Jonathan Mooney Wants Us To Re-Imagine Education

The evening was an extraordinary success! My group, Boulder Valley Gifted & Talented (BVGT), joined with our school district’s Office of Advanced Academic Services and the Parent Engagement Network (PEN) to bring author and education reformer Jonathan Mooney to Boulder for a presentation about focusing on kids’ strengths and ways to re-imagine education (“we have an 19th century system for 21st century children” he said).

I’ve heard him speak before (see my previous blog about how I got Jonathan Mooney to speak in Boulder) and this time I got to hang out with him — he’s fun, genuine, caring and interested in each conversation.

Why was this event so successful? Partly because it brought together so many stakeholders (people who have an interest in education) in our community. Jonathan’s message spoke to everybody in attendance – parents, students, teachers, administrators, mental health professionals and advocates.

We had about 600 people attend at Boulder’s Fairview High School auditorium. Included in the audience were people who CAN make a difference in re-imaging our school system: the school district superintendent (BVSD), the Director Of Gifted Education for the State of Colordo, the president of Colorado Gifted & Talented (CAGT), a professor in gifted ed at the University Northern Colorado, the director of Denver’s Gifted Development Center, a school board member (good to get elected officials out to hear this message), and several principals and assistant principals from BVSD schools.

I was also impressed that so many parents with their children showed up. Jonathan’s message really hit home with them (see comments below).


Jonathan’s one of the best speakers I’ve seen.  He talked for 90 minutes without notes or powerpoint and kept the audience engaged and connected.  He’s an excellent storyteller.  Then he stayed for another hour doing Q&A and meeting personally with the dozens of people who wanted his autograph and a chance to chat.

Hearing Jonathan Mooney gave me the renewed spirit to reform education; to create a school environment where all kids can thrive.

Three of my takeaways from his remarkable talk:

  1. In schools we now create generalists yet in careers, and for the USA to thrive and flourish, we need specialists.
  2. We need to tell kids they are not broken.  Just because they learn differently doesn’t mean they’re stupid.
  3. All kids need to have at least one important adult that’s not in your family that believes in you, inspires you, and encourages you.

Here’s what some other people who attended told me about the event:

  • “My 15-year old daughter, who is dyslexic, attended the event with me.  She left that evening with her self esteem boosted by at least 200%.  Jonathan’s words of “you’re not broken” really hit home and I am grateful to BVGT for bringing him to Boulder.”
  • “Mooney described many compelling reasons to broaden our traditional definition of  “the good student” in our school systems– and he used wit and humor to convince us.” 
  • “He highly praised great teachers who really care about teaching children, and he is extremely motivating and positive. He suggested we make connections with our students which is what the best teachers are doing every day!” 
  • “To me his most important messages have to do with scaling strengths and not treating students as if they were broken.”
  • “Listening to Jonathan Mooney is uplifting. His energy and enthusiasm for educating all children combined with his command of facts and the science of learning was inspiring.”

My hope is that all of us who heard his message will work to make even more connections with all students, and encourage them to find their strengths and nurture their talents.

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