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Hidden Gems: Meet Dr. Marquita S. Blades

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Marquita S. Blades.

Hi Dr. Marquita, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a teacher. I loved school and I loved learning, so it just made sense that I would become a teacher. But I didn’t start out wanting to become a science teacher. Initially, wanted to teach Language Arts, but on the first day of biology class at GSU, in walks, the professor, Dr. Adams – a black woman with a Ph.D. in biology – and she could TEACH!

First, she made me LIKE biology and before the semester was over, I wanted to TEACH it too. Once I took my chemistry requirements a couple of semesters later, I remembered how much I’d actually enjoyed chemistry in high school, so I changed my major and went on to earn a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Broad Field Science. The curriculum consisted of courses in teacher preparation for secondary education and the same courses that one would take if they were on a pre-med track: biology, chemistry, physics, and organic chemistry. I also took courses like microbiology, geology, zoology, and biochemistry just for fun!

For 16 years, I was a high school science teacher, primarily teaching biology, chemistry, and physical science, a little bit of physics, and because I am broad field certified grades 6-12, I often ended up teaching courses that no one else wanted. This included botany, genetics, and forensic science – which was great because I could pretty much do anything I wanted with those courses!

In 2016, after about eight years into a lupus diagnosis, I just couldn’t keep up with the physical demands of being in the classroom every day.

Particularly because my classes were so hands-on and active, the day-to-day just became too much for me. I took a 30-day medical leave about three weeks into my 17th year and ultimately was unable to return. I’d been playing around with the idea of leaving the classroom, but I didn’t want to go out the way that I did. I would have wanted it to be on my own terms and under better conditions.

Regardless of how hard it was to teach with lupus, I still wanted to BE A TEACHER! I actually LOVED the ART of TEACHING, so I started my education consulting company, Dr. Blades Consulting, LLC, and started presenting at conferences to start building a name for myself. After doing that for a while and getting feedback from my audiences on which instructional strategies were most needed and helpful, I noticed a recurring theme in the types of strategies/lessons I was sharing and that teachers were drawn to.

This led me to create POWARRful Teaching Strategies® based on a method I had developed to help students learn the scientific inquiry process. The POWARRful Teaching Strategies® framework helps students build their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, by engaging in inquiry- and problem-based activities using six core POWARR® skills: Predict, Observe, Write, Analyze, Research, Report.

The POWARR® skills work across all content areas – not just STEM! The POWARRful Teaching Strategies® framework is easily adaptable — it can be used with other teaching strategies or as a core structure that ensures students are actively involved in their learning process.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has certainly not been smooth. The hardest part has been dealing with the ups and downs of having lupus.

In the beginning, education consulting was literally taking me everywhere. Illinois, California, New York, Vermont, Hawaii, I was all over the place! It put me in rooms that I never thought I’d be in, seated at tables where I never saw myself sitting. My picture was in brochures and programs that I’d once perused as a teacher and people were paying good money to come and hear what I had to say. I’d also launched two independent publishing companies (The Gyrlfriend Collective & DBC Publications) and I couldn’t get books out fast enough…people eager to write and publish with me. It was all good until my lupus caught up with me…

From May 2018 until August 2019, I spent the majority of my time in hospital beds or home-bound, so I couldn’t be out promoting or building my businesses at all. It was hard for me to get booked at times because I often had to cancel speaking engagements. As you can imagine, people started to develop negative opinions of my work ethic and there was nothing I could do about it.

Because I’d jumped right into consulting from teaching, I never gave my body time to recover from all of the trauma of working in pain for over 8 years. As a new consultant, I wanted to be everywhere and I had pushed myself too hard. It seemed like everything was lining up, but I knew I would need to take a step back if I ever wanted to fully regain my health. In August 2019, my husband and I began living abroad part-time in Panama (his home country) in order to enjoy better weather and a less stressful lifestyle – all in hopes of starting to improve my health. So, in 2020, I did what I’d put off for years; and with the pandemic, I had no choice but to stick to it! On August 18, 2021, I celebrated two years of no hospitalizations, ER visits, or urgent care visits! I completely revamped Dr. Blades Consulting/POWARRful Teaching, and my business is doing better than ever!

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Because my 20+ years of experience in education spans into other areas beyond the traditional classroom to include curriculum and assessment development and educational program management, I can offer consulting services in a way that many other education consultants do not.

Along these lines, after 5 years in business, I finally added my program development skills into POWARRful Teaching by hosting the first Teach to emPOWARR Conference, a 2-day virtual event for teachers by teachers. I am proud of the fact that EVERY speaker was a teacher or instructional leader (with most of them still working at the classroom, building or district level), sharing practices used in actual classrooms with actual students and actual faculty members; rather than bringing in education celebrities who have not taught for years.

I am proud that my attendees could learn with their peers – people who shared the same challenges during the pandemic, and that they left every session with a pdf resource to guide them in implementing the strategies they learned in their own classrooms right away! Finally, I am proud that every speaker was paid to participate in this event. I have a huge issue with asking my colleagues and friends, especially other teachers, to work for free! The next Teach to emPOWARR Conference is slated to take place in Fall 2022.

Dr. Blades Consulting, LLC/POWARRful Teaching offers a full suite of consulting services across topics including:

Student Engagement
Next Generation Science Standards
Play-Based Learning
Technology-Enhanced Science Instruction
Differentiated Instruction
Teacher Burnout
1-on-1 Teacher Coaching

I also offer customized professional learning experiences unique to the institution/organization.

In addition to helping classroom teachers, I also coach educators who are ready to move on and start their own education consulting businesses through my signature program, Teach on Your Own Terms. I assist doctoral students by providing dissertation coaching services, and I just recently regained my real estate license and will be using my passion for teaching to educate my clients in completing their real estate transactions.

Do you have any advice for those just starting out?
I would advise any new education consultants (or any business owner) to not overthink things and to reflect on this quote:

“What’s obvious to you is amazing to others.” ~David Shivers

We all do something really, really well that we don’t even think about monetizing, but often, that is the thing we should be doing to make money. I wish I’d realized this starting out because I spent a lot of time trying to find “my thing” while completely overlooking the obvious “thing” that could benefit so many other teachers.

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Image Credits

Vincent Vassall (VSquared Photography)

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