The Change Agent

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth
Educator, Lawyer, Author; latest book "Unconventional: Ways To Thrive in EDU"

The Objective

To communicate ways for educators to build relationships and use a growth mindset to try new things.

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Show Notes

Guest Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth explains the importance of being a “Connected Educator” and how unconventional teaching can change engagement and outcomes for students. Poth's approach has helped countless students reach their goals; her number one reason for continuing to share her knowledge and experiences with other educators.

Host Bio: Dr. Chris Balow is the Chief Academic Officer at SchoolMint. Dr. Balow has a Ph.D in Educational Psychology and served for 33 years as an educator in various roles with focuses on literacy, mental health, and the behavioral and emotional growth of students. He has worked the last 6 years in the educational technology field to promote student success on a larger scale.

Episode 16
Title: Connect, Learn, and Grow: An Educator's Evolution
Subtitle: Prioritizing building relationships with both students and other educators

VoiceOver (00:02):

Change agents and K-12 is presented by school and features top educators, practitioners, and leaders share research and experiences as well as stories of hope, opportunity, and student success.

Dr. Chris Balow (00:16):

Welcome to the podcast, everyone. It's my distinct pleasure today to welcome Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth, um, she's a really, really intriguing educator. Um, she's a consultant, a presenter, an attorney, an author, and a teacher. What a great combination. She teaches Spanish and steam at the what's next and emerging technology at Riverview junior high school in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. Uh, Rachelle has a jurist doctor's degree from Duquesne university school of law and a master's in instructional technology. She's a consultant speaker and owner of thrive. And EDU consulting serves as president of the ISTI Teacher education network and serves on the leadership of the mobile learning network. At ISTI 19, she received the making it happen award and a presidential gold award for volunteer service and education. She's also a Buncee ambassador, a Nearpod pioneer and Microsoft innovative education experts. She's the author of four books and we'll discuss those today as we go through our podcast interview. Dr. Dene Poth welcome.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (01:31):

Thank you so much, Chris. It's great to be here and talk with you today.

Dr. Chris Balow (01:34):

Okay, great. Well, you know, your background and educational journey is, is really unique and different, frankly, from some of the folks I've talked to on the podcast. Why don't you talk about that background and your path?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (01:48):

Well, it's interesting because a lot of the times when people find out that I'm also an attorney, they, they idea is that people think that I was an attorney first and then went back and got my degree in teaching, but it was the opposite I actually had been teaching for, I think, seven years at the time. And what's so interesting about what I'm doing now is I'm teaching Spanish. I also have taught French, but in high school I took French and in college I took French, but I, I couldn't get a job when I graduated. And so it was recommended to me that I should go get some other certification. And it's interesting how that kind of led me down the path of what I'm doing today. Uh, and many years I spent in schools and in classrooms because I do love learning, but I went back and got the Spanish. During that time, I took some courses in legal translation, medical translation, and just became really interested in the law. I thought about becoming a paralegal, but it didn't actually coincide with my teaching schedule. So I kind of forgot about it for a while, once I started teaching. But then when, I don't know, maybe five or six years into my teaching career, I thought, I wonder if I could go to law school. It's something that I could do or be interested in. And, uh, I just, I applied to Duquesne, which had a program for evening since I wasn't going to quit teaching. That was never my goal. And when I got in, I was kinda surprised because when you get those scores, you never really know what they mean compared to other people that might apply. So anyway, I decided to go for it and four years, four nights a week got the law degree, but I never had a masters in between either. And so that was about another six years after law school that I went back and got my master's in the instructional technologies. So I, the big joke for a long time was that you've been in college longer than anybody I've ever known, but it has always been working on different degrees. And I just, I love learning.

Dr. Chris Balow (03:34):

Yeah, clearly you love learning, uh, you know, um, lifelong learning growth mindset. You sort of exemplify that. It's interesting. I, I have a nephew and he was a computer programmer. Went to law school, got his law degree, decided he wanted to go back to computer programming. And so he's got those two, two degrees as well. It's kind of interesting. So has that law degree come into play and, uh, professionally?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (04:00):

It has. Yeah. And I it's been a while since I graduated and I took the bar and I passed the bar, luckily in the first time, uh, that's not a test that I would want to have to go through again, but I have used the law degree. I mean, one thing that I've said is, is had it not been for law school? I don't know that I would still be teaching because of my experiences as a student and the connections that I made. And I just saw being a teacher at different light after my experiences. So that definitely has made a difference. And then just in my work as a consultant, the law degree comes in handy and working with agreements. But even in my presenting and connecting with other people, I would often say, I don't like to speak in public, or I don't want to stand up in front of my peers and talk, but I was able to develop some confidence over that time. And so it definitely has made a difference personally and professionally, for me, even if I'm not currently practicing, I still keep up my law degree and take the courses every year and stay engaged in it as much as I can, but it, it made a huge difference in my life for so many reasons.

Dr. Chris Balow (05:06):

Interesting. I did a lot of administrative work in special education and lawyers often get involved in special education. Has that ever come up for you?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (05:16):

No, it has not. I've had, uh, I mean my main area of interest was to pursue if I were to get out of teaching to pursue a career in criminal law. And I also did some work with, uh, estate planning and that's kind of what I did on the side while still teaching still definitely interested in it, but, uh, I've had friends and even students often say, if I ever need an attorney, will you be my attorney? It's a common question. Or people asking for legal advice in a lot of areas. And I mean, there's so much when it comes to the law, you can't just like teaching, you can't know everything. Um, but it's just nice to have that experience and to see how much it applies into, um, mean daily life. Just the way that you think about things changes after you go to law school. It's, it's amazing how much I learned from that experience about the law, but just about life in general, what has come out of it.

Dr. Chris Balow (06:09):

My, my guess is that, you know, one of the things I perceive about law is that it's very systematic rule driven and sort of a problem solving approach to things and logic. And yes, and I, my guess is you instill that in your students, that, that, that type of thought process.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (06:27):

I hope, I mean, it's, it definitely comes in handy sometimes when you're as the teacher, you're trying to kind of assess situations. Or if students I've had some funny interactions with students where they say they didn't do something, that there was a mess in the classroom or something fell. And I mean, just hilarious events over the years that because I had courses that were focused on forensic sciences, for example, and I could kind of analyze the situation and it made for fun interactions with the students, because they said, that's no fair because you study these kinds of things or you can analyze. And I said, well, that's what I like about it. It gives me the opportunity to look at not just my own viewpoint or perspective, but to understand other people's viewpoints and kind of work through that and analyze it. So it definitely does come in handy.

Dr. Chris Balow (07:15):

That's, that's so interesting. Um, you know, to add another layer to your incredibly impressive background and resume is, uh, you've done a lot of work in instructional technology as well. So you're a technology and education expert.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (07:29):

Well, I don't know if I'm an expert, I just spend a lot of time on the computer interacting and learning. And so I do try to learn as much as I can so that if anybody, I mean, students, parents, families, friends, colleagues, anybody has questions that, that I can at least know something to point them in a direction. If I don't have the answer to point into somebody that might be the expert for some reason.

Dr. Chris Balow (07:54):

Okay. Um, interesting. Well, let's switch gears here a little bit. I'm actually on and in the book section, and I see you have four books, as I noted, um, that you have published, um, your most recent is unconventional. Is that accurate?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (08:13):

Uh, the, my newest one is with ISTI, the chart a new course, and then yeah, unconventional came out in December of 2019. So that was my third.

Dr. Chris Balow (08:25):

Okay. Well, tell us about chart a new course. Um, that's a guide to teaching essential skills in tomorrow's world. That sounds super interesting.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (08:34):

Thanks. It is my book that was just published with ISTI. And it is a book that I had worked on for a little over a year, but trying to gather all of the ideas that I was things that I was doing in my classroom. And there are five chapters in it that focus on just a couple of examples, global collaborations, digital storytelling, having students show what they know more about student choice. It also includes augmented virtual reality. Project-based learning digital citizenship, social, emotional learning, a lot of topics that we see out there in education. And the idea behind the book is to give some examples, to share some of the experiences from my classroom, from students in my classroom. Actually some students who graduated over the past two years had gone to technology conferences with me and presented either as a student showcase where they just kind of had their table and then talk to people as they pass by. But also as they went through each year with me, I had them actually leading presentations for teachers, and I kind of got out of the way of them and let them take the lead more. So they came back and they shared some vignettes about their experiences about why they like these tools and how it helps them to learn differently. And so hopefully anybody that reads the book, you don't have to read it from cover to cover. You could find a chapter, a topic, pick it up. And there are five to try there's images. I mean, just to give somebody to save time, basically. So if you're like, I'm not really sure where to start. I don't have a lot of time to invest, but I'm curious about project-based learning. You could go to that, that section, see some of the resources or books that I've, I've used, what I learned about it, what the benefits were and how we kind of took it from our classroom and connected globally, just for an example.

Dr. Chris Balow (10:22):

Wow. That really sounds like a practical how to manual for teachers. And as you described, if I have this, right, it sounds like, so you did these strategies with your students. And so your fellow teachers, you had the students teach those strategies to your fellow teachers.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (10:39):

Yes. In, uh, a professional development session at my school, but then also at local and some state conferences, it just seemed to be over time because some of the students started with me in Spanish. One when they were in actually seventh or eighth grade and every single year, we kind of moved them from behind the table, more and more to the front. And finally, I think they're for their junior year, whenever we did a session, it was all about these different tolls. And I would introduce them and kind of help with the flow and so forth. But then finally I said, you know what? You you're at the point now you can start the session you can take over. And it was our state conference. It's the Pennsylvania affiliate of ISTI the PAECT has a conference every year patency. And it was at that conference that I just, I moved, I stepped to the side and it was just amazing to see them build those skills, competence, and leadership, and the collaboration with their peers they're presenting with and then take over the session and how much more meaningful for teachers to hear directly from students of why they like these different tools or what it helps them to do better. I mean, I was in awe of watching them and listening to what they were saying, because it's not like I, I coached them for whatever their responses were. I mean, they were answering questions. So just to see them develop those skills over time, it really has been amazing.

Dr. Chris Balow (11:57):

I mean, that really exemplifies authentic learning for students and their engagement must have just been sky high.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (12:04):

It's funny that you say engagement because for years I've talked about this, I totally was wrong about what engagement looked like, what it meant, and couldn't understand a couple of years ago, why my students just, they didn't seem as engaged or motivation was down. They weren't doing as well as I felt that they should be based on what we were doing in class. And so I, when I got my master's, I spent a semester doing research on engagement, on motivation. And my professor at the time said, what you should do is take this group of students who I was taking them to the showcase he said, and just observe, observe their interactions, observe how they respond to questions, what they're talking about, and then just kind of process that and see what kind of ideas you come up with in terms of what does engagement look like, or what does it mean? And so that's exactly what I did and spoke to them. And that was kind of where I started to better understand the meaning of student engagement. It was from them and seeing them in action and kind of take that leap.

Dr. Chris Balow (13:03):

Yeah. I interviewed, uh, a fellow recently who owns a, uh, uh, about 200 schools or runs about 200 schools across the nation. And they do a lot of the things you're talking about in terms of project-based learning and you're doing what he talked about by way of example, in your classrooms, around tapping into those personal interests of kids and their ownership of it. And then that engagement just goes crazy.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (13:31):


Dr. Chris Balow (13:31):

Yeah. Yeah. That's so, so interesting. Now you mentioned project based learning. There is in your book and that's gotten a lot of attention recently because of our school shutdowns and, and the COVID pandemic. And so you were ahead of the curve because that's really, I think what a lot of educators really need to think about when students are, are out of the classroom in a virtual setting.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (13:57):

Yeah. And it's, and hearing you say ahead of the curve, I mean maybe, maybe only slightly right now, because for a long time I thought that I was kind of, I was doing okay because people would say, Oh, are you doing project based learning? And I said, yes, I have been. And it didn't, I didn't understand why it was a question. Now this goes back probably five to eight years, sometime in that span. And it wasn't until let's see 2016, I went to a conference in Milwaukee, it was summer spark. And on the way there, my dad was driving and I had just gotten the book launch by ADA Giuliani and John Spencer, and I was reading it. And then I went to the conference and I had an opportunity to learn from a couple of different educators who were doing project based learning. And I realized that I had not, in fact been doing PBL, I was doing learning based on projects. I was just assigning projects in my mind. I thought that it was the same thing. And so I spent a good amount of time looking at different resources at the time buck Institute of education, which now the PBL works, read a couple of books and which are referenced in my books as well. And really tried to go about doing the authentic PBL that I thought that I had been doing.

Dr. Chris Balow (15:08):

So what are those differentiators that, what, what is assigning a project versus project based learning?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (15:15):

That was an interesting conversation with my students too, when we first started this, because I went to the buck Institute and I got the essential elements and talking about when we do projects, the pro the projects that I had assigned to my students, basically, they all had the same format. There were requirements, vocabulary, words, verbs, whatever it was in terms of content. And I even gave them the structure. I want you to do a poster. I want it to be a family photo album or something. And I was very specific about exactly what I wanted them to turn in. And it really didn't give any room for them to have fun with it. Even though someone turned some in that had glitter or feathers on them at the time, which of course were all over the car and at my house. But the idea is that when they do projects, it's just an over and done. It's usually the end of a unit, a culmination of something that you've learned. And then students create a project and move on with project based. So it's very linear with project based learning. Then you have different periods in a cycle where you're kind of reflecting on what you're exploring. There's more interest in terms of students. I mean, there was a lot of ways that you can do this for me. When I started it, it was with my upper level Spanish students, because their schedules were, they weren't able to be in class every day of our, our six day rotation. And so I was trying to come up with ideas that could keep learning going when they weren't in our same physical space. And so they were able to choose their own topics. And when they did that, you know, some of them at first were looking at I mean culture, or they wanted to study foods or sports. And we're finding out that they weren't really authentic learning experiences. I mean, actually one of my friends who does a lot with PBL had a Skype call with my students and they were pitching their ideas for project based learning. And he kept saying, but why would you, why do you want to know that? And they would say what it's interesting where I like food, or I like to celebrate with my family and friends, but what's the underlying, what is your essential question? And trying to really get them to push their thinking beyond one concept, for example. And so it was definitely a learning experience because for many students they're so used to being told what to create that when they have that independence to choose, to explore whatever they want and you don't tell them what the end product has to be, it's uncomfortable at first. So when they go through this whole PBL, we were focusing more on the process of learning rather than what's that end product. Then we've done it for four years now. And even just with our schools being closed, it's something else that, that I definitely did it this time. And I thought it was a good opportunity for teachers to kind of explore that because students, while home can engage in PBL, they can even involve when you can get families involved in it as well, depending on whatever your content area is. There, there's a lot of ways that we can bring that in regardless of where we're actually learning if we're in school or at home.

Dr. Chris Balow (18:02):

Yeah. That's so interesting. Another thing you mentioned about your book that caught my attention was, um, you have a chapter on augmented reality. Tell us about that. That's, that's probably an area that not a lot of educators are dabbling in these days.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (18:15):

I know that it is definitely on the rise and it's something that I, I was not doing with my Spanish classes at all for years. And I didn't, I didn't really see that I could, I was using in my eighth grade course and got started with it. A good friend of mine. Jamie Donnelly is always presenting on it. She is amazing. So if anybody wants to learn about AR VR, I highly recommend you go to Jamie's site, which is AR VR and EDU. But my students in my eighth grade class, we would learn, I mean, augmented virtual reality, but my students in Spanish classes would see me teaching the eighth graders. And they kept saying to me, why don't we get to do those cool things? And I didn't have an answer. It's just, I never thought that I could bring that into my language classroom because I didn't see the connection. However, enter some tools like Nearpod, where I can, instead of saying, Oh, look at that beautiful black and white picture and the reader of this place in South America, imagine what it would be like. Then you have these different tools where students can actually look at the place, hold it in their hands. If it's a VR headset, put it on and feel like they're actually there and immersed in the environment. So it's easier to imagine when you do something like that than it is when you're looking at a black and white image in a book.

Dr. Chris Balow (19:31):

Yeah, definitely. So you actually have VR equipment available?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (19:36):

Some yes, my, I mean, my students have their phones, so we don't always put some in the headsets because sometimes those phones don't fit in the headsets, but I do have variety of my classroom for students to try. And you don't even necessarily need them. If you have an iPad or something, a lot of times you can look closely enough and some students get that kind of uneasy feeling too. But usually that's because they're spinning around so much trying to take in everything in that three 60 image that you know, becomes overwhelming.

Dr. Chris Balow (20:06):

That's just so fascinating. Your book before that unconventional ways to thrive at EDU, give us a synopsis of that.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (20:16):

This is a very fun book for me for a lot of reasons. One, because the cover of it, I made from the cover of my first book, in other words. So I had some fun cutting and making a different shape with the cover, but it's another book like chart, a new course where you don't have to read from cover to cover. You can open up the different, look at the chapters and pick a concept, an idea to start with. And again, it's just for me for many years, I was teaching the way that I had been taught and my desks were lined in rows and I was using the same procedure and I wasn't getting to know my students. Uh, it was, I mean, I could, the list could go on and on, but now that I, I changed things and I know better. I've definitely tried to do a lot better my classroom. So I took all of those ideas and put them in to this book. And for many people, the idea, if you think about being innovative, innovative, the concept sometimes is you need technology, or it has to be something that's really amazing, but innovative just means new or different. And so sometimes it's just a minor change to what you're already doing, but it's unconventional to you because you've always done something a certain way. And augmented virtual reality is an example, a math teacher who is, think, might think, how can I use this in my classroom? But there are apps out there where students can look at shapes in 3d and augmented reality and really get a better understanding of them. Uh, even with science, you get emerge cube, for example, and you can have students holding a volcano or looking at the layers of the earth right in their hand. And just that you make that connection more than you would looking at the bulk of the video. I mean, they're all good resources to support learning, but when you can have that opportunity. So with unconventional, it's just picking something and trying something a little bit different. And again, the idea is people can read it and just go with it and get started right away without a big learning curve and without a big investment of time,

Dr. Chris Balow (22:10):

That that's just amazing. I think I spent over 30 years in classrooms and I think all, a lot of educators are afraid of failure. And it's like, you know, this has worked in the past and I don't know if this new idea will work. How do you think about that? That notion.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (22:30):

I was like that. I mean, there is that, that uncertainty, and especially if you're trying something for the first time in your classroom, and I know I was afraid of failure for a long time, but having gone through law school and really experienced some struggle, gave me different perspectives to know what that feels like. And failure is something that I embrace in my classroom. A lot of the time in front of my students, especially talking with them. If I ask a question and the student says, I don't know, and I try to work with them to get the answer, but there is that huge fear of failure from the students and sharing our experiences. I often talk about geometry where I, the first three grading periods, the first half of the year, I had an F a D and then an F, and then I figured out how to study differently. And I ended up with straight A's the rest of the year. I think the final was a C, but to this day, I still remember everything that I learned. And I said, there's learning in failure. So it's not the end of everything. I mean, you just have to kind of embrace it and what can you learn from it? And then what are your next steps? And as teachers, now that I know this it's something that I really try to do more. And I wished I had done more in earlier years, but there, it's just a fear that we all have. I mean, it's hard to get past that because it also makes you vulnerable. If you make mistakes and, and your feelings and your confidence and all of that, I certainly can understand, because I did experience that a lot in my earlier years of teaching. And I mean, even still, there've been ideas where I'll tell the students, you know, I just made up this idea, we're going to try it and we start and it's really not going well. And they're confused. And then I'm confused about what we're even doing. And they say, what were we supposed to do with this? And I say, I have, I don't know, you have better ideas. And they'll joke with me and say, Oh, you made a mistake. And I say, I make thousands of mistakes every single day. I mean, it's so I'm okay with that. It's just, what am I going to do with the mistakes that I've made? Where am I going to go from here?

Dr. Chris Balow (24:29):

Yeah. I mean, that's the essence of what we hear about growth mindset is that you're not afraid to step out and try something new. And you're modeling that for kids that that's so cool. And you're engaging them in this, in this exploratory process. And that, that failure is part of learning that that's just so cool. Great advice for teachers. Um, definitely. So what changes in education, um, personal and professional growth, do you see happening?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (24:59):

A lot. This is, I mean, this is, it's such an interesting time right now. There's there really are opportunity opportunities everywhere. I don't really like the experience that we all are going through in terms of our lives just personally, professionally, and then with education, how difficult it has been, trying to find the positives from it and realizing that, you know, we had to take an opportunity to do things differently and maybe an many people have said this. I thought it, and I said it a while ago, but I thought, I don't know if I'm the only person thinking this and then I heard other people say it and I thought, okay, well, it's good to know. You're not the only one thinking it is that it seems like it was a push that we all kind of needed to reevaluate what we're doing in our classrooms, in our schools. And I know for me, when I first started, when our schools closed, my biggest challenge was moving everything from the physical space, what I had been doing into the online space. And I was really trying to make everything fit. But as we all know, as teachers, we can have a 40 minute class period and do so many activities, check in with every single student, have an idea of where they are in terms of learning and not even assign homework or anything, and come back the next day. And it's all done in that span of time because we just keep things moving. But in the online space, you can't do that. And that, one's a big thing that I noticed. And so for me, and I know for many of my friends that I've talked to really looking at what I had been doing, where was I focusing my time, or where are we focusing our time building relationships? And then what are the skills that I need to build for myself to prepare for the next school year? Because nobody was prepared for this first time of schools being closed. But now we have this experience and the likelihood is, I mean, for many schools, we'll probably have some mix of who knows hybrid or distance, or maybe some schools will go back and then have to shut down for a period of time. But we have all of these ways that we've been able to learn new ideas and connect. And so now how do we put all of that together in our own minds and find something to build upon for our own skill set. And for me, it's the biggest thing is the connections and understanding my students. Um, that's something I have been working on relationships are so important, but even in the last couple of weeks, finding out for my students, what their experience has been like at home with the support is that they have, and making sure that I really understand that so that I can plan around that not focus on these are my materials is what I need to cover, but what do my students need? And then what can I build around that?

Dr. Chris Balow (27:36):

That's, that's so great. You know, as a psychologist myself, I definitely agree on the relationship piece that, um, that's just so central and in a virtual environment, that's a little more difficult. Right?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (27:50):

Definitely. And I mean, there, fortunately we have technology and it's not, and I always say, it's not always about the technology, but sometimes that is the thing that you need to leverage to find ways to make those connections happen. And thankfully for having tools like teams or Google or zoom, where, I mean, not all students were able to join in, but to have that space where you could have some type of a normal class experience during this time, or even just as a teacher, being able to record a quick video to check in with your students, send a message to their families so they can see you and hear you makes a big difference.

Dr. Chris Balow (28:27):

Did you have one-on-one sessions with all your kids or just just groups?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (28:32):

Uh, it was kind of a mix. I had days set up for each class throughout the week where I would have two class meetings and then I had virtual hours on Wednesdays normally, but also if students needed it, then they could join in. So we had that. And then I also used Flipgrid to have conversations and give video feedback. So not the same as synchronous conversations, but at least being able to hear each other's voice, especially when learning Spanish to build their skills. And for me to be able to give them some feedback, uh, definitely made a difference. I know for me, I was always excited whenever it was class time. It didn't matter how many students joined in, but I have some that did not miss any of the meetings the whole time that we were closed and even shared how much it meant for them to be able to at least feel like there was some type of normal school experience that they were going through.

Dr. Chris Balow (29:20):

Right. Right. Well, it's just very inspirational. I saw a recent survey that 20% of teachers are thinking about leaving the profession after this past school year. And that's just really disconcerting and I hope they can glean from your attitude and experiences that embrace this. It's a it's as you said, an opportunity.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (29:43):

It is. And it can be scary. I mean, with so many unknowns and it was hard to balance. I mean, with all of the things that that educators do just in the work that they do in school. And then of course, I mean evenings, weekends, but trying to balance that with family, friends and everything else that's going on, it is challenging. And to think, I know for me thinking, okay, well, this is just for the end of this year, hopeful that everything is going to go back to normal over the summer, but also realizing that that might not be the case. And for some, I could certainly understand why that would be hard to think, Oh my goodness, how am I, how are we going to do this again for a longer term, but we can do it because we have experienced now. And we, we can take what worked, we can take what may be kind of work and build upon that and come up with a new plan. But yeah, I did read something like that also, as far as the number of teachers that they're projecting to leave the profession. And so it'd be interesting to track and see.

Dr. Chris Balow (30:45):

Right. So what, uh, kind of big picture ideas would you, would you tell people around preparing for the eventuality of remote learning or hybrid or some virtual, whatever we have?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (30:58):

I know it's the best advice that I, that I kind of tell myself is always think about before. It was thinking about the why, if you're going to use technology, why are you going to use it if you're going to try a different teaching method? Why? But I think it's also important to consider whatever we're deciding to use. If it's a teaching strategy, if it's a digital tool, think about the transitions between the physical space and the online space and choosing things. I mean, project based learning is something, for example, you can do in either of those, it can work. Digital tool is if you have access in your classrooms that could work. But before thinking about the content and all of the activities and things, we would plan having something set up, doing a survey with parents and families to find out interests in terms of, okay, do you want to have emails every day? Would you rather have a messaging app? For example, would you come and join in virtual office hours and having a space where families can connect with you where students can connect with you and you can build those relationships? Because for me, it's the only Spanish teacher. If I have new students entering Spanish one, I wouldn't necessarily know unless they were in my eighth grade course, but the other students, I already know them. So I have kind of built a relationship with them in this past school year. Of course, we want to keep building those, what do you need to do so that you can set up those, those meetings and build those relationships if we're not in that physical space and tons of options out there, but being consistent and making sure that families and students have access to what they need and just kind of considering all of that, especially communication and collaboration in that physical space, but also in that online, online space are important.

Dr. Chris Balow (32:40):

Oh, great advice. What advice would you give educators around professional learning?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (32:47):

Don't stop. No, it's, I mean, you have to be connected and that's something again that I wish I would have known a long time ago because I was just keeping to myself because I was having challenges in my classroom, balancing all the responsibilities and I was afraid to ask anybody for help. I was embarrassed by it, but I know now that you shouldn't, because we all go through these different experiences and it's better to ask somebody to help, to help you. And it's, you're vulnerable when you do that, but that's okay. And when it comes to professional learning, there are so many different ways compared to when I first started teaching. I mean, we're learning at home, there's blogs, there's podcasts, there's Twitter chats. There's all of these online events. Just find something you don't have to do every single thing, but find something that matches your time or your interests. If you, some people just really don't like Twitter and some people love Facebook. And there are tons of educator communities on Facebook. It's just finding a space where you can ask questions and get ideas quickly. It works on your schedule. I mean, so many opportunities out there reading you name it, listening to those podcasts, but it's nice that, that there are so many topics out there, especially ones that are focused on looking at remote learning and the lessons learned because teachers are sharing their experiences and what they've learned from it. And I think that's going to be really powerful learning for us all.

Dr. Chris Balow (34:11):

Yeah. Yeah. I've definitely noticed here in the last few months, the, um, the number of online learning opportunities and webinars and so forth that people are putting on, like you name it, it's out there. Uh, one area I've spent a lot of time around is helping teachers manage student behavior in a virtual learning environment because kids with behavior problems, they exhibit some similar things, um, in the virtual world as well.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (34:38):

I bet that would be a challenge. And I mean, you have advice to offer?

Dr. Chris Balow (34:42):

Yeah, well I do, but that is the podcast is about you. Not about what I have to say.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (34:50):

I know.

Dr. Chris Balow (34:50):

But, uh, we could, we could definitely talk about those ideas. So one of the things you mentioned too earlier is it is about being a connected educator. Maybe you already described this, but I I'm intrigued by that.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (35:07):

Oh, how to, how to connect?

Dr. Chris Balow (35:09):

Why is it important to be a connected educator?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (35:13):

I, the, the biggest reason that that you should is because it opens up more opportunities, not just for you, but for your students in your classroom. And I know for me, if I would have not connected with teachers going to conferences, I mean, there's no way that I would be doing chances are I probably wouldn't be teaching, but augmented reality or AR intelligence, or I wouldn't know as much as I know about some tools that I use. I mean, there are some communities, for example, Buncee that they're sponsoring ambassadors and educators that are using it. And it is just an amazing community of educators from all over the world. And I cannot tell you how much I have learned just in conversations, even following, even if you don't want to engage in conversations, but just look in, say on the Facebook community or on Twitter and see what other educators and their students are creating. It is such a great space and a community to learn from and come up with ideas. And for somebody who might be trying to teach, I mean, we've all been there where you're teaching something. And even you think like, Oh my goodness, it's, this is that topic. And it's either not the most exciting or you know, that in the past students have struggled with it, or you're just looking for new ideas. And if you don't connect with anybody, you're just going to keep using, I mean, I was doing this, you keep using your same ideas and maybe changing it slightly. Um, but if you do, then you can kind of see all of these other ideas where you can ask a question or you can share your ideas. And it just takes that first connection to keep on building your network. But if we limit ourselves and stay isolated, like I did, then we're limiting our students as well. And that's what has bothered me the most because ever since I started to connect more, we've been able to connect with students in Argentina and Spain and learn. I mean, the things that my students have learned by having those, uh, we'll call them their E-Pals or online pals, whatever you want to call them. It's far beyond what I could have taught them while we were doing project based learning. It was authentic to them. They were able to ask those questions. And it was only because I made that initial, hello. We'd like to find some teachers to coordinate some questions and classes with and taking that first step, but really does make a difference, especially when you go to conferences and you meet face to face for the first time, and you already feel like you've known somebody for so long. And it's, I just had a talk with some friends this morning that they're from all over the country. And I have seen them more than some of my local friends. And we're all kind of sad that the conferences haven't been happening, because we really value that time together to learn in the same space and to share ideas.

Dr. Chris Balow (37:54):

Wow. Well, I, I can't ever imagine you burning out as an educator because you are constantly doing new, uh, creative things that seem to energize you.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (38:07):

It definitely does energize me. I say, I don't like to talk too much, but when you get me talking about education or students and new ideas, I really, I do. Uh, I do, you, you usually have to kind of give me a sign to, to stop talking a little bit because I really do enjoy it. And I love hearing, even when I present at conferences or even online webinars, I learned so much from the people that are there, that I'm always walking away with new ideas. And I think like, why didn't I ever think of that? And just, it's nice to have that space where, you know, you learn and grow together.

Dr. Chris Balow (38:40):

Great. Well, Hey, one last question. Um, what about some of your consultation activities that, that you do with other educators? Tell us kind of a little bit about that.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (38:49):

Yeah, I do. Uh, let's see her probably about a year and a half ago. Now I started to just as a consultant. So if people need some professional development or a webinar, or even just with some of the, I really enjoy working with ed tech startups to find out because a lot of the times those companies are not founded by educators is what I, the ones that I've worked with. And so it's nice to kind of be that person that understands education, but also understands the technology and can kind of work through and help them make those, those connections with teachers. But I really enjoy, I mean, it comes down in forms of doing podcasts or writing blogs or demoing or beta testing, some of these different technologies, but it, it really does give me a lot more to work with my own students, especially my steam course, because with emerging technologies, a lot of the times, the people that I work with are doing things with artificial intelligence or augmented virtual reality, or even coding. And I get to bring those opportunities into my eighth graders and see what their opinions are and ask them questions and learn from them. And it's a lot of fun to do that. So I definitely enjoy it.

Dr. Chris Balow (39:59):

Fantastic. Well, um, Rachelle, it's been a fascinating conversation, inspirational, and I think our listeners will really, really learn a lot. What is your website, where they can reach you if they want to have further conversations?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (40:16):

I am very consistent with all of my social media. So Twitter, Instagram, uh, Gmail, or my website, my blog site, I need my podcasts. It's always R D E N E nine one five. So RDene915, be happy to connect and would love to hear other ideas. If anybody is doing anything with augmented virtual reality resources for project based learning. We'd love to hear that too.

Dr. Chris Balow (40:40):

Fantastic. Well, before I let you go, you have to play our game called this or that. Where I say two things and you tell us which one you prefer and you can explain your rationale if you wish and trust me, none of them are embarrassing.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (40:56):

Okay. I'll take your word for it.

Dr. Chris Balow (40:57):

It's a little fun activity. Okay. Rachelle dog or cat?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (41:01):


Dr. Chris Balow (41:02):

Cat. Okay. And again, if you want to explain yourself, feel free iOS or Android?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (41:07):


Dr. Chris Balow (41:07):

Android. Okay.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (41:11):

This is kind of funny because if Jamie Donnelly, when Jaime Donnelley listens to this, she's going to laugh at the first two questions because I have cats. I like dogs. I have a lot of cats and I'm often called out as having a lot of cats. And whenever we do the AR VR and EDU, what are chat, sometimes the apps only work on iOS. And so there's a of banter about me having an Android, but I do have an Android. And the reason is I have an iPad too, but not all of my students have iOS and I want to make sure whatever I'm using that all of my students have access to. So I will keep my Android phone.

Dr. Chris Balow (41:46):

Okay. That sounds good. Cake or pie?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (41:49):


Dr. Chris Balow (41:50):

Cake. All right. Do you like a big party or a small gathering?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (41:54):

Ooh, I like, that's a tough one. Probably a small gathering in a big party.

Dr. Chris Balow (42:01):

Okay. I've heard that from others. Okay. Um, would you prefer a nice car or a nice home interior?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (42:11):

I'm good with the home interior.

Dr. Chris Balow (42:13):

Okay. Jogging or hiking?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (42:16):

Oh, can I pick a walking?

Dr. Chris Balow (42:18):

Well, that might be hiking.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (42:20):

Okay. We'll go hiking on a level surface.

Dr. Chris Balow (42:26):

Okay. You're not going to hike up a mountain. That's not going to be your cup of tea. Okay. Um, hamburger or taco?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (42:36):


Dr. Chris Balow (42:36):

Hamburger. Online shopping or shopping in a store online?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (42:41):

Online. Used to be the other, but online.

Dr. Chris Balow (42:43):

Okay. Sounds good. Um, do you prefer a car or a truck?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (42:49):


Dr. Chris Balow (42:50):

You're a car person. Okay. Um, let's see here. What else? TV or book?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (42:55):


Dr. Chris Balow (42:56):

That would have been my guess.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (42:58):

Yeah. And I've never seen Netflix, so people are often surprised when I say that I do like TV, but I really do. I love reading.

Dr. Chris Balow (43:05):

Okay. I assumed that. Now the last one I ask of everybody toilet paper over or under?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (43:16):


Dr. Chris Balow (43:17):

Okay. That's, it's almost unanimous on the over, but everyone gets a chuckle.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (43:22):

That's fun. I can do that all day.

Dr. Chris Balow (43:25):

Okay. Okay. You liked the, this or that?

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (43:28):

Yeah, that was a lot of fun.

Dr. Chris Balow (43:30):

Okay. Fantastic. Well, again, I want to thank you for joining us on the podcast today Rachelle. It's been a pleasure.

Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth (43:38):

Thank you. It has definitely been a lot of fun talking to you as well.

VoiceOver (43:42):

You've been listening to the ChangeAgents in K-12 podcast, brought to you by SchoolMint. Be sure to subscribe, so you never miss a show, and follow us on social media. Remember our brightest years are still ahead. See you next time.