May 24

A Goodbye Sendoff

Last week, the multimedia students (which include several of my former students), my colleagues, and students completely surprised me with this beautiful video sendoff. I asked one of my former students who does a lot with our video program if he could help me with a video. So, they also conspired to make this, the final episode of the We Are Lanier documentary program they developed this year.

As teachers, we often don’t realize the impact we are making. I feel like this year I have been blessed to really see the difference I am making. I feel a bit like Mr. Holland in Mr. Holland’s Opus, except I didn’t have to wait until I retired to see the impact I made on some of my students.

I work with the most amazing fellow educators and students. What we have in our CDAT program at Lanier is truly special. I will miss them all so much when I am in England. Now, I just need to find an equally amazing place to teach in England!

May 17

Making Leaders #MakerEd

IMG_8769I love the Maker Movement. It affords kids opportunities to create and do amazing things. We provide them the tools and the space and allow them to be creative, to put their own spin on learning.

Last year, we hosted our first Maker Fest. We held it at our school and called it the CDAT STEM Maker Fest. It was a fun event, and the maker spirit was really fostered in our students.

This year, we had the opportunity to partner with our city in order to host the Sugar Hill Maker Fest in front of city hall. Once again, it was an amazing experience, and it showed the maker spirit. This time, it included community makers, vendors, food trucks, music, and our fabulous students.

However, what I have realized watching the progression of our Maker Fest is this. We are not just allowing our students to be makers. We are making leaders. The Maker Movement is just as much about character development as making.

Last year, our juniors worked through the planning. As it was our first year, the teachers did a lot of the support work. This year, the now seniors along with some juniors and sophomores continued with the organization of the event. Our students met with city officials, planned the event, worked on advertising, and organized the logistics so the day ran smoothly. Although we as teachers were there and participated, we did not have an active role in the planning. Why? They didn’t need us. The experiences from the year before helped them to learn and grow. Hosting a maker fest helped us to make student leaders.

Tonight, I attended the Datties, our annual CDAT awards ceremony. It was an incredible, well planned, and organized event. It started with a dessert social, then followed with awards for high achieving students, student and teacher superlatives, and our favorite: paper plate awards. The planning has been in the works for months now. But the most impressive thing is who planned the event. The event was an overwhelming success because two young ladies in the junior class made it that way. They took care of every detail. Organized everything from sending out surveys for awards, creating certificates, lining up presenters, and ordering cake. I love that we have an environment where students are encouraged to develop their leadership skills and given the avenue to put the skills into play. We had so much fun tonight sharing stories, eating and laughing with our students, and recognizing everyone’s hard work and unique contributions to CDAT.

So, when you think about the Maker Movement, I want you to consider another scenario. It definitely helps foster the maker spirit in our students. But remember, it can also make our makers into leaders. What can you do to start making leaders in your school? And remember, kids these days are amazing; let’s continue to provide them with incredible opportunities!IMG_8773


May 11

Big changes ahead

I’m not sure how it’s been almost a year since my last post. That’s just embarrassing. It’s been a transitional year, and I suppose that partly explains it. So what’s been happening?

My husband is from England. He’s been in the US since 1999, and he’s been incredibly home sick for a few years now. Last summer, he found a job in England, so he moved back there in July to test the waters. Well he’s absolutely loved it, and our dog Devon, cats Halley and Newton, and I have not been so happy about being here on our own.

So, here’s the big changes that lie ahead. When the school year ends (which is only a couple of weeks away) and my visa arrives, we’ll be packing up and moving to England to reunite with my husband. It is bittersweet as I think about leaving my fabulous school and students behind. I will miss them so much, and I truly believe we have some of the best students. However, I can’t wait to be with my husband again. This has definitely been a challenging year!

What happens next? Well, hopefully I’ll be able to find a teaching job in England. The school system in England is different from what I am used to in the US, and I’ve been researching to make sure I have a better understanding. However, I love teaching so much, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Dare mighty things has never meant so much to me as it has the past year, and as I prepare for the adventure ahead. Though it will be hard to leave behind my family, friends, and school, I know that adventure awaits.

Dare Mighty Things!

May 14

Lanier STEM Maker Fest is almost here! #edBlogaDay

Our STEM Maker Fest is the day after tomorrow. Today, one of our group of students who has been working on their project for hours and hours during and after school for weeks got everything up and running. They built a robot from the ground up. It’s a tank with a t-shirt canon on it. They got some help from the robotics team on the programming, but did the majority of the work themselves. Judging by the crowd they drew in the hallway while testing today, they are going to be very popular at the Maker Fest. They even contacted Chik-fil-A for t-shirt donations to shoot from the cannon. So proud of these kids who have been working so hard to make this event a success. Two of the students in this group didn’t have a technology class this year. However, from this project alone they learned much more than most students learn in a year. If you wonder if Maker Ed and Project Based Learning really has a place in schools, you need to see this process in action. This is inspired learning that goes outside of the classroom to real skills that are valuable in today’s society. Give kids a chance to tinker and make! Trust me; you’ll be amazed with what they come up with!

The T-shirt cannon tank is a go for #stemmakerfest

A video posted by @janellewilson on

May 11

Lanier STEM Maker Fest #edBlogaDay

Our STEM Maker Fest is on Saturday. This weekend, one of my students made this video to encourage students from our feeder middle school to attend. It’s a great video. What’s really cool? She didn’t have to make this awesome video. She decided to make it of her own initiative because she really wants the middle school kids to know about it and attend. It’s just another great example of why I love Maker Ed!


May 09

#ThankATeacher: Mr. Wedel #edBlogaDay

I was looking through my high school yearbook from my senior year in high school. As I read through what people had written, I found this note.

I found this in my high school yearbook from senior year.

I found this in my high school yearbook from senior year.

It’s an interesting note for for a couple of reasons. One, I am now teaching chemistry, and I am finishing my ninth year of teaching. I guess helping others understand has always been an interest of mine – especially science. Two, I had my own struggles in chemistry, and I was able to be successful because of my teacher, Mr. Wedel.

At my high school, students generally took biology freshmen year and chemistry sophomore year. Because I went to a private school my freshmen year, I took biology sophomore year and started chemistry my junior year. I was in honors chemistry, and I really enjoyed the class. However, I had some health issues in high school that caused me to miss a lot of school. I was even on hospital/home bound for a few months. I tried switching from honors chem to CP chem, but that didn’t work out well because they were following a different instructional calendar. So, I dropped out of chemistry my junior year and took a science independent research class in its place.

My senior year, I once again enrolled in honors chemistry. During the first semester of the year, I was still having some health issues and missed quite a bit of school. It was nearing the end of the semester, and there was no way I could make up all of my work in time. However, Mr. Wedel, my chemistry teachers (both times), offered me a chance to stay in the class. He believed in me and knew I could do the work and learn the content. He said that if I passed the semester final, I would pass the semester. Well, I did (in fact, I made a “B” on the final). I then went on to do really well second semester (making an “A”) because I didn’t have any absences.

I will forever be grateful to Mr. Wedel for giving me that chance and for believing in me. Plus, I really loved his class. He used to have the best test review games, we did awesome labs, and he had some really cool demos. My favorite thing he taught me was about the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (you can know the speed of a subatomic particle or its location, but not both – part of quantum mechanics).

But really, the best thing he taught me wasn’t even about chemistry, and it has made me a better teacher. He taught me to believe in students and to give students second, third, fourth chances. To not let a student give up, and to keep working. And I’m pretty sure my policy of passing the final means passing the class no matter what your grade was prior to that was heavily influenced by him.

So thank you, Mr. Wedel, for being such an awesome chemistry teacher, and thank you for showing me how to be a great teacher!

May 08

Feeling appreciated #edBlogaDay

Today was one of those crazy, long, whirlwind days where you barely have time to catch your breath but at the end of it you realize it was a day filled with awesomeness. for instance, I took my engineering classes outside today to launch the soda-bottle rockets we’ve been working on the past week. Some of my chemistry students asked if they could come out and watch since they didn’t have anything to work on. So they came outside with me and my engineering class and had fun watching the launches. At one point, I turned to look at my chem kids, and I noticed they had tied themselves up in a knot and were untying themselves. (It was the classic team building activity.) I could not have felt more proud of them at that moment. They chose such a fun, constructive way to use their down time!

IMG_6832Later in the morning, one of my sophomore chemistry students stopped to take a selfie with me (including an obligatory photo bomb by another one of my students) before she left with the rest of her team for their appointment with the patent attorney about their project. (Getting to their appointment was made even more challenging due to a plane crash on the interstate.)

Then after school today, I spent over an hour talking with a few students about life, school, goals, and so on. When one of them first came in my classroom, he noticed that desks were disarranged from an earlier activity and some supplies hadn’t been put away. He picked everything up for me and rearranged my desks of his own initiative.

This week, I’ve realized that high school students don’t celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week traditionally. I think this has to do with the fact that they didn’t even know it was Teacher Appreciation Week. However, by the time they reach high school, many students already have a great understanding of what teachers do for them. They don’t need a special week to make us feel appreciated. They know how to make me feel appreciated by the little things in the every day.

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