About Me

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My Beliefs:

  • The purpose of education is to help kids to know and grow their individual strengths and talents.
  • There’s no “right way” of doing education.  There are methodologies that work for many students, but not for others.  The art is to figure out which ones work for which kids.
  • If everyone in the school operated like a coach instead of expert, we would have positive school cultures of curiosity, connection, and empathy resulting in exponential growth and meaningful experiences for all.
  • The person who is talking, thinking, creating & reflecting the most is the one who is doing the most learning.
  • If a student is having trouble (behavior or academics) in school it is usually because I haven’t built the relationship or I am providing learning experiences that don’t match what that child needs.
  • If you ever want to know if you’re “doing it right,” the answer to the question, “What is the effect on students?” will give you a pretty accurate answer.
  • A good question can solve any problem.
  • It’s better to take a risk, fail and grow, than to be good at the same things we’ve always done.

My Experience:

  • Administration:  Currently a principal in Elmhurst, IL at Jefferson Elementary School, previously an assistant principal as well as interim principal
  • Coaching:  5 years as a Learning Support Coach in a large K-5 building in Naperville, IL
  • Teaching:  1st, 4th & 5th grades.  My teaching career began teaching reading to K-5 students as well as a technology teacher.
  • Presentations, Research & Workshops:   Factors of Intrinsic Motivation, Student Engagement, PLC’s, Instructional Coaching, Reading, Writing & Math Workshop, Formative Assessment, the Reflective Classroom, Standards Based Reporting, Learning Targets, Integrating Meaningful Technology, & Learner-Driven Instructional Practices
  • Other Professional Experience:  Past President, Vice President & Executive Board Member of the Illinois Language & Literacy Council.  I coordinated the Illinois Young Author’s Conference for students K-8 across the state of Illinois for over 10 years.

Geeky Stuff:

  • I have a doctorate in Educational Leadership & Organizational Change, but my research was on factors of intrinsic motivation in children.  If you have any interest in reading it feel free to click here.  I’d recommend skipping to Chapter 4 or just implications in Chapter 5. (Chapters 1-3 are good for falling asleep)
  • I am obsessed with math.  The first thing that attracted me to my husband (when I met him in a bar) was that he was a math teacher.  I talked his ear off for hours about Algebra. One of my favorite memories of our first year of dating was going to a state math conference in Bloomington.  #wishiwaskidding
  • Technically I taught my first class at age 13.  In 7th grade I took the SAT and was accepted to a special program to study Algebra at Arizona State University.   This caused a problem when I returned to junior high because I had already gone way beyond the curriculum.  To solve the problem, my school decided that I could spend the year doing independent study and teaching my own class of remedial students.  #bestlearningexperienceever
  • If you need someone to talk about the fantasy/sci fi genre, especially Game of Thrones, I’m your girl.

Family:

  • I’m married to Brad Podraza.  We actually went to high school together, but didn’t meet until after college.
  • We have a 4 year old daughter named Alexandra whose creativity and math skills blow me away daily.
  • I come from a big family of educators.  My mom, aunt, grandmother and a few cousins have chosen teaching as their profession.

We Might Be Soulmates if you…

  • Are obsessed with all things food.  In my free time I’m either cooking in the kitchen with my daughter or checking out new restaurants with my supper club.
  • Could run for hours.  I’m up almost daily at 4:30 a.m. to do some form of exercise, but trail running, especially in new places is my favorite.  I don’t know about you, but I get my best ideas then.  Thank God for technology to record my thoughts. #neverrunwithwritingutensils
  • Love all types of music and have a playlist for every mood.  Alternative is my favorite, but you might also find me carpool karaoke-ing Backstreet Boys or 90’s rap at the top of my lungs.  Ice Ice Baby has been worked into way too many significant events in my life.
  • Have the heart of a performer.  My first love is the stage.  I’ve been performing since I was five and until I became a mom was a working actress & model on my breaks and weekends.  It has always been fun to bring this background into the classroom to use with students.
  • Are rhythmically challenged.  My parents are both classically trained ballroom dancers, but they did not pass on that trait to me.  If you want to make me insanely uncomfortable, ask me to dance or clap out the rhythm to pretty much anything.