Choice & Scaffolding: How We Learn Best

This post was written by Karen Forsman, a Curriculum Resource Teacher for the Lewiston Independent School District. Karen is a Teacher Leader who went through the Idaho Coaching Network program during the 2013-14 school year, participated as a Returning Teacher 2014-2017, and is currently part of the Alumni Program. Watch how she shares her view on the importance of choice and scaffolding. 



Meet our SDE Leadership

Scott Cook – Director of Academic Services

An Appreciative Inquiry Biography
Written by Region III K-3 Coach, Amy Brownlee

Scott Cook is the Academic Services Director at the Idaho State Department of Education. One of his responsibilities is overseeing the Idaho Coaching Network, its coaches, and the work done to support teachers in Idaho. Scott passionately advocates for teaching and learning by being an active participant on the coaching team. The team continually collaborates to promote growth and a forward momentum by asking difficult questions and having hard conversations that propel this work forward. Scott is fully present, working right beside us in this endeavor. His dedication to the success of kids is what propels him to continually ask, “Why?” and push for innovation in education backed by solid philosophy and research. Scott holds a deep belief in the collective impact of Idaho’s teachers: “I am rejuvenated by the integrity of the teamwork being done by deeply motivated educators…they believe what we are doing makes a difference.” He values and acknowledges the risks that his coaches and the teachers of Idaho take every day. It is his ability to listen and ask powerful questions that makes him an integral part of this work. As you meet and get to know Scott you will quickly appreciate his open mindedness and the value he places on the abilities and sacrifices of people working together for a bigger goal. He is an innovator, a listener, and a champion for what is best for kids and for educators.


Diann Roberts – English Language Arts / Literacy Coordinator

An Appreciative Inquiry Biography
Written by former Region III K-3 Coach, Jayna Eichelberger

Diann Roberts works relentlessly to support the Idaho Coaching Network’s team of Coaches by providing sanctuary and working behind the scenes while nurturing hope and possibility for the coaches and their work with teachers. Idaho Coaches count on Diann for her caring dedication and fierce commitment to literacy. Her depth of experience in classrooms feeds forward into her role as the ELA/Literacy Coordinator for the state of Idaho.

Diann’s servant heart was honed in the sixteen years she spent in the classroom where she cultivated close relationships with her students, which remain to this day. Students still call her to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day, follow her on Facebook, and send letters. She has never forgotten the student voice in her current work with teachers and coaches. At her essence, Diann wants to make a difference and believes deeply in others.

Naturally serving others first, Diann is beloved by the coaches because she advocates for them, explains procedures, streamlines the work load, and enriches their lives with her positive perspective. She helps them as they construct the network to serve teachers, with the ultimate goal of making a difference in the lives of students. The significance of building caring relationships, which started in the classroom, echoes in Diann’s current work with the coaches.

When Diann is not tirelessly championing for the coaches, teachers, and students, you will find her on the ribbon of highway facing the horizon as she finds solace in “wind therapy” on her Harley.

Meet Our K-3 Coaches

Annie McMahon-3k-Coach

Annie McMahon – Region I and II, K-3 Coach

An Appreciative Inquiry Biography
Written by Region I Coach, Lisa Nance

Born in beautiful North Idaho, Annie is the youngest of 6 children, most of whom still live within driving distance, which is indicative of one of Annie’s core values: loyalty. Annie values her family time, and her life is fully integrated into the lives of her loved ones. This loyalty overflows into her work, and one of the first things she’ll share with her students is, ‘You are always one of my kids,” whether they see her in the hallway the next year or they run into her ten years down the road. She loves her students, and her primary goal is to serve her students, her coworkers, and her administration, supporting them in any way that is needed.

This culture of support that is ingrained into Annie’s character shows itself in the way she gives of herself, even if it’s difficult. The phrase “It’s not my problem” is not in Annie’s vocabulary when it comes to the people she loves and serves. Because of this and the toll it can take on a person, she is at her best when she’s in a supportive community where her work and loyalty are acknowledged and appreciated, and one begs to ask, who wouldn’t appreciate this devoted soul??

So how does Annie manage all of this and still find joy and balance in her life? Well, Annie likes to be prepared, not just for the sake of making sure everything on her plate is attended to, but because a bit of organization really helps Annie feel calm and focused but still flexible. Working best within a structure or guidelines, Annie is still able to adapt to accommodate the needs of a specific situation, which makes her a valuable team leader indeed!

Annie’s position this year, as a K-3 coach in Regions 1 and 2 is both exciting and challenging to her, but she’s definitely up to the challenge! If she could end this next year with anything, she’d wish to survive. That sounds like she’s

 a bit anxious about the year, but when she explains what survival looks like to her, we begin to see her strengths and positivity even more clearly. Annie’s picture of “survival” means that she has had a positive impact on her environment, specifically on the teachers she coaches, on the k-3 program and its future, and on her own confidence, abilities, and knowledge base. In other words, she’s looking forward to serving and prioritizing her teachers, her program, and herself. And here we see again that pesky little word: loyalty. As her coworkers and friends, we can be sure that as she navigates this first year with ICN, her focus will be on loyalty, service, and support. Are we lucky or what?


Amy Brownlee – Region III, K-3 Coach

An Appreciative Inquiry Biography
Written by Region IV Coach, Rhonda Urquidi

“Making a difference can mean changing one life.”  Amy Brownlee.

Amy’s coaching in Region 3 supports k-3 teachers.  Helping identify the big picture and work creatively means taking risk, but working day to day and finding the steps to create a pathway to those ideas is Amy’s specialty.  It takes balance, collaboration and creativity.  

Amy comes from a background working with primary and gifted students and their teachers, and her most treasured memories include moments involving productive struggle.  Helping students through advocacy is central to her core values as she spent time helping teachers see the needs of students “twice exceptional.”  The most rewarding aspect came in the form of a letter from a student that needed her help over time.  He struggled in a way that inhibited his learning, but with support and advocacy from Amy, he grew.  His letter of thanks helped her see the desparate need and the importance of connection.  

In region 3 this year, Amy hopes to find opportunities for connection and growth, and with her collaborative nature, to help teachers have fun while experiencing empowerment to gain back control designing their work, working successfully with students, and meeting the teaching standards.  

As teachers reflect on their year, Amy hopes her work will give teachers purpose and the support to feel stronger about their work.

If you’d like to connect with Amy, you can email her at  

Peggy Thomas-3K-Coach
Peggy Thomas – Region IV, V and VI, K-3 Coach 

An Appreciative Inquiry Biography
Written by Region V Coach, Heather Miller

Listener, worker, mother, and builder are words that truly describe Peggy Thomas, the new K-3 coach for Regions 4, 5, and 6.  Interestingly enough, being a mother is what led Peggy into a career in education.  One of her children was born twelve weeks early and as a result had some learning challenges which were difficult to overcome.  As Peggy puts it, “No one knew how to do deal with her.”  So, Peggy went to work, literally, and became a teacher, in order to help her daughter and others in similar situations.  She went on to spend the next 22 years working with students in the primary grades.

So, what led her to work with the Idaho Coaching Network?  Well, she says she’s a glutton of knowledge and is always looking to grow.  In addition, she loves watching new ideas click and grow within those she teaches, and this love leads her to naturally help people stretch and improve.  Peggy firmly believes that with the right support and direction anyone can learn to think outside the box.  For her this challenge of teaching is fun; it’s like a puzzle, one just needs to discover where all the pieces fit.  She is so excited to work with teachers this year and help them gain skills and resources that can help them and their students reach new levels of understanding.

Outside of work, Peggy relishes time with her family.  She especially enjoys watching the wonder and curiosity that emanate from her grandchildren.  Spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren at their family cabin in Central Idaho (where she can be found with her favorite chocolate and Diet Pepsi) rejuvenates her soul and brings her joy.

Those who work with Peggy discover quickly that she is ready to work, has a listening ear, and wants to build up those she encounters.  The K-3 teachers in Regions 4, 5, and 6 are blessed to have this wonderful woman to work with this year.  

If you’d like to connect with Peggy, you can email her at  

As a classroom teacher, how do you handle the week of Halloween?

With Halloween creeping up on us, our students are starting to get excited about their costumes and going Trick-or-Treating.  On the other hand, teachers are thinking about those crazy days leading up to October 31 and how to contain and redirect that awesome energy and enthusiasm!  Some of our Idaho Coaching Network teacher leaders shared some valuable insights with us about how to creatively survive Halloween.  

happy-halloween-facts (1)

“As a school we dress up each day for red ribbon week, but otherwise we teach the standards just like all other days.”  Tonya Dobbs, SPED LA 7-8, Region 3

“It’s just a normal week, except we have parent/teacher conferences.”  Jonelle Warnock, English 9, Region 3

“As a school, we dress up on the day of the Halloween dance.”  Mandy Stansell, 6th ELA/Pathways, Region 3

“In my class I use Halloween as a curriculum supplement. Since I teach History, I find readings that cover the origins of Halloween, etc. I usually cover the Salem witch trials around Halloween so we spend a lot of time looking at primary documents and finding the “truth” behind the Salem witches. Halloween is rich with historical/educational opportunities!”  Nicole Dodge, High School History, Region 3

“Stick to all routines and expectations, except on the actual holiday (or day that will be celebrated in school). Instead of a traditional party, we have a school parade so everyone can see costumes (K-2) and I let the kids do STEM activities most of the day, with a special treat.”  Lesley Doane, 1st Grade, Region 3

“I don’t do anything differently during the week of Halloween.”  Angela Hagans, 11th ELA, Region 3

“I embrace the chaos! We have a pumpkin scramble with high school buddies. I will also do a small class party and the kids get to dress-up.”  Makaila Medley, 2nd Grade, Region 2

“I joke that high school students are already monsters so there is no reason to celebrate their craziness.”  Mari Harris, 10/11 US History, Region 3

“At my school, the week of Halloween is often our Red Ribbon week. The students are able to dress up in different ways throughout the week, I usually squeeze in a few Halloween-themed art projects during that week, as well.”  Alexandra Guerrero, 5th Grade, Region 5

“We still do our “normal” activities for the week, with the exception of the day our school chooses to celebrate Halloween. We are doing a day of science with body systems, as well as some pumpkin science (following a farm field trip). Our school community loves having Halloween mixed in with science. It’s a perfect fit!”  Jamie Lynn Haralson, 2nd/3rd Grade Combo, Region 1

“I embrace Halloween. I know that the kids are excited (I, myself,  feel a little excited as an adult). My job is not to squash their spirits. We decorate, embrace the excitement, and celebrate with treats at the end of our day.”  Lindsey Matthews, 6th Grade, Region 2

“When I was in the classroom, we would have a “Literature Character Costume Party” on Halloween. On this day, teachers and students would dress up as characters from a favorite book and also bring the book to share with the class. Then we would do a variety of literacy activities throughout the day and culminate the day with a costume parade around the school. I make a pretty good Ms. Frizzle, if I don’t say so myself.”  Jackie Miller, Idaho Coaching Network Region 3 Coach

“Like any other week.”  Andi Arnold, 12th ELA, Region 3

“I don’t really address it in class. Students might tell me about their plans, but that is as far as it goes.”  Carly Hill, 9th ELA, Region 3

“I try to maintain a fairly normal routine but sprinkle in a few Halloween-ish books and lessons. We always celebrate with a Halloween party.”  Tammy McMorrow, 1st Grade, Region 3

Expectant Views of Students

This post was written by Ashley Mayes, a high school English teacher in Riggins (Salmon River Joint School District). Ashley is a Teacher Leader who went through the Idaho Coaching Network program during the 2016-2017 school year and is currently part of the Alumni Program. Read how she her view of students fuels her ability to truly see them as humans and to empower them as learners. You can visit her blog here.

I believe that teachers have an expectant view of students, who bring with them a set of beliefs, experiences, unique qualities, and shared characteristics and values of those that surround them.  As  teachers, this impacts they way we see them as they as arrive–untied shoes and all.  But by seeing them and all of their experiences,  we are able to see them more holistically and less judgmentally.

Only when we realize that that each student, big and small, has a personal story they carry around with them, then we can suspend judgement and bias, which in turn lends our teaching to meet them where they are and push them little by little toward self-acceptance and achievement.

When we do not enact this belief we ultimately set ourselves up for failure.  Failure to see our students as humans–failure to see other adults as humans–and more importantly, failure to see ourselves as humans who also have a unique history full of experience and sense of self.  This in turn is the greatest failure of all: not seeing our students as we hope to be seen by others.

Meet Region 1 Coaches

Region 1 Coaches serve teachers from the Canadian border in the North to just below Plummer in the South, and from the Washington border in the West to the Montana border in the East.  We work with a variety of teachers from larger and smaller school districts in a variety of grade level and subject areas.

“Everyone Has a Story”: Lisa Nance, Region 1 Coach

by Annie McMahon

“What kind of job allows me to combine my three loves: learning, English and working with teenagers?”  This is the question that Lisa Nance was asking her college self.  Then it hit her: TEACHER!   Having a career that combines three of her loves has been important and fulfilling for her.  She has found a sense of adventure with the challenges that being a teacher brings.

Lisa is a very accepting person with the mantra of “Everyone has a story we doesn’t know about and that story affects their behaviors; so don’t take their behaviors personally.” Applying this mantra to her daily life, she has a penchant for working with students others may find challenging or difficult.  She is flexible with her teaching strategies, to help these students find success within themselves, while holding them accountable to high learning expectations.  Bringing these expectations and mantra to her coaching position makes Lisa a very open and approachable coach.  She wants success for all participants and she will support them to ensure this occurs.

 She has an adventurous spirit which has led her from Minnesota to Texas to Idaho. After settling down in Idaho, she has kept her adventurous spirit active by joining the Idaho Coaching Network in its infancy.  She was a part of the first cohort and a returning teacher the following year. Her love of learning has kept her challenging herself to always improve her craft with the end result leading to her students being successful learners.

Lisa sees herself as shades of green.  Cheery and bright, calm and collected when needed to be, and adventurous all the time. The welcoming personality and humor she brings to the Idaho Coaching Network will make all participates feel comfortable and at ease.


“Amplifying Teacher Voice” : Katie Graupman, Region 1 Coach

By Brandon Bolyard

Katie Graupman values the power of amplifying others’ voices. Whether as an accidental journalist during a short stint in Ketchikan, Alaska, or as a high school journalism teacher, Katie knows that when others’ voices are heard, there is the opportunity for celebration, growth, and empowerment.

Now, rather than writing stories about bear safety for the Ketchikan Daily News or developing student journalists, Katie uses her keen ability to empathize, to inquire, to nurture, and to support (all qualities the best journalists and teachers hold) to provide the best environment for teacher growth. As a Region 1 Idaho Core Coach, Katie continues to value one on one experiences, but now she can bear witness to teachers’ greatness. Just as she did for 15 years in the Lakeland School District when she helped facilitate the greatness within her students, Katie now gives teachers choice and freedom by providing them the tools for self reflection, deepening learning, and valuing themselves and others.

Katie is guided by three core principles: every teacher deserves a voice; every teacher is capable of growth; and every teacher deserves appreciation.

Through observations and conversations, she aims to help elevate and amplify teachers’ voices. She is quick to acknowledge that she isn’t an expert and instead works with teachers to celebrate their accomplishments and to help them identify their own needs and wants on their journeys as educators.

Authenticity is key in Katie’s interactions with teachers, colleagues, and students. With Katie, what you see is what you get, which is someone who values others, is quick to celebrate, and ensures that her actions match her beliefs. Ultimately, she aims to truly value each teacher’s unique experience in order to support him or her in whatever way the teacher needs.

Katie believes teachers need choice in what they’re doing, and she strives to offer opportunities for teachers to explore options and take risks as they work together to recognize strengths and name their practices.

In thinking of the future, Katie hopes to carry on the legacy that has already been established by previous Idaho Core Coaches and help teachers feel supported and be successful during the school year. As she has done for her entire professional career, Katie will continue to honor and amplify the voices of those she works with, and it is through this amplification that others will always have a platform to share their greatness, their talents, and their accomplishments.

Meet Region V Coaches

Heather Miller: Region V Coach

by Peggy Thomas

How do you describe a woman who has taken on the overwhelming responsibility of becoming the newest Region 5 coach along with having a brand new baby? This is a description of Heather Miller, one of the superwomen that fill the ranks of the Idaho Coaching Network! Heather describes her current life using adjectives such as “tired,” “excited,” and “inspired”. She is an overwhelmingly positive person who should also use the adjectives “helpful,” “calming,” and “supportive.” We are so lucky to have her in region 5 and in the network!

Heather credits her success as a wife, mother, and teacher based on her core values which include: love of family, working with youth who are excited and energetic in their learning, and working with people who share similar and sometimes contrasting ideas. She loves that learning is “contagious” and shares her energy and enthusiasm with all she meets. Heather knows that her service to others is based on her love for making things work together. She loves the fact that these overarching values affect all areas of her life in a positive model.

Heather has loved learning about the idea of growth mindset and feels that she is a good model of it. She is open to new ideas and is excited for all the learning opportunities she has been given through the Network. She has learned many new strategies through the years that have contributed to her teaching in the high school world of English.

One particular memory she shares concerns her use of a Data Based Inquiry (DBI) with a group of students. Many students were being pulled from the class setting due to extra curriculum activities, but she persevered with the lesson. Both she and the students had a great time during the lesson and the word spread to the other students. Heather was so surprised when students who had missed the lesson appeared in her classroom asking WHEN they could make up the work! That is the sign of a good lesson! She has, however, also learned from using a strategy without looking at the make-up of her classroom. This example included having a student who needed structure and security who “flipped out” when she introduced a new strategy which was not as organized as he needed. It just goes to show that not all lessons are going to be perfect, but Heather rolls with the punches.

Heather also strives to keep a good balance between getting things done and feeling anxiety. She is a good organizer and planner. She prefers to plan ahead and also listens to all others before making decisions on topics. She has a positive outlook in life, but she also admits that being outside “gives her ideas.” She loves being an early morning person and enjoys small moments with her family during those times as well. Heather loves the idea of having the possibility of being a “student” again as she is learning the ins and outs of this new position. She values helping people push themselves to be their best and also loves building the relationships. She really thinks it is cool how the teachings of the Network seem to have a ripple effect through the region.

Heather is no average learner and no average teacher. She is joyful, celebrates individual worth, and believes that everyone can succeed if they want to. She is the positive influence and motivator that we all need. Her enthusiasm is contagious and her smile is a strategy that we all need to employ!

If you’d like to connect with Heather, you can email her at

Scott Corgatelli: Region V Coach

By Jackie Miller

Who is Scott Corgatelli? Well, that’s a question with many good answers. Scott is a family man, husband, father, teacher, coach, innovator, and advocate. He’s a man who invests in people and walks beside them as they grow, learn, and endeavor to be their best selves.

Scott, who lives in Pocatello, taught at Hawthorn Middle School and became involved in the Idaho Coaching Network in 2015 when a colleague invited him to join her on this educational adventure. He went through the new teacher program in 2015-2016 and was a returning teacher in 2016-2017, when he was asked to step into a new role as a coach. Almost immediately, Scott was in. He was compelled by the opportunity to make a new and important impact on education, to empower teachers who empower their students daily. Just as he did in the classroom, Scott changes lives, challenges learners to embrace natural curiosity, and elicits joy in others.

In the classroom Scott’s favorite and most important thing about being a teacher was investing in kids’ lives, understanding them deeply, helping them navigate life’s challenges, and letting them know they always had someone on their side. Scott has taken these same values into his work as a coach in the Idaho Coaching Network, where he now does the same for teachers in Region V and coaches across the state. Scott is energized by new opportunities and is looking forward to the next steps in his journey with enthusiasm. He’s always inquiring, always striving for deeper understanding, and always reflecting on his learning. Each of these qualities helps him to be a great coach and advocate for educators across our state and to play an integral role in the work of our network.

As he looks forward to this next year, he has committed to being present for teachers, to fging new connections with people, to empowering coaches, teachers, and students alike, and to accepting and extending invitations for future growth personally and professionally.

If you’d like to connect with Scott, you can email him at or follow him on Twitter at @ELALitCoach5b.



Getting to Know Region 4 Coaches

123_1       Region 4 coaches, Karrie Jayo and Rhonda Urquidi, serve teachers in the Magic Valley and beyond.  From Burley to Glenns Ferry and Wood River to Castleford, these coaches work with urban and rural school districts in a variety of grade levels, content areas, and specialists.  Get to know each coach below:

An Appreciative Inquiry Biography of Karrie Jayo (written by Region 1 coach Kate Keinert)                                                                                                karrie

Karrie Jayo joins the Idaho Coaching Network team as a Region IV coach after having participated as a teacher leader (first new, then twice as a Returning Teacher) over the past three years.  Her colleagues recognize her as an innovative, open-minded, lifelong learner who brings curiosity and vicissitude to her new role.  

Born in Alaska, Karrie has lived just about everywhere as part of an Air Force family, but she has found home in Hagerman with her husband of 37 years, Jeff.  She is exponentially proud of her three children, two sons and a daughter, and six grandkids.  Karrie uses her talents as a “doer;” she is someone who plans ahead, is a caretaker of others, and uses creativity to extend kindness, love, and gratitude to all she meets.  When she’s not working, Karrie enjoys sewing, hiking, and gardening; she also loves reading and getting together with friends.  Her love of travel carries through from her early life as a child growing up in the Air Force; Karrie embraces change and new experiences.  She is a pleasure to know; a joyful, energetic friend and colleague.

Karrie believes there is real power in collaboration: she herself was especially inspired by the opportunity she had during her most recent year as a Returning Teacher to observe another classroom teacher and, in return, be observed.  “It’s not like when your administrator comes in,” she explained.  Participating in this exchange made Karrie realize, “This teacher I got to observe was awesome!  And we were sharing so many ideas and strategies–I was able  to acknowledge that I might be pretty awesome too.”   These observations not only reassured Karrie in her practices, but the experience raised her spirits and sense of self-efficacy.  Karrie looks forward to providing similarly uplifting and empowering experiences for future teacher participants in the program.

After serving 20 years as a classroom teacher, Karrie is proud of her reputation as a forward-thinker, someone who doesn’t get too comfortable or too set in her ways.  She sees the role of Idaho Core Coach as an opportunity to continue growing and honing her craft as she guides and mentors fellow teachers in their own growth and new learning.  Karrie views this job as an opportunity to connect with teachers and to  inspire them to take risks in their teaching, to be excited about trying new strategies, and to collaborate in a caring and supportive environment.  If Idaho Core is about growing confident, motivated teacher leaders, and we believe it is, Karrie is a prime example of the program’s potential.  And, in true Idaho Coaching Network spirit, Karrie envisions herself as a capacity-builder in Region IV, with goals of building a solid foundation for teachers both new and returning to the program and of increasing participation across every district in the region.  

An Appreciative Inquiry Biography of Rhonda Urquidi (written by Academic Services  Director at the Idaho State Department of Education Scott Cook)

Rhonda-Urquidi-Edited hair

What does it take to strike off into uncharted territory, voluntarily leaving a solid, stable and wonderfully supportive educational life to throw in with the Idaho Coaching Network, into the unknown? Ask Rhonda Urquidi, a first year Idaho Coaching Network coach serving Region 4, and she might say, with no apparent contradiction, that it is both hard and easy. Hard because her heart is with her students and fellow educators at Mountain Home High School where she has taught most recently 9th and 11th grade English and AVID.  Easy because, as she would say, the pull to grow, be inventive and innovative, and see what is around the corner is at the  heart of her educational journey. This belief was highlighted by watching her mother continue to grow, ask questions, and innovate throughout her own career in teaching, and from having the  unique experience of going through the Boise State Writing Project with her mom in 2007 as a fellow. This seminal experience that focused on inquiry has led to much professional growth and introduced her to a fertile learning community that has been and continues to be an inspiration.   

Largely because of this experience and these  connections, Rhonda is also no stranger to offering professional learning to colleagues having created and carried out a number of inquiry based- workshops on literacy and the  higher expectations  in English Language Arts under the auspices of the  BSU Writing Project and the Idaho State Department of Education. In thinking about next year,  her twin goals  for Region 4 are to grow the network, making sure that all voices are heard, all perspectives valued, and building a place, above all, where it is safe to take risks. Lastly, though  Rhonda thrives on  stability and structure, she equally values  flexibility, innovation, and reaching for the stars with feet firmly planted. So, on to challenges, myriad  opportunities for growth and innovation, community building, and defining and living the future

Meet Region VI

Region VI is a rugged land known as Southeastern Idaho, or God’s country. Region VI  spans a great distance from the southern high desert plains of Blackfoot to the snow-capped Bitteroot Mountains and Bighorn Crags in Salmon, and west from the White Clouds and Sawtooth ranges in Challis to the Grand Tetons in Driggs. The people in Southeastern Idaho primarily work as farmers, ranchers, biologists, and guides in the rugged land, to nuclear engineers and technology gurus along the Snake River Plain. Such diversity of land and people make Southeastern Idaho a desirable place to live and raise families.

Merri Ann Drake, Region VI — Written by Ann Christensen

Coming from Driggs, Idaho and now living in Blackfoot Merri Ann has a love for Eastern Idaho. She cares about its people. She also has a love for learning and education. As one of the original eight literacy coaches for the Idaho Coaching Network she can embrace both these loves as she services Region VI educators.


Merri Ann demonstrates flexibility for learning by recognizing the needs of others, meeting them where they are, and guiding them to self-discovery. She realizes that participants in the Idaho Coaching Network are more than just teachers. They are coaches, PD presenters, conversationalists, cheerleaders, and thinking partners. So many titles require creativity and flexibility on Merri Ann’s part to assist in the growth of all. And, she does this with eloquence, style and compassion.


Merri Ann truly does believe that all people can grow. She believes that learning and reflecting on learning is key to growth and forward movement. “Reflecting provides the path to communicating what I’ve learned to others.” says Merri Ann. She continues with, “I used to learn to benefit myself and my students. Now, I learn to benefit the teachers I work with and their students.” Merri Ann’s colleagues agree that she loves sharing her learning.


Merri Ann’s commitment to sharing reflects her personal values leading to compassion and brilliant communication with others.


Valuing collaboration and whole team playing requires giving autonomy and acceptance of others’ autonomy. Merri Ann holds collaboration and whole team playing as priorities to success. In order to move forward, all players must have a voice, time to express that voice, process others’ voices, and time for discussion in order to proceed. When presenting Merri Ann demonstrates this very value. She allows participants to discuss topics, come to conclusions and then proceeds with new learning concerning the topic. She truly models her values of collaboration and communication. Her repeated modeling is evident in watching her participants follow the same protocol. While presenting what may have seemed to be a less than exciting PD topic, one of Merri Ann’s teachers allowed time for participants to voice their concerns and push back on the topic. Her teacher waited while collaboration happened and then, when participants were ready, moved forward with the PD. This is just one of many examples of how Merri Ann’s modeling a personal value in education is transferred to others.  


Merri Ann is an exceptional coach through her modeling, insight, and compassion to others. She is a true asset to the Idaho Coaching Network.

Nancy Chaffin, Region VI — Written by April Niemela

Creating a culture of risk-taking, reciprocal support, and authentic growth is a particular passion of Nancy Chaffin. (Want to pronounce her name correctly? Think the “ch” from Chai and rhyme it with laugh’n). An Idaho Core Coach in Region 6 since 2016, she went through the program as a Core Teacher in 2015-16. She brings her special blend of strength-based affirmation and voracious desire to learn to the Coaching Team.


Whether she’s serving as a thinking partner one-on-one or co-facilitating a workshop with her regional partner, Merri Ann Drake, her goal is to create a learning community. Ensuring that Core Teachers feel right at home and experience a sense of belonging and safety — even as they grapple with new learning and transfer literacy strategies into their own classes and contexts — is her first goal. And it is often because of this affirming culture of inquiry and creativity that Nancy’s teachers experience ongoing success, design innovative lessons, or find the courage to face difficult tasks.


What makes Nancy so effective as a Coach? She has a magical way of listening deeply and hearing each voice, both what is said and what is not being said. She affirms one’s very soul in the way she listens and the way she reflects back the words or thoughts just said. An example of this lies at the heart of a coaching experience she had this year with a teacher who was facing a unique challenge. In a pre-observation conversation, this teacher shared both her frustrations with her students’ lack of growth and her fears. Throughout the observation, Nancy noted crux instructional moves and in her post-observation discussion, highlighted these strengths. Upon reflecting on her lesson through this strength-based approach, as well as the ways in which her students engaged with the material, the teacher realized that the students really had risen to her high expectations through her careful scaffolding and tender nurturing. Her excitement bubbled up and she couldn’t help but share this newfound confidence with Nancy. It was through her attentive listening that Nancy provided space for the teacher to share, to reflect, and to gain confidence in her own teaching. At one point during a different coaching session, this same teacher stopped mid-sentence, looked at Nancy, and said, “Oh my goodness. I can’t remember the last time somebody listened to me like that.”


Nancy believes that each of us has unique gifts, some kind of genius to contribute to the world. One of her purposes as Coach and as a human being is to create an environment where teachers can contribute and develop their full potentials, share their strengths, their beauty, their unique selves. Through intentional listening and affirming crux instructional moves, she helped this teacher to see how she had transformed learning within her own classroom. This teacher discovered her unique gift in crafting student-centered lessons.


Nancy is a lifelong learner herself and espouses the philosophy that there’s always room for growth. She believes that we should all seek to grow forward, discard practices that are ineffective, and embrace habits that empower and enrich. She seeks to understand through intentional listening, asking questions of clarification, and slowing the conversation down as needed. And it’s this listening that creates space for learning and self-reflection and growth. This commitment to hearing her teachers’ needs and seeing their strengths is grounded in her values of engendering trust, nurturing growth, and embracing what is uplifting.

Modeling the life-long learner and growth mindset that she wants to see in her teachers, Nancy continually seeks out opportunities that hone her knowledge base and her coaching abilities. She has recently earned her Master’s in Teaching English Language Arts (TELA).




Getting to Know Region 3 Coaches

Region 3 Coaches Brandon Bolyard, Jackie Miller, and Emily Morgan serve teachers in throughout the Treasure Valley and beyond. With Region 3 stretching from the Idaho/Oregon border to New Meadows Meadows to Idaho City to Mountain Home, these coaches work with urban and rural school districts and a variety of grade levels, content areas, and specialists. Read on for an introduction to our three Region 3 Coaches through the lens of Appreciative Inquiry Interviews.

An Appreciative Inquiry Biography of Brandon Bolyard (written by Region 1 coach Katie Graupman)

For this flower gardener, being an Idaho Core Coach has been a growing experience as he cultivates relationships with teachers to help them flourish. Brandon Bolyard finds connections between his fifteen years of classroom experience teaching English Language Arts and Journalism  and his two years as an Idaho Core Coach.  That connection?  It’s all about supporting others through growth and helping teachers move forward on their own paths.  In many ways, Brandon has been coaching all along, as a teacher, a newspaper advisor, a department chair, and now as a Region 3 Idaho Core Coach.  

Brandon’s gift for helping educators grow stems from multiple strengths. Part of Brandon’s magic is that he helps teachers untangle their own thorny situations. He trusts them to find their own paths while providing the structure and understanding to help them explore possibilities and find the opportunities within the challenges.  Understanding that a growth mindset is essential to creating lasting impact, Brandon enriches others’ lives by believing deeply in them.

One of the ways Brandon demonstrates his deep belief in educators is by harnessing the transformative power of story, helping individuals discover and become the authors of  their own narrative.  Sometimes the roots of the stories teachers share are grounded in painful experiences and sometimes in celebration. Brandon believes all of these stories are important to tell and to hear–to break down the silos of  isolation, to give strength in recognizing the authentic struggle of teachers, and to celebrate the greatness of teachers. Authentic, thoughtful, playful and reflective, Brandon brings out the best in others by listening to their stories with empathy and kindness.

Brandon’s frequent coaching companion is Zora, his three-year old, domestic, short-haired, brown, black, and white Tabby.  Zora enjoys inserting herself into virtual chats with other Idaho Core Coaches, meowing the moment he starts talking, poking at his computer screen as he crafts workshops and emails,  jumping on bookshelves behind Brandon and batting baubles to the floor.   Brandon alternately enjoys and suffers the companionship of this feline friend.

Brandon “can’t help but find joy” as he grows alongside his teachers. With patience and kindness, Brandon builds relationships of trust and understanding, delighting in helping each person achieve his or her full potential–to support and strengthen the vines of the most well established teacher veteran and to encourage new teachers to blossom and come into their own. Brandon understands it takes time and care to cultivate a garden that is beautiful and lasting.

Looking forward, Brandon hopes to expand his garden of work by mentoring new teachers in the Idaho Coaching Network and by building on the relationships with the teachers he works with already.  Through this work, Brandon creates beauty, joy, and a legacy of lasting impact.

If you’d like to connect with Brandon, you can email him at  or follow him on Twitter at @bolyard.

An Appreciative Inquiry Biography of Jackie Miller (written by Region 5 coach Scott Corgatelli)

Jackie Miller is a coaches’ coach, quite literally. Not only does Jackie serve as a Region III Core Coach in the Idaho Coaching Network, she also serves to coach the coaches in the Idaho Coaching Network as part of leadership team for the Network. In both of her roles, Jackie encourages those under her care to work hard and to reach their professional and personal goals. While goal oriented and driven toward perfection herself, Jackie strives to strengthen individuals through connection, understanding, empathy, and goal setting. In all of her roles, Jackie makes it clear that she values creativity and embraces challenges as opportunities for growth. She strives to find growth opportunities in every situation. She does this as an extension of her own journey.

Jackie’s journey of becoming a coaches’ coach began by being Involved in the Boise State Writing Project where she met an incredible group of teacher leaders who modeled and mentored her.  Her journey led her to becoming  a teacher consultant with the Boise State Writing Project. As a teacher consultant, she led district and statewide professional development. As is so often the case, opportunities led to new opportunities, and during the first year of the Idaho Coaching Network, Jackie was invited to be part of the first cohort of teachers. As is her style, Jackie brought along a few colleagues to join her in the grand adventure. At the end of her second year in the program, A Jackie was encouraged to become a coach in the Network. Because of her passionate love for her students, she struggled to decide, but saw the chance to grow, so she applied. Jackie says that leaving the classroom was very difficult. She chose to take on the coaching position because of the opportunity to make a bigger impact on education in Idaho. In the course of her tenure with the Network, Jackie has fallen in love with helping teachers better themselves and watching them become consciously competent and efficacious in their role as educators. Of course Jackie can relate to her teachers because not that long ago she was where they are…

If you’d like to connect with Jackie, you can email her at  or follow her on Twitter at @jackie_mmiller.

An Appreciative Inquiry Biography of Emily Morgan (written by Region 2 coach Jill Diamond)

To Emily, life offers infinite opportunity to explore. Always open to adventure, she builds her orientation skills daily through tasks small and large: reading, writing, running, biking, and learning about life through the eyes of her two sons. When she is hours deep in endurance training, running the Boise foothills, she often calls on a running partner or a catalyst to help her persevere and finish strong. She offers this same support when she coaches; partnering with teachers to learn side by side, persevering through obstacles together. Most importantly, Emily supports others while they explore their internal landscape, guiding them to see the very best in themselves and their teaching practice.

Emily first explored the Idaho Coaching Network as a participant. She was excited to find like-minded teachers who loved what they do, who were eager to share successes and reflect on mistakes. She believes that teachers need a safe space, free of judgement, filled with humor and fun. No stranger to cultivating loving communities, she ensures the Idaho Coaching Network provides that sanctuary for teachers to explore their passions and out their frustrations and fears.

Above all, Emily values human connection. She listens with an open heart, always eager to hear possibility. She fills every conversation with her robust laughter, each learning space with her creative energy.  Everyone in any room hopes secretly, that they will get to a chance to explore  side by side with Emily.

If you’d like to connect with Emily, you can email her at  or follow her on Twitter at @emilymorgan2002.