The Chalk Blog

Dawn Butler

Dawn Butler is the Lead Course Specialist with Learners Edge. Prior to joining the Edge, Dawn was a high school English teacher for 11 years. In her free time, she can be found wrangling her 6 year old son, 3 year old daughter, 2 cats, and a dog. Her parents were teachers, her husband is a SPED teacher, and her parents-in-law are teachers, which really helps Dawn to continue to foster her passion for education as she works to offer the best possible courses at the Edge!
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Recent Posts

The Back-to-School Letter

Get your school year started off right!

You head to the mailbox and as it creaks open, you see a district envelope. Acceptance of the PD you took, you think…maybe even reimbursement? 

It’s the Back to School Letter (BTSL).  

The End of Break Letter. 

The No More Fun Letter. 

You can feel your heart sink into your stomach. It’s this very tangible, very time-sensitive letter that starts the school dreams and Sunday night worries. Your alarm hasn’t been set for 2 months, but now you are beholden to higher powers - the school, the contract-time clock, and your students. 

The BTSL sets the stage for all the lists and tasks that the start of school brings. But I’ve also found that the BTSL serves much more positive purpose beyond the nudge of starting to think about the upcoming school year. Here are some messages I’d encourage you to see as silver linings of this signal (back) to action. 

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Topics: Summer Vacation, Back-to-School

Digital Detox

Living in the moment, not through a screen

“Ok, Mom. If we are going to Itasca, I don’t want anyone on their phones. Phones stay off and put away.” 

This is rich, I think. My 8-year-old son, who is constantly sneaking screen time, is laying down the law on screens. We are getting ready for our annual visit to Itasca State Park with my side of the family. It’s where the Mississippi begins! It’s a childhood favorite of mine- a place I cherish and want my kids to know and love, too. 

“Well, I think you are right in your idea,” I say carefully, wanting him to know I am supporting him. “Remember that we will need our phones to get a hold of each other, because we are staying in separate parts of the park.”  

He considers this. “Yeah, good point.” 

“But I think what you are getting at is that you don’t want to see us all staring at our phones. We should be where we are.”  

“Exactly, Mom. Like, we are in nature! Breathe! Look around! You don’t just sit there staring at a screen!” 

Aside from wishing I was recording the conversation to use in later situations, appreciate his thoughts about this. He’s right.  

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Topics: Technology, mindfulness

Struggle with the Juggle

The balance of work, life, family, and everything in between!

Like so many working moms, I “struggle with the juggle”: being a parent, a partner, and an employee fills up my brain to overflowing on a regular Tuesday. Add another commitment in there – even a small one – I need to rearrange everything to accommodate it. Many people seem to be able to handle it. I am not one of those people. 

There’s a lot of talk about self-care right now pertaining to educators (and humans in general), and it’s making me an ace at saying no, even though I don’t like doing it. 

“Sorry, I can’t volunteer/ chaperone /attend all the things at my kids’ dance/ Girl Scouts/ PTA/ soccer, etc.” 

I don’t like shirking responsibility, and don’t like that it makes me look like I don’t want to be involved.  

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Topics: educator wellness, Teacher Burnout

Trade School vs. 4-Year Degree

Adapting to How Students Learn BestBlake was a junior in high school in my first year of teaching. He was in my 6th period of the day. His hair flopped over his twinkling and mischievous eyes, and we had a great relationship. We’d joke around and tease each other. He drew a lot- hysterically funny comics, especially. He was a gifted swimmer who consistently performed well in the pool. He also liked to create things and tinker around with different materials. 

Unfortunately, he just didn’t want to be in my English class. Blake missed assignments, failed tests, refused to retake or submit things late. I coaxed, cajoled, tried to meet him halfway, find alternative assignments. Results were few and far between; he straddled the line between a D and a F for most of the trimester. Blake’s mom, his science teacher, and swim coach were involved with the effort too. We even went down to the 11th hour- having him submit some work so he made it above a D so he could swim to compete in the state swimming meet. He barely scraped by. 

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Topics: Instructional Strategies, Student Engagement

Teacher Feature: Josh Petitt

Interview with Josh Petitt

When we were kids, our minds were blown when we saw teachers outside of school. It was so out of context, but mysteriously cool: we saw them as humans, rather than just as their professional selves. 

To this end, the Learners Edge Chalk Blog interviews teachers in a regular segment called "Teacher Feature!" To hear more about the people behind the magic in the classroom, read on, and be inspired by these fantastic education superstars.


Josh Petitt is a middle school English Language and English Language Arts teacher at St. Paul City School, a pre-k through eighth grade charter school near the capital. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Masters of Arts in Teaching through Hamline University. Josh lives in Hugo with his wife, two daughters, ages ten and seven, as well his son, who is three years old. The family also has a dog named Slipper.  

Why did you decide to become a teacher? 

"As is usually case with major decisions, there is not single reason. After earning my undergraduate degree, I tried a series of jobs over several years. Most of them paid reasonably well, but they also left me feeling incomplete. I knew I needed to look for something wherein I felt I could make a difference, wherein I felt I mattered beyond the bottom line. At that point, I started volunteering, and one assignment was a middle school in Burnsville, MN, where I enthusiastically volunteered with one of their English as a Second Language classes. After the first day in that school, I knew I wanted to teach middle schoolers; I simply enjoyed the children that much. So why did I become a teacher? I suppose the easiest answer is that I enjoy spending time with adolescents."

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration, Teacher Appreciation

Our New Course on Student Anxiety!

Becoming Aware of Anxiety in the Classroom

Bear with me as I give you a very superficial and hypothetical quiz. Which of these kids have anxiety?  

  1. An 18-year-old college student states, “I’m totally freaked out about my philosophy test tomorrow.”
  2. A somber looking 4th grader usually has his hands up in his sleeves and tends to stare at the floor.
  3. A chatty middle schooler is hanging out with her friends, but often leaves the group and runs away.
  4. A teacher asks in a class discussion, “what do you think, Aaron?” Aaron stares back and looks like he can’t breathe.
  5. A 3rd grader has trouble staying in her seat and is constantly kicking the chair in front of her.

All of them do, and each one is demonstrating a kind of symptom. And, it’s possible that none of them have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. 

Confusing? Fair enough. The confusion and blurry lines around anxiety make it challenging to identify or diagnose.  


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Topics: anxiety, Courses

Teacher Feature: Carol DeGeorge

Interview with Carol DeGeorge

When we were kids, our minds were blown when we saw teachers outside of school. It was so out of context, but mysteriously cool: we saw them as humans, rather than just as their professional selves. 

To this end, the Learners Edge Chalk Blog interviews teachers in a regular segment called "Teacher Feature!" To hear more about the people behind the magic in the classroom, read on, and be inspired by these fantastic education superstars.


Carol DeGeorge is a Social Studies teacher at Fox Lane High School in Bedford, New York. She earned her BS in Communications and her MS degree in Secondary Education/Social Studies from Iona College.  Carol also holds a Masters in School Administration and will soon be completing her third Master's degree, in Human Resources. She has been teaching for 27 years, including time teaching in Poland and China. In fact, she has traveled to all 7 continents, and has taken students to Ghana, South Africa, the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, Russia, and Eastern Europe.

Why did you decide to become a teacher? 

"Not quite sure why I went into teaching, but the reality is that when it comes time to retire, it is not going to be easy. I will miss the kids and the connections I have made with them. I will miss the silliness and fun I have as a teacher."

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration, Teacher Appreciation

Mother's Day Ideas

Using Instagram for Mother's Day Craft Inspiration

It’s a Mother’s Day tradition for students to create something crafty to celebrate their moms. From the traditional-tried-and-true projects that use pasta or popsicle sticks to the mason jar indoor herb garden trendy, we’ve got you covered!

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration, Holidays

Teachers We'll Never Forget

Past Teachers Who Shaped Our Futures...

My life is full of teachers – parents, in-laws, friends, husband – and I was in the classroom as a trained teacher for 11 years. There’s no end to the sacrifices regularly made by educators and education professionals, and we really should be thanking them year-round. There are many all-consuming professions, but education is one of the unique ones that has the responsibility for other human beings, so it’s pretty difficult to get an educator’s brain to power down and stop thinking about teaching and students. Teachers do it all, and they do it because of their true love of children and learning.  

Below, you can see how my colleagues and I couldn’t wait to talk about the teachers we have loved and appreciated in our educational journeys. Many, many thanks to these teachers, and to teachers everywhere!

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration, Teacher Appreciation

Improving Your Teaching Strategies

Why Instructional Coaching is Important

Sometimes it takes a while to hit our stride in teaching, and feedback is usually pretty helpfulBut scoot past student teaching and the survival mode into the instructional aspects… that’s when we need help yet again. As a student teacher, we’re watched, evaluated, supported, and given specifics for improvement. Then comes that first outing alone in our own classroom, where management of said space and its inhabitants can feel like an episode of Survivor. But with or without years of experience, diving into the intricacies of instructional practice is always better done with the help of an objective eye, as we once had as student teachers. 

Enter Instructional Coaching - the colleagues who have the perspective, knowledge, and experience to challenge us to move towards meeting our goals and realizing our potential 

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Topics: Instructional Strategies, Educator Coaching

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