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Virginia Journal of Education

Bravely Into the Blogosphere

VEA members are making their mark by writing blogs.

Blogs are an essential part of today’s social media scene, and VEA members are creating and using them in increasing numbers to share facts and opinions about public education. Here’s a sampling of VEA members who’ve successfully ventured into the blogosphere:

Ken Halla, Fairfax Education Association
Social studies department chair and teacher
Name of blog: (four of them) US history teachers’ blog, world history teachers’ blog, economics teachers’ blog, US government teachers’ blog
Web addresses of blog:;;;

When did you start the blog, who was your target audience, and how often do you update it?
I started the blogs as I believed we needed more collaboration between schools. I never envisioned, though, that it would take off as it has. In my first month, April 2008, I received 300 hits and now I get 60,000+ a month between the four of them. 
By the end of 2014, I’d made about 860 posts. That means I’m making a post every day of the work week, year round, including summers. I think the posts grow out of what I am doing in the classroom and my pedagogical, technological and content needs. Since I teach four distinct preps, it makes it easier to maintain. The fact that so many people come to the blogs and/or write to me is an added incentive.

What are your main goals for the blog?
My first goal is always to make my classroom a better learning experience for my students. So you can literally go through my blogs and see how I have grown the last six years. In 2008 I turned to the Internet for new webpages. Now I’m focused on making my classroom a student-centered, teacher-facilitated, self-paced learning environment. 

Additional information:
I’d recommend blogging to anyone, as it has opened many doors for me. For example, I’ve done many in-services at lots of different schools, which pushed me to start and teach a 10-week course on integrating technology.  I was also approached, in April 2013, by Corwin Press about writing a book.  That labor, called Deeper Learning through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction, is coming out in early 2015. I was also asked to be on the advisory panel for the College Board’s 7-12th Grade Social Studies Advisory Board. Of course the biggest bonus is that I believe my students are more likely to master their content, learn at a higher level and, hopefully, I end up helping many teachers around the U.S. become better at their teaching craft.



Blenna Patterson, Radford Education Association       
First Grade Teacher
Name of blog:  Patterson’s Pack
Web address of blog:

When did you start the blog, who was your target audience, and how often do you update it?
I launched in January 2009. I’d been playing around and learning about it for most of the fall and introduced it to my first grade class then. My target audience was, and is, the families of my students. Since then, many classroom teachers have enjoyed getting ideas from it, as I have from theirs as well. 

What are your main goals for the blog?
My purpose in creating the blog was to give my students an opportunity to publish their writing for real people who would read it and give feedback. Over the years we have written posts as a whole group, as partners and as individuals. I’ve tried many methods, from letting them type their own posts, to scanning their writing, to recording the writer reading it. Updating the blog varies depending on what is going on in the classroom, the interest and motivation of the students and the time restraints/responsibilities/expectations/demands of me as a professional in my school. I tend to update the blog more in the spring semester due to the developmental abilities of first-graders.

Additional information:
The extended families of my students really enjoy seeing what is going on in the classroom. I have received the best feedback from the grandparents of some of the students who may live five to six hours away and, through the blog, have a better way to interact with and enjoy their grandchildren. It also works well for family members who may need to be away for extended periods of time, such as those serving in the armed forces.


Ryan Walker, Wythe County Education Association
Teacher of Second-Graders
Name of blog:  Wythe County Education Association
Web address of blog:

When did you start the blog, who was your target audience, and how often do you update it?
Our local executive committee began the blog during a brainstorm session at our regional W.G. Steele Leadership Conference in 2012. Our intent was communicating more effectively with our members and creating an online presence. Initially we updated it sporadically, but in the last year or so we have begun to update monthly and sometimes more often.

What are your main goals for the blog?
Our goal has been and will continue to be communication with our members. Using our blog, in partnership with other online resources such as Facebook and, we feel like we have a good mechanism to get the word out about news, events, and other information to our members.

This year our focus has been on community involvement, so the blog has been an excellent way to communicate about activities such as our day at the Farmers' Market, walking in our town's Christmas Parade, and other events. We have been able to advertise in advance of events, and then recap the events with pictures afterwards.

As it evolves, the blog (and our other online resources) are becoming a way to share broader educational news and issues to help keep our members informed on the state and national educational scene. Through our participation in public events, we’re developing a list of community members who want to stay in the loop on educational issues, and directing them to our blog through email blasts that hyperlink key bits of information, hoping they click the link to read more.

Additional information:
One feature that I really like about blogging is you can gather information about how many people are reading the different posts. This helps us as we post new information.

Blogging takes time and focus, but once it becomes a part of your communication arsenal it's a worthwhile endeavor.


Tammy Horton, Carroll County Education Association
Third Grade Teacher: self-contained, teaching all subjects
Name of blog:  Please Feed the Animals… The kiddos are hungry for knowledge!
Web address of

When did you start the blog, who was your target audience, and how often do you update it?
I started my blog in January 2012, for elementary school teachers and as a companion to my teacher product stores on Teachers Pay Teachers and Teacher’s Notebook.  

I like to update as much as I can. I’m a single mom, teacher and creator of teaching materials, so I don’t always have the opportunity to update as much as I’d like. My goal is to make a habit of updating once a week. 

What are your main goals for the blog?
When I first started, my main goal was to advertise my teaching products; the blog allowed me to explain how a particular product could be used in the classroom. As I read and surf other blogs, I like to understand just how a product is used. That way, I can have similar success in using it.

I’m also looking to see how education is viewed and how the educational climate is in other areas. Are other teachers as frustrated as I am about data and standardized tests? Are they feeling supported by administrators? Are they finding answers? Are there new teaching methods that I want to try? I think teachers everywhere are the epitome of lifelong learners. We search for new ways to improve our instruction, because we know that each child has promise. We must find that one method that speaks to each child.

I also feel that my blog has morphed, and become a venue of sending out a “cry for help,” if you will, about our country’s obsession with standardized tests. Our voice needs to be heard, because we are advocates for children.

Additional information:
Blogging is a great way to share your ideas, techniques and products with other teachers around the world. I’m a fan of many other blogs. It’s comforting to know that others share my concerns. It inspires me to know that there are so many teachers out there that truly love the job we do. Our world is truly a better place for their efforts. 


George Coe, Fairfax Education Association
World History teacher
Name of blog: World Religions
Web address of blog:

When did you start the blog, who was your target audience, and how often do you update it?
I started the blog in January 2013 to review and share resources that might help those of us who teach religion, and I update it once or twice a week.

In the beginning, my target audience was Fairfax County school teachers. My blog was part of a family of blogs in our county about history. But once my blog was picked up by national religion website, my audience has expanded. That happened last May, when the blog was included on Patheos, a website about religion.

What are your main goals for the blog?
I want to continue the blog because religion is such an important topic.


Riley O’Casey, Prince William Education Association
Teacher, middle school civics
Name of blog:  Live & Learn, an online column in the Bristow Beat
Web address of blog:

When did you start the online column, who was your target audience, and how often do you update it?
I was asked to contribute to the paper in the middle of the 2012-2013 school year, and have been doing so since. Bristow Beat is a local, online newspaper created by two teachers. 

My target audience is primarily the general public, but the column has also reached education social media sites, so I hope to reach colleagues as well. And if an elected official or two reads it, I’m happy with that.

I write from five to eight articles per year. If something big in education is happening, I may write a few extra pieces.

What are your main goals for the blog?
I hope to raise awareness among the public, our elected officials, our school division and parents about the issues, concerns, positives and negatives of public education. Just as important, I want to be a voice for my students, colleagues and members of my local Association.

Additional information:
The topics I’ve written about so far include tips for SOL testing, extracurricular activities, legislative decisions that affect education, the unintended consequences of No Child Left Behind, education reform, school funding, bullying by adults in our schools, SOL testing disadvantages, and how to have a great year.


Jessica Winston Saunders, Chesterfield Education Association
Third Grade Teacher
Name of blog:  Ms. Winston’s Blog
Web address of blog:

When did you start the blog, who was your target audience, and how often do you update it?
I started in the summer of 2011 and my target audience was primary teachers in grades 1-3. I try to update at least every two weeks but sometimes I post more or less depending on how much information I have to share.

What are your main goals for the blog?
I share teaching ideas and promote the educational resources I create for my website, The Teaching Oasis ( Through the years I’ve also been able to share about my life and some of the obstacles I’ve faced personally.

Additional information:
I would like to think of my blog as a wealth of information, showcasing literature ideas and strategies you can use with your students in your own classroom.



Blogging? You?

Yes, you can do it, too. Here are some easy steps for launching your own blog:

Get it for free. You don’t need to know coding or HTML language. Go to a free blogging site, like or, and you’ll find everything you need.
Register. Once you find a website you’re comfortable with, register and give your blog a catchy name.

Make some choices. You’ll be able to customize things like colors, number of columns and design, along with how comments can be set up and moderated.

Type on!  Get rolling—you can now start adding, editing, deleting or changing your thoughts

Keep typing! If you want people to notice your blog and stay interested, you need to update it frequently, and include images and links to other sites to engage your readers. It doesn’t have to be a one-person operation—you can collaborate with others to keep it fresh and different.



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