Elementary Facilitators

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Rhonda Brill

What is your “WHY” for teaching? Why do I teach? This is simple. I love helping children set and meet goals. I get the greatest pleasure when a student pushes herself to accomplish a task that she is not sure she can do and when she is successful her joy overflows.

Area of Expertise: My area of expertise involves the connection between a project and standards. This comes naturally to me. I enjoy building the scaffolding and creating growth rubrics. I enjoy using data charts to show the students how they grew academically through the project.

What is your PBL Experience: I have taught for 10 years at a PBL magnet school- six years in 2nd grade and 3 years in 5th grade. I will be embarking on a new adventure this next year. I will be moving to a traditional school. I will be teaching in 1st grade.

Favorite aspect of PBL: My favorite aspect of PBL is the authentic connection between the students, community partners, and the project. I like seeing students making a real difference in the community.

Why do you enjoy facilitating? I enjoy facilitating for Magnify Learning because I love sharing how PBL changes the classroom environment. I love working with other teachers, sharing and learning strategies together. PBL enriches my teaching experience and gives new life to learning.


Kate Cain

What is your “WHY” for teaching? I became a teacher to impact the world at young ages. Our children are the future. What we invest in them today we will see blossom for many years. 

Area of Expertise: I have been teaching kindergarten in a PBL school since 2012. Kindergarten is definitely my area of expertise.  

PBL Experience: I have been teaching PBL since I signed my first, official teaching contract. Before landing my first contract, I was a special education teacher in a traditional school setting. After experiencing PBL, I would find it quite difficult and unimaginative to go back to teaching in a traditional setting.  

Favorite aspect of PBL: Student voice and choice along with student empowerment guiding teacher lessons would be my favorite aspect of PBL. Students have ownership, which leads them to engagement and academic success.

Why do you enjoy facilitating? I enjoy facilitating so I can watch my students grow not only academically but socially as well through teamwork and other frequent interactions with peers.


Raven Chandler

What is your “WHY” for teaching? Since I was little I always wanted to help others and teaching was a 
perfect fit.  I love seeing those “aha” moments and working with all students to achieve their goals while making a difference in their life.

Area of Expertise: I have been teaching for 10 years at the elementary level.  I have worked with Special Ed, 3rd, and 5th grade mostly using PBL and Universal Design for Learning in the classroom.

PBL Experience: I have had the opportunity of teaching in a PBL elementary building for 8 years!

Favorite aspect of PBL: My favorite aspect of PBL is collaborating and working with community partners.  Seeing students practice their 21st century skills and grow as life long learners is truly inspiring.

Why do you enjoy facilitating? I love facilitating because it gives students the opportunity to be
engaged and have hands on learning.  I enjoy watching ALL students grow socially and educationally.  Facilitating also allows myself, an educator, the opportunity to collaborate with others.


Diane Clancy

What is your “WHY” for teaching? I have been the Director of Professional Development and a facilitator for Magnify Learning since I retired as an elementary school principal at the end of the 2015-2016 school year.  I became a teacher to help children to be all they could possibly be, academically and as productive, contributing citizens of this country.  I became an administrator, because I wanted to create a learning environment where every student would be successful.

Area of Expertise:  Implementing PBL in the elementary classroom from the perspective of the teacher and as an administrator.

PBL Experience:  I had the honor and privilege to be the principal of Columbus Signature Academy – Fodrea Campus (CSAF), a Pre-K to 6 wall-to-wall PBL school in the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation (BCSC), which opened in the fall of 2010 as one of two BCSC elementary schools in the first K-12 PBL pathway in the US.  In 2012, CSA Fodrea was recognized for the highest percentage of growth on the ISTEP+ assessment in the state of Indiana.  My entire staff and I received our PBL certifications during the 2014-2015 school year, Supervising the PBL Certification for Magnify Learning is one of my responsibilities as Director of Professional Development. 

Favorite aspect of PBL:  My favorite aspects of PBL are student voice and choice, student ownership and advocacy for their own learning, connecting the standards to the authentic need to learn them, and the opportunity for students to obtain employability skills that will contribute to their success in the job force.

Why do you enjoy facilitating?  I enjoy facilitating because I feel I am touching the lives of even more children through teaching a strategy I feel strongly meets the needs of all students: students from poverty, students with learning challenges, students who are English Language Learners, students from other cultures, all students.


Meganmarie Dennis

What is your “WHY” for teaching? Making a positive impact on students, inspiring them to achievetheir dreams.

Area of Expertise: Elementary school education with an emphasis in science and outdoor education. I have my Pre-K- 6th grade certification, middle school science, and Pre-K-12 special education.

PBL Experience: I received training in PBL the summer of 2010 and implemented it into my classroom from 2010-2015.  I was a facilitator from 2012-2014.

Favorite aspect of PBL: I love how students expand their knowledge through their own creativity and through real life experiences, making it a more meaningful and effective way of learning.

Why do you enjoy facilitating? I enjoy sharing ideas with others on how we can be more effective educators.


Suzanne Diehn

What is your “WHY” for teaching? I love what I do and want to make a difference in a child’s life. This can be academically or social/emotionally. I want all my students to know they are loved and know they are important to the world.

Area of Expertise: I am really strong in community partners and building long lasting relationships with them. I am not afraid to ask someone to help us out or if they can suggest someone to help.

PBL Experience: I was part of one of the first cohorts to receive PBL certification in Indiana. I have been facilitating PBL workshops for the past 5 years.

Favorite aspect of PBL: My favorite aspect of PBL is the community involvement and the ability to show how the content and skills students are learning in the classroom can apply to their lives long beyond school.

Why do you enjoy facilitating? It is an opportunity to share my passion as well as hear great ideas from other educators and hear their perspectives on PBL and its application.


Shanna Eidson

What is your “WHY” for teaching? My “WHY” for becoming an educator is quite simply THE KIDS! I want to have an impact on students. I always wanted to do something with my life that would help others. I love children and found that teaching them is one of the most rewarding things anyone could do.  Children are my passion, I can’t imagine doing anything else!

Area of Expertise: I have taught for 18 years. I taught Kindergarten, First Grade, Third Grade, Reading Recovery, and I was a reading coach.  I have been an elementary principal for 7 years.  I have a Master’s Degree in Education and a Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership.

PBL Experience: I received a week long training in PBL from Magnify Learning in the summer of 2016.  Two of my teachers implemented PBL the following school year.  My school hosted an academy the summer of 2017 where the teachers in my building were all trained by Magnify Learning.  The following year PBL was implemented by every grade in my school.  I have watched my teachers grow and become successful facilitators in a PBL environment.

Favorite aspect of PBL: My favorite aspect of PBL is that it is authentic! The children understand the WHY of a project. They get on fire to learn so they can be successful in their project.  When a student knows they are going to present their final project to a real world audience they become engaged and passionate about the project. 

Why do you enjoy facilitating? I am excited to facilitate  a PBL workshop because I love sharing with other teachers new ways to engage students. Every time a teacher becomes a facilitator I know many students will now have a new love of learning!


Sherry Hashman

What is your “WHY” for teaching? Teaching opens up the world to people who wonder and ask why. I love to be able to cultivate curiosity and empower students and teachers to believe in their ability to seek and find answers through authentic settings. I want all students to be equipped to face any challenge and succeed.

Area of Expertise: Integrating Curriculum, Involving Community Partners, Universal Design for Learning

PBL Experience: I had the privilege to participate in the Design Team for CSA Fodrea in Columbus, Indiana when it transitioned from a traditional to project- based school. There I had the opportunity to facilitate a second grade classroom for six years before moving to my current role as the UDL Facilitator and PBL Coach in the building. One of my highlights has been to teach the PBL process in Beijing, China.

Favorite aspect of PBL: My favorite aspect of PBL is that it is driven by passion. When students are actively involved in authentic learning they see relevance and the teachers are freed to facilitate. Students and facilitators are empowered to reach beyond simple tasks and are able to connect as contributing global citizens.

Why do you enjoy facilitating? I enjoy facilitating because I am able to share my passion for PBL. I truly believe that it is the best way for students to learn, and it is rewarding to work with other teachers who are realizing the power that exists within their own PBL journeys.


Alyssa Lamb

What is your “WHY” for teaching? I love teaching because I want to make an impact on kids while they are young so that they will grow up to be active community members.

Area of Expertise: I primarily teach reading and writing.  I love working with the kids to come up with community partners for projects.  I also enjoy helping them execute their vision for their PBLs.

PBL Experience: I have been a PBL facilitator for four years.
Favorite aspect of PBL: My favorite thing about PBL is developing citizenship in my students.  I get to watch them become community activists, who can recognize and fulfill the needs of others.
Why do you enjoy facilitating? My favorite thing about facilitating is that every year is different.  I never teach the same thing because every group of kids is different.  The standards are the same but the content and interests the kids have are always unique.

Heather Lankford

What is your “WHY” for teaching?  I have a love for learning that I hope to instill in my students as well.  Teaching gives me the opportunity to make a positive impact on my students’ lives each day as we learn and laugh together.

Area of Expertise: I teach at the elementary level, and primarily focus on ELA.  Currently, I am part of a PBL co-teaching classroom which involves two Gen Ed teachers, one SpEd teacher, and two paraprofessionals.

PBL Experience: In 2016, I was trained in PBL and then piloted it in my classroom.  The next summer, most of the teachers in our school were trained as we began implementing PBL school-wide. I have now been teaching in a PBL classroom for two years, and I cannot imagine ever going back.

Favorite aspect of PBL:  One of the most impactful aspects of PBL is the student empowerment.  It is truly amazing to see the students realize that, even at such a young age, they have the power to make a positive impact on their community! Another thing I love about PBL is how it levels the playing field and allows ALL students a chance to shine by using their personal strengths.

Why do you enjoy facilitating?  After seeing the success and growth in my students, I wholeheartedly believe that PBL is what’s best for kids.  I want to share that with other educators so they too can transform student learning.


Emily Lavendar

What is your “WHY” for teaching? I spent a summer in South Africa in college where I served in an elementary school. After this trip, I felt called to teaching. I want to provide a safe, fun, engaging, challenging, and loving learning environment to all of my students. I teach because I believe children can do incredible and amazing things!

Area of Expertise: I received my Bachelors of Science in Education  and Special Education at Samford University in Birmingham, AL. I have taught 3rd grade, 6th grade science, and am currently teaching 5th grade.

PBL Experience: I attended a Magnify Learning PBL 101 (now called PBL Jumpstart) Training during my first year of teaching. I began to learn more about PBL, visit schools, talk to experts, and begin meaningful projects in my own classroom.

Favorite aspect of PBL: I love nothing more than to see my students engage in a project that is meaningful and connects to the real world. I love that PBL allows my students to own their learning and challenge them in different ways. It is empowering and gives students an amazing sense of confidence.

Why do you enjoy facilitating? I love facilitating and helping other educators in their PBL journey because I know the great impact it will have on their students. I love seeing educators be empowered and creative in their thinking. It is a great joy to be part of!


Alyssa Mentz 

What is your “WHY” for teaching? I never thought twice about which career field to go into when deciding, and PBL has proven that she chose the correct path.

Area of Expertise: I am is currently a 3rd grade teacher at New Tech demonstration site, Washington Discovery Academy.

PBL Experience: I have been teaching for 6 years, all of which have been in a PBL setting.

Favorite aspect of PBL: The deeper, real-world learning and problem solving that PBL fosters is life changing for both the teacher and the student.

Why do you enjoy facilitating? Seeing solutions to problems, and the confidence students have while interacting with problems is the most enjoyable part.


Holli Sears

What is your “WHY” for teaching? I have always loved learning and I hope to instill that love and curiosity in my students. I love seeing students make growth, especially in areas where they struggle, and see the pride they have in themselves.

Area of Expertise: I focus on math and science.

PBL Experience: This is my second year of implementation. We have completed 3-4 projects each year. My team teacher and I started this journey and the rest of our 5th grade team joined us this year!

Favorite aspect of PBL: I am helping to create a group of students who feel empowered! I love that my students know that they can do something about issues they see in their own community!

Why do you enjoy facilitating? I enjoy helping other teachers discover project based learning and see their excitement when they see its potential in their classroom! I love learning from others and growing my own PBL knowledge in the process.


Maddie Shepard

What is your “WHY” for teaching? I am Maddie Shepard, a Professional and Deeper Learning Resource Teacher in Jefferson County, Kentucky. I chose this noble profession because I love empowering others, every day is different, and I find joy in helping kids realize their potential and work towards reaching it!
Area of Expertise: I have taught all subjects in second to fifth grade as a classroom teacher, and have worked with teachers at all levels in a resource teacher role.
PBL Experience: I was trained in PBL in 2015, and haven’t looked back since!  I have implemented countless PBL experiences in all subject areas in my classroom over the years, and have worked with teachers at all levels and all over my district to co-design, implement, manage, and assess PBL in their own classrooms.
Favorite aspect of PBL: My favorite thing about PBL is that it is, in many ways, “the great equalizer”; all students have a chance to thrive, show and use their talents, and work on real world problems and solutions that matter to them.  PBL is a great way to engage learners and empower them to use the content as a vehicle to drive learning, growth, and reflection.
Why do you enjoy facilitating? I love facilitating because we get to tailor our training to the learners-the teachers!  When we do this we empower teacher-learners to employ their interests, talents, and strengths to design PBL experiences for kids that are authentic, rigorous, and saturated with student voice, choice, and ownership!  I love seeing teachers feel empowered to take on new roles as co-designers of learning experiences for kids, putting kids back in the driver’s seat, and owners of their own learning.

Anne Soden

  • What is your “WHY” for teaching? I just love working with children! I strive to be a positive character in a chapter in their book of life.
  • Area of Expertise: My area of expertise is teaching reading and writing. This is my 15th year of teaching and 14 of those years have been teaching 5th grade so I would say 5th grade is an area of expertise!
  • PBL Experience: I have taught two years in a PBL classroom and this is my first year of facilitating.
  • Favorite aspect of PBL: My favorite aspect of PBL is that students in a PBL classroom have the opportunity to help others. Children are our future, but they are also our right now! They can learn to make a difference in the world and in their community for a better right now through PBL.
  • Why do you enjoy facilitating? I like the opportunity to meet other teachers who want to embark on this PBL journey to make a change and a difference in student’s lives, their school, and their community.

Jeff Spencer

What is your “WHY” for teaching?  I was injured during my junior year of college and volunteered to coach track at an area high school.  Working with young people and being able to have a measurable difference became a lot more attractive than working in an office building every day trying to improve someone’s profit margins.  I want to ensure students have the ability to be productive citizens.  As an administrator, I am able to impact more students than when I taught a class of students.
Area of Expertise:  I was a middle school facilitator and have now worked in elementary education and as an instructional coach and administrator.  I love facilitating the change process and leadership development.
PBL Experience:  I started by teaching PBL in my social classroom in isolation before transitioning into co-teaching PBL in an integrated classroom in middle school settings.  Moving to the elementary level, I was an instructional coach and administrator in a PBL building.  While principal at Washington Discovery Academy in Plymouth, Indiana, our school was the first elementary school recognized as a New Tech Network Demonstration site and our third grade team won the Best in Network Project.
Favorite aspect of PBL:  My favorite aspect of PBL is the authenticity and engagement.  I taught middle school social studies and I can tell you that middle school students don’t typically care about social studies content or standards.  The first time I did a PBL unit all of my students completed it and presented, and it wasn’t even done well on my end.  When we give students meaningful work and an authentic purpose, they take ownership of it and exceed our wildest expectations for what young people can do.
Why do you enjoy facilitating?  I love facilitating because I believe spreading PBL and student-centered practices is a moral imperative.  Our students deserve this type of learning and working in high poverty schools, there is an opportunity gap that PBL can close.  All students deserve whatever it takes, every day,, and this is the best model I’ve seen to address the needs of all students.

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