Welcome to Buenos Aires!

When I woke up this morning the plane was just crossing the Andes Mountains into Argentina.


Upon landing in Buenos Aires, I met my group and hopped on a bus to our hotel. I was thrilled that a delicious brunch was waiting for me. After a bit of a rest, we embarked on a whirlwind city tour of some of the must-see sights in Buenos Aires.

The tour began at the famous La Recoleta Cemetery. This is where the wealthiest Argentinians are buried and offers a grand show of the wealth and power Argentina once held. While some of the mausoleums are falling down in disrepair due to the high cost of maintaining them, others are prime examples of the opulence, extravagance, and European influence of 19th century Buenos Aires.

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Our next stop was the park adjacent to Casa Rosada, the famous “pink house” that serves as a government office. It is known for the famous balcony where President Juan Peron and wife Evita would regularly address the people.


It is especially interesting to see the strong French and Spanish influences in the various buildings around the city.

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We also took a moment to visit the cathedral where Pope Francis served before assuming his role in Rome.

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Finally, the tour took us to the eclectic La Boca neighborhood with its brightly painted houses, street market art and souvenir shops.


It was a busy, bustling day and I am exhausted. Tomorrow morning we are all set for a 5:45 am wake up call to head to our flight to Ushuaia. This will likely be my last update for a while as the internet aboard the ship may not be robust enough to post regularly.

Tomorrow I meet the Explorer and begin the journey across the Drake Passage. Wish us good weather and LOTS of animal encounters!

Student Question 1: “Will you see any polar bears?”

I have just arrived in Dallas for a quick layover before boarding my LONG flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The trip is in full swing!

As I mentioned earlier, I have a stack of student questions that will be joining me on my adventure. My goal is to answer as many of them as possible during the expedition; however, I can answer one of them right now.

Several students asked if I would see any polar bears while in Antarctica and the answer is: No, not one. Polar bears live in the Arctic, which is in the Northern Hemisphere. There is a really interesting interactive map/activity (click here) that shows the migratory patterns of polar bears. You will notice that all of their movement occurs at the “top” of the globe.

So, what kind of wildlife should I expect in Antarctica? The plan is to encounter penguins on multiple occasions. I expect to see a variety of birds both in Argentina, in route and around Antarctica. There should also be seals and if all of my hopes and dreams come true… whales. The expedition team includes experienced underwater photographers and divers so I hope to have the opportunity learn from them about life beneath the surface as well.

Tonight I will be crossing the Equator for the first time, and venturing into the Southern Hemisphere.

See you on the other side of the world!

The adventure begins!

I am checked in and waiting to board the plane for my first flight and I am SO excited the adventure has officially begun! I will stop briefly in Dallas and then hop the LONG flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Several students asked how long it takes to get to Antarctica from Austin, and according to my itinerary it will take about three days: the Explorer is expected to reach Antarctica on Saturday, December 31 – what an awesome New Year’s treat! There are probably faster ways to reach the legendary White Continent, but we are going to take a little time to explore Buenos Aires tomorrow and then will fly over Patagonia to Ushuaia, Argentina (capital of Tierra del Fuego) where we will meet the Explorer on Thursday.

As you all know, I am lost without a good book in my hands, so I am well prepared for the 10 hour and 24 minute flight from Dallas to Buenos Aires.


In addition to books to prepare me for my Antarctic adventure, my Kindle is loaded with a stack of new titles that may just be the next big thing in the Library. I am also finishing Lars-Eric Lindblad’s biography (1983), Passport to Anywhere: The Story of Lars-Eric Lindblad, who is considered the pioneer of adventure travel. The story begins with the exciting account of an Antarctic journey gone a bit awry, and then chronicles Lindblad’s life, both his successes and failures, as he paved the way for adventure minded tourists to visit some of the most remote and exquisite corners of the world. His enthusiasm for learning about the world by experiencing the world is contagious, and thanks to his book I now have a rather long “bucket list” of places to see and things to learn. If you are even remotely interested in travel, I highly recommend this title – you can even get an electronic copy for free on the Lindblad Expeditions website.


Lars-Eric Lindblad’s son, Sven-Olaf Lindblad, is the reason I have the opportunity to have this tremendous experience (and am able to share it with all of you). He created the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship to honor his friend and colleague Gilbert M. Grosvenor, Chairman Emeritus National Geographic Society and Education Foundation Board.

Happy reading!

Teachers and Librarians: There is still time to apply for a 2017 Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship. Applications close at 11:59 p.m. December 31, 2016.

Packed and Ready!

Today it feels real.

Tomorrow I am embarking on my adventure to Antarctica as a 2016 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic aboard the National Geographic Explorer.  My bag is packed and I am ready for this amazing experience of a lifetime.

The journey actually began about three years ago when I first learned about the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship. It is the pinnacle of self-directed teacher professional development, combining a love of learning with some of the world’s most exquisite destinations.  Of course, I immediately made it my goal to earn a place on the prestigious fellowship roster.

In December of 2014, I was facilitating an International Baccalaureate workshop in Washington, D.C. and planned a few extra days to explore the city since I had never been to our nation’s capital. In the mad dash from the Washington Mall through the Smithsonian Museums, and stopping for a quick picture at the White House we took a moment to visit the National Geographic Museum. I have long been a fan of National Geographic Magazine, and have fond memories of the excitement of their monthly arrival and the hours I spent in awe of the pictures (I am fairly certain I have several boxes of old volumes from the 80s hiding out in my attic). While standing at the museum entrance, shortly after paying for our admission, I noticed a fountain attached to the wall. There were several coins in the fountain, creating a sort of wishing-well effect, so I promptly took out my quarter, wished for my application to be successful and threw it in the marble trough…

I wasn’t selected for the 2015 class of fellows, but in February of 2016, I received one of those phone calls that change your life: I was selected as a 2016 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow and would be traveling to Antarctica in December. Wow. I was really a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, but it didn’t feel real just yet.

In April, all of the fellows meet in Washington D.C. at National Geographic Headquarters to learn about our responsibilities before, during and after the expedition. It is also an opportunity to meet our shipmates, collaborate about bringing the experience back to our schools and communities, and meet with the experienced team of naturalists who will be joining us on our journey. We were welcomed in the historic Hubbard Hall, first headquarters of the National Geographic Society.


I met Jeanna (from Houston) and Sara (from California) who would be joining me in Antarctica and we became fast friends, ready to share the adventure.


My two days in D.C. (which also included a quick jaunt to the National Mall and a quick wave at the White House) went by in a blur. I learned so much, and returned to my campus armed with information about creating virtual field trips, using my camera more effectively, and a wealth of engaging lesson plan ideas. Still, it didn’t feel real – Antarctica? Really?

Since April, I have been reading and researching and planning. I scoured the stores for base layers and wool socks, and now have a healthy collection nestled comfortably in my travel bag. I have visited with teachers about ways to integrate my experience into their curriculum, and I have a stack of questions my students would like answered.

My bags are packed. My grizzly bear mascot will be my travel buddy. I am even bringing along a book of poetry written by the 5th grade students who will be attending my school next year; an example of the amazing collaborative opportunities this experience provides.



Tomorrow the adventure begins, and today, it finally feels real.

I will be posting about my adventure as I am able. Follow the Daily Expedition Reports from the National Geographic Explorer here.

Reflections on Myanmar – Summer 2016


Sometimes the most powerful lessons are learned in rather unexpected ways. As I prepared for my journey to Myanmar (Burma) in the summer of 2016, I did not know what to expect, but caught myself focusing on things like what I would eat and packing enough Deet laden insect repellent to arm myself against the tiny biting mosquito demons. I received a scholarship from the University of Texas South Asia Institute to travel with GEEO Tours on a two week tour of Myanmar. Having never traveled beyond the Western world, I was eager to learn about Buddhist custom and the art and architecture associated with religion and ritual in Myanmar. Of course, I experienced all of these things (and so much more), but the one I will never forget relates to the generosity and unbreakable spirit of the Burmese people.


We were just returning to the city of Mandalay after an evening boat excursion on the Ayeyarwady River (Irrawaddy River). It was early evening and most of us were hot and hungry. We spent the day touring the regional pagodas, exploring Burmese food and culture, and learning about how the rainy season particularly affects the lifestyle of the region, particularly those who farm rice or live along the river bank. Many of these people were living in somewhat temporary housing along the new river’s edge since their regular homes and businesses were underwater. During the outing, our boat skipped past thatched rooftops peeking out of the muddy brown water. Some families used boats to access their flooded homes, though most were submerged beyond the point of reasonable entry.


One of the things that struck me early on the trip was the amount of trash lining the streets, particularly in and along the banks of waterways.  What seemed to me like an ocean of food debris, plastic water bottles, soda cans and more covered many roadsides, empty lots and rivers. Football fields of trash floated along the top of the water near the shore while the locals simply ignored this and carried on with their daily lives.


As our boat pulled into the makeshift dock at the end of our tour, piles of litter and debris scattered to make way. While staring at the mess I noticed, just to the left of our landing area, a family leaving their hut for a bath in the river. When bathing in the river, men and women wear a longyi (traditional Burmese clothing that is basically a large piece of fabric turned into a wrap skirt). They are a very modest culture, so while bathing, nothing is visible, other than that not typically covered by clothing. I don’t have a picture because it is considered inappropriate to photograph a person who is bathing (obviously), but on occasion this can be harder than you may expect, which is perhaps why the Myanmar Ministry of Hotels and Tourism included a reminder in this guide for tourists.

One of the women in the bathing group waded into the muddy water rather enthusiastically, smiling and waving vigorously to our boat, welcoming us back to shore.  She splashed and waved and waved and splashed with one of the broadest, most genuine smiles I have ever seen, showing no concern for the dark brown of the water or the layers of trash surrounding her bathing area. Many of us did a double take as she brushed her teeth, using the river as a water source.


It was at this moment that her smiling face cemented into my memory. Our group must have seemed rather entitled sitting on our boat beneath our sun hats and twelve layers of SPF 70, sipping bottled water and Coca Cola. And yet this woman did not look at us with scorn, jealousy or contempt. She smiled and welcomed us.  Perhaps she welcomed our American dollars, which may have fed her family that month (due to the hut’s proximity to the dock we suspect it may be her family’s business). Perhaps. Regardless, she welcomed us. She did not see any flaw in her lifestyle or the water in which she bathed, and I was forced to ask myself: “Why did I?”

I will always remember her kind eyes, her genuine smile and her contentment. We often forget just how much we have to be thankful for – this woman reminded me that joy doesn’t come from things. Even though she and I never spoke, we built a thousand bridges between a simple smile and a wave.

See you at AMLE 2016!


Session Title: Teacher/Librarian Collaboration: The Key to Cross-Disciplinary Literacy

Schedule:  Monday, October 10, 2016, 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm

Session Title: Empowering Leaders: The Importance of Developing Campus Leadership Beyond the Administrative Team

Schedule: Tuesday, October 11, 2016, 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm

Monuments of Rome in English Culture

It is so rewarding when hard work pays off. I am excited to announce that the lesson plans from the 2015 Monuments of Rome in English Culture NEH Summer Teacher Institute have been posted to the institute website. If you are looking for ways to connect Rome to pretty much any part of your curriculum (at any age level) you will find it here.

As we conclude the Labor Day holiday, and now that the 2016-2017 school year is in full swing, I find myself longing for Rome… the daily gelato, the amazing architecture, and the slower paced way of life.  I am looking forward to taking a “walk” through the forum with my students as we complete the Monumental Literacy lesson I designed during the institute.  Check out the introductory video – I am SO impressed by the collective work of the team to produce such a high quality classroom tool for the lesson.

I am looking forward to remembering Rome as my students complete the lesson this November. It is also an excellent motivation as I plan my 2017 Summer professional development.

Where will the 2016-2017 school year take you?

Virtual Adventures with Google Expeditions


UPDATE (9/20/2016): I just learned that not only is Google Expeditions available to everyone, it is also available on iOS! I will be VERY busy this weekend planning ways to use this with my students. HOORAY!

Thanks to some financial assistance from my Instructional Technology Specialist’s budget, I was able to attend the Texas Computer Education Association annual conference in Austin for the first time this year. While it definitely isn’t worth replacing my annual attendance at the Texas Library Association annual conference, I found it a worthwhile event for exploring how to use technology with students in ways that are meaningful, easy to implement and productive. I recommend it for any librarian and educator, not only those teaching classes directly relating to the use of computers and technology.

One of my favorite parts of the conference was the opportunity to experience the new Google Expeditions Program using the Google Cardboard devices. WOW. For someone who loves to travel as much as I do, this is an AMAZING resource and is going to make my Library THE place to be. It’s still in Beta right now, but I am very much looking forward to using it regularly with my students. We are already researching ways for students to construct their own Google Cardboard devices using our campus makerspace, and I absolutely intend to purchase additional devices for the Library. We currently have two, but they are getting little use right now. Trust me, as soon as I have full access to the Google Expeditions Program that is all going to change.

Our “guide” took us on a trip to Mt. Everest. Of course the virtual experience will never match a physical adventure, but this was AWESOME and will engage students completely. The 360 degree 3-D images are superb and the teacher scripts will make classroom “journeys” easy to lead – though it might be difficult to keep participants on track. All of us were looking everywhere but where our “guide” was telling us to look because we were in awe of the “view,” but it was nice to know that as teachers, we will have the ability to see where our students are focusing their attention and adjust our lesson accordingly. The level of detail is so precise that the viewer is truly immersed in the experience. I was a little nervous looking down from my perch on a rickety swinging bridge across an icy gorge, and could easily imagine the frosty wind tearing across the base camp.

There are still a few things on my list before fully executing the Google Expeditions Program on my campus (such as, you know, actually having access to Google Expeditions…) but once it is out of Beta I intend to take my students on virtual field trips regularly. I would like have a monthly featured destination where I lead “trips” and provide an array of resources about or related to that place. Here are some of the titles I would display (or add to an interactive ThingLink) for our “trip” to Mt. Everest:

Top of the World top of the world 2 peak No Summit out of Sight conquering everest climbing everest adventure gap Between Heaven and Earth

I encourage you to apply to the Expeditions Pioneer Program. I wasn’t selected, but you may have better luck (no hard feelings – I know the developers want the program to be top notch before the official public release).

Happy Adventuring!

“Second to the right, and straight on till morning.”

Big Ben - Our Favorite ClockBig Ben, London, England – taken on a side trip to London during my Gilder-Lehrman Summer Teacher Seminar in 2014

Recently, there has been a surge of fairy-tale retellings in YA literature, and I think it offers an excellent opportunity for students to explore the originals. I find that most of my students are familiar with the stories of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, etc. but have not read them in their original format. Instead, the students are well versed in the various cinematic adaptations, particularly those of the Disney animated variety. These modern retellings provide an opportunity for teachers and librarians to expose students to the original texts and the authors who masterminded such intricate stories that linger in our canon today.

Peter Pan CoverMy Library copy of Peter Pan – it has lots of colorful illustrations, making it seem like a quick, easy read.

One of my favorites for this comparative adventure is Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. There is literary magic in Pan’s whimsical character and his eternal youth as he is forever in the heart of a childhood adventure. However revisiting this familiar tale in its original form at an age slightly beyond Pan’s – mid to late teens, early adulthood, late adulthood – provides a different perspective on Pan’s actions. Sometimes we, as readers, lament not visiting the Neverland of our own, and other times we are shocked at Peter’s terrible behavior.

There are several retellings of Peter Pan, all adding something of their own to Barrie’s original, but today I would like to focus on a retelling from the perspective of Captain James Hook.

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My favorite retelling of the Peter Pan story to date.

Everyone knows and loves the story of Peter Pan. In fact, I like to love Peter Pan himself, often forgiving the arrogance or flippancy of such a quintessential literary character. Brianna Shrum changes all of that with her beautiful exploration of the mind of Captain James Hook. He is all pirate for sure: vile, aggressive, savage. But in this version of our well known Neverland tale, he grows from boy to man; a tender man, capable of love, honor, leaving us wondering if what we have always believed about Peter is really true…

While violent and bloody (this is no Disney version) Shrum captures the essence of innocence and savagery of the young boy’s mind while also exploring what it means to become a man. Brilliant, but not for the faint of heart.

Audience: Grades 9 and Up

Curriculum Connections/Lesson Ideas:

The obvious connection is a compare and contrast discussion/graphic organizer/activity of the main characters in Shrum’s story and J. M. Barrie’s original. This might be a nice way to explore the various interpretations of the Peter Pan and Hook characters over time. Of course, there are several film and theatric versions of the Peter Pan tale which would also offer additional depth to the exploration.

Display Ideas:
Create a display matching the original tales with one (or more) modern YA retellings. Here are a few ideas to get you started – I expect most YA collections already have these tiles. It’s also worth taking a moment to make sure that the collection has a copy of the original story in a format that is engaging to the reader. The Classics are indeed timeless, but the printed editions from the 1950s are not going to encourage our modern students to spend their weekends flipping through the dusty pages.

Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll / Splintered by A.G. Howard (a Spirit of Texas High School Author – go here for programming ideas)

“Cinderella” by Charles Perrault / Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell, Seeing Cinderella by Jenny Lundquist

“Snow White” by the Grimm Brothers / Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis, Dark Shimmer by Donna Jo Napoli, Nameless: A Tale of Beauty and Madness by Lili St. Crow, Mirrored by Alex Flinn

“Sleeping Beauty” by Charles Perrault / A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

“Rapunzel” by the Grimm Brothers / Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky, Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison, Cress by Marissa Meyer