Where in the World…?

Give an educator a summer break, and they’ll travel somewhere — to relax, work, learn. We received a robust response to our call to send in photos of you on break with your Educator magazines, and this year we noticed that more than a few members like to travel together. That proved to be the case with several of the contest winners, who each receive gift cards for school supplies. We also feature several Honorable Mentions. Keep an eye out for more educators with Educators in the next issue. Congratulations to the winners!


Kim Read-Smith, San Pasqual Elementary Teachers Association, Humanities/VAPA instructor

EAE Kim Read-Smith 1

“On our annual pilgrimage to decompress, 10 teachers from Escondido went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Here we are about to go down the Snake River on raging rapids. Left to right are: Bonnie Blanton, retired; our river guide, Alex; Lisa Gangel, first grade; Francis Juarez, kindergarten; Nicole Marshall, kindergarten; Kim Read-Smith; Carol Schiefer, kindergarten; Kris McLaughlin, fifth grade; and Teri MacDonald, retired.

“We went because a family at our school offered us their ski lodge in Jackson Hole as a thank-you for teaching their children. The best part was the white water rafting. Our group grows closer every summer and more united in our sisterhood. This bond helps us through the school year when life gets tough.”


Rachel Staab, Glendale Teachers Association, Special educator

EAE Rachel Staab 1

“Two of my colleagues and fellow GTA members and I went to Westhaven Children’s Home near Montego Bay, Jamaica. We volunteered several days at this residential home for children and adults who have moderate to severe special needs. We played with them, sang to them, fed them, walked them around, and just gave them our presence. From left are Andrea Fay, speech-language pathologist; me; and Mary Ann DeWitt, school nurse at College View School.”

Darcy Long, United Teachers of Richmond, Elementary technology coach  

EAE Darcy Long 1

“Here I am with in Zanzibar, East Africa, in front of Freddie Mercury’s childhood home, known as ‘Mercury House.’ Next was an eight-day safari through the Serengeti and five days in Rwanda, tracking mountain gorillas in Virunga with two close friends. As a member of a nature journaling group, my purpose was to closely observe and document the flora, fauna and other surroundings through both scientific and artistic lenses — and to practice my drawing and watercolor painting. My time with this group was transformational. The consistent daily practice of being present with what was right in front of me changed how I see the world, literally. The most unexpected discovery for me was how gentle, kind and thoughtful the people of Tanzania were. Peacefulness and calm was observed and felt throughout my stay.”


Honorable Mention

Benny Heredia, Alhambra Teachers Association, CTE, soccer coach


“This summer I traveled to Barranquilla, Colombia, to visit family and relax.  This particular trip took us to the countryside, full of lush greenery and tropical humidity.  At a family gathering we celebrated to Afro-Caribbean drum music, typical of the region.”

“The musical group pictured is all female, a first.  They represent a break through in the stereotype that such groups should be only male.”

Nicole Naditz, San Juan Teachers Association, NBC French teacher

EAE Nicole Naditz 1

“When I attended the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages convention last November, I won a raffle for two round-trip tickets to Paris. My mom and I went in June and added a trip to Luxembourg, which is where her paternal relatives emigrated from in the 19th century before settling in Iowa.”

“This photo is with Steven Kennedy, my former student, who reached out to me when he saw on social media that I would be in Paris. It was my first time visiting Europe as a tourist; usually I’m either a chaperone for student trips to Europe or enrolled in a study program there to enhance my language skills and cultural knowledge. My mom and I explored southwest Luxembourg. It was meaningful to walk the streets of these villages, knowing our family had been there before.”


Jack Hollander, Saddleback Valley Educators Association, Civics and American government teacher

EAE Jack Hollander 1

“Here I am at Green Gables (inspiration for the Anne books by Lucy Maud Montgomery) in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, Canada. I went to the Maritimes following the NEA Representative Assembly in Boston. I’ve wanted to visit Prince Edward Island ever since I read the Anne books. I also visited historic Fort Louisburg on Cape Breton Island. The national park facility is set up as a French fort of 1745, including costumed soldiers and citizens. I found out that Alexander Graham Bell was born Canadian and had his summer (and retirement) home on Cape Breton Island; in fact, he was one of five pioneers who developed Canada’s first airplane. Baddeck, Nova Scotia, is the ‘Kitty Hawk’ of Canada, and there is a Parks Canada museum dedicated to Bell and his wife, Mabel, in Baddeck.”


Christy Ireland, Vacaville Teachers Association, Digital media teacher

EAE Christy Ireland 1

“I was on a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in June with three other educators from my school (one had to take the photo). Pictured left to right are Lindsay Wilson, me, and Gayle Morrison. This was taken right before our catamaran sail. We picked Cabo because of the beach, the price and location. I enjoyed relaxing and not being worried about work — and I got my first stamp in my passport!

“I teach introduction to digital media, so I am taking back to the classroom the variety of apps I used, such as Google Translate and Currency Converter.”


Your Online Professional Learning Community


By: Gabriela Orozco Gonzalez, Montebello Teachers Association

Want to connect with educators who share your passion for teaching visual art? Need to commune with other new teachers? Are you an ESP with a hot topic for discussion?


NEA edCommunities is the place for you. It is an online professional practice and learning area where educators can share their strengths, exchange ideas and resources, create innovative materials and tools, join webinars, and engage with others who are committed to improving student success.

Free and open to all, it allows you to:

  • Connect with colleagues across the country and with virtual learning events to expand your professional development opportunities.
  • Collaborate with other educators and education professionals.
  • Share classroom-ready resources and assessment and instruction materials.
  • Explore new ways of teaching and learning that work for your students.

You can customize your NEA edCommunities experience by selecting topic categories that match your interests, such as professional practice, leadership, and social justice. From there, you can find relevant groups to follow. You can also start a group to advocate and collaborate on an issue that matters to your students and school.

CTA’s Gabriela Orozco Gonzalez, a member of the Montebello Teachers Association, oversees the thriving Common Core K-5 group, which she started four years ago. The group aligns with her interests and expertise. In addition to teaching, she presents on the Common Core with CTA’s Instructional Leadership Corps and at conferences, and maintains a blog devoted to the topic (Common Core Café, commoncorecafe.blogspot.com).

Gonzalez finds that NEA edCommunities offers opportunity to expand on her work. “I started the group because there are always questions after I present that I can’t get to, and my blog doesn’t lend itself to collaboration,” she says. “The group is a great way for people to collaborate with me and with each other, and to share resources and ideas — nationally.”

She notes that the posts and discussions are broad, ranging from lesson and unit plans and cross-curricular approaches to literacy to math manipulatives and getting your classroom ready for the year.

Just a few of the many other groups in the professional practice category:

  • Digital Tools and Learning (by grade levels)
  • Gifted and Talented in the 21st Century
  • Culturally Responsive Teaching
  • Middle School Strategies
  • National Board Certification
  • Secondary Math 6-12
  • The Power of Health and PE

Gonzalez thinks the advantages of NEA edCommunities are great and obvious. “It’s one of the largest professional learning communities for educators across the nation,” she says. “It’s a professional practice group where we connect and support each other, focusing on improving student success. This is something provided with our membership, and it’s free. We need to use all the resources we have out there.”

Join thousands of other educators on NEA edCommunities at mynea360.org.




Practical tips from teachers just like you


From teaching strategies to classroom resources, Works4Me offers ideas and tips for student success from educators all over the country. Part of NEA edCommunities, Works4Me encourages educator submissions, which are shared online as well as in a biweekly newsletter.

Recent newsletter offerings have included mentoring first-year teachers, a description of and link to great virtual engineering field trips (at real engineering projects nationwide), and “Classroom Management Must-Have Strategies” from retired Iowa teacher Katie Ortiz, who listed a few classroom management basics that could work for any grade level:

  1. Teach people first, subject second.
  2. Praise work and effort, not ability or intelligence.
  3. Prepare well.
  4. Show enthusiasm for learning.
  5. Use mobility, proximity and facial expressions.
  6. Know your triggers and disengage emotionally when your buttons are pushed.
  7. Be what you want students to be. Teach behavior by modeling.

Further details about each of these are online, as are many other tips on multiple topics. See them all, and sign up for the newsletter, at nea.org/works4me.



Support When You Need It


One of the easiest ways to search all of NEA’s professional supports content is through supported.nea.org. Use the search bar to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Lessons Learned

By: Adam Holland, Hart District Teachers Association

Many say that teaching is a lifestyle, a hard life but a good life. The life of a true teacher is a distinguished one among so many occupations in this world.

But what happens when life interferes with our teaching lifestyle? In 2014 my life changed forever: I was diagnosed with brain cancer. While my private life was redefining itself in many ways, one area that wasn’t being redefined was teaching.

For me, teaching and the classroom were wonderful diversions to my own personal fight for life, a reminder that the world was continuing on and that despite my cancer I still played a role in this world. I knew there were things in my life that were bigger than me, like my students, my school, my colleagues, and most of all my faith.


I waited until after my students took their AP European History exam to tell them. They were amazingly supportive. One of the most wonderful things they did was to write letters to me, laminate them and put them in a book.


In addition to daily encouragement, school staff gave me a bouquet of historical figures containing gift cards for meals, for when I would be too tired or sick to make dinner. Several of them were willing to give me their own sick time in case I needed to take an extended period of time off.

Thankfully, I didn’t need it. But I will always cherish how staff, students and students’ families reached out to help me. I had always been told we were a family at West Ranch, and now I experienced it.

In the summer of 2014 I underwent two brain surgeries, and one of my greatest concerns was healing before school started. I didn’t want to miss it at all. I even considered putting off the second surgery for a year so that it wouldn’t affect my students’ education. A great group of people knocked sense into me, and I had the second surgery three weeks before going back to work in August.

Radiation and chemo were on the docket for the fall, and throughout it all I felt terrible and physically exhausted. I woke up each morning, dressed, went to work and did the best job I could. My colleagues and students inspired me to press on. That year I did not miss a single day because of how I felt, save one day when I suffered some side effects from a spinal tap. Through it all I committed myself to my students and school.

 “I had always been told we were a family at West Ranch High School, and now I experienced it.”

As I recovered in 2015, I realized that my journey and what I had learned were not just for me. There were others on the journey — my parents, my friends, my faith family, my colleagues and my students. I wrote about this in what eventually became a book, Anchored in the Storm, as a way not just to share my story, but to encourage and inspire those who go through any type of suffering in life. It’s been an incredible blessing for me to see and hear how one journey and experience can help others. My journey continues to this day.

One of the lines from the book is: “There are people who have literally poured so much into others, there is nothing left for the history books; they have given themselves away.” Teachers do this on a daily basis, and I am proud to serve among so many wonderful educators. I am now so proud to be among the many cancer warriors out there.

Adam Holland on how surviving cancer changed the way he teaches:

  • I tell students that challenges are not always bad. I teach AP European History. During the year, so many kids wonder why they took such a difficult course, but at the end of the school year or even years later, it all clicks, and they see that the challenging times were worth it. When we’re going through those hard times, I tell them that I had cancer, and it was one of the greatest gifts I ever received. I truly mean that!
  • I want all students to know that I’m on their side and want them to have the best education I can give them. To do well, they need to know they are supported and cared for. I teach students history; I don’t teach history to students. It might be a subtle shift of words, but it’s enormous when it comes to teaching. Students always come first in education.
  • I tell them that life doesn’t always go as expected. They’re looking ahead, and the future looks so bright. They want to take on the world, and I love that passion in them. But I also want them to have realistic expectations. Like climbing a mountain, you don’t jump from valley to peak at once. You take it a step at a time, and eventually with persistence and fortitude you get to the top.
  • I tell students they need to do something they love and they’ll never work a day in their life. That’s a big part of my own story. I wake up tired, but it is a joy to come to work each day, work hard with and for my students and staff, and go home tired. I am much happier than so many who have so much more than I ever will. I love teaching.

Adam Holland teaches social studies at West Ranch High School in Stevenson Ranch. A member of the Hart District Teachers Association, he is a National Board Certified Teacher and author of Anchored in the Storm (2016).

In 2016, former students of Holland created a short video about his story and book: