Tell us about what projects you’re working on…
I’m taking a leave of absence next school year to take my teaching outside the classroom walls to share with leaders the importance of modeling health, wellness, and mindset strategies for themselves and their group of learners. I plan on visiting schools, businesses, sports teams, speak at conferences, teach fitness classes, and help individuals with their sports performance goals while working on my level one Precision Nutrition certification.
What is your idea worth spreading in 1 or 2 sentences?
No obstacle is too big and instead an opportunity to make a positive impact in the world around you.
What are you best known for?
Despite flunking high school and not being able to read a book until after earning my college degree due to undiagnosed dyslexia, I taught myself how to read while getting my master’s degree in reading and writing curriculum instruction. Today as an author, speaker, and educator I look at dyslexia as an opportunity to empower others to take charge of their learning.
While training for Ninja Warrior I started The EduNinja Challenge 5 years ago and wrote a book to inspire teachers to take charge of their health to be on their “A” game consistently for their students by moving more in the classroom to improve focus and engagement. With the right mindset, wellness strategies, and support system, everyone has the potential to overcome any obstacle to make a positive impact on the world around them by connecting their purpose and passion.
What other accomplishments could you share that we may not know about?
I was fortunate to play on a successful volleyball team of amazing coaches and players. While playing at Penn State our team earned 3 Big Ten Volleyball Championships in 1993, 1996, and 1997 losing the finals to Stanford my senior year. I earned All-Academic Big Ten Volleyball Awards 1994-1997 and was fortunate to be inducted into the Blue Mountain High School All Sports Hall of Fame.
What hobbies, causes, or activities are you passionate about aside from work?
I’m a life-long athlete who will always push the boundaries of what’s possible for me and hopefully open up a few doors along the way for others. As a young girl growing up in rural Pennsylvania in the early eighties some people were not happy I chose to play Little League baseball. Despite the push back I pursued a sport that I enjoyed and became the first female baseball player to make the all star team. This experience helped me to become comfortable when I was “the only” or “one of the few” later in life and started training Brazilian jiu-jitsu in the late 90’s and then again trying out for early seasons of American Ninja Warrior. These experiences helped to build my confidence as I was developing the necessary skills.
What was the goal of this project?
I wanted to help positively change the culture in all schools to a healthy one. As a keynote speaker and author of The EduNinja Mindset 11 Habits for Building a Stronger Mind and Body, I spoke at Penn State University for The Penn State’s Graduates of the Last Decade Women’s Leadership Conference to share the message with recent graduates and at The Better Together CA Teacher’s Summit at Cal State Northridge for current teachers about overcoming obstacles and the importance of health and wellness for teachers and students in schools. I continue to speak and lead professional development opportunities nationally both in schools and organizations. I lead various Twitter chats for Better Together CA, tlap, and Kids Deserve It to help improve healthy school culture with teachers, principals, and superintendents because I believe it’s important work to share so everyone is at their best consistently because teaching is not an easy job but an important job.
Can you share a memorable anecdote from your life that will give us a further sense of what drives you to do the work you do?
After my dad’s triple heart bypass surgery eight years ago, I wanted to show him and others how to lead a healthier life. My mom and dad came out to visit me in California this past winter for four months and we crafted a consistent exercise program, made a commitment to choosing sustainable healthy food choices, and practiced growth mindset tools. My dad was able to lose 17 pounds and my mom 6 lbs. during those four months and keep it off. My mom also learned how to swim during that time frame since she never took lessons before. I hope to share tools with others so they can achieve the things they once thought were impossible.