These tools and tips will help take your classroom to the next level

President of HEI

Dr. Mary Landon Darden is President of HEI, LLC. She served in education administration for 20 years and last served as a university center dean in San Antonio, TX. Darden is the author of a book co-published with the American Council on Education and Rowman and Littlefield titled Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of Universities in America.

I asked more than a dozen of the best teachers I have known during my more than two decades in education to share a simple and transferable teaching tool that has served them well and that could be useful to other teachers at almost any level.

Here are some of their favorite tools…

You don’t want to miss what’s coming Sunday. Really.

President of HEI

Dr. Mary Landon Darden is President of HEI, LLC. She served in education administration for 20 years and last served as a university center dean in San Antonio, TX. Darden is the author of a book co-published with the American Council on Education and Rowman and Littlefield titled Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of Universities in America.

Greetings fellow educators and friends!

As you may know, we are geared toward helping schools teachers and administrators and providing advice to you from experienced professionals in the education field.

The Greatest Pain-Points Facing Texas Public Schools Today

President of HEI

Dr. Mary Landon Darden is President of HEI, LLC. She served in education administration for 20 years and last served as a university center dean in San Antonio, TX. Darden is the author of a book co-published with the American Council on Education and Rowman and Littlefield titled Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of Universities in America.

It is clear that schools are experiencing increasing pain-points and are searching for ways to address these in an efficient and effective manner.  To increase awareness and insight into what various leaders in Texas public schools perceive as the greatest pain-points for their particular ISDs, I sent out a query to about a dozen contacts in various leadership positions

This was a very small preliminary query using a convenience sample.  There were five responses, which were listed below. This is not a large enough sample to be comprehensive or conclusive, but it is interesting starting point for the conversation about the pain-points in public ISDs today.

The 3 Traits of the Teachers We Love

Jon Platt is a Texas-born, award-winning writer. He is a graduate student in Baylor University's journalism program. Jon coordinates HEI's digital marketing. He lives in Waco, Texas with his Dalmatian, Penny.

Remember that one teacher back in grade school? No, not the one who caught you passing notes across class and read your profession of love to your crush aloud. I mean the teacher who cared, who sparked an interest, who made a difference in your life.

When I think of that kind of teacher, three names come to mind: Norman Rowden, Kim McKinnon and Holly Davis. I had these teachers at three different stages in life – elementary, middle and high school, respectively. Yet, they were each able to leave a lasting impact in my life. I don’t think that merely happened by accident. I think it happened because teachers we love the most and who leave a lasting impact on us often are the teachers with three common traits.

Step One: Let’s grow a community of educators together

President of HEI

Dr. Mary Landon Darden is President of HEI, LLC. She served in education administration for 20 years and last served as a university center dean in San Antonio, TX. Darden is the author of a book co-published with the American Council on Education and Rowman and Littlefield titled Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of Universities in America.

Great teaching, at least in my experience, requires inspiration, fresh ideas, continual learning and discovery.

That is why we continue to learn, grow, develop new tools and resources. What better way to shortcut to great working ideas than for engaged educators to share their most successful tools, creative ideas, and powerful experiences?

Welcome to HEI’s New Blog!

You'll find the best resources to become a better educator

Jon Platt is a Texas-born, award-winning writer. He is a graduate student in Baylor University's journalism program. Jon coordinates HEI's digital marketing. He lives in Waco, Texas with his Dalmatian, Penny.

Have you seen what social media looks like after a national tragedy or natural disaster? People from everywhere pour in to provide support and awareness.

I love that part of the Internet — the ability to make tribes out of common experience, the chance to connect with like-minded people and experience alternative opinions. That’s what we’re planning to do here at HEI Today. What excites me is we’re doing it for and with people like you!

What I learned about dyslexia from 33 years of teaching

This post is by Dana Ross Stanke. She is a Reading Interventionist, who lives and teaches in Waco, Texas.

I have been in a classroom in one capacity or another since 1971. (I prefer to think of myself as experienced as opposed to old.) For 33 years I have been a reading specialist, a Reading Recovery teacher, a reading coach, and a reading interventionist.  I’ve seen the reading pendulum swing from phonics to whole language to balanced literacy.  What hasn’t changed in all those years is that some children, no matter what reading program is thrown at them, have great difficulty learning to read and write.  My fascination and passion has always been with these particular children.

Being a teenager just isn’t fair!

God bless those of you who teach them.

    Journalism professor

    Robert F. Darden is a Professor of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media at Baylor University. His most recent books, Nothing But Love In God's Water: Volumes 1 & 2, are available on Amazon.

    Jazz historian, activist and author Nat Hentoff died January 7, 2016. Hentoff was an extraordinary chronicler of jazz and the men and women who created the music. He also wrote several novels, most notably two books for young adults, This School is Driving Me Crazy and Does This School Have Capital Punishment? They follow the misadventures of a fairly normal seventh grade boy and have the ring of authenticity about things like bullies, fitting in, and the inexplicable terrors of junior high. They’re not my favorite YA books – Hentoff is prone to preach from time to time – but they’re worth a read.

    Hentoff’s passing, though, also put me in mind of the YA novels that have stuck with me through the decades– Sarah, Plain and Tall, A Chance Wild Apple, Tuck Everlasting, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Ramona Quimby, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMN, A Smart Kid Like You, The Secret Garden, Jacob I Have Loved, and so many others. So much so, the next day I Netflixed the Disney movie version of one of the best, A Bridge to Terabithia (2007). If you haven’t read the original by the great Katherine Paterson (a Newbery Prize-winner in 1978), the movie is pretty darn close. Treat yourself.

    It’s the story of Jesse (played by Josh Hutcherson), a 5th grader with lots of problems: three bossy sisters, a brooding distant father (the great Robert Patrick), and a school full of bullies. Jesse escapes into his one love – art. Suddenly, there is a new kid in his class, Leslie (the heart-breakingly good AnnaSophia Robb), who has problems of her own (not the least of which is that she’s an outsider in this close-knit rural school). They become inseparable and, together, create the world of Terabithia.

    No spoilers here, but you will love this little movie. It is full of magic and love and courage and – because the real world isn’t Terabithia – tragedy.

    It also reminded me of the hardest time in my life and, from an informal poll of friends through the years, the hardest time in most people’s lives: junior high. From about 5th grade through 9th grade, nothing make sense. And your body and your emotions make the least sense of all. If you’re a guy, strange hormones are unexpectedly surging through your body. Girls become infinitely complex, unendingly mysterious alien life-forms. Teachers suddenly become authority figures. Someone has taken away recess. Mom and dad go from being your favorite people to slightly … embarrassing.

    I would never, ever want to be 10 or 12 or 14 again.  For the first time – I was experiencing adult emotions in a kid’s brain, and my kid’s body was turning into a teen-ager’s body. It was baffling. It was scary. And – geez louise – it’s just not fair! No one should have to endure all of that.

    After watching A Bridge to Terabithia (and yes, I cried – but it was a manly sort of tears), I was swept for time back into my own junior high days. As a Military Brat, I went to different schools in my fifth, sixth and seventh grade years. It was a long time ago, but through the fog of hazy memory, I remember a mostly upbeat kid with Coke-bottle glasses, buck teeth, and a crew cut reading voraciously, dreaming of playing first baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals, and torturously finding my way through this scary new world.

    I remember that the feelings I had at the time were as real to me then as they are now. First love! First loss! First bully! First argument with my parents! But because I was a kid, the adults in my life thought I was still feeling a kid’s emotions.

    A Bridge to Terabithia reminded me, yet again, that junior high kids really do feel. The loss of a friend or loved one is no less real because you’re only 11. The crazy-quilt of emotions, including something like love or infatuation, that follow when you meet That First Girl or That First Guy are no less real to the junior high kid who experiences them the first time.

    When our children went through those years, our emotions careened with theirs. During those days, they were a blur of long arms and longer legs, loveable one minute, infuriating the next. They couldn’t help it any more than I could have when I was that age. I wish I had been more understanding during my kids’ junior high years. Perhaps I will be when the grandkids turn that awful/wonderful age.

    God bless those of you who teach junior high. You’re doing God’s work. You may never meet a more confusing, enduring group of people in your life. But those who teach junior high year after year tell me it is worth it.

    4 questions to ask before deciding on your graduate program

    President of HEI

    Dr. Mary Landon Darden is President of HEI, LLC. She served in education administration for 20 years and last served as a university center dean in San Antonio, TX. Darden is the author of a book co-published with the American Council on Education and Rowman and Littlefield titled Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of Universities in America.

    1. What is my passion?

    Let’s face it, teaching and working in schools is not for the faint of heart.  It will take more than a paycheck to keep, not only, persisting, but thriving in the classroom.  When selection a graduate degree, success will likely be mote forth-coming and the outcomes more fulfilling, if the field of study aligns with your passion. In my experience, the best fuel for success is to identify subjects, goals, missions, that tap into your passion or sense of calling.  This was the number one trait I have sought in my 20 years of hiring teachers and it proved to be extremely fruitful.  If you are not sure what you are passionate about, ask yourself where you experience joy; what projects do you enjoy so much that you would not only do them at work, but would do them for no pay and even stay up late by choice to work on them?

    2. What are my greatest gifts and talents?

    You likely know what you do well, what comes naturally, what you excel at.  These are frequently indications of your natural gifts and talents.  I have often found that students struggle with success when they do not align their degree choice with their natural abilities.  I have seen many students select law or medicine as a degree pathway, even though they have no real interest, aptitude or gifts that relate to those fields. It is my opinion that many of these students are attempting to please someone else by pursuing a field that they think will earn approval or praise from family, friends and community, or will make the most money, rather than an area that will be personally fulfilling and inspiring. So much financial expense, time and heartache could be avoided by tapping into the better fit to begin with.

     3. What are my long-term goals?

    I know people with three or more Master’s degree.  This is perfectly fine, if a person loves going to school and has the funding to support it.  However, I have seen this happen more often from people changing their mind or deciding to go in another direction, often because they did not think things through regarding long-term goals, which can waist time, money and energy.  It can be a career limiter to become highly specialized, particularly if long-term goals do not exist.  If the long-term goal is to become a Superintendent, at some point a move needs to be made to educational administration and Superintendent Certification.  This process usually involves becoming a principal first and perhaps holding a Master’s degree in Educational Administration.  It is becoming increasingly common for Superintendents to hold a doctorate in Educational Administration along with their Superintendent Certification. Thinking your degree plans through to the ultimate goal, is the most effective and efficient way to pave your educational pathway.

    4. What are my limitations?

    Things that may impact your degree program choices and success that should be weighed accordingly may be:

    • Place-boundness – are you free to move for your career or not?
    • Financial limitations – how much debt to you have and what can you afford to take on?
    • Proximity – do you have to drive to attend or can you take course online?
    • Scheduling – time for study and class – will your schedule allow you enough time to study and attend class?
    • Available job opportunities – if you complete a graduate degree path, are there likely to be position options opening that you could consider?
    • Wellness level – is your physical, mental and relational situation strong enough to endure the stresses of graduate school?

    Is life after graduation scary? It doesn’t have to be

    President of HEI

    Dr. Mary Landon Darden is President of HEI, LLC. She served in education administration for 20 years and last served as a university center dean in San Antonio, TX. Darden is the author of a book co-published with the American Council on Education and Rowman and Littlefield titled Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of Universities in America.

    As students move closer to high school graduation, many are questioning not only what path to take – college, job, military, but even within each of the options, there are so many choices. It can be overwhelming.

    The New York Times ran an article recently about three high school seniors in Topeka, Kansas, who were struggling with these options. In many ways, these students appeared to be a good small sample of cross-section of various student types.

    One student in the Times‘ story was worried about taking on a large amount of debt and still not having a job upon college graduation. I suspect he’s not alone. Parents are worried about this, too. With the high visibility recently of so many stories on crippling student debt, this is an understandable concern.

    Of course, in a perfect world, students would like to focus on a college education that is both affordable and prepares students for jobs that are plentiful in the market. The trouble is that it is difficult for the average 17- or 18-year-old be able to discern and compare all of this information on their own. It’s tough enough for adults!

    There are 4000 colleges in the U.S. and many hundreds of degree programs. The job market is pivoting faster than ever before. We do not yet know what all of the many new employment areas of the future will be.

    Despite the fact that the last census showed that average income still correlates strongly with level of education, we know that there are no guarantees. Higher education remains a frightening proposition for many, yet so many jobs require a college degree.

    Many school counselors have so many students assigned to them that it is virtually impossible to spend much significant time with any of them.

    How do we help high school students to navigate these continually changing future options? How can we build a process that is more predictable, affordable, stable and less frightening? That’s one of the main issues I’d like to address in the weeks ahead on this site. I hope you’ll join me on this journey of joint discovery!