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Bluum Together is a podcast cultivating education leadership, innovation, and impact, one conversation at a time.

Join us as we learn from visionary leaders, passionate educators, and inspiring change-makers who are dedicated to transforming the landscape of K-12 education. We’ll explore innovative ideas, share inspiring stories, and uncover strategies that drive meaningful change throughout Idaho and beyond.


Hear from Shelby Doyle, VP of Public Awareness for the National School Choice Awareness Foundation, as she describes the importance of National School Choice Week. Creating momentum for what school choice looks like nationally, Shelby describes the importance of making parents aware of practical information needed to find a school for their children.

SERIES TWO: “Supporting Youth Mental Health”

In the second series of the Bluum Together Podcast, our conversations will focus on the various support systems and programs that are geared toward supporting the Mental Health of today’s student. This series will bring in various perspectives from education practitioners that work closely with schools and will share the voices and perspectives of the students, staff and school leaders that each play an integral role in creating a safe and caring system within our schools.

Katie Azevedo, professional development facilitator, research assistant, adjunct professor and instructional coach, emphasizes the need for a systematic approach to mental health, especially in the education sector. She outlines six key elements for a comprehensive system along with discussing some of the big challenges schools face and highlights the importance of the Idaho AWARE Project.

Katie Azevedo, dives into this episode discussing mental health support systems in Idaho schools, specifically focusing on the Interconnected Systems Framework (ISF). She explore the three-tiered model of Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS), as well as touching on the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework, emphasizing the interconnectedness of academic and behavioral supports.

Megan Smith, an Associate Professor in the School of Public and Population Health at Boise State University, discusses her background as a teacher and researcher, emphasizing her focus on creating the best possible environments for students. The conversation dives into Megan’s work on Upstream Prevention for youth mental health, drawing inspiration from the successful Icelandic Prevention Model for substance use.

Discover the experiences of three exceptional Timberline High School students—Rian, Olivia, and Mason—as they discuss their involvement in the impactful Wolf Connection Program. Learn more into their insights on the significance of school culture, fostering a sense of belonging, and explore ways schools can actively contribute to mental well-being. These students also share their perspectives on peer-to-peer interactions and address various challenges faced by their peers.

Leader of Timberline High School’s Wolf Connection Program, Kelly Gonser, shares insights into the program, born in 2002 from Challenge Day. With 29 years of educational experience, Gonser highlights the program’s impact and discusses the challenges of fostering connection in a society that often prioritizes competition over collaboration. The Wolf Connection Program focuses on mentoring, leadership, and community service, encouraging introspection and team-building through activities like ropes courses and a retreat.

Marsing School District Leaders, including Superintendent Norm Stewart, talk about their successful Community School model. They discuss the concept of a Community School and the implementation of the Hub, a central resource center providing various services to students and families. They highlight the importance of meeting basic needs for student mental health and success, like providing services include a food and clothing pantry, preschool programs, on-site counseling, nursing services, and partnerships with organizations like the Idaho Food Bank and Blue Cross Foundation of Idaho. The team encourages other leaders to explore similar models, emphasizing leadership support and faith in making a difference for students.

Mental health specialists from the Coeur d’Alene School District, Keith Orchard and Raelynn Loken, dive into their trauma-informed approach to mental health. Both of them focus on trauma-informed practices, sharing how they approach this within schools, emphasizing different interventions like TBRI. They share importance of understanding adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and how trauma affects brain development, as well as the significance of building connections with students and promoting regulation skills.

Emphasizing the importance of trauma informed education, hear from experts at Promise Academy on how they are succeeding with this model. Scott Curtis, CEO of the Idaho Youth Ranch, dives into the holistic approach of the school, elaborating on the significance of family involvement and creating a supportive environment for students to learn and heal. Success stories are shared throughout the episode, as well as different challenges faced such as growing staff capacity and obtaining Medicaid approvals.

Emphasizing the importance of relationships and collaboration, Executive Director Amanda Cox and Principal Heather Efaw, share the operations of Future Public Charter School in Garden City, Idaho. The two leaders discuss the school’s mission to support all students and families in achieving their desired futures, as well as sharing several success stories of students and families. The team at Future Public Charter School provides comprehensive support, including academic, social, and emotional assistance, extending support outside the classroom with key partnerships such as the Boys and Girls Club nextdoor.

With a long tenured background in education and alternative schools, Dr. Eric Eschen highlights his strong belief in developing a culture of leaders. Dr. Eschen is the principal at Pathways Middle School in Meridian, Idaho, a school of choice that focuses on providing a smaller, supportive environment for students who may struggle in traditional settings. Different curriculum that includes programs like the Leader in Me and Sources of Strength are discussed, while also recognizing the importance of accommodating different learning styles in students.

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SERIES ONE: “The Science of Reading in Idaho Schools”

The Science of Reading in Idaho Schools is the first series of discussions on our Bluum Together Podcast launched in Fall of 2024. This podcast series kicks off with an interview with award winning researcher and journalist, Emily Hanford who’s most notable work, Sold a Story Podcast, exposed the root problem of how teaching kids to read went so wrong in so many schools across our nation. Our series continued with conversations with experts in the field and education leaders from various school types and sizes that are doing this work really well. In this journey, we discovered a short list of common, impactful practices that all of these high performing schools were doing consistently.

In her groundbreaking podcast, Sold a Story, award-winning investigative education journalist Emily Hanford has uncovered profound insights on how children are learning to read. Or in far too many cases, NOT learning to read. In this episode, Emily highlights some of her findings from schools across the country, and how educators, parents, and policymakers can lead the change to implement effective, evidence-based reading instruction.

Reading consultant and teacher trainer Marybeth Flachbart has deep experience supporting education leaders at the national, state, and local level in literacy and school improvement. In this episode, Marybeth breaks down how to use a structured literacy approach and the importance of identifying learner profiles as part of the success strategy to improve reading instruction.

As a former teacher, dyslexia specialist, district leader, and education expert, Rosie Santana shares her experience helping multilingual students develop their language skills. In this episode, Rosie discusses the importance of embracing multilingual learners, understanding the English language development program, and fostering a sense of belonging for these students.

Long-standing educators Jason Lords and Nicky Pack from the Bonneville School District discuss their strategies to improve reading instruction and student success. They highlight the district’s focus on professional learning communities (PLCs) and the use of data, particularly Lexile scores, to set goals for student reading proficiency.

Principal Anthony Haskett open MOSAICS Public School in Autumn of 2020. He quickly realized that a global pandemic was not their only challenge. The reading curriculum they had chosen was clearly not giving teachers and students what they needed to be successful. Learn from Anthony, and Director of learning and culture Debbie Foster, about how they transitioned to teaching tools they call their “Smokin’ hot core.”

After a leadership change during their second year of operation (mid-COVID), a rural charter school discovered their approach to teaching reading was ineffective. Learn from Executive Director and Army veteran Andy Johnson, and Principal Darci Stelzner, as they share their strategy for leading a major change toward effective reading instruction at Sage International School of Middleton.

Kindergarten teachers Sally Peterson and Shantel Allen discuss successful reading instruction at Thirkill Elementary in Soda Springs, highlighting the Phonics First program while stressing the importance of community support amid challenges. The conversation also touches on the need for additional resources, including behavioral specialists. Whitney Berger (Title Intervention Specialist) and Rod Worthington (school principal) later join to explore Thirkill’s reading intervention strategies, the Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI), and the Leader in Me program. Emphasis comes on professional learning communities (PLCs), led by Whitney, addressing curriculum, teaching strategies, and student needs.

Sam Wadsworth, a 4th-grade teacher and Curriculum Director at North Gem School District in Bancroft, Idaho, stresses the significance of repeated readings for text fluency. He explores the school’s transition to a literature-based program, emphasizing phonics for effective reading. Challenges, such as the need for more trained teachers, are recognized, while the benefits of a tight-knit community are underscored. The school’s approach centers on care, professionalism, and a dedicated commitment to positively influencing students’ lives.

Former special education teacher turned State Department of Education leader, Ryan Cantrell, shares insights into teaching and administration. The conversation extends to key themes in successful Idaho schools, such as leadership, data utilization, and professional learning communities (PLCs). Ryan Cantrell shares insights into the importance of school culture, emphasizing stable leadership tactics.