Schoolin' Around, Your K-12 Education Podcast

    New Episodes Every Tuesday

    Dive deep into conversations about the current reality of K-12 education with Branching Minds' podcast, Schoolin' Around. 

    Schoolin' Around is a weekly podcast hosted by Branching Minds, featuring prominent leaders, subject-matter experts, and thought innovators with their perspectives on the current challenges, burning topics, innovations, and new ideas in K-12 education.

    This podcast dives deep into the current reality of our education system. Through the collaboration and insight of our guests, Schoolin' Around connects challenges to solutions, tackling the big problems and questions related to education—with a bit of fun thrown in. After all, sometimes you just need to School Around.


    Latest Episodes

    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - Ep47

    Ep 47

    What You Need to Know About High Impact Tutoring

    In this episode, Dr. Janet Wilson discusses the principles and benefits of high-impact tutoring and how it can be integrated into the school day. She emphasizes the importance of aligning tutoring with classroom instruction and measuring its effectiveness through both quantitative and qualitative data. Dr. Wilson also addresses the challenges of funding and sustainability, highlighting the need for districts to repurpose existing resources and prioritize tutoring as a cost-effective intervention. She shares success stories of districts that have implemented high-impact tutoring and discusses the mission of Littera Education in providing affordable and effective tutoring programs.

    Takeaways
    • High-impact tutoring is a highly effective intervention that can support students in making significant academic gains.
    • Tutoring should be aligned with classroom instruction and use high-quality instructional materials that are consistent with the curriculum.
    • Measuring the effectiveness of tutoring requires both quantitative data, such as student progress on standardized tests, and qualitative data, such as improved self-efficacy and transference of skills to the classroom.
    • Funding and sustainability of tutoring programs can be achieved by repurposing existing resources and prioritizing tutoring as a cost-effective intervention.
    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - Ep46

    Ep 46

    Reading SOS: What About Secondary Students Who Can't Read?

    In this conversation, Dr. Katherine McKnight discusses the challenges and trends in secondary students' literacy. She emphasizes the importance of higher-level questioning and deep comprehension skills. Dr. McKnight also highlights the need for a clearly defined literacy plan and professional development for teachers. Additionally, she addresses the integration of literacy instruction across content areas and the role of school leaders in prioritizing literacy education.

    Takeaways
    • Secondary students often struggle with reading comprehension and deep comprehension skills.
    • A clearly defined literacy plan and professional development are essential for improving literacy instruction in middle school and high school.
    • Integration of literacy instruction across content areas is crucial for deepening understanding and promoting higher-level thinking.
    • School leaders should prioritize literacy education and provide the necessary resources and support for teachers.
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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - Ep45

    Ep 45

    MTSS Explained: How To Apply an MTSS Mindset to Your PD

    In this episode, Larissa discusses how to apply the MTSS mindset to professional development (PD) for adults. She highlights the need for effective PD and many teachers' dissatisfaction with the quality of their learning experiences. Larissa emphasizes the importance of differentiating PD for adult learners and explains how to assess their needs and engage them in their learning. 

    Takeaways
    • Effective professional development is crucial for supporting teachers and improving student outcomes.
    • Differentiate professional development for adult learners based on their needs and preferences.
    • Apply the MTSS mindset to professional learning by providing systematic and differentiated PD for educators.
    • Scaffold new staff members into the MTSS practice and provide ongoing support and coaching.
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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - Ep44

    Ep 44

    EdHotTake – Arts and Electives Classes, a Forgotten Element in MTSS?

    In this conversation, Larissa and her guest, Lindsay discuss the role of arts and elective classes in developing the whole child. They highlight the importance of belonging and connectedness, shared experiences and a sense of responsibility, learning soft skills and reinforcing job skills, overcoming challenges and building resilience, fostering creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence, and learning life skills and the consequences of choices. They emphasize the significance of electives and arts classes in providing a more robust educational experience and acknowledge the impact of teachers in creating safe spaces for students.

    Takeaways:
    • Arts and elective classes provide opportunities for students to work with their creativity, develop self-expression, and foster a sense of belonging.
    • These classes offer a safe space for students to explore their interests and develop a shared sense of responsibility.
    • Electives and arts classes help students learn soft skills and reinforce important job skills for their future professional lives.
    • Students in these classes learn to overcome challenges, build resilience, and develop critical thinking and emotional intelligence.
    • The experiences and skills gained in electives and arts classes contribute to the development of the whole child and should be valued in education.
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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - Ep43

    Ep 43

    Ask an Expert — Why Mental Health in Schools is a Big Deal

    Dr. Essie Sutton, the Director of Learning Science at Branching Minds, discusses the connection between student mental health and academic performance. It is well-established that these two factors are deeply connected, with poor mental health impacting a student's ability to focus and engage in learning. This relationship is bi-directional, with academic performance also influencing mental health. However, there are barriers to addressing mental health issues in schools, such as limited resources and a focus on academic priorities. 

    Takeaways:
    • Student mental health and academic performance are deeply connected, with poor mental health impacting a student's ability to focus and engage in learning.
    • The relationship between mental health and academic performance is bi-directional, with academic performance also influencing mental health.
    • Barriers to addressing mental health issues in schools include limited resources and a focus on academic priorities.
    • Creative approaches like flexible scheduling and wellness centers can help address mental health issues in schools.
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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - Ep42

    Ep 42

    What Can We Do About Attendance?

    Lindsey Helton, an elementary school principal, discusses the importance of attendance and shares strategies for addressing attendance issues. She emphasizes the need for a strong home-school connection and student-led conferences to empower students and improve attendance. Lindsey also highlights the challenges of high mobility and the importance of treating people with respect and assuming positive intent. She believes that elementary education is the foundation for future success and encourages schools to focus on getting students on grade level. 

    Takeaways

    • Building a strong home-school connection is crucial for addressing attendance issues.
    • Student-led conferences empower students and improve attendance.
    • High mobility can be a challenge in addressing attendance.
    • Treating people with respect and assuming positive intent is foundational to effective leadership.
    • Elementary education is the foundation for future success and should focus on getting students on grade level.
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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - Ep41

    Ep 41

    MTSS Explained: What Does Fidelity Monitoring Mean for MTSS Interventions?

    In this episode, host Larissa explores the concept of fidelity monitoring in MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports). Fidelity monitoring refers to the consistent implementation of interventions and assessments to ensure student progress. Larissa highlights the importance of fidelity in intervention implementation and the challenges that can arise when fidelity is lacking. It also discusses the role of fidelity monitoring at the school level and provides strategies for supporting staff and improving fidelity. 

    Takeaways
    • Fidelity monitoring is crucial in MTSS to ensure the consistent implementation of interventions and assessments.
    • Common challenges to student progress include selecting the wrong intervention, student absences or behavioral issues, and lack of critical features in intervention implementation.
    • Fidelity monitoring at the school level involves regular observation and feedback, self-evaluation, and reflection.
    • Supporting staff and improving fidelity requires using fidelity rubrics, direct observation, and adequate training and follow-up
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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - Ep40

    Ep 40

    EduHotTake – Schools Should Be a Community Hub!

    In this conversation, Larissa and her guest, Whitley, discuss the importance of schools in the community and how educators can transform school-community relationships. They emphasize the need for schools to be viewed as community hubs and highlight the impact that can be achieved through shared goals and stakeholder involvement. TThe conversation underscores the significance of building strong connections between schools and the community to support the holistic development of students.

    Takeaways
    • Schools should be viewed as community hubs, bringing together various stakeholders and resources to create a sense of partnership and shared goals.
    • Engaging with the community can have a positive impact on students, families, and educators, fostering a network of support and investment.
    • School culture plays a crucial role in community engagement, and it is important to prioritize the heart work of education alongside curriculum and instruction.
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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - Ep39

    Ep 39

    Ask an Expert – Are MTSS and SPED the Same Thing? 

    In this episode, Larissa interviews Ashley Pennell, a Senior Customer Success Manager at Branching Minds, about the overlap between MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports) and special education. They discuss the confusion surrounding these two concepts and how they work together. The conversation concludes with strategies for administrators to help teachers understand the role of special education in the MTSS process.

    Takeaways
    • Data analysis plays a crucial role in both MTSS and special education, helping to identify students needing additional support or evaluation for a disability.
    • Challenges in implementing MTSS as an administrator include the siloed approach to education, lack of universal screening processes, and the need for training and resources.
    • Strategies for administrators include starting with equitable practices like universal screening, utilizing the expertise of special education teachers and school psychologists, and fostering open conversations about MTSS and special education.
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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - Ep38

    Ep 38

    MTSS is not another thing, but THE Thing — Live Podcast with Dr. George Batsche and Dr. Judy Elliot

    In this episode of the Schooling Around podcast, Dr. Judy Elliott and Dr. George Batsche discuss trends and challenges in MTSS, empowering teachers, supporting mental health, and implementing MTSS at the secondary level. They emphasize the importance of data-driven decision-making, collective leadership, and collaboration in the MTSS framework. They also highlight the need for student voice and the role of district-level support in implementing effective MTSS practices. The conversation concludes with strategies for addressing initiative fatigue and building trust in the MTSS process. 
     
    Takeaways:
    • Data-driven decision-making and collective leadership are essential in the MTSS framework.
    • Supporting student mental health and incorporating student voice are crucial for successful MTSS implementation.
    • Empowering teachers and providing system-level support are key to sustaining MTSS practices.
    • Implementing MTSS at the secondary level requires schedule adjustments, resource mapping, and early warning systems.
    • Addressing initiative fatigue involves building trust, starting with data, and taking incremental steps. In implementing MTSS, it is crucial to involve all levels of the educational enterprise in the decision-making process.
    • MTSS promotes equity by providing differentiated supports for all students.
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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - Ep37

    Ep 37

    MTSS Explained - How To Find Evidence-Based Interventions

    In this conversation, Rachel Butler, Learning Science Content Specialist, and Larissa discuss the importance of good interventions in the context of a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS). She emphasizes the need to consider the research behind interventions and recommends using the ESSA tiers of evidence to determine their effectiveness. Rachel also highlights the factors to consider when evaluating intervention research, such as study design, results, sample size, and alignment with the school or district context. She provides resources for finding evidence-based interventions and suggests involving school psychologists in the decision-making process. 

    Takeaways:
    • Good interventions are essential in MTSS and should be based on research and evidence of effectiveness.
    • The ESSA tiers of evidence provide a framework for determining the quality and suitability of interventions.
    • Resources like What Works Clearinghouse and Evidence for ESSA can help educators find evidence-based interventions.
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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - Ep36

    Ep 36

    EdHotTake: Relevancy – Make Professional Learning Sticky

    In this episode, Larissa interviews Lisa Marquardt-Krol, an instructional design manager, about professional development (PD). They discuss the importance of case studies in PD and how they help educators put themselves in the shoes of students and practice interventions. 


    Takeaways

    • Case studies are a valuable tool in professional development as they allow educators to put themselves in the shoes of students and practice interventions.
    • Providing choice and relevance in professional development ensures that educators in all subjects and roles can benefit from the learning experience.
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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - Ep35

    Ep 35

    Ask an Expert: How to Create Safe and Supportive Schools

    In this episode, Larissa Napolitan and Trudy Bender, School Psychologist and Branching Minds Senior Manager of Thought Leadership Content, discuss the top concerns for school leaders, with a focus on creating a safe and supportive environment for both students and staff. They emphasize the importance of building a positive school culture and the role of administrators in modeling the behavior they expect from their staff. They also highlight the need for administrators to be present on the ground and understand teachers' challenges. Small gestures of care and concern, such as providing special lunches or allowing teachers to dress comfortably, can greatly improve staff morale. Additionally, seeking feedback from staff through anonymous surveys can help identify areas for improvement and create a more positive work environment.

    Takeaways
    • Creating a safe and supportive environment is a top concern for school leaders.
    • Building a positive school culture is essential for both students and staff.
    • Administrators should be present on the ground and understand the challenges faced by teachers.
    • Small gestures of care and concern can make a big difference in improving staff morale.
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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - Ep34

    Ep 34

    From MTSS 1.0 to 2.0--Cultivating a Growth Mindset with Mineola Public Schools, NY

    This week, we kick off Season 2 with an in-depth interview with the MTSS leaders in Mineola Union Free School district in New York.  Their collective leadership approach and their shared MTSS vision have transformed how their district approaches student improvement. Larissa sat down with 3 of their leaders who have spearheaded the work to discuss what worked for them, as well as how their MTSS practice looks at the secondary level. 

    Takeaways
    • Making MTSS work K-12 requires the long view, students in 2nd grade will be in middle school and high school.
    • Your MTSS may never be perfect, but you can always be growing towards a better practice.
    • Strong leadership and communication are essential for successful MTSS implementation in secondary schools.
    • Building a strong Tier 1 foundation is crucial for supporting student growth.
    • Leveraging existing practices and resources can enhance the effectiveness of MTSS in middle and high schools.
    • Making growth visible and celebrating progress are important for fostering a positive learning environment.
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    Season 1

     

    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 33

    EP 33

    EdHotTake #4 Teacher Well-Being– Self-Care Isn’t Enough

    The school year has its ups and downs, and even though the stretch from November to December contains a lot of fun activities, educators are exhausted leaving for Winter Break.  Most likely, they might feel an undercurrent of a cold or be completely drained. Depending on the year, they might wonder if there is another job that doesn’t leave them feeling this exhausted, with nothing left to give their family for the holidays. 

    In today’s episode, host Larissa shares a few thoughts about teacher well-being and tips for setting yourself up for a better year. 

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 32

    EP 32

    EdHotTake #3 Science of Reading– Addressing Unbalanced Literacy

    In 2022, the national average reading score at both fourth and eighth grade decreased by 3 points compared to 2019. Literacy curriculum is under the microscope, and the Science of Reading has become a hot topic of conversation in school districts nationwide. 

    For this episode, I called on our own Data scientist, Dr. Eva Dundas to ask her about some misconceptions about Science of Reading. We discussed why Science of Reading is about equitable teaching practices and how it can be a foundation that prevents students from struggling later on.

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 31

    EP 31

    EdHotTake #2 Technology– Teachers Deserve Great Tech Tools

    Teachers everywhere are using technology to make their lives easier; instead of relying on students to carry home field trip flyers, they send an email; instead of hand calculating grades, they can have students take online quizzes, and grades automatically imported into the grade book. This is the way it should be. But, why is Tech still sometimes resisted?

    Each week this month, we invite a guest for a short conversation, diving into misunderstandings around Hot Topics and Tough questions in education.  For our second episode, Larissa talks about misunderstandings around technology with former educator Antonio Jackson, who serves on our Data Implementation team, helping districts implement a system-level technology.

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 30

    EP 30

    EdHotTake #1 Behavior—Is It Just About Building Relationships?

    Amidst the many opinions swirling around education, navigating the chatter can be dizzying. But fear not! This December, Schoolin’ Around is here to untangle the web of perspectives. Each week this month, we invited a guest for a short conversation, diving into misunderstandings around Hot Topics and Tough questions in education.

    For our first episode of this series, Larissa chats with our Professional Services team member, Christina Solinger, about supporting behavior needs in schools. Christina holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and a K-12 School Counseling License. Christina is passionate about working alongside educators to repair equity gaps in the public school system through the power of data, joy, and courageous reflection. 

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 28-1

    EP 29

    Special Edition: Our Top 6 Education Leader Insights for Effective MTSS

    We are celebrating One Year of Schoolin’ Around by sharing favorite moments from the show over the last year.  Host Larissa Napolitan is in the hot seat and joined by Community and Social Media Strategist Melanie Gonzalez.  

    We discuss why MTSS is so magical, a few valuable pieces of wisdom guests have shared, and Larissa shares a few insights from her own experience as an educator. 

    We are looking forward to Season 2 in January, but don’t miss our 4 part Education Tough Question mini-series in December!

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 28

    S1 EP 28

    How Clear Communication Impacts Your MTSS with Krissy Martin

    For educational leaders striving to move change initiatives forward, they have to do the work to bring everyone on the same page, which includes having a common language and clear communication. The episode guest, Krissy Martin of Roanoke Rapids School District in North Carolina, talks about the importance of developing a common language as they implemented MTSS, ensuring more consistency in their MTSS practice. In the episode, we dive into specific techniques she developed for effective implementation and what it means to be visible as an administrator.


    Krissy Martin began her career as a public educator in Halifax County Schools in 2013 as a middle grades English Language Arts and Social Studies teacher. She served as the AVID program coordinator for her school. 
    Krissy began coordinating the Academically & Intellectually Gifted (AIG) program in Weldon City Schools in 2016. She also served as Beginning Teacher Coordinator, Professional Development Coordinator and Interim Director of Curriculum & Instruction and Testing & Accountability for Weldon City Schools. In June 2023, Krissy joined Roanoke Rapids Graded School District as the MTSS/COVID-19 Interventionist Coordinator. 

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 27

    EP 27

    How to Build Your MTSS Structure with Christine Downing

    Every school has its own unique challenges and culture, and when a new initiative such as MTSS comes along, it might seem easier just to replace the old ways with the new ways.  However, our guest today, Christine Downing, says that an important aspect of MTSS implementation is to start with examining what aspects of MTSS are already happening and build on those practices.

    Christine Downing is an educator and leader of 30 years in New Hampshire, often taking on dual roles for small districts, such as a principal and Curriculum Director.  She currently serves as Director of Curriculum and Instruction for 3 different districts, helping educators with the resources they need to support students. 

    In this episode, we talk about leveraging resources and the importance of building a teacher toolbox.  We also dive into some foundational aspects of a strong MTSS practice.

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 26-min

    EP 26 

    Leading through System Level Change featuring Simma Reingold

    Leaders are working hard to make their schools great, often facing many challenges, like getting others to agree on what needs to change.  Change can be hard, especially within an established school system, with long-held beliefs, traditions, or struggles. 

    In this episode, we discuss why change is so hard and how leaders can build their root cause analysis and strategic thinking skills. Our guest, Simma Reingold, works with schools and leaders all over the country, helping walk teams through the process of large-scale change, whether that is implementing MTSS or a curriculum overhaul.

    Over the last ten years, as a Strategy and Operations Consultant, Simma has facilitated in-depth strategic planning engagements with Superintendents to radically redesign policies, practices, and organizational structures so that the vision for the future can become a reality today. She specializes in community-centered design, leveraging student and educator feedback to guide district-level decision-making while uncovering new and unique ways to solve persistent challenges. 

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 25

    EP 25

    Being A Reasonable MTSS Leader with Angie Plugge, Director of Learning

    In the world of education, every year new initiatives are promised to be the magic bullet that solves all the problems.  However, many of those new things don’t last. Educators can be weary of something new.  Our guest today understands the hesitancy; however, in her work, Angie Plugge, director of Learning in Waverly, Nebraska, spends her days building an MTSS practice that stays true to its purpose, helping teachers evaluate the impact of core instruction and meet the needs of students. 

    In this episode, Angie and Larissa talk about building an effective MTSS practice, the impact of collective efficacy, and how leaders should strive to be reasonable as they implement new practices and frameworks.  Angie brings 23 years of experience leading school and district teams through improvement efforts.  She spent her first 19 years working in Title I middle schools as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal, where she learned how to set up MTSS systems.  She now serves as the Director of Learning in a mid-sized rural district where she supports schools in setting up their MTSS systems. 

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 24

    EP 24 

    Unlocking the Potential of ELL Students With Author Emily Francis

    Most teachers will tell you that teaching is not just about helping students learn content but about how to think about themselves, the world, and even their place in it.  Our guest today, Emily Francis, talks a lot about the power of story and how that can help students find their way, especially if they are immigrant students encountering language and cultural challenges.

    In this episode, Emily and Larissa sat down to discuss the power of stories and how teachers and administrators could reach English Language Learners in powerful ways. 

    Emily Francis is a teacher, author, and speaker excited to talk about the potential of English Language Learners because she knows exactly what they are experiencing.  As an immigrant student, she experienced what many students around the country are experiencing.  She is passionate about sharing with educators the power that stories can have in unlocking their potential.  She even wrote a book about her story and the stories of her students called “If You Only Knew: Letters from an Immigrant Teacher.”

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 23

    EP 23 

    MTSS and Equity: The Rising Tide That Lifts All Boats With Emily Myers

    Schools around the country are still feeling the effects of interrupted learning and finding their way to help students grow and succeed.  Many of those schools know that they can’t go back to the way things were before, and they want to make a change to impact ALL students. For Emily Myers, MTSS Director of Orange County Schools in North Carolina, she desires to lead her team in the work of equitably supporting students through MTSS.  

    In this episode, Emily spoke with us about her journey with MTSS and how her mindset shifted from just identifying students for special education to truly making equity the center of her work. She is kind enough to share a story about how MTSS made a difference for a student very close to her heart. We also talk about how serving students is getting comfortable operating in the messy work of decision-making and doing what’s best for students even when it isn’t always clear. 

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 22

    EP 22 

    How Prevention is the Key to MTSS with Gary Schaffer

    In the work of educators, one area that continues to challenge schools is making sure that we are helping students in the best way possible, preventing problems for them further in the future.  Now more than ever, educators are looking to researchers to find the most effective interventions and provide them with guidance and what to do with the needs they see in the classroom.

    Gary Schaffer, the guest for this episode, is one of those researchers.  He is also an author striving to create materials and resources to help educators do their job to the best of their ability and help students succeed.  Not only does he have years of experience as a school psychologist and academic, but he also brings the perspective of a student who received special education services. Growing up as a struggling student with ADHD and a learning disability, Gary Schaffer has dedicated his professional practices and life to helping all learners succeed. Gary received a bachelor’s degree in special education and English and subsequently became a school psychologist and clinical mental health counselor. He has authored three books related to MTSS for SAGE and Routledge Publications 

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 21

    EP 21 

    Being a New Principal with MTSS featuring Justin Petersen

    Any educator will tell you that the first couple of years in a new role is like drinking from a fire hose.  There is so much to learn and adapt to, even more so when you are a new principal.  

    In this episode, Larissa talks with Justin Peterson, the elementary principal in Broken Bow, Nebraska.  He stepped into a new role this year and is not only learning what it means to be a principal but is learning all about how MTSS can help a school meet the needs of students. He was ready to chat about what it means to be a learner somewhere new and how much he loves his job.

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 20

    EP 20 

    How Teamwork Makes a Difference for MTSS with Gwinnett County Schools

    It takes a lot more work and planning to make a large wheel turn, but in Gwinnett County Schools, their team did just that. They have been working hard these last few years, making the wheel of school improvement turn with their strategic work with MTSS, and they are seeing the impact of their efforts.

    In this episode, Larissa chats with  Dr. Tinisha Parker, Executive Director of Student Services, Dr. Debbie Durrance, Executive Director of Data Governance, and Elizabeth Moore, Director of Instructional Development and Support for Gwinnett County Schools, Georgia, one of the largest school districts in the country. They share the process of bringing their teams together to truly make a difference for their students and how sometimes the MTSS process requires unlearning before adding anything new. They also share their wisdom for those just beginning the process and share about their work moving forward.

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 19

    EP 19 

    MTSS and Montessori: Personalized Learning at Island Village

    There are many types of schools worldwide, based on different philosophies and ways of educating children. The Montessori method is just one of those different types of schools, with hands-on learning, student choice, and small group-based learning.  Founded by Italian Doctor Maria Montessori, this method is typically found in early education and private schools, but small charter schools are based on this different teaching method.

    In this episode, we talk with Jennifer Ocana and Jennifer Sessa from Island Village Montessori, a K-8 charter school in Florida's Sarasota County School system.  Jennifer Ocana is the Head of School for Island Village but has been teaching and leading for 20 years in Montessori schools, and Jennifer Sessa is the Director of Pupil Support, working with the Special Education staff. We talk about how MTSS and the Montessori philosophy are closely linked and how they lean into differentiated instruction to help meet the needs of their diverse population. 

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 18

    EP 18 

    MTSS for Maximizing Learning for Students with Dyslexia with Kristen Beesaw

    Reading difficulty has an outsized effect on a student's ability to be successful in school and life. In the past few years, more and more states have been passing legislation around dyslexia, requiring schools and teachers to have the knowledge and to screen students early. 

    In today’s episode, I sat down with Kristen Beesaw, Assistant Director of Interventions and 504 for Bryan Independent School District.  We talked how about misconceptions about dyslexia and how a Multi-Tiered System of Supports can help meet students that are at risk for dyslexia.  Kristen was kind enough to share how Bryan is striving to intervene early and implement best practices to support students at risk for dyslexia. 

    Kristen Beesaw has been in education for 28 years, all with the Bryan Independent School District. She has served as a high school Language Arts teacher for 13 years, then Technology Specialist, Secondary Language Arts Coordinator, and then as Dyslexia Coordinator.  Currently, she is the Assistant Director of Interventions & §504, where she oversees MTSS/RtI, Dyslexia, Secondary Reading interventions, the district’s summer programming, and §504.

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 17

    EP 17 

    Supporting ELL Students through Classroom Relationships with Gabi Graham

    As educators, we know that we cannot control what students bring in with them each day, whether that be academic, behavioral, emotional, or even language learning needs.  An educator's job is to support students, helping them feel safe so that they can learn and meet their goals. 

    This episode is a conversation with Gabi Graham, a former elementary dual language teacher passionate about helping schools support students from other cultures.  We talk about how different aspects of student mental health can affect outcomes and how sometimes simple things can make all the difference in helping students feel safe and that they belong, no matter their culture. 

    Gabi Graham balances the roles of being the mother of 2 sweet girls and a successful sales development representative for Branching Minds. As a former dual language educator and lover of all things EdTech, she can understand user needs daily. She lives in a beautiful west Texas border city where the mountain views are breathtaking, the people are warm, and the tacos are truly the best! Give her a good book on a rainy Texas day and she is sure the be the happiest gal around!

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 16

    EP 16 

    Reflecting on Your MTSS Practice with Karen Castle

    Karen Castle, veteran educational leader and Executive Director of Professional Learning at Branching Minds offers wisdom about wrapping up the school year and questions for leaders to reflect on their MTSS practice.

    We also dive into the idea that “Remembering Your Why” is insufficient without the why and the how of making a school transformation.  

    Karen is the Executive Director of Professional Learning at Branching Minds, where she leads a team of education consultants to provide guidance and support to schools and districts as they implement Branching Minds and improve their MTSS practice. Prior to Branching Minds, Karen spent 12 years building a national professional development program for Amplify Education, a leading company in the education technology space. Before her work in the Edtech space, Karen served as curriculum director, principal, and teacher for several school districts in the North Texas area for 23 years. Karen holds an M.Ed. from the University of North Texas and a Superintendent’s Certification from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 15

    EP 15 

    School Transformation Begins with the Adults with AJ Crabill

    The guest for this episode, AJ Crabill, advocates for taking risks to find a better way to improve schools and support students. AJ Crabill believes that “Student outcomes don't change until adult behaviors change.” 

    In this conversation with AJ, we talk about his work in helping improve schools and helping schools create student-led restorative circles.  Restorative practices focus on resolving conflict, repairing harm, and healing relationships. It really is an overarching term to referring to strategies that help build community in ways that treat humans with dignity and respect. 

    AJ Crabill serves as Conservator at DeSoto, Texas ISD. During his guidance, DeSoto improved from F ratings in academics, finance, and governance to B ratings. He’s also Faculty at Leadership Institute of Nevada and Director of Governance at the Council of the Great City Schools. He served as Deputy Commissioner at the Texas Education Agency and spearheaded reforms as board chair of Kansas City Public Schools that doubled the percentage of students who are literate and numerate. Crabill is a recipient of the Education Commission of the State's James Bryant Conant Award.

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 14

    EP 14 

    Using Early Warning Indicators to Support Students with EWI Expert Sarah Frazelle

    One way to intervene early in support of students is to use utilize Early Warning Indicators, such as attendance, behavior, and class grades. These are helpful indicators for identifying students that may need support in the future and allow educators to intervene before a student needs more intense support.  

    In this episode, we talk with Sarah Frazelle, a researcher in Early Warning Indicators. We talk about why getting systematic support is necessary and why teachers might have a hard time taking attendance. 

    Sarah Frazelle is the Director of Early Warning Indicator Systems and MTSS for the Puget Sound Education Service District in Seattle, WA.  She has been working on Early Warning Indicator Systems since 2012. In that time, she's moved from the analysis of early warning data to coaching school, district, and state agencies on how to most effectively implement these systems. She has helped support a variety of districts, from small rural districts in Montana to large urban districts like Portland, Oregon, and across multiple states.

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 13

    EP 13 

    How MTSS Can Support Positive Behavior With School Psychologist, Trudy Bender

    Recently it has been reported that more than 80 Percent of U.S. Public Schools say the pandemic has negatively impacted student behavior and socio-emotional development.

    Trudy Bender is the perfect person to give us some insight into how the system and school culture can help teachers with these issues. She previously served as the Coordinator of District Behavior Intervention for the Waco Independent School District, where she facilitated the implementation of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports for Behavior, including initiatives to improve school climate and connection, provide effective Tier 2 and Tier 3 behavior intervention programs, and coordinate wrap-around services and transitional support for students in alternative disciplinary settings. Trudy is now Branching Minds MTSS Content Manager.  But she still serves the state of Texas as a Restorative Discipline Facilitator. Trudy is a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology and a Nationally Certified School Psychologist.

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 12-min

    EP 12

    Connecting MTSS Best Practices to Ed Policy with Abigail Woodworth and Yoni Doron

    Now more than ever, a spotlight is being shined on our education system. Requiring states to make decisions to help support educators. Schools, teachers, and students need help. In this episode, our two guests are working to connect and build relationships with policymakers, researchers, and those who can help change the system for better student outcomes. 

    Abigail Woodworth, VP of Communications at Branching Minds, and Yoni Doron,  Branching Minds Chief Strategic Partnership Officer, have been a part of the company since the beginning and have seen how important it is to help schools and districts not only individually but at the policy level.  

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 11-min

    EP 11

    MTSS + Tech = Magic: Solving Educators' Pain Points With Emily-Rose Barry, VP of Product

    When a teacher uses educational technology, there can be frustrations about its uses in the classroom, its functionality, and its purpose.  Our newest guest seeks to help make technology work FOR educators, not against them. 

    In this episode, we talk with Emily-Rose Barry, the VP of Product at Branching Minds. Much like many of our guests, her journey began in the classroom as a student wondering how learning worked.  Our conversation covers her accidental journey to her current role and how technology assists educators in doing their job better. 

    Emily-Rose Barry has worked in Education Technology in roles overseeing Product and Customer Success for the past ten years. Before joining the world of agile software development, she taught reading and writing at every level, from early childhood to college, administered special programs for an adult literacy nonprofit, and published short fiction and poetry as a freelance writer. She co-founded ProductTank Buffalo, a local community for networking and professional development.

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 10-min

    EP 10

    How Student Wellness Impacts Academic Outcomes With Dr. Essie Sutton

    Recent research on students’ mental and emotional health has revealed a dire need for educational professionals to do something to help. More than 15% of students have had a depressive episode in this last year. And many parents believe their students would benefit from mental health assistance.

    Our guest for this episode, Dr. Essie Sutton, an applied developmental psychologist, has made it her job to learn more about how social-emotional learning and mental health support can actually help students. In this episode, we discuss how teachers use evidence-based practices in the classroom, the need for a deeper understanding of student wellness, and what she is learning from her work.

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 09-min

    EP 09

    Academia Meets K-12 Technology: A Personal Journey of Chief Product Officer Dr. Eva Dundas

    Have you ever thought about how you can think different thoughts and how your brain works? Beginning from childhood, this week’s guest loved to think about how people think. Dr. Eva Dundas and I sat down to chat about how a Dr. of Developmental and Cognitive Psychology became a Chief Product Officer for an EdTech company.

    We dive into how she went from being an academic research scientist to seeking a role to apply her knowledge and see research in action. I was most excited to talk with her about why learning science isn’t what some may believe it to be and why teachers should be called Learning Engineers. 

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 08-min

    EP 08

    Always a Learner: Transition From Teacher to EDTech CEO With Maya Gat Part 2

    The best leaders are the ones that know they can’t be an expert at everything.  They often continue to learn and seek out other experts to join their team. In this episode, Part 2 of our conversation with former educator turned Edtech CEO, Maya Gat, she continues to lean into the idea of humility and the power of learning. 

    She expands on how she is always a learner and how she translated her skills as a teacher to her role leading a company.  

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 07

    EP 07

    “Why Not Me?” Transition From Teacher to EdTech CEO With Maya Gat Part 1

    Every compelling story has an unlikely hero, someone on an adventure to solve a problem, find a treasure, or save the day. We have the privilege of hearing one of these great stories for this episode. Former teacher Maya Gat shares with us how she became the CEO and Co-Founder of Branching Minds. This episode is part one of the conversation. We cover where it all started, her journey to be a teacher, and what has continued to compel her in her work today. Tune in for part two in a few weeks!

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 06

    EP 06

    50 Years of Leadership in RTI/MTSS: A Conversation with W. Alan Coulter, PhD, and Eva Dundas, PhD

    Since the purpose of this podcast is to bring you conversations with practitioners and experts from the field, to discuss the challenges of supporting students and schools, we had to share a special episode featuring Dr. Alan Coulter and Dr. Eva Dundas. In this episode, originally recorded for our 2022 MTSS Summit, Dr. Eva Dundas, Branching Minds Chief Product Officer, sat down with Dr. Coulter to discuss his experience leading RTI/MTSS as an educator, psychologist, and consultant over the past 50 years.

    Dr. Coulter is a licensed psychologist and organizational development consultant (Directions & Resources Group), providing technical assistance, professional learning, and executive coaching in school improvement. For more than 52 years, Alan has been an educator involved in school improvement at the local, state, and national levels.  Currently, he provides technical assistance in support of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) and improvement of results in special education using principles of improvement science and implementation science to states and local schools. He is keenly interested and involved in the design, implementation, and evaluation of efforts to improve results.

    Dr. Coulter is also a Research Associate at the Center for Applied Research & Educational Improvement (CAREI) collaborating with colleagues in program evaluation of Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), Response to Intervention (RTI), and special education programs.  For CAREI, Alan also currently serves on the Intensive Support Team of the Wisconsin Minnesota Comprehensive Center. Alan is a consultant to Com-Link, a firm providing intensive technical assistance to the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education on accountability and improvement of results.

    Sign up here for the follow-up Q/A webinar with Dr. Coulter on Jan. 19th!

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 05

    EP 05

    MTSS is Finding the Right Intervention with Jenna Blank

    For our final episode of the “Voices from the Field” series, we are talking with Jenna Blank, who is an educator at Livonia Elementary School in a small, rural community of Livonia, in Western New York. 

    Jenna has been an educator for 14 years and 3 years ago took on a new position of coordinating the RTI/MTSS process for her school and loves being about to work closely with teachers and families in support of students. Previously she had been a classroom teacher and reading specialist.  She continues to teach PreK in the mornings and loves the ability to focus on early foundational skills with her little ones!

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 04

    EP 04

    MTSS Requires Shifting Mindsets with Tiffany Studivant

    We are excited to share our conversation with Tiffany Studivant, who is in her 11th year with Clark County School District in Athens, Georgia. Her energy and enthusiasm for her work are contagious. 

    Tiffany has extensive experience in supporting students and families at the school level as well as supporting building leaders at the district -level. After nine years as an elementary Special Education Teacher and Team leader, Tiffany joined the district’s support staff in her current role. She currently serves as a District MTSS Implementation Specialist, coaching and guiding 14 building-level Elementary MTSS coordinators with the overall implementation of the MTSS framework. 

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    BRM Podcast - Schoolin Around - EP 03

    EP 03

    The Power of MTSS as a Collaborative Problem-Solving Process with Dr. Lydia Williams

    For our third installment of “Voices from the Field” we have the opportunity to hear from another excellent educator, Dr. Lydia Williams from Long Island, New York.

    Dr. Williams is an educational leader, administrator, and scholar with over 17 years of experience in elementary education. Her prior roles as a classroom teacher, academic intervention specialist, and International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme coordinator have all converged to influence her current work as an MTSS coordinator for the district of North Bellmore in Long Island, New York. In our conversation, we discuss how a Multi-Tiered System of Supports helps provide students with what they need to thrive. 

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    BRM Podcast_Schoolin Around_EP 02

    EP 02

    MTSS Is More Than Just an Intervention” With Trisha Senne

    Continuing our series highlighting “Voices from the Field,” we sit down with another superb educator, Trisha Senne, from Elk Grove Village, Illinois. 

    Trisha started her career as a special education teacher, then transitioned to be a behavior and learning consultant for the district before landing her current role as the Coordinator of Assessment & MTSS for the Community Consolidated School District 59. In this episode, we talk about how data collection can impact how a school helps students feel like they belong and how schools and communities can be transformed when there is a solid system or framework in place.

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    BRM Podcast_Schoolin Around_EP 01

    EP 01

    “MTSS Is Equity With its Work Boots On” - A Conversation With Donna Cross

    To kick off our podcast, we are featuring a few remarkable educators in a series called “Voices from the Field.” These are education rockstars, leaders in their school communities, and serving to support students and teachers. 

    Today, we begin our podcast with Donna Cross, the Director of MTSS and SEL in Evanston Skokie School District 65 in Illinois. We talk about how MTSS or a Multi-Tiered System of Supports can provide students with what they need when they need it. She also shares how her journey began with her childhood experiences and shaped her approach to supporting students.

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