Better Learning Podcast

While students may be 20% of our population today, they are 100% of our future. That is why education is one of the most important investments a country can make and the sole purpose for the existence of the Better Learning Podcast.

The Better Learning Podcast brings on valued guests that talk about ways we can improve education for our kids. Because after all, they are 100% of our future!

In 2022, the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) partnered with the Better Learning Podcast to help facilitate more conversations with educational leaders and change-makers across the country to help support their mission of improving the places where children learn. The conversations that are held on the podcast are meant to bring educational leaders at all levels real-world issues and solutions that listeners can take with them to the district, school, and community level!

The Better Learning Podcast is hosted by Kevin Stoller, CEO of Kay-Twelve and author of Creating Better Learning Environments. The podcast is also associated with other organizations that are focused on improving education including the Education Leaders’ Organization (ELO) and the Second Class Foundation. If you are interested in being a future guest or have a topic suggestion for the Better Learning Podcast, you can apply here!

Scott Bess

Innovating New Ways to Teach Students

November 30, 2022

Scott Bess set out to break the one-size-fits-all high school academic mold and launch Purdue Polytechnic High School where students learn in an engaging, hands-on environment and are inspired to seek out what they learn rather than be told what to learn.

As Head of School, Scott created the vision and strategy for the initial Purdue Polytechnic High School in 2017. He has subsequently opened two more campuses. He is leading the planning for the expansion of Purdue Polytechnic High School throughout the state of Indiana.

Scott has spent most of his career innovating new ways to teach students and instill in them a love to learn. Prior to joining Purdue Polytechnic High School, Scott was President of Goodwill Education Initiatives and founder of The Excel Center, which offers adults who have dropped out of school an opportunity to earn a diploma. He helped expand The Excel Center’s model across the nation and today, The Excel Center serves more than 6,000 students in multiple states.

A proud graduate of Purdue University (B.S., Mathematics) and Marian University (M.A., Education), Scott has been a teacher, IT executive and business owner. He is a Pahara Fellow, has served on the boards for the Danville Community School District and EmployIndy, and currently serves on the Central Indiana Board of Ivy Tech Community College, the Region 5 Works Council and the Washington, DC, Goodwill Excel Center. Additionally, Scott was appointed to the State Board of Education in September of 2021.

Scott has four grown children and lives in Danville, Indiana, with his wife, Robin.


Rachel Wisnefski

School Bond Election Results

November 23, 2022

This month revealed some amazing results with over $40B passed bonds for school capital funding around the country.

In this episode of the Better Learning Podcast, we sit down with Rachel Wisnefski, PhD who has over 15 years of extensive experience in business development and education market expertise. She serves as Chief Revenue Officer for The Amos Group.

The Amos Group is the parent company of SchoolBondFinder and SchoolNetwork. SchoolBondFinder is the first comprehensive, online database tracking K12 bond–funded capital improvement projects in the United States for solution providers. SchoolNetwork is a networking platform for K12 District Administrators to connect and collaborate; share funding project documents; review solution providers; and advertise RFP/RFQs nationwide.

In addition to her oversight on all customer-facing operations of The Amos Group, she also represents the company to current and prospective stakeholders, policymakers, partners, and government entities for the purpose of raising awareness of the brand in the private and public sectors. Dr. Wisnefski also serves as an elected representative on the Beaufort County Board of Education, serving the Beaufort County School District’s diverse student body of over 22,000 students. She previously served on the Board of Trustees for the Beaufort Jasper County Academy of Career Excellence, and also presently serves on the Board of Directors for the Education Market Association (EDmarket).


Emily Cole

Fans First

November 16, 2022

The Savannah Bananas think there’s a better way to do almost everything. So they try it all. Some people may think they’re crazy. But they are okay with that. No matter what, they just want one thing – to make baseball fun and ultimately give fans the best possible experience at the ballpark.

They call this Fans First.

Emily Cole is the owner of the Savannah Bananas with her husband, Jesse Cole, which is all about making baseball fun with a Fans First mentality. They're passionate about making baseball fun and are currently planning the 2023 Banana Ball World Tour which will take the Bananas across the US. They are also licensed foster parents and currently have 3 kiddos in their home.

Prior to her work with Fans First Entertainment which began in 2011, Emily spent time with Ripken Baseball and the Augusta GreenJackets as well as the Vermont Lake Monsters and the Binghamton Mets. Emily’s biggest passion with the team is working with the full-time staff, interns, and hundreds of game-day staff workers to focus on the culture, service, and logistics of events held at the ballpark.


Laura Burke

Tomorrow's Entrepreneurs and Inventors

November 9, 2022

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Everyone remembers this class activity and you may even remember what your answer was throughout the years. But what's crazy, is that about 60% of teenagers are interested in someday starting their own business.

Sixty Percent.

If over half of our kids want to be entrepreneurs, why don't more of our schools help support them? Well, that's what a new school out in Aurora, Colorado has set out to do.

Laura Burke is a 23-year veteran of the K-12 system and has served as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, special education district administrator, and principal on special assignments working in leadership development. She is now the founding principal of the Clara Brown Entrepreneurial Academy, a new magnet school in Aurora, CO, and the first and only K-8 public school in the state focused on entrepreneurial education in Colorado.

Clara Brown is an inclusive community where everyone is empowered to be innovative risk-takers and creators of their own futures. Here, children learn how to develop and act on their ideas to become tomorrow's entrepreneurs and inventors.


Anya Kamenetz

Game Changer in Education Reporting

November 2, 2022

In years past, you could look at the mission statement of any school district in the country and break it down into two categories – trying to get kids into college or trying to get kids into a better college. That's it. And even though high schools across the country usually promote a four-year college degree as the main option, that path is not right for every student – and not everyone is prepared for it.

Over the last couple of years, we have seen a national shift where some school districts are pushing away from this because of factors like COVID and the national student debt. But what if the workforce deemphasized the importance of college for skills you can teach yourself?

Anya Kamenetz is the author of several books: Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006); DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education (Chelsea Green, 2010); The Test: Why Our Schools Are Obsessed With Standardized Testing, But You Don’t Have To Be (Public Affairs, 2016); The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life (Public Affairs, 2018); and finally her latest book The Stolen Year: How Covid Changed Children’s Lives, And Where We Go Now (Public Affairs, 2022).

In this episode, we dive into different conversations that overlap Anya's several acclaimed books on learning and the future.

Anya was named a 2010 Game Changer in Education by the Huffington Post, received 2009, 2010, and 2015 National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, won an Edward R. Murrow Award for innovation in 2017 along with the rest of the NPR Ed team, and the 2022 AERA Excellence in Media Reporting on Education Research Award. She’s been a New America fellow, a staff writer for Fast Company Magazine and a columnist for the Village Voice. She’s contributed to The New York Times, The Washington Post, New York Magazine and Slate, and been featured in documentaries shown on PBS, CNN, HBO and Vice. She frequently speaks on topics related to children, learning and technology, to audiences including at Google, Apple, and Sesame, SXSW and TEDx.

Anya grew up in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana, in a family of writers and mystics, and graduated from Yale University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters.


Erin Jones

Passion for Change

October 26, 2022

Teachers can't replace parents and schools can't solve all student ills. Yet in a lot of ways, our educational system still demands these efforts from our schools.

Erin Jones has been involved in and around schools for the past 26 years. She has taught in a variety of environments and some of the most diverse communities in the nation. In this episode, we dive into her passion for change and her initiatives to help make the change a reality.

Erin received an award as the Most Innovative Foreign Language Teacher in 2007, while teaching in Tacoma and was the Washington State Milken Educator of the Year in 2008, while teaching in Spokane. She received recognition at the White House in March of 2013 as a "Champion of Change” and was Washington State PTA’s “Outstanding Educator” in 2015.

After serving as a classroom teacher and instructional coach, Erin worked as an executive for two State Superintendents. Erin left the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2012 to work in college-access at the school district level. She left her job to run as a candidate for State Superintendent and was the first Black woman to run for any state office in Washington state, a race she lost by a mere 1%.

Erin has 3 adult children – a daughter who graduated from Central Washington University and works for the Equity in Education Coalition, a son who is a second-year graduate student at USC and one who attends college and coaches high school football and rugby with her husband of 27 years, James, who is a teacher and football coach in North Thurston School District.


Claire Latané

Landscape Architecture Within Education

October 19, 2022

There is an urgency to support our students, teachers, and communities with learning environments that heal, nurture, and inspire. So how can our schools remake themselves to benefit health, learning, and feelings of belonging?

Our guest Claire Latané (la-ta-nay) is a writer, ecological designer, and Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona) and takes a deep dive into this question. She applies landscape architecture and neuroscience research connecting designed environments with mental health, safety, academic success, and physical and social outcomes to create healthier school and community environments.

Her book Schools That Heal: Design with Mental Health in Mind, was released by Island Press last summer. In 2021 she founded the Collaborative for Healthy and Inclusive Learning Environments through Cal Poly Pomona’s Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies.


Travis Lape

Design for People, Pedagogy and Place

October 12, 2022

Our twentieth episode in the Season features Travis Lape.

What was you experience as a kid with school?

Too many schools around the world still operate in a traditional manner, leaving future students to experience these same challenges that we faced years ago. If we are going to improve education, we need to continue to challenge the status quo and create change for education.

In 2015 Travis was recognized for his work with integrating technology into classrooms by being named TIE Technology Leader of the Year. Travis believes that by empowering learners to drive their learning we can start to create a new system that honors all learners and their cultures.

When Travis is not at work you can find him spending time together with his wife Lynn and their two boys DJ (4) and Tyler (1).


Chris Potts

Student-Centered Leadership

October 5, 2022

Community involvement is crucial when districts go through new construction or renovation.

Our nineteenth episode in the Season features Chris Potts, who is the Chief Operating Officer for the Upper Arlington City School District located in Columbus, Ohio. He takes a deep dive into how the district went about getting community support during their major renovation projects just a couple of years ago.

Chris leads the day-to-day operations of the Upper Arlington City School District. His department of talented directors oversees nutritional services, transportation, capital improvements, maintenance, grounds, and custodial operations, as well as human resources for the classified staff.

He is a student-centered leader who believes in the importance of meaningful relationships with faculty, staff, and students in order to achieve comprehensive excellence across the departments, which he leads.

Before joining Upper Arlington City School District, Chris graduated from Avon Lake High School in Avon Lake, Ohio. He received his BA in psychology from Denison University in 1998, where he also earned 4 varsity letters as a member of the basketball team and served as team captain his senior year. In 2001, Chris earned a Master’s Degree in Sport Management as well as a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from The Ohio State University.

On a personal note, Chris and his wife Megan, a 1994 Upper Arlington graduate, reside in Upper Arlington and have three children, Natalie (17), Charlotte (15) and Ryan (13).


Erica Waayenberg

Research-Based Insights in Education

September 28, 2022

Our eighteenth episode in the Season features Erica Waayenberg, an interior designer, strategy-minded problem solver, and head of research & content for ThinkLab.

Erica embraces design thinking with a career that has encompassed interior design, sales, strategic program development, marketing management, and consulting within the design world. Erica’s enthusiasm for design and how we connect to our surroundings was fostered in her education in interior design from Michigan State University.

She is passionate about the creative process, authentic marketing, the built environment, and connecting people with inspired and thoughtful design. To her role at ThinkLab, Erica brings a well-rounded industry perspective paired with an eagerness to inform and inspire industry members of all types through research-based insights.

Outside of her office, Erica loves to travel, be outdoors, dive into messy creative play with her boys, and savor great conversation with friends and family over coffee or a French 75.


Sandra Duncan

Inspiring Spaces for Young Children

September 21, 2022

Our seventeenth episode in the Season features Sandra Duncan, an international consultant, author of six books focused on the environmental design of early childhood places, designer of two furniture collections called Sense of Place and Sense of Place for Wee Ones, and adjunct faculty at Nova Southeastern University.

Sandra works to assure the miracle and magic of childhood through indoor and outdoor play spaces that are intentionally designed to connect young children to their early learning environments, communities, and neighborhoods.

Sandra has designed and taught university courses on built learning environments and has collaborated with architects, interior designers, and educators to create extraordinary places and possibilities for children and students of all ages.


Tom Vander Ark

Experiencing Is Believing

September 14, 2022

Our sixteenth episode in the Season features Tom Vander Ark, an advocate for innovations in learning.

As the CEO of Getting Smart, Tom advises schools, districts, networks, foundations and learning organizations on the path forward. He is the author of Getting Smart, Smart Cities That Work for Everyone, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making at the Heart of Learning.

Previously, he served as the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Tom has also served as a public school Superintendent in Washington State and has extensive private sector experience.


Kyle Schwartz

I Wish My Teacher Knew

September 7, 2022

Our fifteenth episode in the Season features Kyle Schwartz, a teacher at Doull Elementary in Denver, Colorado.

Kyle Schwartz just finished her tenth year of teaching at Doull Elementary in Denver, Colorado. In her first year of teaching, Kyle asked her students a simple yet powerful question-- What do you wish your teacher knew? Her students' candid responses inspired the #IWishMyTeacherKnew movement and sparked a conversation about the realities students face and how schools can become more supportive, safe, and welcoming.

Her first book, I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids focuses on realities that students face and how educators can respond to their students’ needs by building relationships. Her second book, I Wish For Change: Unleashing the Power of Kids to Make a Difference is a guide for educators, families, and mentors to help young people find a personal sense of power and use it to better their communities.

In addition to teaching, Kyle is a dedicated advocate for students. She has spoken internationally about supporting all students, differentiating instruction for students learning English, building strong classroom communities, and helping young people create change.


Brandon McLaughlin

Sustainable Design for Learning Environments

August 31, 2022

Our fourteenth episode in the Season features Brandon McLaughlin, the principal architect for the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In the shadow of the Las Vegas Strip, the Clark County School District is the 5th-largest school district in the U.S. at a staggering 305,000 students. Brandon came to the district on the heels of approval for a $3.7 billion dollar Capital Improvement Plan extension and oversees the architectural design for new and replacement schools along with modernization efforts.

A district often criticized for prototypical, "prison-like" facilities historically, he looks to slowly align an ever-changing educational delivery model with buildings that support and ease delivery of content that increases student outcomes and enhances student and staff daily experience.


Kerri Brady

Unapologetically Committed to Educational Planning

August 24, 2022

Our thirteenth episode in the Season features Kerri Brady, the Vice President of Educational Practice for Huckabee.

Kerri focuses on educational planning, educational research, school safety + security, and change management. She helps clients shape the learning expereience by facilitating in-depth conversations and explorations on vision, curriculum, experience, and space.

Kerri also serves on the Board of Directors for the Texas School Safety Center as the architect member and plays an important leadership role in the LEx Collaborative, a partnership between Huckabee, ESC Region 12 and Baylor University that focuses on educational research and the built environment's impact on student success.

Most recently, Kerri led the charge to rewrite the School Facility Standards for the State of Texas and co-authored an international book about the role of Career and Technical Education in 21st century learning.


Ellen Perconti

Personal and Professional Development for School Leaders

August 17, 2022

Our twelfth episode in the Season features Ellen Perconti, the Superintendent of the Goldendale School District 404.

Ellen is a learner, with a commitment to serve others in their learning journeys so that we can grow connections and seek wonder. Currently, she serves as Superintendent in Goldendale, WA and is the Board President of the Education Leaders' Organization. Ellen has a background in professional learning, curriculum, assessment, and leadership.


Wes Watts

The Importance of Culture Within Schools

August 11, 2022

Our eleventh episode in the Season features Wes Watts, the 2022 Louisiana Superintendent of the Year for West Baton Rouge Parish Schools.

Wes just finished his 30th year in education. He spent 22 years on a high school campus as a teacher, coach, and principal. The last 8 years he has been the Superintendent in West Baton Rouge Parish, but has recently stepped down from his role within the district to take on other career goals.


Christian Long

Unapologetic Advocate for School Design

August 3, 2022

Our tenth episode in the Season features Christian Long, an unapologetic advocate for wonder and curiosity as the root of all learning worth doing and all learning environments worth designing.

He currently serves as the Chief Growth Officer for the THINK Learning Studio consultancy and PD center, a new initiative of THINK Global School, the world’s first and only all-traveling international high school.

Christian’s team created TLS to help every educator, school and learning network foster the mindset and conditions to help every student take the next step on their unique, real-world learning journey. By collaborating with school leaders and educators around the world, they design dynamic real-world learning models which seek to empower today's learners to make purposeful impact in the future. To do this, they’ve adapted the TGS’ renowned Changemakers® place-based, Project Based learning curriculum into a set of tools and methodologies that empower all types of educators to bring project-based learning to their students—regardless of location, age, economic status, or learning ability.


Randy Fielding

Designing Schools Where Learners Thrive: An Alignment Journey

July 27, 2022

Randy Fielding Our ninth episode in the Season features Randy Fielding, an Architect and Founding Partner of Fielding International, an interdisciplinary architecture and education firm that designs schools where learners thrive.

Randy has authored more than 50 publications and received numerous design awards, including the top two International awards in school planning and design: Planner of the Year and the MacConnell Award from A4LE. Randy’s work is grounded in research, which he has shared globally as the co-author of The Language of School Design: Design Patterns for 21st Century Learning.

He is also the Creative Director for SchoolPatterns.com, which Fielding International launched in 2021 to create a shared language and library that is accessible to all. More than 70 Design Patterns illustrate key ideas in school design, with problem and solution statements, an image gallery, and links to learn more. The power of these Patterns are brought to life in 15 recent articles at Getting Smart, including 6 Elements of Thriving Learners, Personal Space for Safety, Wellness and Autonomy, and How to Design a Learning Commons, all at gettingsmart.com/author/randy-fielding.

In this podcast, Randy will discuss the importance of aligning a Learning Ecosystem: the dynamic cross-section between a school’s vision (what it is aiming to achieve for its students and community), its educational program (how a school functions to achieve that vision), and its social and physical environment (culture and places where the program is delivered).

Rethinking the approach to visioning and design has never been more important. He will share how school communities around the globe are, more than ever, recognizing misalignments between their aspirational vision for thriving learners and their learning environments; and, how a new tool Fielding International developed has reshaped the visioning and design process to be more effective and efficient in creating vision-aligned learning environments.


Kelly Smith

Empowering Learners Through Microschools

July 20, 2022

Our eighth episode in the Season features Kelly Smith, the founder and CEO of Prenda (prenda.com), an education company that helps people run their own microschools.

Kelly Smith has been obsessed with learning and building things since childhood. After a master’s degree in nuclear fusion (MIT), Kelly had a career in engineering and marketing at various technology companies and sold a small software business in the clean energy space. He started volunteering with an afterschool code club at the local public library, helping kids learn computer programming, and he was so excited about the power of self-learning that he started a microschool around his kitchen table in January 2018.

Kelly lives in Mesa, Arizona with his wife and four children.


Brad Sever & Brian Schoch

Sustainable Project-Based Learning

July 13, 2022

Our seventh episode in the Season features two guests – Brad Sever & Brian Schoch.

Brad Sever is an Assistant Principal at Carmel High School in Carmel, Indiana, which has about 5.,400 students. He has been an international educational consultant on project-based learning since 2010 and has worked with over 100 schools. He recently published a book with Solution Tree Publishing titled "Sustainable Project-Based Learning," which effectively integrates PBL, SEL, and PLCs.

Brian Schoch is a skilled educator, with over 20 years of experience as a classroom teacher, and 13 years of experience leading professional development workshops in Project-Based Learning with teachers across the country. He earned his bachelor's degree in Business from Miami University (Oxford, OH) and his master's degree in Education from The Ohio State University, while working at Ohio State's Center on Education and Training. Brian's work has been featured in:
  • Project-Based Teaching: How to Create Rigorous and Engaging Learning Experiences by Suzie Boss and John Larmer
  • Setting the Standard for Project-Based Learning by Boss, Larmer, and John Mergendoller
  • Sustainable Project-Based Learning by Brad Sever.


Prakash Nair

School Architecture with Research-Driven Innovations

July 6, 2022

Prakash Nair Our sixth episode in the Season features Prakash Nair, a world-renowned architect, futurist and the Founding President & CEO of Education Design International.

This episode is a special one – starting this week, our podcast Better Learning is now partnered with the Association for Learning Environments or also known as A4LE (have you seen our new logo!?). The partnership comes with Kay-Twelve's mission alignment with A4LE to help lead innovation at the intersection of learning and place in school around the world!

Over the past 22 years, Prakash has helped build EDI into a global leader for school architecture with innovative work in 54 countries on six continents. Prakash has won many international awards including the 2022 Outstanding Educational Leadership Award and the A4LE MacConnell Award, the highest honor worldwide for school design. He has done a TEDx talk and is the author of several books including Blueprint for Tomorrow published by Harvard Education Press.
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