Expanding Availability for Consulting

Teacher training in Antigua, West Indies.

Teacher training in Antigua, West Indies.

As the former director of the General Special Education Certification Program at Rivier University, I have decided to expand my availability for consulting in school districts. My expertise is in the area of literacy assessment, planning and monitoring progress.

I have consulted to school districts and private schools for many years.  As a former teacher and administrator in both public and private schools (K-16) and a doctorate in special education from Boston College, I have consulted on a  wide range of topics.  I have presented papers at international, national, regional and state conferences, and conducted teacher training on a many toptics in the area of literacy learning.

I am fortunate to provide  training and mentoring to teachers in Antigua,
W.I. and work with students in the schools there, developing skills in integrated teaching using place-based education principles.  Focus has been on creating environments that promote active learning with emphasis on developing language , dialogue and critical thinking skills.

Principals of primary schools in Antigua work together to solve the

Principals of primary schools in Antigua work together to solve the “marshmallow challenge.” After the challenge they discussed the skills that were necessary to successfully complete the project.

My primary area of expertise is in the assessment of literacy skills in K-12 students.  I have conducted hundreds of literacy evaluations over my career and have helped many teachers improve their understanding of how students develop literacy and their ability to choose appropriate methods to use to enhance literacy in their classrooms.

An example of drawing and writing.

An example of drawing and writing.  Much can be learned about what students’ know by examining their writing.  This sample was in response to the story Tikki Tikki Tembo.  This English language learner demonstrates some understanding of story sequence, excellent concept of word and developing phonemic awareness.  HIs difficulty with grammar is evident.

When I conduct literacy assessments, my first task is to talk to the students about their feelings and emotions (they are differences) and their willingness to engage in literacy tasks, their ability to sustain their attention to literacy tasks and their tolerance for  frustration.  These behaviors may dictate planning recommendations.  photo-77

In the coming weeks, I will be adding literacy information and tips on various pages of this blog-space.  I hope that you will contact me at my email (sgately49@gmail.com) if you would like additional information or would like to discuss my services further.   l look forward to helping you “disengage your automatic pilot.”


P.S.  As you explore earlier blogs you will see that I am enjoy needle felting!  Above is a needle felted portrait of my husband I did for Christmas!  What a great way to relax!

Willie, my snowy owl

photo 4 Willie, the Snowy Owl

I have finally completed needle felting a snowy owl that I started about a month ago.  Willie is just over 12 inches tall.  I have reworked him a number of times.  I completed primary and secondary wings, and tail feathers, only to pull them off and start again.  Willlie’s chest is different from how I started as well.

These are the original primary feathers that I made for Willie.  I decided they just weren’t correct.

One thing I enjoy about needle felting, besides the peace and calm that it brings me, it that if you don’t like what you have done, you can just pull your wool off and start again. I think Willie is completed, but as I look at him on my desk work area, I’m seeing that his left side looks a bit more bloated than his right side.  I’ll have to take care of that next.

photo 3

Here is Willie, The Snowy Owl

To attempt such as project, I first learned more about snowy owls, especially their physical features.  I looked at numerous pictures of beautiful photographs of snowys and read about all kinds of conservation and protection programs that are aimed to increase the snowy’s numbers.  Then I searched for pictures of  needle felted snowys.

photo 2Willie…side view

 I didn’t base Willie on any one photo or needle felted project, but created him as I went along.  Were I do this again (I probably won’t unless I get a commission for Willie), I would turn his head to the side, posing him differently.

photo 1Willie’s backside…You can see the three sets of feathers (actually there are four…at the top are the wing covering feathers)

For Christmas I created a portrait of my husband, of which I am very proud.  Frank knew I was up to something, but was really shocked when he opened this present.

photo-72I think that this is one of my best pieces.  Even the attitude of the portrait captures Frank’s overall demeanor.

I also worked very hard on a bald eagle for my nephew, Kevin, who enjoys photographing them.   Here is a photo of Kevin’s bald eagle.  I can’t tell you how long it took me to be happy with the beak.photo-74Well, that’s the update on needle felting.  Finally, I’ve found a craft that I enjoy doing and can well fairly well.

TheO Smart Ball

TheO Smart Ball

TheO Smart Ball

TheO Smart Ball is a great tool for kids (and adults).  The ball is made of a great rubberish material that is fun to hold and soft…my friend’s dog, Molly loves this kind of materials…she can really get her teeth into it (probably not a good idea). Anyway this ball is around $35.o0.  You upload to your phone for activity apps, place your phone securely into the space that you see in the picture, turn on the program you want to play and throw the ball.  Each time the ball is thrown, the question or problem changes on the screen.  Great for reviewing material, just adding a big of engagement to the lesson.  Some of the apps are great games for families too (you don’t really need the ball, you can just shake the phone and the question changes.  At a recent “sisters” reunion we had fun playing Interrago, a great icebreaker for use in therapy or just to get to know new people.  There is also a Bowling for TheO, Flying Circus, Word Teasers and Pop Fun.  The developers are working on developing an app that will allow teachers to write their own material to use.  A fun addition to your classroom, home or office.

photo (43)

Here’s the guy at the CEC Convention describing the Smartball to me. Another convention find.

New technology: A Robot for Children with Autism

Click on the link below to see the robot at work.  He is doing a Tai Chi routine, which I started to do with him…thus the poor camera work for a few seconds.  Bear with me, it’s worth it.           http://youtu.be/6dwrK4y3Vkg

Nao, as the robot is called, is currently being piloted at an elementary school in Haverhill, MA. He can play games, ask questions and interact with children in a much more predictable way than the typical preschooler and is a bit hit with many of the children with autism.

The robot.  At the CEC convention in April in Philadelphia I was checking out the vendors.  One of interest to me was this beautiful, little robot.  Most people just watched for a while and moved on, but I was interested in what this little guy could do.  The gentlemen with whom I spoke was the inventor of the robot.  He told me that he had brought the robot to an event and all of sudden, he heard a woman crying.  Her son, a little boy with a diagnosis of autism was interacting with the robot.  This was the first thing that had ever  maintained her child’s attention.  Since then the robot is being piloting in a integrated preschools  around the country.  Recently the Boston Globe ran a short article on the robot and its possibility for helping children with special needs.  With a  price tag of about $10,000, it might be worth it.

Edtech Camp: The Unconference

I was first introduced to Edtech Camp through a student in one of my classes a year ago.  She was one of those rare students whose enthusiasm bubbled forth without any effort.  I had assigned the students to start a blog and use it to examine each of the standards for school administrators in New Hampshire.  Many of the students were reluctant to “bare their souls” in such a forum and it took much coaching, listening and encouraging to get them going.  But Jennifer was so excited!  She had learned how to blog in another course, but hadn’t started her own.  She was a regular on Twitter, Facebook, and all that Google has to offer and had built up an incredible professional network.  We all knew that she will would far.  One day she came to class and told us about an Edtech Boot Camp she attended that Saturday.  It sounded pretty intense, exciting,  and somewhat insane (in a good sort of way).

This past spring I attended my first Edtech Camp in Cambridge along with 200 other educational enthusiasts.  It was a great day.  I met some new people who were so excited to share what they are doing.  I ran into an old “student” of mine who is now a principal.  We had lunch together and enjoyed catching up.

Edtech Camps are built from the bottom up.  There is no planning agenda, just a blank matrix on a large wall and once the go-ahead is given, anyone can sign up for a time to meet with others who want to talk about a topic.  There are no “real” presentations, as everyone in the room has the ability to speak, add their own”take” on things.    Most of the workshops were related technology, but others were discussions on education today, how to motivate students, how to get students to “own” their learning.  Teachers working in K-16 classrooms attended.

It’s free!  You get coffee and a bit of continental breakfast and lunch.  You are encouraged to do your own thing.  If you want to skip a session and just talk with someone you’ve met, do it.  If you don’t like the session you chose, just walk out.  No egos allowed…we are here to learn what WE want to learn, not what someone else wants us to learn.  It was an exciting and thrilling day.

This summer the Burlington Public Schools, Burlington, MA are sponsoring a series of Edtech camps, Tuesdays 9:00 – 1:00.  You need to register (so they’ll have enough food and space)…try it out.  It’s free and it’s what many teachers have been looking for.  It that doesn’t work for you there are a bunch of other Edtech camps all summer and into the fall.  Go to http://edcampboston.ticketleap.com or Google #edcampbos for more information.

Oh, and for a great blog to follow check out Jennifer Scheffer’s blog.  Hope to see you in July Jennifer…

Our friend, Betty

Betty PrincipatoToday we say good-bye to a wonderful friend and colleague.  Betty Principato was the office manager/administrative assistant in the department of education at what was then Rivier College.  Betty greeted everyone with a smile.  She worked mainly with the undergraduate students, but would help whomever came into her office.  She passed away on Sunday, June 15, 2013.

You’d never know it but looking at her desk, but she was one of the most organized people I’ve ever met.  Post-its were her best friends.  They were all over her desk.  While she might take a little time to find what she needed, she always did.  When deadlines came close, you might wonder if a project would be ready…it always was.  Betty and I often recommended and borrowed books from each other.  We would often share our responses to the books.

Betty retired a few years ago and since then has enjoyed spending some of her time with her husband, Joe at their condominium in Florida and with their three children and grandchildren.  They had a time share in Aruba (I think) and visited there each year.  Betty was diagnosed with a late stage cancer in February, 2014 while staying in Florida.  They came back to New England, got a second opinion and opted out of treatment.  Since then she enjoyed short visits with friends and much time with her husband, her children and her grandchildren.

She passed away on Sunday morning, surrounding by the family that she loved.  I know that they will miss her smiling face, her wonderful laugh and beautiful presence.  Many from the college will be reminded of Betty and her contributions to the college and to the faculty at Rivier.

Have a wonderful journey Betty.  I’ll bet she is smiling all the way.  God bless.



It’s time for transformational leadership

I believe that we need leadership in schools today that is grounded in real values, not just ones that are quoted glibly and so often that their meaning is muted and dulled.  In these days where the score on one test is used to measure how much a student has learned, how well a teacher teaches, and  how effectively a school is run, there is a need for  a clear vision and mission for schools that educators can passionately believe in and strive to achieve.  Transformational leadership  can help teachers become empowered in these times where their professionalism is diminished and disparaged and their efforts are depreciated.

In transformational leadership, principals and administrators act as mentors; they listen to concerns and needs.  They know the difference between “urgent” and “important.”  The leaders keep communication open, they show respect and celebrate the contributions that teachers make as they struggle each day to provide an effective program for their students.  With this kind of care, teachers feel respected and can reflect on how best to accomplish the important goals of their responsibility to the children.

Transformational leaders challenge the conventional wisdom of legislatures and other “non-educators” about what is best for education.  Because they are grounded in values that they believe in, they are able to stimulate their teachers to take risks, to think independently and, as Bill Asher suggests, practice “creative sabotage” in support of what is best for their students. Because transformational leaders believe in their teachers, they understand the need for individualized  care of students.  They work with teachers to encourage their creativity and help them to transform their classrooms into places where students are engaged and excited about their learning and are encouraged to wonder.   Transformational leaders expect high standards of achievement, but understand that teachers’ most important role is to teach children, not curriculum.  In fact, transformational leaders hold the highest standards of excellence for their teachers and for the students in their schools.  They know what they do encourages creativity and the need for children to wonder.

Transformational leaders pride themselves on ethical behavior that embraces diversity, seeks educational equity for all and creates a school community that thrives in respect and trust. As I observe many students in different schools I look for schools that exhibit the caring, respect and trust that are evident when schools have a leader who prides his community, who helps his teachers be the best they can be, who empowers all staff, not just a select few, with the responsibility to develop a collaborative school culture that is able to problem solve together, reach consensus (that is, all can agree that solutions can be found that all can live with ethically and professionally).  Collaboration is not compromise; it is finding solutions to difficult problems that couldn’t be solved by one person alone.  Transformational leaders work smarter, not harder.  They seek to understand all perspectives in order to effect solutions that can be embraced by all.  In order for this to occur, transformational leaders provide their staff with the time to talk together, to work together so that all are collectively responsible for decisions and continuous improvement programs that are needed by our children.  Are you a transformational leader?