Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators


How Milken Educators are Spending their Summer Vacations (continued)


We had so many great Milken Educator responses for our Top 7 article, we just had to share a few more...

Please "join the conversation" and share your own thoughts on summer vacation in the comments section below.


“The most important thing you can do is take time to reflect on the past school year. It is also a time of reading new books for fun and for professional growth. I also create goals based on my reflections. Each year I always want to refine things or come up with new ways to do things because I am always working to find ways to be a better leader.”

Isis Buchanan (MN '06)


“This summer my assistant principal for Curriculum and Instruction and I are meeting with each of our department chairs individually to create a differentiated professional development schedule for the 2013-2014 school year. Each Learning Team will create a professional development schedule that will meet building SMART goals as well as individual team SMART goals.”

Amy M. Murphy, Ed.D. (KS '01)


“So much to do! First of all, need to air out my brain. We had a super busy year and rolled out two new school-wide programs--academic language and a writing handbook. Took a week off to just relax. Next, get re-inspired. That was easy—I spent a week at the Lowell Milken Center with some amazing teachers. Norm [Conard (KS '92)] and Megan lit a fire under all of us! Now, cleaning up files, planning the first month of school. Met with my teaching partner and reviewed last year, then reworked it for the start of school. I think we have our first month down. Finally, fly fishing in Yellowstone for 10 days! (I'll also be reading up on Common Core, watching some teaching videos....the job never really ends, but it's fun!)”

Suzanne Scotten (CA '05)


Prepare a streamlined message and set of focused expectations for our staff, parents, students and community helps to set the tone and to keep everyone on the same page throughout the school year.”

Dr. Joshua Cole (VA '06)


Evaluate your past year and read specific books that will help you grow as a teacher. This is something that often gets put on the back burner during the year. Use the summer to continue your individualized professional development.”

Trey Duke (TN '08)


“Giving myself permission to wind down from the previous school year is important because it gives me the opportunity to reflect on the various aspects of my teaching practice, and develop a game plan for the upcoming year. After doing so, I then try to get to know all I can about my students and their family, as establishing and nurturing familial relationships aids in the success of my student's academic performance.”

Jacqueline A. Simms (DC '12)


“My advice for all the teachers preparing for a new school is to take some time to relax and do something for 'YOU.' As a newly retired teacher I realize that you must take care of yourself first before you can enter the school year with enthusiasm and energy. Stop and enjoy the world around you this summer.”

Judy Lissman (WY '94)


“Taking graduate level course in ESOL at Lasalle University, half-way to a second master's in TESOL [Teachers to Speakers of Other Languages]. Also working with 12th grade seniors on high school recovery credits to graduate with a high school diploma.

Andrew M. Skopp (PA '95)


“I'm one of the originals (CA 1988) and have been retired from full-time teaching for nine years. I teach part time (one class) at Santa Barbara City College. I have been teaching Math 117 (Introductory Statistics) for the past few years. Basically I just look for new thoughts and ideas about how to present various statistical topics. Among other things, I create interactive spreadsheets that my students can use to enhance the learning process.”

Dr. Sanderson M. Smith (CA '88)


“It is really hard to distinguish what is most important because I feel like everything I do during the summer is equally important. Normally I spend a great deal of time reading new professional texts. Much time is spent in training on new strategies or technology that will be utilized in the new year. Time is also spent reflecting on lessons that were taught that need to be tweaked to maximize student learning.”

Shasta Looper (SC '12)


Clarify my vision for our school district and plan how to work with others to forward that vision.”

Russell Adams (IA '03)


“In order to prepare for the new school year, I like to meet with our PLC (Professional Learning Communities) teachers that teach the same classes to set some expectations, grading practices, classroom management procedures/strategies and to start writing common formative and summative assessments. I also spend a lot of time reflecting and editing materials that I have used previously and researching new strategies and ideas that can be implemented for the upcoming school year.”

Jennifer McCalla (OH '09)


“After 33 years, I've found I need a balance in the summer—a little school 'stuff' so I don't get too complacent, but a lot of time on non-school activities so I don't feel 'cheated' when school begins.”

Kimberley Girard (MT '93)


“I need to make sure I keep my life balanced. I have been taking classes on inquiry based math, reading some professional literature on Word Study and Teacher Pay and Teacher Quality—Attracting, Developing and Retaining the Best Teachers, studying the CCSS and meeting with my teaching partner to think about our curriculum and materials. I also spend time with my family at the ballpark, pool and outside. I have to make myself put down my 'teaching agenda' so that I can keep that balance with my family.”

Alayna Siemonsma (SD '12)


As the superintendent of schools in my district, the most important thing I can do to prepare for the start of a new school year is to invest myself in the hiring of new staff. It is critically important to me that we hire people with vision, a sense of purpose and self, and a commitment to our students. Of course there are hundreds of other tasks that consume my summer work days; however, investing time in finding the best quality new hires we can find is on the top of my list.”

Tim Farmer (MA '03)


Create lessons that tie new initiatives together (Next Generation Science Standards/Common Core ELA and Math). It takes a long time to create a really good integrated lesson, so it cannot be done 'the night before.'”

Gail Wortmann (IA '01)


“Work for balance. Read something to grow professionally and something to grow personally. Spend time working on setting goals, casting vision, and planning... for yourself and FAMILY, then for school.”

Kimberly James (NC '10)


“The most important thing to do on summer break is to rediscover the world outside the classroom. Take time for renewal of your spirit and energies.”

John D. Putnam (CO '89)


“Spending quality time with family. I am away from my family too much during the school year. Summer gives me a time to 'reset' and remember what is really important.”

Roger Kassebaum (NE '97)


“I think the most important thing about summer is to refresh and renew. You can refresh by planning fun activities with family and friends and renew by engaging in personal professional development, including reading books, articles, blogs, and attending webinars, conferences and workshops.”

Shannon Landefeld (MD '08)


“I am working with a team of four other library media specialists in my county to order $13,000 worth of e-books for our students and teachers to access through the school libraries.”

Cindy Woods (WV '02)


Create new fun educational experiences for the students. I love it when they say things like, no one told us that we were going to do this this year. Or my brother/sister said that they did this or that last year but we didn't do any of that. I also need time to reflect about my own teaching and practice. I remind myself why I do this and I look at videos, scrapbooks, certificates, etc., in order to come back to why I do this.

Wilson Reyes (IN '11)


“Take time to rejuvenate and move to a much slower pace. Get outside and enjoy the active lifestyle that we want but sometimes gets pushed to the back burner during the school year. Take care of my mind, body and spirit!”

Nancy Stapp (CO '98)


“Our third- and fourth-grade teachers are going towards project-based learning. I went with a team to Napa, California In June to PBL World Camp. This was one of the best PDs I have ever been a part of. Sticking with learning about PBL I ordered the book Invent To Learn and have been reading it to get ideas for both our teachers and students. I have been scouring the internet and finding everything I can find on PBL and comprising articles and ideas for my teachers in a Google doc, so that they can browse for ideas and examples. I am also reading the book Born To Rise and I have to say it has made me want to push myself harder to make sure every child I come into contact with has a quality education.

Ryan Williams (KY '12)


“I teach three different courses, so first up is reading through any new literature out there (curricular and pedagogical), then developing a plan for incorporating new info into my existing lessons (if necessary). At the same time, planning for downtime is hugely important, so I'm spending time with my family, often just 'hanging out' and talking. I'll meet with the other teachers in my curricular team a bit later this month, and we'll start planning our pacing for the new school year.”

Maricruz Aguayo Tabor (TX '09)


Engage with other leaders in the Teacher and Principal Evaluation model along with conducting and participating in a variety of system professional development initiatives.

Alberta C Porter (MD '00)


“I think that the most important thing for me to do is to rest, read, and daydream during the summer. I know that technically these are three things, but we wouldn't be Milken Educators if we just followed the directions all the time.”

Rafal Olechowski (NY '11)


“I always try to do some PD featuring a new skill or workshops given through local informal institutions during the early summer. Then I usually go on vacation right before school starts.”

Natasha Cooke-Nieves (NY '10)


“Most important is to spend time with my two sons. We hike, bike and swim all the time. I am also working on curriculum and writing exam questions for College Board.”

Doug Hutton (CT '11)


“I think the most important thing you can do this summer to prep for the start of school is to reflect on the positives from the school year, identify your weaknesses and use your student evaluations in order to prepare for the start of a new year. You may find you need additional skills in either one or several areas including curriculum, classroom management, assessments, etc. If you do not take time to reflect and evaluate, then you will not search for strategies or trainings that will help you to continue growing as a teacher, learner or facilitator.”

Sabra Soileau (LA '07)


“I'm getting my head wrapped around how to integrate the CCSS into my English classes while simultaneously preparing to be evaluated on a new evaluation system. I'm also starting my doctorate in Ed. Leadership. Woot!”

Dan Alderson (WA '11)


“I'm retired but I continue to substitute. I am just exercising and maintaining my health to get ready for another year.”

Mary Lee Edwards (KS '92)


“I am planning to spend the first part of the summer trying to relax and reenergize myself but the second half will be working on building our curriculum for our Math 3 class. We have chosen to move to a three-year integrated math program instead of the traditional track. We have spent the last three summers going over the new Common Core Standards and are building our curriculum backwards with the end in mind. We are looking at each Standard to determine what our kids are supposed to know, then we decide how we want to assess so we know they understand it. From those assessment questions we begin deciding in what way we are going to teach the lesson.”

Brad Nicks (KS '09)


Writing a curriculum PreK-5th grade for the new technology position at the elementary level.”

Patricia A. Paxton (MI '10)


“I have started the National Boards process, am attending AVID training (as I am a new AVID teacher), have jumped onto a pilot in our district looking at different models for blended learning, have two great books going on disrupting education (it's a good thing). Later in the summer I will be attending a building professional development focused on the PLC and finally will be looking at the new science curriculum for the upcoming school year which has been reorganized and new to me as I am a looping teacher!”

Kymberly K. Larson (WA '09)


Working with multiple schools to create a CCSS-aligned curriculum that identifies the most critical standards that all of our children must know and be able to do.”

Joe Crawford (IL '93)


“This year I am reading several books about engaging families in their child's education: 101 Ways to Create Real Family Engagement and Engaging All Families by Steven M Constantino. I am also reading The Essential 55 by Ron Clark. With the rise of students afflicted with ADHD and autism, I have used several websites on how to help students with ADHD and autism as a resource. is a wonderful resource for students with ADHD.”

Gaylynn R St. Pierre (LA '04)


“Mine is a twelve-month, central-office job. The most important thing I can do this summer to prep for the start of school is to support teachers in their efforts to prepare: e.g., offer trainings, develop collaboration opportunities.”

Sharon Chaney (TN '99)


Take a break from school for a couple of weeks to recharge by spending time with my children. Working toward my master's degree, reading one school-related book, and books that have piled up over the year that are non-school related.”

Kristina Carssow (TX '11)


“I like to travel over the summer and see new places, cultures, and people that I can bring into the classroom for the next school year. This allows me to see the world from a different viewpoint that I hope to share with my students. It helps to reinvigorate me for the start of school. I also think it is important to spend time with friends and family.”

Bradley Abel (IL '11)


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