Maria Angelica Vargas Grajales, born in Colombia, comes from a large family of educators.
Maria is multi-talented: beloved and respected bi-lingual teacher, high energy and adored soccer coach, gifted Reiki healer.
When I asked Maria to help with translating the Kids' Own Wisdom materials into Spanish, she took on the job with deep-hearted enthusiasm and over-the-top integrity. I am forever grateful to her for enabling me to offer the Spanish version with complete confidence in its accuracy.
Maria is the loving mother of Matias and devoted wife of Marco.
Nini White - Founder of KIDS' OWN WISDOM
Lani Mednick was raised in a family of educators in Seattle, WA. so you could rightly say that 'teaching is in her blood.' Happily and 'by accident,' we met at a TK conference.
Lani has taught and tutored all grades, TK - 6th, mostly at low-income schools in Denver, San Jose and Oakland. Visiting many of her classes I've seen how much her students like her, trust her, respect her and love her. It's clear to everyone who engages with Lani that she lives her unshakeable belief that students, “won’t care that she knows anything unless they know she cares about them.”
Her adoption of the Kids' Own Wisdom approach was a "natural." Lani and I have since become thought-partners, presenting at conferences and co-authoring a book, still in process, but soon to be published.
Lani is an inspired and inspiring teacher, committed not only to her students, but also to supporting other teachers' full realization of their own passion for providing meaningful education. In fact, Lani is currently employed by the Oakland Unified School Districts as a full-time teacher coach.
How I got here (bullet point version):
• Frustrated student / Pretty much always felt 'different' / Graduated from high school with 2.2 GPA.
• After 'graduation' from high school, on my own, studied: art history, dance, philosophy, world cultures ... learned a LOT.
• Married a brilliant guy. Supported all his efforts towards attaining his PhD. Helped him structure curriculum for the college-level courses he taught.
• Had 2 great kids.
• TA'd college level writing courses.
• Started having behavior issues with my kids. Became an awful nag. Got really tired of repeating shoulds/should nots to them.
• Friends who had kids the same age as my kids were experiencing the same behavior issues.
• Clearly, I thought, the kids know what we - their parents and teachers - want and need from them so everyone's life will work better ... Where's the disconnect?
• Then I got an IDEA!!!! What if I asked groups of kids together what they knew and understood about a whole range of topics? (NOT just behavior, because that would be way too obvious.) What if I asked with an open attitude about their personal points of view, with a deep-down sense of respect for their individuality, and with trust in their innate capacity to empathize and collaboratively resolve issues and dilemmas familiar to all of them? What if I did that without a single lecture? What if I made those peer group discussions fun, 'real,' age-appropriately challenging, ?
• WOW ... what a good idea that was!!!
• Behaviors changed, I stopped nagging ... and things got a whole lot better for everyone - kids, other parents (including me), and the kids' teachers.
• Those first sessions were in my older son's 1st grade class.
• Results were so clear that, after about a month, I was asked to provide sessions for more grades - and eventually I was spending time with all the grades: K-12.
• Right around this time my marriage ended, and I needed to start working full time, so I began teaching geography, history, phys. ed. and philosophy, too.
• Years went by. More than 20, actually. My boys were grown and gone, and I was ready for a change, so I went back to school to pursue something that had always fascinated me: Landscape Design.
• Did that for about 15 years, and it was great. So much fun to make beauty on the land - but eventually I could no longer get away from the feeling that it just didn't make the kind of difference that this world needs.
• So I came back to education, and committed to figuring out (testing, refining, re-testing with countless wonderful, kind and generous teachers across the country) how to make the approach I’d figured out all those years ago easy-to-implement for anyone.
… and here we are!
We're inspired every time the "lights of comprehension and connection go on"
during consistently scheduled
Kids' Own Wisdom peer group discussions.
And we're inspired by the real learning that happens during those peer group discussions...
learning that is remembered and used, even outside of school.