Shifting Paradigms in Education to be Trauma-Informed with Mathew Portell

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Dustin Odham

Thought Leader for FranklinCovey Education
When I was a kid, my favorite Crayola color was sky blue, and my mission in life was to become a professional basketball player. I pursued that dream right up until I learned I was “not fast or quick, but determined and a great team player.” Yes, that was a real evaluation I was given during my AAU days. I decided to play to my strengths instead, and retired from the prep basketball scene with what I feel was a tasteful lack of fanfare. Since then, my mission statement has been to make a positive and lasting impact in the life of every person I meet. Every single day. I have spent my career trying to help unleash greatness in everyone I am privileged to work with and for. My commitment to that mission statement became more nuanced when I began teaching high school math at a school with a significant achievement gap. I was learning just as much as my students were, and there were certainly rough patches at the beginning. But in the end, our students outpaced the entire district in academic growth. Repurposing that childhood dream, I also coached girls basketball and regularly demonstrated that I had not, in fact, grown faster or quicker with age. It was during this period that I won St. Louis Region Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for a National Teacher of the Year award. As I continued to look for ways to make a positive and lasting impact on my community, I took a job as executive director of a teacher training program. My team increased our teacher pool from 75 to 200, impacting hundreds of schools and thousands of students. Then, as a turnaround specialist with St. Louis Public Schools, I helped create our Office of Innovation, enabling our lowest performing schools to get accredited. In the private sector, as a turnaround performance consultant, I led projects with district superintendents, assistant superintendents, principals and teachers to help turn their student academic performance around and transform their school communities. It was also during this time that I really perfected my karaoke version of “Friends in Low Places.” I continued this work at FranklinCovey Education as a Client Partner, where our team partnered with educators to unleash the potential of thousands of administrators, teachers, and parents – impacting tens of thousands of students in hundreds of cities across three states. As a Managing Director for the Southeast United States and Canada regions, I now support our client partners as they work to do the same all across North America. This is a far cry from a career as an NBA superstar. But I’ve loved my life, and all the people in it – most especially my amazing wife Ashley and my three boys Luke, Noah, and our baby, James, who was born in the middle of the pandemic. Every twist and turn has led me here, and I am grateful for each of them. My favorite Crayola color is still sky blue, and I’ve finally found a sport (golf) that does not depend on speed or quickness. I hope this podcast is a force for lasting, positive change for the guests, and for anyone who tunes in. I’m honored that you’ve taken the time to tune in.

Mathew Portell

Founder of Ride for Reading and Paradigm Shift Education
I have dedicated a decade and a half to education in my role as a teacher, instructional coach, teacher mentor, and school administrator. It is through the collaborative team approach and building positive relationships that I have been able to leading my school into success. I am currently in my sixth year as principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary, an internationally recognized innovative model school for trauma-informed practices in Metro Nashville Public Schools.  The school’s work has been featured on National Public Radio, the local documentary Enough, PBS, and Edutopia, one of the world’s top educational practices website funded by the George Lucas Foundation which resulted in over 7,000,000 views. I have had the honor of presenting Fall-Hamilton’s work to both the Tennessee State Legislative, Senate Education Committees, as well as the National Conference for State Legislators.  I have spoken to some of the United States most influential educators who serve on the National Commission of Social Emotional and Academic Development. In 2018, my work was featured in a monthly blog in Education Week tilted "Learning is Social and Emotional" where I documented the journey of sustaining a trauma-informed school.  I founded the Trauma Informed Educators Network Group on Facebook which has connected over 26,000 educators in over 100 different countries!  In July 2019, a national team and I launched the first annual Trauma Informed Educators Network conference which was attended by 150 people from around the world!  In September of 2019, I launched the Trauma Informed Educators Network Podcast which has featured some of the world's top experts in the field including Dr. Bruce Perry, Dr. Ross Greene, Dr. Mona Delahooke, and many more.   In 2020-2021, I was chosen as the Elementary School Principal of the Year by 72 of my fellow elementary school principals in Metro Nashville Public School. My work extends past his educational experience.  As a classroom teacher in 2008, I combined my passion for literacy and cycling and founded the double award winning national non-profit Ride for Reading. The organization promotes literacy and healthy living through the distribution of books via bicycle to underserved children.  Ride for Reading has donated over 500,000 books to children nationally. I hold a B.S in elementary education and a M.Ed in curriculum from Tennessee State University, and completed my administration requirements at Trevecca Nazarene University.  In 2019, I completed the level 1 certification in Trauma and Resilience at Florida State University.
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