), teachers "borrow" your Elmo on the day you really need it (like during your instruction section of the PACT Teaching Event), or all of the electrical outlets in your room will suddenly decide to stop working. The more prepared you are, the easier it is to whip up a secondary lesson on the spot and proceed just as if it was always on the lesson plan.

5 Tips from a Novice Student Teacher: Amy Nelson

By Gabrielle Cordero on April 15, 2014 1:22 PM

a picture of Amy Nelson Student Teacher

By Guest Author: Amy Nelson

5 Tips from a Novice Student Teacher

Accept the Awkward

There are going to be MANY uncomfortable and awkward moments during your student teaching year. Embrace them, laugh about them, and learn from them. Nothing can really prepare you for the moment when you are staring at a room full of 35 seventh graders, and somebody tells you that you have spilt coffee down your white shirt and didn't even notice. You will have moments when you simply don't know what to say or can't recall the brilliant point you'd planned on making. Student teaching is a time when you can make mistakes, you won't be perfect. In fact, I've learned the most from the lessons I created that didn't work out whatsoever. So when you're "onstage" and the lesson doesn't turn out like a clip from Freedom Writers... just roll it.

Work with Your Mentor

One of the first things my mentor told me was that picking a student teacher is like picking a roommate or a spouse. Having a good relationship with your mentor truly makes a huge difference in your experience. Your mentor is there to coach and guide you: ask them questions, admit defeat and confusion, talk to them about what you're doing well and what you need to work on. Don't be offended when they offer you constructive criticism about your instructional approaches. RELY on your mentor, for they are there to support you in every situation, a.k.a. when the class has gotten out of control and you have absolutely no idea how to quiet them down before the principal walks in.

Get to Know Your Students

This seems obvious, but as a novice teacher it is easy to get caught up in the chaos of prepping for your next class, remembering how to work the copy machine at break, trying to find the assignments for a student who hasn't been to class in two weeks, etc. Make it a goal to just talk to your students when time permits--ask them about their lives and what is going on in their world. Just the other day I noticed while putting in grades that Lilly, a quiet student who doesn't "hide" from me nor shout out and demand my attention, has been performing exceptionally well during my "Outsiders" unit. Sometimes I get so caught up with interacting with the students who require so much attention, that I don't get to check in with the students who don't beg to be noticed. I made sure to approach Lilly at her desk the next day and tell her that I have seen how well she has been doing, and that I was really proud of her. The smile that stretched across her face sent chills down my arms--she beamed with pride and it surprised me how just that one comment meant so much to her. You are the teacher, but you will learn so much from your students... so talk to them.

a picture of Amy Nelson Student Teacher

Make a Name for Yourself

Student teaching isn't a time to be shy. Talk to the other teachers and administrators at your school, there is no better time to observe the teaching styles and techniques of others. Ask educators why they got into the profession. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and be the student teacher who is always shaking people's hands and roaming around campus.

Remember Why You Want to Teach

During your student teaching you will be completely stressed out, overwhelmed, and unsure of yourself--it's okay. You will have one million things to do: papers to write, projects to make, and essays to grade, but be sure to take time for yourself. Take a deep breath and remind yourself why you want to be a teacher. There have been many days where I've felt like I'm doing a horrible job and question whether or not I have what it takes to be an English teacher. Days like that happen, but then, a student tells me that I'm their favorite teacher -or--someone spells the correct form of "your" and "you're" on their essay and I know that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. It is easy to get caught up in the stress of it all, but remember that the kids are what make it all worth it in the end... teaching is truly a joy.

Survival Tips from a Student Teacher by Single Subject Candidate Travis Pappa

By Gabrielle Cordero on April 8, 2014 1:27 PM

a picture of Travis Pappa Student Teacher

By Guest Author: Travis Pappa

5 Ways to Make your Student Teaching Effective, Enjoyable and Fulfilling

Form a Positive Relationship with Your Mentor Teacher

This may come very naturally or it may take some intentional effort on your part. Chances are, you probably won't agree with everything your mentor teacher says or does, nevertheless, do your best to understand their point of view and the experiences they have had (namely, their teaching experience that caused them to adapt the procedures or habits they have). While you may find yourself eager for the freedom of your first year of teaching solo, take advantage of the ideas, constructive critique (as humbling as it may be, it will be worth it!), perspective, advice and anecdotes that years of experience have yielded your mentor teacher. Developing a sense of teamwork and camaraderie with your mentor teacher can be of great value to both you and your students.

Read Articles and Books Related to Education that Interest You

Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov has been one of my favorite reads during my time as a student teacher because of the practical and easily implemented teaching techniques it describes. Ask your mentor teacher for reading recommendations since it is likely they have established a personal library of education-related readings. Books and articles provide a great point of conversation between educated individuals (such as you and your mentor teacher) and are certainly a catalyst for creativity during your lesson planning.

a picture of Travis Pappa Student Teacher

Greet the Students Who May Feel Overlooked or Unnoticed in Class

While student teaching, I was surprised to find that I had at least two students each period who would try to be as unnoticeable (by teachers and/or students) as possible. I challenged myself to greet each of these students personally and consistently at the beginning of each class period - even if it was a simple: "Good morning, Irvin, I'm glad you're here today." Although one of my students wanted to keep their interactions with me limited to this, over the following three weeks, most of these quiet students began to change their classroom behavior. Most of these students who were once shy and quiet began to be more alert and active in class. These students also began to hold conversations with me (during and after class!) and even began smiling more frequently during the period. It was an enjoyable lesson in how intentionality and consistency go a long way for the students who are accustomed to being overlooked.

Listen More, Talk Less

The more I teach, the more I am reminded that I become a better teacher by listening: talking with other educators in my content area, formal student feedback, informal student feedback and reading works by published educators. Ironically, the best teachers seem do a great deal of listening. High school students have an average "lecture attention span" of 14-18 minutes, which means that a teacher should spend most of a class period not addressing the entire class. There are a plethora of ways students can learn content aside from lecture (and a substantial amount of research-based methods and materials to do so). Save your voice for when it's needed and spend time circulating your classroom, talking with students and conducting thoughtful formative assessments on how your students are understanding the material. Often, the less I talk, the more meaningful my words are to my students.

Remind Yourself of the Reasons You Want to be a Teacher

No matter how good of an imagination you have, teaching looks, feels and is much different than you ever imagined. Inevitably, there will be days when you will feel you don't have what it takes to be a teacher. After some pizza, chocolate, or a power nap, take some time to remind yourself of why you want to be a teacher. There were likely multiple things that inspired you to pursue this profession and it is important to remind yourself of such inspiration on the days that discourage you. After that, create opportunities that allow you to enjoy your favorite parts of teaching.

The Accelerating Academic Achievement for English Learners (AAAEL) Project is a five-year, teacher-centered professional development project funded by the U.S. Department of Education that is focused on improving English Learner (EL) student achievement in mathematics, science and English language arts.