Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Teach Your Heart Out conference onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Navigator of the Seas!

Quality time with other teachers, who just GET me...

PD at sea...

What could be better?!

Let me tell you all about it.


We boarded the ship on Friday in Miami. Having arrived early, we were able to spend the afternoon at the pool meeting and hanging out with teachers from all over the country! 

On Friday night, TYHO threw a luau-themed welcome party. We had a great time on the dance floor!


Saturday was reserved for the conference. 

Sessions were divided up by grade level, but not mandated, so that each teacher could choose relevant sessions!

I started the morning with a joint session by Juan Gonzalez and Brittany Root, "Turning Content into an Adventure." They talked about engagement strategies for introducing new topics as well as fun - but rigorous - ways to practice skills in context, like simple "escape" activities.

Next was "Wild About Writing" with Ashlyn Ellsworth from The Creative Classroom. Teaching writing is definitely a weakness of mine, so I appreciated all of her insight! 

After the (all-you-can-eat buffet) lunch break, I got to see Brooke Brown in action talking about integrating STEM with reading and writing. 

Brooke's session gave me tons of ideas about how I can incorporate play into my classroom - even in the midst of test prep emphasis coming down from the top. 

Lastly, I hung out with Eric Crouch and Jed Dearybury - who are hilarious - in their session, "Destroying Writers Block." 

What I loved about each session is that all of the information was innovative, but completely realistic and applicable for my own classroom. I certainly walked away with some great ideas and renewed motivation!


After the sessions on Saturday, we grabbed some chairs by the pool to enjoy some sun before dinner and a show. 

Oh, Sunday. On Sunday, the magic happened. 

We debarked as soon as the gangway opened in Nassau, Bahamas. Hundreds of educators in matching T-shirt carried bags, boxes, and SUITCASES full of school supplies to donate to local students and teachers. 

Once we made it through the port, we hopped on buses - which were VERY well air-conditioned, might I add! - that took us through Nassau to Sandilands Primary School.

First, we spent some time wandering around and exploring the school. I was able to see inside a third grade classroom and the administrative office. Other teachers visited the library and the computer lab.

After some time exploring, we all gathered at the front of the school to donate the school supplies we brought with us.

Casey Bethel's aunt is actually the principal of the school! 

Casey told us that our donations would "leave ripples for generations and generations." Many kids in the neighborhood can't attend school because they can't afford uniforms. He told us that there are parents who do not send their students to school because they don't have the materials they need to learn. 

"For us to be able to do this for this school shows that all of us, all educators, all around the world, are fighting the same fight. We're pouring into lives of the next generation of kids who are going to help make the world a better place." 
- Casey Bethel 


Although school was not currently in session, many teachers came to meet with us. Students were invited to come say hello and pick out some brand new supplies.

The principal, Esther Cartwright, noted that the teachers were wearing matching teal shirts, just like us! Their shirts said, "It takes a big heart to shape little minds." Ms. Cartwright went on to say,

"That's for our little darlings that come to school every day. We try to steer them in the right direction for them to succeed at their schoolwork. We're going to do it one child at a time." 


The conference concluded with a night with Gerry Brooks. He is hysterical and so uplifting. (Gerry, are you hiring?!)

All that being said, if you get the chance to attend a TYHO conference - especially on a cruise ship - DO IT! It was the perfect mix of work and play, and was exactly what my teacher heart needed this summer. I can't wait to do it all over again in 2021! What are you waiting for? 

I've already written all about HOW and WHY you should use choice boards in your classroom. Are you convinced yet? (If not, revisit that blog post here.)

I've made tons of choice boards for my own classroom (13, to be exact!) and many others for YOUR classroom based on requests. View all of my choice boards here

So are you ready to try choice boards, and maybe even wanting to make one personalized to your own classroom? THIS is the blog post for you! 

Recently, I was featured on the Edverything Podcast reiterating why I love choice boards and telling teachers step by step how to make their own. (Listen here). 

Want a quick recap of the design segment of the podcast?

Here are the basic steps I go through when making my choice boards:

1. Choose your topic and zoom in.

2. Review your standards BEFORE designing tasks... I learned this the hard way! 

3. If needed, pull up a visual aid for Bloom's Taxonomy to get your creative juices flowing.

4. Strategically place tasks on your choice board based on depth of knowledge / level of thinking required. If you choose to ask students to complete a tic-tac-toe, you'll want them to complete three different types and levels of tasks.

5. Use QR codes for tasks that require technology. 

6. Appeal to various learning styles. Think: multiple intelligences. 

To help you achieve this, I've created a resource to guide you through the creation of an awesome choice board. This checklist includes types of tasks you should try to include on your choice board in order to appeal to various learning preferences and to create opportunities that are engaging, rigorous, and relevant. At the bottom of the checklist, I've linked my favorite resources that I use to help me as I create my own choice boards. 

I'd love to send you this resource for FREE to help you make intentional choice boards! 

Are you ready for this?

Join my newsletter, and this choice board will be delievered right to your inbox! 

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    In order for students to be successful, you'll need to set expectations. The higher your expectations are, the more your students will achieve!

    One problem I've had with choice boards is students rushing through tasks to try and get them all done. We had to have a class meeting to discuss that getting all 9 things done is not the goal. Creating something to enrich your knowledge and to demonstrate your understanding of the content is the goal! At the beginning of the year, I created exemplars to show students the quality of work that I expected from them. 

    At the end of each unit, students love to present their work to the class! They are so proud to show off their hard work, and they get to work on those speaking/listening skills. 

    Lastly, choice board products make a great and super easy hallway display! Students can hang up their work as they finish something they are truly proud of. Your hallway display will be cohesive yet differentiated - win win! 

    Have I convinced you yet? What are you waiting for?! Get started on your own choice boards, or save yourself some time by looking at all of the options I have for you here.


    Year six is DONE, y’all!
    I spent a lot of time during the last week working on my “back to school box,” which I’ll pack in my closet LAST so it’s easily accessible when preplanning rolls around much too soon.

    I learned this trick from some other teacher friends of mine, and it truly makes returning from summer break SO MUCH EASIER and so much less stressful!

    I’ve been doing this for the past few years and it’s a TOTAL game changer - seriously.

    𝐇𝐞𝐫𝐞’𝐬 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭’𝐬 𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞:

    • Sneak Peek supplies (tablecloths, signs, forms, etc)⁣⁣
    • Supplies I’ll need immediately (scissors, Sharpies, stapler, staple remover) ⁣⁣
    • Blank nametags for desks and for students ⁣⁣
    • Back to school bulletin board decor⁣⁣
    • Birthday treats for the year⁣⁣
    • A note I wrote to myself when I started my first year of teaching: My former principal made the whole staff do this, and I still have it!

    Do you make a back to school box?

    If not, try it this year and thank me in the fall!