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Julie's Story

Seasoned Public School Teacher, Curriculum Designer, Critical Reflection Specialist

Her Career

Julie is passionate about and committed to curiosity above all else. She grew up in a home where curiosity, truth, and the pursuit of knowledge and solutions took priority over comfort zones, ego, and familiarity. This is at the root of all she does as an educator and as a consultant, but she didn't necessarily expect it to be.

As she settled into her lifelong goal of being a music educator, what she observed around her began grabbing her attention in a way she hadn't anticipated. It seemed to her that many of the teachers, students, and administrators felt unappreciated, unseen, unheard, over-controlled, over-worked, and resentful. Scores were low, dissatisfaction was high, and the standard response seemed to be a mix of blaming others, a sense of powerlessness, and ultimately, total stagnation. She saw that everyone was struggling, that they all longed to feel better about school, and that there were potential solutions which remained untapped due to a fundamental and widespread resistance to curiosity.

Not long after she started teaching, Julie entered the Masters of Education in Curriculum and Teaching program at Teachers College, Columbia University. At Teachers College (TC), she was asked to question every single assumption, definition, norm, possibility, etc. It was often a painstaking process, but, through it, she gained a new appreciation of the transformative power of lots of questions, thoughtful questions, and the willingness to question absolutely everything. When she was deciding on what to do for her Masters Project, her adviser pointed something out: all of her best work seemed to be addressing something called Critical Reflection. Critical Reflection then became the subject of her thesis, and now, her work as a consultant.

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Julie proudly centers her work around Critical Reflection, but what she values most is the quality of the experience had by those designing, implementing, and consuming curriculum. While she is committed to continuing to serve those in public education, she is particularly eager to take her work into other settings as well. The most brilliant educational moments she has witnessed have happened just as much in the classroom as outside of it, and she believes that her work with Critical Reflection can contribute to profound progress wherever learning is taking place.


Julie was an imaginative, creative, goofy kid who found elementary school to be mostly effortless. In junior high and high school however, a few academic difficulties emerged that were hard to make sense of. There was a powerful disconnect that happened a few times that she had no idea how to describe or resolve, but she got by. 

Once she got into college, the disconnect got worse and her confusion intensified. It started freshman year when she would study with her new friends from class. She wasn't sure how to study at a college level, so she did what everyone around her was doing and assumed it would work. Without fail, those friends would get A's, she would get C's, and she had no idea why. This was the onset of her shameful secret: something was wrong with her, she didn't know what it was, and no one could know.

Things snowballed from there. While she was excelling in many of her courses, she would skip some classes regularly, completely neglect major assignments and projects, then she would desperately try to make up for it at the end of the term. While she was technically not failing school, she was still drowning. She couldn't admit to herself how bad things were, let alone ask for help, so it kept getting worse. Eventually, it caught up with her, though.

Two quarters before graduating with her BA in Music Ed, she was kicked out of the school of education for low grades she had received during a summer term. The only classes she had left to take were though the school of education, so she waessentially kicked out of school. After pursuing every possible route to get back into school and finish her Music Ed degree, she had to accept defeat and leave with her BA in Music with no idea how to move forward. She had only ever wanted to be a music teacher and now that path was gone and she was lost.

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Almost as devastating as this blow to her career was the fact that now everyone knew her secret. At the time, she thought she was dumb, and lazy, and a screw up and those who had been fooled into thinking she was intelligent and capable would now know the truth. She met up with a friend one day to tell her what had just happened at school. After hearing the whole story, this friend said something that changed Julie's life. She said "You have ADD." Julie rolled her eyes and dismissed it as an excuse for lazy dumb people like her. The friend, who had herself been diagnosed with ADD years earlier said it again. "Julie, you have ADD. You need to go get tested".  So, with skepticism firmly in hand, she got tested. Every psychologist she went to diagnosed her with Adult ADD without hesitation. 

The diagnosis was the door out of her shame and struggle that she needed. The debilitating difficulties she had in school weren't due to laziness and stupidity; her brain really was different than her classmates' and it really wasn't her fault. She has a brain that can make intentional focusing and certain types of comprehension difficult, but also a brain that thrives on instinct, interest, creativity, and passion. It's a brain that can't easily stay on a path, but this is what allows her to offer unexpected, innovative perspectives. Her problem was not her ADD. Her problem was the belief that her learning style should fit into norms, match those around her, or meet others' expectations of what learning should look like.  Her diagnosis taught her this: Her instincts about what works for her and what doesn't work for her are not only right, they are the key to her success, and they should be unconditionally heeded.

Julie went on to get her certification at Brooklyn College a few years later, where she had her first chance to apply what she had learned about herself. She did things like sit in the front row of every class and ask every question she had no matter what. She learned that talking about what she was learning helped her learn best and that rewriting dense academic text in her own words in the margins helped her retain what she had read. She did these things simply because they felt helpful to her. She got a 3.95 GPA. Then, much to her surprise, a few years later she was accepted to Columbia University. This was going to be the biggest test yet of all that she had learned about herself since getting kicked out of school. She decided on day one to be unapologetically herself, ADD and all. The same person who had spent years barely getting by in college, who had nearly imploded academically, and who had been petrified by her fear of being different, was thriving at an Ivy League university because she was different. She passed her masters project on Critical Reflection without revision and graduated on time with a 3.85 GPA. 

In order to go from getting kicked out of college to thriving at an Ivy League university with a condition like, what she now understands is, ADHD, Julie had to entirely stop prioritizing academic norms, traditions, and expectations. When she received her diagnosis and started the long, difficult process of rebuilding her career, she knew she had to get radically curious about what learning could look like without those, or any, limitations. She began prioritizing her instincts, knowledge, experience, strengths, and authenticity over all else and it lead to levels of success she had thought impossible for her. Julie understands firsthand that standardized norms and traditions in education are power structures that are designed to be maintained, not reimagined. This journey with ADHD has taught her that when the priority in education is simply what works, and not what "should" work or has worked, then educational experiences can be a source of empowerment and liberation for everyone. 

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