Mimi – Professional Development Director
Tell Us a little about yourself & your background.
I grew up in New Jersey and attended undergraduate school there, before moving to New England for graduate school. Since 3rd grade, I have always loved social studies, maps, and international travel. No one else in my family had or has any interest in these things — they are not sure where I came from!
My Masters degree is in International Development, but by the time I completed the program I realized I wanted to work in the U.S. changing people’s perceptions (or lack of) of the rest of the world, as opposed to working oversees. I feel grateful to have work that allows me to read and think about international topics.
I was also lucky enough to travel quite a bit before starting a family,
and I think that has also helped me feel well-prepared for my work.
What goes into planning a summer institute?
Lots! I begin by searching for and securing scholars who enjoy working with educators and can present their expertise in a manner that is accessible and interesting to teachers who work with younger students. I also need to work with a few Teaching Fellows from previous years who can help me develop and present the curriculum piece of the Institute.
It is important to select a good mix of educators who will “gel” during the week. We look for a diverse group in terms of school setting, number of years teaching, familiarity with Choices, etc. This is both an art and a science. We invest significant time and resources into the Institute, so we pay careful attention to each application we receive. I also strive to be clear about the outreach requirement of the Institute. While we want participants to experience a top-notch, program that is valuable for their own professional development — and they do — the leadership institute is just the first component of our Teaching Fellows program. Participants need to take what they have learned at the institute and share it with other educators. I hope that they want to do this not just because we require it, but because it is ultimately up to educators themselves to keep the social studies profession vibrant and strong by peer sharing of rich, effective social studies materials and strategies.
Luckily, planning the annual institute is a team effort. I turn to the writing staff for ideas on scholars, and our administrative manager handles the institute logistics. The director helps with the applicant selection process, and our social media/web person covers the publicity for the Institute. Working as a team, we are able to offer teachers an outstanding experience!
What is your favorite Choices Curriculum Unit? Why?
That is an impossible question to answer. Maybe Competing Visions of Human Rights, because the topic is so important and it can fit in every classroom. I also love that unit because it does such a great job of taking a complicated topic and making it accessible to students without trivializing it. Hmmm that would probably describe all of out units. The U.S. in Afghanistan is also a favorite because I have always had Afghanistan on my list bucket list of places to explore. Our Civil Rights unit is another favorite, because I am learning things from that unit that I never ever learned in school.
Tell us something interesting about yourself?
- I have two sons, 10 and 15, that I try Choices materials out on. Anything less than an A in social studies gets them in trouble, as does any peep about social studies being “boring.” I’m pretty sure their teachers are glad when they finish the class and move on to the next teacher…
- I think Providence is one of the greatest cities in the world, and if I didn’t work for Choices I might have to send my resume to the tourism department at Providence city hall.
- The worst job I ever had was in high school when I worked at a hard-boiled egg factory.
What is the best part about working on the Choices Staff?
In addition to the fact that I believe 110% in what we do, I like that we support each other. We gave our Director a surprise Apple Party, complete with a cake in the shape of an apple, when she was working hard to get our materials in iTunes. We had a surprise chocolate party for our front office person because…. well just because she loves chocolate and works hard to keep the front office humming. But beyond the parties, there is an understanding that everyone works hard, and we work as a real team. I can go to anyone and say “I am stuck on this, what do you think?” and I will get the feedback I need. I also appreciate that I can float a new idea, get feedback, and make it happen — such as our geography institute. Nobody ever says ”Oh we don’t do that here!”
If you could trade jobs with any other person on the Choices Staff who would it be and why?
I actually love my job, and I don’t think I’d want anyone else’s.
What is your favorite period in history/Topic in social studies?
My favorite topic in social studies would have to be geography, and I’d have to say the Islamic world. Seriously, how could anyone not love geography?
What are you working on now?
I am excited to be working on our geography institute that is coming up in June. This is the first time that Choices is offering a program specifically for this audience. Our materials are perfect for a geography teacher who is interested in helping students develop geographic questions and analyze current issues with a geographic lens. But at first glance, this fit may not be apparent. I look forward to introducing our materials to geography teachers and helping them think about ways to use our approach to promote geographic literacy.