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Hi there! I’m Regina. Thank you for visiting my blog!

I started Cooking Up Words because I am fascinated by the power of our words and how much impact they can have on a life.

I believe that words used with intention and backed with knowledge are powerful tools in impacting the trajectory of a child’s life. This is especially true in the early years when a child’s brain is the most open that it will ever be to forming the connections and thinking patterns that will dictate how they’ll approach every situation and challenge for the rest of their lives.

So many of our children and students have big gaps in the areas of vocabulary, critical thinking, problem-solving, communicating, resiliency, perseverance, and emotional intelligence, which results in a huge achievement gap, made worse over time as they move up through the grades and grow into adults. This is especially prevalent in highly impacted communities, where families experience the awful realities of poverty, instability due to violence, food insecurity, and high stress, greatly reducing these children’s personal and professional chances of success.

The thing is that there isn’t a whole lot of public awareness about how mindfulness and intention around how we speak to and around children can provide them with a huge life advantage and allow them to thrive. This blog is my way to bring awareness to the idea that parents, caregivers, teachers, therapists, counselors, child advocates, and all humans coming into contact with children can determine their outcomes and impact their world (and through this, our world!) in an incredibly positive way.

I also love learning about how children acquire vocabulary and the strategies most effective in both the home and school setting that can help our students close that achievement gap once and for all! I am working on developing materials for classrooms and therapy rooms that are engaging, address different levels of learners, align to the common core standards, and make learning new and necessary vocabulary enjoyable and effective.

More About Me:

 

An amazing (“The Flash”-loving) boy and sweet (and, holy moly, often intense) little girl call me mom. I’m married to my hubby, Yaron, of 10 years. We met while on a group trip to Israel. These people make my world turn (and lose a few of my marbles along the way).

We recently moved to Austin, Texas from New York City, and while adjusting to a life without family and close friends nearby (and the bagels…I really miss the bagels) has not been easy, Austin’s friendly people, creative art scene, and warmer weather have been quite consoling.

I moved to the beautiful US of A from Moscow at the age of 9 with my parents, older brother, and grandparents. We came over as refugees and I am so grateful to my parents for leaving behind everything they knew to create a better future for my brother and me and to give us access to so many opportunities in this amazing country.

I worked in the New York City public/charter schools for 5 years before moving to Austin. Here is where my love for vocabulary and all things language was born and fostered. I got to meet so many wonderful students, families and fellow professionals, learned so much about the world of language and communication skills, but also got a taste of the achievement gap that exists, especially for students in schools within high poverty areas and with limited resources. Many of the kids I worked with had HUGE gaps in not only vocabulary knowledge, but also overall world knowledge. Most of my students were in the middle-school and high-school grades, so seeing the compounding effects of this lack of knowledge, how far behind they were, and just how large that achievement gap had gotten for them by grades 6-12 was eye-opening. Seeing the sense of failure and hopelessness they felt about themselves and their future in this world was heart-breaking.

Many of those kids also lacked persistence and perseverance and I found myself talking to them often about continuing to try, not worrying about making mistakes, and that practice and hard work would improve their results. We spoke about being behind and how that meant that they actually had to work harder than their peers to catch up to the same level of learning. Sometimes it worked, but many times it did not. This got me thinking about how to not only help these kids close the achievement gap at where they were, but to nip it in the bud before it even forms for other children like them where intervention can come at an earlier age.

I also worked with kiddos of all ages ranging from toddlers to adults with language and feeding delays and disorders. I really enjoyed feeding therapy and helping families with their mealtime struggles since we encountered the same struggles with my little guy.

Fun fact about me is that while I am a word- and language-loving SLP now, I used to be an accountant in the financial services industry. I know…talk about polar opposites! I wound up changing careers because something was missing and I felt like I needed to have more direct impact.

I LOVE learning about the brain. It is such an amazing, complex, and fragile organ, which holds so many answers to so many questions (figuratively and literally).

I love to listen to people’s stories. How they got to where they are in life, the challenges they have faced, and how they’ve persevered. My favorite people to speak to are the elderly. I just love hearing their stories of survival about WWII. That generation was unbelievably strong and their stories always give me a major dose of perspective about my own problems.

Young adult historical fiction books like Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne are my jam. Whenever my students would be reading books like these, I would do a happy dance inside as I planned our sessions around their reading material so I could find out what happened next in these books.

I’m a sucker for pep talks and am easily inspired…especially by Disney songs and animated movies. I mean, have you listened to Shakira’s “Try Everything” from Zootopia? Or I could just be a big sap who got even more sappier after having kids of my own.

I am on a mission to become a better cook, especially now that my mama isn’t close enough to bring truckloads of food to our house “just because” like she used to.

PODCASTS. Love ‘em.  There is SO MUCH amazing and engaging content and knowledge out there in this form. Some of my favorites are “Finding Mastery” with Michael Gervais, “Work Life” with Adam Grant, “Radiolab,” and “The Garyvee Audio Experience.”

I love self-help books geared towards positivity, leadership skills, entrepreneurship, parenting, and grit. A few of my favorites include Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin and The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. In general, I am intrigued by what skills and qualities result in strong and compassionate leaders, change-makers, and visionaries. I believe if we understand these people’s journeys, we can foster the same type of abilities and skills in children so they can thrive. In turn, so can our planet and future generations to come.

Thank you for visiting my blog! I welcome your comments, pins, and shares, and can’t wait to connect with you all <3