Monthly Archives: January 2020

The Storm Only Lasts For A While So Smile

Blog Mental Health storms

It’s no secret that our SMSU teacher candidates work their tails off during their junior methods year. In addition to their outside jobs and lives and losses, they are juggling at least three methods courses per semester plus trying to fulfill 45 + hours of field experience each semester.

Just typing that made me want to crawl back into bed and slumber for a little bit longer.

Last Tuesday during my Social Studies Methods class, the teacher candidates seemed lethargic. I asked if they were tired and the majority of the class shook their heads yes or quietly verbalized they were. Please understand, this group of candidates does not complain so I knew it was sincere exhaustion they were feeling. Unfortunately, last week was only week two of our spring semester. Goodness gracious.

I was thankful I had planned a Mental Health Check activity for my two sections that morning so I could demonstrate for the teacher candidates how they might check in on THEIR future students’ mental health. Clearly, my teacher candidates needed checking in on too!! (I tweaked this from an idea I found on Pinterest. Click on the picture below to read more about it).

Blog Mental Health

I gave each teacher candidate a sticky note and had them write their name on the backside so their name would be hidden when stuck on the chalkboard (yes, chalkboards still exist). The columns I placed on the chalkboard looked a little like this:

I’m Great!     I’m Okay!     I’m So-So!     I’m Struggling!     Help Me!

After all sticky notes were on the chalkboard under one of those labels, I had five (5) sticky notes in the “I’m Struggling” column and one (1) in the “Help Me” column. When class was over, I headed to my office computer and sent out an email to each of those individuals to ask how I could help. Below is a picture of the email I sent along with a picture of a response email from one of my struggling teacher candidates.

Blog Mental Health Email2

Blog mental Health email

While walking this morning, I heard this song by Sidewalk Prophets on the radio and it made me think of you, teacher candidates. ❤🙌  The lyrics are spot on and meant for you…

Lost your way, lost your cool
Then you straight up lost your mind
Tried so hard to stay ahead
But you keep falling behind

Life is gonna pull you down
Make it hard to see
But a little change in your point of view
Could be just what you need

There’s always a reason
To always choose joy
There’s something deeper
That the world can’t destroy

Smile, when you think you can’t
Smile, get up and dance
Smile, there’s a bigger plan
The storm only lasts for a while

So smile

As you go forward in your teacher preparation training remember the storm of your assignments, clinical, driving time, field experience hours, research papers, edTPA, presentations, class attendance, meetings and so on…. only lasts for a while. So SMILE.

Once you have your program completed, that isn’t a guarantee the skies will always be blue and all storms will fade away. Your student teaching experience and then teaching in your own classroom will not be stormless. Storms or hardships will always be brewing on the horizon.

You’ll be okay, though. Storms produce perseverance; perseverance produces character; character produces hope. So…when those teaching storms hit…

Smile, get up and dance
Smile, there’s a bigger plan
The storm only lasts for a while

So smile (and never give up hope)

Stay Calm and SMILE!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.


Blog laughter Lucy

One of our teacher candidates was teaching in an elementary classroom for one of his field experiences and shared this story with me.  Visualize with me this 6 foot 6 inches tall, 295 pound young SMSU college football player working with pintsize first graders.  Those tiny children had to tilt their heads all the way back to look up at him. While standing by the desk of a first grade girl, Mr. Brown was assisting her with her work.  She needed to ask for his help so she cranked her head way back and looked straight up at him.

She paused. She became a tad bit distracted by what she saw so instead of asking her question, in all seriousness, she whispered, “Mr. Brownie, you have boogers in your nose.”

Out of the mouths of babes…children say hilarious things that make us want to laugh out loud. So, please, by all means…go ahead. Laugh. Giggle. Snort if you must. Laugh. Laugh a lot every single day.

Blog laughter emoji snort

As educators, we are interacting with others all day long. We are with our colleagues, but most importantly, we are with our students. Be joyful! Be quick to share your enjoyment of life. Try hard to be thankful in all circumstances. By doing so, you will enhance the joy and laughter of those young people in your schools. What a powerful way to make this world a better place.

A retired teacher told a story about a day he had been in the hallway supervising students before they came into his room. He stopped to grab a drink at the water fountain on the way in. A student had put a piece of gum over the water spout, sending the spray directly onto the front of his pants. Yikes!

He had a choice to make about how to handle that. He dried himself off as best he could with paper towels in the restroom nearby, and then went into class. Rather than try to hide behind a desk/podium and ignore it, he immediately pointed it out to the class, noting “Some dirty bird put gum on the water fountain! And it got me good!” Laughter echoed throughout the classroom.

By making a joke out of it and addressing it right away, it cleared the air, and class went on as usual. Had he tried to hide it, it would likely have been a distraction for the entire class time.

The moral of that story…we get to choose our response to life’s experiences – yell, cry, or laugh. Find gratitude in your situations. Choose laughter…it is the best medicine.

Shawn was a brand new teacher hired a few months into the year because of a large 4th grade class. She held class in the library until a classroom was cleared out for her. Students were packed into the library like sardines, and their coats and backpacks had to hang on the back of their chairs while they waited for lockers. This did not deter Shawn’s ability to ‘bring it’ during her lessons.

The principal scheduled Shawn’s first observation with her and while he watched her do her magic, Shawn’s foot got caught on one of the student’s backpacks causing her to fall, face first, to the floor. Her students looked on in shock. When she stood up, she calmly commented, “Good thing I didn’t wear a dress today,” and went about teaching. Her students laughed, her principal laughed, and life went on.

I guarantee that you will have those embarrassing moments during your careers as educators. It is a-okay! It’s okay to laugh at ourselves in spite of ourselves. And, it’s okay to laugh with your students as often as you can. Laughter is contagious.

I remember one year, I had a student who made me laugh so hard I had a difficult time regaining my composure the rest of the day. Hopefully, you’ll find this funny. Maybe it’s one of those stories where ‘you had to be there.’

Here it goes:  The class was discussing foods that were traditional in their families around the holiday season.  The students would tell me about the food and where it originally came from.  For example, one student asked if any of us had ever had lefsa. Several had and others had not.  He told us he was Norwegian so I asked him where lefsa came from. He said Norway. Nice work.

A different student shared that her family makes ‘ole ballin’ which is a Dutch treat similar to a donut hole. I asked her where that came from and she said the Netherlands. Excellent!

Another fifth grader shared that his family makes baklava, which I had never heard of. I learned from this student that this is a sweet treat, and when I asked where it came from, he replied Lebanon. Wonderful!

Wade, who was sitting in the fifth row and the last desk, was bouncing up and down off of his chair, frantically waving his hand for a turn. I called on him to see what food was traditional in his family.  He excitedly said, “Anise candy.” Because I love this candy, I was excited to learn where it came from. So I inquired,

“Oh yum…I love anise candy, Wade. Where does that come from?”

In all his fifth grade seriousness, he replied, “The bakery.” BAHAHAHA. 😂

I lost it. I busted out into laughter, tears and all, which caused the whole class to chuckle.  Throughout the day, I would get the giggles because of that one little innocent comment, and when I did, those fifth graders laughed right along with me.

This last story comes from a preschool teacher whose name is Cat, who was a teacher candidate in many of my university courses. A few years ago, she was doing her student teaching in a 6th grade classroom. She had a habit of winking at people. It was one way for her to show others and her students she cared about them. Well, she found out that 6th graders have a different perspective of winking.

One day while she and her students were having a discussion, she smiled and winked at one of her 6th grade boys. Without missing a beat, this 6th grade boy blurted out in front of the whole class, “You want me, don’t you?” Cat did what we all should do…she snickered at his joke, then clearly stated that she wanted him to keep working hard.

When you begin your career in the best profession on earth, you will have many humorous moments with your students and those you work with. May I suggest you write these moments down then put them in a book? I’ll be the first to buy it because I love a hilarious, rib-tickling school story.

Children do say the silliest things so laugh a lot with each other. Enjoy their innocent sense of humor. Life is just so much better when you are filled with laughter and joy.

Blog Laughter Tyus

Stay Calm and Laugh Lots!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

(This is an excerpt from the book POWERFUL Teaching co-authored by Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester, Dr. Sonya Vierstraete, Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter, and Dr. Mary Risacher. The book is available for purchase at Kendall-Hunt Publishing,

Heigh-Ho Heigh-Ho It’s Back to School I Go

Blog Dwarfs

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s back to school I go this week. I’m looking forward to getting back to the classroom. I’ve missed the students and my colleagues. Mostly, I’ve missed TEACHING!!! Where have I been? On sabbatical.

The goal of my sabbatical was to visit with local high schools and see if they would be interested in starting an Educators Rising Club. Club members would consist of high school students, grades 9 – 12, who might be interested in becoming a teacher.

The idea came to me after a July Minnesota Rural Education Board meeting when a superintendent from a quite large school district shared that one senior in his high school was interested in teaching.


That broke my heart. Something needs to happen to get high school students interested in the grand profession of teaching. We must grow this profession!!

Now that the semester is over, I can honestly say I’m a little disappointed in the outcome of my sabbatical results. After contacting several area schools, only ONE agreed to start up the Educators Rising Club.


While the other schools had acceptable reasons for not starting this club, I was still disappointed.

I had false hopes. I believed all schools would be knocking down the doors to begin this club. I had unrealistic expectations.

Thank you to Pipestone Area Schools (PAS) for being willing to take on this risk.  Thank you to the PAS high school principal, Mr. Cory Strasser, who allowed me to visit with each grade level individually to poll their interests. Thank you to the two PAS teachers, Mrs. Wajer and Mrs. Danks, who agreed to be the co-advisors. And, thank you to the PAS high school students who have faithfully shown up for all the meetings.

Even though my sabbatical is officially done and the work was definitely worth it, I WILL NOT give up on the Educators Rising mission.  Minnesota is one state that does NOT have a state wide coordinator…YET!  So, let me ask you…any school district interested? Any students/teachers/administrators interested? I’d be happy to travel to your school and visit with you about it. 😊👍

blog sabbatical ed rising

SMSU, thank you for the sabbatical opportunity. Pipestone Area Schools, thank you for taking on this challenge. Teacher candidates, thank you for your patience as I get back into the swing of things. 😃

Stay Calm and Start an Educators Rising Club…PLEASE!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

Is She Yours?

This is a guest blog post by Dr. Wendy’s former SMSU student and now good friend, Stina (Honken) Howie. Stina was Dr. Wendy’s office worker for 4 years or as Stina says “Wendy’s go-to-gal at SMSU.’  😉🙌🏼

Stina Howie loves Jesus, her cute hubby Kenton, their two-year old daughter Kezlyn, and their one-year-old son Kendrix. She attended SMSU, earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education with a Special Education minor, and had a work study job with Dr. Wendy. Stina is a former preschool teacher who lives on an acreage with her sassy little family and does daycare in their home. They have a baby in heaven, adopted their daughter, and had their son eight months later. She hopes to add more sweet babies to their family {sooner rather than later}, return to teaching when the kiddos are all in school, and do foster care in the future. Her hobbies include teaching, crocheting, playing volleyball, baking, eating ice cream, and being a mama.

Blog Adoption Stina Family

“Is she yours?” Sounds like a simple enough question, right? It’s one that I’ve heard from random strangers more times than I can count. My answer is always yes. Yes, she’s mine. She may not look like me, but she’s definitely mine.

Our sassy, stubborn, smart, sweet two-year-old was adopted at birth. Kezlyn was placed in our arms when she was four days old and I cried the instant I saw her tiny face. From the moment I laid eyes on her I knew she was our baby girl and she was my promise from God fulfilled.

blog adoption match

Ever since we brought her home we’ve been bombarded with questions and stories from friends, family, and strangers. “Is she yours?” “Did you adopt her?” “What agency did you work with?” “Why did you pursue adoption?” “How old is her mom?” “Does she have other siblings?” “Why couldn’t her mom take care of her?” “Are you fostering?” “How much did she cost?” “What aisle of Walmart did you find her in? Haha!”

As you can see some questions are more appropriate than others and some are just plain offensive. The “Are you fostering?” question, however, caught me off guard more recently and I got more than a little upset. Not because fostering is a bad thing (someday I hope that will be a part of our story), but because someone thought they needed to know my daughter’s story.

We were checking out at Walmart and Kezlyn was throwing a fit in the cart. She was hungry, wasn’t getting her way, and was just acting like a normal toddler. As I paid, the cashier asked how old our little guy was. I said, “He’s 1 and she’s almost 2.” Then she asked if we were fostering. I replied, “Nope. They’re both ours.” She didn’t say another word and I grabbed my bags and left.

After we put our kids to bed that night I started to wonder why. Why did she assume that he was ours and she wasn’t? Was it because she’s black and we’re white? Was it because of her behavior? Did she assume Kezlyn hasn’t had a stable home because she looked like a handful? Would she have asked the same question if my white kid was the one throwing a fit? Why did she even need to ask? How would knowing have benefited her? What would her response have been if I had said yes?

In hindsight I should have just asked her why she wanted to know. That probably would have revealed her intentions pretty quickly. Maybe she grew up in foster care or was a foster mom herself. Maybe she knows someone else who was fostering and wanted to connect or ask about a support group. And maybe, just maybe, she was just being nosy.

So many people think they NEED to know my kids’ stories. Please understand that it’s her story to tell and you’re not privy to all the details. I love talking about adoption and God’s faithfulness in our journey and would love to connect if that’s your intent. If you want to talk adoption please ask questions.

I wish people were more like the sweet older couples at Culver’s that night. The ones who giggled when she raced past them with her free custard coupon. The ones who assumed she was ours just as much as he is ours. The ones who carefully chose their words to ask how we grew our beautiful family.

Ultimately, I want people to be cognizant about their intentions and choose their words carefully. Please don’t ask how much she cost or what aisle of Walmart we found her in. Our kids hear what you say and how we respond. We have to explain to them after you leave why you asked what you did. I’d love to be able to tell them that you want to use adoption to grow your family too.

Sometimes people ask me why I pursued orphan and foster care. My reply is, “I didn’t. I pursued Jesus, and He led me to kids who needed families.” -Brian Mavis

The things I love to hear when I’m out with my kids? “You have a beautiful family.” “How old are your kids?” “They’re so cute.” “How did they join your family?” “We adopted our…” “If you need help with her hair try…” “Have you heard of ___? They have a support group for adoptive parents.”

My most recent interactions in public have been great. People haven’t touched my children without permission, they’ve giggled as Kezlyn ran past with her tiny cart, and they’ve told me I’m doing a good job. Those kind words have lifted my spirits and helped me get through the countless tantrums over not buying more than four bags of mini marshmallows, not letting my children eat the fruit snacks or suckers they dropped on the floor, not letting her put the giant bag of popcorn in her tiny cart, or not letting them eat grapes before we buy and wash them. Life is hard and being a mama is exhausting, but it’s so rewarding and we all need words of encouragement.

Can I ask you to do something for us? Find ways to connect with the adoptive and foster families around you. Is everyone called to adopt or foster? No, but everyone is called to support those who are. We all have different needs and want to be supported in different ways. Ask the families around you how you can better support them as they love their kids and follow God’s call on their lives. Educate yourself on adoption friendly language—check out Adopt Well on Facebook, Instagram, or their website.

Want to know how we have been blessed? People donated to our adoption fundraisers. A good friend bought us groceries when we got home from our two-week trip to Georgia. We had friends bring us meals because when Jesus blesses you with babies eight months apart you barely have time to shower let alone cook supper. They snuggled our littles so I could pee alone or have my hands free to mix a bottle. My grandmas at Bible Study welcomed two tiny tots each month and helped hold them so I wasn’t outnumbered for an hour. Friends connected with me on social media or sat on my couch and asked how I was really doing. Those conversations helped me keep my sanity while I was surrounded by crying babies. A friend who does foster care would love to have you match her socks. Another friend would ask you to wash her dishes. Above all, I love knowing that people are praying for us as we love and raise our sweet babes.

If you want to talk about adoption or foster care please reach out. There are so many sweet children who need a loving family. Do you want to know what things I’m willing to share about Kezlyn’s adoption? The agencies we worked with, the pros and cons of each one, their average cost, etc. If I refuse to answer a question please know that it is out of respect for my sweet girl and her first family.

Blog adoption foster wisdome

Let me leave you with a snippet of our story. A few weeks before our wedding a friend prayed for marriage and babies. While she was praying I heard God say the name “Kezlyn” and I held onto that name as our promise of babies.

It carried me through our miscarriage, two years of trying to get pregnant, and a failed adoption match. My preschoolers would remind me that God keeps His promises and He would give us babies in His own time.

We matched with an expectant mama, a week later found out we were pregnant, and a week later Kezlyn was born. We waited one year and one day from when we started the adoption process to her birth. Our daughter was placed (not given up) for adoption by her first mama who loved her so much.

We worked with a fantastic agency in Georgia called An Open Door Adoption Agency and love them like family even though we’ve never met them. I can see God’s hand so clearly in our lives. He brought us our precious babies (our son was born just a short time later) at just the right time. If we had gotten pregnant any sooner we wouldn’t have been able to adopt and if we had adopted any sooner we would have stopped trying to get pregnant.

Our sweet babes are the best of friends and I’m so thankful that God had better plans than I did. He kept His promise of babies to me and continues to use them to show us His mercy, grace, and love. My kids are great and worth knowing and loving. I’d love to have you join us on our journey. 💝💙

Thank you, Stina, for sharing your beautiful story. If you’d like to visit with Stina about adoption, you may contact her at

Stay Calm and Consider Adoption!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.