Monthly Archives: April 2023

Teacher Candidates…Who Has Your Back?

Teacher candidates…who has your back?

Thirty six years ago, I was hired to teach third graders in my hometown where I had returned to live. A few short weeks after being offered a contract, an article came out in the local paper with the title: School Board Questions Principal’s Hiring Policy. I thought I was fired before I even got started. It scared me to death.  

The principal who hired me way back then, attended my retirement party a few days ago (thank you SO MUCH for coming 🙌). When I mentioned this memory to him, he smiled and asked if he had ever shared what he told the school board after they questioned him. I told him no, so he proceeded to tell me ‘the rest of the story.’

The school board members at that time wanted him to hire someone who did not live in the district because then the school could gain more tax revenue. He reminded those board members about their WHY for hiring him…to get the best teachers for the children of this district. He boldly instructed them to ask the parents of the district if they would like the best teacher for their children, OR, if they would prefer a mediocre teacher just so they could increase the tax revenue dollars. I guess that silenced the school board members immediately, and it was never discussed again.  

This principal had my back!

Being a novice teacher only in my second year, I sent an informational letter home to all parents that clearly stated my expectations and consequences for the students in my room that year. The last consequence and “worst case scenario” for challenging these expectations was “staying after school with the teacher for 20 minutes.” After receiving the letter, one parent went storming into the principal’s office strongly demanding that her daughter would NEVER stay after school. My principal’s response to this irate parent was astounding to me, “Then make sure your daughter follows all the expectations and she won’t have to.”

This principal had my back…again!

So, I ask you again teacher candidates…who has your back?

A thought to ponder! When you have finished your teacher prep program here at SMSU and you begin the excitement of searching for that first teaching job, remember this…not only are they interviewing you, but you are also interviewing them.

Usually at the end of interviews, the final question is “Do you have any questions for us?” Ask specific, clarifying questions during the interview. The difficulty with this is you don’t know what you don’t know. So what do you ask? Use your resources. Research the district. Reach out to others. Google great questions to ask during an interview.  What are some issues/ideas that are important to you? Do you want the district to have a mentoring program? Do you want more specifics on what your role will be in the grade level you are interviewing for? Are there extra duties you will be responsible for? How will you be supported? Just ask! Be different, be brave, be you, and just ask!

Just like when you were searching for a university to attend and you ‘just knew’ SMSU was the right fit for you (you ‘just knew’ SMSU was where you belonged 😉), it will be the same with your job search. You will ‘just know’ if the district is the right fit for you. Does it feel like this district will have your back? Do you just know it is where you belong? Pay close attention to your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, you have my permission to turn it down.

Teacher candidates…I know all of you are going to be phenomenal teachers because I’ve seen you grow into dynamic educators this past year. I know you desire to be the best of the best for the kids out there in classrooms. You are EDU rock stars and will change this world one school district, one classroom, one student at a time! Now…get out there and be champions for children! Have their backs, and always know I have yours! (And, principals…please have your teachers’ backs!).

Love you all!!! 🥰

Stay calm & Just Ask!
Profs Dr. Wendy Dr. V. 

Oh, the Places Mustang Educators Will Go… Part III

The Adventures of Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester

This is the last part of this blog series… Part II focuses on Mrs. Julie Kelly while Part III focuses on Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester, a retiring Professor of Education at Southwest Minnesota State University, where she was Mrs. Julie Kelly’s professor and mentor as an undergraduate teacher candidate. Today, we get to hear from Dr. Wendy as she reflects and respond to the same questions formerly posted to Ms. Devyn and Mrs. Kelly. 

Why SMSU? 
I choose SMSU because we have hands-on, in-the-classroom, real life teaching experiences from the semester you begin as a Freshman to the semester you walk across the stage and receive that hard-earned diploma. By offering these real teaching experiences, teacher candidates have the opportunity to hone their craft and soar to new heights as a teacher. SMSU facilitates our teacher candidates to go from good to great in their future education profession. 

Why the education profession? 
Because educators make a difference if the lives of young people. I believe education is the foundation for the future of these young people.  We guide our teacher candidates to help them thrive. One of my favorite quotes is by Rita Pierson and it rings true for all educators and is the why education is the best profession: “Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best they can be.”

Dr. Wendy and her children… her first year of teaching

What motivates you? 
Serving others, treating all people with unconditional regard, making a difference, hanging out with family and friends, teaching, singing, dancing, writing, drawing, coloring, camping, praying, reading, coffee, smiles, being creative in any way possible and more. 

What is your passion? 
Professional Passions: helping students know they are cared for, respected, and appreciated; assisting students to become the best educator they can be; being creative and thinking outside the box to develop engaging lessons and presentations. 

Content Passions: I love everything about teaching Children’s Literature and within this course there are several engaging lessons I am more passionate about than others. For example, I enjoy the genre of Poetry and Historical Fiction the most. Social Studies Methods is another course I truly enjoy. Sharing and role modeling creative instructional strategies and assessment methods are a favorite of mine. 

Personal Passion: My list of what motivates me is also my personal passions. Making connections with my students first, then teaching. Within my teaching I enjoy implementing my personal passions. 

Who is your role model? 
My dad is my role model. While my dad only made it through the 8th grade, he ended up being very successful as a Public Relations Manager for the Rural Electric Association (REA). He enjoyed people. I remember as a child reading the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie because my dad had it on his bookshelf.  He survived the ‘dirty thirties’ as a child because he was taught to make do with whatever he had. He also had grit and determination because he was electrocuted when he was in his mid 40’s. He lost part of his arm, leg, and fingers and had to fight through several painful surgeries while in the burn unit. My dad was full of wisdom because of his life experiences. Andy Rooney once said, “I’ve learned that the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.” I may not have sat at my dad’s feet, but I did sit at his side and learned so much from him. 

Dr. Wendy & her father… 💖

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
My oldest grandson is 11 so in 10 years I see myself sitting at his college graduation. 💙🎓🥰 I pray I’m healthy and enjoying life to the fullest. 

Dr. Wendy & her family

What advice do you have for aspiring educator Mustangs?
To be that champion for children. To truly care about them because “kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Develop those relationships with them. Get to know them on a more personal level. Use the 2 x 10 theory with as many students as you can. It’s a relationship building technique. Spend 2 minutes a day for 10 days consecutive days with an individual student to help you get to know that person on a deeper level. Never ever give up on your students. And give those young people your very best EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. They deserve nothing less than YOUR very best!

Dr. Wendy & Mrs. Julie (Pohlman) Kelly presenting on “Undergraduate Action Research at a Glance…” at the 2009 ASCD Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Dr. Wendy & Amanda Meyer (her office helper the past three years).

Dr. Wendy & her advisees

Dr. Wendy & Dr. Sonya… collaborative blog partners since 2014

This concludes the three-part blog focusing on the adventures of Mustang Educators: Ms. Devyn Coté, Mrs. Julie Kelly, and Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester. Their passion for education and people is felt around the world without a doubt. Each generation of Mustang educators continues to impact the next… the circle of education.

Stay calm & find adventures!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

Oh, the Places Mustang Educators Will Go… Part II –

The Adventures of Mrs. Julie Kelly

Part I of this blog series focused on the adventures of Ms. Devyn Coté, who found herself in Sweden based on an invitation from Mrs. Julie Kelly, who spoke with teacher candidates in a methods course the previous year by invitation of Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester. Mrs. Kelly’s enthusiasm for education was (and continues to be) amazing as she shares her passion for learning and teaching at her school. Mrs. Kelly is an alumna of SMSU, and is the principal of the Internationella Engelska Skolan Länna, where Ms. Devyn is student teaching.

Pictured (L to R): Mrs. Julie Kelly, Ms. Devyn Coté, & Ms. Holly Meyer (Ms. Devyn’s cooperating teacher)

Why SMSU? Why the education profession?

I chose both SMSU and education because I thought they would be “okay” options. Little did I know they would both be incredible and life-changing.

What motivates you? What is your passion?

My students motivate me. Each day I am reminded of how we as educators have a special opportunity to change the trajectory of their lives, and each day I am reminded that the small things I do, even as a principal, can eventually create a big difference.  

Recess wall sits with students

Who is your role model?

My staff. Each day, they face seemingly insurmountable challenges–global pandemics, nearby wars, political unrest, gang violence, changing educational policies–and they continue to show up with the students’ best interest in mind (and with positivity and energy). I could not do the work that I do without the phenomenal team around me, and they inspire me on days I feel down to re-focus on the kids and my love for them.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 

Making a difference. I want to ensure that whatever I am doing, I am making a difference in society. I never limit myself by setting time frames, but instead guide my work with the impact I am able to make. If I can make a positive impact, I am in the right place!

What advice do you have for aspiring educator Mustangs?

Take a chance. Try the job that is out of your comfort zone. Take a trip that frightens you. Stop focusing on collecting things or checking things off life’s to-do list and start collecting experiences. I promise, you won’t regret it!

Living Life

Mrs. Julie Kelly is a passionate Mustang educator, who is changing the world one learner at a time… much like another passionate Mustang educator we know. Wait for Part III of Oh, the Places Mustang Educators Will Go: The Adventures of Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester. 

Stay calm & find adventures!
Profs Dr. Wendy Dr. V.