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The Most WONDERful Time of Year!

Santa came early, Peeps!

I am so excited to reveal the name of the early learning school I am designing + building here in Austin, Texas! Click on our (brand new, BEAUTIFUL) logo or building rendering below to watch the video reveal! And...check out our architect's (Cornerstone Architects here in Austin, Texas) first rendering of WonderWell. We love our dedicated, gifted, accepts-nothing-but-the-best team! We will have the safest, most beautiful playground in our courtyard. In addition to our toddler and preschool programs, we will have two private Pre-Kindergartens and two private Kindergartens. We are currently in the site plan approval process and hope to begin building in 2017!

My friends and I have been playing a pretty fun (wink wink) guessing game on my personal Facebook page this past month...and, even though I was loving it (and all of the awesome names the "guessers" were coming up with!), Santa decided it was time to reveal the WONDERful news! And, in other news, I have asked The 3am Teacher to redesign my blog for the new year! I am so excited! She does incredible work (think Deanna Jump and Dr. Jean)! I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Cheers from a very happy girl in Austin, Texas :)



We closed on the land in September! My school will be on beautiful Southwest Parkway here in Austin, Texas! Thank you to our commercial broker, Tony Gulla, for being so patient with us, and thank you, Dad, for doing the most thorough research and due diligence on the property! The engineers are now gearing up for the site plan permitting process! And, there was a beautiful rainbow over central Austin the day we closedit was incredible! Next up: a name reveal!  Stay tuned! 

SURVEY for Parents of Early Learners!

Parents of early learners! We want to hear from YOU!

As you know, we are starting an early learning school here in Austin, Texas! And...we want to hear from YOU! What do YOU desire for your child's early learning experience? Head on over to our Kinder Peeps Facebook page and take our survey for a chance to win a $50 Starbucks gift card!

Thank you, thank you for your time! Your responses help us inform our design and practice so we can empower our students, parents, and teachers!

From Dream to Concrete!

Happy Back to School Week, Peeps!

I loved the Back to School pictures on Facebook this morning!  Loved hearing from my former students' parents and seeing their smiling faces in their new classrooms. Can't believe my very first class of Kindergarteners (Miss Ivey's 2008-2009 Kindergarten Class) started 7th GRADE today in Houston!  Wow!  Time flies.

So, I have been MIA to say the least! Where to begin? Our sweet, precious Jet is almost TWO (getting ready for his Paw Patrol birthday party this weekend).  Every new word melts my heart.  "Ladda" for "ladder" is his newest word! Jet loves to pretend he is talking on the phone and when he hangs up, his "bye-bye" is just about the cutest thing I have ever heard. 

At the beginning of July, we moved a few minutes from where we have been living since we moved to Austin in 2011. We found our home at the beginning of the spring and it is truly beautiful...definitely love at first sight! We knew it was the one. It is hard to find a home with a flat backyard here in Austin…and this backyard sold us completely! We also decided to remodel the house and make it our own (and decided to do so before/during/after our move-in, ha!) It was/is exciting, stressful, fun, hectic, and...never-ending ;-)

We repainted the house (accessible biege is my new favorite color) and completely overhauled the kitchen! We painted it white and it instantly updated the entire house. It looks so fresh and clean...I just LOVE it! While painting, we had the stairway torn out and redone so it would be safe for Jet Man. We also had to have the windows replaced and sealed, the pool drained and replastered (so we basically  had an empty hole in our backyard for about a month - fun times!), hardware on cabinets replaced, and the list goes on and on...for miles! Needless to say, I have learned so much about remodeling and choosing contractors (this list gets longer each day)!

Here are a few before pics (yikes!):

Which brings me to my SUPER exciting news: I am designing, creating, and building an early learning school here in Austin, Texas! Think 21st Century teaching AND learning. Think NEW learning. Think multiliteracies. Think one. of. a. kind. We are going to empower children AND teachers!  This plan has been in forward motion since early spring and I am so thrilled to finally make it official! 

But first, a little background before I tell all ;-)

When I was little, my mom bought me an overhead projector and I taught my dolls, Susie and Julie, how to read…oh yes.  She and my Dad told me that when they would walk by my room, they could hear me "teaching." My mom, who is now retired after teaching and impacting our community for 30 years, was always an inspiration to me. I loved bringing her "teacher books" home and pretending. So it's definitely safe to say, teaching is in my DNA! :)

Fast forward to 2008: I graduated from Texas Tech University in Lubbock with a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. There, I student taught in Kindergarten with the A-MAZING Susan Bridges. She changed the game for me.  Her teaching style focuses on relationship building. Not only does she have a great rapport with her students' parents, but her organization and management are incredible. Children feel safe, supported, and excited to be in her presence. The experience she provides for children is like no other. I remember feeling so happy each day...not only did we have fun together, but I realized, more than ever, that I was in my element. I always tell my student teachers that Ms. Bridges can be seen in my classroom each day. Just ask my student teachers about the oval rug and asking students to sit around the perimeter to create a sense of community ;-) (my student teachers know I am very passionate about that sense of community)!

I got my first teaching job a few months before graduation (I flew down to Houston for a job fair in Spring Branch ISD where I met my wonderful principal who loved instructional technology as much I did!) at Nottingham Elementary. Some of the best 3 years of my life! My principal cared greatly about academics as well as his teachers. He is undoubtedly one of the most professional people I have ever met. His observations of my teaching and the students' learning were so detailed and enthusiastic. He was a true educator himself. I recently had the privilege of seeing him and my Nottingham family at his secretary's retirement party in Houston in July! SO much fun! He is now teaching student teachers at the University of Houston…blessed future teachers!

During my time in Spring Branch ISD, I worked closely with the Educational Technology team led by Sheri Alford and Angela McNeil, who I have continued to stay in touch with. These two women redefined professional development for our district. They organized a huge (I mean, HUGE!) gathering of educators at Memorial High School each January to share, collaborate, and learn more about the ActivClassroom (we had Promethean ActivBoards in Spring Branch) called the ActivEducator Symposium.  I was afforded the opportunity to teach at this event and facilitate elementary teacher user groups back on my campus. So, in other words, we kept our professional development ALIVE! It did not stop when we walked out of the Symposium that Saturday afternoon. I met so many teachers and administrators there who I still collaborate with…amazing. And, we made a great case for integrating ActivBoards into the Kindergarten curriculum in Spring Branch! Good times, good-hearted people, engaged and excited learners!

During my third year of teaching, I started thinking hard about graduate school. I loved teaching teachers how to integrate technology into their curriculum and knew it was time to take my passion to a new level. I was accepted to The Graduate School at The University of Texas at Austin and started my graduate coursework in the Learning Technologies program (in the Curriculum and Instruction Department) in the fall of 2011. It was grueling. It was difficult. It was liberating. It was everything I needed. I learned so much from the people in my program as they shared their journeys over the course of our program. The learning the charts!  Don't know how else to capture it ;-) I also facilitated two cohorts of student teachers in their second and third semesters (student teaching semester) and met so many amazing, enthusiastic future teachers who continue to change their slice of the world as I type! Again, blessed students - their students are getting some of the most talented, dedicated teachers! More than anything, I enjoyed the relationships I built with them as well as interfacing with/learning from their cooperating teachers.

And then fast forward to this past school year: THE catalyst for my lane change! I realized, more than ever, our current "system" needs to change MORE than just how our children are taught…our "system" should be striving to make our schools a great place for both children AND teachers! Notice "AND" has been used several times now.

We must empower teachers. Each day.

Every single experience I had this year ignited another flame in my fire and increased my passion to change the world of teaching AND learning. I have always dreamed of building my own early learning school, and this year did it for me. It was the push I needed.  I am so thankful.  God knew what He was doing in my life and I love (I can't think of any other way to describe it) with how His plans continue to unfold. My husband has always been a huge supporter of my career and is so excited about this new journey…and same with my sweet family. With this kind of support, anything is possible. I feel so blessed to be in this position today.

So…here is what I can share with you today:

Thought about the franchise route for a while

We (my family is partnering with me to achieve this dream) are starting from scratch. Literally. And this might be my favorite part. The school can be anything I want it to be. No "big box curriculum" (no, no, no)!

The experiences and challenges I have had over the past 7 years are invaluable…and now, as a mother, they are magnified! These experiences + becoming Jet's Mommy have all made me the educator I am today. They will help me design my school and inform positive change for teaching AND learning. We are going to start with the "end" in mind (a little Backward Design for you)! What is the "end" you might ask? Enthusiastic, excited learners who will go out and change the world! The learners = our children AND our teachers!

We have a location (the best and most beautiful location possible in my opinion) and are currently working with our engineers as we move through the long oh so long site plan approval process.  Must disclose: I am so thankful to be mentored by my Dad. His success in business was achieved through GRIT, hard work, long hours, and problem-solving. He is helping me secure the best of the best as we move through the planning phase. I would not be able to do this without his guidance, love, and support…along with many, many others!

While we are waiting on our site plan approval, we are going to be designing the school alongside our wonderful architect, Mark. We have met with him several times this summer. I cannot not think of anyone more qualified for this project. Building design? Think natural light. Think lots and lots of windows. Think fun + sophistication.

My promise: the school will be the first of its kind. Professional development is going to be a fun, HUGE, integral part of our plan. It is not going to look like "normal" professional development. Stay tuned…much, much more to come soon. Follow #austinearlylearningstartup and #fromdreamtoconcrete on Facebook!

Off to finish planning Jet Man's SECOND birthday party!  I will leave you with his sweet smile...

TOTAL toddler, Spring Break, THIRTY, and TEXAS!

Happy April, Kinder Peeps!

I hope you all had a nice Spring Break and enjoyed time with your families! We traveled to the Bahamas to celebrate my 30th a few weeks early! We gave in and tried the Atlantis…loved it! While we were there, we learned about the new rival MEGA resort, Baha Mar! Definitely want to get down there again soon and try it out…looks absolutely amazing!

My mother-in-law came to Austin and watched Jet, who is now the TOTAL toddler, for the week…so sweet of her to keep him during her Spring Break! He is talking, talking, and talking and just loving his preschool. I never thought the day would come when we would drop him off and he would wave "bye-bye" to us…and it has. This melts my heart and also reassures me that he is right where he needs to be. His teachers love him so and he feels the same way. No greater feeling than that!  Below is an updated picture of this TOTAL toddler…who is TOTALLY awesome!  And those lips and cheeks TOTALLY get his Mommy every single time!

We missed Jet so, so much (and talked about him every other minute) but also enjoyed sleeping past 7 am, haha! We went deep sea fishing (thanks to Reel Dreams!) and tried some A-MAZING restaurants on Paradise Island (I think I need to start a food blog…). Below is a picture of the Mahi Mahi we caught (I do have to mention that we did try it out a few minutes after this picture was taken…so tasty)! 

And…my students and parents made my 30th birthday even more special…I walked in and found this hanging outside of my classroom!  They are so special to me and I will never forget them!  Wonderful, wonderful students and parents!  I feel so blessed!

I will leave you with this piece of RAD writing (below). I just had to post this…and yes, I'm biased! ;-) We made a class book and also made our own non-fiction books about Texas to conclude our Texas unit in social studies and this student's class book page made me smile…Hook 'Em! Check out Kinder Peeps' Facebook page for a look at one of my student's non-fiction books about Texas…she knocked it out of the park! I L-O-V-E my students!

Summer is around the corner!  Can you believe it?

Happy Valentine's Day!

Update time, Peeps!

I must first start with a recent picture of the love of my life in downtown Austin by the iconic "I Love You So Much" wall outside of Jo's Coffee!  Thank you to Alissa at Little Dreamers Photography for capturing these precious moments with our little sweetheart!

I have been so busy with teaching and my (now) TODDLER (!!!) who is just growing and growing and surprising us each day! 

Update:  Jet started at a new early learning school here in Austin in January and his two teachers are the absolute BEST!  We feel like we hit the jackpot with them and we know they feel the same way about our Jet Man!  He has his first school party this afternoon and I am so excited about my first school party as a parent!  Can't wait!

Speaking of parties…my Kindergarten class had such a fun Valentine's party!  I am so thankful for my students and their amazing, gracious parents!  Below is a picture of some of the sweet moms of the students in my class…they are simply the BEST!

We are also in the process of buying a new home.  If all goes as planned, we should be moving in this summer! Updates to come ;-)

Enjoy the THREE day weekend and Valentine's Day!

Much, much love to all of you!