All Posts By

Kelli Lee Dillard

Letter From The Editor Motherhood

Hope Is In The Loss

March 30, 2018

“Yet…Hope is in the loss.

Now I know, this is only the beginning.  The beginning of a beautifully broken road leading me back to the joy I thought I lost.”

These were the words I wrote just a year ago.

What a difference a year makes.

With a grateful heart, I now sit here with my 10 week old baby boy.

Realizing, it really was only the beginning of a beautifully broken road which led us back to the joy I so desperately hoped we hadn’t lost.

At this time last year, we mourned.  We mourned the baby we lost.  We mourned the joy we felt weeks before.

My heart ached.  My perspective changed.

I joined a broken community of women no one wants to be a part of.

Here I am now to encourage you.  To encourage those of you who are in the midst of brokenness.  Who are in the midst of lost hope.  Lost joy.  Heartache.

The road is long.  It feels longer.

You will have days of pure sadness.  Days of complete happiness.  Days of utter confusion.

Don’t lose hope.  Don’t stop believing in your miracle.

God is in control.

He will give you the desires of your heart.

Seek Him.  Trust Him.

I don’t know why God answered “Yes” to our prayers so quickly.  Why He may be telling you “No” or “Wait.”

You may be struggling with the loss of a baby.  Miscarriage.  Infertility.

I pray for you every day.  Pray God will give you your “Yes.”

I wondered how I would feel when I found out I was pregnant again.

Scared?  Happy?  Surprised?  Excited?  Shocked?

I felt all of these things.  And more.

My pregnancy was all but easy.

I was so sick.  All day, every day for weeks.

Once the sickness was over, something else would plague me.

Heartburn.  Chest pains.  Uncontrollable itching.  Elevated liver enzymes.  Abnormal ultrasounds.

    Every time we turned around, it was something.

It was scary.  Terrifying.  Frustrating.

There were more moments of crying than I care to admit.

I had to remind myself to enjoy it.

It can be taken so quickly.  It was taken so quickly the first time.

Yet, this time I was hopeful.  I had a peace that transcended all understanding.

God knew I needed peace.

Hope truly is in the loss.

I would do it all again for my perfect baby boy.  You would too.

To the mamas in the trenches of motherhood.

Enjoy your baby.  Every moment.

Sleepless nights.  Spit-up stained clothes.  Countless dirty diapers.  Feeding around the clock.  Days that feel like weeks.

Endless crying.  From you and the baby.

It’s hard.  I know.  I am there.

There are women who long for the things we have.  The joy we feel.

I want to encourage you.  We know all too well it goes by so fast.

It won’t be like this for long.  This season is short.

We will look back on these days and wish we had them back.

Don’t let the mommy guilt discourage you.

We are all doing the best we can.

Bottle feeding.  Nursing.  Pumping.  Co-sleeping.  Working.  Staying at home.

You know all the things mamas get judged about.

Whatever you are doing, it is right.

You are enough.

Mamas, my heart is with you.  I am praying for you.

All of you.  Those of you who have your answered prayer and those still waiting.

Letter From The Editor Motivation

Beautifully Broken: My Journey Through Miscarriage

April 26, 2017

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

As I sit here in the dark looking at the pictures of our baby I once carried.  Tears fill my eyes.  I cry.  What once brought me joy, now brings me pain.

Unbearable pain.

In November 2016, my husband and I decided to start our family.  We were ready for the next chapter.  The next 3 months crept by.  Each month thinking,

“This could be the month!”  But it wasn’t….

Until Friday, February 24, 2017.  I saw those two pink lines.

I was Ecstatic.  Shocked.  Nervous.  Excited.  Joyful.

Now I wonder, will seeing those next two pink lines be as exciting as the first?  Or, will I be filled with fear?  Afraid of the loss I feel so deeply in this moment.

I pray I can be filled with as much joy the second time as I was the first time.

I trust God is in control.

He will give me the desires of my heart.

On vacation in an unfamiliar place, in the cutest loft, we lost our baby.  We lost our joy.  Thinking, “This can’t be happening. This can’t happen to me.”

It happened.

I wept in the arms of my husband.  The only words I could whisper were, “I’m sorry.”

We were out of town.  Just the two of us.

I am grateful for the time we spent together blissfully ignorant of what our future held.  Grateful for the time to process our loss just the two of us in the silence between tears.

We saw our baby in the early hours on Thursday morning.

Thursday, March 30, 3:45 AM.

I felt it.  I felt our tiny baby leave my body.  I looked.  Something many women can’t or don’t do.  But I did.  I am forever thankful.

Thankful we were able to see our precious baby’s legs, arms, hands, and fingers.  The realization of how something so tiny could be so intricate was miraculous.

A miracle only God could create.

Thursday was long.  Friday was longer.

A day filled with doctor’s appointments and ultrasounds.

As the ultrasound tech took pictures, tears uncontrollably streamed down my face.

Ultrasounds should be joyful.  It was a joyful experience for us just 8 days before.  We saw our baby.

They found the heartbeat.  139 bpm.

But, not this time.

This time they were looking for what remained.  If anything.  Hoping everything had passed.  It seemed so wrong.

When the day was over and we returned home, I cried.  I cried because when I left the house a short 6 days earlier, I was pregnant.  Now I wasn’t.

I felt so empty.  So lonely.

Days go by and I feel emotions I didn’t know existed.

Devastated.  Lonely.  Angry.  Grateful.  Sad.  Hopeful.  Broken.

I questioned things.  Knowing there aren’t answers.  But questioning anyway.

Could I have done things differently?  Did I do something wrong?

Why me?

I share my story hoping and praying it will help others who have or will experience miscarriage.  If I must walk this tragic journey.  I want to support others as well.

You are not alone.

 No one can prepare you.  The feelings of hopelessness, emptiness and loneliness will overcome you at random times during the day or during any given activity.

The pain returns when you think about where you should be right now in your pregnancy or your life as a parent.

You will question things.  I was reassured there was nothing I did or didn’t do which caused my miscarriage.  I want to reassure you the same.  There is nothing you could have done differently.

You will be Mad.  Angry.

Mad it happened to you.  Mad some of the people you want to lean on, don’t know what you are going through.  Even though you would never want them to experience this pain.  They all of a sudden won’t be the ones you want to talk to.

It’s not fair to them, it doesn’t make sense and it hurts.  I encourage you to push through, reach out even when it’s difficult.  Your very best friends want to be there to support and encourage you.  Let them.  It will be hard, especially if they have babies or children, but it is a part of the healing process.

People will say helpful things.  They will say hurtful things.  No one knows what to say, so don’t be offended.  Appreciate the fact they are trying to help, though they don’t know how.  Their intentions are pure.

Be grateful.  It is difficult to be grateful in such a tragic time.  Be thankful you were able to get pregnant.  Be thankful for the time you had with your sweet baby.

The reminders…oh the reminders.  This part is hard.  The part you can’t control.  It happens when you least expect it.

The things people say or ask you about brings it back to the forefront.

The drive to the doctor’s office, once so exciting, is now so dreadful.

The bills you must pay, but nothing to show for it.

Ultrasound pictures and pregnancy announcements.  These for me are hard.  I have ultrasound pictures I am so proud of.  I was so excited to announce to the world.  They showed my baby had a heartbeat…which should decrease the likelihood of miscarriage.  But, I lost my baby.

I am excited people get to share their news and will hold their baby soon…I know the excitement and joy they feel.  I don’t know their story which got them to this point in their journey.

But it doesn’t lessen my pain.  It doesn’t help me feel better.  My heartache is real.

Seeing a pregnant woman makes my heart skip a beat.  I was there…I experienced the joy for a short time before it was ripped from my womb.  Literally.

There is hope.  Cling to the hope of the future.  Cling to the hope of your future rainbow baby.  Cling to the hope you are not alone.  Cling to God.  He is bigger.  He will restore peace where there is tragedy.  He is near to the broken-hearted.

God never said there wouldn’t be pain in this world, but he promised us hope and a future.

Trust in the Lord for He has a bigger plan.  We may not know why.  But trust in Him and keep your eyes focused on God.  He will provide the way.  He will give you the desires of your heart.

Many times, as Christ followers we believe pain and hurt won’t affect us, but it does.

Focus on God’s promises in your life and trust in the future He has promised you.

Allow yourself to feel the emotions you are feeling.  Embrace the good days without guilt.  Embrace the hard days without shame.

There will be days you feel so strong and nights you fall asleep on a tear-stained pillow.

 You are not alone.

I encourage you to reach out to others who have experienced miscarriage.  It helped me tremendously to talk to others who knew exactly how I felt and brought up feelings I didn’t understand.

As I have told people about our story, I have realized there are so many women who are in this broken community.

Grieving and healing takes time.  The amount of time is different for everyone.  The feelings you feel may be different from mine.

Give yourself grace.

I am praying for you.  I pray through my story, you find hope for your future and know…you are not alone in this journey.  Reach out to those who know the devastating loss of losing a baby and pray for guidance through the heartbreak.

It’s not over.  It’s only the beginning.  I am hopeful for the future.

This is our story.  A story I pleaded with God not to make mine.  I prayed every morning,

“I don’t want loss to be a part of my story.”

Yet…Hope is in the loss.

Now I know, this is only the beginning.  The beginning of a beautifully broken road leading me back to the joy I thought I lost.

Disclaimer:  My name is Kelli Lee Dillard.  My husband, Devin and I experienced our loss while traveling during Spring Break in 2017.  This is our very personal experience of losing a baby at 8 weeks into my pregnancy.  I do not know the pain of losing a baby further along in a pregnancy or losing a baby already born.  I do not know the pain infertility brings.  I know the pain I felt from a first trimester miscarriage.  I do not know or understand the pain others experience from other tragic events.  It is my hope and prayer my story helped create healing for your pain.


The Solution to NOT Sharpening Pencils ALL THE TIME

March 12, 2017

Do you feel like you are constantly finding pencils on the floor? Do you feel like your students are always needing a new pencil….at the most inconvenient time? Do you feel like you’re constantly sharpening pencils?

You are not alone! I felt like this for a long time….until a co-worker told me about pencil pouches! They are life-changing!

What you need:

  • A zipper pouch
  • Seven pencils for each student
  • An index card for each student
  • A pink eraser (optional)

YEP! That’s IT!

How It Works

  1. Put seven sharpened pencils in the pouch.
  2. Write the student’s name on an index card.
  3. At the end of each week, check their pencil pouch.
    • I write the date and if they still have all seven pencils (if doesn’t matter if they are still sharp or not) they get a smiley face on their index card next to the date. If they don’t have all seven pencils, I place an ‘x’ on their index card next to the date.
  4. Sharpen or replace the unsharp pencils and leave the still sharpened pencils in the pouch.
  5. After three smiley faces – or three weeks in a row of having all seven pencils – the students get in the treasure box.
  6. After a student has earned the treasure box, I put a line under the last date and start over on the same index card.

Preparation at the beginning of the year

At the very beginning of each year, I fill each student’s pencil pouch with seven sharpened pencils, an index card with their name on it (this lasts the entire year…if they don’t lose it) and a pink eraser. The pink eraser is optional, but I have found that it works well because pencils often lose their erasers far before the pencil is unusable. I tell the students about pencil pouches and how the goal is to keep all seven pencils throughout the entire week.  If a pencil breaks, put it back in the pouch and get another one. If you find a pencil on the floor, check around to see if it’s someone else’s, if no one claims the pencil, put it in your pencil pouch. This way, it mostly keeps the floor clean of pencils and there is an incentive to keep up with your own pencils. I make a really big deal about pencil pouches at the beginning of the year and we talk about them frequently. This helps the students buy-in to the idea that the pencils are their responsibility. I also make a big deal about not hoarding pencils and if I notice that a student always has way more than their seven pencils, meaning they are taking over student’s pencils, they will not get their smiley face. I believe this stops the students from trying to take pencils that aren’t theirs because they realize they will not get their reward. This is my 3rd year using pencil pouches, and they work wonderfully!

Weekly Up-Keep 

On Friday’s, I go around and check the pencil pouches to see who has their pencils for the week. I always keep pre-sharpened pencils in a tub and this is how I replace unsharpened pencils. I have a coworker who sharpens the unsharp pencils right there on the spot and gives it back to the student. I think either way works well! I have the students stay at their desks and get out their pencils and their index card and separate the pencils between “sharp” and “unsharp”. This way, I can go around to each desk and easily count their pencils and see which ones need to be replaced. I place a smiley or an ‘x’ right there on their index card, they put their pencils and card back in their pencil pouch and I continue moving around the room. It is a very easy process and only takes about 10 minutes!

Good luck and I hope this solves all of your pencil sharpening problems!

Featured Organization

Stop Wasting Precious Time Searching for Papers

January 27, 2017

What do you do with all your weekly copies?

I don’t know about you, but my first grade team plans as a grade level. It’s wonderful! If you don’t currently plan as a grade level, I highly recommend it! We already have a lot on our plates, so it’s nice to not have to worry about planning every subject, every week. Instead, you can focus on one subject each week and plan that very well. This is also a great time to practice communication with your team. You can discuss what is working and what may not be working with your class and also get a brief overview of what your other teammates planned for that week. In my opinion, this is a great way to plan. However, it comes with a lot of papers and we are usually a week ahead, so what do you do with all the copies??

I organize all my papers for the next week on Friday afternoon, usually during my planning, so I am prepared for the next week. I don’t like to come in on Monday and already feel behind for the week. When I starting thinking about how I wanted to organize my weekly papers and activities, I asked some of my teammates to see how they organized their papers for the week. They had some good solutions, but still not exactly what I was looking for. I wanted something that wasn’t too bulky and that I could put by my desk.

The Perfect Solution

So, I set out to find the perfect solution. I went to my favorite store for all things organization, The Container Store! I don’t get many things there because it is pretty expensive and most of the time you can find something similar somewhere else. But, I found this cute file organizer at The Container Store and I LOVE it. It’s perfect for organizing the weekly copies and activities. It has a slot for each day of the week and one extra slot for extra papers that I don’t get to that week and need to slide into the following week or that I can save for a substitute.

I also put labeled file folders in each slot for each subject. Each day, I know exactly what I am doing with independent practice sheets, activities and any books that I want to read for that day. All of these fit nice and neat in this organizer and it’s perfect for keeping up with daily and weekly activities. Also, if you are anything like me, you will love to see each slot empty at the end of the day. It’s a lot like the feeling of marking things off your to-do list each day. I am that person that will write something on my to-do list just to mark it off, who else does that?

This system has worked really well for me because I have it right by my desk and I am able to get the file folders out each morning and they are ready for the day. It’s also nice in case I have to be out unexpectedly, my team can go to the organizer and grab the folders and everything they need to do for that day is right there ready to go. There are many other systems out there for organizing the daily work and activities, what works for you in your classroom?

Featured Organization

Stop drowning in the piles of papers

December 23, 2016

Are you looking for ways to stay organized in your classroom? 

Have you tried many different ways to organize your files and still feel like you are drowning in papers? I felt that way for the first two years of my teaching career. I tried filing them away in the typical fashion, a filing cabinet, but that just didn’t work for me.  So then I tried putting all of the papers in notebooks and that still didn’t work for the papers that seemingly swallowed my desk. I was at a loss because neither of these options really worked for me, so what else was out there?

Filing Cabinet Chaos

With the filing cabinet, it felt like the papers were always hanging out of the files, I would sort through them, what felt like a million times, and I still couldn’t find what I was looking for. The hanging files would fall off the track and papers were constantly all over the place. Okay, maybe I am being a little dramatic, but you get the point! It seemed as though this option wasn’t as user friendly as I was expecting. At the point where the filing cabinet wasn’t meeting my organizational needs, I switched to notebooks.

Notebook Madness 

At first, I really liked this method, I was super organized and had dividers for each skill and multiple notebooks for each subject area. But after a while, the papers began piling up on my desk waiting to be hole punched and placed in a notebook.  Also, I wasn’t able to file any games or hands-on activities for that specific skill in the notebooks, so those had to be stored and organized in different places. This wasn’t a huge deal, but still I found myself wanting/needing a better system.

Storage Bin Bliss

Once these two options didn’t work out for me, I began searching Pinterest for ideas, when I came across a picture of these clear stackable bins that were the perfect size for papers. That afternoon, I ran went to the nearest Wal-Mart and cleared them out of these bins and began organizing my files and games.  They are perfect! I have separate bins for all of my math skills, language skills and reading skills.

Want to know what I love most about these bins? They look amazing, while providing enough space in them to file all of the papers (without having to hole punch – yay!), hands-on games, activities and task cards. They are so easy to pull out and sort through when I begin planning for certain skills.

It is so nice not having to worry about getting my papers messed up because they fit nice and neat in these bins.  I even have file folders inside the bins for extra protection and to keep the practice papers separated from games and activities.

I hope this organizational strategy will help you when looking for another way to organize the mountain of papers we teachers have to keep up with. Because let’s be honest, we have tons of papers that we can’t seem to get rid of, even when we haven’t used them for years, because we may need them some day….or at least we think we will!

Featured Letter From The Editor

A Welcome Letter From The Editors

December 23, 2016

Hi! We are so glad you made your way over to Tenspire! We are two Tennessee teachers who want to help encourage, motivate and most of all, inspire other teachers. We started dreaming about this separately months ago and then decided to join forces to share our ideas with others. We saw a need for more positivity in the teaching world and wanted to do our part to share the joy that comes with teaching littles.

At Tenspire you will find more wonderful teachers who have collaborated with us and want to share with you how they navigate the ins and outs of teaching. You will find topics on the following:

  • Math
  • Reading
  • Assessments/Data
  • Organization
  • Motherhood
  • TeachersPayTeachers Activities in all subject areas
  • Homeschool
  • Brain-based Learning

We are growing and would love for our topics and writers to continue to grow with us! We are open to new ideas and would love to hear from you and what you want to read about to help inspire you in your teaching career.

Who are we?

Katie is a third grade teacher and is in her fifth year teaching, while Kelli Lee is a first grade teacher and in her fourth year of teaching.  We both have a love for learning and are very passionate about the children we teach. We met in college through a mutual friend, but our friendship really grew when we both taught third grade at John Pittard Elementary.  Once Katie moved to help start a new school, we continued to keep in touch with frequent Starbucks hang outs. Our conversations always seemed to come back to the education world and what we could do to better. This became a time to share ideas and encourage one another.

This is a dream come true for us and we hope this is a place where you find encouragement to continue doing the best work – molding the hearts and minds of our future generation.


Thank you for stopping by and we hope you enjoy your stay!