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The 2014–16 Heinemann Fellows
Fellows group photo
Left to right: Amy Greenbaum Clark, Lisa Birno, Jessica Lifshitz, Lorilee Cabrera, Michael Pershan, Valerie Geschwind, Tamara Ward, Kate Norem, and Sascha Robinett. Not pictured: Julie Nora.

Reflections from Our First Class

Reflections from our First Class

Two years ago, ten educators from across the United States were selected to form the first class of Heinemann Fellows. They represented a cross section of content areas and brought diverse experiences and perspectives to their work. And, through focused action research projects, observations, and continued sharing via articles and blogs, they have become part of the fabric of Heinemann.

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Meet the 2014-16 Heinemann Fellows

Heinemann Fellows Chairperson: Ellin Oliver Keene

image of Ellin Keene

Ellin Oliver Keene is the author of Talk About Understanding: Rethinking Classroom Talk to Enhance Understanding, To Understand: New Horizons in Reading Comprehension, co-author of Comprehension Going Forward and of Mosaic of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction, 2nd edition as well as numerous chapters for professional books and journals on the teaching of reading as well as education policy journals.

Ellin has been a classroom teacher, staff developer, non-profit director and adjunct professor of reading and writing. For sixteen years she directed staff development initiatives at the Denver-based Public Education & Business Coalition. She served as Deputy Director and Director of Literacy and Staff Development for the Cornerstone Project at the University of Pennsylvania for 4 years. Ellin currently serves as Director of Research and Development for the PEBC, as senior advisor to Heinemann Professional Development and works with schools and districts throughout the country and abroad.

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Lisa Birno

image of Lisa Birno

Hometown:Shorewood, MN

Years in Education:27

Current Position:Sixth grade Teacher, Forest Hills Elementary School, Eden Prairie Public Schools

"…My career is the perfect intersection of what I love…I've been asked to pursue an administrative degree by several kind leaders and have always resisted because I know in my heart that my passion resides in a side-by-side collegial approach and with direct interaction with children. This opportunity is exactly what I've envisioned every time I've thought about my ideal growth opportunity."

Action Research Question

What instructional strategies are most effective in promoting equitable and engaged talk in a Midwestern, suburban 6th grade self-contained classroom?

Blog Posts

What would you want to share about your process of discovery?

Lorilee Cabrera Liberato

image of Lorilee Cabrera Liberato

Hometown:Springfield, MA

Years in Education:15

Current Position:Cornerstone Literacy Coach, Springfield, MA

"…As a professional, I work for an urban district in the most impoverished schools and I am honestly tired of hearing the many labels placed upon our schools. Every one of our classrooms contains people who are coming every day to put forth their best effort with minimal power and support. Administrators, teachers and students all need recognition for what they do extraordinarily well and tools to continue growing as learners and professionals."

Action Research Question

What coaching moves are most effective in promoting and sustaining _________ (changes in practice, a specific practice, use of school/ district resource). The specific teaching practice, resource, or change in practice will be determined by a grade-level team Lorilee coaches. The team will make their determination based on student and teacher data.

Blog Posts

What would you like to share with educators about the research process?

Amy Greenbaum Clark

image of Amy G Clark

Hometown:Covington, LA

Years in Education:15

Current Position:English Teacher, Christ Episcopal School, Covington, LA

"…I have an enormous love for learning and for education…Teaching consumes my heart in a way that no other profession could ever hope to do. I wake up excited everyday to teach my students, to learn more, and to share my enthusiasm with colleagues."

Action Research Question

In what ways does the study and composition of poetry impact other modes of student writing; in particular, narrative and scholarly essay writing?

Blog Posts

What tip do you have for other educators about the research process?

Valerie Geschwind

image of Valerie Geshwind

Hometown:New York, NY

Years in Education:6

Current Position:Classroom Teacher, PS 59-Beekman Kill International School, New York, NY

"…I value learning and growing above all else. As an educator, I think it is important to have a sense of the pulse of education on a grander level, but when you are in the bubble of your school building, that can be tricky. Having a diverse group of educators to learn from would allow me to have a new sounding board for ideas and beliefs that I hold close to my heart, such as playful education, helping young learners develop academic talk, building curriculum and students' passions."

Action Research Question

When Valerie was named a Heinemann Fellow, she was a kindergarten teacher in a public school in NYC. She has since become a staff developer for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Her new role prohibits her involvement in classroom-based research for the Fellows. Instead, Valerie will make the Fellows, themselves, the subject of her research, chronicling the story of this inaugural class and observing what effect each Fellow's involvement in the program has on her/ his practice.

Blog Posts

Why is it important to document the Fellows project?

Jessica Lifshitz

image of Jessica Lifshitz

Hometown:Skokie, IL

Years in Education:11

Current Position:Fifth Grade Teacher, Meadowbrook Elementary School, Skokie, IL

"… I have been searching for ways to take my thinking about education beyond myself and beyond the walls of my classroom. I have been yearning for a place where the level of discussion is high and where teachers are eager to grapple with the difficult questions that we face. I have been on the lookout for a place to go to learn and to grow and to push myself to do more and to be better for my students…Anything that allows me to grow for my students is something that I am interested in being a part of."

Action Research Question

What are the most effective instructional tactics to help students to develop their own goals in narrative texts?

Blog Posts

What is one word that describes you as an educator?

Michael Pershan

image of Michael Pershan

Hometown:New York, NY

Years in Education:4

Current Position:Math teacher, Saint Ann's School, NYC

"…Teaching involves so much sprinting. Every day demands its four lesson plans, and by the end of the day each plan has been gobbled up and another four are needed. With all of the day-to-day thinking, it can be hard to take a long view. Taking the long view, though, is absolutely crucial."

Action Research Question

Is written feedback or oral feedback more beneficial for fostering geometric thinking in high school students?

Blog Posts

What would you suggest to other teachers doing research?

Sascha Robinett

image of Sascha Robinett

Hometown:Pasadena, CA

Years in Education:19

Current Position:Principal and School Co-Founder, Milagro Charter School, Los Angeles, CA

"…For the last ten years I have been in somewhat of a "bubble" working closely only with my teachers and students. Although they have taught me so much over the years, our thinking has become very similar due to our close working relationships and common beliefs. I would love the opportunity to have my thinking be influenced by new perspectives and experiences."

Action Research Question

How can engaging teachers in the action research process versus a performance evaluation process impact their sense of agency in improving their instructional practice?

Blog Posts

How has the person you are outside of the classroom influenced who you are inside the classroom?

Julie Nora

Julie Nora

Hometown:Cumberland, RI

Years in Education:24

Current Position:Director, International Charter School, Pawtucket, RI.

"…I have always welcomed the opportunity to benefit from the experiences and expertise of others . . . I have always been interested in applying new knowledge to my practice. And, I am always willing to share what we have learned in the diverse, dual language environment of ICS with the field, to provide an example of an asset approach to educating English Language Learners and an approach that helps all students develop the skills and habits of mind they need in our globally connected world."

Action Research Question

How will having an authentic writing task for global audiences (through blog/Internet) impact student engagement in writing and the quality of their writing in a Two-Way Immersion setting?

Blog Posts

What inspired you to do this research?

Kate Norem

image of Kate Norem

Hometown:Seattle, WA

Years in Education:10

Current Position:Fourth Grade and Second Grade Teacher, The Bush School

"…One of the advantages of being a teacher is that there are endless opportunities for new experiences within the same profession. I believe that we can create savvy, college-ready students who also wonder and question and think deeply…I want to collaborate. I want to impact. I want to reflect."

Action Research Question

What are the differences between a genre-driven writer and a purpose-driven writer? (In this case, a genre-driven writer refers to a student who is taught the strategies, structure and techniques of a type of text [essays, personal, narratives, reports, case-studies, book reviews, reflective diaries, posters, research proposals] and then asked to create his/her own text within the genre. A purpose-driven writer refers to a student who self-selects the purpose of his/her text and is given instruction in how to best accomplish his/her designated purpose)

Blog Posts

What has been the biggest challenges for you in your research?

Tamara Ward

image of Tamara Ward

Hometown:Kalispell, MT

Years in Education:11

Current Position:Fifth/Sixth Grade Teacher, Creston Elementary, Kalispell, MT

"…I seek to give a voice to rural education. As a teacher, it is my desire to represent the unique challenges and concerns of education in the rural setting. While many books and publications address the educational needs in the urban schools, there are also issues and concerns that are unique to the rural schools."

Action Research Question

In what ways does a multidisciplinary learning block in a fifth and sixth grade setting affect the vocabulary students use in their writing? (A multidisciplinary learning block involves the organization of content area standards around a central theme.)

Blog Posts

What has it been like to be a Heinemann Fellow?