Danell Lynn: Teaching and Living the Free and Eclectic Life

For Parents Aug 20, 2020

We recently spoke to Danell Lynn, who teaches the ADHD and Me series and with other classes on Outschool. Danell is a true Renaissance Woman. She is the author of several published books, leader of the Threading Hope and Highwire humanitarian foundations, and was even the first solo-woman ever to break the world record for longest journey by motorcycle in a single country!

Through these eclectic skills and accomplishments, Danell offers rich learning experiences in her Outschool classes. She specializes in empowering learners with ADHD by helping them to develop the skills they need to turn their brains into a superpower.

Hi Danell! Can you tell us a little about yourself and your teaching experience?

I am a global educator, adventurer, humanitarian, author, speaker and cultural explorer. I am a lifelong learner and have been an educator here in the US and globally for over 15 years.  I’ve taught in the classroom for over 11 years and online for almost 3 years and have worked internationally through art therapy and reading education initiatives. I’m also an author and am working on completing a book on educating unique minds.

You have a fascinating array of education experiences. Can you tell us about those?

Danell reads a picture book to children in Costa Rica.

My work in the states, internationally, cross-cultural, public education, private, and charter gives me a unique perspective on our education system and has been my inspiration for continual learning.

I grew up as a military dependent and my father moved every two and a half to three years. We were constantly moving to new locations. When I was in junior high, we moved to Europe. That expanded the international doors for us in terms of volunteering and giving back. Those experiences ignited my interest in international travel.

Some of my experiences include: rebuilding special education programs in Arizona, working with the King's Council in Morocco to promote women’s education, supporting efforts to teach women to ride motorcycles in Pakistan to access better jobs, and helping orphans in El Salvador.

How did you get started teaching on Outschool?

When getting started with Outschool, I noticed courses parents were requesting that did not have many existing options. This helped to guide me to create courses based on student need and my skill set.

Danell speaks to a class of children about her book Purposeful Wanderings.

In my first month at Outschool, I taught over 230 learners from across the world, including Canada, Luxemburg, Switzerland and multiple states in the US. The reach of Outschool is impressive and makes for a wonderfully diverse classroom for all learners.

How does brick & mortar classroom teaching compare to Outschool for you?

As we look at online teaching, we can integrate many skills from the classroom, especially in how we organize our classes. The what does not change, but the how is where we can learn and create differently online.

Danell speaks to a room of adult learners.

It is just as important online to build rapport with students so they feel safety within the classroom. For example, I create a roll-call sheet that gives me a place to check on engagement and gives me a place to write out pronunciation of student names. Like in a physical classroom, we set classroom expectations and outcomes for the day in the beginning of class.

Since joining Outschool, I took the Zoom Teachers Academy, which greatly supported my ability to deliver the best class I can. That, mixed with all the training and support Outschool offers for their teachers, allows for continued learning about teaching online.

You’re involved in several different projects - teaching, writing, speaking. How do you stay organized?

Organization is key to all of it. I'm into calendaring and journaling. Of course, I teach students to use a lot of skill sets that have been researched but also that have proven to work in my life.

Danell leads a class for children in Cuba.

I still use an old school calendar. I open it up at my desk every morning and lay out my day. I double check it at least three times a day to make sure I'm hitting everything.

Organization of physical space is important, too. If an area is messy, it’s hard to do work there. I bounce between projects, but I try to put one project away before I work on another, so I have space to open up and do it.

That eclectic side has always been part of who I am. I always struggled in high school when I met with my school counselors and they’d say, what are you going to do when you grow up? and I would think, I won't do one thing.

I like the variety of life. When I speak at schools, that's one of the things I talk about. You don't have to fit into a box. Especially in my generation, most people don't have the same job or career path for 30 years. The world is changing for the up-and-comers, which I think lends itself to a freer and more eclectic life.

Can you tell me about your experience in special education and teaching children with diverse needs?

I have a brother who grew up with ADHD, and I watched schools force him to sit still. He was so frustrated that he couldn't study or learn, and he felt like he couldn't be successful.

Through her Highwire foundation, Danell works with children in Columbia.

Later, he chose to go into firefighting, and he went to school for fire science, even though it was hard for him. Now, he's one of the top in his field, and he's constantly going back to school and learning new things. He found a learning path that works for him. It’s not the one that was assigned to him, it’s one he found on his own.

For me, I hold a Masters in Cross-Categorical Special Education, Bachelors in Psychology with a minor in studio art, and am completing a second Masters in International Education Leadership. I am very passionate about Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for all students and have a deep passion for supporting and teaching learners with unique minds.

I have over 11 years of experience in the standard classroom setting for students with special education needs and over two years ESL online teaching. I have been honored to be a special education director, dean of students and work as a trainer of other teachers at the state department level.

After working with many children with ADHD, what advice do you have for parents to help learners with ADHD thrive?

Understanding executive functioning is the biggest thing. Think of your brain as a filing cabinet. With executive functioning delay, those files will sometimes all open at once, and you have a mess inside your brain. Learning to see the mind in a different way, and teaching skills to organize the executive functioning in the mind is helpful.

For example, telling a learner with ADHD to go organize their room is not necessarily going to be successful. It has to be broken down into smaller steps they can check off and find success with as they go.

Danell teaches her “Monster Mania” class. 

In a sense, they're tricking their brain to find success, and then they know they can do it. To follow an activity almost for a full hour, they feel unsuccessful because their mind has gone to 15 different places during that time.

When talking with learners, I don't call it executive functioning delays, I just call it executive functioning, because kids can learn to make them a superpower.

Why did you start your ADHD and Me classes? What is it like being a learner in those classes?

After noticing parent requests and reflecting on my own skill set, I created a curriculum for students with ADHD. My ADHD and ME series course grew quickly, and parents let me know how much they enjoyed and needed this course.

Danell works with a group of children in El Salvador. 

Parents requested that I cover these topics for other age groups, too, so I created Teen and Elementary offerings for the ADHD courses. Then, Outschool let me know of parent interest for semester courses and so back to the curriculum drawing board I went.

It has been wonderful to have students share with me how much they are learning, enjoying and creating life skills that will support ADHD learners as they grow into adults.  I look forward to also sharing my creative writing and art skills through courses like the Abarat semester course. Teaching is a journey and Outschool an adventure, I am drawn to both.

To learn more about Danell and explore her classes, visit her Outschool teacher page.

Gerard Dawson

Gerard Dawson is a teacher, parent and writer for Outschool.