Teaching 101

So after 18 years in education, I attended “new teacher” workshops to start off my 19th year. You see I am on sabbatical this fall to rejuvenate, relearn, and renew. I am headed back to the classroom after almost seven years away to restock my teacher toolkit and soul. I will be an EL – Englisher Learner teacher for the Marshall Public School district. I am so pumped up for this as I join this classy group of “new” teachers pictured here.

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So what is new or what is important to renew in the teacher toolkit? LOTS! You may find blog posts this fall to read somewhat like a journal entry in the life of a new teacher.😉

First impressions are important. They can be lasting. If it bombs, however, it can be changed… but it is no longer a first impression of course.😉 This summer I had the privilege of attending a session with Justin Patton. Incredible experience! If you ever have an opportunity to hear Justin speak or be coached by him, you will not regret it! Some takeaways to consider… We are all just people so we live and learn and sometimes change. We need to do our best to respect others and forgive them for messing up as we hope the favor is returned in kind. No matter if the first impression is stellar or not, communicate honestly and build authentic relationships with people as we are all on this adventure together. Make your presence count. One of my favorite quotes from Justin and now one of my own mantra phrases – “Take responsiblilty for the energy you show up with!” Okay – I am pretty fired up about Leading with Head & Heart so look for more on this in upcoming posts. I hope to share this with my students and fellow staff-mates. Now – back to school, folks…

The cycle of morale exists somewhat for all levels of experience in education and possibly other career fields, too. In the new teacher workshops, the Director of Teaching & Learning shared a great visual about the phases of the school year in the life of a teacher.

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When searching for the image, I stumbled across this one as well. Made me laugh out loud, which is good for the soul and morale.

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There are highs and lows in school and in life. Be there to support others and know that “this too shall pass” is a phrase to live by. Laughter is inexpensive medicine to cure the “common cold” in education, too.

Knowing the cycle – continue to learn and grow – and not because you are told to do so, but instead learn and grow because you know it makes you whole. Here is just one example… For any teachers out there who make it to MEA break, join this Pirate crew if you can!

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It’s critical to remember that we teach kids not content. As much as I love me some good content, it’s the kids who matter and will remember. I received two fabulous reminders of who great teachers are and what they do because they care.

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Thanks to Principal Darci Love for sharing “Great Teachers….” with me this week.

Thanks also goes to Director Amanda Granger, who shared about standards-based grading this week and reminded me it’s up to all of us to repair the broken…

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I could really jump on the soapbox here with grades, but I will hold off for another time to “fix” that. My teacher candidates have heard some ranting and raving about this before. I am passionate about kids and not grades, I guess. (I know there are some of you out there who cringe at the word “kids” so insert your own words; I like it.) Another saying that I really like was tweeted out by our very own Dr. Wendy this week. It is so, so true.

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So to recap because I lost track… kindness and communication matter, continuing to learn and grow matter, and having hope and spirit matter. So what else have I learned?
Take care… and take a nap. We should really be learning from our kids’ habits. They nap and are like the Energizer Bunny. Wherever, whenever (it is legal) – take a nap. There is no warrior badge for the teacher who goes without a nap, a message, leisure reading, … The list goes on and on. Teachers don’t keep up like the Energizer Bunny if they skip over enjoying some of that list. That list is actually called life. Teaching can consume the teacher, and what’s left isn’t a pretty picture. Love yourself so you can love others.

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This could go on and on but frankly, I’m exhausted from the week and all the adrenaline in this anticipation phase. My no-longer-21-year-old self can’t keep up quite the same as when I started almost two decades ago. But that’s okay because I love what I do, I love the people I serve… and I love a rare nap much more than I ever thought I could when I was forced to take them as a toddler.

Education related tag cloud illustration

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Culturally Responsive Teaching & Living


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As we get ready to go back to school this fall, we are energized from the summer. The fall-like air the last few days is just the right timing to make it official.  Love the summer, but love the fall so much too!  My boys may not be as excited as I am for school supply shopping, but I am! It goes with the territory of being a teacher regardless how much I love summer.

Watching the Olympics this past two weeks has taught us a number of things – including:

*Help each other up.  We are all humans (well – all of us except those of us impersonating humans) and just need a hand once in a while. You may have fallen, but you don’t need to stay there.

*We are different, and that is wonderful.  As the Olympic athletes pour out their blood, sweat, and tears, they are the same in that way, representing their countries and their dreams.

*Be humble and kind.  Winning isn’t everything, but when you do, share the glory.  No one is an island – at least not forever.  Eventually you need a ship for supplies or other life to keep living.

Work Hard – Play Hard!  Repeat!
*Work hard, play hard.  One of my favorites…  and so true.  Both lose their purpose without the other.  Live each day this way. It is a simple recipe for success.

Thinking about these Olympic stories – remember the takeaways as you head to school this fall.  Whether welcoming a student at the door or sending your own student out the door on his or her way to kindergarten, middle school, high school, or beyond – be responsive.

Culturally Responsive Teaching is not a new concept by any means.  It is common sense and incredibly valuable; it just needs revisiting from time to time.  We need to be reminded what we know and what we know is right and just.

What is culturally responsive teaching?  “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).

Resources to consider and share when preparing for a culturally responsive classroom or workplace – aka respectful zone where everyone is valued for who they are and what they bring to the space.  We can all learn more and grow more from each other starting today.
Strategies & tools:

Have you seen the Ron Clark story yet?  Watch the film – great motivation to be the best teacher possible starting today.


English Language Learners: Culture, Equity, and Language NEA Priority Schools Campaign 2012



SIOP Model overview



SIOP Model for Teaching English Learners



SIOP Model & WIDA Standards


Check out The SIOP Model resource library


Want more? This is the tip of the iceberg folks.  It starts here.  There is so much more out there.  So for today, be more.

Stay Calm & Be Responsive!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.



Go for the Gold!

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google images / edition.cnn.com


So you didn’t take our advice last week?  How about this week?  Or maybe you are wondering what our advice was?  (Don’t worry – I had to think about it too.)  Our blog was about Pokemon Go and to get going to connect.  So did you try it or maybe even consider it?  Well either way – if you are anything like my family this week, we are holed up with bugged out eyes and quite sleep deprived.  We just can’t seem to look away from the TV.  It is like a bad train wreck – in a good way that is. What is it?  It is reality TV at its finest, and it’s actually real.  It is two weeks of “America’s Got Talent” all day long and into late primetime.  It is the Olympics!

It is more than the sports and competition.  It is seeing ordinary people do extraordinary things.  Athletes who train more than anything else or anyone else.  They are dedicated to their sport, and what they can do amazes the rest of us “average joes.”  They make it look effortless – all of it, even the pain.  What makes it so incredible to watch is that they have family and friends who support them endlessly behind the scenes.  They are “average joes” in some ways too.

For me, the best part of the Olympics is the family-time it has created for us.  We have avoided going out for dinner, golfing, movies with friends, and more just to stay home and watch the Olympics together.  Being home together is a feat in itself as the kids continue to become more involved in activities and their own lives. We are volunteering at the county fair food stand for our church tonight; we are praying that there is a TV somewhere near by – or that the customers will watch the races with us on our phones?  It’s not rude if we invite them instead of ignore them, right?🙂

We have had some great conversations around the Olympics about competition, compassion, dedication, perseverance, and life.  Jonah, the middle son, likes to stop us mid-talk and say, “Is this going to be one of your inspirational talks?”  (Yes – my glass is usually half-full. :-)  The time, the talks, and shared common goal – Go USA – have brought us closer together.  Sounds cliché but true.

It is a time to learn about different sports and about one another.  We were watching rowing, and I made a comment about my college crew team.  My son’s eyes got big, and he said, “You did this in college, mom?  This? Really?  Wait – did you go to the Olympics?  Did you win gold?”  My initial response was to just to stare at him because I am 100% sure that I had talked about this plenty in the past.  He needed something to connect it to – or no one is listening when I talk?!

It happened again last night.  As we were watching the floor exercise, our oldest son, Jackson, asked about the music, and if there are guidelines as to what they could have.  My response was probably long-winded and included that Huey Lewis & the News’ Power of Love was my favorite floor routine music. He interjected, “Wait, you were in gymnastics?”  “Yes, son, for ten years when I was younger.” (Um, I mean not now of course.  And really – does no one listen to me reminisce ever?)

My youngest son, JR, has dug out the swim cap and goggles and begs to go to the pool each day to practice flip turns.  This is great since I have tried to get them to be on the swim team again for a number of years.  Thanks, Olympics, I owe you one!

We are addicted to watching the athletes compete and win… and learning more about them.  Check out this NBC site to learn more.  The reporters do a nice job of making them seem “normal” by telling their stories.  It isn’t always an easy flowers and roses story either.  What we don’t see and really know is all the hours of blood, sweat, and tears that goes into their lives and workouts each and every day.

Some of their incredible stories:

Michael Phelps broke a 2,168 year old Olympic record.  I was waiting to post this blog as long as I could but my self-control has finally crumbled.  Phelps has a final swim yet tonight. Will Phelps win the gold in the 100 Butterfly? Only time will tell… pardon the pun🙂

Simone Manuel became the first African-American swimmer to win Olympic gold as she tied for first in the women’s 100 meter freestyle.  Sweet swim!

Kerri Walsh Jennings is going for gold in beach volleyball in her fourth Olympic games.  This mother of three played hurt this past year to qualify for the games in Rio.  She learned to hit left-handed and served underhanded to make it a go.  Interestingly, she met her husband when trying out to be a teammate to her former partner, Misty May-Treanor.  She obviously got the role and the husband.  Will she will gold again with her new volleyball partner, April Ross?

Did you know that professional volleyball players will have about a week off and then go play for their franchise teams across the globe until next May when they will get about another week off and then play on their national teams?  Amazing and grueling.

There are so many cool stories like…
-Swimmer Dirado’s perfect SAT score and how it’s a family tradition to attend Stanford,
-the swimmer from Hungary who is married to her cheered on by and coached by her husband,
-the Phelps family and baby Boomer.
The list continues on and on…

I don’t know about you, but we have become phenomenal swimmers, volleyball players, gymnasts, rowers, fencers, … ourselves.  You name it.  We have been watching it, and we are now good at it, too.  It’s got to be like some kind of visual training. If we see it enough, we can do it, too.

The incredible thing about the Olympics make us want to be better.  Better athletes, better people, more dedicated, more drive.  Check out a few of the inspirational promos to get geared up to win a gold of your own.

DICK’S Sporting Goods 2016 TEAM USA Commercial “Gold in US” shows athletes everywhere that “we all have gold inside of us…but only some have the strength to dig it out.” #GoldInUS

Under Armour #RuleYourself #IWill

“If your goals really mean something to you, then you’ll never give up on them. That’s how it has to be—and that’s exactly what Michael Phelps is doing.” #EARNYOURARMOUR

Now how can we keep the spirit of the Olympics alive each day in our lives at home, at school, at work?  Gold or not – set goals and be better.  Good luck!


Stay Calm & Go USA!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.



Ready, Set, … Pokémon Go!

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Where did July go?  I just blinked and POOF!…It’s gone!  My computer and I parted ways for much of July.  It was a great time to reboot while I started my sabbatical.  I had lots of conversations with like real spoken words and everything.  It was fabulous!  Well – not like I didn’t use oral language before, but it gave me a chance to GO talk to people – family, friends, and even strangers in the produce aisle.  It was a strange time for me as I actually do like my computer.  It has a hot pink cover with chevron-covered keys.  It is actually a great conversation piece when I am in public or working with others.  My line is “If it looks like fun, it can’t be work.”  Now, you and I both know that isn’t true, but I continue to be an optimist to a fault.

So I missed my computer actually…and I missed all of you.  Dr. Wendy did a fantastic job blogging her way through the month and is now on her on self-imposed sabbatical in August.  She is rebooting before the semester starts up, and that is so important as she connects super well with our teacher candidates so we need her jazzed up and ready to run.  Go Mustangs & Dr. Wendy!

Speaking of connecting with students, I started this blog entry in my head a few weeks ago when Pokémon Go first exploded onto the streets of the USA.  Talk about a cultural Pokémon, er, I mean phenomenon.  My family was riding in the car one Sunday after church on our way to GO to brunch when my middle son yelled, “Dad, turn around, we just missed ________.”  (You can fill in the blank with any Pokémon character of your choice.)  Well – supposedly this was a rare one that my son needed.  My patient husband actually turned the car around to retrieve the lost Pokémon.  I paused in disbelief, and thought to myself, “WHAT JUST HAPPENED?  Self, you are so going to write about this.” You may be thinking, “who let the kid play video games after church anyway?”  That is a great question – not me clearly!  What my takeaway from this experience was that we actually listened to our kids and participated in this crazy activity together because they were so excited about it.

I attended a National Night Out event in my sister’s neighborhood and even the sergeant shared Pokémon jargon in his talk with us – while an adolescent hoverboarded by us in search of Pokémons.  It is simply everywhere, and you just can’t Go anywhere without hearing or seeing or playing.  As of the KARE 11 news report last night at 6PM, there have been over 100 million downloads – wow.  According to the Star Tribune today (8.3.16) and confirmed by my kids, there are certain locations that are better than others to play Pokémon Go.  So I guess we can go anywhere to know about it, but go to urban areas to really get your game on.

So what is so fascinating about Pokémon Go?  I remember raising a similar question when the first Harry Potter book was published, and I was a brand-spanking-new teacher.  I was not about to skip the read while my students were devouring it.  I had to find out what the fuss was about – at least so I could be cool with the lingo.  By the way – have you read the latest HP book just released this week?  I haven’t but I intend to at some point just so I can HP-speak with the kidz.  But back to P-Go…  How can we make this excitement happen in life?  With real life that is?  With school? We need to get excited too!  We need to stand up and get moving.  We need to Go connect.

Want more information on Pokémon Go? I opened up my email after a little vacation and found an email from Dave Burgess, Pirate-Master, who recently blogged about Pokémon, and it fit almost perfectly with what I am sharing.  Check it out – Go to : http://daveburgess.com/pokemon-go-how-can-we-use-it-and-what-can-we-learn/

Well, I can’t give you all of the answers – Love or hate it – just let GO.  Just Pokémon Go!

Stay Calm & Go!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Take Time for Yourself Because YOU Matter


Schoolmeester, Risacher, Vierstraete Families at Key Largo on Lake Shetek (Prisma Photo Art App)

My blogging partner and I were inspired by a recent blog post written by @MicheleCushatt. Her blog was titled Rest, and she beautifully pens why she is taking a ‘self-imposed sabbatical.’ I shared this with Dr. V. and we agreed that we both wanted to do this. We needed to do this. And, so…Dr. V. did.🙂 I’m sure you’ve noticed her absence during the month of July. I’m sure you’ve missed her. I know I have. Her writing will return in August, and then it’s my turn. I will be taking a little time for myself.

Taking time for ourselves is so important to our overall health. When I did a little researching on how to combat stress, the number one strategy that was mentioned over and over and over again in the books and in the articles was to take time for yourself.

HOW you take time for yourself is totally up to you. One size does not fit all. Some of the ideas mentioned in all those articles and books were…

Plan a ‘fun-day,’ get a massage, take a trip to the forest or mountains or lake, get a manicure or a pedicure or both, nap in a hammock, read a book, write a blog (check, got that one covered), get a facial, go to a coffee shop, enjoy a cup of tea or java (check, got that one covered), buy an outfit, color, draw, paint, find a hobby, share a meal with family or friends (check, got that one covered too. See the picture above), cook, listen to music, reward yourself somehow like buying yourself some flowers, play with Legos® or play a board game, or create a board game. Just play. Just enjoy.

Do any of these ideas resonate with you? Are there activities that you LOVE to do? Make a list of those activities that you have a passion for. Notice it said “DO.” Verbs please. A few examples for me might be: I LOVE to play with my grandkids. I LOVE to walk with friends. I LOVE to sit by a campfire and roast marshmallows. I LOVE to read Newbery books. I LOVE to rest on the porch swing.

Pencil these activities into your calendar, into your life.  They are mandatory. They will refresh you. They will help you think more clearly. Taking time for yourself will help you rest.

A selfless plug…my colleague, Dr. Mary, and I will be presenting at the 2016 MN Rural Education Association Conference in November at Cragun’s Resort. If you are one who will be there, we invite you to stop by our session on Monday, November 14th from 1:30 – 2:45 to discover more ideas on how to combat against stress.  We plan to have some fun, right Dr. Risacher?🙂

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I will miss all of you while I’m taking my self-imposed mini-sabbatical. In the meantime, take time for yourself because YOU matter.🙂

Blog Mark

(Photo Credit Principal Mark French. Check out his blog here…Tale of two vacations by Elementary Principal Mark French)

Stay Calm & Take Time for YOU!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Eat Right Because YOU Matter: A Book Talk on Let Food Be Your Medicine

Blog Food Medicine

I’m sure you’ve noticed the #youmatter theme the past few blog posts. These posts have a purpose behind them…these posts have been reminders to myself. Reminders that I have been sharing with you. Advice to me that is important advice for all of us.

I want to continue to dream (July 7th post), to find balance in life (July 13th post), and to be healthy.  I am 100% positive that you do too. So, starting today, let’s get healthier together. Read on…

You are what you eat is not a new concept. And if it is true…that means I am one ginormous lump of sugar. The Standard American Diet should literally make us SAD. Simple carbs such as sugar, fried foods, refined flours found in donuts, all just a few items making us a sick population. Well, I don’t want to be sick, and I certainly don’t want to be a lump. For me…it’s time for a change.

In his book, Let Food Be Your Medicine: Dietary Changes Proven to Prevent or Reverse Disease, Don Colbert, MD (2016) provides us with a blueprint for healthier living. I don’t know about you all, but I am in favor of that! Let me share a few of Dr. Colbert’s ideas with you to get you motivated to read his book.

Dr. Colbert suggests that we eat a modified Mediterranean Diet. Consume lots of fruit and vegetables, good fats such as olive oil and avocados, nuts, steel cut oats, and proteins such as fish, turkey, and chicken.

Dr. Don also believes we must rotate our food. For example, have chicken for dinner one night, turkey on the next night, then fish on the third night. Have a pear with lunch on Monday, an apple on Tuesday, and an orange on Wednesday. You get the idea.

If you suffer from a specific ailment, you will most likely find a chapter for that in his book. Are you battling cancer? There’s a chapter for that. Are you a Type II diabetic? There’s a chapter for that. Do you suffer from an autoimmune disease? There’s a chapter for that. Do you fear Alzheimer’s? There’s a chapter for that. And what is awesomesauce about these chapters is that within each of them, Dr. Colbert has designed an eating plan on how to fight back.

One interesting idea from the book that I am willing to give a try is flipping my eating plan. Dr. Colbert suggests to eat a big breakfast, a medium lunch, and a small dinner. Usually our eating plan is the other way around. This concept might look something like this:🙂


Cancer, dementia, autoimmune problems…all diseases found in my family. I read those chapters diligently and hope to follow them to the best of my ability. I also want to implement the 12-hour fast that is mentioned in this book. Going from dinner on one day to breakfast the next day without indulging. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…🙂

Speaking of breakfast…one of my husband’s favorite breakfasts is overnight steel cut oats. He mixes 1/3 cup of dry steel cut oats, 2/3 cup of coconut or almond milk, and 1/2 cup of fresh fruit in a mason jar. He tightens the lid then places the jar in the fridge overnight. At work the next morning, he warms it up just a smidgen in the microwave and enjoys. Full meal deal in one jar. Hmm…I think he is on to something good.

At 56, I am starting to notice changes in my body and in my health that I DO NOT approve of. I want to be in my “fabulous fifties” not my “frumpy fifties.”  Reading this book has given me some intrinsic motivation to begin making better choices.  I choose life. I choose to fight against pestilence. I choose to try my best. I choose to not give up when I’ve had a bad day. I choose to eat right. Want to join me? I hope so because YOU matter. 🙂

Until next time…wishing you good health and happiness!


Stay Calm & Eat Healthy!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Balance For Your Life Because YOU Matter: Book Talk on The Zen Teacher

Blog Zen Teacher

Airplanes are a great place to get caught up on my summer reading. I just finished reading The Zen Teacher: Creating FOCUS, SIMPLICITY, and TRANQUILITY in the Classroom by Dan Tricarico.

May I be honest with you? When I first saw this book, I copped an attitude and made the decision I was not going to read it. I had judged the book by its title. I didn’t want any religion thrown at me so I thought to myself, no way, not doing it, not reading this one.

Well, then it happened. I had the honor of listening to Dave Burgess at a conference in Minneapolis last February, and when it was all said and done…Dave gives me this book as a gift. I can’t turn down a gift…that is just plain rude.

I didn’t say a word about not wanting to read it. Somehow he just knew. Dave said to me, “Wendy, this book has nothing to do with religion.” How did he know I was thinking that? I think it’s because of his ability to do magic? Sneaky guy.🙂

Oh, I am so glad I listened to Dave. The book was excelente! I highly recommend The Zen Teacher to all educators everywhere, young and old, novice and seasoned. There is a golden nugget (or several nuggets) in there somewhere for all of you!

As I journeyed through the book, those clean white pages magically turned green…not with envy, but with highlights. Please allow me to share with you a few of the golden nuggets that I discovered:


Page 2 – 3: Toiling Together. Great words. That is what I love most about my career in teaching…toiling together with my students. Assisting, coaching, encouraging, guiding, and walking side-by-side with them to reach their goal of securing that first teaching position. There is no career as fulfilling to our souls than this one. Agree wholeheartedly, Dan!


Page 22: Be awake. Be mindful of your students. Pay attention to detail. Listen to what those kids have to say. Adults CAN learn from kids.  If you don’t believe me, check out this TED talk and let Adora convince you otherwise.

Sometimes my best ideas come from my students. And we all know that we teachers beg, borrow and tweak. No shame in that.

Page 23: Unplug for a day. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat…all time-devouring vultures if we let them be. Right now I am on a 30-day Facebook Fast. I’m on Day 14 and so far so good. Find a day, a week, a month to let go of your devices. Read Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd or If You Give a Mouse an iPhone by Ann Droyd, and after the giggles subside, have some conversations with your students about the importance of taking a break from those things that distract us.


Page 42: Be grateful! Say thanks and say it often. When I went into the airport bathroom last week, the cleaning lady happened to be in there. We made eye contact and I graciously said “thanks for all you do for us.” She responded with a beautiful smile and softly replied “thanks for noticing.” We really do all smile in the same language.🙂 Her smile was worth the two seconds that it took to express my gratitude. We blessed each other.

Page 43: Speaking of being grateful, let’s record our gratitude. Written gratitude sentences are a wonderful way to keep track of all the blessings in our lives. I will be stealing this idea for my classroom, for my presentations, and for my personal life. Thank you God, for people who keep public restrooms clean. I am grateful for Dan for writing this dynamic, idea-filled book.


Fast-forward to Page 123 (I can’t give it all away…you MUST buy the book. Plus…I don’t want to get in trouble). The statement “A warrior in constant battle is a tired warrior” found on page 123 made me think of our minds. Our battles are not always in the physical realm. Battles are sometimes in our mind. That is a tough one to wrestle with. It can be exhausting. Where the mind goes, the man follows. Check yourself. Do you have a severe case of “stinkin’ thinkin?” Change your mindset and put down that sword.

The Zen Teacher is a fabulous book that focuses on taking care of YOU. In this country where “one nation under stress” seems to be the norm, Dan Tricarico will help you escape from some of those stressors and help you to find balance in your life because YOU matter!

Happy reading!!🙂

Stay Calm & Balance On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Work Hard For Your Dreams Because YOU Matter

This is a guest post by SMSU teacher candidate, Miss Wilson Ebner, who is currently the president of the SMSU Education MN Student Program (EMSP) Club. Wilson was recently elected to the National Education Association’s (NEA) Student Board of Directors. Below is her story of her intense and emotional election process that took place in Washington, DC last week.  You can find and follow Wilson on Twitter @smsuEMSP.

Blog Wilson NEA BOD

“Hello Everyone! I am Wilson Ebner, a current senior at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, MN. I have been reading Wendy and Sonya’s blog for years now but not in 100 years would I have imagined I would be a guest blogger…so here it goes!

In November 2015, I decided to run for the position of NEA Student Board of Director. The many months following were slow and my campaign just consisted of me posting on social media about my views and myself until I flew to Washington DC on Tuesday June 28, 2016. On Wednesday, June 29, 2016 I was provided 1/2 of a table to decorate for people to see who I am and why they should vote for me. I was one of six students running for three spots.

The amount of students I met during this time was so overwhelming…so many questions to answer from the students who came to meet me at my table! I was able to create so many connections with students from other states during this time, many connections which I am so happy to say have turned into great friendships.

Later that night, I also had the opportunity to speak in front of the attendees at this Student Leadership Conference. This happened in three different steps.

The first step was nomination acceptance speeches. These were simple! I had a good friend of mine, Kane, stand in front of everyone and say that he nominates me for the board of directors. I then stood up and said I accept the nomination.

After all the candidates were finished being announced, the election speeches began. I was given 2 minutes to speak to the attendees on why they should vote for me. After my speech I was asked the question “How do you ensure your voice as a board of director adequately reflects the views of all student program members?” Little did I know, that the speech would be the least emotional part of this entire process.

The next day was voting! To win the election, you have to have majority vote. Majority vote is getting 50% + 1 vote. The first round of voting started at 11:45am and concluded at 1pm. The results were announced at 2:30pm that day. With the first round of results, two of the three Board of Directors positions were filled. This left four of us to battle it out for the remaining position. One student decided to drop out of the race early on so it dropped the number to three of us for the remaining round.

Round 2 and 3 happened again with no change. None of us were getting the majority vote. After the 3rd round the election committee decided to have each candidate speak again for one minute. I was freaking out by this time. This round-after-round situation really played with my emotions. Excitement when I moved closer and closer to the majority vote line, but also pure terror that someone would get there before me.

After the 4th round of votes, all the delegates were brought together to put a suspension on the rules. This suspension was to drop the candidate with the lowest amount of votes. It was down to only two students left! I knew this was my chance to pull ahead and get the majority votes.

We then voted again…round 5. The ballots took longer than usual to count. I had a bad feeling that something was wrong. Luckily that wasn’t the case. Majority votes were 32 during round 5. My competitor had 29, and I had 36!!!!!!!!

I DID IT!!!! All of the emotions I had felt that day all rushed out of me and I just started sobbing tears of joy. I am super excited for the upcoming year.

I want to say thank you for the support of all the Minnesota students who attended the conference with me and standing by my side during the insane voting process. I want to thank NEA for the amazing opportunities, my family and friends for standing with me since November.

Most of all I want to thank Sara Hard, the competitor who pushed me until the 5th round. From the first moment of meeting each other, we have had nothing but support and respect for each other. The process Sara and I went through is the most emotional experience I have been through. Through the entire process, I found myself always giving Sara hugs and exchanging words of encouragement. In such a heated campaign, that was not expected, but Sara is the most amazing person, and I know Illinois is the luckiest state to have her.”

Congratulations, Wilson. We salute you on your newly elected position. Serve it, and SMSU, well. You’ve worked hard for your dream and you’ve succeeded! You matter…to all of us!🙂


SMSU Representation at the NEA SLC Conference

Stay Calm & Dream On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

And Life Goes On

Written on 6.30.16
in loving memory of
Carter Joseph Boerboom 
5.16.01 – 6.30.15
#carterstrong  #carterstrongcommunity

BLOG life clouds

Walking outside early this morning I was immediately struck by the picture in the sky. The clouds were the “storybook” kind.  They looked amazing in the sky –and this was even before my cup of coffee!  Anyone who knows me well probably had a chuckle with that previous line as I am the kind of person who walks around rattling off the technical names of clouds for the pure enjoyment of it…and here it’s “storybook.”  Okay – read on then…

I thought about the clouds while on the walk with Stella, our family St. Bernard this morning.  Highway traffic was buzzing from afar, birds were chirping, and the tall grasses were rustling.  Life was happening all around.  I recalled that it was Carter’s angelversary – one year since he passed away and became cancer-free.  Wait. How can it be a year already?  That can’t be right.  He was just here smiling, laughing, joking, and ballin’ it up on the court.  Well, now that I think of it – Carter never met Stella. She is a year old now and has been a part of the family since last August.  But they haven’t met.  Wow.  Time just flies by and life continues on…but we still miss and mourn and celebrate Carter’s life.  It’s okay to still do that, right?  It’s okay to laugh and cry and live – even when it still hurts.  The hurt doesn’t go away, but it changes.  I knew that I wanted to write a blog post, but I didn’t know if I had the words to express all the different emotions that are felt by each of Carter’s family members and friends.  It reminded me of writing the eulogy last year at this time; it was also a Thursday early morning with the sun just peeking up over the horizon.  I didn’t know where to begin and if the words would come to me then either…and then they did because they came from all of you.

There are signs all around us if we know to pause to look and listen for them.

Today a pair of #carterstrong-inspired, customized shoes arrived… two weeks earlier than anticipated.  The fedex driver needed us to sign for them, and we were actually home to do just that, which is somewhat amazing in itself.  This may not seem like a big deal or explicit sign, but believe me, it was.

BLOG life shoes

I found the dragonfly garden ornament that I couldn’t find to put out this year.  This week… on Tuesday, which is the day of the week that Carter passed away.  The chaplin shared the story of the dragonfly with us in the hospital room just after Carter left this world.

BLOG life dragonfly

There was a guest author, Nora McInerny Purmort, on MPR on 6.29.16 talking about her life experience of living through death.  She took her grief and love and wrote a novel, It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too).  The interview was incredible and real and timely.  I actually paused from my task and was amazed by all the things Nora was saying; I totally “got it.”

I received an email from a friend and colleague.  It was about grief and living and being okay.  Thank you.  The timing was perfect, and helped me process and compose.

The list goes on…

So what do I really want to say about Carter and memories of him?
I think it is said best here…

I didn’t die today.  I lived until today!  ~Carter’s Dad, Wade (posted 6.30.15)

Carter’s been cancer free for a year – maybe not in the conventional way; but his spirit lives on, his story lives on, and I truly believe each and everyone of us carries him in our hearts every day. Thank you to everyone who’s showed my family support these last few years. We remain ‪#‎carterstrongforever    ~Katie

1 year. 52 weeks. 365 days. 8760 hours. 525,600 minutes since you grew your wings.  We miss you all the time.  There isn’t a second that goes by that you aren’t on our minds.  You’re forever in our hearts. 14 years old was just too young.  We love you bud from the siblings.  #carterstrong  #angelversery #cancersucks 5/16/01-6/30-15   ~Belle

One year ago, you earned your wings as an angel in heaven, and I thank my lucky stars that you were a part of my life. You fought a good fight with strength and perseverance like I’ve never seen. Your smile and your laugh are something I could never forget even if I tried, including your Chewbacca impressions and your critiquing of my basketball skills, or lack thereof…Miss you everyday Carter… We all miss you…~Cody

And maybe someday I’ll see you again
We’ll float up in the clouds and we’ll never see the end
And we’ll go up, up, up
But I’ll fly a little higher
We’ll go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer
~Zach Sobiech

Life is about living and loving.  Even as the world continues to spin, Carter will not be forgotten and continues to be loved.

BLOG life Carter's family

Laugh. Love. Mourn. Love. Live. Love. Repeat as needed.

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Stay awesome Marshall. Everyone I hope you’re doing okay, and STAY AWESOME.
– Carter Boerboom


Stay Calm & Live Life!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.


Summer Routine

BLOG summer flowers
At last – it is officially summer according to the calendar! That means it is also time to take stock in what is going on this summer and where the time is going.  I don’t know about you, but it seems to be flying by already! So let’s do our best to make it count and make it last!

One of the best parts about summer is the break from the regular routine. Don’t get me wrong, the warm, sunny weather is wonderful, too! Okay – so maybe you are reading this from sunny Cali wondering what in the world we are talking about?!  Well – live in Minnesota for a winter, and then we’ll talk.  So back to the routine… oh, that’s right, it’s summer – so what routine?

Actually, our summer routine changes from the school year, but we still do develop into a routine it seems.  My day looks something like this:

Somewhere between 5:30-6:30AM – Rise & shine & give thanks.  Brush teeth…it may be a while before the opportunity arises again.  Start the laundry, walk the dog, and water flowers.

BLOG summer Stella walk
7AM – Enjoy some coffee and turn on the Today Show – while flipping the laundry and scanning emails in anticipation of what to expect for the day.  At some point make sure the bed is made and the kitchen is cleaned up.

8-9AM – Start the taxi service.  (Thank goodness the oldest son has taken to biking to workouts with hopes of a moped and driving one day – or the taxi service would start at 6:30AM.)  Wait – did I remember to shower for the day?

BLOG summer Stella on car ride

Remind boys of their responsibilities charts. One of their responsibilities is appropriately – “learning time,” which includes reading and workbook pages.  Not super exciting stuff but what do you expect since I can’t even remember if I showered or had time to yet?  Boys aren’t allowed to play video games before 9AM – after chores are completed of course – so they usually get tasks accomplished by then.

BLOG summer Jonah studying

You know the saying, “Summer bodies are built in the winter.”  Well, some of us may have missed that memo this year – yikes!  I share a similar saying with my boys – especially recently.  “Our school brains are built in the summer.”

9-11:59AM – School work – either on campus or at home – or in the parked car waiting as the taxi service idles.  (No grading while driving – so no worries there!)  Answer phone calls, water the flowers if I am anywhere near home and forgot to earlier, flip the laundry, attend a meeting or two or a workshop.  Attempt to accomplish something on the never-ending list.  Boys are usually in a variety of activities and are chauffeured curtesy of their private taxi service, Mom -taxi service continues.

12-1PM – Feed the army.  Okay just my kids and maybe any strays.

1-4 PM – Taxi service, online work, cleaning – maybe?, run errands, phone calls, emails, write a blog, pool time if we can get there (maybe in July?), creative writing (yeah- right), nap (okay- a girl can dream)…

BLOG summer swimming hole

4PM – 5PM Prepare for the next round in the routine… evening activities.  Snacks are a must for the kids at this point or it will get plain ugly later.

5PM – Begin evening activities including: baseball, basketball, golf, maybe a football or faith formation meeting, birthday parties, life, …

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8-9PM – Eat dinner as a family if possible.  Yes – it is late and neglectful, but it is better than nothing.  Right?

9-10PM – Attempt bedtime by guilting the boys and getting them to believe they will not grow if they stay up any later.  “No, you can’t have more food at this point.  You ate like 20 minutes ago.”

10-11PM – Usually lights are out, and it’s time to open the computer back up from the 5 hour hiatus.  Wait – are there dishes in the sink?  Did the laundry get folded?  Hmmm… what laundry?  Now that I think about it, I haven’t cleaned in what feels like forever.  Okay – finish up some work now.

11:59PM –SLEEP because it is almost time to start the routine again. Amen.

Part of the summer to-do list that I try to integrate into the routine:

Learn.  Just because the weather is warm doesn’t mean that our brains don’t want to keep learning something new.

Get active – physically and mentally.  This also helps our brains and our bodies. Move, move, move.

Get engaged in the community.  Volunteer. Participate in activities instead of just watching the kids participate.  There are opportunities to be engaged and help out all year-long so take a chance to try something new in the summer when things are more relaxed.

Relax.  With all the summer opportunities and fun, aim to schedule some time to relax in the routine so the summer routine stays enjoyable.  Sounds like a fabulous idea so I think that is next on my list….

So what is your summer routine?

Stay Calm & Summer On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.