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The Evolution of an Edvolution, Chapter One

The Evolution of an Edvolution:

The Kentucky Story

Chapter One — The Budding Desire to “Edvolve” — by MeMe Ratliff

The story of the KYEdvolution began less than two years ago in January 2014 at the Red Mile Race Track in Lexington, Kentucky. Over 200 teacher leaders from across the Bluegrass had accepted invitations to attend the inaugural state convening for ECET2 (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers). There was decent buildup to the event, with a stylish agenda and invigorating correspondence from the host organization, The Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky, a nonprofit organization established in April 2013 to provide encouragement and support for teachers, school leaders and others as they work toward adopting a new culture of continual improvement and innovation.

View outside the window of the Red Mile racetrack

What no one could have planned for leading up to the convening was a horrific snow and ice storm (I say this with a facetious tone, knowing that in northern states, this storm would be a mere formality, yet in Kentucky, the nearly 8 inches of snow caused massive strife and angst). Of the 200 planned attendees, barely 50 were able to make the event. The majority of those were from areas of the state over two hours away, who were able to drive to Lexington before the storm hit. What should have been a ballroom full of buzz and activity was in fact quite empty, with attendees moving from desolate tables of one or two educators to merge with others to create a handful of populated tables amid the mass of snowy white tablecloths.

In spite of the elements working against them, those in attendance were exposed to a day of unique, personalized sessions that introduced the emerging network of teacher leadership in the state. Organizations like theHope Street Group, the Prichard Committee and the Center for Teaching Quality, as well as emerging voices in state education, spread their missions and visions to the crowd. It was amazing to see the “Ahas” — the lightbulb moments that were evident on the faces of those who had braved the cold and snow to unknowingly begin their teacher leader journey. Formal sessions of Colleague Circles were strategically placed throughout the day to foster conversations through guided discussions. This opportunity further engaged those in attendance in state-level conversations that were occurring between partnering organizations in Kentucky education.

“Welcome to your Blank Canvas” visual used by Megan Allen during her keynote

To fuel the fires ignited by the powerful sessions promoting collaboration, professional growth and connectivity, a keynote was given by Megan Allen, 2010 Florida Teacher of the Year, spoke with powerful conviction centering on each person’s “blank canvas” and how they would fill their empty board with memories, stories and challenges. The speech served as a brilliant compliment to the empowerment that resonated throughout the day.

As the event neared it’s conclusion, the Fund’s Executive Director, Barbara Bellissimo, sought out individuals who would be interested in furthering their involvement with the ECET2 movement. This call for action helped lead to the next chapter in the KYEdvolution…


The Evolution of an Edvolution, Chapter Two

The Evolution of an Edvolution:

The Kentucky Story

Chapter Two — Holes in the Calendar: The Need for Continual Professional Growth — by MeMe Ratliff

The educational landscape of the Bluegrass State is somewhat predictable. Educators in larger school systems, located in more populous areas, are afforded more opportunities for professional growth. Of the sessions offered, most are on weekends, in the summer, or held on three day weekends. Many aren’t well publicized. A plethora of competent, willing learners exist, but they lack the knowledge that is taught to students in early elementary — four of the “5 W’s” — who is offering the training, what is the content, when is the event, where is the venue? The fifth W, the why, is evident. Professional learning is key to effective pedagogy.

After the original ECET (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers) convening in January 2014, it became evident that the teachers of Kentucky wanted…

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Physical Activity Leaders in Kentucky – #KYPAL

I took part in Physical Activity Leader (PAL) training this week in Richmond, KY.  The training is offered in conjunction with the Let’s Move Active Schools (LMAS) program, which encourages schools to offer physical activity before, during and after school to help today’s students live healthier lifestyles.  The PAL mantra is “60 a Day” – striving for for 60 minutes of physical activity per day.  The training was offered by Jamie Sparks @jamiesparksCSH, Coordinated School Health (CSH) Director at the KDE, and Jessica Lawrence @cairnguidance, nationally recognized health curriculum specialist and owner of Cairn Guidance, who last year biked across the country to raise money for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation organization.  57 teachers from across the state came together at the Kentucky Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance summer workshop for the one day training.

The purpose of the PAL training is to help PAL’s to implement the Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP), advocate for their programs, increase the amount of physical activity time offered at their schools, get their staffs more involved and actively engage their families and communities.  Attendees are given an overview of the PAL system and are taken step by step through the implementation process.  The “Next Steps” feature guide the PAL through the next 12 months in their journey.

In 2012, I went through the Director of Physical Activity (DPA) training with Dr. Aaron Beighle from UK, and was discouraged when I learned that so quickly another program was being created to replace it, but after attending the PAL training, I can see that it is a natural progression of the DPA.  I encourage everyone who went through the DPA process to also get their PAL certification.

One of the things that I left the PAL training with was the need to actively advocate for my student’s physical activity.  It’s easy to sit back and feel that you have a successful program.  Every school in my district signed up for the LMAS program, but many haven’t taken advantage of the myriad of tools that it offers.  The goal is to assess the school, set up an action plan, implement the plan and celebrate successes.  Many schools haven’t even started the process.  I really feel that through this training (and the training June 20th in Louisville for JCPS teachers), changes will take place to help create truly active schools.

I can’t wait to take my program at Greenwood Elementary to the next level!  I have identified my immediate goals and am already creating methods to help me achieve them.  With the support of the national PAL Community, I’m sure that all of the #KYPAL trainers will create schools that are examples for those that surround them and truly impact the health of their students, staff and communities.


If you are looking for me, find the cute bald guy laying in the front row and look just to his right.  I’m in the grey shirt above the purple Under Armor shirt:).




Join Jamie Sparks (KYSHAPE Network – @JamieSparksCSH), Jacy Wooley (Alliance for a Healthier Generation – @jacysproverb) and MeMe Ratliff (JCPS – @meme3rat) on Wednesday 2/5 and 2/12 at 9pm EST/8pm CST) for #SDpechat – we will be discussing the upcoming @SDAAHPERD @KYAHPERD Southern District Convention (Feb.19-22) in Lexington, KY. Anyone is welcome to take part in the Twitter Chat. We look forward to the conversation!

Welcome to Your Blank Canvas – #ECET2KY

My #ECET2KY experience began with the trip to the Red Mile in snow and treacherous driving conditions.  I rarely made it above 40MPH and a normally benign drive took 2.5 hours.  By the time Taylor Haydock (@MrsTCH – Kennedy Montessori Elementary) arrived, it felt like I’d been in the Iditarod Race.  I had packed rations in case I ended up stranded, but thankfully, they were not used.  I did, however, keep my snow boots on as I trudged into the event.

Once we got in and found our table (and sweet swag bag), it wasn’t long before the magic began.  MC Mickey Campbell introduced the day’s events and changes that needed to be made due to the inclement weather (no Google apps session), and then Barbara Bellissimo (@bbellissimo – Fund for Transforming Education in KY gave a welcome, explanation of @thefundKY and introduction to Irvin Scott (@iscott4 –  Gates Foundation).  We sang – yes, sang – to a version of the Black Eyed Peas and gave a rousing “SHOUT OUT” until we had enough spunk.  I must say that by this time, I was captivated.  The #tag #ECET2KY was probably trending by this time!

Sherri McPherson (@SherriRMc – Fayette County) was the first speaker and posed a question that many of us may have been asking, “Why am I here?”  She spoke with passion of her ECET experiences and spoke of rejuvenation for our profession.  To remember WHY we teach and what drew us to teaching.  She encouraged us to be a voice for our profession; to work together to forward education.  With all the hoops we as educators must jump through today, it’s easy to lose sight of those.  As she spoke, thoughts of special moments with students popped into my head.  I love my job.  I get to “play” and form the foundation of what it means to be “healthy” with my students.  I am truly blessed!

My first breakout session was with Robin Reid and Brison Harvey of Lafayette HS – “Learning and Improving Practice through Collaboration.  Taylor and I were teamed with Brian McDowell and Renee Boss (@renee_boss – KDE) and collaborated to build a 28.5 inch house of cards and a structure made from 18 pieces of raw spaghetti, string, masking tape, a rubber band and a marshmallow which nearly stood on it’s own:)  We looked at the Tom Wujec: Build a Tower, Build a Team TED talk and spoke about how collaboration is imperative for the educational process.

We came back for the first of two colleague circles where we shared our leadership “super power” and discussed what leadership meant to us.  My circle included Brian McDowell (Mason County), Mickey Campbell (Fayette County), Paradise Forbes (@pforbes81 – Williamstown), Ali Wright (@alicrowley – Fayette County) and Anna Shultz (@aetps13 of the Gates Foundation).  As I listened to Anna explain her work at the Gates Foundation and the exciting things planned for #ECET2, I felt an overwhelming desire to get even more involved with being a teacher leader.

Our second breakout session was with Ali Wright and the Center for Teaching Quality (#CTQ) team.  We were posed a quote from Barnett Berry (who was in attendance), “It’s time to blur the lines between those who teach in schools and those who lead them.”  We were asked to compare our version of what leadership is to what we had heard so far.  I must say that my views on leadership were being challenged by the company that I was in. This was not just any group of educators.  There were teachers of the year at either side of me. There were nationally recognized leaders and innovators.  I felt motivated to be more of a leader in my school, district, state and beyond. We were asked to create a professional action plan and were given an amazing template to use.  I made it a point to ask for additional copies so I could share with my colleagues.

During lunch, our keynote speaker, Megan Allen (@redhdteacher – Florida, Mt. Holyoke College), delivered a passionate talk.  She showed a street sign from New Orleans that says, “Welcome to Your Blank Canvas” and asked what we would put on our canvas.  She shared stories of students.  Her “Grip of Trust” story hit close to home, reminding me of my son, William, an Aspie.  It was so uplifting to see her passion that she fills towards her work.  I later attended Megan’s breakout session called Fireside Chat, without a doubt my favorite session.  We worked in groups to list celebrations and challenges after we watched a Tosh 2.0 clip on Jessica’s Affirmations The statement “We don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges” really made an impression on the group.  Megan talked about Imposter Syndrome and having faith in your abilities, believing that we do have a voice and we are the experts in our field, so we must have a voice.  We are all leaders our own way.  My new friend Kelly Stidham (@kastidham – KDE) posed the question that seemed to sum up our challenges.  Her post it read, “Have we clearly defined what our work is as a profession?”  We were taxed to think about what leadership looked like at our schools, which tied in with something said at my colleague circle that stuck with me, “Is everyone in my building ready to be a leader?”  As I drove home, those two questions took up most of my time.

We met back in our colleague circles again to discuss what work needs to be done in our profession, what the role of the teacher leader looks like, next steps for ECET2, and how we can network.  Josh Roberson (Robertson County) was our closing speaker, addressing “How did I get here?” “Why YES is so Important” and “Are We Professionaly Fit.”

The day was so empowering.  From the speakers to the people at each table to the questioning and challenges, I left feeling like I had a more defined idea of what I wanted my teaching and leadership to look like.  New goals were realized, new friendships were made, and most importantly, I realized how much more there was that Kentucky had to offer it’s students.  We are at the front of the educational movement in this state.  We must not rest on our laurels and continue to push forward with innovative new ideas and fresh thinking.  I’m so honored to be part of that movement.

On a #physed note, I met two amazing physical educators from Central Kentucky.  Melody Hamilton (@WoodfordcntyPE – Woodford County) and Emily Coleman (Fayette County).  Melody will be a presenter at next month’s SDAAPHERD Conference on Teacher Effectiveness.  Meeting other physical and health educators is always so exciting!Image

Coordinated School Health Summit 12/5

This was such an amazing event for the state of Kentucky and the future of our children.  The newly formed KYSHAPE network put on an amazing event in Louisville on Dec 5th, and I was so honored to be able to attend and speak about health education as it relates to Coordinated School Health.  It’s about time that everyone else knows how important Bonnie Ciarroccki’s Health Promotion Schools of Excellence program is – it’s been centered around CSH from the start over 20 years ago.    Jamie, Todd, Stephanie and Vicki did a wonderful job of spreading the word about how important each of the 8 areas of the CSH format are.  Each county from the state sent a team to implement the ideas they learned there.   My Aunt, Connie Meek, was amongst the attendees from my home county, Johnson.  Being able to speak with her in attendance made the event special, and having my son (along with nine other of my Greenwood students) perform GoNoodle activities for the crowd meant that three generations of my family were able to be present at the event.  It was a perfect day (minus the fender bender after), and I hope it lays the groundwork for Kentucky to be a leader in the Coordinated School Health movement!Image

I’m a Slacker

What a difference!

We at the Greenwood were very leery about choosing a new principal for our school.  Most students, teachers and parents would say that the outgoing principal was not a good fit.  A person who was more in tune with the community and socioeconomic status of the “South” end of town really meant. 

In Dylan Owens, we hit a home run.  His motto is THE GATORS ARE RISING!  It’s created quite an air of enthusiasm and work ethic.  People want to come to work.   Th kids are starting to show some respect for the staff.  We ARE rising from what we were just a few weeks ago.  Not too long ago, we were the school everyone in the area wanted their kids to attend.  I have a feeling that this reputation will be ours in the not so distant future. 

Check us out on our FB page – greenwood elementary school (page not place).  You’ll be seeing constant proof that we are back where we belong!


Connecting the educators in JCPS in positive, solutions-oriented conversations.

Coach Ratliff #physed

Trying to physically educate the world, one person at a time...


A discussion of best practices in the modern Physical Education classroom