Tough Times in Wyoming – What HB 233 Means to Me

What HB233 Means to Me
For those of you living outside of the state, Wyoming is in the midst of a major shortage in funding for education.  We are in the hole to the tune of $650 million dollars because of the declining revenues from coal and oil.  Recently a number of legislators proposed a cut to teacher salaries as an answer to this shortfall. The initial number thrown around was 20% based on the cut to block grant funding.  Omnibus HB 236 is being debated at I type this and we will soon know our fate as far as the cuts are concerned. Odds are, this number will change during the legislative session but I wanted these legislators to know exactly what cuts would mean to my family and me and the lasting impact cutting teacher salaries will have on Wyoming – both in our communities and in our schools.

Dear Representatives Miller, Larsen, Clem, Allen and Salazar and Senator Driskill,

Four years ago I moved to Wyoming from Colorado. In Colorado I had survived cut after cut, furlough’s, buying my own copy paper, books, paper and pencils for students on my meager salary. I witnessed a revolving door of teachers year after year because the pay was ridiculously low and schools were so hard to work in. Year after year I watched my colleagues struggle with few resources in their classrooms. I saw many excellent teachers leave the profession because they could no longer afford to feed their families and keep a roof over their head.

When I arrived at Anderson Elementary in Cheyenne, I was awestruck at the technology, resources and highly trained teachers. I had paper, I had books and I didn’t have to teach in a closet! My job was clearly valued by the community and state and the amazing facilities and resources spoke volumes about how much education mattered in Wyoming.

Wyoming is now in an incredibly difficult place. The budget shortfalls in education are bleak. As the daughter of a legislator, I understand the challenges you face as you try and do what is best for Wyoming. I do not envy your position for a moment.

But I need you to hear my voice as a constituent, a teacher and a transplant Wyomingite. I wanted you to know what HB233 would mean to me. It may seem like an acceptable answer to cut from a teacher’s salary, because after all, all teachers do is teach kids.

Huge cuts will mean an end to the after school clubs and activities I ran on my free time.
Huge cuts will make it hard for me to pay for the master’s degree I needed to get to become a highly qualified teacher.
Huge cuts will mean I have to find another job after school just to help me pay for my mortgage.
Huge cuts will mean that I no longer can afford all those extra STEM items I buy for my classroom.
Huge cuts will leave me wondering if I can continue to afford to stay in education.

As I contemplate what this legislation will cost me and the students I teach, I wonder if you have considered the costs to Wyoming? Have you considered the impact on businesses when teachers move out of their communities and possibly the state to find better jobs? What happens to those teachers who can afford to stay? What impact will cutting their salary have when they can’t afford to spend any of that remaining salary in their community? What happens when those teachers can no longer afford the extra things that supported their communities? What high quality educators are going to want to move to Wyoming?

I know that your bill stipulates that this will not impact contracts entered into before July 1st, 2017. Are you aware that teacher contracts are renewed annually? Therefore, as written, it impacts every single teacher in the state of Wyoming.

Recently Wyoming was rated in the top ten for education funding. Teachers move to this state to teach because of how well they are treated here – not just financially but by their communities. This bill might help our current shortfall but it will have future ramifications that I am not sure you have fully considered. Teachers are a valuable part of the community and the economy. Please don’t discredit our contributions.

The bottom line: huge cuts are a ridiculous burden to ask teachers to shoulder by themselves.. I realize that we are in the of an insane budget shortfall and we have to find an answer to this problem. One thing we teachers can tell you is that there has to be a better, more creative solution than slashing the salaries of the people who make Wyoming education so great.

Regardless of whether or not 20% is the number that ends up in your bill, I strongly urge you to reconsider this legislation and think about the irreparable harm it will do to our communities, our schools and our children. Education is too important, teachers are too important to take this uncalculated risk.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter,
Rachel Crawford
Granite Canyon, Wyoming

Executive Function: What’s That? EF Series Pt. 1

Executive function skills are crucial building blocks for the early development of both cognitive and social capacities.

Children need to develop these skills, too, in order to meet the many challenges they will faces on the road to becoming productive, contributing members of their communities.

Harvard Working Paper- Building the Brain’s Air Traffic Control System


It is a gray, gloomy day in Wyoming and I can’t think of a better day to kick off a blog series on a topic I have become deeply involved with – executive function. What is executive function? And why the heck should I care?

Executive function is perhaps the most ignored, least addressed, incredibly important area of success- academic, personal, life or otherwise.  It is our air traffic control center that helps us regulate, plan, modulate, organize and in very simplified terms: SUCCEED in school and in life.

The purpose of the next series of posts on this blog is to explore executive function and the implication that executive function has on students, academic achievement and success in life.  This first post is a general overview of executive function complied from my understanding and research that I have been conducting as part of my ongoing professional learning.

What is Executive Function?
Executive function is a larger term that describes the cognitive processes that we require to plan, organize, think flexibly and otherwise successfully navigate the cognitive tasks we  do every single day.  I like the analogy that executive function is like the air traffic control of your brain. Executive function is what makes it possible for us

Unlike many of the other processes that we are born knowing how to do, executive function skills are learned skills.

To better understand what executive function is, it helps to break this large, complex collection of cognitive tasks into smaller parts. There are multiple different ways to think about and group the components of executive function. has an excellent article that breaks the discrete part of executive function into eight parts: Impulse Control, Emotional Control, Flexible Thinking, Working Memory, Self-Monitoring, Planning and Prioritizing, Task Initiation and Organization.  Executive function

Impulse Control

Emotional Control

Flexible Thinking

Working Memory


Planning and Prioritizing

Task Initiation


Each of these areas has direct connections to what we ask students to do in school.  Over the past few years, I have been looking at the impact of weak executive function skills have on my students and what specifically I can do to help support my students who have significant deficits in many of these areas.

My next posts will be looking more in depth at each of these domains.  More specifically, I want to explore how each of these areas relates to school, what students who struggle in each area typically ‘look’ like and what strategies both teachers and families can use to support children who struggle with executive functioning deficits.

This blog series is my attempt to learn more about EF and how I can improve my classroom instruction and IEPs by better addressing executive functioning.  I have been collecting resources, researching and working closely with a colleague who has an equally high interest in EF in order to broaden my understanding in this area but I absolutely welcome comments, resources and any additional information that you, my readers, might be able to share!  I am also very excited to read Dr. Nancy Sulla’s new book Executive Function as the Missing Link to Student Achievement which will be coming out in June.  She has some excellent resources including this video which gives a great brief overview of executive function skills.

I’m looking forward to writing this series as I expand my knowledge on this crucial, overlooked topic.

Happy MLK Day!



2017 is Going to be LUMINOUS!



Clearly, I didn’t embrace my word from last year because it took me a while to remember it!

But this year…

Oh this year…

It’s going to be LUMINOUS!

There are so many great things on the horizon.  For the first time in my career, I feel like I’m not scrambling to keep up but rather, striving for excellence.

I have so many things I want to accomplish this year.

One of my goals for the year is to come up with a better way of cataloging the resources that I have gathered on Twitter, Google and through colleagues.  I always find so many great things I want to share and remember and I have no good way to collect them in one place! Ideas????

Another goal – to give myself more whitespace.  I have struggled with balance and finding time for everything in my life.  And I don’t even have kids!!! How do moms do it?  So it is time to figure out how to bring the ‘om’ and balance back into my life.  For real. Not just lip service.  Whitespace.

Lastly, I want to keep pushing myself.  I have grown so much professionally in the last few years and I am thankful for Wyoming, Twitter and LCSD#1 for giving me the tools and the push to grow.  I have great colleagues and even bigger challenges and I’m actually proud of who I am becoming as a teacher.

But I can ALWAYS get better!

So here’s to being LUMINOUS and shining bright this year and shining that light on everyone I learn from, work with, teach and collaborate with!

Happy 2017!