Chalkboard Hero Michael Landsberry of Sparks, Nevada

1382463286000-Michael-and-Sharon-Landsberry[1][1]Yesterday the entire educational community was saddened to learn of yet another school shooting. This one occurred when a twelve-year-old junior high school student opened fire on his classmates on a playground at Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nevada. As a result of the shooting, our profession lost a highly respected and beloved chalkboard champion, math teacher Michael Landsberry. The teacher was shot in the chest at point blank range while attempting to persuade the student to lay down his weapon. He had stepped between the shooter and a student at which the gunman was taking aim. Two other students were hit before the shooter turned the gun on himself. Because the teacher distracted the gunman enabling many students on the playground to flee to safety, he is credited with saving as many as thirty students’ lives.
Michael Landsberry earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Nevada State University, Reno, in 2001. The forty-five-year-old had been a member of the Nevada Air National Guard and a former corporal in the Marines who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He leaves behind a wife and two stepdaughters.

Olive Mann Isbell: The Chalkboard Champion of the Mexican-American War

P_32405[1]A little-known figure in California history is educator Olive Mann Isbell, who is credited as being the first teacher in a school conducted in English in California. In 1846, when Olive was only 22 years old, she and her husband, Dr. Isaac Isbell, traveled west by wagon train. The territory had recently been severed from Mexico, and the Isbells arrived just as the Mexican army was poised to attack in an attempt to reclaim the land.

Olive and over two hundred American women and children were barricaded inside Mission Santa Clara de Asis, while the men were quickly drafted to defend the dilapidated fort. Inside the shelter, Olive, sensing the anxiety of the children, decided to organize a school to occupy their attention. The newly-arrived pioneer was well-suited to this work, being the niece of the famous educator Horace Mann and an experienced teacher from her home state of Ohio. When  Mexico finally laid down their arms and signed a truce with the United States on January 3, 1847, Olive’s Santa Clara Mission School became recognized as the first American school on California soil. This mission school property now belongs to the University of Santa Clara.

You can read more about this amazing educator in Women Trailblazers of California: Pioneers to the Present, available on amazon. I have also included a chapter about this remarkable teacher in my book, Chalkboard Champions, available from

Turn-of-the-Century Chalkboard Champions Found Homes for New York City Orphans

9780618117123_xlg[1]Have you ever heard of the Orphan Trains? During the early years of the 20th century, there were literally thousands of homeless children living aimlessly on the streets of New York City. The Children’s Aid Society (CAS), an organization which still exists to benefit children today, developed a method for finding loving and wholesome homes for many of these children. The CAS organized small groups of children to be transported west and placed them in foster homes on farms and in rural communities. To care for these children, the CAS recruited teachers to escort them, conduct background checks on the prospective foster parents, and make periodic checks on the children’s progress. One such teacher was Clara Comstock, born in 1879 in Hartsville, New York.
Andrea Warren has documented the phenomena of the Orphan Trains very diligently in her book, We Rode the Orphan Trains, available through You can also read a chapter about teacher Clara Comstock in Chalkboard Champions.

First Lady of Idaho Lori Easley Otter: Chalkboard Champion, Author, and Beauty Pageant Queen

$RA3S5ZXMany chalkboard champions have earned recognition for successes outside of the field of education. One such amazing educator is Lori Easley Otter, the First lady of Idaho. This former teacher and administrator is married to current Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter.

Lori was born in Pensacola, Florida, in 1967, the youngest of four children in a military family. In the 1970’s, her family moved to Idaho when her father retired from the U.S. Navy. Lori graduated from Kimberly High School, and then enrolled in Boise State University, where she earned her teaching degree in education and physical education, with minors in health and English. She earned her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, and educational administration from Northwest Nazarene University in 2004. She spent two years as an administrator.

Lori taught physical education, health, and English at both the elementary and secondary levels for the Meridian School District in Meridian, Idaho. She also coached girls basketball and volleyball at the junior high and high school levels for thirteen years. This athletic educator also runs marathons, plays tennis, and is an accomplished equestrienne.

In 1991, Lori entered the Miss Idaho USA Pageant, winning the title and representing Idaho in the Miss USA 1991 pageant the same year. During her reign as Miss Idaho USA, Lori was introduced to Butch Otter, who was then serving as lieutenant governor of Idaho. After some time teaching and coaching in Arizona, Lori returned to Idaho in 1995. In 2006, Lori and Butch were married, and later that year, Butch was elected governor of Idaho.

Combining her love of Idaho and her passion for education and literacy, this gifted educator has written three children’s books. She penned “Little Clyde – Horsing Around in Sun Valley,” and two history books, “Ida Visits the Capitol” and “Ida Tours the 44: A Book of Idaho Counties.” Lori’s character Ida Jones is a young barnstorming pilot who seeks adventure and teaches Idaho history to fourth graders as she flies her airplane through the state.

Barbara Ann Goleman: Educational Innovator and Chalkboard Champion of the 1960’s

golepic[1]The 1960’s were a politically turbulent time in American history, a time when many chalkboard champions made significant contributions toward our social evolution. One such amazing educator was Barbara Ann Goleman.

Barbara was born and raised in Florida. She attended Florida State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in 1952 and her master’s degree in 1954.
She began her teaching career as an English literature instructor at Miami Jackson High school in 1954.

At the beginning of her career, the school’s student body was 90% white middle-class students. In 1963, in response to the 1954 Supreme Court ruling Brown vs. Board of Education which prohibited segregation in schools, Florida began to admit black students to white schools. By 1966, the student body at Miami Jackson High was 85% African American, predominantly from impoverished families. To respond to the needs of this new student population, Barbara helped develop innovative instructional programs and demonstrated a nurturing attitude toward students. For her efforts, she was recognized with the National Teacher of the Year Award in 1969. She was the first Southerner in eighteen years to be so honored. President Richard Nixon presented the award to Barbara in a White House ceremony.

In 1975, Barbara transferred to North Miami Beach Senior High School as a teacher and staff development specialist for internship programs. Ten years later, she became an administrator for Language Arts at the District Office.

This remarkable educator retired in 1990. Barbara Goleman High School, opened in 1995, was named in her honor. It was the first school in Miami-Dade County to be named after one of its teachers.