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5 Inspiring Teachers to Watch

May 18, 2018

Beyond #TeacherAppreciationWeek 2018

When I was 10 years old, my father gave me a quote that he cut out of a Time magazine; I think he saw the writing on the wall that I was destined to become an educator as I assigned “homework” to my siblings and stuffed animals:

I know I was inspired by my fabulous teachers growing up! Teachers don’t often get the recognition they deserve. From their innovative teaching practices, to the minutes they devote to their craft daily, to the love of learning that they instill in students, they deserve recognition during Teacher Appreciation Week and beyond!

If you follow us on social media (@WonderWorkshopFB: TeachWonder, INSTA: TeachWonder), you will see that we are highlighting just a few of our educators who have stood out this year. Meet these fine folks from across the country who we think are just WONDER-ful:

CARRIE WILLIS (@CarrieWillis18) is the rock-star technology director at Valley Preparatory School in Redlands, CA. Having taught for 17 years, Ms. Willis epitomizes what it means to learn alongside your students. She has led their STEAM program with enthusiasm and creativity. She is one of our veteran Wonder League Robotics Competition coaches and is a Wonder Innovation Squad member. Recently, Ms. Willis has been making a splash in the conference circuit, helping other educators invite computational thinking into their everyday teaching. We’re honored that Ms. Willis is always pitching us great classroom activities to use in blog articles (Earth DayOlympics) and always comes to find us at conferences. (She’s coming to ISTE this year; come by booth #5418!)

TRAVIS LAPE (@travislape), Innovative Programs Director from Harrisburg School District, South Dakota, was the reason that we had teams from all 50 states in this year’s Wonder League Robotics Competition. We had all but South Dakota when we met him at a Bay Area conference. He, being a visionary and influencer, knew exactly who to tap in his state to help form a team. His efforts in the makerspace community are well known, and he has been instrumental in bringing the ECET2 initiative to life. Mr. Lape is a stanch supporter of other teachers in the work they do everyday for students, and he loves “watching the lightbulb go off when something they have done works.”

JENNA HOUSER (@JCBHouser) first heard of our Wonder League Robotics Competition (WLRC) last year. And as a first-year participant, she organized all 650 fifth-graders from the Grand Blanc Community Schools into WLRC teams! The Grand Blanc Community Schools created their own vetting process, which led to several of their teams being invited into our WLRC final Invitational Round. Ms. Houser’s a great example of an enthusiastic go-getter who sets high expectations for her students and her community.

FAITH PLUNKETT (@missfplunket) is the Entertainment Technology Academy Instructor (what a title, right?) at Monte Sano Elementary in Huntsville City Schools, Alabama. This past December, Ms. Plunkett had her students program Dash robots for their school’s Merry Maker Christmas Parade. She shared, “We programmed Dash robots to be fire trucks like are found in normal parades. We also had a Dashing Through the Snow float, a Dot programmed to sing the Hawaiian Christmas song on a float, and a float where the students programmed Dot to be a security alarm on the top of a Christmas tree to prevent someone from stealing their presents. Seeing their faces light up as they examined their final products and showed them to classmates, family, friends, and their teachers was priceless!”

Photo by Erika Alvero;

ARLENE SIMPELO (@ina2jack), a first grade teacher in California, just was awarded Teacher of the Year for Pleasanton Unified School District. We’re honored that she uses Dash & Dot to students with “21st-century skills: collaboration, critical-thinking, cooperation, persistence, not giving up, learning from your mistakes.” Beginning with Hour of Code just a few years ago, Ms. Simpelo expanded her robotics efforts to a lunchtime code club and now an after-school club with grant monies. Read more about her teaching accomplishments on

Even though #TeacherAppreciationWeek has passed, we at Wonder Workshop would like to #ThankATeacher, one and all as this school year wraps up!