Ta-Da: Summer 2019 Reflections

ta-daEarlier this spring I stumbled upon a blog that described creating a “ta-da” list as a way to cultivate joy around the process of achieving goals (https://www.createcultivate.com/blog/2019/5/23/why-you-should-follow-up-your-to-do-list-with-a-ta-da-list). Okay, probably a good idea, but that would have to wait until I completed my “to-do” list … all of the assignments, papers and projects with due dates. I scribbled “ta-da” list on a yellow sticky note, stuck it in my planner and looked forward to a quiet, peaceful day during the summer to sit back, sip iced tea, reflect on my experiences from the previous semesters and prepare for the upcoming academic year.  Well, that never happened (LOL – I was too busy working), but here is what I added to that yellow sticky note over the summer.

You got me workin’ workin’ day and night

IMG_2890I had the opportunity to participate in the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s (AACTE) 2019 Washington Week in Arlington, VA from June 3 – 5 as part of the organization’s Annual Day on the Hill. This conference was so informative and excellent preparation for Dr. Eddy’s Educational Policy Development and Analysis course in the fall.  I learned that the Four “Ps” (players, politics, processes, and policy) serve as a framework for thinking about policy and advocacy, provide four lenses for analysis and offer a way to organize strategy.

IMG_2947I was employed as an OnlineTeaching Assistant with University eLearning initiatives supporting W&M Arts and Sciences online and hybrid summer courses. In addition to working with a supportive and fun team, I learned about features and training resources for the learning management system (Blackboard) as well as Hypothes.is, Panopto, Proctorio, Camtasia, Higher Education Learning Activity Types (HELAT), Qualtrics and Piktochart. I facilitated my first online course, Breaking Tradition: An Innovative Approach to Creating Future-Ready Learners, a 5 week online course for practicing K-12 educators from across the state of Virginia. Together we explored the 5 C’s: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication and citizenship.


I also supported Camp Launch as a Zumba/Cardio Fitness instructor. Participants selected their own music and collaborated in groups to create an original dance fitness routine by the end of the week. I learned the “Biker’s Shuffle” and “Same Ole 2 Step” from my energetic 7th and 8th graders!

IMG_3123I participated in my first conference as a fitness professional! At the STRONG by Zumba® SYNC Summit in Orlando, FL, I learned to master core martial arts movements to improve my form and technique. I learned how to avoid burnout and how to prepare for and recover from teaching group fitness. I received tips on how to build, grow and sustain my business.

And her nose stuck in a book …

I signed up for an edX course recommended by Dr. Roche earlier in the spring, but Quantitative Research Design & Methods II demanded most of my attention. I audited Shaping Work of the Future over the summer, and  I’m so glad that I did. This course helped me to understand the connection between workers, government/policy, business and education on shaping the future of work and developing the next generation social contract (i.e., the mutual expectations and obligations workers, employers, and their communities and societies have regarding work and employment relationships, and how we need to rethink skills and education).  But what about technology? I think that MIT Work of the Future Co-Chair David Autor said it best:

“As our tools improve, technology magnifies our leverage and increases the importance of our expertise and our judgement and our creativity.” David Autor, MIT

I appreciate that my advisor, Dr. Gareis, took time out of his busy schedule to help me map out my required courses. I finally drafted my CV.  I completed ISTE Summer Bites (focusing on STEM) and made the connection between computer science and computational thinking.  I started to explore 3D printing and participated in the basics training offered at SWEM.  Arduino and a visit to the Makerspace  in Small Hall will have to wait until this fall.

So who would have guessed that my yellow sticky note actually ended up capturing many of the joys and highlights of my academic and work lives over the summer of 2019? My “to-do” list transformed into a “ta-da” list. There are still a few things that I have to work on, but it’s the journey, not the destination. In her book Becoming, Michelle Obama wrote these words:

Sticky Note

Me, too!

Denise Lewis Ph.D. ’22


Eat, Sleep, Robots!

So of course I played with robots this during my first academic year as a Ph.D. student.  In the Fall 2018 semester, I had the opportunity to serve as a guest discussant for robotics! I prepared and delivered an introduction to educational robotics to an all-female class of pre-service teachers studying CRIN E09 – Designs for Technology-Enhanced Learning (Elementary) instructed by Dr. April Lawrence.


Educational robotics was the focus of my “passion project” for EPPL 611 – Theories of Curriculum instructed by Dr. Chris Gareis in Fall 2018. This paper presented a critical analysis of current literature on educational robotics through the lens of curriculum. I explored the implications of educational robotics on curriculum design, development, implementation and evaluation in the future.


Immediately after my presentation, I was approached by a peer and asked to assist with an outreach project through the STEM Education Alliance. I joined the team and designed an inquiry-based activity investigating pi using the Ozobot. I implemented the activity during the Pi Day festivities at Bayside High School on February 27-28.

Included in my hands-on robotics demonstration for CRIN E09 was the Sphero SPRK+ robot (borrowed courtesy of the STEM Education Alliance). One of the pre-service teachers in that session was so excited that she mentioned the robot to her Cooperating Teacher  who obtained a class set of Sphero BOLT robots! The pre-service teacher asked for my assistance in helping to integrate the robots into her student teaching this semester, and I happily agreed to help her.Sphero


I created a Technology Integration Unit, including an Introduction to the Sphero lesson plan, and two subject-specific lesson plans that successfully integrated the Sphero in service of students’ curriculum-based learning needs. I provided her with detailed lesson plans, presentations, sample programs, guidance regarding resources and assistance with preparing the robots for use in the classroom to overcome any perceived barriers. The lessons were successfully delivered during the month of April 2019.


This project culminated with the presentation of a digital poster at the 2019 Teaching & Learning Symposium at SWEM library. I loved showing off the robot, but more importantly, this project showcases the potential for more doctoral/masters or graduate/undergraduate partnerships. I enjoyed serving in a consulting role for novice undergraduate and graduate teachers. These type of academic partnerships have immense traction as an approach in higher education.

It was a good year for robots!

You are stronger than you think!

StrongI received a word of encouragement this morning from Master Trainer, Nate Offer.  He made me think about what being STRONG requires. He shared how he fails so many times during practices and training sessions, and that sometimes he does not meet the bar because of fatigue from the workout.

(Sigh). Me too. It takes a minute for me to learn the moves and progressions. Sometimes I start on the wrong foot, my alignment is off, or I get lost in the music.

“STRONG is finding a way when there feels like there is no way!” STRONG is being halfway through my first spring semester as a doctoral student, surviving papers, projects and my first midterm exam and looking forward to the final.

“STRONG is more than just a word, it’s a mentality, a lifestyle and something that I do my best to embody!” STRONG is prioritizing self-care, eating right, and getting enough sleep. STRONG is taking time to laugh with my husband or a friend. STRONG doesn’t quit, but comes up short, reflects on ways to improve and then comes back for more.

“No matter what you are going through, you are still standing and be encouraged because YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK‼️”

Thanks, Nate. I needed that.  So will I see you at the Rec on Wednesdays at 7:00 pm?

The Doctoral Journey: Reflections from Holmes Scholars

Reflections from a discussion on how to make your Ph.D. experience more meaningful and effective (AACTE Holmes Pre-Conference in Louisville, KY, February 21, 2019, The Doctoral Journey moderated by Dr. Pena L. Bedesem)

  • Figure out your why. Be passionate about your dissertation topic.
  • How do you intend on using it? Do you really need it to do what you intend to do? How are you going to use it to write you own narrative and add your voice (it’s in the skew and kurtosis)?
  • Broaden your area of interest – who are the experts in your field and where are they? Where can you fill in gaps in the literature?
  • The doctoral program is all-consuming. Go full-time if possible.
  • Have a realistic view of what academia is all about (it’s a bubble). Read academic journals and attend professional conferences.
  • Allow for “growth edges”.
  • Solid theoretical foundations will determine your research path.
  • Push your boundaries beyond your lived experience. Whether that means traveling abroad or examining and confronting your own biases, pushing your boundaries will affect your perceptions and ultimately shape your expectations.

I really enjoyed spending time with all of the William & Mary Holmes Scholars!

Holmes Scholars

Some Tips to Help You ‘Win’ at Graduate School

10 Tips to Help You ‘Win’ at Graduate School

Awesome article: https://www.chronicle.com/article/10-Tips-to-Help-You-Win-/245533


  1. Time management
  2. Be dedicated, determined, diligent
  3. Don’t be a resistant learner
  4. Don’t waste your time competing
  5. Make the faculty work for you
  6. Think about your career
  7. Get help before you need it
  8. Care about your sentences
  9. Don’t get seduced into bad writing
  10. Don’t stop being yourself


Winterim 2019: A Reflection

Denise Lewis Headshot

Does it look like I was up all night writing a paper? This was taken on the last day of class for the fall 2018 semester. I finished with a 3.9 GPA, a hordeolum or stye in my right eye (and received the best of care from my O.D. daughter) and I passed my ACE certification exam. Rested and ready for spring 2019! I am exploring new note taking methods. Unfortunately, I discovered that I couldn’t read my own handwriting. That is all.

Advice to Myself as a First-Gen: The Struggle is Real

lewis Be patient with yourself.

Treat yourself with kindness.

You will fail many times, but as long as you are failing forward, don’t give up!

Read a little bit each day, and take notes. Review your notes before each class.

Set deadlines earlier. And next time, take up the research librarian’s offer to review your paper for correct APA format.

Every conversation, every meeting, every colloquium, every speaker, every conference and every class discussion is an opportunity to learn. Every. Single. Time. Be sure to listen more than you talk.