Grateful for Stories


What’s their story?

I was in California over the weekend with my husband and we had a surprise encounter with thousands of migrating monarch butteries wintering at a small grove of eucalyptus trees at Natural Bridges State Beach. We arrived when the sun was filtering through the leaves and warming the orange and black wings of these delicate creatures. Seeing thousands of butterflies wake up and begin fluttering through the grove filled me questions. Why are they there? How do they know where to go? Is one of the senior butterflies their director of story?

Seeing them made me think about the gala we attended on Friday evening and how I have a serious case of job title envy. My husband and I were at the Digital Innovation in Learning Award gala and heard the Karen Cator, the CEO of Digital Promise introduce the keynote speaker and his position within the company.  I thought I misunderstood what she said, and had to check the facts on their website.

Director of Story

Digital Promise believes in the power of story enough to actually have a person be a Director of Story. Not a Communications Director.  Not a Media Relations Specialist.

Director of Story.

I think that job title speaks volumes about the vision and uniqueness of this company whose dream is for all learners to have access to learning technology.

And a storyteller he is. Marco Torres spent the next 20 minutes illustrating how math and music can integrate through GarageBand and iPad orchestra. Within minutes he had created a musical composition without ever touching a “real” instrument. Then he shared his story of how some students in Geneva, Switzerland saw a similar demonstration and then proceeded to make their own version of Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel. You can view this incredible piece here:


What I took home from that gala event were the stories about amazing educators being recognized for doing amazing projects in their schools. Administrators bringing coding to entire school communities. Teachers finding ways to connect their students with peers around the world. Companies bringing cross-cultural and meaningful exchanges to school aged children. Everyone in the room had a story. Stories with heart. Stories with vision. Stories with children as the core element. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to participate in the DILA gala event as one of the honorable mention award winners in the Busting Boundaries category because I could share the story of how my students have worked to make our world better through generosity and literature. Their story deserves to be heard.

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That story and those of our partners in Africa will continue to be heard in 2015-16 within the Microsoft Expert Educator program. Educators around the world have been celebrating for the last week after receiving their congratulations letter. Me too.

mie announement

My letter highlighted a spectacular week – acceptance into this amazing program, the DILA gala, and a Skype call across continents with 120 students from different cultures. I am grateful for the opportunities Microsoft has opened for me to meet and collaborate with teachers around the world and close to home.


I have been involved with the MIE program since 2012 and it has changed my life. I am not the teacher I used to be. I don’t regret the way I taught, but now I’m thrilled with how my lessons are evolving and integrating technology in meaningful ways. The world is coming inside my classroom without the need of a passport. This year my students will be making book trailers with students in Spain, writing cards and mini-stories with a teacher in Turkey, creating videos for students at a refugee camp in Kenya, plus continuing our Books to Africa program. All it takes is technology and a willingness to experiment and step outside the traditional box. I am not the extroverted person in the group and I certainly am not the most talented. I need quiet to re-charge my batteries and time to write. What I am willing to share is what my students want to say to the world. I am grateful that the MIE Expert Educator program has helped me find the voice for my students and myself through story, technology and education.

I am a teacher. I am a librarian. I am a Director of Story.


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7 thoughts on “Grateful for Stories

  1. Congratulations, Mrs Hembree – you have a wonderful story and are an inspirational educator. It sounds like an amazing event – and I love the title ‘Director of Story’. You have shared your Books to Africa story with us all over the last few years, and I have really enjoyed watching it develop and unfold. Keep up your amazing work!
    Mrs Monaghan

    • Dear Mrs. Monaghan,
      Thank you so much for your kind words! It’s easy to share stories when we love them, would you agree? I know you have told many great stories. One of my favorite memories of you are the photos you sent me from the London storybook benches. One day when I get back to London, I am going to visit some of them. I would never have known about those benches if you hadn’t shared their story with me.
      I am grateful for our connection!
      Mrs. Hembree

  2. Dear Mrs. Hembree,

    Congratulations on your recent honor! It is so well deserved! You constantly amaze me with your outreach and sharing with the world.

    I was at a conference last week and met a librarian. She wants to start a library blog, so I directed her to your site!

    Thank you too, for the beautiful butterfly photo you shared on our 365 blog. We always appreciate your contributions.

    As Thanksgiving approaches, it is the time to reflect about the people we are thankful for. I am grateful for your friendship and the learning opportunities you give to me!

    Again, congratulations!

    Linda Yollis

    • Dear Mrs. Yollis,
      When I think back to when I first started blogging, I think of you. I found your blog and was so excited to see what students could accomplish online. Now those early students are in middle school or maybe even high school. You have really brought technology into your classroom with meaning and thoughtfulness.Thank you for being my role model.
      I love to take photos, so I am very willing to send some your way anytime! I will look and see if any others from my weekend or otherwise might be good for your 365 blog. I admire your ability to keep it going.
      I hope you have an enjoyable Thanksgiving with your husband and doggie!
      Your friend,
      Mrs. Hembree

    • I shared your story with my 5th grade students in my library class today. The conversation the kids began about what you can do with GarageBand left me smiling.

  3. Dear Mrs Hembree,

    Congratulations! you so deserve this. Am so sorry for my last congratulations but am looking after an ill parent at present and don’t seem to be able to blog as much.

    However in saying this you are always in my thoughts as well as Mrs Yollis.
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful stories with us all.

    Take care Mrs Hembree,
    from your friend down under,

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