About the Authors

Mary Ruth McGinn

As an elementary classroom teacher with 34 years of experience, Mary Ruth McGinn has taught students in first through fifth grade. Her journey of professional evolution led her to explore, develop and implement best practices in authentic learning. 

In 2001, she attended training sessions at The Metropolitan Opera Guild in New York City to learn how to create an original opera with students. She used the process in her classroom as a vehicle to teach curricula and social-emotional skills. In 2006, Mary Ruth was granted a Fulbright Scholarship to collaborate with The Teatro Real in Madrid, Spain, to establish a similar program there. She returns to Madrid every summer to train a new team of educators. At present, more than 13,000 students in Spain have participated in the program, LÓVA, La Ópera: Un Vehículo de Aprendizaje. 

In 2013 Mary Ruth and two of her colleagues formed The Authentic Learning Initiative, with the dream of designing a pilot school to expand the ideas that promote real world learning via meaning, passion and purpose. 

From 2002-2018 Mary Ruth partnered with The Washington National Opera @The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, to put into practice the integration of artistic, academic and social-emotional competencies. After 16 years of partnership, Mary Ruth joined forces with The Kennedy Center to offer an intensive teacher training program to create an original opera with students via real life experiences. In September 2020, Mary Ruth presented a TEDx talk on authentic learning hosted by TEDx Great Mills in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

Currently Mary Ruth works as an artist in residence writing poetry, composing original music and creating original operas with elementary school students. Mary Ruth partners with FAME- The Foundation for the Advancement of Music and Education, Story Tapestries and Carpe Diem Arts, non-profit organizations that promote authentic learning through the integration of arts and education.

Peggy Pastor

Margaret Pastor has 49 years in the school setting – public and private, pre-school through university. Beginning as a classroom teacher in Illinois, Indiana, Texas and South America, she explored ways to engage students in meaningful learning. 

Margaret’s experience includes diagnostic and academic assessment in elementary and secondary schools in the United States and Colombia. Her interest and research in evaluation led her to explore the role of the learning environment in schools. Classroom climate and the practices that support it were a central tenet of her work in four different school settings, most recently during a 21 year tenure at Stedwick Elementary School, a public Title I school in Maryland.

At the University of Maryland she coordinated programs for principals in school districts across the state, supervised administrative internships, and served on school accreditation teams for the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. These experiences allowed her to observe in a variety of schools. Margaret holds a PhD in Educational Administration from Texas A&M University. 

She has published several articles and a book, all of which reflect the basic ideas presented in Ignite the Fire. Her book, One School’s Journey, co-written with Eleanor Smith, was on the 2018 Chanticleer International Book Awards Shortlist and received the Independent Press Awards®  – Distinguished Favorite, and the Royal Dragonfly Educational Book Award – First Place.

Margaret has presented workshops for school staff and education conferences on the elements of school climate. Currently, she serves as an education consultant in the United States, Europe and South America and teaches graduate courses in education at the McDaniel College program for Innovations in Teaching and Learning. 

Get in Touch with the Torchbearers

Hey there, passionate educator! If you’ve been kindled by the desire to bring authentic learning into your classroom, you’re in the right place. We’re the authors behind Ignite the Fire: A Classroom Culture of Meaning, Passion, and Purpose, and we’re thrilled to connect with fellow torchbearers like you.

Curious about a chapter? Have a burning question about fostering passion in the classroom? Or perhaps you’ve got a fiery tale of your own to share? We’re all ears (and a little bit of spark)!

Drop us a note, and together, let’s keep the flame of meaningful learning alive and blazing!

Email us at ignitethefirenow@gmail.com.