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An online learning experience that focuses on innovating in education with a purpose. The Innovative Teaching academy helps us teach and lead different, so we can all learn better.

Imagine you’ve been in education for 7, 11, 15 or even 25 years. In each of those years, you have grown as a professional, learned new technologies, shifted with the standards, had new initiative after new initiative started in your school, and seen the way you have been evaluated move from observations to data back to observations and data.

Over the years you’ve had constant turnover in your administration. New Principals,  new Superintendents, new Directors of Curriculum, and many Special Education leaders. You’ve seen some of your best friends and teachers leave the classroom.

Some have gone on to administration.

Some have left the school.

And some have left the profession altogether.

Your curriculum has been changed multiple times and you are starting another revision, complete with a shift to new standards.

The schedule has changed three times. You’re now required to have common unit based assessments multiple times a year. You are part of a school data team that looks at all of this “stuff” and tries to make sense of where you can make an impact.

And in the midst of all this change, you are actually getting excited because students are now able to bring devices into school, or maybe your school is giving them devices. Although many are worried because this is going to change everything, again, and it’s not going to be easier.

And you are exhausted.

Not so much by the students, although they have changed over the years.

Not so much by the parents, who have definitely changed over the years. But mostly by managing all of this…picking yourself up

But mostly by managing all of this, picking yourself up every day, and believing you’re doing good work, with good people, for the right reasons.

The Struggle Is Real…And Worth It

I asked teachers and school leaders what they were struggling with a few months ago, and this is a compilation of their similar story. The two words used most in email responses to my question were “frustrated” and “desperate”…

In the wake of a new year, I wrote about how pumped I am for education moving forward. But I can’t help to notice the sighs of desperation and frustration inside many classrooms.

Most of us got into education because we wanted to make a difference in the lives of our students.

Education is the bridge to so many opportunities in this country and around the world. We know as teachers and school leaders the avenues it can open up to any student, and we also know how hard it is for some students to overcome personal circumstances without the help of teachers who care and want to make a difference.

It seems that change (and there has been much of it in the last 5, 10, 15 years) frustrates many of us, and leaves us desperate for some consistency in the teaching profession.

I wouldn’t argue that point.

Yet, change (like anything else), is not all bad and not all good. It’s a mixed bag.

What is true is that change is constant. It’s also getting exponentially quicker. This is not only in education, but in many fields of work. It’s taken a while for change to pick up the speed with which we now see it in the classroom, but it has always been there.

So, how do we handle this as teachers and school leaders? How can we keep the frustration and desperation from boiling over and hurting all potential progress? More importantly how can we make sure the frustration and desperation does not trickle down to our students and impact their learning experience in a negative way?

We can start with these guiding beliefs:

  1. Change is constant, let’s focus on how we manage it

    We may not be able to influence what types of changes are made in schools. Some we are going to love and support. Some we are going to disagree with and oppose. Regardless, the one thing we do have control over is how we manage change as an organization, team, and individual.

    Start with yourself. How are you talking about change? How are you managing the process? What can you do to help colleagues through the change?

  2. Don’t wait for training, be a learner, go out and seek it

    If we accept that change is constant, we also have to realize learning is constant. Professional development and training can only take you so far as an individual. If you want to be successful through times of change then go out and seek new learning opportunities and training.

    The internet has changed how we learn forever. Anything you want to learn (or need to learn) is most likely available online for free… This is not to say that organizations should not provide training. Of course they should. But how can we seek out learning opportunities (and share those opportunities with colleagues) that can help all of us in times of change?

  3. Focus on the important things (many of these do not change)

    Are students engaged? Are we challenging students and supporting students through various learning activities? Is the classroom a student-centered experience? Are we focusing on the whole child?

    I get that curriculum changes. Technology changes. New initiatives are always around the corner. But the best practices of “how we learn” are focused on student-centered experiences with the right amount of challenge and support for all of our learners.

    What can we focus on in the midst of all the change: our students.

    If you are feeling frustrated in your current situation…or desperate for some help in managing all of this change, take a step back.

    Take a moment to breathe and look at the big picture.

The Silver Lining: Innovation Comes Out of

Hi, I’m A.J. Juliani. Over the past decade I’ve been frustrated and down about a lot of the traditional ways we play the “game of school” in education. Heck, there were many times I wasn’t sure if innovation had a place in education.

But something interesting happened when I took action to create solutions around these problems, instead of complaining about my circumstances.

I was frustrated as a teacher a few years ago when I thought all my 11th grade students cared about was their grades. Out of this frustration came the 20% project in my class.

I was desperate for a new way to teach students about human rights violations and genocide. Having them read articles and watch a few videos wasn’t cutting it, because the students needed to “do something” about these issues. Out of this desperation came a collaborative project that my students helped create: Project Global Inform.

Last year as a staff developer many of our staff members were frustrated that they had to learn about a new tool with the entire staff during an in service when they already were using it…why have the same training when everyone was on different levels. Our game-based professional development missions came out of this frustration.

And just last year, a fantastic teacher I worked with was frustrated with how “Industrial Arts” still looked for the most part like it did when he was in high school. After a lot of hard work, this frustration turned into a new 9th grade course (Creative Design & Engineering) and a reworking of the entire scope and sequence to create a true Maker Department.

A group of teachers in my district were frustrated that our students weren’t getting some of the same opportunities and experiences as those students from other neighboring districts. That led to the creation of a CentennialX: a summer internship and human-centered design program where students work with real companies to create products, pitch those products, and present their work at conferences (like Stanford’s MedX) around the country.

If we choose to let frustration and desperation get the better of us…then we choose to miss the silver lining:

Innovative ideas come out of frustration.

We tend to think of creativity and innovation as something that happens outside the box. But I would disagree. The most creative and innovative work comes from circumstances that force a new type of thinking for solutions inside the box.

It reminds me of the scene in Apollo 13 when the carbon dioxide is building and they have to make a filter using only the materials inside the shuttle. There is pressure. There is frustration. And there is a group of desperate people working to create an innovative solution…

Put all the circumstances out on the table. Embrace the feelings of desperation and frustration. And then create something inside the box that is going to benefit everyone.

Because the only other option is to give in and give up. And that sure wouldn’t be any fun!

Let’s be honest. Being a teacher and school leader can be overwhelming.

There is so much to do (not enough time), so much to learn (where do we even start), and it all keeps changing. In my last post we dove into the real reason teachers and leaders are overwhelmed.

But, we want to make a difference. That’s why we got into education. We want to be innovative, creative, and make a greater impact.

It’s easy to say, but if you are like me, it is even easier to fall back into a pattern of what we’ve always done, instead of answering the question: What is best for this learner in this situation?

We are also surrounded by teachers, leaders, parents, and even students who are playing the game of school. It’s been set up this way for years and it is hard to break decades of doing things “the way they always have been done” (even when we know it isn’t best for kids).

That’s why we often get a lot of resistance when we come up with new ideas.It’s why there isn’t always positive feedback when we try to teach differently. And, it’s why being innovative is not easy, even if it is needed in our schools today.

I’ll also admit that I got caught up in wanting to be the innovative teacher, without realizing all the mistakes I was making in this journey. If you are doing things a bit differently with your students, or in your school, or in your role – check out the mistakes I share below.

Please Don’t Make These Three Mistakes That I Wasted A Lot Of My Time On

Too much time spent thinking, reading, and watching what might change your teaching, your school, education — and not enough time spent doing the work.

I read a lot of blogs, a lot of books, and watch a lot of videos on how to innovate in education and transform learning. So much so, that a few years ago I felt overwhelmed just by the amount of reading I had to do, and completely stopped, cold turkey.

I was spending so much time consuming information, that it left almost no time to create, make, and design something different.

I also was envious of what others were doing. It didn’t help me personally, or my students, when I spent this much time consuming.

After taking a break from all reading, I realized that there was a reason I consumed. I wanted to make that difference. Yet, unless I started taking action, there was not going to be any change that was made.

I started reading, watching, and listening with purpose again. This time, I choose wisely and purposefully what I fed my brain. And it served as inspiration and motivation in the creation process.

Don’t get drowned out by the massive amount of information (which is really good) and not make time for creating. Let it be the inspiration for innovative work instead.

Focusing on the shiny new programs, apps, products, technology instead of what works.

Yes, I am still recovering from years of worrying about the newest, latest, greatest thing. Whenever a new product, or new release, or new phone would come out, I would jump on the bandwagon immediately.

For some reason it felt good to be the first, even if being the first had no impact on my life, my work, or what I wanted to do in my role.

The problem is that I was using technology, and pretending to be innovative, for the sake of technology.

I had the “new” part of innovation, but not the “new ideas that work better” piece. It is a trap that I still find myself struggling with, and the only way I’ve been able to focus on the work instead of the new is through a community of great teachers and leaders that hold me accountable.

Trying to do everything by yourself. You aren’t a lone wolf, you are human, and humans need community to thrive and innovate.

Which brings us to our third mistake. One that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. It seems the majority of people I talk to who are doing innovative work in their schools or districts share one of two stories.

The first story goes something like this. They consistently try to improve and iterate and innovate. Each project and year go by as their students are exposed to new ideas and it takes a lot of time to get buy in from their colleagues and school leaders to allow this sort of work to happen inside of school. They tend to be worn out and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of time it takes to be innovative and creative, hoping that somewhere along the way someone will join their cause, and be innovative as well. After years of trying to do things the right way, they either leave for another place, or become bitter at trying to make a difference.

The second story is much different and goes a bit like this: They are part of a tribe of innovators. Their colleagues share, support, and praise learning that looks different. They fail often but have a team around them to help spring them back up and keep moving forward. There is a sense of purpose in their day-to-day work, and the students and school culture is a reflection of this type of innovative learning. They aren’t tired, but instead inspired to continue pushing the boundaries of what works best for students.

The big difference between story #1 and story #2 is that the person in story #2 has a community around them that supports, praises, and picks them up throughout the creative process. We must have a group of people we can lean on, bounce ideas off of, and talk to in order to keep doing the work that matters.

Introducing the

Innovative Teaching Academy

a six-month online learning experience that gives you the tools, resources, and community needed to break the mold of traditional schooling.

The Innovative Teaching Academy isn’t just a course. It’s a master class and coaching system designed to take you through step-by-step lessons and teach you the principles and strategies needed to make a greater impact in education and reach more people.

And to provide the accountability and support system we all need to thrive.

  • Easy-to-follow lessons? YES
  • Monthly courses on design thinking, project-based learning, learning space design, habit building for productivity, social media, and blogging? YES
  • Supportive community of education leaders? YES
  • Built-in accountability? YES
  • Unlimited personal coaching with the Academy Team? YES

The academy is grounded in proven principles and strategies that work. It’s broken down into simple, step-by-step lessons that allow you to walk through each of the six phases of innovative teaching and learning.

Each lesson will leave you with an easy-to-follow action item and schedule so you can methodically implement what you’ve learned.

No guesswork.
No reverse engineering.
No more hours or searching the internet for something that makes sense.

What is inside the Innovative Teaching Academy?

Each Month of the Academy has a different focus. At the beginning of the month you’ll receive a full course on topics such as Building a Better Blog, Social Media with Purpose, Design Thinking, Learning Space Design, Project-Based Learning, and Authentic Work.

Each week you’ll also receive a new article, video, and resource to prompt discussion in our private group and also help you complete the action items for the month.

You’ll also get access to live interviews with experts and leaders in each field, being able to ask them your questions and dive deep into each area with their guidance.

During all of this, you’ll have access to our Private Facebook Community and online coaching for support, guidance, and the community we all need to thrive!

April: Goal Setting and Priorities for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Blogging helps us reflect on our goals, share our learning, and connect with others who can propel the learning forward in our classroom and school.


Weekly article and video on Goal Setting, Measuring Progress, and a focus around Innovation


Build a Better Blog Course

Start a new blog or revamp your current blog with this practical step-by-step course.

Action steps:

  • Create personal goals for this academy
  • Create or update your blog
  • Develop a writing schedule
  • Align content and sharing strategy of blog with goals

Live Kick-Off Webinar with George Couros, the Author of The Innovator’s Mindset

Interview with Chief Innovation Officer Bo Adams

Live Q&A Roundtable with all the Members

Discussions in Private Facebook Community

May: Technology’s Role in Innovation: The Frameworks and Tools for Success

Social Media helps us to find and filter new technologies with a purpose. It allows other trusted innovative teachers and leaders to try and vet new tools and resources, so we use technology with a true learning purpose.


Weekly article and video on technology integration frameworks, tools, and resources.


Social Media with Purpose Course (a how to guide on using social media for your classroom connections and professional development)

Action steps:

  • Create and/or update social media accounts
  • Analyze your content sharing and connections for professional and classroom purposes
  • Deep dive into what social media connections can do for your classroom/school
  • Choose tools/resources for your classroom that have purpose
  • Filter through tech integration frameworks to choose one

Live Interview with Author and Creator of The Teacher’s Guide to Tech, Jennifer Gonzalez

Live Interview with EduMatch Founder and Tech Guru Sara Thomas

Live Q&A Roundtable with all Members

Discussions in Private Facebook Community

June: Building the Habits for Innovation: Work Smarter Not Harder

Habits are the building blocks of student success and our success as a teacher and a learner. Habits define our consistent actions and outcomes.


Weekly article and video on building habits to support goals and productivity tips.


Habit Stacking Course (Building Better Systems)

10 Habits to start building in your classroom and 10 Habits to start building your professional life to boost productivity and innovation

Action steps:

  • Refine original goals for this academy
  • Create systems to achieve those goals with habits
  • Find the pain points for productivity
  • Develop plan to increase time for creative work

Live Interview with 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Founder and Author Angela Watson

Interview with Teach Like a Pirate Author Dave Burgess

Live Q&A Roundtable with all Members

Discussions in Private Facebook Community

July: Design Thinking in the Classroom: A Process and Framework for Creativity

Design Thinking is the framework for creative work. We all face problems that are difficult to identify and even harder to solve. Design thinking gives actionable steps to create a solution and iterating in the future.


Weekly article and video on design thinking process, framework, and mental model for creative work in and out of the classroom.


Design Thinking Course (Learn how Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon all use Design Thinking to boost creativity and innovation – and you can in your role as well)

Action steps:

  • Identify areas in your work and school/classroom that are ripe for disruption
  • Plan a project with staff or students to solve this problem
  • Prototype and create solutions

Live Interview with LAUNCH Author John Spencer

Interview with Project Zero’s Edward Clapp

Live Q&A Roundtable with all Members

Discussions in Private Facebook Community

August: Real Classrooms for a Real World

If school is supposed to prepare our students for the real world, then why doesn’t it look more like the real world? Learning spaces play an huge part into innovative teaching and learning, let’s not forget that or put it to the side.


Weekly article and video on learning spaces, classroom redesign, research on the impact on student learning, and more.


Classroom and Learning Space Redesign Course (Space needs to be seen as a highly important piece to student and staff learning. The mini-course explores how to renovate and redesign learning spaces with a budget friendly step-by-step process)

Action steps:

  • Re-design your learning space with student input
  • Identify unused or misused spaces for creative work
  • Create your own unique learning space

Live Interview with Classroom Design Specialist and Happy Go Teach co-Founder Kayla Delzer

Interview with Real Learning Space Designers

Live Q&A Roundtable with all Members

Discussions in Private Facebook Community

September: Authentic Learning and Assessment: How to Move Away from the
Traditional Activities and Tests

Weekly article and video on authentic learning, authentic assessments, and innovative ways to bring projects with purpose into your classroom/school.


Project-Based Learning Course (Project based learning goes by many names. This mini-course looks at the similarities and difference of PBL and gives a clear process for creating a project with your students.)

Action steps:

  • Make learning authentic in your school/classroom
  • Design project with students
  • Identify multiple performance tasks that can be used as authentic measures through the school year such as digital portfolios, class blogs, etc

Live Interview with Hacking Project Based Learning authors Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy

Interview with Ditch That Textbook Author Matt Miller

Interview with Startup Founder Chris Aviles

Live Q&A Roundtable with all Members

Discussions in Private Facebook Community

Bonus Material & Courses

April Add-On: Genius Hour Master Course

This Add-on is available in the Designer/Maker and Education Entrepreneur Levels. This past year I decided to create a comprehensive course that literally walks you step-by-step through Genius Hour. It’s called the Genius Hour Master Course, and 1200+ students are already loving how practical the resources are!

In this course I share EVERYTHING:

  • 70 videos walking you through Genius Hour step-by-step
  • Lesson Plans and Unit Plans separated for Elementary, Middle School, and High School teachers
  • The Genius Hour Journal which takes your students through Genius Hour Start to Finish with Resources, Rubrics, and much more

April Add-On: Teacher’s Guide to Technology (256pg Guide)

This Add-on is available in the Designer/Maker and Education Entrepreneur Levels. Are you unsure about the best ways to use technology in your classroom to actually enhance student learning, rather than distract from it?Do you wish someone would just organize all the options and explain them to you in really simple language?

Then you’re going to love The Teacher’s Guide to Tech. Created by Jennifer Gonzalez of Cult of Pedagogy, it’s a 265-page digital binder you’ll use all year: Keep it on your desktop, laptop, tablet — even your phone — to help you navigate the tech world with confidence. Like having a tech-savvy friend on call to explain things in plain language, the guide will give you a sense of control over all the options.

April Add-On: Maker Projects (Lessons, Student Notebook, &

This Add-on is available in the Designer/Maker and Education Entrepreneur Levels. In this bundle you’ll receive our FIVE most comprehensive Design Challenges and Maker Projects to use with any classroom. It includes:

  • Design the Ultimate Roller Coaster (a $15 value)
  • Create a City for Superheroes (a $15 value)
  • Design Your Own Pinball Machine (a $15 value)
  • Capture the Castle (a $15 value)
  • Build Your Own Board Game (a $15 value)

May Bonus: Email Marketing 101 Course

This Bonus Course is only available in the Education Entrepreneur Level. In April you’ll get started with the “Building a Better Blog Course”. This leads perfectly into growing the blog and audience with Email Marketing, which you’ll receive in full in May.

I know, Email Marketing sounds like an awful term that we don’t like to use in education. But, really it is about building relationships with your community and having a way for your readers to continue to receive your latest content.

In this course we’ll cover:

  • How to sign up and get started with Email Marketing
  • How to navigate all the different options for choosing a platform (like MailChimp, ConvertKit, Drip, Aweber, MadMimi, Constant Contact just to name a few)
  • When to send emails and who to send them to
  • How to connect it to your blog so posts are sent out automatically
  • Navigate all the features inside of your email platform
  • Send up sign-up forms, landing pages, and much more!

June Bonus: Write a Book in 90 Days Course

This Bonus Course is only available in the Education Entrepreneur Level. In June we’ll get you jumpstarted with the Book Writing course you’ve been waiting for.
Honestly, writing my first book was a long experience that took a lot out of me. Since then I’ve been able to build a system that can help anyone write a book in 90 days (and get it to a publisher or self-publish it themselves).

In this course we’ll cover:

  • How to set your #1 goal for your book (and meet it)
  • What to start with when planning your book
  • Who to reach out to for interviews, and how to get them to work with you
  • A step-by-step outline plan to have your book half-way written in first 30 days
  • A full marketing plan for various different types of launches
  • A daily agenda for each of the 90 days with action items easy to follow

July Bonus: A Starter Guide to Speaking Course

This Bonus Course is only available in the Education Entrepreneur Level. In July (conference season) we’ll send out a great course focused on speaking and consulting. It seems like everyone is doing it these days, but how do you attract gigs, and make the most of your opportunities. Even more important, do you want to spend your time speaking? Is that the best way to make an impact? We cover everything.

In this course we’ll cover:

  • What the point of speaking is in education, and why it still matters
  • How to navigate the various channels and do more than have a contact page
  • How to charge and price yourself based on value (we want to make a difference)
  • What you should be planning and working on leading up to an engagement
  • Paperwork, follow-up items, and what to do while you are working with a group!

August Bonus: Create Your Own Online Course

This Bonus Course is only available in the Education Entrepreneur Level. In August you’ll receive a bonus course that I love. I truly believe we need more online courses and programs created by real educators. Books are great, but they can only go so far. Creating an online experience has the power to truly change teaching and learning, and this course walks you step-by-step on how to do it.

In this course we’ll cover:

  • How to outline your course and start to plan content
  • Navigate what mediums to choose (video, writing, audio etc)
  • Decide on a platform for creating the course
  • A step-by-step guide to creating the course from scratch
  • How to reach people that would benefit from your course

The Innovative Teaching Academy is Currently Closed for Enrollment!

We’ll be opening up for enrollment in the Fall of 2017. Sign-up below to be the first to know when enrollment is available again!