Spotlight! These Authors Give Educators a Choice in Learning

Ever wonder what sparks a writer’s creativity—or what goes on in the mind of an author as they craft strategies and practical tools educators can use in the classroom? We sure do; that’s why we’re peeling back the curtain and revealing the magic behind the books stocked on your shelves in our Author Spotlight series. We’ll be delving into the minds and hearts of your favorite authors, exploring their creative processes, inspirations, and the hopes they hold for their readers. Get ready to journey beyond the pages and uncover the fascinating methods that bring these research-backed books to life. Join us as we unlock the secrets of writing for educators, one author at a time!


Authors Beth Pandolpho and Katie Cubano

Choose Your Own Master Class: Urgent Ideas to Invigorate Your Professional Learning, by Beth Pandolpho and Katie Cubano, is a book that can unite schools and teams through a common reading experience. It honors everyone’s busy schedules with its unique design of standalone chapters, questions to facilitate conversations across chapters, and classroom-ready strategies and reproducibles for teachers. Each chapter focuses on an urgent issue that impacts education, including balancing technology use in the classroom, fostering civil conversations, and improving students’ social and emotional well-being, just to name a few. With direct access to research-based ideas from across disciplines, it offers a professional learning experience for teachers and teacher leaders alike that can be implemented over a school year with the promise of enduring change. 


Why was it important to write this book?  

District and building leaders are busy.  They do their best to provide meaningful professional learning experiences for teachers, but too often, it becomes a one-size-fits-all model that isn’t responsive to teachers’ needs.  Choose Your Own Master Class allows administrators to unite their schools and teams through a common reading experience while allowing educators to choose the chapter that meets their most urgent needs. It offers questions and exercises to facilitate conversations across chapters and classroom-ready strategies and reproducibles for teachers to choose from. Our mission was to design a book that provides administrators with a ready-to-use tool that conveys respect for their staff and honors them as creative intellectuals; for teachers, we wanted to offer access to research-based ideas from across disciplines to inspire them to design learning experiences that are responsive to the needs of their students. In a climate where teacher attrition rates are rising, offering teachers an inspiring professional development experience seems like an important step to fortify teachers’ motivation to remain in the profession.


What excites you most about the content of this book? 

We relish the opportunity to examine ideas from outside the field of education and consider their implications for improving teaching and learning, as do many of the educators we know. With this in mind, we are so enthusiastic about how the content of this book provides educators with direct access to timely ideas from a wide range of thinkers spanning multiple disciplines. The content of our book invites readers to encounter ideas from eighteen contemporary thinkers, including psychologists, neuroscientists, artists, activists, and more, along with introspective exercises to facilitate reflection and actionable classroom strategies to envision how these ideas apply to their practice. 


Can you elaborate on the benefits of exploring insights from thought leaders outside of education? How does this enhance professional learning?  

Education can feel like a very narrow and siloed space at times, and perhaps most poignantly so when we think about our experiences with professional learning. We have found that exploring insights from thinkers outside of the field of education invigorates educators to think in new ways about teaching and learning. Choose Your Own Master Class provides direct access to emerging research and new ideas so educators do not have to wait to encounter watered-down versions of these ideas as they trickle through the education bubble. Professional learning is enhanced when teachers are able to synthesize ideas across disciplines, make connections to their own practice, and reflect on the intersections of this knowledge in order to design creative approaches. As David Epstein, author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, puts it, “The most successful experts also belong to the wider world” (33). 


How does emotional intelligence contribute to increased student engagement and a positive learning environment?  

Every decision we make is impacted by our emotional lives. It is undeniable that we respond differently depending on our emotional states; when we are irritable or tired versus calm and rested, we make different choices. Students likewise bring their emotional realities to school, and we need to address them in order to maintain a productive learning environment. When we cultivate students’ emotional literacy, we create space to acknowledge emotions and leverage them in service of learning and in support of one another. Choose Your Own Master Class provides actionable resources from thought leaders such as psychologist Marc Brackett, founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, to help teachers foster emotional literacy in their classrooms. Supporting our students’ ability to recognize how their emotions impact their decision-making is a skill that will help them in school and beyond.  


If educators could take one thing away from reading this book, what would you hope that would be?  

Both of us find inspiration in our personal and professional lives from thinkers spanning a wide variety of disciplines, whether we are listening to a podcast in the car, reading an article in a magazine, or diving into a new book. We notice that we find the best solutions when we consider the intersections of these ideas in conversation with each other and our friends and colleagues.  We wanted to create this kind of experience for our fellow educators so they could “choose a master class” that was entirely their own.  


Beth Pandolpho is an instructional coach and has taught English at the high school and college level for over 20 years. She is passionate about supporting teachers in developing a classroom culture with a strong social and emotional foundation in order to create powerful learning experiences.

Katie Cubano is an educator focused on supporting teacher leadership to move toward curriculum and instruction that effectively and equitably meet students’ needs. After teaching English for over a decade, she became an instructional coach in 2019.


Grab your copy of Choose Your Own Master Class.

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