My heroes have always been cowboys . . . I mean, teachers.

I like this prompt.  It reminds me of my role models and my inspiration.  Here are just a few:

  • Carmela, a former ENG071 – ENG102 early childhood cohort student who had three kids by the age of 23,  taught me that teaching is easy.  Life is hard.  Keep going!
  • My education and ENG/RDG team members who challenge me, surprise me, appreciate me, and inspire me to serve our students in new and better ways.TEP teamCindyBetsey
  • Mrs. Gleason,  an energetic 86 year old who is still subbing in high school reminded  me “Wear cute shoes so that students have something to look at when you’re teaching.”Mrs. Gleason
  • Mr. Pallack, my high school algebra and geometry teacher always told us “You can do this!”  This is Mr. Pallack last year with our high school freshman group.  We were celebrating his 90th birthday.

Mr. Pallack's party - class of '76



¡España: nos vemos en junio!

Bueno, empecé a escribir en este sitio en español y me gustaría terminar con este idioma, ya que es el idioma que llevo en el corazón. De niña, mi madre siempre me decía que su apellido era de una región del sur de España. Nunca he viajado por el sur de España, pero este verano, tendré la oportunidad de hacerlo. Hace ya tres años, estudié en Salamanca, en el norte del país y me encantó el clima, la gente tan amable, los edificios históricos y sobre todo la música. Me acordaba de mi niñez en la escuela de flamenco en Panamá.
En septiembre del año pasado, escribí una propuesta junto con mi colega, Guio para volver a llevar a nuestros estudiantes a España. Inmediatamente después de haber sido aceptada la propuesta empezamos a trabajar. Desde noviembre hemos trabajado arduamente para reclutar la cantidad adecuada de estudiantes para estudiar español en Madrid. Hoy puedo decir con orgullo que ya casi lo hemos logrado. Tanto Guio como yo hemos anunciado la propaganda, mandado correos electrónicos y llamado a estudiantes que podrían estar interesados en aprender español. He aprendido a hacer volantes y a convertirme en toda una malabarista del tiempo para poder cumplir con todo a tiempo. Con nosotras irán dos profesoras de comunicación y una bibliotecaria de nuestra institución. Me siento muy contenta de saber que existe interés en nuestros estudiantes por viajar a España. Sé de seguro que les encantará mucho. Este país tiene tanta cultura e historia que los sorprenderá en cada esquina. Iremos a Toledo y a Granada. Como nunca he estado en Granada y siempre he oído historias maravillosas de este lugar, quiero guardar todas mis energías para esta visita. Entre muchas otras cosas, me gustaría comprar un vestido original de flamenco, castañuelas nuevas, mantillas y joyas de la región. Hace ya tantos años que no bailo profesionalmente y la idea de volver a escuchar la música y ver un show de flamenco en Granada, me ilusiona mucho. Nuestro programa es 3 veces más barato que el programa de otras instituciones y ofrece mucho más. Nuestra próxima y última reunión informativa para este programa de verano para estudiar en Madrid, será el 15 de abril a la 1:00PM en HU-111. ¡Qué vengan tod@s para que entre tod@s descubramos lo maravilloso que es España!

Flier Madrid Last Revision


Granada de noche


Speaking a Different Language Can Save Your Life

The other day, I met a gentleman in his seventies who has been learning foreign languages all of his life.  He is writing a book on how he learned to speak fluently in 10 different languages.  While speaking with him, I suddenly felt the need to ask him to share some of his learning techniques.  I was totally impressed when he said that he learned 2,000 Chinese characters in less than half-a-year, especially when it takes Chinese people close to 12 years to learn them in order to read the newspaper.  He told me anecdotes of how being Irish and being able to speak fluent Chinese, Korean and Japanese have saved his life in different occasions.  I have found somebody to share some of my experiences while learning languages, and I was thrilled to meet such a smart man who came to my office to ask a question about editing.  He shared that even though English was his first language, he could identify better with certain words in various languages to communicate with his family.   I also shared with him that certain phrases had more of an emotional impact if I said them in a certain language. For the first time, I felt validated on my usage of words from other languages to express a thought.   For example, I use aiyaaa  wodemaya! when I am upset.  So, instead of saying the English oh my gosh, I always say aiyaaa wodemaya.   I say ven acá instead of come here or dígame instead of tell me because they sound more direct in my mind.  And then I remembered an event in an unnamed Latin American City, where I was totally overwhelmed by feelings of fear.  My husband and I were going to be mugged, and a “xiaoxin, xiaoxin” saved us from an attack from 2 thieves.  “Xiaoxin” means “be careful” in Chinese, and it was our secret phrase in case we were in a dangerous situation.  But what really saved us was the fact that I could understand Spanish perfectly.  I have heard the two thieves behind our backs planning their attack: one was going to get my purse, while the other was going to grab my husband’s camera.  When I told my husband xiaoxin, xiaoxin, we jumped into the subway train, and escaped misfortune.  If I would not have understood Spanish or had a secret word to escape, it would have been a very different and sad story.


On Top of The World


What’s my dream job, you ask? I’m doing it! I’m on top of the world, literally and figuratively.

Thanks to technology, and for a reasonable price, I can access wifi on an airplane above the Atlantic! I am in my mobile office, grading and interacting with my online students.

My dream job is right here, right now. It is always now. My thoughts about my job are always positive. When they are not, I think again and make them positive.

I could choose to dwell on negative things if I wanted to. Every job has negative aspects to it. I could have a field day on negativity if I wanted to, but I’ve been there and done that and bought the T-shirt. But it does nothing for progress.

So I choose to look on the bright side, because it is good for me and it is good for the people I interact with. It is good for the soul. It is good for the psyche. It is good for the body.

My job affords me flexibility….not less hours or less productivity. I can teach on a plane, I can teach in the classroom, and I can take  a walk to clear my head if I feel like taking a walk. I can take a whole summer off if I choose to (but I don’t) and I can choose to earn extra money teaching over the summer (and I do!).

I could go on, but I think I will leave you to dwell on the reasons you love your job on the days that you love your job! Actually, my battery is about to die…the technology irony….



My Dream Class

One of my dream class to teach before I retire, hopefully, will be a class where I explore and share my experience with my students about studying abroad, while learning strategies to learn a foreign language. I would like to find a group of colleagues or students who will be willing to conduct an inventory, study the culture of the country for two weeks, and then travel to this country for 2 more weeks, and come back to the classroom to analyze what we all have learned. I believe this class could be called something like: Maximizing Learning Abroad. The 3 credits can then be applied to different fields like Humanities, Geography, History, Languages, etc. The experiences and knowledge, a person obtains while being abroad are countless. Among the most important are:
a. Immersing yourself in the culture and language
b. Have a better understanding and appreciation for the nation’s people and history
c. Sharpen your language skills
d. Get better career opportunities
e. Find new interests
f. Make livelong friends
g. Explore, discover and adapt
h. Sharpen problem solving techniques
This will be my dream class!


I Have to Get Out More–with Gratitude

For a few days now, I’ve been thinking about how to write this blog, what to write in it, whether or not to name names. Because we work with so many outstanding people, I’m afraid of leaving someone out. Because words fail sometimes, I’m afraid of not really truly conveying how grateful I am to work here at GCC. I mean the courses-through-your-body kind of gratitude. Surely, the climate here in the Valley of the Sun is grand, and it’s springtime, and life is gorgeously budding right now, filling the air with the sweetness of jasmine and orange blossom. It’s true that we have a library which boasts some unbelievably world-renowned artists.

But it’s not only the environment or the students, it’s the people–our co-workers–that inspire my gratitude daily. I’ve never in my life worked with people whose integrity is so high that it makes me check mine to make sure it’s equal. I’ve never worked with people who care so deeply about their co-workers while still being respectful of personal space. I have always enjoyed teaching and have been thankful that I found a place in higher education. Coming here four years ago from a smaller institution that was out of state, it took longer to get to know people and find my niche than I thought it would. But what I learned has been most important: it was worth the wait. The connections I have made here at GCC have been invaluable to me as a person and a teacher, allowing me to grow in so many ways.

The older I grow, the more things I learn about myself with clarity:

  1. I am a lifelong learner, and allowing myself to be one is vital to my well being.
  2.  I am an absolute introvert, only playing an extrovert when working with students and co-workers.  Work takes most of my extroverted capabilities, and I’m otherwise likely to avoid being social, especially during this past year when life has been more challenging for me personally.

This is how I realized these very essential things about myself in the fourth decade of my life: though working here at GCC where I have found so many opportunities to belong, better myself, and become the best me I can. I can take fitness classes and be supported by those whom I work with (thanks Louise and Margo!); I can attend Weight Watchers meetings right in the middle of my week and be supported by others who are endeavoring towards a similar goal as I have; I can take weekly Wednesday CTLE walks (thank you Dawna and Meghan!) and have interesting and fun conversations with co-workers while stretching my legs.  All of these opportunities have allowed me to grow in small but steady ways and, over time, to make meaningful connections with the people I work with.  I imagine that if I worked somewhere else I might eventually have these self-insights, but working at GCC has allowed me overt opportunities to find this clarity, and these opportunities come from you– those whom I work with and who are reading this blog. That is a mighty big gift to receive  from one’s co-workers and place of employment.

Tuesday of this week felt unseasonably cold for swimming, which is what I often do on Tuesdays at 11:30. I thought to myself: If you’re not going to swim, you better get out and get some exercise.  So I took a walking tour of campus. I made myself leave my office chair, go away from the virtual piles of papers waiting to be graded on Canvas, and walk out into the sunshine and 72 degrees.

As I walked about campus, I noticed all kinds of things I don’t notice when I’m rushing to a meeting or to class.  I noticed, for example, the tree that has fuzzy round blossoms that smell like peaches.  I was surprised by the line of cedar trees by the Fine Arts Center. And I kept running into co-workers who said hello, who gave me hugs, who greeted me with warmth and appreciation for my just being at that very place at that very time. Certain people whom I don’t get to see very often inquired about my well being with great concern and specificity (Mark V. and Lori W.) This is when I’m reminded that my introverted self is so at home here at GCC because I am welcomed and appreciated just for being who I am. I don’t know how an organization creates this environment. I don’t know how to replicate it. I just know that it happens here and that I get to be a part of it daily. I receive encouragement when I need it. I have support problem-solving if I need it. I have company for exercise and encouragement (with concrete opportunities) to pursue my passions–writing, creativity, and teaching. Take this blog, for example. Ben and Jerry’s aside, it gives me great satisfaction to contribute in this way to our community and also to read everyone else’s writing. And if I want to be quiet and just put by head down and work, I can do that too.

So this blog ends with immense gratitude. Thank you, each of you reading this, for being a part of the place where I get to learn and develop into my best self every day. Thank you for being caring co-workers.  Thank you for giving me, in just the three days I’ve taken to compose this entry, more meaningful experiences and interactions that I can even recount or record in writing.  But even if I haven’t mentioned them here, be sure that I have taken them all to heart.





The Dance General – A Story of Change

Here’s a story about “change” on many different levels.

Most of my students take my Art of Storytelling class because it is required, and they believe it will be the easiest of the required electives they have from which to choose. They usually come into class “suspicious” of the teacher. Who are they? What do they know? And unconsciously, “will I be able to relate to this teacher?”

In the first class of the semester, I begin by going around the room and asking each student to tell us “why” they are taking this class, aside from the fact that it is “required”. Most of them end up saying “because it is required”, and then I have to pull more out of them.

Then, I tell them about myself…
Here, I could list all of the things I have done, all of my accomplishments, degrees and accolades. I could also tell them, “I am the kind of person who…” and list all of my qualities.

Since I teach storytelling, I try to “teach” the topic by actually telling stories. (The video is a five-minute video recorded live at the Arizona Republic Live Storytelling – 9/15/2011)

Afterwards, I ask them what they know about me now, and do they think they will remember these things? My story “shows” them who I was, how and why I changed, and who I am today. It’s a more compelling way for me to introduce myself to them… as a teacher AND a person. And self-deprecating, humorous stories most always show people that you are “human” and have the ability to laugh at yourself.

This usually changes the way they think about the teacher who is leading the class…and the class itself.


Perfectionism … How it makes me much less than perfect

Nobody is perfect.

You can’t please everyone, so you might as well please yourself.

Your biggest mistake is not making one.

I like to think I’m pretty good at teaching my own children and my students that the best learning happens when we make mistakes. I try to keep them from worrying about messing up, for really, one of the best ways to learn is by making mistakes.

Its hard to practice what I preach though. I think that as teachers, we are often expected to be perfect for everyone. We should set the right expectations, have everything organized just so, know everything there is to know (and then some) about the topic we are teaching, keep students engaged and interested, get everything graded ASAP, and etc. I think that’s why they say the work of a teacher is never done.

A few weeks ago, I heard a little thing on “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” where Neil deGrasse Tyson was answering trivia questions about Cosmetology (not Cosmology or Astronomy or Astrophysics). He answered the questions like any student would, eliminating the possible choices until he arrived at the one he thought was best. Well, he only got one of the three questions right – and he was chided about it (in good fun, of course).

This is how he responded:

“… had I gotten all three right… I would’ve learned nothing. But having gotten two wrong, I learned two things today.”

His response reminded me of something very important. It is by making mistakes that I become a better teacher. What can I learn when things don’t go as well as I expect? It’s all part of the journey. Each time I teach a class, I learn something new. That’s one of the great things about my job. Not everybody gets to do that for a living.

And nobody is perfect. So stop trying to be.


Education, breathing and humor.

Change can seem frustrating when you are on a roll.

Changes in technology, software, management, government, health, family, friends, environment, fashion, and even our own thought process. The list goes on.

Change is stressful, and how we handle change is key to the outcome of our mental and physical health. I want to share three solutions for handling the stress of change.

Education, breathing and humor.

Sometimes it seems easier to just crawl back inside our tortoise shell and live out our existence in peace.  The paper-based days were great until we learned that paper came from trees and trees give us oxygen. So off we trudged to CTLE to figure out how to use technology and not paper. The time investment in education always pays off in the end. If you can find the time…

Leadership changes have been off the charts for our district lately. It can be very discombobulating when you are being steered in one direction and you are just getting comfortable with the status quo when suddenly what was once normal is now history. My therapy for this is to take a deep breath and listen to all of the new perspectives. There is usually a bright side and some of it may not be seen for several years.

The biggest change for me lately has been getting accustomed to the outfits that my 5-year-old daughter insists on choosing for me every morning. For someone who is most comfortable in workout attire, wearing a skirt every day has been interesting. It draws many a curious question.

The hardest part is explaining the color schemes. Red stripes on top of pink flowers could drive someone into a nauseating delirium. Sometimes I have enough time to sneak back home to change before I drive to work, but last Monday I was racing against the clock. So off I went to work in my long sleeved red shirt, flowery pink skirt and black Nike shoes. Rose colored glasses would not have done it justice.

The one time I really wanted to go home and change, I could not, so I had to live with this fashion expression for a day. If you can’t laugh at a situation you would be a mental and physical wreck. Humor is good. I am glad that humor is part of the Irish way of dealing with stress and change. My sense of humor is my built-in superpower that I can take with me any where I go.

So if you are trying to find ways to cope with the stress of change, maybe one of these three techniques will suit your fancy.


Word of the Day Haiku

I’m late. I didn’t post the last two weeks because I got that upper-respiratory thing going around and it lingered with me.  Also, because the topic of professional growth is rather large in my life right now and not the easiest thing to write about.  So I’m going to write about something else that I’m doing to work on my vocabulary and poetry writing skills.

With the help of some good and very smart friends, I’ve been part of a Word of the Day group who write smart, usually science-based mini essays using new vocabulary words.  They are masters at weaving these into science and personal stories.  Me however, I’m not that good, nor do I have the time.  So I reply with Haiku.  Nothing fancy just trying to keep the meter and intent without breaking all the rules.  I will share a few of the better ones with you now.  Hope you enjoy them.

Fallacious summer
Too hot for February
But good for my cough

“Would be” leaders eat their own
Ad hominem meals

Sweet palladium
My true guardian angel
Science is my rock

Filed under: Arizona, GCC, Poetry Tagged: Arizona, Glendale Community College, Haiku, Poetry, Professional Growth, STEAM, vocabulary, Write 6X6