Sanford Teacher Award to Shannon Kline for Dreamline Work

I met Shannon Kline last spring when she came to Philadelphia with the team from the amazingly inspirational Anson Jones Elementary in Dallas, Texas, USA. ( May 5 :The Real Story) It was so thrilling to learn that her exceptional work in collaboration with fellow teacher Candice Lindsay is being recognized by this group who recognized one teacher from each state.  –Jeffrey Harlan

The following is an excerpt from

Characteristics of an Inspirational Teacher


  • Teachers who go the extra mile to ensure that all students are seen, heard, and given the opportunity to become their best selves.
  • Teachers who understand that no two students are alike, and can find learning strategies to accommodate every student who enters their classroom.
  • Teachers who lead by example, and deliver a true passion for knowledge that will extend far beyond the classroom walls.

These are the teachers we need. These are the teachers we find to be truly inspiring.

Shannon Kline
2nd Grade Teacher
Anson Jones Elementary School
Dallas, Texas

Shannon Kline is the second inaugural Sanford Teacher Award recipient to be announced, and she was chosen for her commitment to creating positive classroom environments that support students’ development and academic growth. She is an inspiration to students, teachers, and families in the community she serves. She began her career 10 years ago at a private preschool that focused solely on social and emotional development before entering kindergarten. In 2014, she transitioned to public school and began teaching in Dallas ISD.

Kline’s student population rarely travels outside their immediate neighborhood. To inspire her students to think beyond their immediate environment, Kline embarked on partnering with the art teacher two years ago to bring the Dreamline Project to the entire school. The Dreamline project is an international organization that fosters children dreaming of how to better the world. The students write poetry in their classroom and then put the poetry on an artwork flag. For two years, Kline and the art teacher motivated the entire campus to partake in inspiring each student to dream. Then, through fundraising and some out-of-pocket expense, Kline and two other teachers, along with campus administration, gathered all the students’ flags and took them to the yearly kick-off in Philadelphia. The students’ flags flew in the National Constitution Center before being packed up and shipped across the globe to fly in other countries. The impact of the project on her students brought them to tears, just knowing others were experiencing their dreams around the world.

The passion Kline has for SEL is apparent in every aspect of her career. She is the SEL Champion of her campus and was responsible for launching the DISD model of SEL to the whole staff at her school. She is a passionate advocate of social emotional learning through the Sanford Harmony program, working closely with other teachers, parents, and students to create a positive school environment.


For full article go to

Listen to This!

One of my all-time favorite poets wrote the famous phrase, “For if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly”, and I believe he meant that without dreams, we cannot go anywhere. We cannot do what we are meant to do. Yet, how many school experiences actively engage students in dreaming? Did you hear those students? They are actively engaged in dreaming by their teachers.

When we teach our students the habit of dreaming, of looking to the future, we teach a habit that will serve them all their lives. Our new Dreamline program gives teachers the structure and support to do that AND it links dreams with values. When we accomplish that, we get what I call “power dreams.” Not dreams about power, but dreams that power us, that make us keep going.

If you haven’t already, I’d love it if you visit our new Facebook page @DreamlineB , Follow it, and post something about how important it is to hear these students’ voices and how we want their chorus to be millions strong. Thanks!

Unlocking the Dream


The advent of games like Escape Room and BreakoutEDU started around 2007 and their popularity has only kept growing. All across the USA, there are storefront Escape Room entertainment venues where groups of people pay to work collaboratively in order to solve a mystery and literally break out of a room.greenville-escape-room

They willingly agree to be locked in until they can accomplish the task together (or give up).

We all like mysteries, and we all like to work in groups.

So, building on these common interests, we created a new game called Unlock the Dream. Recently, it was at The Wells Fargo Center as part of a program called Field of Dreams run by Soul, Philadelphia’s indoor/arena football team, and Capital One Bank.

Wells Fargo Center

On one end of the field we set up the Dream Prism, a three sided structure with ten by five foot “walls” of flags on each side of it and banners on the top. There were flags from across the USA–Georgia, Alaska, Pennsylvania–and from around the world–Zambia, China, Haiti, and Macedonia. SIX HUNDRED in all. (Each line was carefully sewn and labeled by Dream Angel award winner Patrice Seko!)


And it held a mystery.

On the backs of five out of the 600 flags were bright green stickers with questions printed on them. Some required reading the flag carefully, some required finding the flag on the Dreamline site and looking at information about it there–such as student values–some required using the app or site to do some map reading about where the flag was from. One even required you to put your own hand on the flag to see what kind of hand print was on it.



If you got all five answers, wrote them on your game card, and brought them to the game table, you got to open the Unlock the Dream Box, get a sticker, and then choose a prize from the collection of Capital One or Philadelphia Soul swag–water bottles, towels, sunglasses, and so on.

But how were you supposed to find these flags with the questions?

That’s where our app and the game code came in. By entering the game code in the app, you would get a list of your five game flags. Those flags were somewhere in the group. Those flags had questions on the back. So search and find was part of the game too. Of course the app lists what school the flag was from so the labels on the lines could help, but it still took some careful looking.

What we found when groups of students with a parent or two in tow came to the game table was that 1) the parents loved it too 2) the kids were really good at finding the flags, and 3) they found much more than the flags.


When we set out to solve a mystery, when we move along any path to a destination–such as a dream–there are always surprises. There are always the unintended discoveries. And that’s what we saw first hand.

Students and parents alike started reading not just the flags they had to find, but others as well.

“What did the OTHER kids in Zambia dream of?”

“What were the values besides Team Spirit that inspired a ninth grader in Haiti to work for change?” ”

“What else besides football did a fifth grader in West Philadelphia want to see girls have access to for gender fairness?”

We could see them learning, exploring, and discovering together. And then solving a mystery to get a prize.

Prizes are fun, but we probably didn’t need them. It was clear that children and adults alike found the process rewarding and fun all by itself.


Unlocking a Dream in our lives can be a daunting task. But the beginning of it is realizing you’re not the only one who has a dream. It’s part of being human. Moving toward understanding other people’s dreams is a critical part of understanding, declaring, and acting on our own dreams.

And then we’re unlocking something so much bigger than a room. We’re really breaking out together!


Download and print UnlockTheDream-Questions – Wells Fargo July 2018, 

Use phone with a free QR CODE READER to find what students discovered at Wells Fargo.

The prize is in the finding!


Paying Attention: the “Inside Selfie”

We talked about paying attention to the inside–that each Dreamline and Value flag helps focus our own attention on the inside–what we value, what we dream, what we plan. And we talked about how the inside is more important than the outside–in friendship, in family, in everything we do with other people.

“Zip!” “Zap! “Zop!!”

On Monday of the last full week of  the school year, I stood before 2nd graders at the Lab Charter School at 59th and Woodbine in West Philadelphia and we played Zip, Zap, Zop. Paying attention to which way to point–right for Zip, left for Zap–was a challenge but it got better as we went along.


Because of the support of those who support programs that build student motivation at the Queen’s Jubilee Education Fund of The Philadelphia Foundation, I was able to not only work with students to help them articulate their values and dreams, but also to do follow up analysis and study of the patterns of those elements across grades, gender, and other factors, in order to guide the school toward resources that meet the motivational needs of their students.


Through the week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I worked with students and co-taught with their teachers to help them think about what a value is, choose some that matter, and make a Value Flag.


Then I asked them to think about the world we live in, the dreams we have of how it could be, and the ways we can move toward those dreams. At least with 5th graders. Kindergarteners created an acrostic out of the word “DREAM” with words close to the heart.


And the theme that emerged from these discussions, from the pressure of getting all of this done by Friday for “the big reveal” was paying attention.

Paying attention to THEM.


Lab Charter serves a population in West Philadelphia that does not always get a lot of attention, though their teachers are devoted, their principals are tireless and their group leadership from CEO Stacey Cruise has been visionary. The school sits between areas of affluence and economic need. The facility is not ideal, according to their principal and teachers, but they make do. Their revenue per student is just over half of the state average, and all of their students qualify for school lunch without fee.

What we talked about a lot that week was how it matters what we pay attention to.


Just the week before we started work at Lab, as it is known, I spoke with a representative of Capital One bank which has a bank cafe in my neighborhood. Kevin Moore affirmed that values and community are what Capital One cares about. He aksed us to invite students from Lab to a special event in July called Field of Dreams at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center to meet and interact with players from Philadelphia Soul, the Arena Football team of Philadelphia–AND to display the Lab Dreamline and Value Flags as part of an installation of our Unlock The Dream game to be included as part of the event activities.


So I could tell the students that Capital One and the many people attending their event — would be paying attention to what THEY had to say on their flags.

But there was more about paying attention.

We talked about paying attention to the inside–that each Dreamline and Value flag helps focus our own attention on the inside–what we value, what we dream, what we plan. And we talked about how the inside is more important than the outside–in friendship, in family, in everything we do with other people.

And finally, that each flag is, in modern terms, a “selfie” of the INSIDE–a snapshot of one child’s heart and values at one moment to share with the community and with the world.

Look and listen to these “inside selfies.”

From a Kindergartener


From a 2nd Grader


From  one 5th Grader:


From  another 5th Grader:


In our celebration Friday, we heard their voices as you can here– and all of them on our site. Because of the tireless work of the teachers, each and every one of these flags was put up on Dreamline with a voice recording of the student–no mean feat on the last week of school. But the teachers were paying attention.

6-8-18 INVIT
invitation to the celebration

We gathered on the sunlit grass on their last Friday of school and teacher-selected students read their Dreamline flags in front of a display with each and every flag blowing in the breeze. Parents joined along with school administration. We could hear how aware they are of the hard realities of their world–even at age 8–and that they are determined to make things better.



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And that’s news–that’s something to pay attention to–that each of us needs to hear.

For more information on the Laboratory Charter Schools, visit

Look for future blog posts for more information on the specifics of this grant and the analytic work under way based on student-created Dreamline and Value Flags.

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