Educator Jenifer Fox: A Champion of the Strengths Movement

0x9yi1zrd0mnt6rmyjfv_400x400Many innovative teachers make wonderful mentors to other educators. One terrific example of this is Jenifer Fox, a leader in what is known in educational circles as the Strengths Movement.

Jenifer was born on December 9, 1960, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she spent her childhood. After her high school graduation, she earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a master’s degree from Middlebury College, and a second master’s degree in education from Harvard.

Jenifer has over 25 years of experience as a teacher and administrator in a variety of settings, including public and private schools, day and boarding schools, religiously affiliated, single-gender schools, special needs schools, and international and American schools. But she is best known for her work in promoting a strengths-based approach to children’s education. In 2008, her book Your Child’s Strengths: Discover Them, Develop Them, Use Them was published by Viking Press. In 2007, Jenifer traveled all over the United States on a bus tour with Marcus Buckingham, a promoter of what is known as the Strengths Movement. Buckingham wrote the foreword to Jennifer’s book, where he specifically praised her revolutionary vision for education.  To learn more about the Strengths Movement, click on this link: Strengths Movement.

Jenifer is also known as the founder of a high school curriculum called the Affinities Program. The name of this program was changed to Strong Planet in 2009. Jenifer also authored The Differentiated Instruction Book of Lists published in 2011 by Jossey-Bass.

Jenifer has delivered keynote speeches on 21st century education, business and school innovation, and developing children’s strengths to over 200 organizations. Additionally, she has made numerous television and radio appearance speaking about schools, students, and leadership.

Jenifer Fox: a true chalkboard champion.

Best New Year’s Resolutions for Teachers

I came across this really terrific article published yesterday in the Huffington Post. It was written by Dallas Rico, an educator and young adult novelist. Because the post really resonated with me, I am reprinting it here:


The New Year’s Resolution Every Teacher Should Make

by Dallas Rico

In a week, we’ll see tons of prominent store displays and ads stacked with weight loss shakes, protein bars and supplement pills. That’s because, year after year, losing weight and getting in shape are among the top New Year’s resolutions. Inevitably, around February, many give up on that goal, just in time for all the beer and hot wings that come with Super Bowl parties.

Though I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions (given their failure rate), I do believe that we teachers are positioned to make and keep them. Why? Because that holiday break removes us from our normal day-to-day routine and affords us time to reflect on our practice. Naturally, as we spend the holidays out of the classroom, we think about how the first semester went and come up with ways to improve for the next.

Personally, I plan to develop more student-centered projects that bring their learning to life. As a Spanish teacher, I have the opportunity to make lessons more meaningful beyond worksheets and tests. I realize I can do more with that and will strive to do so next year. Perhaps you want to seek more professional development opportunities or become more involved in school programs. Maybe you want to make a better effort calling parents or returning assignments back quicker (the struggle is real).

In my years in education, I’ve seen a number of complacent teachers who are content with using the same lesson plans, assessments and materials each year. The truth is that even teachers who’ve been in the profession for over 25 years can improve in one way or another.

On the other side, the first year teacher may utterly feel overwhelmed and needing to get better at various things. That’s why every teacher can and should strive to improve in at least one way. That’s a reasonable New Year’s resolution, one that often happens naturally, but it still must be stated.

Due to the cyclical nature of education, especially if you teach the same subject and level each year, it’s easy to fall into a groove and always do the exact same thing, as if you’re an actor on a Broadway show. But I urge educators to find at least one way they can improve this year and create a plan to stick to it.

Thoughtful school administrators can also help teachers become more introspective. By introducing key school-wide initiatives, they push faculty to try new things. For instance, in a school I taught at in Los Angeles, the principal asked all teachers, even the Art, Math and P.E. teachers, to create one writing assignment within a two month period. The ultimate goal was to get students to write more and to improve the clarity of their arguments. After the window of time, all the teachers met and reflected on the process.

As a result, some, like our algebra teacher, began assigning more writing, thus, giving students more practice. Mission accomplished. Likewise, a savvy administrator can get the school to address a common issue with such an initiative.

For-profit companies set goals to make more money. Teachers set goals to get more students prepared for college and career. The better the teacher, the more prepared students will be. It all begins with saying “this year I will be a better teacher for my students by ______________.”

To view the original article, click on this link: New Year’s Resolutions for Teachers.


Alan Lawrence Sitomer: Novelist and Chalkboard Champion

alan-sitomer[1]A very unique chalkboard champion is Alan Lawrence Sitomer, novelist and educator who has earned a reputation nationally for his success in engaging reluctant readers and as a motivational speaker. He was named California Teacher of the Year by the California Board of Education in 2007.

Born in 1967, Alan earned his bachelor’s degree from USC, his teaching certificate through San Diego State University, and his master’s degree from National University. He has taught English, Creative Writing, Speech & Debate, and AVID at Lynwood High School, an inner city school located in Lynwood, Los Angeles County, California.

Alan’s published novels include The Hoopster, Hip Hop High School, and Homeboyz. He has also authored Hip-Hop Poetry & the Classics, a text that is currently being used in classrooms throughout the United States to teach classic poetry through hip-hop. The approach is intended to engaged reluctant students in both poetry and academics. Other titles published by Alan are a teacher’s methodology book entitled Teaching Teens & Reaping Results: In a Wi-Fi, Hip-Hop, Where-Has-All-The-Sanityh-Gone World and The Alan Sitomer BookJam.

You can find Alan Sitomer’s books on amazon and access his website at the following link:

Margaret Antoinette Clapp: High School English Teacher and Pulitzer Prize Winner

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAIjAAAAJDNmMzlmMWFhLTAwNTQtNDQ3Ni1iMjY5LTAzMmU3MzEwMWIwZgOften talented educators garner accolades of international proportions. Once such educator was Margaret Antoinette Clapp, a high school English teacher and historian from New York City who also happened to be the winner of a Pulitzer prize for biography. Margaret Clapp was born on April 10, 1910, in East Orange, New Jersey. She was the youngest of four children, and the second daughter of Alfred Chapin and Anna (Roth) Clapp. As a teenager, she enrolled at East Orange High School, where she graduated in 1926. At the time of her high school graduation, she earned a scholarship to Wellesley College, where she earned her undergraduate degree in history and economics in 1930. While in college, Margaret was honored as a Wellesley College Scholar for her academic achievements. Margaret accepted her first teaching position at the prestigious Todhunter School for Girls in Manhattan, New York, where she taught English literature for twelve years. During these years, she enrolled in Columbia University, completing the requirements for her masters degree in 1937. During and after World War II, Margaret taught history at several New York City universities, including City College of New York, Douglass College, Columbia University, and Brooklyn College. Her doctoral dissertation at Columbia drew much praise, and was eventually developed into the biography Forgotten First Citizen: John Bigelow. John Bigelow was a little-known nineteenth-century politician, editor, reformer, and diplomat. Margaret’s dissertation was developed and eventually published in 1947. The manuscript was named the winner of the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. For her achievement, the talented teacher was featured in a cover story for Time Magazine on October 10, 1949. When she was 39 years old, Margaret accepted a position as the eighth president of Wellesley College, and she served in this capacity from 1949 until her retirement in 1966. At the time she accepted the position, she was one of only five women who were serving as university presidents. During her tenure, Wellesley’s financial resources and facilities were expanded to a substantial degree, and Margaret earned a reputation as a tireless advocate for careers for women. For her work at Wellesley, she was elected a Fellow of the American Academy for Arts and Sciences in 1952. The library at Wellesley is named in her honor. After leaving Wellesley, Margaret served briefly as administrator of Lady Doak College, a women’s college in Madurai, South India. She was then named as United States cultural attaché to India, and eventually became an official of public affairs in the United States Information Agency until her final retirement in 1971. After returning from India, this amazing chalkboard champion settled in Tyringham, Massachusetts. In her later years, she was diagnosed with cancer, and she passed away on May 3, 1974.

Dorothy C. Finkelhor: The High School Dropout who Founded a University

Dorothy FinkelhorThere are many examples of talented teachers who can boast unusual achievements. One stellar example of this is Dorothy Cimberg Finkelhor, a business teacher from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who actually founded a university.

Dorothy Cimberg was born in New York’s Lower East Side on February 22, 1902. Her parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia. This is unusual for an academic, but Dorothy was a high school dropout. At the age of 25, however, she enrolled in Duquesne University, a private Catholic University located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There she earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, a master’s degree in economics, and a master’s degree in business. In 1941, she completed the requirements for her doctorate, which she earned at Pittsburgh University.

With her husband, Lawrence Herbert Finkelhor, Dorothy founded the Business Training College in downtown Pittsburgh in 1933. With an initial enrollment of fifty students, the school pioneered coursework in medical careers, accounting, engineering, and secretarial skills. At the time, it was extremely unusual for a woman to accomplish something like this. Dorothy served as the school’s only teacher, and she even filled the roles of registrar, admissions counselor, finance director, telephone operator, dean of women, social chairman, and janitor. Eventually the institution became a four-year university under the name Point Park College. Dorothy became the first president of the college, and served in this capacity, from 1960 to 1967.

After her retirement, Dorothy moved to Florida, but she didn’t live a life of leisure there. She published several books, including How to Make Your Emotions Work for You (1973), The Liberated Grandmother: How to Be a Successful Grandmother While Living Your Own Life as a Free and Happy Woman (1975), and The Triumph of Age: How to Feel Young and Happy in Retirement (1979).

The chalkboard champion died of cardiac arrest in Ocean Ridge, Florida, on July 19, 1988, at the age of 86. “She was always an inspirational person, a can-do person,” remembered Point Park College President J. Matthew Simon. “She really was one of a kind.”