Karen Abbott has been working with general and special education students for more than twenty-five years. She has served as a special education resource teacher, school-based Title I resource teacher, inclusive education teacher in a multi-age classroom, and a district resource teacher for low-performing schools. In these roles, she has worked with economically and culturally diverse populations. Karen is currently a special education resource teacher, grades K-5, for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
Karen is an advocate for the use of systems thinking habits and tools, especially with students facing learning challenges. She believes that when students have trouble expressing their ideas through conventional means, the systems thinking tools and habits provide structures that enable the students to clearly express and refine their thinking.
Brian Bindschadler has been working in education for over twenty-five years and is currently an English teacher and the Gifted Coordinator at Orange Grove Middle School in the Catalina Foothills School District. He has a masters degree in gifted education and received his National Board Certification in 2007.
He was first introduced to systems thinking when he started working at Orange Grove in 1993. Almost immediately, he recognized the potential for increasing students’ critical thinking capacity through the use of various tools. Over the years, he has focused his efforts on using systems thinking tools to surface key concepts and make them more accessible to students. He also facilitates systems thinking workshops so that he can support colleagues as they learn to implement systems thinking tools and concepts in their classrooms and schools. One of the things he finds the most powerful for students, colleagues and himself is the impact of using systems tools to slow down, step back, and examine a system in order to understand what’s really happening.
Desiree Chrun attends the University of Missouri majoring in Pre-Social Work with a minor in Sociology. She spent three summers as an intern at the Social System Design Lab at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. This is where she began her learning journey of system dynamics and systems thinking.
Desiree was also a college mentor for the Social System Design Lab and had the opportunity to work with the Camp Snowball group as a facilitator and participant for two years. This work follows her initial roles within her high school’s Social Justice Club and Leadership Program. She was also an Ambassador for a St. Louis high school program, Gateway2Change. In this role, she attended the National Coalition on School Diversity in Washington D.C. She is currently tackling something new by working as an Optician at a Doctor’s office in-between classes. During her spare time, she enjoys spending time at her favorite book store, doing a face mask, and being with family.
Caryl Crowell retired from the Tucson Unified School District in 2017, after 41 years of teaching. Caryl taught bilingual 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and multi-age classes and served four years as the Magnet Program Coordinator at Borton Magnet School, where the focus was on project-based learning and systems thinking. She also spent three years supervising student teachers and teaching undergraduate social studies, reading, and language arts methods classes as a Clinical Assistant Professor for the University of Arizona College of Education.
Caryl began her journey in systems thinking in 2006 in a Level 1 workshop. She immediately saw connections to her classroom teaching, especially in the areas of literacy and science. Over the ensuing years, she found many applications across the curriculum and introduced the ST tools and Habits to her students through such uses as story analysis, supports for student writing, and the creation of simulation games in the science and social studies curriculum. Caryl co-facilitates systems thinking workshops and presents about her classroom work with systems thinking at national and international conferences.
Currently, Caryl is a docent at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and a volunteer in her granddaughter’s classroom and other classrooms at Borton Magnet School. She is active in national and local literacy organizations and, most recently, has been facilitating professional development in science for area teachers, including systems thinking in these workshops, through Partners for Equitable Science Instruction.
Anna Geras has spent approximately ten years as an elementary classroom teacher, teaching first through fourth grades. Currently a third grade teacher for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina, Anna has been involved with systems thinking since 2011. She was initially fascinated with the systems thinking (ST) mindset as a participant at Camp Snowball, and she gradually integrated the ST tools and habits in her lessons.
Anna has served as a systems thinking model teacher and coach at the campus and district levels and has also presented at national systems thinking conferences. In her classroom, Anna has seen tremendous gains in the complexity of student thinking since she has employed the ST tools and habits. She believes the systems thinking approach naturally cultivates critical thinking and connection making, which leads to lifelong applications beyond the classroom. Her favorite ST tool is the behavior-over-time graph because its uses are so versatile, and the students feel empowered when they can “tell the story” of their graphs.
Julie is an educator and graphic artist whose artwork is being used to illustrate the habits of a systems thinker and other Waters Foundation resources. She has 30 years of experience in education working with students from pre-school age through community college. During her career as a Spanish teacher, Julie took an active role in curriculum development and assessment, as well as action research and collegial coaching in best practices.
Julie’s journey with systems thinking began when she used it with her students in her Spanish classes and continued when she served for seven years as an elementary school systems thinking (ST) mentor. As a systems mentor, Julie coached teachers as they applied ST with their students, co-created systems thinking instructional resources, assisted administrators with organizational learning goals, and co-facilitated ST workshops. Currently, she is co-facilitating systems thinking workshops and creating ST and system dynamics resources in both English and Spanish.
Trevor Hicks is currently studying Secondary Education with a concentration in Social Science at Harris-Stowe State University. After graduating, he plans to be a high school classroom teacher in St. Louis. Trevor also is program assistant at SkipNV, a St. Louis based start-up that co-designs community solutions with people at the center, using system dynamics and rigorous community-based participatory research to ensure that all young people in St. Louis have equal access to inspiring educational environments and opportunities.
Trevor has also worked with the Social System Design Lab (SSDL) at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis to use systems thinking and system dynamics to design and facilitate multiple youth summits with high schoolers around St. Louis focused around the issues of structural racism, gun violence, youth homelessness, and educational equity. He has also worked on a project with Reos Partners that focused on designing equitable health systems scenarios. Trevor believes in using systems tools to advance social justice and is passionate about using systems thinking to empower students to be leaders and advocates in their communities.
Amber Jones holds an M.Ed in Early Childhood Education and has been working in the field of early childhood education for approximately 20 years. Mrs. Jones began her career as an early childhood classroom teacher before becoming director of a child care center and preschool. She is a certified facilitator with WestEd’s Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC) and has spent over a decade integrating systems thinking concepts into child development courses for early childhood education teachers.
In 2015, Mrs. Jones served as the lead content developer for Systems Thinking in Early Childhood with WestEd’s PD2GO Professional Development Series, published by First Five California. Currently, she is the Founder and Lead Consultant of Creating Connections Consulting Group, LLC which offers professional development services to strengthen early childhood education programs and nonprofit organizations serving families and children. Mrs. Jones has expertise in curriculum and instruction, infant and toddler development, early childhood quality improvement, systems thinking, facilitation, and coaching. She is honored to be an Associate with the Waters Center for Systems Thinking and believes that systems thinking Habits and tools can be a catalyst for positive and sustainable change.
Holly Knutson has been working in education for twelve years and is currently a Reading Specialist working with students in grades K-3. Mrs. Knutson has a master’s degree in Reading Instruction from the University of Arizona.
She was first introduced to systems thinking in 2011 at Camp Snowball. As many do, she fell in love with the tools and habits as they seemed to serve perfectly in explaining the complexities of systems found in life. Similarly, she immediately saw the application in her work with elementary students.
Students in her class use systems thinking to better access their ability to solve problems and think critically and creatively.
Dianne Lam is a lifelong learner of systems thinking and system dynamics. As a program assistant at the Social System Design Lab at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in Saint Louis, she receives the opportunity to deeply understand system insights and change her ways of thinking. She works as part of a team to learn about and master systems thinking/system dynamics activities, develop/maintain relationships, plan/coordinate for annual youth summits, and serve as a mentor. Dianne graduated from Ritenour High School, class of 2016, and is currently pursuing a higher education at Harris-Stowe State University, majoring in Secondary Education with an emphasis on Math.
She is also a Camp Snowball facilitator on a core module named, “Find Your Voice, Take the Lead!” She strongly believes that youth should be given the correct skills to empower themselves to find their passion and confidence, as others have helped her do for herself. Dianne is very passionate about studying social justice issues and finding solutions to produce positive social and educational transformation. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, interior designing, working with youth, and spending time with her amazing family and friends.
More than 25 years ago at the middle school where she was working, Anne LaVigne fortuitously experienced the use of systems thinking concepts and tools within classroom instruction and organizational learning as part of the school’s Waters Foundation project. She was immediately drawn to the potential for these strategies to generate huge lifetime benefits for both adults and youth alike. Since that day, she has collaborated across educational and non-profit settings to increase understanding of dynamic, interdependent systems in ways that empower, engage, and motivate. She has co-authored several books, including Systems in Motion: Exploring Complexity through an Interdisciplinary Lens and Model Mysteries: An Exploration of Vampires, Zombies, and Other Fantastic Scenarios to Make the World a Better Place.
Anne currently works with the Creative Learning Exchange, focused on systems thinking and dynamic modeling within K-12, and with CommunityShare, focused on connecting teachers with community partners as a way to bring the world into their classrooms. She is an artist, teacher, facilitator, instructional designer, and always – a learner.
Daniel Murphy-Cairns is an elementary school teacher who has taught 1st and 4th grade students in Tucson, AZ. Prior to working as a classroom teacher, Daniel was an environmental educator in the Pacific northwest. As an instructor with that program, Daniel enjoyed teaching elementary, middle, and high school students from schools across the Portland, OR metropolitan area.
In a fairly unique position among the educators now working with systems thinking (ST), Daniel actually began working with ST when he was a student. Daniel’s experiences with systems thinking during his K-12 education gave him first-hand knowledge of and appreciation for the power of using ST tools, habits, and simulations in a classroom setting. As a classroom teacher, Daniel uses systems thinking to help his students develop the critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills they need in order to be successful during both school and career.
With over twenty years experience in elementary school classrooms, Kelly Nichols is currently a third grade teacher for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. In addition to teaching grades 1-5, Kelly has served as an adjunct professor at Wake Forest University and provided staff development across the state of North Carolina.
Kelly believes that supporting educators as they apply systems thinking habits and tools can revolutionize the way classrooms, schools, and districts function. Critical thinking, problem solving, and the ability to analyze a situation are gifts to pass on to the next generation.
Lynn Pence started her career in education in 2006. She is currently a Curriculum Technology Integrator (CTI) for two elementary schools in Tucson, Arizona. Prior to becoming a CTI, she taught social studies at the middle school level where she and her students often applied systems thinking tools to student learning.
Lynn’s journey with systems thinking has been one with many foci: educator, student, coach, school improvement planner, writer, facilitator, wife and mother. Using a toolbox she’s stocked with systems thinking habits and visual tools, Lynn has a passion for collaborating with others as they use systems thinking to build knowledge in school and life.
Danielle Robinson is currently a Math Interventionist at Brown Street Academy in Milwaukee Public Schools. She works with students PK-5th grade focusing on conceptual mathematical understanding as well as helping students develop a mathematical identity.
She also works to support teachers in her building with their math instructional practices. Her systems thinking journey began in 2014 while teaching second grade at Brown Street. She believes in the use of systems thinking tools and Habits in instructional planning and also to help students learn and grow.
Danielle is passionate about using systems thinking to help students develop a mathematical identity and to see math in their everyday lives.
Tony Robinson has been in education for over 20 years. He has served as a history teacher, assistant principal, and director. Currently he is Deputy Superintendent of Secondary Education in the Cape Girardeau School District where he is responsible for all secondary education aspects and district technology and instructional technology.
Tony was introduced to systems thinking by former Director of Waters Foundation projects, Mary Sheetz, and they have co-facilitated several sessions on leadership and systems thinking. As a site leader, Tony has implemented systems thinking practices in classrooms and in all school improvement areas, building leadership team practices and student voice initiatives. He also participated in group model building at Washington University’s Brown School Social Systems Design Lab where students from Tony’s district came together with students from neighboring districts to work as interns and lead summits on race and violence. Tony then employed group model building as a school improvement tool with staff members. Tony continues to practice systems thinking personally and teaches building and district leaders the benefit of using systems thinking for evaluation and improvement purposes.
Denise has designed / implemented workshops and strategic coaching sessions that incorporate systems thinking concepts and tools in all areas of classroom curriculum through her work as a Program Director with the Pima County School Superintendent’s Office in Tucson, Arizona. Beginning with numerous state grants over ten years ago, Denise has shared the tenets of systems thinking with all levels of professional educators. The tools are a perfect complement to her facilitation work with academic content and pedagogical instructional strategies.
Mrs. Ryan’s 45 years in education encompass classroom experience in mathematics and technology plus various administrative positions, including district superintendent.
Michael Savage is a college sophomore, guitarist, and cellist studying at Franklin and Marshall College with a focus on Public Policy and Philosophy. He is considering pursuing Business (MBA) and Social Work (MSW) graduate degrees, hoping to leverage various sorts of advocacy for new ideas that address inequities with solutions through business philanthropy or strategies involving models.
He is involved with the LEDA Career Institute, works at the Office of Admissions at his college, and is a recipient of the Princeton University Prize in Race Relations. Beyond this, he emerged from Ritenour High School’s Social Justice Club as a founding member to engage in the pilot 2015 Race Summit and 2016 Gun Summit at Washington University in Saint Louis. This opportunity allowed him to return as a mentor intern for the 2017 Summit on Youth Homelessness. This complements his work with Camp Snowball, where he has participated in Portland and Sacramento. He is now moving on to help facilitate F&M’s College Prep 7.0 and is excited to work with national high school juniors.
Kathleen Scheppe is presently a Director of K-8/Elementary Schools for the Tucson Unified School District in Tucson, Arizona. In her current role, she supports schools in the areas of curriculum and best practices, school improvement, and implementing systems thinking to enhance school effectiveness. Before moving to a central leadership position, Mrs. Scheppe’s 33 years in education included elementary and bilingual classroom experience in rural and urban areas. Kathy has mentored principals for the University of Arizona and written professional development modules for Arizona State University. Her greatest joy was investing 24 years as a middle school administrator – where the action is.
Kathy became involved with the Waters Foundation’s Systems Thinking in Schools work over 20 years ago and as the principal at Gridley Middle School guided that school to become a systems thinking demonstration site. Mrs. Scheppe has co-facilitated leadership training for middle school administrators utilizing ST habits and tools. Kathy looks forward to assisting colleagues build their capacity to see the big picture and anticipate consequences of actions within the complex educational systems in which we all work.
Maria Simpson has spent more than twelve years as a classroom teacher in the elementary grades. Currently she is a third grade teacher in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools district. Since her introduction to systems thinking in 2011, Maria has put the tools and habits into practice in her classroom and has seen an increase in her students’ critical thinking, engagement, and excitement for learning.
After seeing the impact in her own classroom, Maria has shared systems thinking with fellow educators at her school and colleagues throughout the district. Maria also facilitated Camp Sunshine, in conjunction with Camp Snowball, for two summers. She believes systems thinking provides valuable and fun tools that can be used across the curriculum for increasing critical thinking skills, making connections, and problem solving.