Keeping Up with Carmel: Mr. Sever’s New Book


Ryan Zhang

Assistant Principal Brad Sever

Ryan Zhang

What is your book about?

This book is for teachers, curriculum coordinators and school administrators, and it’s about a way of teaching called Project-Based Learning (PBL). 




What is the name of the book? 

It’s called A Sustainable Project-Based Learning: Five Steps for Designing Authentic Learning Experiences in Grades 5-12.


What is the main idea or message this book conveys?

The main idea is kind of defining what PBL is and then a clear cut five-step process that teachers and school administrators and curriculum coordinators could follow to plan and implement a PBL unit of study.


Who is the main audience of this book?

Teachers, curriculum directors and school administrators.


What made you decide to write this book?

The philosophy of PBL has been something that has been kind of near and dear to me since I began my teaching career in 2002. Since that time, I’ve just done a lot of research on it and I have worked with a lot of schools, not just CHS, but schools around the country, and also some schools in Australia on PBL. I’ve just always been really interested in continuing to figure out ways that the content that we teach is applied in the real world, and looking at ways to provide students with experiences where students see that connection. They see the connection between how the content that they learn in class is applied in the real world.


Was there anyone who inspired or encouraged you to write this book? 

I have a few close friends that are really passionate and interested in PBL as well that I’ve just known for a long time. And then there is somebody at the publishing company that I’m working with that was extremely helpful and inspired me and encouraged me from the very beginning, so there are several people specifically that have inspired me. Two kind of good friends that are colleagues and are also passionate about project based learning and then a person at my publishing company, which is Solution Tree publishing.


What is the process of writing and publishing your own book?

This is the honest truth. Three years ago, I set out this goal and I was like, ‘I really want to write a book and I really want to write a book for this one publishing company.’ I thought there’s no way that I’m going to be able to do this for my first book (and) I’m going to have to work my way into it. It started with a connection that I had one of the, one of the people that I was alluding to, in the previous question, had a connection at this specific publishing company Solution Tree. So I reached out to her, and she has written like 10 different books, and I said, ‘Hey, can you give me some advice?’ And she said, ‘Well, coincidentally, somebody from Solution Tree has reached out to (you) and asked if (you) would write them a book.’ And I turned them down because I already have a contract with another publishing company. She said, ‘I will introduce the two of you and kind of give you my recommendation.’ That’s what happened; we were introduced and the lady at the publishing company said, ‘Send me an outline of what you’d like to write.’ So I sent an outline, she made corrections and sent it back. I sent a new outline, she made corrections, and I sent it back. That probably happened four times and then they accepted my proposal. They said, ‘Okay, you need to write your first draft.’ I wrote my first draft and that got sent out to what they call peer review and it’s like 10 or 15 educators around the world that they are associated with that might kind of be a snapshot of the audience of who would buy this book. The first peer review was rough. I mean, I’m telling you the feedback (was rough) and I was a little bit disheartened. But this lady at the publishing company was really encouraging and she said, ‘You know what, I think you have a good idea. It’s a little rough, but I think we can work with this.’ And Solution Tree then gave me a contract. They hooked me up with this initial editor and she worked very closely with me, and gave me a lot of constructive feedback. Essentially, I rewrote the entire book, chapter by chapter, completely rewriting it. Then that process went out for a second peer review and this time with the rewrite, it got really positive feedback. So I was really excited and happy on that. Then it went to a second round editor and the second round editor read it and got back to me, and wanted to make a lot of additional changes, more than I anticipated but essentially, I really kind of rewrote the book three times. I rewrote it three times. It’s been a two and a half year process but coincidentally, it goes to print today and it’s supposed to be released on March 18. 


What is the importance of book writing?

I think it’s really important. I think it’s a primary way to learn, it’s a primary way to gain thoughtful information. I think for me, I really am passionate about this topic and I care a lot about this topic and I think it’s a way for my voice to be heard and reach audiences who are interested in learning about it.


Why is your book important for readers? 

I believe it’s important to continue to think of ways to make learning meaningful for students and prepare students for the future. I think that’s really important.


You have finished the entire process of writing your book? 

For this one (I have finished writing). I think I’m still going to try and write some blogs and then who knows, maybe I’ll write a second book. But right now, I’m just anxious to see the finished product on this and kind of see what others think about it. I think that’s one of the things I’m really excited about. For those that are interested in reading it, getting their feedback. What do you agree with? What do you disagree with? What questions do you have? Could I have explained better? What resonates with you? And that’s going to be really exciting for me.


Were there any moments where you felt like giving up? 

Oh, yeah, for sure. I mean, I started this writing in September of 2019. That’s when I first started. I spent a lot of time on that first draft. I actually spent a lot of time on the proposal and for that to be kind of rejected several times, that was a little discouraging, but I just am really passionate about this topic. I think too (about) my two small children and I want them to be people that can do hard things. I want to kind of practice what I preach and model that for them and like setting a goal and kind of following through. It was kind of fun, because I would kind of talk with them. They’d ask me, ‘Hey, how’s it going, dad?’ And (they would ask) if one of these proposals has been rejected, or after I got that first author review back and it got a lot of constructive feedback and there were a lot of people that were really critical. But I just want my own kids to look at me as somebody that sets goals and really works to try and achieve them. Because that’s who I want them to be.


Is there anything I haven’t asked that a reader might like to know?

I don’t think so. I just really appreciate you interviewing me and taking an interest in this. That means a lot to me, so thank you. This process wasn’t easy, but I do know that I’m not the only CHS teacher to write a book.