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Notes from the Backpack

Notes from the Backpack - Previous Episodes

Enjoyed one of our past podcasts and need to hear it again? You're in the right place! All previous episodes are listed below with links, resources, and speaker information in the descriptions.

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Previous Episodes

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41 | How Can We Prioritize Wellness at School?

Chandrai Jackson-Saunders

How can we prepare to meet every child’s needs as they return to school? We spoke with National School Psychologist of the Year, Chandrai Jackson-Saunders to learn how schools can set children up for success and how families can help by focusing on the whole child. She offers concrete strategies school communities should implement to meet the variety of needs children will have in the wake of the pandemic.
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Podcast Episode 40 thumbnail

40 | Is My Teen Having a Mental Health Crisis?

Dr. Doreen Marshall

Teens experience mental health issues at alarming rates. How can you tell if it’s typical teenage angst or something more serious? If your teen is experiencing depression, how can you best support them? We sat down with Dr. Doreen Marshall, VP of Mission Engagement at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (ASFP) to get answers to these questions and more.
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39 | Best of Seasons 1-3

Helen & LaWanda

It’s time to rewind! Join our hosts Helen and LaWanda as they look back on highlights from the first three seasons of Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast. They discuss some of their favorite pieces of advice and share a sneak peek at our upcoming mini-series.
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How to Help LGBTQ Youth Thrive

37 | How to Help LGBTQ Youth Thrive

Ellen Kahn
Senior Director, Programs and Partnerships at HRC
Jodie Patterson
Board Chair of the HRC Foundation

We welcome two guests from the Human Rights Campaign, Ellen Kahn, senior director of programs and partnerships, and Jodie Patterson, board chair of the HRC Foundation, to learn how to become better allies to the LGBTQ community....
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Enhancing Parent Teacher Partnerships

36 | Get on Board: Enhancing Parent Teacher Partnerships

Colleen Ryan
2019 Toyota Family Engagement Teacher of the Year

When you think of parent teacher partnerships, conferences and report cards might come to mind, but what if we made family engagement more fun? Colleen Ryan, 2019 Toyota Family Engagement Teacher of the Year, offers advice for parents and teachers on how to work together to help kids get what they need to thrive....
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Surviving Quarantine with Your Teen

35 | Surviving Quarantine with Your Teen

Dr. Lisa Damour
Isaac Hurtado
Podcast host & High School student

Raising a teenager can be difficult—even under normal circumstances—and COVID-19 has added new challenges. We talked to Dr. Lisa Damour, adolescent psychologist, and high school student Isaac Hurtado, co-host of the hit podcast, Teenager Therapy, to get tips....
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Inside the Principal’s Office

34 | Inside the Principal’s Office

Dr. Tayarisha Batchelor
Principal of Rawson STEAM School

We talk with Dr. Tayarisha Batchelor, principal of the Rawson STEAM school in Hartford, Conn., about how families and parent leaders can collaborate with their principal. She shares how she has supported families in her communities and how she helps her staff engage in meaningful family engagement practices....
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Raising Kids Who Embrace Race

33 | Raising Kids Who Embrace Race

Melissa Giraud & Andrew Grant-Thomas
Founders of EmbraceRace

Do you want to talk to your kids about race and racism, but not sure where to start? We spoke to Melissa Giraud and Andrew Grant-Thomas, founders of EmbraceRace, to learn how to approach these conversations with young children. Melissa and Andrew also share advice on raising advocates for racial justice....
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How to Handle Bullying

32 | How to Handle Bullying

Dr. Deborah Temkin
VP for Youth Development & Education Research, Child Trends

What can families do to address bullying and how can schools act proactively to prevent bullying altogether? We talked with Dr. Deborah Temkin, the vice president of Youth Development & Education Research at Child Trends to get answers....
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Get Inspired by Your Young Artist

31 | Get Inspired by Your Young Artist

Julian Bass
Filmmaker & TikTok Sensation

We interview Julian Bass, a two-time PTA Reflections winner, who has gone on to make a name for himself as a filmmaker and visual effects artist. He shares how his own parents supported his artistic journey and how families can encourage their children to follow their dreams....
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Exploring Learning Differences during COVID-19

30 | Exploring Learning Differences during COVID-19

Amanda Morin
Writer & Senior Expert,

We speak with Amanda Morin, writer and senior expert at, to learn strategies for supporting students with learning differences during online and hybrid learning. She offers advice on helping your kids stay organized, read social cues, manage distractions and more....
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Raising Lifelong Voters

29 | Raising Lifelong Voters

Congresswoman Jahana Hayes
U.S. Representative for Connecticut's 5th congressional district

How are you talking to your kids about civic engagement? U.S. Congresswoman Jahana Hayes offers wisdom from her experience in the classroom and on the Hill. She shares how families can help kids become active citizens and lifelong voters by encouraging them to contribute to their communities in meaningful ways....
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Prioritizing COVID-19 Relief & Recovery

28 | Prioritizing COVID-19 Relief & Recovery

Ralph Smith
Managing Director, Campaign for Grade Level Reading

We spoke with Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade Level Reading to get his perspective on the impact COVID-19 is having in the hardest hit communities. He offers suggestions for parent leaders looking to support the most vulnerable learners and their families during this challenging time....
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Navigating Online Resources During COVID-19

27 | Navigating Online Resources During COVID-19

Merve Lapus
Vice President of Outreach & National Partnerships, Common Sense Education

Are you overwhelmed by all of the online resources available to your child but not sure where to start? During this unusual school year, we need to help our children find online resources that meet their needs. We turned to Merve Lapus of Common Sense Media who shared how families can set students up for success this school year. Listen to discover helpful learning resources and tips for establishing healthy online habits....
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Talking Race & KidLit

26 | Talking Race & KidLit

Kwame Alexander
NYT Bestselling Author

How many books on your children’s shelves feature Black and Brown characters? We spoke with Newbery Medal award-winning author, Kwame Alexander about the importance of representation in kids’ literature. He shared about his own writing process, how to inspire your kids to write and some of his favorite books....
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COVID-19 & Back to School

24 | COVID-19 & Back to School?

Amalia Chamorro
Associate Director of Education Policy, UNIDOS US

As the school year wraps up virtually, families around the world are wondering, what comes next? We spoke with Amalia Chamorro, Associate Director of Education Policy at UNIDOS US to learn more about COVID-19’s impact on our children and its potential impact on the back-to-school season. She reflects on the drastic changes families have faced these last few months and how schools and families will continue to have to adapt moving forward....
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Keep Your Cool: Tackling Behavioral Issues

23 | Keep Your Cool: Tackling Behavioral Issues

Dr. Ross Greene
Founder, Lives in Balance

How can we work with our kids to create less stress and conflict around daily routines? We talked with Dr. Ross Greene, psychologist and founder of Lives in Balance, about how to address a child’s toughest behaviors. Greene shares how to improve relationships and bring peace to your home....
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Raising Curious Kids

22 | Raising Curious Kids

Dr. Carol O’Donnell
Director, Smithsonian Science Education Center

Our kids seem to have endless questions. Encouraging this curiosity is good for their development. We spoke with Dr. Carol O’Donnell, Director of the Smithsonian Science Education Center, who shares how families can find science in the world around them and fun activities you can do at home....
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Growing Great Readers

21 | Growing Great Readers

Dr. Rebecca Silverman
Associate Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Education

We talked with Dr. Rebecca Silverman, professor at Stanford University, to learn how we can raise lifelong readers. She offered strategies for fostering a love of reading and guidance on what you should expect from your child at each age....
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Interview with National Teacher of the Year

20 | Interview with National Teacher of the Year

Rodney Robinson
2019 National Teacher of the Year

We spoke with National Teacher of the Year, Rodney Robinson, in front of a live audience at National PTA’s Legislative Conference. Rodney offered his insights into the teaching profession, issues of equity, school discipline and the importance of recruiting more black educators....
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Online Learning During COVID-19

19 | Online Learning During COVID-19

Dr. Natalie Milman
Educational Technology Professor, George Washington University

Online learning during COVID-19 presents unique challenges. We talked with Dr. Natalie Milman, professor of Education Technology at George Washington University, to get her insights into emergency remote teaching and learning, education technology, strategies for supporting your child and more....
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What’s Going on in My Kid’s Brain?

18 | What’s Going on in My Kid’s Brain?

Dr. Brandi Kenner
Senior Consultant, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Sometimes you can’t help but wonder, what is my kid thinking? We spoke with Dr. Brandi Kenner, senior consultant at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, about how a child’s brain works. She shared helpful strategies for teaching them how to manage their emotions and behavior....
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Supporting Our Kids: Special Education 101

17 | Supporting Our Kids: Special Education 101

Debra Jennings
Co-Executive Director, Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN)

The world of special education can be overwhelming for families—especially right now, as families are navigating learning from home. We talked with expert Debra Jennings, from the Statewide Parent Education Network (SPAN), to ensure your child is supported during these trying times....
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Tackling COVID-19 Anxiety Together

16 | Tackling COVID-19 Anxiety Together

Dr. Erlanger “Earl” Turner

COVID-19 has drastically changed our daily lives. We talked with psychologist, author and professor Dr. Earl Turner about how to stay happy, healthy and learning during this difficult time. He shares tips for setting routines, managing your mental health and coping with uncertainty....
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Money Talks: School Finance 101

15 | Money Talks: School Finance 101

Dr. Marguerite Roza
Director of the Edunomics Lab

We spoke with Dr. Marguerite Roza, Director of the Edunomics Lab to learn about the mystery of education finance. She offers practical guidance on how families can stay informed about their school district’s financial decisions and how they can advocate for the priorities they care most about....
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How to Talk to Your Kid about Gun Violence

14 | How to Talk to Your Kid about Gun Violence

Edith Bracho-Sanchez
Director of Pediatric Telemedicine, Columbia University

We turn to expert Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez who shares how to have open and honest conversations with children of all ages about lockdown drills, school shootings and all of the emotions that come along with these topics....
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Don’t Break a Sweat: Navigating Youth Sports

13 | Don’t Break a Sweat: Navigating Youth Sports

Jon Solomon
Editorial Director, The Aspen Institute's Sports & Society Program

With hyper-competitive leagues for kids as young as six years old—and hours of practice even during the off season—youth sports aren’t just fun and games. We talked with Jon Solomon, former sports journalist and editorial director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society program, about how families can best navigate this aspect of their kids’ lives....
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Beyond Academics: Preparing Your Kids for Life

12 | Beyond Academics: Preparing Your Kids for Life

Linda Darling-Hammond
President & CEO, Learning Policy Institute

Is your child’s school preparing students for success in life? Linda Darling-Hammond shares what signs you should look for to see if your child’s school is fostering their holistic development, and what you can do at home to raise well-rounded lifelong learners....
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How College Ready Are You?

11 | How College Ready Are You?

Sekou Biddle
Vice President of Advocacy, UNCF
Student at Old Dominion University

The college application process can be intense and complex—with many financial challenges for students and their families. We sat down with Sekou Biddle, vice president of advocacy at the United Negro College Fund to get concrete strategies and essential information to help. We also explored the student perspective by chatting with Nya, a junior at Old Dominion University, who shares how she managed the college process....
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Partnering with Your Child's Teacher

9 | Partnering with Your Child's Teacher

Karen Mapp
Senior Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Karen Mapp joins us from Harvard Graduate School of Education to offer best practices for improving family-school partnerships. Listen in as we discuss strategies to partner with schools to support your child and to engage other families in building trusting relationships within your community...
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Asking the "Right" Questions

8 | Asking the "Right" Questions

Luz Santana
Co-Director of the Right Question Institute

We turn to Luz Santana, co-director of the Right Question Institute to learn how to prepare questions that will produce meaningful and helpful answers. She shares how parents can go beyond the typical, “How is my child doing?” to spark more in-depth conversations. We also get her advice on common issues families have and how asking the right questions can improve these situations!...
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How to Handle Homework: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

7 | How to Handle Homework: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Steve Sheldon
Associate Professor, John Hopkins University School of Education
Shaneeka Moore-Lawrence
Principal, Bethesda Elementary School

Steve Sheldon, a researcher at John Hopkins University, offers the information and strategies you need to make homework time more successful in your household. We also hear from elementary school principal and PTA leader, Shaneeka Moore-Lawrence on the benefits of homework and what really is the “right” amount per night...
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How to Raise Confident Kids

6 | How to Raise Confident Kids

Jennifer Miller
Author of Confident Parents, Confident Kids

How do you raise a confident child who can overcome communication challenges and be a good friend to others? We turn to author and parenting expert Jennifer Miller to explore how you can build these social and emotional skills with your child, and how to know if your child’s school is helping them develop in this important area...
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The Myth of the Uninvolved Parent

5 | The Myth of the Uninvolved Parent

Kwesi Rollins
Vice President of Leadership & Engagement, Institute for Educational Leadership

Kwesi Rollins from the Institute for Educational Leadership gives us a realistic view of the barriers families face when trying to engage with their child’s school and shares how school districts are making family engagement more meaningful and inclusive for families who aren’t involved in traditional ways...
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Recess: Is it Just for Play?

4 | Recess: Is it Just for Play

William Massey
Assistant Professor, College of Public Health and Human Services, Oregon State University
Angie Gallo
Florida PTA Leader and School Board Member

We discuss why recess is important for students’ physical health—as well as their social and emotional development—and take a look at what schools and families are doing to protect and enhance recess time at school. Researcher and dad, William Massey, explains the benefits of recess, what high-quality recess looks like and how parents can get involved in recess. PTA leader and school board member, Angie Gallo, also shares how you can become a recess advocate in your community...
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Middle School: What Every Parent Should Know

3 │ Middle School: What Every Parent Should Know

Phyllis Fagell
School Counselor and Author of Middle School Matters

We dive into parents’ top concerns about middle school with Phyllis Fagell—school counselor, therapist, author and mother of three. She gives us a deeper look at what is going on with middle schoolers developmentally and how families can address adolescent friendship issues, social media use and bullying. We also offer practical tips and ways both families and schools can best support our tweens...
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How is Your Kid Really Doing in School?

2 │ How is Your Kid Really Doing in School?

Bibb Hubbard
Founder and President of Learning Heroes
Liz Goshorn
Mother of Four Children

We sit down with Bibb Hubbard—a mother and founder of Learning Heroes—to explore what families and kids think about student academic achievement, how schools and districts can improve the way they share information with families, and what families can do to gauge if their child is on track and advocate for a more accurate picture of their progress. Liz Goshorn gives a mother’s perspective on how you can better understand your child’s academic progress in school and identify their academic strengths and areas for growth...
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Notes from the Backpack Hosts

Trailer | Introducing... Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast

Find out what Notes from the Backpack is all about! Hosts LaWanda Toney and Helen Westmoreland give listeners a preview of what they can expect when they tune-in to the podcast series...

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Support for Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast was provided by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.