Giving Thanks | Personal Messages from Our Team (Part 1)

Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go!

The past year has certainly seen its ups and downs, victories and challenges, and most notably recognizing that while divisiveness may hurt us, our resolve to be united for what’s right will always prevail. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we wanted to share our gratitude, faith and hope.

We hope you take time to read ours, and also share with us your thoughts in the comments below. We do have so much to look forward to working together.

From Caroline Novak, President

I am thankful for educators who commit themselves to developing the critical thinking skills of their students. This gives me hope for our future. Also, I am thankful for people who commit to enhancing knowledge and understanding for people of all ages. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s “The Vietnam War” was almost too painful to watch. But the lessons from history are essential and in the end, the individual’s stories provide a sense of connectedness for humanity. I am especially grateful for a family with whom I can share this discussion at the Thanksgiving table!

From Cathy Gassenheimer, Executive VP for the Alabama Best Practices Center

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the people with whom I interact. I work with talented, and motivated colleagues who are committed to making Alabama a better place for all Alabamians. I’m grateful for the educators that devote themselves to educating our future generation and doing what it takes to make a difference. And, I’m grateful for my family and close friends who remind me that there is goodness even in difficult times.


From Thomas Rains, VP of Operations and Policy

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for being part of a team working to strengthen Alabama by making it a place where every child has the opportunity to achieve his or her potential. I’m thankful to live in a country based on the idea that we all have a meaningful role to play as citizens. And, I’m so thankful for my wonderful family and the chance to break bread with them.



From Pam Walker, English Content Director for A+ College Ready

As I visit in schools across Alabama, I am always moved by the interactions I have with teachers.  While teaching can sometimes be a daunting and overwhelming task, I have found through these visits that our state is blessed with dedicated educators who seek daily to love children while providing them the best learning experiences they can.  To be able to see with my own eyes the impact of the work of A+ is truly inspiring. I am thankful to be a part of an organization that empowers and supports teachers in their efforts to bring quality education to all students in our state.  My professional experiences bring great joy to my personal life because they water the hope I have for better days ahead for all of us.  This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for Alabama’s classroom teachers who guide and nurture our youth.

From Matt Dean, Science Content Director for A+ College Ready

This year, I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with all the great people at A+ Plus College Ready and the A+ Education Partnership who work so hard to improve education throughout our state.  I’m grateful for the dedicated students and teachers who’ve I’ve  been able to meet and work with in my new role as Content Director for Advanced Placement.  I’m also extremely grateful for my loving wife and four healthy and crazy boys.


From Tammy Dunn, VP of Academic Affairs for A+ College Ready

During this season of thankfulness, I am grateful for the difference education has made in my personal life.  I am the first person in my family to earn a college degree and thank my parents for helping make my dream of college education become a reality.  Because I intimately understand the life changing impact that education can offer, I am thankful that I am blessed to work everyday to make the same educational opportunity afforded to me a possibility for more and more of Alabama students.  I am grateful to work with a staff of people who give their best every day on behalf of teachers and students in our state.  I am grateful for school leaders and for classroom teachers who work tirelessly to develop student potential and to raise up a generation of Alabamians who will lead us into the future.  Finally, I am thankful for family and friends who reflect the beauty in this world that is often masked by the challenges we face.

From Carol Yarbrough, Computer Science Principles Consultant for A+ College Ready

Thanksgiving is a great opportunity each year to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for.  Personally, I am thankful for my beloved family and friends.  Professionally, I am thankful for my beloved friends in the Computer Science education community.  I am thankful to be a part of this committed, passionate group of hard-working professional educators, not only in Alabama, but nationwide.  I am thankful for the progress that has been made this year in Alabama’s K-12 Computer Science education.  I am most thankful, however, for all of the Alabama teachers who are providing opportunities for our students to learn to think computationally.   Thankfully, teachers work every day to prepare our students for the opportunities of the future.

From John Norton, Communications Consultant for the Alabama Best Practices Center

I’m grateful to live in a time when the internet makes it possible to create professional and personal learning networks that enrich my life every day. Surprisingly, what I learn is often something I can apply in “real” life and in my relationships with actual (as well as virtual) family, colleagues and friends. A great example of this was shared in Twitter just today by one of the educators in my PLN network, Alabamian Dr. Frank Buck. It’s an article titled “You Should Interview an Elderly Family Member This Thanksgiving,” complete with a compelling story and how-to tips. What a terrific idea!

From Chip Turner, Science Content Director for A+ College Ready

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my families. My zany family I was born into, and the one I married into that keeps me grounded. I’m thankful for the family I work with most days of the week that challenge and accept me, and I’m especially thankful for the extended family of dedicated and selfless teachers that I try to serve. Each of my families inspires me in different ways and amazes me in turn. You all refresh my optimism. I have learned to learn from all of my families, and wouldn’t be nearly the person I am today without your love and caring. I am thankful to God that my long and crooked path has taken me straight to my home.

From Pat Johnson, Consultant for the Alabama Best Practices Center

Lately, I have been pondering a phrase that is evident in many vision statements in education–‘lifelong learners’.  Educators across the state seek to promote the idea of helping individuals pursue an ongoing search for knowledge both personally and professionally throughout life.

In digging a little deeper and reflecting on this phrase, I have realized that in pursuit of this lofty goal dedicated professionals work diligently to help others develop skills that one must possess to be a lifelong learner.  A few of the skills include the skill of listening actively,  being open to others in conversations, questioning with an intent to understand and being willing to change.  These are the subtle skills that  that make me a better wife, daughter, sister, aunt, teacher, coach,– everyday– and throughout life.  For this, I am thankful!

From Alyson Carpenter, Instructional Partner for Athens City Schools

I love the time for Thanksgiving each year. It brings with it the opportunity for both reflection and celebration. This year, I am especially thankful for a collaborative team and the work we are fortunate to do each day.  It is a blessing to be a part of a dedicated group of educators who truly believe that we can and will make a difference for students.  Those who know me won’t be surprised that I am also grateful for a fast-paced and fun working environment. It is exciting to be a part of a group with forward momentum and a desire to be the best we can be for the students we serve. I am also thankful for the opportunity to connect with and learn from colleagues from across Alabama through the ABPC and A+ networks. The time spent learning together with others across the state builds connections, community, and partnerships that make our state, districts, and schools better places for kids! Last but certainly not least, I am so thankful for the love of family and the time we have to spend together during the holiday season. Blessings and well wishes for a safe and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

From Emily Strickland, Program Coordinator for the Alabama Best Practices Center

See This Thanksgiving, as I look back on this wild past year, I realize I have so much to be thankful for.  I am deeply indebted to the entire A+ family for taking a chance on me and welcoming me so warmly into their ranks. I am beyond thankful to work in a positive environment where I am supported and encouraged and surrounded by people who constantly teach me new things and provide fresh perspectives. This includes the educators and administrators I have met and worked with in our networks, whose selflessness and bravery and determination to improving schools for all kids  -present and future – inspires me to be a better person everyday. I am grateful to my family and close friends who push me to take challenges that they know will end up strengthening my life and who also comfort me when I falter along the way. Finally, it warms my heart to come home to our 3 Golden Retrievers everyday who kiss me on the nose and give me unlimited snuggles. The joy they bring makes all the vacuuming worth it 😉

See Part 2 of Giving Thanks