I grew up in Pendleton, New York on the banks of the Erie Canal. Tucked far off the road, our house stood at the end of a long and winding driveway that was made for roller skating and racing my yellow banana seat bicycle down the hill and around the bend. My days were spent skipping stones with my sister and our neighborhood friends, and my evenings were spent alone in the quiet of my room, which overlooked the water.
This is where I became a reader.
Monthly trips to our local library were a special treat. I’d load up on books and scurry home to devour them, finishing each one long before our next visit. Empty handed and impatient, I started crafting my own stories in order to fill the void.
This is how I fell in love with writing.
Words served me well as a sensitive kid, an angsty adolescent, and a young woman determined to do good work for the right reasons. The first story that I wrote was about Maria Tallchief, America’s first major prima ballerina and the first Native American to possess that role. It was composed on my basement floor, which I turned into a makeshift dance studio. I was wearing a leotard that was too big and an itchy purple tutu that was too small. Both were remnants of my first recital. My most recent story was about my great grandmother, who came to the United States alone at the age of 15. I wrote it with my students’ help during our last writing workshop session, and then I published it in our local paper.
I became a teacher because I had good teachers, and children are some of the best.
I graduated from Starpoint High School and Fredonia State University, where I received citations for excellence in the field of education, scholarships that supported my graduate work, and a gold cord at graduation that made me a bit more confident than I should have been at that age. I completed my master’s degree at Buffalo State College, and I spent twelve years in the classroom before I began designing and leading professional development initiatives for teachers across New York State. You will find a list of my previous clients here and testimonials right here.
This was hard, humbling, and incredibly rewarding work.
I’m a former Christa McAuliffe fellow, a current New York State Educator Voice fellow, and the founder of the WNY Young Writers’ Studio: a community of writers and teachers of writing. I’ve spent the last twelve years consulting, coaching, and designing curriculum and assessments beside K-12 teachers in over sixty different schools. I’ve taught at the graduate level, supervised student teachers, and led curriculum and assessment design initiatives inside of different university departments. I also work with business and nonprofit leaders who are eager to craft and share meaningful narratives about the organizations they serve.
Storytelling is a powerful sort of branding. More importantly, it reminds us of who we are and why our work really matters.
I love listening to the stories that people of all ages share with me. I’m passionate about studying how they approach the writing process as well. I’ve learned a great deal by standing on the shoulders of giants, but I’ve learned much more by peering over the shoulders of the learners that I support. I’m serious about this kind of action research, and my work here never ends.
I’ve shared the best of my most recent findings in my books, Make Writing, Hacking the Writing Workshop: Redesign with Making in Mind, and Hacking School Culture: Creating Compassionate Classrooms.
Today, I live in Kenmore, New York with my husband John, our daughters Laura and Nina, Remy the rambunctious Labrador retriever, and our sweet cat, Girard. I spend my free time reading and writing on my porch, digging in my garden, hiking with my husband and my puppy, and cooking incredible meals with family and friends.*
I’d love to hear your story.
*To be fair, my husband cooks incredible meals. Mine are above average, at best.
Recently, I’ve been invited to talk about my work with a number of educators that I admire. You may listen here: