Palm Trees and Professional Learning

This past weekend, I had the honor and privilege to travel with Buncee to Teach Your Heart Out in Miami, Florida. I was so excited about sharing my love for Buncee and to meet and learn from so many educators that inspire me daily. I wanted to write this blog to share some of my takeaways from the event. It was my first time attending a TYHO Conference, and it did not disappoint!

The event kicked off with an exceptional keynote by Eric Crouch. It was the best way to start the event and our morning! He shared how he has torn down his four walls to connect his kids to the outside world and to shine a light on the power of getting connected for the greater good. One tool that he shared that I can’t wait to learn more about is Empatico. Empatico is a completely free initiative that is funded by the KIND foundation. Through this platform, students and teachers are able to connect with others from around the world to spark curiosity, kindness, and empathy. This site also has a built-in live video application for teachers to use when making those connections.

Quote From Eric’s Keynote: It’s not about stuff. It’s about the work. Kids don’t hug worksheets or computers.

The first session that I attended was led by Jed Dearybury. We have been friends for a while now, but I have never seen him present or speak before. I was blown away! His first session was titled “Destroy the Box from the Inside Out”.  His point is if you think ‘outside the box’, that only means that you keep coming back, crawling inside the box; the box just needs to be destroyed!

One of the challenges that he gave us was to use the tape at our tables to create a display that depicted an event in Floridian history. I was amazed at what the educators in this room created with tape and only tape! I knew that this was something that I had to bring back to my campus and coaching team. I even changed a presentation that I am giving this weekend to include this. If it was that impactful for me, imagine how it would impact a student.

Jed also gave a keynote on the same day, and he spoke about creativity, courage, and change. Every word that poured from his mouth, I wanted to shout AMEN! He is such an inspiration and an advocate for students and teachers.

Quote from Jed’s Keynote: If you must destroy, destroy the negative perceptions of public education.

The next morning, I got to hear Gerry Brooks speak, and he is exactly how you would expect him to be! He even caught me sneaking a picture, and came and took a selfie with me instead! And then he got on a FaceTime call with my twin sister, Dyann! His keynote was full of laughter and advice on how to stay positive in education.  He made it clear that we have control over the culture and climate of our campus, and should always “Be a participant and not a bystander.” He ended his keynote with this thought, “look for the good in all things.” Always.

Later that day, we were excited about sharing how Buncee can be used to spark curiosity, creativity, and empathy in the classroom alongside our friends, Jed, Dyane Smokorowski, and Eric Crouch. We teamed up to talk about Empatico, Buncee, and other learning experiences that impact student learning and engagement. I loved hearing more about Empatico, and how important it is for us to connect our kids and to unite our shared voices to impact the world. Getting to speak with this group of educators was a dream!

Through nerves and excitement, I shared various ways that Buncee sparks curiosity, kindness, and empathy. With ongoing projects such as Buncee Buddies, coupled with the amazing graphics and assets in their library, and the new Emojis that help to support social-emotional learning, Buncee is reaching all of our students. As Eric Crouch says, “Kids get Buncee because Buncee gets them.”

Dyane also shared about projects such as Awesome Squiggles, Virtual Valentines, and the Gingerbread STEM Community! I cannot wait to share these with my campus!

The entire event wrapped up with a keynote by Casey Bethel.  He made us understand why every child, every student needs our emotional support in order to allow them to focus on learning.  He spoke about using a variety of different methods to be in tune with a student’s emotional needs on that day, at that particular time: using bracelets to help students recognize their own emotional state, teaching them how to breathe to calm down, or playing a motivational Sesame Street video every single morning….in a high school class.  His students feel heard, they feel loved, and his own children start every day by saying, “Be kind, then be smart”.

Each session that I attended and every keynote that I heard, left me with such a sense of urgency to make changes to impact the lives of our students. To give a voice to so many of our students that haven’t quite found their voices yet, and to make connections for a greater purpose.

Thank you, Buncee, for this opportunity and experience! You are more than a tool and a company. You are a family who is in it for the right reasons. Thank you so much for that!


Amy Storer is a graduate of Lamar University with a Master’s in Educational Technology Leadership. She truly loves being an instructional coach for Montgomery ISD.  This year is her 3rd year as a campus coach, and she is so happy to be at our newest elementary school, Keenan Elementary.  She has taught grades 1-4, and she is also a technology integration mentor for her district. She holds 2 Teacher of the Year distinctions and, in 2015, she was a top 4 finalist in HEB’s Excellence in Education in the “Leadership Elementary” category. She is an educator that encourages and motivates others to reach far beyond the classroom walls to make the learning more meaningful and inspiring. She has a true passion for working with other educators and students to encourage them to make and foster global connections. 

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