Teach With INFOhio

INFOhio ICoach Spotlight: Leah Blaze

Author // Sarah Mowery Friday, 02 September 2022

ICoachSpotlightLeahBlaze

INFOhio, Ohio’s PreK-12 Digital Library, supports educators statewide by providing quality digital content, web tools, and professional development at no cost. Through our train-the-trainer INFOhio ICoach program, teacher leaders learn to integrate INFOhio’s digital content into instruction using our Learning Pathways training curriculum. Educators build capacity as teacher leaders by offering professional development opportunities for their own schools and districts on INFOhio tools and resources. INFOhio empowers Ohio educators to become teacher leaders by expanding their professional learning network through our ICoach train-the-trainer program.

Every quarter, INFOhio will be featuring the amazing work of INFOhio ICoaches across the state. Not only are INFOhio ICoaches trained to share INFOhio’s quality resources with their schools and districts, but they are also champions of equity. At INFOhio, we believe that every Ohio student deserves the opportunity to learn from high-quality, standards-aligned instructional materials to become a resilient, lifelong learner who contributes to society. In alignment with Ohio Department of Education’s Each Child, Our Future strategic plan, we support the core principles of equity, partnerships, and quality schools.

 

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WHO INSPIRES YOU? WHY?
 

I am most inspired by the teachers I work with and the ones I network with in my Professional Learning Network (PLN). Having spent time in the classroom before taking on my current role in the district, I continue to be amazed at the amazing things teachers in our district do to meet the needs of all students. At the end of last year, I was working with a teacher in a 1st grade classroom. Following a lesson with some robots, the students wrote about what they learned and how it related to the ways objects can move. The writing was detailed, full of science concepts, and so much fun to read. The amount of work this teacher had done throughout the year to create a culture of early writers was truly impressive. Currently, I’m in graduate school learning about leadership. During one of my most recent courses, I met weekly with several classmates to discuss our personal philosophies of leadership. We all came from different backgrounds and were taught different things, but hearing each of their stories and learning from them was truly a rewarding experience. 

 

WHAT IS YOUR HIDDEN TALENT?
I love to design graphics. I remember in high school I took one of my first computer classes where we spent time working with Microsoft Publisher. I found that I loved to spend time crafting the way things look. Color, font, and space continue to fascinate me, and changes over time in the way we graphically present information is truly interesting to me. Currently, I’m obsessed with using programs like Canva to put together graphics on web pages and my weekly newsletter. I recently had a chance to design the graphics for our district’s One Summer One Book webpage and had a blast arranging letter tiles, layering graphics, and playing with color. As I continue to learn more about how important it is for designers to create content that is accessible to all learners, I’ve found my overall design choices have changed as well.

  

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING AN INFOHIO ICOACH?

What I love most about being an ICoach is having the opportunity to dig deeper into all of the amazing resources that INFOhio has to offer. During my initial ICoach training, we went through many of the different educator courses that are offered by INFOhio. One of my favorites was Reading on the Screen. Learning about the differences between how we read print and digital content was interesting. A big takeaway for me was thinking purposefully about how we teach students to consume digital content. 


During my first year as an ICoach, I felt that my largest focus was digging deeper into more INFOhio resources (there are soooo many!). During this next school year, I want to focus more on sharing and networking with other ICoaches. One of my goals is to continue to work on creating mini-commercials to highlight INFOhio resources. I’d also like to learn more about the nuggets other coaches have found so that I can share these with my teachers as well!

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE INFOHIO RESOURCE? WHY?

One of my favorite INFOhio resources is Storia (which has now been replaced by Scholastic Literacy Pro). I came upon Storia during the pandemic when we were looking for any way we could to get books into teacher and student hands. Storia/Literacy Pro is a digital library of books from Scholastic. Purchasing access to a library like this for grades 3-6 is often expensive and I’m grateful that Ohio schools can get access to Scholastic Literacy Pro from INFOhio. It is full of exciting titles for students and it allows teachers to get a pulse on what students are reading and make recommendations. It also provides teachers with a selection of titles they can share with students and display in class. Even at home, students can access great quality literature through Scholastic Literacy Pro. One thing I did for my teachers when we were using Storia was to examine the title list and highlight titles that aligned with their science and social studies standards. As we begin this year with Scholastic Literacy Pro, I’ll be looking to do the same thing. As an ICoach, I believe it is important to look for ways we can help teachers pinpoint the INFOhio resources that can directly tie to the standards they are teaching students. 

 

DESCRIBE YOUR "BIGGEST WIN" THAT DEMONSTRATES HOW YOUR ROLE AS AN INFOHIO ICOACH AND INTEGRATION OF INFOHIO RESOURCES SUPPORTS INSTRUCTION, STUDENT LEARNING, OR EQUITY WITHIN YOUR SCHOOL.

One resource I love to share with teachers is World Book Kids and World Book Student. Sometimes, encyclopedias can get overlooked especially when one typically envisions the blue-bound set that sits on so many library shelves. Many of these books aren’t written in a child-friendly format. However, both World Book Kids and World Book Student come with picture menus and read-aloud text. I’ve shared these with teachers at many different grade levels and often find myself highlighting the World of Animals and Compare Places section in World Book Kids and the 360-degree images in World Book Student.  The part that I would consider a “win” is when a kindergarten teacher came to me after her students had finished the animal reports they wrote toward the end of the year. She was grateful this resource had been shared with her because her kindergarteners were hooked! There are only so many books accessible to emerging readers when writing animal reports and many of them are on more well-known animals. With World Book Kids, all of her students were able to learn about animals that interested them. The picture-friendly menu made it accessible and students were able to listen to the text read aloud to learn more about the animals. What excited me the most was that every one of her students had the opportunity to engage with learning through World Book Kids and that they didn’t want to stop learning more.

  

Are you interested in learning more about becoming an INFOhio ICoach? Find INFOhio ICoaches in your area and discover more about the INFOhio ICoach train-the-trainer program on INFOhio’s site. In addition, we are always here to help, if you have questions, comments, or would like to be our next featured INFOhio ICoach please contact us at support.infohio.org.

About the Author

Posted by: Sarah Mowery

Sarah Mowery is a Professional Instructional Specialist with INFOhio. She has worked in education for 16 years as a school librarian and technology coach in elementary and middle school settings. While in these roles, she's been an integral part of the building leadership teams working as a curriculum connector and integrating web-based tools. She earned a BA in Sociology from Bowling Green State University and an MLS with a specialization in PK-12 schools from East Carolina University. Sarah was one of the original INFOhio ICoaches when the program first began in 2013 and has a passion for sharing how INFOhio resources can transform teaching and impact learning for students and educators across the state of Ohio. 

Sarah Mowery