Change One Simple Thing to Start Your Journey to Remarkable Teaching

Pam Moran on episode 246 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

You can change one simple thing to help transform your classroom. Change is a decision, not to leap forward but to take one small step and then another. Today, Pam Moran, finishes up our series encouraging us to take small steps that make a big difference. She also helps us understand the mistake we make when we look too big picture and forget the small things we can do. Thank you, Pam for your time and wisdom and I hope everyone has enjoyed this four-part series with a truly remarkable educator.

pam moran everyone can change something

Sponsor: The US Matific Games are coming this February. Try Matific free now and sign up to join their Math games.

Matific is a fantastic site full of math manipulatives and customized playlists of activities to help students at every level master math. This fun, gamified site is sponsoring Math games this February and students can compete to win prizes for themselves and your school. Set up is easy, send them their class rosters and they’ll have you set up in 24-hours. This is a great way to try out matific, help your kids boost their math skills and have fun. And its free!

Learn about the Matific Games

Listen Now


Enhanced Transcript

Kids Co-Creating Curriculum

Link to show:
Date: February 5, 2018

Vicki: I guess the challenge for me — and probably some other listeners listening to you — is to not feel incompetent, (laughs) compared to all that you’re doing. I mean, it just seems like so much. It’s so incredible and so inspiring!

Pam: Well, I appreciate that Vicki, but I’m going to tell you that — you know, I was just talking with some of our younger generation leaders who are lead coaches in the school division. We were talking about, “What’s the next iteration of the work?” And I was describing to them that,

“We got here with a long-term commitment to stay on a course of — really, if you want to call it, progressive education, but trying to really stay focused on trying to educate kids for lifelong learning, not just simply to build a transcript to take some test and to be able to walk across a stage.”

We have a significantly low dropout rate and high on-time graduation rate in Albemarle.

Reasons that Keep Kids Coming Back to School

I attribute it to the amazing teachers that are out there, who really have created — you know, as one kid said to me, “You know, the sound studio that’s in my high school, Dr. Moran, gets me back to school every day, because I don’t always enjoy all the classes that I’m taking. But I know that if I can go in that space and write my music and perform my music and share my music, and just have that as a space that I can call my own — that it keeps me coming back. I don’t have to check my creativity at the door.”

That really means something.

This is a kid that would probably be struggling to graduate, who’s well on schedule to do that.

One Small Step of Progress

I think that the thing that people have to be willing to do is to understand that it’s that saying about,

“Every journey of a thousand steps begins with the first.”

What people have to do is be willing to put something into place — even if it’s a small one step. Because that step allows you to start to chunk and connect together the journey so that you are able to move. Some people move faster, and some move slower, and some people kind of get stuck.

But one of the things that I’ve really learned is that everybody has the potential to change something tomorrow.

A Small Change that a Teacher Did that Made a Big Difference

I had a teacher say to me that one of the changes that she made was one of the most simple, didn’t cost a dime, changes ever — to really realize that after we were talking about kids having the capability to make a choice that make them comfortable as learners. She said,

“After I heard you talk one time, I let my kids start to stand up in my class to work, versus expecting everybody to be seated in their chair.”

And she said,

“I have some kids that are able to stay in class now, that might have been put out of the room because they were, you know, kind of inattentive, or acting out, or whatever.”

And she said,

“You know, just giving kids that option of, ‘You know, hey, if you want to stand up, stand up. What’s important to me is that I know that you’re attending or working on this project or whatever. But if you want to sit on the floor, that’s fine. If you want to stand, that’s fine. If you want to sit at your desk, that’s OK.’ It’s that power shift of giving kids that control.”

Giving Kids Choices Makes a Difference

And I think that very simple actions can reap and reinforce the benefits and advantages of people taking a risk to shift that learning work to the kids, and to give them some choice in how they’re going to get things done. And to ultimately be able to give kids the opportunities to explore things that are really of interest to them. You can’t get from zero to sixty without going through five, ten, forty, and fifty.

Vicki: (laughs)

Pam: No one does that. And I think sometimes that when we see the final product of a school, or a teacher, or a school system that looks really good and has been done really well, it feels insurmountable…

Vicki: It does.

Do Something. Change Something Tomorrow.

Pam: … in terms of getting there. But I think that the most important thing is that everybody can do something, and can actually change something tomorrow. But you have to just simply have the faith in your children and in yourself — that even if it doesn’t go the way you expect it to, that if you take that risk, and you try something, and it DOES work, even if you have to go through it a couple of different ways or times, that all of a sudden you start to have teachers feeling like,

“You know what? I have some autonomy here. I can actually make a difference for kids.”

Then you start to build that collective efficacy inside a school. The next thing you know, you’ve actually shifted an entire culture around what learning really means.

That’s — I think — the piece for me — they have to really begin where it’s comfortable for them and be willing to push themselves a little bit. You don’t get anywhere as a learner if you don’t make yourself a little bit uncomfortable.

Vicki: (agrees)

Pam: Not so uncomfortable that you just can’t see yourself doing something — like letting kids stand up, instead of sitting down.

Vicki: Yeah.

Pam: So that’s a simple one.

Appreciating Pam Moran

Vicki: So, educators, we’ve gotten so many great thoughts here.

I guess the challenge I have for you is first of all to realize this:

It’s hard to think about Pam retiring, because she is so “at her peak,” and I still feel like she’s on her way up. Pam, I’m going to send you a show link to my 89-year-old Learning Lab Director that I just interviewed before Thanksgiving, because she’s still working full time.

Pam: (laughs) I love it!

Vicki: She came back to work not too long ago, and she’s amazing.

But you have so much to give, and I hope that you will take all that Pam has shared and really apply it, and get nuggets from it.

This is going to be one that I listen to and re-listen to… because Pam is TRULY a remarkable educator and has inspired many remarkable educators in her district to be even better.

Thank you, Pam, for all that you’ve done, and for all your inspiration.

Pam: Vicki, always a delight. And as I said, I can’t just hang it up. I’ve said,

“Hey, I’ll come volunteer. I’ll shelve books. I’ll come in and read with kids. I’ll do science with you. Let me know what you need.”

I’m going to be there, and it will be a great experience.

I just need to kind of downsize my life a little bit, in terms of time in this job.

But we’ve also — our board — real vote of confidence in the work we’re doing because the night that I announced that I would be retiring as superintendent at the end of the school year, before July 1, they also appointed the deputy superintendent Matt Hawes, who has led amazing work instructionally for the division, as well as across some of our operational work. So I announced my retirement, and they announced his appointment two minutes later — which I think was a real statement about from our board level, as well as representatives across our community, that the direction that we’re going is the direction that our community values.

Vicki: Yeah.

Pam: and I think it’s a great role model for anybody that is looking at, “How do we make sure that our kids are future-proofed, but also in the here and now in wonderful educational experiences.

So, Vicki, thank you! I hope that we will continue to connect on Twitter and around there.

Vicki: For sure.

Pam: I just value you, and the leadership that you provide, and the sense of that education is not just a job for you — but it is truly something that you live and breathe in terms of serving kids well every day.

I just so appreciate you as an educator. So thank you.

Vicki: Thank you, Pam. Thank you so much!


Contact us about the show:

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Pam Moran – Bio as submitted

Dr. Pamela R. Moran has served as the Superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools since January 2006. She oversees a division with an annual operating budget of $180.5 million; a self-sustaining budget of $19.2 million and a five-year capital budget of $86.9 million. The division includes more than 1,200 teachers educating 13,700 students in 25 schools.

During Dr. Moran’s tenure, Albemarle County Public Schools has become one of the top performing school divisions for students in the state with an on-time graduation rate of 95 percent. Two out of every three high school seniors graduate with an Advanced Studies Diploma, 30 percent higher than the state average for all school divisions. In 2014, Albemarle County students had the second highest SAT scores among 133 school divisions in Virginia in critical reading and the third highest SAT scores for writing and math.

In 2015, a national survey organization ranked Albemarle County Public Schools in the top five of all school divisions in Virginia and among the top two percent of all school divisions in the county.

Among the school division’s flagship programs are its Learning Commons, AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) and M-Cubed. Both the Learning Commons and M-Cubed have received the National School Board Association’s Magna Award, given annually to the school division in the nation with the most innovative and effective program. The school division is the only one in the history of the Magna Award to twice receive the association’s highest performance honor. The school’s Learning Commons, which is a multi-disciplined, technology-infused learning center, has attracted visits by MIT, Harvard, the Universities of Virginia and North Carolina and from the Smithsonian Museum and the New York Hall of Science. M-Cubed is a program that supports black middle school males in year-round advanced math studies to improve their high school academic performance. The division’s Jack Jouett Middle School is in the top three percent of all schools in the world for the success of its AVID college and career readiness program.

A key component of the division’s project-based instructional model is its maker curriculum, which has been the subject of presentations by division educators around the country, including at the White House. In 2015, in partnership with two other school divisions and the University of Virginia, Albemarle County Public Schools was one of three public school divisions in the nation to receive an Investing in Innovation demonstration grant. The $3.4 million federal grant is being used to develop advanced manufacturing and engineering programs in division middle schools and is in addition to a $20,000 state planning grant to develop a “school-of-the-future” model.

The division has three centers of excellence. Students in the Math, Engineering and Science Academy earn an average of $24,000 per student in academic scholarships; the Health and Medical Sciences Academy became a Governor’s Regional Health Academy in 2013 and in 2015, a new Environmental Studies Academy began operations.

The division also is home to one of the first CoderDojo Academies in a public school division in the country, teaching computer coding and science skills to students. Other notable new programs include a high school Arts & Letters Pathwayand a summer Fine Arts Academy.

Dr. Moran is a leading advocate of an educational model that prepares students for “success in their century, not mine.” She emphasizes the value of student-led research, project-based learning and contemporary learning spaces that promote collaboration, creativity, analytical problem-solving, critical thinking, and communications competencies among all students.

A past gubernatorial appointee to the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia, Dr. Moran was selected by her peers across the Commonwealth as Virginia’s 2016 Superintendent of the Year. She subsequently was one of four statewide superintendents of the year to be selected as a finalist for 2016 National Superintendent of the Year.

In 2016, Dr. Moran was selected to serve on the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development.

She is a member of the MakerEdorg advisory committee and has delivered several TED Talks on the impact of creating a contemporary learning environment for students, one shaped around a student-centered project-based instructional model. Under her guidance, Albemarle County Public Schools was selected in 2015 for membership in the League of Innovative Schools., a nonprofit organization authorized by the U.S. Congress to accelerate innovation in education.

Dr. Moran has appeared on the cover of Education Week’s Digital Directions magazine as a “National Mover and Shaker” for her advocacy of a curricular digital integration model, which will be featured in an upcoming profile by Edutopia. She also was selected by eSchool Media as one of its national Tech-Savvy Superintendents of the Year and under her leadership, the school division received the Virginia Governor’s Tech Innovation Award.

Dr. Moran is a past President of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, Women Educational Leaders of Virginia and the Virginia Association of Science Supervisors. She holds leadership positions with the regional Chamber of Commerce, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Public Education Fund, and the University of Virginia-Public Schools Educational Partnership.

Dr. Moran’s career in public education began as a high school science teacher. She subsequently served as a central office science coordinator and staff developer, elementary school principal, director of instruction, assistant superintendent for instruction, and adjunct instructor in educational leadership for the University of Virginia’s Curry School and the School of Continuing Education. She holds a B.S. in Biology from Furman University and Master’s and Doctoral degrees from the University of Virginia. Dr. Moran also is an alumnus of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business Executive Educators Leadership Institute.


View story at


Twitter: @pammoran

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post Change One Simple Thing to Start Your Journey to Remarkable Teaching appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

via Vicki Davis at Please also check out my show for busy teachers, Every Classroom Matters and my Free teaching tutorials on YouTube.

Popular Posts