Author Intro: Meet Mary Ellen Weeks

Updated: Jan 11, 2019


Mary Ellen Weeks a.k.a. Columbus

a.k.a. Columbus

Reading Savannah’s bio makes me smile. It is so very her. She and I could not be more different. When she tells you she loves playing out zombie apocalypse survival scenarios in her head, she’s being absolutely serious. She is all over the place (in a good way), but I am much more pragmatic and type A. The thing we share, though, is a passion for facilitating a love of learning in students at every level, and interestingly enough, our philosophy on how to do this is largely the same. This shared passion is what lead us to coauthor this

book.

Coming out of high school in Zanesville, Ohio, if I had been asked if I was going

to be a teacher, I would have laughed. My journey to becoming an elementary principal in one of Ohio’s first STEM designated elementary schools and writing this book has spanned two states, fifteen years, a few dead-end jobs in other industries, some serious personal tragedies, and some amazing principals who trusted me to do what I felt appropriate to engage my students.

Unlike Savannah, I started my career in Natick, Massachusetts, under a principal who believed that students would grow if they were engaged. While we were expected to use data to inform our instruction, it wasn’t our primary focus. In my second year of teaching, she gave me the tremendous opportunity to participate in a blended-learning pilot program that would be started in the eighth grade and scaled to the high school the following year. It was an incredible experience that allowed me to make the paradigm shift from teacher with all the answers to a facilitator of learning.


Two years later, when we moved back to Ohio for more family support because we had two babies, I was horrified to walk into my new classroom to find a tape recorder on my desk and a dinosaur desktop “4ewq1As” that must have been at least a decade old. I went to another teacher and asked if I could throw it away, and she abruptly informed me that I absolutely could not throw it away because it was a teaching tool. I knew then and there that this was not going to work. My principal, impressed with my background, left me alone to do the best I could with the limited resources I had and said nothing when the majority of the “teaching tools” from my classroom ended up in the hallway for the custodian to take away. My saving grace was my team, a group of teachers who were awesome and would try just about anything. Towards the end of the year, Gabby, the teacher next door and a fellow “techie,” as the Luddites sometimes not-so-lovingly called us, and I started lobbying to pilot a 1:1 program with Chromebooks. My principal agreed to give us a Chromebook cart and make us a dyad. Gabby ended up taking another position, and I started begging other colleagues to try this pilot with me. No one agreed.

At the end of that summer, I spent the first part of the year on maternity leave. Toward the end of my leave, my assistant superintendent called me and asked me to take on a fully blended, 1:1 multi-age classroom with a part-time co-teacher. This classroom was meant to be a catalyst classroom, one that anyone could observe at any time. I agreed and returned early from my leave, anxious for this new challenge. My co-teacher, Dan, and I were completely self- contained, so we had the latitude to thread computer science and transdisciplinary problem- based learning into the curriculum. We also engaged our students in Genius Hour. Our classroom was like nothing these students had ever experienced, and they thrived. We built a television studio in our classroom, and my students fell in love with film. We had several teachers come in and say that all the reasons they thought that our classroom would not work were proved wrong.

The next year I was recruited to be an instructional coach in a neighboring school district, and now I am the principal of one of Ohio’s first STEM designated elementary schools. My staff is incredible, and it is a privilege to lead this work.


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Mat Chacon, CEO, Dogheadsimulations 

"This is a fun, fast-paced read that is all about using teamwork to improve the educational experience. Whether you're an educator in the traditional classroom or an instructor in corporate training, you and your students will benefit from the unconventional strategies and tactics this book offers to navigate the darkness of antiquated educational practices and emerge into the light of an improved pedagogy.  " -- Mat Chacon, CEO, Doghead Simulations

"It’s human nature to get worn down by situations, and Education can be no different. But this dead-ly book from Amanda and Mary Ellen has the perfect anti-dote - the equally human response of playfulness, humour and creativity. As society moves to a fully digital and automated era where the most human intelligence or literacies are becoming more and more valuable, this is not only a smart move, but an absolutely key one if we are to truly survive. I’m confident that this book takes us even beyond that to also give an ability to thrive - first by understanding the recent past, and then via its incredible collection of practical tips and resources. I fully endorse Teachingland for the zombie-fied among us as well as the still warm and red-blooded teachers who are out there every day making a difference."

Jonathan Nalder, Teacher, Futurist, Digital Trainer and founder of FutureWe.org

Steve Bambury, Head of Digital Learning and Innovation, JESS Dubai

“A totally unique approach to professional development that stands out from every other teaching book I’ve read. Essential reading for educators striving to ensure their learning environment doesn’t end up resembling a zombie movie!”