Category Archives: Education

Students’ Achievement

Last year, a group of my students won a competition hosted by the Intrepid Museum. As a result, the experiment designed by those students will be launched to space in July for a 6-week stay aboard the International Space Station. Since this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we are attempting to raise funds so we can go to the rocket launch. More information can be found by visiting .

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NYCC Panel

Thanks to everyone who attended my NYCC Panel on Comics and Education. And, thanks to Diamond Bookshelf for sponsoring the panel!

Click HERE for a link to a .pdf copy of my presentation for those who are interested.

Click HERE to be taken to Andy Runton’s “Owly” website with educator resources.


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Filed under Comics, Education

Comics and the Common Core

It’s that time of year again – back to school. With the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, there is an increased emphasis on being aligned to the Common Core Curriculum. As an educator who enjoys using comics in the classroom, I’m pleased to share a resource that has been produced by Diamond Comics.

From Diamond’s press release:

“To help educators and librarians select materials to fit into their Common Core Standards curricula, Diamond Book Distributors have created the Diamond Graphic Novel Common Core List. Arranged by grade level, the Diamond Graphic Novel Common Core List offers 97 graphic novels from our publishers that will fit into a Common Core curriculum, along with resources including Library Classifications, Subject Headings, and Core Standards which apply to each book.”

The list and related resources can be found HERE (

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30 for 30 #15: New York Comic Con 2012

One of the best things about living in NYC is that this is the center of the comic book industry. Marvel and DC both have offices here, comic book movies are filmed (or at least based here), there are tons of comic book stores to visit, and there are lots of comic book fans in the area. As a result, there are many comic-related events during the year such as seminars, art shows, signings, and of course – conventions.

Since moving to NYC in 2008, I have attended many of these events. I’ve been to small shows, signings, art shows, and talks. However, the main event I enjoy each year is the annual New York Comic Con (NYCC). I’ve been to show each year I’ve lived here, and I’ve enjoyed each one. Sometimes I have worked with an exhibitor, and other times, I’ve attended as a professional (educator). While I have enjoyed each NYCC, this last year, 2012, was my favorite.

Here are my reasons:

  1. I was able to attend with my family. I have an amazing wife who is willing to attend with me each year as able, and this year, we included the kids. Although it was a hectic trip, heading into the city with two small kids, it was fun to dress up as a family and visit the con floor. My daughter, Sophia, loved seeing her favorite Superhero, Superman, in print, Lego, and human form.
  2. I attended with some great friends. The best part of a con is hanging out with your fellow comic book fans. Visiting the floor with Sophie, Luis, Matt, and Eric was great fun.
  3. I got to meet some of my favorite artists and writers. This year, I was pleased to be able to connect with Dustin Nguyen (Batman), Cliff Chiang (WonderWoman), Brian Azzarello (WonderWoman), and David Petersen (Mouse Guard) and have them sign some books and take some photos with me.
  4. I was able to be a part of a panel on using comics in the classroom. This was the best part of this year’s con experience. Joining two other educators and an editor from Diamond Bookshelf, I was able to speak about my experience in using comics to engage students and how to present this idea to reluctant administrators.

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30 for 30 #13: Plant Ecology 2004

Learning about Imperata cylindrica

Mincy teaching us about Imperata cylindrica (Cogon grass)

Of all the classes I took at Auburn University, the Plant Ecology class I took with Dr. Bob Boyd in 2004 was my favorite. The class involved lectures that did provide a basic overview of plant morphology but further examined how plants were adapted to their environments and how they responded to changes in them. There were also weekly labs that taught field  sampling and assessment techniques as well as plant identification.

The course was tough. Exams were killer. But it was fun.

While I enjoyed the lectures – Dr. Boyd has a great sense of humor, and although the material was very difficult, he made learning exciting – the labs were my favorite part of the course. Each week, we would head to a different plant community such as a granite outcrop, a field of belly-plants, a dense hardwood forest, or a pine stand undergoing fire management to learn how to collect plant data and identify new plants, or as Dr. Boyd called them, our “friends.”

That semester, I met hundreds of these “friends,” and learned how to identify them by sight. While it did seem like drudgery at the time, many of those names have stuck with me, and it’s now somewhat fun to be driving along the road and recognize plants such as Oenothera speciosaTillandsia usneoidesPlatanus occidentalis, Fagus grandifolia, and others.

The highlight of the course was a weekend trip to Dauphin Island. A group of students along with Dr. Boyd and his Ph.D student, Mincy Moffett, left Auburn early in the morning and visited several habitats along the way: Black Belt, Bottomland Hardwood Forest, Red Hills, Citronelle Pond before finally seeing the coast of Alabama and the coastal Dunes, Maritime Forests, and Pitcher Plant Bogs. That weekend alone, we were introduced to approximately 100 new species of plants. Furthermore, after spending all day Friday and Saturday seeing new habitats, identifying new plants, and practicing data collection, we had a plant quiz on Sunday morning. I must say that one of my proudest moments as a student was making a 100% percent on that quiz. I worked hard, and it paid off.

Course Packet - Yep, I still have it!

Course Packet – Yep, I still have it!

The semester concluded with a research project in which I sought to see how long the seeds a riparian species of tree, Platanus occidentalis (America Sycamore), could survive submerged in water and later germinate. It was the culmination of everything I learned and practiced in the course.

I made an “A.”

Since then, Dr. Boyd and I have kept in contact. Not only was he a great professor during the course, but as I remained in Auburn, he was always  willing to meet with me and discuss my future endeavors whether my senior thesis, my desire to go to seminary, or my plan to teach science in NYC. Now, every time I visit Auburn, I try to visit with him, even if he only has a minute to spare.

If I had to do it all over again, I would not hesitate to take his class again. They were good times that I’ll always remember.

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30 for 30 #12: First Open Water Dive in the Keys

First Dive - 2003

First Dive – 2003

During the spring semester of 2003, while a student at Auburn University, I took SCUBA diving as an elective. I was studying Marine biology, and I thought learning to dive would benefit any future studies.

While the majority of the class took place in the university’s aquatic center, in order to become fully certified, the students had to complete a certain number of open water dives. To facilitate this, the instructors offered a class trip to the Florida Keys during spring break.

A Spring Break trip to dive in the Florida Keys? I was all in.

Much of that trip was a memorable experience – the bus trip from Auburn to Florida, the seafood we ate in the keys, the wreck dive, the Jesus statue, the crummy hotel in which we stayed, and seeing Key West for the first time.

However, the best part was my first dive – Looe Key – and experiencing seeing God’s underwater creation. It was amazing to see fish, corals, starfish, and anemones – things I had seen only in movies or books – up close and personal. It was truly worshipful.

That first dive was the beginning of many – more in the Keys, rivers and springs in Florida, Australia, and Thailand. While every open water dive has been fun and memorable, I’ll never forget my first one.

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30 for 30 #9: RA Campouts

While attending First Baptist Clanton as a child and a teenager, I was involved in a missions-education program called “Royal Ambassadors.” On Wednesday nights, we read RA lessons and learned about SBC missions emphases and offerings such as Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. The main educational focus of this program was to train boys to be missions-minded men and developed followers of Christ, as expressed by the Royal Ambassador pledge:

As a Royal Ambassador I will do my best: to become a well-informed, responsible follower of Christ; to have a Christ-like concern for all people; to learn how to carry the message of Christ around the world; to work with others in sharing Christ; and to keep myself clean and healthy in mind and body.

As a participant in RA’s, one also had the opportunity to play in a basketball league, which attracted many boys to the program. While I did enjoy playing basketball, there was one yearly event that I looked forward to more than basketball – the annual RA campout.

Each year, the men of the church hosted a campout for all the boys involved in RA’s and their dads. We would go to someone’s land, set up a tent, build a campfire, cook all our meals outdoors, play tackle football (without pads of course…this was a man’s event), and enjoy the finale of the campout – capture the flag.

Beginning as soon as dinner was completed and darkness fell, we would dress in our black masks and camo, choose teams, and begin an all-night quest to protect our flag while conquering the other team. It was epic every time.

I’ll never forget some of those nights – hiding in a creek bed with Morris Bramlett and his dad while capturing invaders seeking to get to our flag, using a video camera with night vision to attempt to see possible enemies, and of course, the thrill of winning as you grabbed flag and returned to your base.

I hope that one day, Cornerstone Church has enough families where we can attempt a campout with our boys – having fun while also teaching them to become men of God.

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30 for 30 #5: Space Camp

If you’ve known me long enough, then you know that I love all things related to NASA. This love began when I was a child. As a young boy, my life-long goal was to be an astronaut. I read books about outer space; I watched movies about astronauts; my treehouse was a space shuttle at various times; I had NASA posters in my room. My love for outer space permeated everything.

Knowing that this was a huge passion for me, my parents arranged for me to attend Space Camp at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. I was in 6th grade at the time and was completely dedicated to pursuing a career as an astronaut. Needless to day, it was a big deal for me to go to Space Camp for a week.

And what a week it was! We had simulated missions, we toured the museum, we slept in a “habitat module” (which is a fancy Space Camp term for “dorms”), we launched model rockets, we watched videos of the Space Shuttle, and we learned all about the history of space flight. I could not have been more excited!

So, why did this passion not turn into a career? To make a long story short, it came down to eyesight. Being born in the Top Gun era (which is my favorite movie), and knowing that some of my favorite astronauts were also Naval aviators (e.g. Jim Lovell), my desire was to join the Navy and then NASA. But, my eyesight is pretty bad, and I realized at some point that such a goal would probably be unattainable. So, I left the ideas of space flight behind, which did end up working very well, as I can look back and see how God has used every experience to bring me to the point where I am now, and that I am 100% satisfied with His plan for my life. This is something that I will pursue in another post…

Nevertheless, as I began teaching science in Brooklyn, this passion for space began to develop once again. I began using NASA-inspired materials for lessons. I showed my students videos of NASA launches and interviews with astronauts. I even took them to a local Challenger center to simulate a mission to Mars.

Then, a great opportunity arose – I applied to a program that sponsored educators to attend Space Academy for Educators and was accepted. I was able to fly to Huntsville and spend a week reliving one of my favorite times from my childhood. Upon arrival I was assigned to work with a group of educators from around the country, Australia, and Canada. We simulated missions, launched rockets, built heat shields, toured the museum, watched movies, and became good friends. (Sounds familiar, huh?) Plus, I was able to learn about so many resources which I have been able to use in my classroom. It was a great week and seriously impacted my teaching.

Just like Space Camp ignited a passion in a 6th grade boy to pursue science, it ignited a passion in an educator to inspire his students.

My passion for Space continues. I still enjoy reading astronaut biographies. Click HERE to see my favorites. I still enjoy watching NASA videos, the best of which is the Discovery Channel miniseries When We Left Earth. And, I’m able to inspire my students and others through my work as a teacher and an official Space Camp Ambassador.

One day, I plan to return again, but this time to drop off my own kids. I’d love for them to have the same experience and be inspired to enjoy science in such a practical way.

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30 for 30

In a few weeks, I will be celebrating a personal milestone: I will turn 30. In order to celebrate the day as well as the last 30 years, I have decided to take some time to reflect upon some of my most fond memories from my life. Therefore, over the next few weeks, I plan to write 30 posts, each detailing a favorite memory, event, or milestone.

I do want to add some clarification for the few people who may take the time to read about my memories. These posts will not be chronological nor will I be giving one per year. Furthermore, they will not appear in any certain order so that more importance be placed on one memory over another; it has been difficult enough to select only 30 events. Finally, I will be omitting some events that are simply “too obvious” to include in my list. If you know me well enough, then you are already aware of the love I have for Jesus, my wife, and my kids. So, rather than writing a post about the day I was wed, or the day my kids were born, or the day I met Jesus and decided to follow Him, I will be writing about memories that have included these individuals or have been inspired by them.

I’ve never been much of a blogger; honestly, I feel that my time is better spent on other things. However, as I think about the mark I want to leave on this Earth, especially on my children, I think there is benefit in spending the time to document my life to share with my loved ones. I hope that you enjoy reading my stories and reminiscing with me.

Just for fun, here’s a preview of what’s to come:

Alf, Pat Dye, Mjaka, Mentone, Chi Chi, RA, 11-02, Fury, Diamond, and more…

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Excellent Tour of the International Space Station

Here is a video of Suni Williams giving a tour of the ISS:

via NASA Television

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