Monthly Archives: March 2015

Undone: A Life Memoir

BLOG Undone

One simple retweet by Michele Cushatt and my evening plans changed. I had intended to watch a little March Madness basketball on TV when I got home, but instead, I curled up on the couch with a blanket and the iPad all because of that one RT…

“RT @timdetellis: Started reading this new book by @MicheleCushatt It’s a page turner.

Clicked on those links, saw Michele’s new book Undone: The Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life, and had it downloaded to my Kindle app on my iPhone within minutes. Read on our drive home, read through basketball games and before bedtime, read this morning with a cup of coffee in my hand, then, finished the book after church. Just under 24 hours later, I put the iPad down, wiped away a few tears, and said a silent prayer for Michele.

A page turner, indeed, @timdetellis!

This book yanked on my heart strings. The story made me laugh; cry; hold my breath in fear (and I wasn’t the one scuba diving); miss my parents; think to myself ‘hey, I floss everyday too’; sing praises that I’ve had very few, if any, horrific challenges in life; share a few of the funny written words with my husband (‘holy two by four’); and thank Jesus over and over again for the life I’ve been given along with the unexpected gifts each day brings.

Michele’s life memories are weaved together so beautifully with scripture. As I read, I would often stop and ponder moments from my own childhood or the years of raising my children. Memories of a life filled with adventure, small challenges, and lots of love.

The way Michele pens her fears of the unknown put my heart in a vice-grip, and at times I couldn’t breathe. Uncharted territories of cancer, of an empty nest that disappeared in a blink, of raising a blended family and children with exceptionalities, of loss and grief, of losing a parent, and of almost losing herself.

I would say the book is a love story. A love story between two authors…the author of the book, and The Author of our faith. A love story between a husband and his bride. A love story between a mom and all six of her children. Their love grew and grew. Deeper and stronger as they all navigated the journey together. And together is always better.

Warning…if you choose to read this book it just might change you. Change your heart, change your thoughts, change your relationships, change your love of others, change your life! Go on…take the risk.

I’m so grateful that Michele received that precious gift on Mother’s Day back in 2006. That twenty-by-fifteen inch package, give or take, wrapped hastily in recycled wrapping paper.” A special shout out to Michele’s husband for understanding his wife’s prized gift…the gift of writing.

Thank you for blessing us with this gift, Michele. Continued prayers for you and your family as you continue your life journey together. ~Wendy

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

Lessons Learned from Fairytales

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A command we often say to elementary students (and college students) is, “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.” If we all followed this rule, it might be a magical place… or just really quiet? Being the optimists that we are, we are going with the magical place. Join us, won’t you?

Considering the magical world in which we do live, and the magical world of teaching, we have gleaned a few lessons the hard way – watching, listening to, and living fairytales of our own. Five lessons we have learned from Disney that can be applied to teaching and life are:

1. Have courage and be kind. Each day carries unique challenges. Some days it takes more of an effort to get out of bed like Anna in Frozen while other days we fly to our feet taking on challenges like Ella in Cinderella. Cinderella had to ignore the negative voices, take a chance and enter the ball solo with so many unknowns. Similar to this our teacher candidates need to have courage to enter that new classroom and set out to change the world – no small task. This does not have to be solo, however, if we break the isolation of teaching and collaborate with colleagues. We just need to follow Ella’s mother’s advice – “Have courage and be kind.” It is amazing how we could be the positive change we want to see if only we start.

2. Overcome the odds against you. A quirky Disney movie titled Bad Hair Day, depicts a typical teenage girl who thinks life is coming to an end because of a bad hair day. In the book, Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, Allison is a typical teenage girl who suffers from a hair loss condition called alopecia. When Allison was elected the president of her class, she began her acceptance speech with, “when most of you wake up in the morning and don’t like what you see, you may put on this t-shirt that says ‘bad hair day.’” Allison continued, “When I wake up in the morning, I put on this t-shirt that says ‘no hair day.’ This young lady learned to overcome the odds against her.

3. Take charge of your emotions. Teachers deal with sensitive students all day long. One minute that student may be sweet and innocent. Then, BAM…with the snap of the fingers that same student has a full blown temper tantrum. Inside Out is a cute Disney movie to be released in June that shows a mother, father, and daughter sitting at the dinner table, and inside their brains are little personified emotions trying to be in control. The daughter is trying her hardest not to have an outburst, but, the emotion escapes her. Now there are consequences to pay. If she would have just taken charge of her emotions. When teaching and dealing with unruly students’ behaviors, take charge of your emotions.

4. Make a friend for life. Do you have a best friend? Why is he/she your BFF? Would you choose a friend just by how he/she looks or what he/she wears or what kind of stuff he/she has? In the released DVD movie, Tinkerbell and the Legend of the Neverbeast, Fawn the animal Fairy, befriends the very large, mysterious, kind of homely Neverbeast. Fawn stays true to her heart, trusts her instincts, and helps the others take note of the Neverbeast’s good side. Fawn doesn’t judge the book by its cover. Find that special someone, a colleague perhaps, and make a friend for life.

5. Embrace opportunities to explore uncharted territories. The movie trailer for Tomorrowland begins with the following quote: “What if there was a place…a secret place where nothing was impossible? Miraculous place where you could actually change the world? Ya wanna go?” Would you embrace this opportunity or would fear overcome you to cause you to run away from it fast? Let us share a secret with you about this secret place…it exists and it offers new opportunities every single day. Where is this magical place? It is the classroom. Each and every day presents new opportunities. Teachers…you can change the world—one student at a time. Look for this new movie in May.

Have courage and be kind so you can overcome the odds against you. Take charge of your emotions and find that special someone to be your friend for life. Together, embrace opportunities when they arise then go out and change the world, one day, one person at a time.

Do you have any fairytale lessons to share with us?

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

Learning to Connect – Connecting to Learn

BLOG George C itit15What a privilege it was to listen to George Couros speak at the This is IT2 2015 Ed Tech Conference (Instructional and Information Technology Inspiration through Collaboration) held in Pipestone, MN. Mr. Couros employed Aristotle’s three appeals – ethos (credibility), pathos (emotional), and logos (logical) as he addressed his audience, which are the key elements to effective writing and speaking. Sorry for the lesson here, but we are teachers and just can’t help ourselves! 🙂 George connected with his audience by sharing his life story on learning and living. He also shared many great videos and quotes on what it takes to be a great educator. Below are our highlights of his presentation:

Be a Champion for Children: George shared this video, and Rita Pierson hits the nail on the head with her TED presentation on human relationships and making connections. Children will not learn from people they don’t like! Apologize. Students will be shocked. Take a few minutes to watch this. It will be worth your time!

Engage Learners: We need to run away from constant “mind your own business learning.” Educators must engage learners. The big question George had for his audience was “Would you want to spend the whole day learning in your own classroom?” Boom! Self-reflection at its best! Go on…answer that one very honestly! Whether your environment is a classroom or office setting – consider it and walk a mile in another learner’s shoes. Whatever your answer, just remember to engage your learners – your people!


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Disrupt your Routine: What are you changing in your routine to innovate? Just this last week in a Junior Achievement lesson, we discussed innovation with 4th grade students. Innovation is to improve upon something. We aim to do this in our work and play each day. Thinking about our daily routines, what can we do to change it up just a bit? No one wants to be bored in the classroom – teacher or student. Consider integrating technology that will change the teaching and learning process. Innovate to further create and be better than yesterday. We owe our ancestors a great deal for the lives that we have today. Let’s not disrespect them by becoming stagnant. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new or take a different approach today.

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Change your Mindset: It’s not about skillset, it is about mindset. Change your thoughts and way of thinking and change the outcome. According to Dr. Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, “school cultures often promote, or at least accept, the fixed mindset. They accept that some kids feel superior to others and feel entitled to pick on them. They also consider some kids to be misfits whom they can do little to help” (p.169). Okay – maybe we are getting off topic here – we will revisit bullying another blog, but think about it. Mindsets shape how we think and who we become. Change yours and see the world from a different perspective.  It does not have a to be a world where it is you v. technology.

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Embrace Technology: We’ve always told our teacher candidates that technology is one instructional tool they can use while teaching. So when George said “technology is more than just a tool” we paid attention. He went on to explain that technology is a way of life for the kids of this generation so we should at least try to understand their world. George’s dad, who could not read or write very well, started to use email. It changed his world. His dad also started to Skype. This dad wanted to be part of the technology world because that is where his son was. Shouldn’t we do that for our students too?

Stay Calm & Lead On!

Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

It’s Spring Break Time!

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Cancun…Florida Keys…South Padre Island—it’s spring break time, people. Not denying it…beaches are sandy! BUT…who needs beaches? Why not travel to snow country? 🙂

My hubby and I bought snow shoes a few years ago and haven’t been able to use them much around here. So, we planned a mini spring break to go find snow. And we found it indeed. Snow in the lovely Black Hills of South Dakota.

God’s country!





Snowshoeing for two days is certainly not like walking the hallways of our university. WOWEE…can we say winded?? The first trail at Iron Creek found on Highway 14a through Spearfish Canyon was a gentle incline…easy peasy. We were a little winded after the first five minutes but it was doable. The best part…the scenery. It was gorgeous! God’s fingerprints were everywhere!

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The second trail at Eagle Cliff on Highway 85 was more aggressive…every five steps it was a catch-our-breath break which caused us to look down a lot. The snow…the snow was sparkly. Diamonds in the snow.




By the time we got to the top, I collapsed from exhaustion. But, anytime you fall in the snow that can only mean one thing…snow angel! 🙂

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The trail on the second day was the easy, gentle, gradual incline from the day before. We shoed farther in this time. About a mile and a half into the forest, there was a moment of silence that was so peaceful, so still. We heard ourselves breathing. We were the only humans on earth at that moment. Just nature and us.


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If you need a place to stay while visiting the Hills, we recommend you check out Summer Creek Inn and Spa…it was delicious! Who doesn’t love snow eats and treats after playing in the snow?!

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Snowshoeing. What a great way to experience nature and all her beauty. Plus, the bonus of snowshoeing is the calories you burn while doing it. Two thumbs up to that! 🙂

Spring break is just that…a break. A break from the hustle and bustle of classes and studying and homework and professors. Snowshoeing may not be your idea of a spring break, but we recommend you give it a try!

We would love to hear about your spring break. And, we pray you enjoy it…wherever the road may take you. 🙂

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