top of page

The Story of ACP & Our PBL Project Planner


A little over a year ago, Gina, Kristy, and I started this little adventure called Applied Coaching for Projects (ACP) together. That milestone caused me to reflect on the evolution of my professional growth as a result of knowing them and how lucky I am to have them both as two of my closest friends. It felt fitting to share more of how our bond began and how we are returning to the roots that brought us together.

Coaching Workshop

Gina, Kristy, and I formed a tight working bond and eventual friendship through our love of Project-Based Learning. Gina was a full-time staff member at the Buck Institute for Education (BIE, now PBLWorks); Kristy and I were consultants. Gina headed up the curriculum department and needed help redesigning a PBL Coaching Workshop. She brought Kristy and me together to help which solidified our eventual friendship.

For some background: at the time, Kristy and I were friendly, but I wouldn't have called us friends. Kristy has recently owned that she is part of "Team Aggressively Friendly"-- you know, one of those people who knows everyone and is so lovely that everyone tends to be friends with them? Kristy learned the term from our friend Ellie Foust, who is the founding member of the team. Yeah, Kristy fits into this team perfectly. In fact, I would also place Gina in this category as well. Gina is always so warm and giving that you want to be friends with her. I, on the other hand, am the exact opposite. I am late to a party, leave pretty early. Sure, I will make a scene, so you know I was there, but I try to avoid talking to anyone outside my circle. I've been described as rough around the edges, so I am certain that Team Aggressively Friendly was unsure what to make of me at first.

So back to my story: the three of us began this endeavor on creating the workshop. Team Aggressively Friendly eventually pulled me into their madness and made me drop my rough edges. Kristy and I started talking on the phone every day about the workshop. I would always have wild ideas that would keep me up at night in a crazy brainstorming session. When my ideas were too wacky or would take too much time, she would call me "shingles" because, yes, I got shingles due to stress and lack of sleep during the creation of this. At first, Kristy and I talked every day about work, but it changed to be more and more about our lives over time. I now know when she drops her daughter off at school, picks her up, and what days her daughter goes to Ninja Warrior classes. Kristy now can tell all my moods, like the exact moment when to leave me alone or when I need to talk to calm down.

Finding Our In and Out of Work People

Anytime we would get stuck or have an overly complicated idea, Gina was always the one to smooth it and make it meaningful and helpful to others. Kristy and I would literally geek out on the phone, sharing how stunned and lucky we are to be in a situation where we get to learn directly with someone of Gina's caliber. Gina was utterly out of our league when it came to designing, but at the same time, she was so giving to teach us and let us grow under her guidance. The more we worked together, the more we realized how well we did and would look for other opportunities to collaborate. Positive working relationships are hard to find, and we always knew the three of us had something special together because together, we all grew.

Through working together, the three of us formed a tight friendship. There is not a single day I go without messaging or talking to them. So when Kristy had her idea of her collaboration e-book, she knew she wanted to do it with Gina and me. I should also note that Kristy despises writing. When she asked us to help write a book, I think we had to pick our jaws off the floor. That is how ACP began. We wanted to find ways to collaborate no matter where life took us to share and help educators in the ways that we could.

Upcoming HQPBL E-Book

Lately, we have been sharing a lot of thoughts and resources surrounding HQPBL. Project-Based Learning is what brought us together, and while we were focused on other pressing topics, we knew it was time to share our knowledge, strategies, and beliefs with all of you. Behind the scenes, we are working on our next e-book, all about HQPBL. We are aiming for a late November release.

We are still in outline mode, but an unspoken core value we have at ACP is practicality, and we hope that comes through in our next book. I am sure we have all bought a book on a classroom strategy or pedagogy and thought it seemed terrific, but questioned how we would ever have time to not only figure it out but implement it successfully. Our goal with this e-book is to make it short, achievable, and practical. We will break down each HQPBL criteria, explain what it looks like in action, ways to get started, and provide a few tips.

Our HQPBL Project Planner

As we began drafting, we realized we also wanted to create resources to help people get started. Learning a new pedagogy and style of teaching can be a lot to hold. When I first started, I used some excellent project planners but forgot some significant components that made something project-based. It was all too much for me to remember at the start of my PBL journey.

To help scaffold the process, we used the HQPBL learning experience Kristy created and Gina's brilliant mind at creating helpful planners to make our own. Our planner consists of 4 major components:

  1. General project overview - This gives the big picture of the project and includes many of the HQPBL criteria.

  2. Project Setup/Launch - This helps consider what experience you could do that might generate interest and wonder.

  3. Investigation Cycles - This will help you plan your daily lessons that center around the inquiry process. We have included 2 to demonstrate that inquiry should be ongoing in a project.

  4. Public Product Showcase - This section helps you plan for the public product and how students will prep and reflect.

Here is a preview of our project planner with options on how to download for your own use below:

ACP - Teacher Project Plan (3)
Download PDF • 159KB

We hope this helps you plan so that you don't have to worry about missing anything. We tried to design our planner to make it easier for you to plan your amazing projects. Like everything we do, we encourage adaptation and making things your own, so modify, adapt, and change what makes sense to you.


I started this blog by sharing and reflecting on how ACP came about and the friendship I am lucky to have with Gina and Kristy. When I first started teaching, a veteran 30-year teacher, Tim, noticed how much of a lone wolf I was at the school and encouraged me to connect with more adults. He shared that people think the students kept him in the profession, but his true secret for staying in education was finding his network of people and support in the building. While the teaching profession always puts students at the center, our ultimate goal is to have our students flourish and leave us. So he told me that if you enjoy who you see day in and day out, it makes it easier to stay thirty years.

I was glad that Tim gave me this advice early on in my career because he was right. Even a couple of years in, I was already experiencing teacher burnout, and finding dependable colleagues like the Gina's and Kristy's of the world is what continues to give me life 15 years in. I encourage you to make an effort to connect with your people this week - even if you don't feel like you have time. Just five minutes can help energize you to keep going.

We look forward to sharing more about our next e-book soon!

bottom of page