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New TeachIdaho Programs

Upcoming TeachIdaho Seminars and Workshops:


Oct. 13--Don Fell is presenting "Rejuvenating Your Economics Classroom," Boise WaterShed Education Center
Don Fell, a national presenter for the Foundation for Teaching Economics, will return to Boise with a new one day workshop for teachers who present any
economic thinking in their classroom.  If you have attended Don's workshops in the past, you know how engaging, fun and current his workshops are.  
Don't miss this opportunity.  Link for registration: https://www.onemainfinancial.com/teachers-guide-to-currency-around-the-world

Oct. 14--Boise Financial Fitness for Life, one day workshop will show teachers in ALL grades and subjects, how to integrate Economic Thinking and Financial
Fitness into their classes.  Free workshop.  Teachers get teacher's manual, student workbook (reproducible), access to Chromebooks, and CAP ED pays
half ($30) of your BSU credit.  Contact kkurdy@teachidaho.org

Alexandra Cheshire--PEG writing

Meet Alexandra Cheshire, former teacher and educational software developer for Measurement Incorporated.  Alexandra will be demonstrating a program she has helped develop called PEG (Project Essay Grade) which gives immediate feedback on essays for students in grades 3-12. 



  Opportunities Available through TeachIdaho:



    4 Cs Workshop--A series of 90 minute workshops on Collaboration, Creativity, Communication and Critical Thinking.  Teachers will get strategies for both stand alone activities and integration into existing curricula.

Project Based Learning Workshops--1, 2 or 3 day workshops where teachers develop a complete lesson plan for a project based unit

    Critical Thinking--We can develop short workshops or whole day trainings demonstrating critical thinking approaches.

    Creativity and Collaboration Workshops--based on a new publication by Susie Boss, we offer lessons and rubrics for the 4 Cs

    Teachonomics--A workshop on teaching Students the Economic Way of Thinking--grades 2-8

    Mindsets--Workshops dealing with the way students approach learning.  Based on Paul Tough's How Children Succeed and Carol Dweck's Mindset, teachers will look at ways to approach failure in the classroom and how to introduce and instill Grit into lessons.

    Formative Assessment--Learn different ways to assess learning in a low stress environment.

    Writing across disciplines

    Reading nonfiction - the differences; the processes of reading nonfiction; what the reader's purpose is (information, enjoyment, identifying argument, etc.) 

    Building Academic Vocabulary

    Support for ELA and Math CCSS across the curriculum

    Entrepreneurship--2 Day workshop focused on teaching students an entrepreneurial skill set

    Creativity and Connectivity--Using Parker Palmer's and Ken Robinson's work, we will show teachers how to infuse their teaching with authentic learning and with diverse approaches to mastery

    Student Engagement and Motivation--1/2 to 1 day workshop on energizing your classroom for students and creating a culture for learning

Understanding By Design--1 to 3 days of training on the UbD planning framework.  Teachers will learn about and be able to use in their planning: Essential Questions, Enduring Understanding, Formative Assessments, Performance Based Assessments, Scaffolded lesson planning.

Homework and Grading--1/2 to full day training on "the elephant in the room."  Workshop will talk about formative assessment, homework policy, toxic grading practices, and performance based assessment.







To Grade or Not to Grade Homework

Homework--Grade it or Not?

If You Do Count Homework

I knew I needed to change how I graded homework, but I wasn’t too thrilled with just giving them a percentage grade either.

You see, I taught math, and I view math homework as practice. So let’s say a student makes a mistake on 1 out of 6 problems. Is it really fair to give them an 83% on that homework? Or if they make 2 mistakes to give them a 67%? That just seemed way too harsh for me, and that’s not even considering the 50%’s, 33%’s, 17%’s, and 0%’s that they would earn if they made more mistakes.

I wanted my students to do their very best on their homework, but I also didn’t want to reward them with horrible grades when they inevitably made mistakes as part of the learning process.

I needed to hold them accountable without destroying their grades….So I finally came up with a solution I was happy with.

No More Grading Homework

Here’s my plan. I’m modeling this off of the way that it was done to me. A great educator came into my room and started asking questions about what I do. He posed this interaction as a great opportunity to learn from each other and he was right. He asked me what I thought different classroom practices meant to myself and my students. He focused on all types of graded work (assessments) with simple questions like:

  • What does it mean to give homework a grade? (That it’s not practice, it’s a test.)
  • What message does that send about the purpose of homework? [ Get it right or pay the price :(  ]
  • What do you want a quiz to mean to the students? (To tell them where they are)
  • How do they react when you hand one back? (They shove it in their bag after maybe reading the score)

That was all it took for me. I realized my assessment practices were broken.

Discussion will continue.......

A Message from Lesson Planet and a Cool Template for Lesson Planning

First off, I wanted to compliment you on the page you have created at http://www.joeji.com/Lesson plans.html. While I was on the page for work, I noticed you featured Lesson Planet's website:


Lesson Planet provides a great collection of tools for teachers, but what if you want to create a completely free, Common Core-aligned lesson plan for a math, science and language arts class? Well, our startup, formswift.com, has a solution.

We thought that we could create better-looking, more efficient lesson plan templates, which could help teachers and educators expedite the process of writing a lesson plan at absolutely no cost. Here is our finished work:


In my opinion, our Common Core Lesson Plans Hub is more thorough, up to date, and user friendly than any other existing online lesson plan template resource, not to mention it is completely free for anyone to use. So, considering you have previously shared Lesson Planet's website, I think it would be great if you could add our Common Core Lesson Plans Hub as a companion tool for your readers.




TWIN FALLS • The future founder of a Twin Falls coffee company was struck with an idea 10 years ago.

Jason Bobango, heavily involved in social work, was tired of seeing little money given to worthwhile programs. He jokes that the budget for his program at a low-income housing project consisted of 75 cents that workers found in an office couch.

“We started thinking of different ways to make money for the programs to pay for basic supplies and materials,” he said. Then he came across a fundraising website for coffee.

Bobango now has his own Stokin’ Joe Coffee. He has a vested interest in his “social enterprise.” His 7-year-old son was diagnosed with autism four years ago, and he hopes his company can make a difference.

Stokin’ Joe Coffee and the Idaho nonprofit TeachIdaho have collaborated on a promotion to create The Idaho Autism Education Fund, which Bobango said will help Idaho special education teachers get more training and certification to help the increasing number of children diagnosed with autism.

The company will contribute $3 per bag sold online at www.noavgjoe.com from now to Dec. 5. If 2,000 bags are sold, the contribution will increase to $4 per bag, up to $8,000.

Kali Kurdy, co-director of TeachIdaho, said she’s excited about the agreement.

“Schools have their hands full in dealing with children with autism,” she said.

Kurdy retired after 33 years as a teacher, but her daughter teaches special education.

“I have had a lot of autistic students in my home,” she said.

Early on, Bobango and his wife Cindy suspected their son had developmental difficulties. Having previously worked with clients with autism, “we recognized a few things,” he said. The family was fortunate to have colleagues who helped test and diagnose their son.

“We had a lot of intervention early, and we were blessed with that,” Bobango said. “We know a lot of families don’t.”

Given his situation, Bobango said it makes sense for his company to support the cause. However, he doesn’t want to stop there. One of his company’s mottos is to sell direct-trade coffee to pay for development of sustainable projects and programs that improve, empower and save lives.

The coffee, bought directly from growers or cooperatives in coffee-producing countries, is sold online.

“We want to focus on issues regarding health and other areas that we can have a positive impact on. We don’t want to provide just the same services that everyone else provides,” Bobango said. “I envision four or five different coffee blends, and people can pick the cause they want to support.”

His dreams are big, but proceeds so far are small. Since he began the enterprise in earnest in March, he’s sold about 250 pounds of product.

“We definitely have plans to expand. If it’s slow, so be it. If it’s overnight, great. We would love to have that problem.”

He hopes his java becomes the next big thing, such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

To fulfill his dream, Bobango knows he needs to sell a lot of coffee. He said 85 percent of adults drink coffee, with most drinking two or three cups daily.

If he can get enough people to replace one of those cups with one of his, he said, he would have enough money to make a difference.

For now, Bobango is doing marketing and substitute teaching while working on his coffee business.

“You get up every morning,” he said. “You take a shower and get dressed and do the best you can.”

Inquiry is the BOMB!


Why Inquiry Learning is Worth the Trouble

Ian Quillen

Visualization of SLA principal Chris Lehmann's 2011 talk: guiding kids' to thinking about how they think.

Nearly seven years after first opening its doors, the Science Leadership Academy public magnet high school* in Philadelphia and its inquiry-based approach to learning have become a national model for the kinds of reforms educators strive towards.

But in a talk this past weekend at EduCon 2.5, the school’s sixth-annual conference devoted to sharing its story and spreading its techniques, Founding Principal Chris Lehmann insisted that replicating his schools approach required difficult tradeoffs.

“This is not easy. This is not perfect,” Lehmann told a crowd of devotees stuffed inside one of the Center City school’s second-floor science classrooms on Sunday. “There are really challenging pieces of this, and we should be OK with this.”

Lehmann’s 90-minute question-and-answer session tackled coming to terms with the impact of a shift to inquiry-driven learning by defining three steps: the enigmatic meaning of inquiry-based learning; the visible changes that signal a shift to that approach; and the potential drawbacks that shift may surface.


Lehmann said it’s important to question whether alleged “personalized,” “project-based,” or “collaborative” learning efforts are actually helping students and teachers to “hold ourselves in a state of questioning.”

“Inquiry means living in the soup. Inquiry means living in that uncomfortable space where we don’t know the answer.”

For example, adaptive software that leads students through English/language arts or mathematics on a pace set by their own abilities fails to force students to ask questions about that material, contextualize it in real life, or communicate about the concepts with others, Lehmann said. The same is true of collaborative projects where restrictive guidelines result in several, nearly-identical finished products across student groups.

In a true inquiry-based model, how learning happens isn’t as important as whether that learning encourages students to try to learn even more. Lehmann compared the scenario to the plight of a two-year-old child who has graduated from “yes” and “no” and proceeded onto an endless string of “why’s.”

“To me it comes down to process,” Lehmann said. “Inquiry means living in the soup. Inquiry means living in that uncomfortable space where we don’t know the answer.”


Although nailing down inquiry-based learning is a bit like trying to define the human soul, there are some indicators Lehmann and his audience both agreed signaled progress down the right path.

To paraphrase one teacher, a classroom where students are empowered to direct and control their own learning is one sign. Feeling tension between the direction of a course and the material covered on a standardized final examination may be another, said a second teacher.

“Oh God, yeah,” Lehmann said in response to the latter teacher. “There’s a reason we don’t offer [Advanced Placement] Classes here. If we are a truly inquiry-based school, why would our highest-level classes end in a test?”

Increased collaboration between students and increasing student scrutiny of educational content were two other signs Lehmann and the group said signaled the right approach, even if they clashed with classroom norms. For example, collaboration can often lead to tricky discussions about what part of a students’ work are his or her own and what part is recycled.

Lastly, good inquiry-based learning should include a means for publication and communication, whether through blogs, printed reports, multimedia packages, etc. But Lehmann also said, in some cases, students should have the right to decide whether to publish their work.

“One of the scariest things about inquiry-based learning is the blank page,” Lehmann said. “When you’re toying with the ideas at first, sometimes your ideas don’t have to be social to the world.”


Inquiry-based education should improve student engagement, critical thinking skills, and cross-disciplinary opportunities, Lehmann said. But it may also hinder lesson planning, covering content benchmarks, and assessing student progress.

In a school that asks students to seize some autonomy over the course of their studies, the teachers most comfortable at the Science Leadership Academy are often the teachers most capable of improvising and deviating from a lesson plan, or even entering a class period without a lesson plan at all.

Further, while Lehmann believes the approach leaves students with the analytical tools they need to succeed on English/language arts standardized tests, he acknowledges that both teaching mathematics in general, and teaching it so students succeed on state and national benchmarks, is harder to do in an inquiry-driven fashion.

Creating teacher-administered assessments that accurately measure progress, in an environment where the path is often long and winding, is also difficult.

“That could probably be 10 sessions of EduCon,” Lehmann quipped. “’What are we authentically assessing when we assess?’”

*[CLARIFICATION: Science Leadership Academy is a public magnet school, not a charter, as previously written.]



Teach Idaho provides resources that work for you.  

  • Learning communities that connect teachers by grade level and subject matter.
  • Information on professional development
  • Links to lessons and curricula
  • Mentoring for new teachers and ABCTE teachers
  • A network of retired “Master” teachers who lished can help you with research, lesson development, or classroom management techniques.

Master teachers include: 

  • Bob Firman, Westinghouse Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching, First "on-line" Math Instructor in Idaho
  • Patricia Pierose, Language Arts Teacher
  • Jim Coughlin, Language Arts Teacher of the Year
  • Kelli Fredback, math specialist, Student Teacher Supervisor, University of Idaho
  • Stephanie Youngerman, past Language Arts supervisor, Boise School District
  • Jennifer Kurdy, Autism Specialist
  • Chris Niebrand, Peer Assistant Program, Founder and Past Director
  • Liza Long, Past Chair of General Education, published author
  • Rachel Bear, Idaho Core Teachers
  • Cindy Wilson, Milken Scholar.
  • Laurie Roberts, Language Arts
  • Michelle Harmon, State Journalism President and teacher at Borah High





So much knowledge is accessible to everyone today.  With the internet and social media
so prolific with information, teachers have many ways to share, learn and grow.  Better teachers create better student learners.

img3See What Our Partners are doing on their website, and on our CALENDAR




















If you have any ideas about future partnerships, let us know.