Guest Blog Post – by Cathleen Beachboard

From @cathleenbeachboard – I value the opinion of #BookCampPd and the recommendation on the various books/writings. I would love some feedback on my first blog post.

Learning to be fearless…

Learning to be fearless…

Hi!!!! My name is Cathleen. My mother always told me that in order to tell a story properly a person has to start at the beginning . This story has a happy ending… I swear.


In all due respect Beauty and The Beast was a fairly big craze when I developed my dream of being a teapot. My mother allowed me to practice my dream on her dining room table fairly often. I was an avid dreamer, quiet,  and creative type kind of kid. I started school. Kindergarten was a breeze…naps…recess.. and show and tell! I liked school. I could be creative and try new things. I was on FIRE! Until 1st grade…


I went home crushed and defeated for the first time in my life. I started to wonder about what I should do with my tiny 1st grade self. I started trying new things, but the fear of public rejection still lingered. I would love to tell you that my little first grade self decided to not listen to the adults in my life, but its pretty hard defying the people who control the flow of juice in the classroom.

Honestly, the time between 1st and 3rd grade was a struggle for me. I remember my mom sent me to summer school and I had no idea why. It was discovered sometime during 2nd grade I had dyslexia. Quickly I was given an IEP and accommodations to help me. I was taught strategies, tricks, and ways to read for understanding. However, that first crush of defeat and fear started to sink in even deeper. Each of my years in elementary school could be defined by simple sentences meant to help keep me “grounded” in reality.


Enter the protagonist my middle school English teacher….from the moment I entered her class I was not defined by my past, by my disability, or by anything. I was supposed to be the best me I could be. (Teachers, administrators, and educational enthusiasts reading this…yes, belief has the power to change ANYONE.)

She believed in me from the moment I met her.


I would love to tell you in a matter of minutes I was an amazing student. She waved her cape and the story ended with me riding off into the sunset as the amazing person I was always meant to be. No. She started me on the journey to face the road of anxiety and crippling fear that was cemented in my mind from being a struggling learner. She gave me her SPARK…

Strength     Persistence    Attitude    Relationship     Kindness

I had love and understanding for the first time in school. Mrs. Garrett gave me a foundation that I could flourish with, but my teachers from the past still loomed in my head. Everyday as I left her classroom she would tell every student that they were loved. I will admit it became a bit mechanical by the end of the year, but some days I needed that love to just keep battling the day. I needed her more than she would ever know. The funny part of this story is…I never talked to her until the year was half over. She put forth such great effort daily and never even know that she was my lifeline.

One day in January she announced that they were seeking students to enter the new honors classes for Language Arts. I knew that I would not get in on account of my disability and the fact that I was below grade level in reading. Fear does some crazy things to a person. I was facing fear and I wanted to know what to do…so I went up and I asked her…

fight or flight

I told her my new dream was to get into honors classes and that I wanted to bring people joy like her. The part I was not ready for was the fact that she told me things would be tough. She was ALWAYS encouraging, but she never would set a student up for failure. We could take tests over and over. We could try a homework assignment again. We could redo that project for a better grade. She used to say life doesn’t just give you one shot and then you are a failure. Opportunities only stop when a person stops trying.

She told me things would be tough. She told me I would have to battle my fears. She told me to shrink my fear. However, fear is a lot smaller when you have the love of an educator to shine light on your doubts.


Well I wrote down my fears. I didn’t lose my fear…but I started to become a fear less student. I let my fears become less so I could live up to the potential I wanted for myself.  Mrs. Garrett worked with me one on one after school to help me practice my reading and comprehension. I was afraid every second of that year, but her love and guidance kept me going.

The end of the year came all too quickly. My mom got a letter in the mail that I was accepted into the new honors class for the next school year. I was without words for what this woman had done for me. So….I decided in that moment I was going to pay her back. They say the greatest form of flattery is imitation…so I became what she was to me…a difference maker.


A big thank you to Sean Gaillard who helped remind me that the world needs my story! This is the start of my chronicles to SPARK: Fearless Learning in the world.

All the Excitement of a Wonderful Christmas Gift

Can we all agree that a teacher starting a new job in education has a tremendous amount to learn in their first years on the job? In 2016, the number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) teachers included 3.2 million public school teachers and 0.4 million private school teachers according to the U.S. Department of Education. Across America, an estimated 9.3 percent of a district’s teaching staff is composed of beginning teachers. Roughly, that would be about 364,800 new teachers each year! “This number varies substantially across districts, however. Large differences are also evident at the state level. State averages for first- or second-year teachers in our sample varied from a low of 5.5 percent in Michigan to a high of 22.4 percent in Florida, with Washington, DC employing 41.9 percent beginning teachers.” (Gagnon and Mattingly, 2012). During my twenty-six years as a principal, I worked with many first and second year teachers and often wished our mentor and professional learning opportunities were individualized to match their specific needs. Is there some way to use technology, the Internet, Twitter to help even a small percentage of these 364,800 new teachers? I wonder …..

learning growth

Fast forward my life to being newly retired and wondering, “What should I do that would continue to contribute to the work I love?” Meggin McIntosh @MegginMcIntosh recently wrote an article about how important it is for people, “To feel like they are making a difference and that what they do matters.” I didn’t want to feel underwhelmed, which is the result of spending time and energy on tasks, projects or events for which I didn’t see any purpose. I did have a fear that I would dash aimlessly from one project to another, month after month, or fall into depression having lost the part of myself that had been my main purpose for forty years. Meggin speaks of “taking grace and space and pace to uncover what a person really values.” I took that time and for months reflected on what core values in education were the most important to me. Over time I realized it was helping educators, especially those new to the profession, with learning experiences they identified were motivating for them to know more about, when they could work collaboratively with their peers, centered around books they had read. Of course, educators at any year in their education journey, who are excited to learn more about a topic, are also important. I was as excited as a young child opening a large Christmas gift. A new beginning for me that would provide purpose and excitement for years to come.


Key elements started to emerge – professional learning, books, Twitter, educators new and experienced, collaborative, sustained over time, motivated, peers, purposeful, authors, and journey. The key ideas evolved into a Twitter chat and now into a website. Something amazing has begun to happen! The ideas, suggestions and creativity of those who have been involved in the Twitter #PLN of #BookCampPD will help mold the future development of the website as their vision as educators will take it to the stars and beyond! Teamwork makes the dream work!

Perhaps in the next blog posting I will explain how each of the elements fit together to provide a cohesive professional learning experience for an educator if they choose to take advantage of all the aspects available.

Happy Learning 😊


Gagnon, D. J., & Mattingly, M. J. (2016). Advanced Placement and Rural Schools. Journal of Advanced Academics,27(4), 266-284. doi:10.1177/1932202×16656390

McIntosh, Meggin Ph.D (2018). Just Whelmed. Just Whelmed Wee Workshop. Underwhelm: When You Rarely Get a Chance to Work on Projects of Importance

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). Digest of Education Statistics, 2016 (NCES 2017-094), Introduction and Chapter 2.


Where Has This Passion for Books Come From?

When I first began teaching, in 1977, I spent an inordinate amount of time each evening on tasks that I thought would help students learn. I would sit on the floor with my mini paper cutter, cut out word cards from tag board, use brightly colored markers to match with the different levels of the basal readers, carefully write hundreds of vocabulary words onto these cards, cover them with contact paper as laminators didn’t yet exist, and write the chapter number from the basal in the upper corner. Night after night, I would create these word cards so I could flash them in front of my students’ faces the next morning. Surely, that would be the answer to helping them learn to read, right?

What if I had spent this time reading about effective literacy practices?

Do you scroll through Twitter and read the posts of educators as I do? I ran into one the other day where a teacher posted, “I don’t read books. I would rather spend time doing other things.” Ah, that is exactly what I had been doing. Until about 1970, instructional research was virtually unknown. Granted, in 1977 there weren’t any books written about effective literacy practices. There were journal articles. As teachers we were given teacher’s editions for basal readers and we followed them exactly. If we had an original idea, such as flash cards, we made them ourselves. We purchased the tag board, markers, and contact paper from the meager salary of something slightly above $5,000 a year that we made. It was a very different time.

I would like to share with you what it was like to for me, as a new teacher, to simply read a recent publication of reading research. To get to read an article I would need to drive half an hour to a University library. As a new teacher, I had to jump through hoops to get a visitor’s pass just get in the front door, then locate a quarterly, education publication (I have long ago forgotten the name of it) on the 4th floor – education library – that would list the articles recently published, next, go try to locate the specific education journal on the shelves (if someone else didn’t have it checked out), take it to a table and sit there and read it. Of course, I could try to copy each page for twenty-five cents, if the machines were actually working, take that home and read it. In those days the quality that spit out of a copy machine was extremely difficult to read as it was mostly black and smeary. Only to discover, oh my, I ran out of quarters in the middle of copying the article! So much for trying to grasp the latest and greatest thinking in the world of educational research. The only way I would even know there was new information about reading research would be from a university professor; as they were the one’s who had copies of the actual educational journals. Do you see how complicated this was? How does this differ from the steps would you need to take to read a recent journal article or book today? We certainly have jumped light years into the future!

Perhaps this is why I appreciate books so very much. My wish is for educators to be able to learn from what someone else has written and have a place to collaborate with each other.

collaboration 223

Let’s learn together!

Good Things Take Time …

Meredith Johnson
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