Blooming Where I'm Planted

My Educational Journey to Becoming a Teacher

Struggle leads to Progress

I dreaded the day summer school began.  The thought of working full time and going to class four nights a week was unbearable.  I literally thought I would die from exhaustion.  However, my co-workers were very supportive and encouraged me to continue.   Now, I can say that I made it through summer school and I am still alive.  My brain is full of knowledge and I am more confident about entering the classroom for my student teaching internship.

A quote by famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass has been my guiding principle throughout this summer session.  He states, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”  My first class in Summer Session 1 was Power Tools.  I learned so much about web 2.0 tools that I was speechless at the end of the class.  I was speechless because all these tools are available for teachers to use, but yet I have seen very few of them used in the classroom.  I question why teachers aren’t taking advantage of these free tools to allow their students an opportunity to compete in this technology rich world.  I know it will take time to learn how to use these tools in the classroom, but it is a great way to keep kids engaged in the lesson.  Global projects are a great way to work collaboratively with classes in other parts of the world.  I would have not know that I could have my class do a project with another class in Argentina.  What an awesome opportunity for students to learn and interact with students in another country.

Teaching and integrating science was an interesting class because I learned how to make science fun.  Long gone are the days of reading the textbook and doing a science experiment once or twice a year.  Science must be relevant and engaging.  Students need to understand why they are doing what they are doing and how it relates to their everyday life.  Science came alive in that classroom each class meeting.

In Summer Session 2, In Behavior and Classroom Management, I was taught effective practices to manage the classroom.  This class also challenged me to analyze and make plans for difficult student behaviors.  Learning cannot take place if there are distractions in the classroom.  A teacher needs to make sure that the classroom is well managed so that maximum learning can take place.

In Integrating Social Studies and the Arts, I learned about a concept called Understanding by Design.  In this model the teacher plans the lesson backwards.  The teachers purposefully think about curriculum planning.  The goal of UbD is to focus the curriculum and teaching on deepening student understanding so that they can effectively use the concept knowledge and skills learned.  Although I struggled many nights with the unit plan, I have gained a new sense of confidence in lesson planning than I had before.

Through the struggle of summer school, I must say that I made tremendous progress.  I have learned that everything must have a purpose.  The purpose, or the reason why something is done, must be present in the management of our classroom and the engaging lessons that we develop.  If students are not engaged and learning, then what is the purpose?   When teachers think about the purpose for designing their lesson plans, the learning outcome for students, the planned activities, the classroom management plan, they do it with the intention on what is the most beneficial for student learning. 

My purpose is to allow my students to learn to be critical thinker who can think and learn in a global economy that utilize many of the 21st century skills that I am responsible for teaching them.  If I am intentional about making my lessons relevant and engaging and ensuring that despite the struggles that I may have or my students may have, we will make PROGRESS! 




Reward Systems

I am a supporter of reward systems.  When adults object to giving rewards to kids, I ask them what do they receive at the end of a week of work.  They say a paycheck.  I tell them that a reward system for a child is like an adult getting a paycheck at the end of a work week.  If a child completes their job or tasks throughout the week, they are entitled to a reward for being diligent, so the teacher should have a reward system in place.

The classroom that I worked in last year implemented a banking reward system.  It served a two fold purpose.  The kids learned how to count money and were rewarded a penny for displaying good character, following classroom/school rules and homework completion.  The students would take the money that they earned at the end of the week and go to the bank (teachers initially and then student leaders took over the job) and they could purchase rewards such as 5 cents for an eraser or a classroom job, 10 cents for a pencil, 20 cents for a special treat, book or coloring book or 30 cents to have lunch with the Principal or the Guidance Counselor.  Students were eager to take their money to the bank, count and either decide what to spend their money on or save their money until they could get a more costly reward.

In my current field experience, the teacher gives tally points to each table and each table can earn extra incentives such as extra recess, stickers or a treat.  The incentive for the whole class is to fill up their animal jar and the whole class can earn extra incentives such as extra recess, stickers or a treat.  Each week the teacher chooses a “Pirate of the Week”.  This student is chosen because they exemplified good character throughout the previous week and will have the opportunity of being the student leader of the week.

I have considered the banking reward system for younger children because of the math concepts and terminology used in the process (counting, coin identification, savings, cost, etc.).  Our students math scored increased dramatically because of this system.   The students were also excited about this reward system all year.  We did have some students bring their own money from home, but of course we told them we could tell the difference between their real money from their piggy bank and our fake money that we give them.  So, if I had a Kindergarten or a 1st grade classroom, I would use a banking concept as an individual reward system.  For the class as a whole I would use a reward system of filling a class jar when the class did a good job following classroom rules.  This system will coincide with the banking reward system to allow students to think about working collectively to receive a goal.  I would have incentives such as extra recess, have lunch outside on benches, popcorn, popsicle, cupcake party, or free time Friday which will give them extra free time in class.


Self-efficacy is when a person is confident they will be successful at a task.  As the event planner for family vacations, I have a high degree of self-efficacy in event planning.  My family and friends know that I will plan events and will not forget the minor details. I enjoy analyzing each person’s personality and viewing the trip from their perspective to plan things they would enjoy on the trip.

This high degree of self-efficacy came from an experience I had as a 12 year old.  I had been elected the President of our church’s youth choir.  This particular year it was decided that our youth would take a trip to Carowinds as the youth outing for the year.  I remember working with the Pastor, Financial Committee and other church member to plan this event.  I remembered purchasing tickets for the youth and reserving the buses for the trip. The responsibilities that were thrust upon me were eye-opening and as the representative for the Youth at the meetings I learned many things.  The trip to Carowinds was a success!  I remembered everyone thanking me for doing a great job and the Pastor and Board members praising me for doing a great job handling such a huge task. 

The quote at the beginning of the blog says, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.  The music teacher at my old school had this at the entrance to her class.  When I would pass her door each day, I would read that quote and it would resonate feelings of confidence in me.  I often wondered if it resonated with the students as they entered the classroom.  

I’m sure there are other areas in which I am fairly confident in; but I personally may not feel that I have a high degree of self-efficacy. Maybe I haven’t had the feeling of accomplishment like I had when I scheduled the Carowinds trip.  However, I know that I will be successful in many areas if I try.  I always tell my daughter that I am proud of her for trying.  So, I will try many things whether I’m successful or not. 

I Am An Entrepreneur!
Entrepreneur Social Studies Unit

Grade: 3rd Subject: Social Studies

Time: Morning Meeting 15 minutes
Writing 30 minutes
Social Studies 45 minutes (2 days)

Social Studies
3.E.2 Understand entrepreneurship in a market economy.
Text Types and Purposes
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.1 Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons.

Morning meeting-Pictures of 4 famous entrepreneurs
Literature-Writing Journals, Pencils,
Social Studies-Writing Journals, Pencils

The goal of this lesson is to introduce and explain to students the term entrepreneur. Students will learn about the traits of successful entrepreneurs.


Morning Meeting
• Have pictures of 4 entrepreneurs ( Donald Trump, Magic Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, Walt Disney) on the board and see if students can identify them and the nature of their business
• Give students an overview of how the entrepreneur unit will be incorporated into their day and what assignments they will be working on.
• Explain that the they will identify the traits that made these people successful entrepreneurs in the writing portion of literature block
• Inform students that during social studies today, they will be writing why some individuals are successful entrepreneur.
• Ask students if they have any questions about today’s assignment and let them know that each activity will be explained in more detail during literature and social studies.

• Explain to students that they will be writing about the four entrepreneurs they were introduced to in the morning meeting. They will identify what personal traits each person has that helped them to become a successful entrepreneur.
• If students are unfamiliar with these individuals, a selection of books will be provided about these individuals

Social Studies

• Review what an entrepreneur is and some successful traits of an entrepreneur
• Explain to students that the in order to be a successful entrepreneur they must begin to think like an entrepreneur and have traits like an entrepreneur.
• Explain to students that what separated these people from the rest of people is their risk taking ability, of grabbing the opportunity as soon as it knocked on their door, hard work, discipline, ability to win over people, time management and most important – the drive to succeed.
• Have students turn to their partner and share some traits they wrote down that are successful traits of an entrepreneur.
• Have students choose one of the four individuals introduced during morning meeting and write an opinion piece on why they think are successful. Opinion piece should identify character traits along with rationale as to how that trait helped the individual be successful.
• Students will share their essays in class the following day.


Providing students with opportunities to learn about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship can address issues of unemployment in today’s economy. Lesson learned can protect students from a weak job market by giving them the tools they need to create their own jobs. Moreover, it can spur students to think about their college majors in new ways — empowering them to pursue their career objectives entrepreneurially, rather than relying on traditional pathways in their chosen fields.

ELL and LD students will be allowed to listen to short videos of the 4 entrepreneurs to gain more knowledge about them.
ELL and LD students will be provided a graphic organizer to help organize their thoughts for the essay.
AIG students will be allowed to research an entrepreneur not listed, write an essay and present to the class.

Third Grade Common Core Opinion Writing Rubric Performance Level

Performance Level Text Type Purposes and Language Conventions
Exceeds Grade Level Standard ‘4’ papers meet all ‘3’ requirements in addition to elements beyond grade level.
Elements include:
-Provides reasons that are supported by facts and details from resources
-Provide a detailed concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented ‘4’ papers meet all ‘3’ requirements in addition to elements beyond grade level.
Elements include:
-Produces clear and coherent writing including multiple-paragraph texts in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience
-Uses a variety of sentence structures throughout the piece ‘4’ papers meet all ‘3’ requirements in addition to elements beyond grade level.
Elements include:
-Demonstrates command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing
-Chooses punctuation and/or conventions for effect
-Beyond grade level expectations
Meets Grade Level Standard -Responds to ALL parts of the prompt
-Provides a title to establish the topic
-Clearly introduces a topic or text, and states an opinion
-Provides reasons that support the opinion
-Provides a concluding statement or section -Creates an organizational structure that supplies reasons for the stated opinion
-Produces writing that demonstrates development and organization appropriate to task and purpose
-Uses precise language and domain-specific vocabulary
-Uses linking words and phrases (e.g., because, therefore, since, for example) to connect opinion and reasons
-Forms and uses comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs to describe, and chooses between them depending on what is to be modified
-Produces simple, compound and complex sentences -Makes FEW errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar and capitalization that DO NOT distract the reader.
-Forms and uses simple verb tenses and regular and irregular verbs
-Ensures subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent agreement
-Uses reciprocal pronouns correctly
-Writes fluidly and legibly with correct spaces and margins
2=Basic/Close To
Approaches Grade-Level Standard -Responds to SOME parts of the prompt
-Reasons given to support opinion are not well developed with few details
-Conclusion is not well linked to the stated opinion and reasons
-Loses focus, wanders off, or writes vaguely about the topic -Attempts to organize writing but lacks linking words to connect reasons to opinion
-Uses ordinary language—vocabulary is used or reused incorrectly
-Uses SOME descriptive language or details
-Uses only simple sentences and may have SOME incomplete or run-on sentences -Makes SOME errors in grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation that distract the reader.
-Writes legibly with inconsistent margins and/or letter spacing
1=Below Basic
Below Grade Level Standard -Does NOT adequately respond to the prompt.
-Lacks sufficient reasons to support opinion
-May list reasons randomly
-Writes in a disjointed manner -Writes in a disjointed manner with little attempt at organization
-Uses limited vocabulary
-Writes many incomplete sentences–writing is difficult or impossible to read aloud; may be one long run-on sentence Makes NUMEROUS errors in grammar, capitalization, punctuation, and/or spelling that seriously impairs the reader
Writes with significant difficulties in legibility and/or letter spacing


History or “HIS STORY”?

To know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity.
Roy P. Basler

When I was younger I loved History and learning about things from the past and different parts of the world.  However, when I went to college I began to take other History classes and a Professor explained to the class about biases in history.  He stated that History is His-Story and is filled with the subjective writing of the person who wrote the book.  We examined some early history books and I began to see History in a whole different perspective.  Through the years, history was mostly viewed from a Eurocentric viewpoint and there was little mention of other ethnic groups.  The writers had their own personal agendas for writing history subjectively.  The indoctrination of their ideology was one of the main reasons for the subjectivity.  I believe that there are some objective parts in the writings of a history book but one must research and read with an analytical eye to get pass the subjectivity in the writings.

I have had to help many students with disabilities as well as ELL students over my years as a Teacher Assistant.  My practice has been to never read their cumulative folders.  Teachers would read them and begin to make excuses for why the student would not be able to learn or express low expectations for the student. I believe in the power of words.  You can speak life into a situation by having and saying positive things about a student and their learning.  I have treated all my students the same and have had high expectations for them all.  As I give the students what they need along with positive support, I have witnessed amazing things.  Every year at the end of the school year, I reflect on the amazing academic, social and emotional growth of my students.  Having high expectation and not focusing on labels has been very instrumental in my help to all children and especially with students with disabilities and ELL students.

To Integrate or not to Integrate……..that is the question

Integration requires prior proper planning by the teacher when designing a lesson. The concern I have about this type of teaching is having the time to devote to this task. In my years of being in the school system and observing teachers, I have heard them talk about managing time for meetings to discuss data, assessments and paperwork for IEPs. They have stated that they wish they had time to devote to developing integrated lessons. I fear that the stress of the aforementioned requirements will force make me to take the “easy” route and rely on prior lessons that I have taught or the curriculum map.

Integration with the Understanding by Design framework has been researched and highly touted as helping improve student achievement. Teachers have heard and seen the data which affirms that when a teacher integrates the curriculum they can create rigorous, relevant and engaging lessons for students. As previously stated, most teachers have said that the outside demands of teaching do not give them the time to plan these types of lessons. Teachers know the benefits of these lessons; however they ignore them because of the conceived complexity of creating such lessons. Teachers need to change their mindset about the complexity in developing these lessons. In the beginning it may take some time to develop integrated lessons but the more lessons teachers develop, the easier the task becomes.

Student achievement should be the primary focus when the teacher plans integrated lessons. This motivating factor of student achievement will make teachers advocate for giving priority and time in the schedule for those subjects that may not be tested. Teachers need to integrate other disciplines such as music, science and drama into the literacy, math and writing block. The importance and priority that teachers give to integrating the curriculum will also teach students that all subjects are important.

Meaningful Well-Planned Social Studies Lessons

What are the attributes of meaningful well-planned social studies lessons? When I pondered this question, three things immediately popped into my mind. The lessons must be engaging, the lessons must be integrated with other subjects and the lessons must have clear worthy objectives and student goals. Social studies can be fun, but it is important to make sure that when a lesson is planned, it must include clear worthy objectives and expected student outcomes that benefit the student intellectually. A lesson which allows student to think critically and to solve problems are examples of a meaningful well planned lesson. Students must also be engaged in a lesson in order for it to be meaningful and well-planned. Students are excited about what is being learned and they are allowed many opportunities to actively participate in the lessons. Lastly, a well-planned and meaningful lesson must be interdisciplinary. When math, literacy, writing and science are infused into a lesson the teacher is able to show students the interrelatedness of the subjects in a well-planned lesson.


When I started this course six weeks ago, I had high expectations for learning lots of new technologies to use in the classroom to enhance my students learning.  Technology is ever changing and this class exceeded my expectations by exposing me to technology tools that I had never heard of.  Being a novice technology person, I felt that the hands on approach to learning in this class were very helpful.  In order to know how to use the tools we had to incorporate them into our own work. 

Dr.   Bonk’s book, “ The World is Open”, and his lecture allowed me to think outside of the classroom and to consider blending learning as an alternative to enhance learning in the classroom.  Incorporating online learning allows student to explore and use multiple tools in which they can communicate with each other or with students around the world.  Students are exposed to more technology and teachers are required to use it and are evaluated on it in their teacher evaluation.  So in order to become familiar with technology, teachers should attend professional development classes to learn how to effectively use these tools in the classroom. 

Creating a blog was the first assignment in learning about web 2.0 tools.  A Web 2.0 site allows users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators of user-generated content in a virtual community.  My blog allowed me to share my comments about information I learned in class as well as to share my thoughts about other information that interested me.  I found this to be a useful tool in the classroom to get less vocal students to share information. 

When I began to create the blog I was nervous because I felt like I had nothing to say that people would want to read.  In blogging I became more comfortable with sharing information; however I am still not very comfortable with sharing my thoughts.  I found it difficult at times to share.  I felt more comfortable using the blog to share information that I had researched. In using this tool in the future I need to find my inner voice and allow it to come out to share more of my own points of view in the blog. This will be a challenge for a less vocal person like me.  However, having multiple web 2.0 tools to choose from such as Voice Threads and Wikis, it allows students to find a tool that they enjoy using.

Next we had to create an infographic to share information visually.  This tool allowed my creative side to emerge.  Finding the right graphic and maneuvering it on the infographic was indeed a challenge.  At times I became frustrated because I couldn’t find the actual tool I needed to create the vision in my head.  This is a tool that you would have to explore multiple times in order to become familiar with the tools that are being offered.  My issue with this project was that I used too much text in my infographic.  On my next attempt at an infographic I know that I will need to reduce the amount of text that I use.  This would be a great tool to use for visual students who want to create an infographic from the content we are learning.

I was very excited to get a chance to create an interactive white board lesson.  I downloaded Smart Notebook because this is a tool that I plan to use in the future.  The amount of tools that they have for the content areas for different grade levels is amazing.  If you want to customize the lessons, you can add or take away information to fit your lesson.  The activities are very interactive and they will keep students engaged with the touch screen and the pens that one can use to write on the Smart Board.  This will help with planning so I will certainly use this in the classroom.

Video editing was perplexing initially.  It took me hours to edit my lesson.  Using Windows Movie Maker to edit my project was a learning experience.  In editing my lesson and uploading it to YouTube, I am assured that I could teach students how to edit their videos and share them privately via YouTube.

Finally, I had to create a global classroom project.  Finding a project to connect with was very easy.  My group chose a group in Argentina to do a classroom project with through the website  The ease of finding a group to connect and collaborate makes this a tool that teachers would find helpful.  I learned that you would need to make sure that the class that you connect with has the same technology you have in order to make it easier to communicate with each other.  This is something that I think all teachers should try in their classroom.  This tool will allow teachers and students to take their learning beyond the classroom and communicate and learn with another group of students in another country.  This will be something I will use in my classroom.  Initially I will show students videos of other classes and how they made their flat classroom project work.  Then I would allow student to pick the project to allow them ownership of the project. 

Power Tools was an exceptional stepping stone for me in learning about the web 2.0 tools that will help me to increase my technology use in the classroom.  I feel confident that if I use these tools and get to a comfortable level of use with them, I can properly teach students how to use them.  Using these tools will give my students the 21st Century skills that are necessary for them to compete in a technology rich world.

Thinking Globally

ePals - where learners connect globally

Connecting learners from one country to another is what I experienced this week as I explored to learn about joining a global collaboration project. is an online tool for teachers who are interested in joining or starting a Flat Classroom project. 

This tool allows teachers the opportunity to connect with a classroom and work on a project in which they may use many web 2.0 tools to communicate such as Skype, VoiceThread, and kidblog, to name a few.  It is important in doing these collaboration project to find out what kind of technology the class you are collaborating with has.  Many of these classes may not have the same access to technology as many U.S. classrooms.  Skype is a wonderful tool to use because it allows the classes to see each other.   Voice Thread or Edmodo allows students to talk to each other during their project.  Also incorporating a blog such as kidblog allows students the opportunity to communicate in writing to each other.

This experience of finding and writing a proposal for funding to join a global collaboration project was eye-opening.  I never imagined anything like this was possible.  This process of finding a project was easy, so teachers will find this website very useful.  The logistics of committing to and completing the project is where the work will begin.  

Some things that need to be taken into consideration when joining a global collaboration project is the time differences and school year difference.  My group decided to join a project of a class in Argentina and we found out that their class year begins in January. 

It is time for teachers to think outside the box.  One way to do this is by joining or starting a Flat classroom project.  There are many resources that teachers can use to get started and is a very easy and useful website to begin with.  Not only will the students involved benefit from this experience, but the teachers will also.


Flipping a Kindergarten Class

Since our presentation last week on the flipped classroom, I have been thinking about how this would work in a lower elementary class.  Since I have mostly worked with Kindergarten classes in the past, I decided to do a google search on flipped Kindergarten classrooms.  I found one ambitious teacher who flipped her Kindergarten class in 2012.  Kendra Kouskop-Smith writes how excited she is to begin the journey of flipping.  She spent the entire summer before school began reading and researching flipped classrooms.  She stated, “I am thinking that I will give the class their assignment on Monday, and they must have it completed and a parent questionnaire turned it by Friday. Families can choose to work on one or two activities each night, or they can complete every activity every night (for example, if the parent feels they need more repetition).”

Here are some things she did during the summer to prepare for her flipped classroom.

  • I set up a class account on Edmodo, and learned a bit about how to use it to assign work to my families.
  • I followed many flipping teachers on Twitter, and asked a few questions, but I really found out that I must be “blazing a trail” by flipping Kindergarten – I haven’t found any other K teachers yet that are or will be flipping. By the way, you’ll want to follow #flipclass to get the best experience!
  • Apparently I was the talk of the staff for a while at MentorMob, as I created 150+ differentiated playlists of videos and activities, one for each of my five groups of students for each week of the school year. So much so that Eric Pitt asked me to do a phone interview to talk about how I was planning to use these playlists in my classroom, and has asked me to do a guest post on the MentorMob blog!
  • I took a course on flipping on Sophia.
  • I played around looking for videos and activities on Khan Academy (nothing for kindergarten), Watch Know Learn (wonderful resource), and Sesame Street (love their own playlists!), among MANY others.

In her latest post in 2013 a follower of her blog asked Kouskop-Smith about her experiences in her flipped classroom.  I have posted her reflection below.

The biggest (and best!) thing I’ve done is to take those repetitive daily tasks (letter-of-the-week, “phonics dance”, etc.) and put them online so my students can access them from home.

I use MentorMob to create my weekly homework “playlists”, and Edmodo to send out assignments. I looked at my students’ incoming test scores (from screening and our state literacy assessment), and put them into five different groups. Then I chose online activities at each group’s target level, and created a playlist for each group each week (I did all this last summer!). The activities include the week’s guided reader, as well as  a letter-of-the-week video, and various games in language arts and math. At the end of each playlist, I inserted a Google Forms survey that the parents complete to tell me how their student did during that week’s homework.
Here is a link to a sample playlist of mine, this one being geared toward the average student: 
Things I am still having issues with are:
– My lowest-functioning students are the ones who do not have internet access at home, so I have to try to remember to put them on the computer first thing in the morning, but they’re also the ones who receive breakfast when they get to school, so many times they’re not in the room until much after the tardy bell rings. We also have to give computer testing several times a year, meaning my classroom computers are not available for homework “catchup” because they are being used for testing.
[Many flippers put their videos on DVD or flash drive for their students to view at home; since my assignments are more game based, I cannot do this. Kindergarten is much more ‘doing’ than ‘viewing’.]
– My intention is for the students to do the “homework” every night (especially the more needy ones) in order to get that repetition, but many are only doing it once and considering it “done”. I’m not sure yet how to enforce this.
– I do have at least one student who only has an iPad at home, and many of the activities I have assigned use Flash, which isn’t supported on the iPad. I believe she has been completing her homework at a relative’s house because of this. I hope to work to find more iPad-friendly sites this summer.
Overall, Flipping my classroom has gone very well, I would say. The kids enjoy the homework (some even look forward to it!), and it keeps the parents informed of the types of things their child is learning (many of our parents still think kindergarten is naps and snacktime and playtime all day!)
Knowing that it can be done gives me hope that one day I can successfully flip a lower elementary class.  Everything comes with challenges and I hope that more teachers who flip their classes will post reflections to help other ambitious teachers. 
Happy Flipping!


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