My Piece of the Puzzle

  • I take big, abstract, complex things and devise elegant visual or written representations of them.
  • I ask thoughtful questions, engaging in curious criticality without judgment or presupposition.
  • I am attentive to details of systems, processes, and flow, ensuring that logistics enhance, and never detract from, meaningful creative work.

My Background

I was that lucky kid who figured out what she wanted to be in the second grade: The minute I started piano lessons, I was ready to sign up for a lifetime of study, practice, and performance at the piano, to the exclusion of just about everything else (especially state capitals and multiplication tables). And I was also that perhaps unlucky kid who developed rheumatoid arthritis, a painful chronic and incurable illness, in the 6th grade. Being chronically ill as a teen and adolescent presented challenges—and school, before the advent of the Americans with Disabilities Act, was the site of both infuriating limitation and profound liberation for me as a sick kid. I learned, before I had the language for it, the difference between teachers who approached me from a deficit mindset and those who focused on what I could do–what I loved to do–and poured every resource into giving me space to do it (hi, Mr. Frezzo and Mrs. Katz!).

By the time I finished high school and decamped for the desert, those loves were firmly music and writing (naturally, then, the mid- to late-90s found me in my mercifully short-lived coffeehouse open-mic songstress phase). As I continued on my course as a music major dabbling in writing short stories (fueled by my ENG 101 teacher’s encouragement), my arthritis continued on its progressive course as well, swelling my fingers, rupturing my tendons, and deforming my joints. It was clear to me that I was not headed for a life on the concert stage. Some crucial and creative teachers lit a new path: Dr. Metz taught me harpsichord, which was easier on my hands than the piano. And the creative writing faculty let me crash-enroll in their graduate fiction workshops as I finished up the last requirements of my undergraduate degree in music theory and composition. Then, I set my sights on writing. After all, those teachers had given me space and tools to identify that what I wanted to chase was the experience of creation and composition, that I wanted to be in community with others chasing those things, and that I had choices about what instrument to use, what medium to work in. I was admitted to the MFA program in creative writing and given the chance to teach first-year composition.

My first experience of teaching was like second grade all over again, that feeling of oh, this this this is what I want to do forever! After three years of happily reading, writing, and teaching, upon graduation I found work as an editor and writer in the design and marketing world. Soon thereafter, I found myself longing to be back in the classroom so, after seeking the counsel of a former teacher (naturally), I took a position teaching 10th-grade English in an independent school. For 13 years, I practiced being and becoming the kind of teacher I was so lucky to have had in my own life: one focused on what learners could do and what they wanted to be, not on how they measured up against one another or some supposed “norm.” I loved being in community with other teachers who wanted to keep learning how to enrich our physical spaces, our curriculum, and our teaching moves with things that would dignify, connect, and empower all learners and also how we could unlearn the impulse to get in their way.

By the time I left that school as Director of Curriculum and Instruction, I was eager to find a new community of educators and thinkers who would help me keep growing in those ways, which is how I found my way to reDesign. As an Educational Designer, I have a role to play in many areas of our work, and much to my delight, the work allows me to activate all aspects of my previous experience. In my work with our school partners, I get to be my teacher self, designing and implementing learning experiences for adults to accomplish meaningful goals in their practice. In my work with our Social Impact projects, I get to be my creative designer/composer self, writing, researching, studying, sketching, and hashing out big ideas with other powerful thinkers, all toward the goal of reimagining how our learning system could better serve all learners.

The question that drives me is, how do we create more spaces, not just schools, where that experience I had in the second grade at the piano—that powerful experience of this is for me and I am for this—happened more frequently, and in multiple subjects or disciplines at once, and for everyone? What if when learners asked how do I get good at this?, we organized everything around helping them find the answers to that question? And then we got out of their way?

Learning Communities & Credentials

  • Studied music theory and composition at Arizona State University
  • Obtained my MFA in Creative Writing (fiction) from Arizona State University
  • Earned my Ed.D in Leadership and Innovation, with an interest in young writers’ agentic writing behaviors, beliefs, and identity, from Arizona State University
  • Published Sonata: A Memoir of Pain and the Piano (Pegasus Books) in 2017
  • Published in the Journal of Research on Educational Leadership, Radical Teacher, and Harvard Education Review

What Brings Me Joy in the World

I still play piano and recently took up the lap steel guitar. I love anything creative and generative (and slow and quiet): knitting, drawing, baking Bundt cakes, and growing succulents. I recently started studying Arabic, and I’m totally in love with it. I volunteer with the Arthritis Foundation and with the Arthritis Center at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

What I’ve Been Inspired to Work On

The work that especially inspires me is our Social Impact work. I love being in thought partnership with colleagues, young people, and thinkers/practitioners in other learning contexts to reimagine what curriculum, pedagogy, and school cultures could be like–and then figuring out how to make it happen!

From our reDesign community to yours, we look forward to connecting, co-designing, learning, and sharing with you.