Episode 5: Common Core with Cara Dolnik


This episode's a fun one, because we’re talking about Common Core! It's an oft-cited but, I find, less often understood development in education. My guest today is Cara Dolnik, Principal of Carmel Valley Middle School in San Diego. Cara has a distinguished career in education, having started off as a middle school math teacher before moving into administration. She’s had those roles in pretty equal amounts, and she brings a depth and breadth of insight to the topic that informs our conversation.

We cover a lot of ground on this, ranging from the difference between memorizing and learning, to the fact that Common Core is not a curriculum but a set of benchmarks, as well as the process of implementing new teaching methods and how teachers have been involved in and training their peers on Common Core for years.

So get ready for a fun and informative conversation into the facts, myths, misperceptions and advantages of Common Core, here on In The Tank For Education.

Jenny Chien - Part 2: Teacher of the Year, Context Informing Learning, Wonder Woman and The Debut of Rob’s Rants


Today I’ve got part two of my conversation with CA Teacher of The Year Jenny Chien, and if you liked part 1, this takes it to another level.

We talk about a ton of things, including, and get ready for this: her role as CA Teacher of the year; a trip to Japan, including Hiroshima, and how context informs learning; the shift away from a one size fits all approach to education; Comic-Con; Wonder Woman; The Big Bang Theory (the tv show) and professional development.

We've also got a new segment that’s debuting today. It’s called Rob’s Rants. My good friend Rob Coppo is the Principal of Torrey Pines High School in San Diego's Del Mar / Carmel Valley, and a long time educator with experience in the classroom as well as in administration.

Rob will make the occasional visit to the show to give some spirited insight into various things that he sees happening in education today. Today he takes on everyone’s favorite subject: homework. And more specifically, the notion that more homework = more learning. Let’s just say that Rob’s not a fan of that idea.

I hope you’ll consider subscribing to the podcast via the iTunes store or at PodBean.com. Giving good reviews and 5-star ratings couldn’t hurt either if you’re up for that.

Thanks for listening. First up is the debut of Rob’s Rants, and then part 2 of my conversation with CA Teacher of the Year Jenny Chien. Enjoy!

Elizabeth Vaughan: Farm To School, Equal Access To Good Food, and Recruiting Salad Bar Champions


Elizabeth Vaughan is the Food Systems Manager for Community Health Improvement Partners, or CHIP. Elizabeth is a leader in San Diego’s pioneering efforts in the national Farm To School movement, helping schools and other institutions work with local farmers and agriculture producers to purchase fresh foods.

Schools, hospitals and other institutions have significant buying power, and in recent years they’ve been aggressive in working with local food producers (farmers, fisherman and the like). This Farm To School movement helps in a number of ways, including:

  • Bringing fresher foods into schools.
  • Lessening the environmental impact of shipping food. And
  • Supporting local economies.

On top of that, it’s also addressing the issue of equity in our food systems. When schools can partner with local farms, students are getting some of the best quality food around. And that flies in the face of the traditional narrative that school food is the worst, cheapest food around.

There's lots more here - enjoy!

Jenny Chien, Part 1: CA Teacher Of The Year; STEM & Girls In STEM; Learning Capacity of K-5 Students


My guest for this episode is Jenny Chien, a CA Teacher of The Year for 2017, and STEM Specialist at Casita Center for Science, Engineering and Math in Vista, CA. Jenny teaches STEM, including coding, to K-5 classes – yes, kinders can code – as well as teaching a broadcast journalism class, which sees her 4th graders produce a news show for the school.

I’ve gotten to witness Jenny’s classes in action and they are remarkable. Creative, engaging, challenging and fun. She clearly gets a lot of joy from guiding kids through the process of learning, even if they aren’t aware of how much of that they’re doing.

This is part one of a two-part interview with Jenny. When we were recording we got on a roll, and there’s so much to cover that I broke our conversation into two parts.

In this episode we’re talking about STEM, what it is, and how it enhances all learning. We also talk girls in STEM, as there’s still a pretty big gender gap in math and science careers, and Jenny is doing something about that. We also get into what it’s been like to be a state teacher of the year and the platform and opportunities that come along with that.