Neurologist and Educator Dr. Judy Willis

“ I [we] wake up with a new brain everyday and it is up to me to figure out what it is going to be.”  That quote comes from Dr. Judy Willis who was kind enough to sit down and discuss with us the intersection between what we know about the brain, from a neurological point of view, and how we educate our students.
Dr. Willis has an interesting background and story.  After working as a neurologist for 15 years, she picked up her teaching credential and worked in the classroom for 10 years. She applied what she knew about the brain to her teaching practice.
With four different interviewers, we ranged all over the place with questions including:

  • How multitasking and the ubiquity of devices changes our brains and if we should be worried.
  • A growth versus fixed mindset
  • Why their is an increase in students being sent for behavioral evaluations

Tweetable Quotes
[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@judywillis”]Stressful classrooms increase behavioral referrals[/tweetthis]
This interview was part of a series of interviews of each keynote speaker from the 21st Century Learning Conference in Hong Kong this past December.  Chris Carter, Jamie Willett, and I all took part.
Check out the video version below.


Dr. Judy Willis is an authority on brain research regarding learning and the brain. With the unique background as both a neurologist and classroom teacher, she writes extensively for professional educational journals and has written six books for educators and parents about applying the mind, brain, and education research to classroom teaching strategies, including an ASCD top sellers, Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning and Learning to Love Math.
After graduating Phi Beta Kappa as the first woman graduate from Williams College, Willis attended UCLA School of Medicine where she was awarded her medical degree. She remained at UCLA and completed a medical residency and neurology residency, including chief residency. She practiced neurology for 15 years before returning to university to obtain her teaching credential and master’s of education from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She then taught in elementary and middle school for 10 years.
Currently, Dr. Willis is on the adjunct faculty of the Graduate School of Education, University of California, gives neuroeducation presentations, and conducts professional development workshops nationally and internationally about educational strategies correlated with neuroscience research.
Dr. Willis is a staff writer for Psychology Today, an expert consultant for NBC News Education Nation, and a staff writer for Edutopia where she was honored as a “Big Thinkers on Education”.


  • Learning to Love Math: Teaching Strategies that Change Student Attitudes and Get Results, ASCD 2010
  • How Your Child Learns Best: Brain-Based Ways to Ignite Learning and Increase School Success. Foreword by Goldie Hawn.  Sourcebooks: 2008.
  • Teaching the Brain to Read: Strategies for Improving Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension ASCD August 2008.
  • Brain-Friendly Strategies for the Inclusion Classroom, ASCD 2007
  • Research-Based Strategies To Ignite Student Learning: Insights from a Neurologist/Classroom Teacher, ASCD 2006.
  • Inspiring Middle School Minds: Gifted, Creative, Challenging. Great Potentials Press, 2008.
  • Current Impact of Neuroscience in Teaching and Learning. A chapter in,Mind, Brain, and Education Ed.  D. Sousa. Solution Tree Press, 2010.
  • MindUp! Curriculum. Contributing author Hawn Foundation funded curriculum for student focus and emotional control. New York: Scholastic. Feb. 2011


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