Everything I Need to Know I Learned on Sabbatical

Amazing how quickly time flies by… just wow! This was a year ago already – my experience serving as a teacher for English learners. Today, I was privileged to be part of the Reading in the Content Areas classes, and share about culturally responsive teaching with the K-12 and secondary teacher candidates and about my sabbatical experience.  Joining me today were two EL experts from our community with years of experience working with English learners and integrating Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) into their teaching.  Culturally Relevant Pedagogy is another term for Culturally Responsive Teaching. CRP can be defined as… “A pedagogy that crosses disciplines and cultures to engage learners while respecting their cultural integrity. It accommodates the dynamic mix of race, ethnicity, class, gender, region, religion, and family that contributes to every student’s cultural identity. The foundation for this approach lies in theories of intrinsic motivation” (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 1995, para 2).

Today was a wonderful opportunity to engage in dialog around CRT with our future teachers, who – no pressure – are responsible for changing the world one learner at a time. Best of luck to all – and enjoy! Life is short – so share it with others.

Wlodkowski, R.J., & Ginsberg, M.B. (1995). A framework for culturally responsive teaching. Educational Leadership, 53(1), 17-21.


You may have heard the phrase… “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten.” It was true… until my sabbatical. What is a sabbatical you may be asking? It is a time to reflect, a time to renew, a time to reenergize, and a time to start fresh…
Some spend time during sabbatical researching, writing books, focusing on different work, and/or relaxing on location. It provides an opportunity to try something new and to stretch professionally in ways that have been imagined during stressful days…or unimagined. My imagination originally directed me toward writing a book and relaxing. At least that was what I imagined when my sabbatical seemed far off. As my sabbatical began approaching my imagination had a new image in mind, which would require an intense amount of time, energy, and emotion. You see my sabbatical experience took on a life of its own in a PK-2…

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The Delivery of your Message Matters!

Blog words power

Mentor Teacher: What did you think of your lesson?

Student teacher: It didn’t go as well as I wanted.

Mentor Teacher: Yes, it WAS disappointing.

From that message on, the student teacher didn’t believe in himself as a future teacher. He questioned all his skills and abilities.

Professor: What would you change in your presentation? This audience is going out and a new audience is coming in. What will you tweak, change, take out, fix?

Teacher candidates: We wouldn’t look at our note cards as much.

Professor: Remember Q-TIP, ladies. This stands for “quit taking it personally.” All suggestions shared from your peers are to help ALL of us in this room to grow professionally.

Peers…what is one thing this group could improve on?

Peers: Your attire! Our field-experience mentor teachers would NEVER let us dress like that!

Unfortunately, the two teary-eyed teacher candidates took it personally.

Our verbal messages have the power to build up or knock down…all depending on our delivery methods.

I often express to our teacher candidates that delivery is almost more important than the words we choose when teaching. HOW we present our messages matter. Gestures, volume, tone, attitude, facial expressions, eye contact…body language. The mechanics of the delivery matter.

I read a story the other day of a gal who wanted to go into ministry. Her ‘friend’ encouraged her and told her she would be awesome at ministry. This friend told the gal she had the passion. She had the knowledge. She had the drive. She would be phenomenal at ministry. And then…the friend dropped the bomb that collapsed the gal’s spirit. “But first you should lose some weight because that is what others will see first.”

That last destructive sentence kept the gal from ministry for 17 years. Such a devastating outcome.

In the above scenarios, the friend and the peers and the mentor teacher did not intentionally mean to hurt anyone, their messages and words were misinterpreted.

Teachers and teacher candidates…we have great power. The power is in our words. In our messages. With this great power comes great responsibility.

Let’s be superheroes by being conscientious of the messages we are sending to our students. It is all in our delivery. Let us deliver messages that pack a positive punch! 🙂

Blog power of words

Stay Calm & Remember Delivery Matters!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 


Sprinkle Compliments Like Glitter & Watch Your Students Sparkle

Blog Compliments Glitter

Photo Credit: http://blanketfortadventures.com/national-compliment-day-printable-compliments/

Good Wednesday morning. Did you know that today is National Compliment Day? I did not know that either until I heard it on the radio this morning. Thanks for sharing, Life96.5

What a great day. We all thrive on genuine compliments from others. Even Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” That shows compliments are powerful stuff.

Teachers…ALL your students have good in them. Yes, ALL of your students. We may have to search hard to find it, but I guarantee it’s there. I’ll never forget GS. He was a young student who was kicked out of almost every kindergarten classroom he was placed in. By the time he came to our school he carried around the label of EBD (Emotional and Behavior Disorder). Plain and simple…he was rough around the edges. Uffdah.

His grandma lived up the street from me. I was doing yard work outside one day when I heard GS say to her, “Yup, love you grandma. K…see ya later.” My jaw hit the grass. Yes, even GS had good in him. The next day he was in school, I made sure to point out that I was impressed with how he cared for his grandma.

Find the good in your students today and every day. Then sincerely compliment them on it. Compliments don’t have to be extravagant. Simple, kind words is all it will take. “Johnny, I love that t-shirt.” “Suzie, your hair looks so cute today.” See…easy, peasy. 🙂

If you are looking for a compliment project on this National Compliment Day, check out the blog written by Jennifer Gonzalez. The Compliments Project is a great resource for you.

Hey, teacher candidates and student teachers and teachers…you are all awesome. Continue to bless children in your classrooms. Thank you for working so hard to make our world a better place for our young people.

Sprinkle around compliments today like they are glitter. Watch your students sparkle. 🙂

Blog compliments twain

Stay Calm & Share a Compliment!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

January is EA/TEF Awareness Month

Blog EA TEF Awareness 2018

Photo Credit: http://differentdream.com/2018/01/eatef-awareness-month-january-2018/

The New Year is a time to set goals, resolutions. Many folks are using the #oneword resolution idea, and many are choosing the word “DETERMINED” or “RESILIENT” for their New Year’s goal.

Both are perfect words for EA/TEF Awareness Month. The little ones diagnosed with this rare defect are certainly determined and resilient. They are tenacious and tough in their fight. My granddaughter certainly has been so far.

Back in July 2017, I briefly introduced you to my newest granddaughter, Miss Lucy Lavonne. Remember…she didn’t stick to the schedule. 🙂 Miss Lucy has had quite the journey in her first 6 months of life. She is one resilient and determined little fighter!

Lucy was born with EA/TEF – VACTERL which are rare congenital defects. If you are an MD, you understand all those letters. However, if you are like the majority of us, you probably had to google it because we have no idea what those letters stand for. Just click on the link to save yourself some time.

Six months and 3 surgeries later, Miss Lucy is our miracle grandbaby. She has proven to be one courageous little fighter with the cutest giggles you’ll ever hear.  And if this grandma may say so herself…she is beautiful! 🙂

We are forever grateful for all who have prayed diligently for her. And of course, we ask that you please continue those prayers.

For all the sweet EA/TEF and VACTERL fighters out there along with their mommas and daddys, we lift you up in prayer. Be strong. Be courageous. Be determined. Be resilient. Be full of faith. Be blessed!

May God grant you an abundance of peace during this awareness month and in all the days, months, and years to come. ❤

Blog EA_TEF VACTERL Princess

Stay Calm & Fight on Little Ones!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.



Top 10 Teacher Traits by Our Top Teacher Candidates


Blog ED Majors

SMSU Teacher Candidates are EDU Rock Stars.  We get to know our students from the time they arrive on campus in the fall of their freshman year until that final year they make their way across the stage to accept their diploma. Wow!! What a difference in maturity level as these young teacher candidates travel through their teacher prep program. It is inspiring to see their growth—both personally and professionally.

During their freshman year, our education majors are required to take an Introduction to Education course. At the beginning of this course, they are asked to list the top ten teacher traits they believe are the most significant traits to own as a teacher. These freshmen base their answers on those teachers they just left behind in high school or from their elementary days.

Now that these same students are currently teacher candidates and juniors here at SMSU, and have…

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C.E.L.E.B.R.A.T.E. Christmas

blog Celebrate Tyus

Are you dreading the holiday season this year? Too many parties to attend? Bad weather keeping your family from making it home? Not enough in your bank account to buy gifts? No one to celebrate with? Unexpected health issues?

Those are all difficult situations. Try hard to not let those stresses and worries steal your joy during this beautiful time of the year. Let’s remember the reason for the season. Christmas time is a time to celebrate. A time to celebrate family, friends, and most importantly, a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

We would like to share with you a few ways to CELEBRATE Christmas and every single day.

C = Connect with your family, your friends, your church. Invite others over for a cup of hot chocolate and conversation. Or, gather together to play a few games. Ones like Guess Who or Sorry.

E = Enjoy some YOU time. Light a scented Christmas candle and take a leisurely bath. Pop some corn and watch your favorite Hallmark Christmas movie(s). Turn up the music on the Pandora Rockin’ Holidays Radio station and dance away while you bake some Christmas goodies.

L = Laugh together. Find humor in every moment. Children laugh over 400 times a day. Adults? Maybe 15 times a day. Let’s change that!

E = Extend an invitation to others to come over for a Christmas pot luck. Have them bring their favorite Christmas foods and beverages. Keep it casual then give it a KISS—Keep It Simple Silly.

B = Bake a few goodies and deliver to your neighbors, the church shut ins, and the older adults at your local nursing home. Buy small devotional books and share with friends and family. One favorite devotional is Grace for the Moment by Max Lucado.

R = Read the Christmas story together while sitting around the Christmas tree or the fireplace. It’s a beautiful story that can be found in the chapter of Luke in the bible.

A = Accentuate the positive. Be one of the good people still in this world by blessing others with unexpected kindness. One person, one place, one act at a time can change the world. Check out the book A Case For Kindness by Lisa Barrickman for many kindness ideas.

T = Thank others and thank them often. Thank you to all of you for being our faithful readers. We wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

E = Eat as healthy as you can during this season of delightful eats, however, do not deprive yourself of that delicious frosted Christmas tree sugar cookie. Exercise too. Maybe walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike. Stay healthy!

May you be blessed indeed in 2018. Merry Christmas from us to you!

Stay Calm & Celebrate the Season!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Cancer Sent Her to Alaska & Cancer Brought Her Back Home

Blog Alaska Students

An SMSU ELED alumna recently returned to Minnesota from Alaska where she taught for a year. I wanted to hear all about her adventure so we sat down with a cup of coffee and this is what I learned. Cancer sent her to Alaska. Cancer brought her back home.

Emily hopped on an airplane with her husband to move to Alaska because her friend Sarah (also an SMSU alumna), who is battling a genetic skin cancer, asked her to come. Sarah invited Emily to travel to Alaska because she wanted her son to be around strong women. Emily, being that strong woman who has survived cancer herself, was concerned about her friend’s health, so off she flew…to help care for her friend and her friend’s son.

Blog Alaska Sarah (2)

Sarah and her son…

While there, Miss Emily taught in the Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD) in Bethel, Alaska. She shared why she believed this school was a great district. She also shared a little advice on preparing yourself for their tribe world if you would choose to teach there.

BONUSES of Teaching at Bethel

DOWNFALLS of Teaching at Bethel

Respectable salary (She started at $59,900) Extremely high cost of living. $60,000 in Alaska would be like $30,000 in Minnesota.
Decent insurance through Integrity Insurance with a $100 deductible. Medical facilities aren’t the best and she got sick right away with Bethel Crud because of different air quality, water, etc. Medications had to be flown in from Omaha, NE.
Housing available. High rent. Spent $250 a month for 900 gallons of water, which is supposed to last a month for everything…showers, washing dishes, flushing, etc. Yikes… 😮
Back-to-school professional development conferences offered with dynamic speakers and breakout sessions and the district covers the cost. Professional Development Conferences are held in Anchorage, Alaska, which is an hour away—by plane only.
Learned and taught specialty classes such as berry picking, fishing, mouse food hunting (yes, you read that correctly 😮 ), and more. No prep times in Bethel. You teach all day long.
Hot lunch for the students is guaranteed each day. Some of the food served is old, expired.
Students work hard and give their best. 7% of students pass state tests in math.

5% of students pass state tests in English.

50% of students graduate from High School.

Kids are failing.

Some students have IEP’s. A three-year IEP, and no SPED teachers so paraprofessionals become the SPED teacher.
The people are kind, humble, and truly care.


Many broken homes, addictions, violence. and suicides. Many children have some kind of trauma going on in their lives.
Cooler temperatures. Common to have fifty below zero temps.
Wealthy because of the oil. Extreme poverty because of the oil. The government gives the people a SMALL amount of this wealth each year. She believed it to be $1000 a year.
School is the safe place for the students. Harassment and bullying happens in school. 😦

One other experience that Emily shared made me wrinkle my nose, which would be offensive in Bethel. Sorry Bethel, Alaskans.

Are you a fish eater? I LOVE fish, especially salmon. However, NOT to the extent that Emily learned to eat it while in Alaska. The people of Bethel believe in subsistence…nothing is wasted. It is a matter of survival.  For example…Emily ate every part of the salmon. She said the eye socket was her favorite. It tasted like prime rib. Eeew…I’m sorry, I couldn’t do it.

Blog Alaska Salmon

Emily’s dad is now wrestling with cancer. Because of the uncertainty of this, Emily hopped back on a plane and came home to be with her family. Welcome home, Emily.

Sarah, who still lives in Alaska, is doing better and taking a chemo pill. Emily’s dad is also doing well for now because his cancer is in remission. That is wonderful news! Thank you, Jesus, and please continue to bless both of them, Lord.

Teacher candidates, if you would like to teach in Alaska, Emily highly recommends considering the LKSD in Bethel. She would love to visit with you anytime about the opportunities there.


Mouse Food Hunting

Blog Alaska Fishing

Bethel Student Fishing


Miss Emily and her kids and Emily gets all photo credit

Stay Calm & Go On A Teaching Adventure!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

Give Thanks

As we think about the holidays and the recent celebration of Thanksgiving, we give thanks.  We give thanks for so very much… and even more than we really thought about before… We are thankful for the relationships that we have with the people we hold dear.  We are thankful for family and friends – new and old – and those yet to be made.  We give thanks.

JR thankful

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Here are just a few of my thousand words possible as I remember and give thanks…

Thankful. Home. Son. Prayers. …Rewind several days – Basketball. Fastbreak. Dunking? Maybe, Maybe Not. Bleacher Steps. Base of Head or Neck. Frozen. Shock. Caring Coaches and Volunteers. Ambulance. Scared. Prayers. Emergency Room. Disbelief. Possible Paralysis. Helpful and Kind Medical Team. Prayers. CT scan. Helicopter. Prayers. Hurry. Pack. Family. Prayers. Drive. MRI. Involuntary Movements. Prayers. Wait. Swelling. Spinal Concussion. Spinal Contusion. Prayers. Wait. Texts. Calls. Questions. Concerns. Community. Prayers. Voluntary Movements. Prayers. Family. Smiles. Relief. Future Surgery. Anxious. Prayers. Wait. Smiles. Family. Amazing. … Thankful.

This wild roller coaster ride reminds us to give thanks for family, friends, and community.  Without each other what a lonely world this would be. Thank you.

Stay Calm & Give Thanks!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

Be S.M.A.R.T. and Boost Up

curriculum guide covers final.indd

I had the opportunity to volunteer in my grandson’s kindergarten classroom the other day. Kudos to his teacher and to all kindergarten teachers. Oofta…it is a busy place. Lots of learning going on in there…

…Learning to write, and read, and listen, and count…

…Learning to follow directions, and sit still on their assigned square, and sequence a story, and use the greater than/less than sign, and write the numeral 7 by chanting “across the top, down from heaven, that’s the way to make a seven”

…Learning to raise their hand to speak, and to not pick their nose and use a Kleenex instead, and to set their bathroom clips on the table when they leave the room…

…Learning to freeze then give the teacher their eyes, and to be kind to each other, and to be independent learners.


Thank goodness for brain breaks. Those moments in the classrooms when teachers give the children a break from working and allow them to play and talk and smile and laugh and sing and dance.

My grandson’s teacher introduced me to the brain break program called Boost Up Stations®.  I have been in education a long time, and this was the first time I had heard of it. Maybe you already know what this is, but I was intrigued and loved what I saw.

The children were in charge of setting up the stations. Once the stations were ready to go, the teacher assigned her kiddos to specific stations and off they went…

Station 1 – Hanging Ball: A tennis ball hung from the ceiling and directions were to tap the ball gently alternating hands while counting to 10.

Station 2 – Mazes & Wagon Wheel: Children traced the wagon wheel, the curved line, and the straight line while covering first their right eye, then their left eye, then with both eyes open.

Station 4 – Color Boxes: Children named the color of the boxes as they played hop scotch.   

Station 9 – Stacking Cups: The students each took two turns building a pyramid with the plastic cups.

Station 12 – Ball Bounce: Students bounced a ball while alternating hands and saying the alphabet or counting by 10’s.

See what I mean? Oofta! 🙂 When 12:30 lunchtime rolled around, my grandson and I were starving. We gobbled down the hamburgers and fries then headed out to recess to play tether ball.

blog boost up lunch

According to the MN Learning Resource Center (2015), the Boost Up Stimulating Maturity through Accelerated Readiness Training (S.M.A.R.T.) program is a multi-sensory approach, intended to develop and boost the physical and neurological readiness skills students need to succeed in school. The program has been designed to help students progress at their own rate and enhance their abilities in a positive, play-like atmosphere.

Thank you, Mrs. G. for allowing me to help in your room (and also for lending me your S.M.A.R.T. Curriculum). I had a fabulous time.

To our SMSU teacher candidates…if you have not heard of this Boost Up S.M.A.R.T. program, take a moment to check it out. It will be worth your time.  

Stay Calm & Boost Away!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 


Like Captured Fireflies
-John Steinbach-

In her classroom our speculations ranged the world.
She aroused us to book waving discussions.
Every morning we came to her carrying new truths, new facts, new ideas,
Cupped and sheltered in our hands like captured fireflies.

When she went away a sadness came over us,
But the light did not go out.
She left her signature upon us,
The literature of the teacher who writes on children’s minds.

I’ve had many teachers who taught us soon forgotten things,
But only a few like her who created in me a new thing a new attitude, a new hunger.
I suppose that to a large extent I am the unsigned manuscript of that teacher.
What deathless power lies in the hands of such a person.

MACTE TotY F2017

“We’re in the business of guiding the future…It’s a serious business” exclaimed Cory Bulman – the 2017 MN Teacher of the Year.  Mr. Bulman recently spoke to MACTE – Minnesota Association of Colleges for Teacher Education members to share his words of advice.  His opening lines along with his sharing of John Steinbach’s Like Captured Fireflies told us that we were in for a treat.  So… maybe not too many can get so excited over a poem and a few words of advice, but I know I certainly did and perhaps you will too…

Other words of advice to digest by Mr. Bulman:

“As a learner – as a teacher – I am their unsigned manuscript. I am their legacy.

Model our own sense of curiosity and wonder.

Allow our students to stumble.

Before we can expect them to trust us as teachers, we need to have them trust us as learners.

Most important trait of all – authenticity.

Use life to teach about perseverance and strength.

Teaching feeds the soul and leads you while you think you are leading others.

Teaching is not a part of a one-man or one-person show.  We are in an ensemble.

MACTE Growing in the Profession F2017

Perfect teachers are only in movies written by disgruntled English majors. 😉

Real teachers have no halos around their heads. They just hustle. They try to keep up with the laughable workloads.

Teaching matters…you are the candle in the darkness.

Compare teacher to new driving – judge the risk and take the turn as an experienced teacher.

Own when you stumble – make amends and move on.

You have to be willing to laugh at yourself or you won’t survive. Show students you are human.

Share authentic experiences.  If they have a different background, continue to share personal story and where you come from.  Have the conversation – not the answers.

Go with the skill sets that work for you. Your personality seeps in to what you do.  It’s okay. You have to be allowed to become yourself. You aren’t a robot. It’s alright to be who you are and infuse yourself into what you do.

Educators need to keep our eyes on the real prize – help students catch the fireflies.”

Stay Calm & Model Curiosity and Wonder!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.