Work With Elisabeth

Empower Learning



Take the L.E.A.P. Ignite a Culture of Innovation

Truth be told, in my first few years of teaching, I didn’t completely love my career because I spent an abundance of time focusing on the mandates and considering if I was doing everything “right” according to the opinion of everyone else. My focus was on surviving the pressures of all that accompanies education rather than seizing the opportunities before me to leverage the strengths and interests of our most precious commodity, our youth. And, even though I fostered relationships with learners, it wasn’t to the depth that encouraged responsible risk-taking as I do today. Early on, something seemed to be missing. What I thought education should entail and what was actually happening in school didn’t match up. In looking at the graphic below (the Gallup student poll from Engaged Today – Ready for tomorrow) we can readily notice that our modern learners desperately need us to explore how to take action and then create the conditions to empower learning and get our youth actively involved through authentic experiences.

I knew that I had to make a change. Have you ever felt similar?

As a creative soul, I desired more. I recall wondering, if perhaps, I wasn’t meant to be an educator? However, with time and a few shifts, I realized that my true passion is education and I was exactly what my learners needed.

I believe we all have the potential to shape our lives and bloom right where we are planted. Afterall, we are the authors of our story. In my case, it was all about transforming my approach and creating innovative learning experiences our learners deserve in order to thrive.

Throughout my journey I wondered…

  • What if, instead of focusing on what’s wrong, we create the kinds of experiences we desire for ourselves?
  • What if, we empower our learners to do the same?
  • What if, school was a place that fostered curiosity, creativity, and divergent thinking leading to new possibilities?

My mindset encouraged me to take the L.E.A.P. and I made a conscious decision to create an environment for my learners and I that inspired us to want to be in school and feel genuinely excited to learn, deepening learning as a result.

My book, Take the L.E.A.P.: Ignite a Culture of Innovation,published by IMPress and Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc, which releases on January 5th, 2019, will inspire and support you as you to take steps to grow beyond traditional and self-imposed boundaries. Each of us is capable of cultivating shifts and unleashing both our students and our own inner potential. How do you want to be remembered by students? What legacy do you envision creating?

Educators share that they are striving to:

  • Empower the disengaged
  • Help navigate impulsivity
  • Foster intrinsic motivation
  • Develop opportunities for enrichment
  • Create dynamic learning experiences
  • Identify how to cultivate shifts, inspiring innovative thinking

Our schools ought to be places where students explore, inquire, and unleash creative thinking within a supportive, collaborative environment. Too often, however, they feel more like factories that demand compliance and uniformity—a reality that stifles innovation and leaves students ill-equipped for their futures. The good news is that together, we can help change that as we reimagine learning by sparking curiosity, inspiring creativity, and promoting student agency.

There’s no doubt that educators deeply care about the opportunities provided to learners. Together we can challenge conventional thinking and create the conditions that empower meaningful learning. We can create the #LEAPeffect in our schools by using the acronym as a guiding light.

  • L.uminous Culture—Shine a light on every individual’s creative potential.
  • E.mpowered Learning—Encourage students to take ownership of their education.
  • A.uthenticity in Learning—Tap into passions to create relevant learning experiences.
  • P.otential Soars—Ignite a movement of inspired, confident learners.

As we kickoff 2019, let’s join hands and embark on a journey creating new possibilities by taking the L.E.A.P.!

It is our moral imperative to encourage all learners in their journey, too. The time is now to reflect on our past and reimagine our future, creating opportunities to promote learner voice and agency. I am so excited to share my entire message with you on January 5th, 2019. Take the L.E.A.P.: Ignite a Culture of Innovation is filled with practical tips and strategies in addition to questions for discussion so that you can take into consideration the diverse needs of your learners and school community.

Look for updates, opportunities to receive swag, and more by following #LEAPeffect on Social Media!

Are you ready to L.E.A.P.?


Learners on the Go with Technology in Tow? No Problem!

With all of the activity that occurs throughout the day in our classroom as we explore, create, and make within all areas of learning, it’s essential that our technology is protected to the fullest extent. As active participants, students leverage technology in meaningful ways by developing videos to capture their learning and then editing accordingly to share the best version of their final product. Additionally, as we deepen our understanding through STEAM exploration, learners capture moments to share out on Seesaw and collaborate in Google Classroom. It’s not uncommon to see children who are jumping with excitement to learn that their code for Sphero did just as they had planned or students pairing SamLabs with the Bluetooth of an iPad to create ‘curious cars’ that they can remotely drive around the room. All of these dynamic experiences require learners to be on the go – with technology in tow! Read More »

Education featured Inspiration Luminous Culture

Create a SHINEtastic School Year with Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.®!



Every child has unique strengths and interests. As educators, do we take the time to honor each child for their individuality, encouraging them to S.H.I.N.E. in their own way? Developing cultures where every individual is embraced for their individuality may feel like quite a feat considering all of the demands we face. Yet doing so is exactly what supports all learners to flourish. The more people feel appreciated and have a sense of belonging, the more likely they are to contribute.


Why Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.® in the classroom?

Each year, students arrive at school looking ahead to the new year. Excited faces ready to start fresh!  Along with this comes anxiety and uncertainty for some students, while others adjust more quickly. Some students come in ahead of the game either in academics or socially, while others hold back with apprehension or in trying to figure out how to make it through the day. No matter what your students come with, having a culture where every individual is valued is the core of Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.® As an educator for 10 years, a struggling student myself, and then watching my daughter experience some challenges in school, I (LaVonna) knew we had to break down the box in which we put students in and that is typically a box of reading, writing, math and science. Our students are way more than that and deserve more than that!

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Education featured Leadership Uncategorized

Five Characteristics of the Divergent Teacher


The idea of divergence is occasionally envisioned as two paths diverging in the wood, perhaps thanks to our friend Robert Frost. However, the idea of divergent teaching is much more than choosing the road less traveled. To clearly define what a divergent teacher is, I (Mandy) adapted the psychological definition of divergent: (of thought) using a variety of premises, especially unfamiliar premises, as bases for inference, and avoiding common limiting assumptions in making deductions. Therefore, the definition I’ve developed for divergent teaching is:

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Education Empower Learning featured Inspiration Luminous Culture

Connecting With Learners: The Power Behind Cultivating Strengths and Interests

School is in full swing, and enthusiasm continues to soar as learners create, make, and learn through exploring their curiosities. All the while, we dedicate time to cultivating authentic relationships with each and every child entrusted in our care to support them in their journey toward personal excellence. In anticipation of all that will unfold this school year as my learners develop greater autonomy, I continue to revel in my experiences this past summer that contributed to my personal and professional growth, and created some of the very best memories.


My summer kicked off with a bang as I collaborated with educators at the PBS Digital Innovator Summit in Chicago, made a quick turn around to present at Model Schools in Orlando, and then connected with nine highly respected friends and passionate educators back in Chicago to co-author Volume II of Education Write Now, Top Strategies for Improving Relationships and Culture. Together, we learned about the Will To Live Foundation, in which all of our proceeds will go towards, to awareness and increase education to prevent teen suicide.

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Maker Mornings Empower Learning

Maker Mornings Empower Learning

From the moment they enter the classroom, learners are on the go! Each day, we spend the first twenty-five minutes of class engaging in any activity of choice. A few years back, a ten-year-old girl in my class suggested that we should have maker mornings. Rather than visiting the makerspace here and there throughout the week, learners were seeking the opportunity to create, make and explore on a daily basis. Considering that it was a flexible time in our day since learners could arrive at 8:00 am, but the class didn’t officially start until 8:25, how could I say no? After all, there are incredible benefits to maker education!

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Education Empower Learning featured

Empowering Learning Through Science Exploration

This study was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready To Learn Initiative, led by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS. It was conducted by EDC and SRI International, long-standing evaluation partners for the Ready To Learn Initiative.

Empowering Learning Through Science Exploration: Educators Inspire Families to Develop Science Skills in Young Children

Whether it was observing the sway of leaves and branches due to the wind or mixing paint to create new colors, my two sons were deeply curious about the world around them, particularly when they were young. At age 4, I recall my son Julian asking, “When we drive through fog, are we driving through a cloud?” Young children persistently ask questions. In response to this question from my son, I responded, “What do you think?” I wanted him to continue thinking, questioning and articulating his thoughts. Parents play a pivotal role in their child’s education from early bonding interactions in infancy through helping them navigate the waters of growing into adulthood.

A study conducted by EDC/SRI and funded by the Ready To Learn Initiative found that 99% of parents want to be involved in their children’s education. The first-of-its-kind study entitled What Parents Talk About When They Talk About Learning: A National Survey About Young Children and Science claims that ‘the early years in a child’s life are the most transformative and essential to laying the groundwork for later success in life.”

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Education featured Inspiration Leadership Luminous Culture

Embrace Your Inner Leader


Countless educators aim to inspire, be the change and exude positivity. I’m grateful for my connection to educators who exhibit this as it’s what encourages others to persevere in the face of adversity. As someone who has always embraced this concept myself, I tend to find it challenging to know how to share my voice on wrongdoings best. Afterall, positive people stick to positive messages, right? However, we cannot stand to glaze over apparent dysfunction or bow in fear to hierarchical models of leadership when we know something is blatantly wrong and ultimately hurting individuals. I believe that we can discuss semi-controversial topics while identifying creative ways to address them. Exuding positivity, as well as demonstrating professionalism is essential to me as an educator. Due to my deep sense of integrity, I’m also driven to be an agent of change, and my integrity makes it nearly impossible to ignore that there’s an enormous elephant in the room that exists for many educators.

Blogging and being connected as an educator has provided an avenue for us all to share our voice. Too many opt to talk behind closed doors while keeping their heads down instead of stepping out and addressing the elephant. Together we can creatively seek solutions to move forward or ways to change the course of our ship when we realize the time has come.

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Education Empower Learning Inspiration

Catalyze Empowerment Through Problem Seeking

Empower Learners as Problem Seekers

In talking with one of my best friends, Beth Gibson, who is the Worldwide Product Engineering Director of Corning Incorporated, she shared that reverse innovation is shifting the way companies approach and view innovative solutions. The term reverse innovation stirred curiosity in me. I’ve always considered innovation as the process of building or improving upon something to adapt and evolve to meet the needs of individuals. Reverse innovation, on the other hand, is the practice of taking a current product and making necessary adjustments that make it more marketable to developing economies that cannot afford the models designed for the western world. I never gave it much thought before, but numerous products we utilize don’t necessarily meet the needs of those in other parts of the world. To reverse innovations, individuals have engaged as problem seekers to succeed as a multinational company.

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PBS Announces Educators Selected For Inaugural Digital Innovator All-Star Program

PBS Press Release: Program recognizes 30 teachers nominated by their local PBS stations as leaders in their education communities

Arlington, VA, March 14, 2018 – Today, PBS announced the educators selected for the first PBS Digital Innovator All-Star Program. Nominated by their local PBS stations, 30 educators were chosen from across the country, representing 28 states and Puerto Rico. Each of the Digital Innovator All-Stars was selected from a cohort of extraordinary educators who are doing innovative work in their schools and districts, and were previously recognized as part of the PBS Digital Innovator Program, which began in 2013.

The PBS Digital Innovator All-Star program expands on this influential work, deepening these educators’ roles as leaders in integrating technology and digital media into the classroom —supporting students’ learning through increasingly important media literacy skills.

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