All posts by educonnections

About educonnections

A Tale of 2 Profs... Sharing our stories about teaching, learning, & living... Dr. V & Dr. C (Claussen-Schoolmeester)

☃ Leadership Advice from a Snowman ☃

Blog Snowman Leadership

It’s that time of year when our homes are adorned which Christmas accessories. I finished up the last of the decorations by placing the wooden snowman sign above the fireplace. I stepped back and looked at his advice. Being a leader of our future teachers, who are also future leaders, I thought to myself…Huh! That’s great advice for all of us educators trying to make a positive difference in this world.

Below…leadership advice from a snowman. 😉


I know…getting too much sun sounds fabulous about this time of year in the Midwest. The long, dark, cold days of winter are upon us. However, too much sun can be agonizing. I know we’ve all felt the pain of a sunburn.

Too much of anything usually doesn’t end well.

Ponder these thoughts for a moment: A little management is a good thing. Too much micromanagement is detrimental to the team. A little confidence is a good thing. Too much confidence and arrogance rears its ugly head.

So, can educators be too nice? Too self-confident? Too open? Too ________ (you fill in the blank)? Yes, yes we can according to Riggio (2013).  His solution for ‘too much?’

Balance. Balance matters and balance is a virtue. Now to plan for that balance.

🔵 Be Well-Rounded 🔵

Being well-rounded means we are well-planned for proper balance. We show interest and ability in many areas. And isn’t that the main job description of educators? Many talents? Many abilities?

Then with all our abilities, how do we find that well-planned proper balance?

*We become well-rounded in our craft by continuing to take classes and attend conferences. We never stop learning.

*We build positive relationships with those we work with and we show up for them.

*We do the same for those we love, including ourselves. We schedule family time and ‘me’ time. We find balance between work and home.

*We care for people. All people. PERIOD.

*We allow ourselves to take an occasional social media sabbatical. Put down our phones. Cheerfully walk away from it.

*We take care of our emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical selves. Eating well is a good place to start.   


Carrots are a crunchy, tasty, nutritious health food. They help lower cholesterol, improve eye health, reduce the risk of cancer, and can feed the friendly bacteria in our guts which may lead to decreased risk of disease (Healthline, 2019).

I am all in on that! I think we need to consume way more carrots.

Educators, we must take care of our health. If we aren’t healthy, we are useless to those we lead. Eating nutritious foods is one way we can take care of us. A wellness plan that has survived the test of time is the Mediterranean Diet.

The pyramid below gives an overview of those foods and beverages that are considered good for us. Please, always seek advice from your medical doctor before starting any nutrition program. Keep your cool as you begin this wellness journey. Bon appétit.

Blog Mediterranean Pyramid


I recently read a blog post by Principal Kafele asking what we would say if a former student returned and told us we had let him/her down when in our classroom. Yikes. My response to his question,

“…I’d be asking forgiveness from many students. I meant well at the time. Thought I was doing what was right at the time. We live and learn. I still reflect on my practices…33 years later.”

Blog Snowman tweet

Uffdah…makes me remember I lost my cool a few too many times. We all do. With our staff, with our students, with our own children, and yes, sometimes even with our grandkids.

I remember being on the phone, and my 2 year old grandson at that time was being disruptive which caused me to become slightly irritated. I pitched him my most threatening “teacher look.” The “look” was so intense he actually ducked when he saw it coming. 😲 Sorry about that, Warren!

Years ago, I yelled so loudly at a student in the hallway it caused other teachers to step out of their classrooms to make sure we were all okay. Sorry about that, Greg!

So, what are some ways we can stay cool? I googled it and here are several suggestions.

*Avoid what pushes your buttons

*Take a few deep breaths

*Count to 10

*Remove yourself from the situation if possible

*Think before you speak

*Stop taking issues personally

*Find out the why behind the behavior

*Walk away

*Say you are sorry

*Remember we are human, and

*Take a walk. Preferably outdoors.

🏕 Spend time Outdoors 🏕

There’s just something about being outdoors that gives energy to the soul. The fresh air, the sunshine, the scenery, the breeze on our faces…such tranquility. The outdoors elevates our mood. Not only is being outside good for our mental health, it’s awesome for our physical health as well.

I take a Vitamin D all year round. I take a higher dose in the winter. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, depression, and weight gain. Any chance I get, summer or winter, I am outside for a walk to soak in all that delicious Vitamin D.

Outdoor exercise will help lower blood pressure. And after a hectic day at school, which can raise the blood pressure, a walk or jog outdoors is a beautiful way to find some peace. We must schedule this into our calendars, just like we would a meeting. Then…let’s not be late for this appointment!

Being outdoors aids with sleep. If you are an insomniac like me, we know how frustrating it is not being able to fall asleep. If being outdoors is going to assist me with my sleep, I’m heading out the door right now. 👋

It is sure to boost my joy!

😃 Be a Jolly, Happy Soul 😃

Jolly = cheerful. Happy = content. Joy = great pleasure. Those are my kind of people. I want to hang out with jolly, happy, joyful souls. Surround yourself with them!

Some of the most jolly, happy, joyful souls on this planet are children. They find pleasure in tasks we adults find mundane. The other day, my grandson was out shoveling snow off of the driveway and he was having the time of his life.

Children wake up ready to play. Well, after a few snuggles first. How do we wake up? Shuffling our feet trying to get to the coffee pot as quickly as we can? Or do we rise and shine and have some pep in our step?

I know some of you night owls are giving me the ‘teacher look’ right now. 🤷‍ I truly believe we adults need to start having a childlike attitude. I believe we would have more fun. Let’s learn to play again. Share a smile, a wave, a high five, a hug. Play games, create with Play-Doh®, build with Legos® or Snap Circuits®, shoot some pool, go swimming, paint, color, draw, build an indoor putt putt golf course, and/or build a snowman.

Blog Warren Putt Putt GolfBlog Snowman Tyus

Being a jolly, happy soul reminds me of a book I read years ago called Fish! Philosophy. This philosophy is modeled after the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, WA. It is a technique which is aimed at creating happy individuals in the workplace. The four practices of the Fish! Philosophy are:

1). Be there – be emotionally present for people.

2). Play – tap into your natural way of being creative, enthusiastic, and having fun! Play is the spirit that drives the curious mind.

3). Make their day – find simple ways to serve or delight people in a meaningful and memorable way.

4). Choose your attitude – take responsibility for what life throws at you. Your choices affect others.

Blog fish philosophy

There you have it, folks. Dynamic leadership advice from a snowman. Actually, it’s fabulous LIFE advice, don’t you think? Don’t get too much sun, be well-rounded, everyone ‘nose’ carrots are good for you, stay cool, spend time outdoors, and be a jolly, happy soul. Hugs from us to you. 🤗

Stay Calm and Lead Like a Snowman!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

The Day My World Stopped

This is a special guest blog post by Dr. Wendy’s niece, Haylee, whose farmer found peace while looking directly into the eyes of death.

Haylee Spronk is a daughter of the King, created by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and renewed by the Holy Spirit. She currently lives on a farm in rural Minnesota with her farmer, 2 sons, a daughter, pigs, and a couple cats. Haylee grew up in a “loosely” defined family with 2 brothers, 3 sisters, and lots of foster siblings. Her foster siblings inspired her to pursue her bachelor’s in social work and eventually a degree in clinical social work from St. Thomas/St. Catherine’s University. She has worked with the elderly population in nursing homes and hospice and loves the stories of the geriatric population. She has also spent time working with those who struggle with mental illness and trauma. She enjoys baking family recipes, being average at triathlons, a good cup of coffee, weird foods, and spending time in deep conversations with those she loves.

“Just pray for my safety” is all the text said from my farmer. My heart just stopped, and I typed back, “Why…” I never received a reply to that text message. My father-in-law knocked on the door and said words that stopped my world point blank. “I called 911, Alex is stuck in a grain bin.”

My head immediately went to all the news articles about farmers drowning in a bin of corn and the time it takes to save a person from a bin.

My father-in-law directed me to the bin and said I could talk to my farmer through the walls. What do you say? What if this is the last time I get to talk to him? As I talked to him through my tears, he simply told me, “Just pray and get as many people to pray for me as you can.” I prayed with him through that bin wall and immediately ran to text people who I knew would drop to their knees.

What is the difference between a grain entrapment and a grain engulfment? An entrapment occurs when a victim becomes buried in grain beyond the point of self-extrication, while an engulfment is an incident where the victim is completely buried or submerged beneath the surface of the grain. Approximately half of grain entrapments lead to engulfment which in turn are almost always fatal (Purdue University, 2011).

My farmer had been working in the bin due to a leaking roof causing pillars of rotten corn. The corn was not getting through the auger, so he had to go in and break up the corn. We needed that corn to feed the pigs.

One of those pillars broke loose, sweeping my farmer off his feet, pushing him to the side of the bin and trapping him against the bin wall. He managed (miraculously) to get his phone out of his pocket and call a hired man to shut down the auger. My farmer was gripping a bar in one hand and calling with the other praying he would not get sucked in the running auger.

Once the auger was safely shut-off, the corn had nowhere to go but pile up around him. Ultimately, the incident left his head and arms free, but corn pressed on his back up to his shoulders. It may seem like an easy task to just pull him out, but it wasn’t possible. My farmer said even when the corn was to his waist, he could not really pull himself out. Think quicksand situation. The scary part was more corn could break loose at any point and cover him completely.

Why does out-of-condition grain contribute to an increased risk of entrapment? Grain that has not been dried properly (Or in our case water leaked in) will begin to spoil and form crusting, or large clumps of grain glued together by the mold and spoiled material. This crusted material can prevent the grain from flowing freely and causes plugging at outlets. To maintain flow through the outlets, workers will enter the grain storage structure and use long pipes to reach the outlet to break up the crusted material. This may expose them to crusted surfaces covering voids or sudden flows of grain that are nearly impossible to escape from. In addition, crusted material can stick to the walls of the storage structure. A worker who attempts to break the crust from the wall from below can be buried under an avalanche of grain from the wall (Purdue University, 2011).

Blog Psalm 69

Outside the bin, first responders arrived on the scene and began to climb the 100 foot stairs to the top of the 80 foot bin. Each step they took caused a little more corn to slide towards my farmer.

My mother-in-law and I watched helplessly as people scurried about trying to assess what the next move was going to be. The amazing part was the few texts my mom-in-law and I had sent brought about a flood of people arriving to help. Our pastor arrived and prayed with us through his shaking hands. In my head I just kept praying, “He’s scared Lord, just let him be calm and breathe.” I just could not pray long words, I just wanted God to rescue him. “Please Lord, just let him live.”

Blog grain Psalm 86 1 2a

Even if a living victim is roped, they cannot simply be removed that way. Grain creates friction that resists the force used to pull them out. It requires 400 pounds (180 kg) of force to lift a victim buried up to their waist; removing a human completely trapped in grain takes 900 pounds (410 kg). Both of these amounts are above the level that can cause permanent spinal column injury (Purdue University, 2011).

Time seemed to slow down yet speed by in that situation. I know at some point the first responders came and told us they had gotten the corn shields around him. Imagine a 50-gallon plastic drum with the top and the bottom cut out. The drum then cut into 3 pieces to slide in around my farmer and keep the corn from continuing to press against him.

The first responders then auger the corn out from around him so the pressure can finally come off. Once the pressure is removed, they can finally pull him out with a harness.

I remember reading in a newspaper about how the first responders run drills to practice saving people from grain bins. I am incredibly grateful they knew exactly what to do and owned the equipment to do the work.  Once the corn shields were in place, my farmer was not in as much danger because the corn had less chance of going over his head.

Blog grain Psalm 86 2b

I was so busy praying, “God rescue him,” I did not even think about what damage could be done to his legs. He had been stuck for at least 2 hours at this point. The pressure on his legs can do damage when the blood circulation gets cut off and can lead to muscle injury.

I also had no idea what he had been doing before he was trapped. Did he have a broken leg, or did something get pinched? I was thankful he was safe and alive but now worried about what condition he might be in.

The first responders are trained to prepare for the worse but hope for the best. They called an ambulance in from Pipestone with paramedics with more training they assured us. They also discussed having a helicopter nearby and I believe the helicopter was flown to the Pipestone hospital just in case.

Time stretched closer to 2 and half hours and first responders told us it wouldn’t be too much longer before they would have him out. Responders used a firetruck ladder with a stretcher to reach the top of the bin.

I had a friend pack a bag for me because I had no idea if we would be going to Pipestone or Sioux Falls depending on my farmer’s condition. We all waited with our breath held. I asked friends near me to share stories about their day and what they had been up to just to pass the time. I did not want my mind to go to places it should not go, all while continuing to pray.

Blog Grain Psalm 86 6 7

What I did not know was the flood of prayers surrounding us. This flood was much more powerful than any flood of corn. From the few text messages my mother-in-law and I had sent, my farmer was blanketed with prayers. (Afterwards, my farmer shared that within 10 minutes of those texts being sent out, he felt an overwhelming sense of calm). He even began praying for me and our children instead of his safety. He said he knew he was going to be okay no matter what but wanted us to be okay.

My mother-in-law had spread the prayer request to all my farmer’s aunts and uncles who spread it to all their children. Their children had passed it to friends and relatives. My farmer’s aunt had the whole education department of SMSU praying, and her daughter had the education department at USF praying.

Our niece had recently started praying for my farmer and me out of the blue. Our 4-year old daughter told our pastor, “Jesus will save him with His big strong arms.”  My parents were on a vacation but by the time my farmer and I had reached the ER, a pastor friend of theirs was waiting for us with prayers and a hug. The amount of text messages telling us they were praying was overwhelming. I felt their prayers were literally holding back the corn and saving my farmer’s life.

Blog Grain Bin Psalm 86_7

I do not think I can even write the emotions I felt when my farmer came out of that bin. I joked with him; I have never been so glad to see his bright red beard (I could tell it was him the second he came out because of his beard.)

Even more relief washed over me as I saw him hold his neck up. My mother-in-law wrapped her arms around me and said, “I see him holding up his neck! Tears streamed down my face because he was alive and moving okay. Once the fire truck ladder brought him down, I saw him move his legs too. It was such a beautiful sight.

Everything was going to be okay and God had answered our prayers in a big way.

Blog psalm 86 8

The crew put him in an ambulance, and I rode in the front seat. I joked with him if he wanted a date night all he had to do was ask! He laughed back and it was such a beautiful sound! I could not really talk to him on the ride to the hospital which was grueling because I wanted to hug him so badly!

The doctor examined him and stated my farmer would just need some labs, and we would be free to go. It was so mystifying to think my farmer might die and now we would just be walking out of there.

Sometimes it feels so surreal all of it happening. People ask if there is any long-term consequences but my farmer just felt stiff and sore like he had run a half marathon. Eventually, the soreness went away, and he went back to work. My farmer worked in the same bin 2 days later with some precautions in place. He stated that he has no lingering fears or dreams and attributes it to the power of prayer.

We are both so thankful for the first responders, EMTS, fire fighters, neighbors, friends and family who were present with us through this very scary incident. It is amazing how God works in the training and preparations for the first responders to be able to handle a situation like this.

God worked in the prayers of the people surrounding us to keep the corn from moving, keep my farmer calm, and the ability to walk away from a very dangerous situation with a better understanding of His power and might and ability to save. I think the psalmist David stated it the best:

Blog Psalm 86 Grain Bin

Haylee’s farmer was saved that day. Emergency personnel who witnessed this rescue were jubilantly sharing with others about the grain bin miracle. ♥

With Thanksgiving this week, we give thanks for his miraculous rescue. Give thanks for your loved ones. Every day is a gift. Unwrap it!! Happy Thanksgiving. 🦃

Stay Calm and Believe in Miracles!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

Frequently Asked Questions about Flowing Grain Entrapment, Grain Rescue and Strategies, and Grain Entrapment Prevention Measures (April 2011). Agricultural Safety and Health Program. Purdue University. . Pg1. Retrieved September 15, 2019.

Blog Grainbin Mr Mrs Farmer

Mrs. & Mr. Farmer 🙂

Why I Begin the Holiday Lites Challenge


Look at all these books I own about taking care of my health? Would you say I’m a little bit obsessed? 😉 Goodness gracious. Hard covered books. Books on Kindle. Most of them read cover to cover. Some…not so much.

Turning 60 this fall and reading this blog by Dave Burgess on being committed has given me a swift kick in the pants to begin again. To begin taking care of myself the best I can. To commit to a wellness plan Every! Single! Day!

Begin again…just let that sink in a little. Ahhh…big deep breath. Shoulders relax. Begin again…those two calming words wash over me like a warm, soothing shower. I’m so grateful every day is a new day to begin again.

Beginning this week, I have chosen to start swimming and walking more. Beginning this week, I have chosen to eat less sugar. Beginning this week, I have chosen to commit to a Holiday Lites Challenge. What is a Holiday Lites Challenge? I got the idea from my husband.

At his work place (he is a Software Engineer), they offer this challenge between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The goal of the challenge is to maintain your current weight through these three festive, food and drink filled holidays.


Him and most of his colleagues maintain. Some even lose weight. All who volunteer to participate, weigh themselves at the beginning and then again at the end. They even have prizes for those who end up with the most positive results. Fun!

My personal Holiday Lites Challenge has begun, and my goal is to maintain through this over-indulgence, high calorie season. I weighed myself on Sunday, have been exercising more each day thanks to Dave’s encouraging blog (it’s linked above 👆🏼), and I am very intentional about eating nutritious foods.  I want to be healthy through my 60’s and beyond!

Want to join me? Let’s do this thing together because we do better when we have an accountability partner. 💪💪 Maybe tweet out how it’s going for you using the hashtag #holidayliteschallenge

I’ll check in on you January 2nd.  👍 Good luck. 🙌 (If any of you want to borrow one of my books, please stop by).

Blog HolidayLites

Stay Calm and Join the Challenge!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.


Emotional Moving Day For My Dad

Blog Alzheimers 3


November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. 💜 If this disease has affected you and your family in any way, shape, or form, I offer you my deepest empathy! My dad had Alzheimer’s disease and my mom had dementia. I get it!

If you are in the midst of dealing with Alzheimer’s, may I recommend journaling? Writing down your thoughts and feelings just might provide some sense of calm in the eye of your emotional storm.  It could help you sort through your fear, anger, confusion, hope, embarrassment, sadness, and yes, even peace and joy on those days your loved one is ‘with it.’

I stumbled upon a journal entry I had written when my dad was moved into the Good Samaritan Society because my mom was no longer able to take care of him.

As I read this journal entry from 2008, I shed a few tears. However, in an unusual kind of way, my penned words provided me with some peace. It reminded me that our family did the best we could with the situation we were given.

Below is my journal entry from October 23, 2008. I hope and pray you find a tiny golden nugget somewhere in these words.

10/23/08  Moving Day

Today was the day we moved my dad out to Good Sam. We all went out for lunch and then returned to our homes.  I waited for my mom to call when it was time. Around 1:00 p.m., we headed out to Good Sam with dad. About 3 hours later, I was on my way back home…sobbing. There was a lot of activity, lots of papers for mom to sign. When we met back at Dad’s room, he was sitting in his chair, just like he did at home. Before I left, he looked a bit forlorn, like a sad, frightened child who has just gone off to camp and doesn’t want to stay. Dad asked, “Will I ever get to go home?” Oh, how that tugs on my heart strings and opens up the flood gates of tears. I think, ‘No, Dad, you’ll probably be here until the day you go home to heaven.’

Freedom comes with a price tag. That’s what we say about our country. I can say that for my mom too! She has been a prisoner in her own home for about 5 – 7 years, wanting to take care of my dad because of his Alzheimer’s and blindness. Now that he is out at Good Sam, she’ll have freedom to come and go as she pleases. Her price…a broken heart. A heart that is filled with heaviness and sadness because her best friend, her soul mate for the past 53 years, is now living somewhere else.

Loneliness can be heavy on your heart. I’ll need to make sure I call her often! Go see my dad often! And…pray often!

Wow, this has been a tough day. Friends like Lisa Hubers become a great ‘pain reliever.’ She sent flowers just to let me know she’s thinking about me today on moving day. She sent some to my mom too! What a beautiful friend. Thank you, Jesus, for friends like that.

My dad’s stay at Good Sam was just short of 5 years. He died in 2013. My mom ended up living there too because of dementia. She passed away only 10 short months after my dad. Now they’ve been renewed and dance together once again in heaven. 💃

Alzheimer’s…it is a frightening, cruel, remorseless, horrid disease. For those going through it with a loved one, I shed tears with you. I say prayers for you. I grieve your loss with you. I send love to you.  For those of you who know others who are coping with this struggle…maybe send them some flowers just to let them know you are thinking about them.

Blog Dad Mom '09

Stay Calm and Know Alzheimer’s Sucks!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

Education MN Aspiring Educators (EMAE) Get an Early Morning “Lyft” to MN Educator Academy

This is a guest blog post written by McKenzie Deprez who is the SMSU EMAE President. McKenzie along with other EMAE officers and members attended MEA held on Thursday, October 17, 2019 in St. Paul, MN…
Hello all…my name is McKenzie Deprez I am from Westbrook, MN, and I am currently a Senior at Southwest Minnesota State University. I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education with Minors in Special Education and Teaching English as a Second Language. I plan on walking at graduation in the Spring of 2020, and will student teach in the Fall of 2020. Along with these academic goals, I am also active in Education Minnesota. I am currently the Education Minnesota Aspiring Educators (formerly Education Minnesota Student Program) President on the SMSU campus and the Secretary at the state level. I am excited to see where the road takes me after SMSU.
Broken Bus and Lyft Arrival

The morning of October 17th was crisp, cool and dark when the early birds woke up to be on a charter bus at 4:15 in the morning. There was excitement built in all eight Aspiring Educators to see how this year’s Minnesota Educator Academy Conference would go. The crew made it all the way up to Exit 10A in the cities.

            Yep, you read that right … Exit 10A, on the side of Highway 212. I decided to all of a sudden wake up at the crack of dawn, 6:58 AM, and popped my head up just in time to see our mini-charter bus smoking from the engine. Our driver swiftly climbed out of the bus and opened the hood. The smell rapidly filled the bus and woke the rest of the Aspiring Educators.

We anxiously waited with our donuts and juice to hear the verdict of our transportation situation. We were told in order to be on time to the conference we should call an Uber. Being the Aspiring Educators we are, we decided that Lyft would be the better option. When requesting for the Lyft, Jacey Hanssen stated … “Bus broke down on the side of the road.”  Our rides quickly arrived to our rescue on the side of Highway 212, and proceeded to take us to the St. Paul RiverCentre.  Even before getting to the conference, we all learned that it is important to be flexible and to have a back-up plan in place for all situations.

Luckily, this year was a small group, so only two Lyft vehicles were needed. It’s almost like it was meant to be!

Besides the early morning bus lesson, we were all able to take away many things from the sessions which we attended…

  • Free things are always a good thing!
  • Coffee is important to ensure alertness during professional development sessions.
  • There’s always a session that isn’t very engaging; learn from that session!
  • Take away and use the tools provided throughout the conference!

Individually, our take-aways consisted of…

“There are simple ways to add yoga to the classroom throughout the day to help everyone have grounding.” ~ Mariah Schuler

“It was a great professional development opportunity.” ~Nicole Evers

“The MEA conference was the perfect opportunity to add tools to my teacher tool belt!” ~Kayla Harwick

“Take responsibility for your own actions.”  ~Danielle Olson

Blog EMAE Members

L to R: Danielle Olson, Nicole Evers, Kayla Harwick, Mariah Schuler

“What I learned from a session was ‘They are all great kids, some just don’t know it yet.’” ~Erin Stevens

“MEA is such a wonderful thing our state offers because it helps educators so much. There are free resources, tools, and support around every corner to help make life just a little easier.” ~Emily Amundson

“The most important thing I learned and took away from a breakout session was… ‘A good question can create a great conversation, as long as you talk about the elephant in the room and be real with your class.’” ~Jacey Hanssen

“When attending my last session, Where People Live: Using Culturally Relevant Pedagogy with Primary Resources, it gave me a basic understanding of how important it is to utilize other cultures, and have the students do their own exploration before providing them with answers. This gives the students the opportunity to be in the driver seat and the teacher to be the passenger. Learning is an exploration, and this was a direct strategy to give students that opportunity learn about the past and other cultures” ~McKenzie Deprez

Blog EMAE Officers

L to R: Emily Amundson, Erin Stevens, McKenzie Deprez, Jacey Hanssen (Photo credit Education MN Facebook)

MEA consisted of a general session with a keynote speaker, and five other professional development sessions throughout the entire day. While this was going on, there were also vendor booths and Education Minnesota booths which provided information, resources, and other free items. Each individual who attended was able to select their own sessions in order to tailor to their own specific needs.

At the end of the day, we were able to successfully leave with many tools and ideas to implement not only into our future classrooms, but our own lives too. We were also treated very well with a new charter bus to bring us all the way back to Marshall. Overall, MEA was a great professional development opportunity for all Aspiring Educators, Educators, Education Support Professionals, and Retirees in the state of Minnesota.

Blog quote EMAE

Thank you to our dedicated SMSU EMAE officers and members for taking the opportunity to learn and grow professionally at the MN Educator’s Academy! We are proud of you!

Stay Calm and Keep on Learning!
Profs Dr. Wendy  Dr. V.

Then God Gave Me a Farmer

This is a special guest blog post by Dr. Wendy’s niece, Haylee. Harvest time will soon be here and Haylee has some insightful thoughts to share with those who are married to a farmer (or any of us who are married). Haylee Spronk is a daughter of the King, created by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and renewed by the Holy Spirit. She currently lives on a farm in rural Minnesota with her farmer, 2 sons, a daughter, pigs, and a couple cats. Haylee grew up in a “loosely” defined family with 2 brothers, 3 sisters, and lots of foster siblings. Her foster siblings inspired her to pursue her bachelor’s in social work and eventually a degree in clinical social work from St. Thomas/St. Catherine’s University. She has worked with the elderly population in nursing homes and hospice and loves the stories of the geriatric population. She has also spent time working with those who struggle with mental illness and trauma. She enjoys baking family recipes, being average at triathlons, a good cup of coffee, weird foods, and spending time in deep conversations with those she loves.

Blog Harvest Tractor Eccl.


“You know I’m going to be gone a lot.”

I nod my head emphatically as I gaze into his perfect blue eyes and admire his flawless smile. In my lovesick state I think, “I’d do anything for you!” I mean c’mon, spring planting and harvest can’t be that bad, right? I can ride with my farmer in the combine into the wee hours of twilight. I’ll bring him hot meals just so I can see his cute butt climb up the steps to the tractor. It will just be sublime and somewhat romantic! Seriously though, I have always been a very independent woman…

Fast forward 5 years and now we are married, have 2 kids, and I am holding a full-time job. Harvest is fast approaching, and I am already having anxiety about the the next couple months. It means lonely evenings, fights over the phone, parenting by myself, planning lunches for my farmer (bologna sandwiches anyone?), and trying to emotionally hold it together whenever someone asks me how I am doing.  It is hard to make choices by myself such as “Do I take the baby in to the doctor?”, “How do I balance a checkbook?”, and “What bills are due again?” I start to become very angry and bitter in my heart for him “leaving” me for months on end (Yes, a bit dramatic since he was home every Sunday).  Something had to give soon…I just can not imagine doing this for the next 50 years.

We’ve now been married 11 years, have 3 beautiful children, and I no longer hold a full-time job. I still do not look forward to spring planting or fall harvest but God has worked a miracle in our marriage to help us become stronger in Him.  So if you are where I was a short 6 years ago here are a few lessons God has taught me from 11 harvests and 10 spring plantings.

  1. Check your expectations at the door. Unchecked and unrealistic expectations can damage a marriage no matter how long you have been married. The media, our friends, and our family of origin create certain images and portrayals of what a husband and father look like. For example, my dad worked very regular hours with some on-call hours. I felt as though I had commandments in my head for my farmer such as, “Thou shalt not work longer than 6 pm and thou shalt have every holiday and weekend off.” And “Thou shalt take out the trash and be really handy in the house.” Even though my farmer had attempted to warn me about the long hours, I still pictured him home at 6pm fixing up our house all cute! I had to realize God has called husbands to different occupations with unique talents which require varying work hours. I could not find my commandments anywhere in the Bible!

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Col. 3:17

  1. Understand each other’s love language. Reading The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman was a game changer in our marriage. It helped us understand how to make our spouse feel “loved.” When we were time-crunched, we could meet each other’s love language in a very specific way. For example, my farmer was willing to engage in deliberate time and conversation with me, and I could give him a back rub or even just a back scratch instead of wasting time on things that did not make our spouse feel loved. It takes sacrifice, at times, to be willing to meet your spouse’s needs above your own for the sake of your marriage. I will tell you it is well worth it though!

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” Rom. 12:10

  1. Assume the good about your spouse. Of all the things on this list, this is still the most challenging concept for me. It means a deliberate choice to assume the best in my farmer’s intentions instead of the worst. For example, I would assume my farmer was really enjoying the time away from us. I would assume my farmer was angry or upset with me during short conversations we would have. I never really asked him if my assumptions were correct. What would happen if instead I would assume he really really missed our family? What if I would assume he was having a bad day during our conversation instead of thinking he is angry at me? For example, “It feels like to me your upset, but I am wondering if that is correct?” It would be and is a game changer for my attitude.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Cor. 13:7

  1. Talk about expectations and frustrations as they come. Early in our marriage, I wanted to keep the peace even at the expense of bitterness growing in my heart. It was helpful for me to tell my farmer about the struggles I was having at home. The tricky part of sharing was doing it in a calm and non-confrontational way (This takes practice and I have not yet perfected it). It also means allowing space for him to share how much he missed us and missed being a part of the family. It was equally hard for him to not be there for the kids’ programs, good conversations, and homework. It also means asking clarifying questions and really listening to the answer. So often I would guess at the meaning of things he said instead of asking what he meant. When we both practiced non-judgmental listening, experiences could be shared, and we could walk away both feeling heard (even for a 5 minute conversation).

 “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” Ephesians 4:26

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” Ps. 141:2

  1. Find a spring planting/harvest support system. During harvest, I lose two very important pieces of my support system…my farmer and my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law is a very calm and grounding presence in my life. My farmer creates the fun and light heartedness in the house. I miss them both dearly during harvest! God has provided a different support system during harvest. I have a girlfriend whose husband works crazy hours and we can call each other at night to talk about how we are surviving. I join a Bible study during fall which happens while my kids are at school (daycare provided). It also may include paying for daycare a day a week so sanity can be maintained. I try to be very aware of what my needs are and keep a regular routine during harvest. Do not be afraid to seek out people who are willing to share your burden.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2

  1. Find the joy and lesson in this season. One of the greatest gifts God has given me through harvest is an appreciation of my farmer’s presence in our family. When he is gone, some of the joy is missing in our household. It makes that joy much sweeter when you have missed your farmer. I’ve learned to do things I would not have otherwise learned to do such as run the lawnmower, do the farm books, pay bills, rely on others for support, allow myself to be vulnerable with other people, and learn to rely more fully on God’s presence. I have also learned the importance of having regular time with God in the mornings so the rest of the day flows from my relationship with Him.

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zeph 3:17

Even though these 10 plantings and 11 harvests have been difficult to navigate, I would not change my farmer’s occupation! Ultimately, God has changed my heart through these seasons of trials. I really think Paul says it best:

Hebrews 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Blog Harvest Haylee Farmer

Haylee and her farmer ❤🚜

Stay Calm and Have a Safe Harvest!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.


Talk like a Pirate Day

Blog Pirate Bitmoji

Ahoy thar, mateys. Happy National Talk like a Pirate Day. Shiver me timbers…me educator hearties be enjoyin’ this holiday.

You might be wondering why in the world anyone would want to be using pirate lingo. Especially educators! Well, to tweak a few words found on the first pages of the children’s book How I Became a Pirate written by Melinda Long and David Shannon…

“I know about pirates, because one day, when I was minding my own business and cruising through social media, Twitter friend, Matey Mel, sailed into my life.” 😊

This Twitter friend turned out to be a neighbor who lived only a few blocks from me. We met for coffee, she introduced me to the book Teach like a PIRATE written by Dave Burgess, and on that day, I became an EDU pirate. 🏴‍☠️

Why educators are talking like pirates is because of Dave’s teaching/leading/insert your profession pirate message. In the introduction of his book, Captain Burgess tells us WHY we want to be EDU Pirate Rock Stars:

So why a pirate? After all, we don’t want teachers who attack and rob ships at sea. Teaching like a pirate has nothing to do with the dictionary definition and everything to do with the spirit. Pirates are daring, adventurous, and willing to set forth into uncharted territories with no guarantee of success. They reject the status quo, and refuse to conform to any society that stifles creativity and independence. They are entrepreneurs who take risks and are willing to travel to the ends of the earth for that which they value. Although fiercely independent, they travel with and embrace a diverse crew. If you’re willing to live by the code, commit to the voyage, and pull your share of the load, then you’re free to set sail. Pirates don’t much care about public perception; they proudly fly their flags in defiance (Loc. 95, Kindle).

Since my visit years ago with that friend and educator, Matey Mel, I have had the pleasure of seeing Dave present 5 times at different locations.  I can honestly say each time I gained new knowledge and new ideas. Most importantly, each time I came away with a renewed spirit. And that, folks, is why we educator pirates are enjoying Talk Like a Pirate Day today.

Blog Talk Like a Pirate Day w Dave

Shiver me timbers, Mateys, dig up yer treasure by sailin’ over to Amazon and git yer copy of Teach like a PIRATE: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life. Aye, yer lads and lasses will be thankin’ ya.

Stay Calm, Mateys and Be Teachin’ Like a PIRATE!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.


You Are Welcome Here

Blog welcome here case

Pencils sharpened in their case.

Bells are ringing, let’s make haste.

School’s beginning, dreams to chase.

All are welcome here.

To SMSU’s novice and veteran teacher candidates…we welcome you to campus.

Your pencils are sharpened and they accompany your textbooks and computers and everything else in your case (or better known around here as your backpack).

Bells may not be ringing in the university hallways but they are ringing on your phone alarms because you are now in charge of getting yourself up in the morning and to class on time.  So, wake up, drink some coffee (or a diet dew and/or diet coke or better yet, water), and hustle to class. Don’t forget to grab a Pop Tart® on your way out of your dorm or apartment. 😉

School officially begins today. Show up for class, be on time, use your planner, work hard at your studies, give your all, reflect then change if needed, stay ahead of the game, and chase your dream of becoming an outstanding teacher. More importantly, please know… all are welcome here!

Blog welcome here diverse

We’re part of a community.

Our strength is our diversity.

A shelter from adversity.

All are welcome here.

Welcome to the School of Education’s Community of Learners where we are a community of professors and teacher candidates immersed in excellence together through active learning, researching, teaching, reflecting, and leading.

Blog School of Ed

There is strength in SMSU’s diverseness. All professors have their own style of instructing just as all of you have your own style of learning. We all have our differences, and yet we are all on the same team. #teameducator

Yes, together everyone achieves more.

It will be the same across campus. EVERY professor will instruct differently. Respect this diverseness. Never hesitate to ask questions if you are struggling. All professors are here to help you through difficulties and hardships. Trust us when we say…we have all struggled. It’s human nature. So, PLEASE, ask for help if needed because all are welcome here!

You have a place here.

You have a space here.

You are welcome here.

Welcome everyone. You are welcome here at SMSU!! Have a marvelous 2019 – 2020 school year. 🙂

Blog Welcome Gold Rush

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

(We highly recommend you read the charming children’s book titled All are Welcome written by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman, 2018).

blog welcome here


Life’s Lessons Handed Down

We walked into the quiet, dimly lit room where he lay peacefully with his eyes closed and his hands folded, resting on his chest. He looked as though he was “not afraid and his sleep was sweet.” ~Proverbs 3:24

We pulled up chairs as near to him as possible. I gently laid my head on his shoulder, placed my hand upon his hand, and while my tears flowed, I softly sang into his ear…

God be with you till we meet again,
By His counsels guide, uphold you,
With His sheep securely fold you,
God be with you till we meet again.

Blog dads hands

That was 6 years ago when I said my final goodbye to my dad. He went home to Heaven as humbly as he lived his life on Earth. My dad was such a positive role model for me. He certainly showed me how to live my life humbly and honestly and lovingly. He handed down so many life lessons, and I am forever grateful to him for that.

At a concert a few nights ago, my husband and I heard Christian song writer and story teller, Mark Schultz, sing his song called Handed Down.

This song brought back fond memories of my dad. So naturally after the concert, my hubby and I shared memories about all those things that have been handed down to us. Things such as his grandpa’s old clock, my dad’s Coca Cola doll, my great-grandma’s oil lamp, and my mom’s gorgeous diamond wedding ring.

As Mark sings in his song

All through these years I guess I’ve learned a thing or two
You can’t put a price on things that mean the most to you.

My husband and I also chatted about the greatest gifts handed down to us by those we love…our morals and our values. We were taught to…

  • Respect our elders
  • Treat others the way we want to be treated
  • Never forget where we came from
  • Show gratitude and grace
  • Always apologize when we’ve done wrong
  • Work hard at everything we do
  • Mind our manners
  • Grant patience
  • Be kind
  • Give and give some more
  • Love and support our family
  • Never judge anyone
  • Grip firmly when shaking a hand
  • Forgive
  • Give hugs
  • Say please and thank you
  • Love and serve others
  • Live graciously
  • Stick up for what we believe is right
  • Never do anything we would regret if Jesus were to show up while we were doing it
  • Smile
  • Fight hard against life’s battles
  • Be all in with arms open wide
  • Go to church
  • Put Jesus first in all we do

So you see…it is not the things we can buy that are the most important to us. With a little tweaking of Mark Schultz’s words in his song, this is what Dean and I believe matters most…

We finally woke up and we took a look around
Seeing the things that mean the most to us we’ve found
Are life’s lessons handed down.

Thank you for a great concert, Mark, and for nudging us to take a trip down memory lane. 😉

Blog Mark Schultz

Thank you, dad! I am who I am today because of all you’ve handed down to me. Fingers crossed that we, too, are handing down some amazing life lessons to our children and grandchildren. ❤


Eddie Wussow: July 3, 1929 – August 18, 2013

What life lessons have been handed down to you? What life lessons are you handing down to others?

Stay Calm & Hand Down Some Amazing Life Lessons!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.


Back to School Sparkle

“I’m losing my sparkle and the only way to get it back is to return to my star family.”

~Charlie’s Colorforms City

The boy was restless and a bit on the wild side. He chose to take his money and run. He left his family behind and went out into the world. He lived it up, spending his money foolishly. After some time, he found himself in trouble. His money was gone and a famine hit. He hired himself out to a citizen of where he was living. His job was to feed the pigs and so he did. However, he was given nothing. He was starving.

This young boy came to his senses and made the decision to return home. He knew his father’s workers back home were treated better than he was being treated. His plan was to ask for his family’s forgiveness, tell them he is unworthy of being called their son because of what he had done, and would beg to become one of his father’s workers. He underestimated the love of his family.

When his father saw the boy walking down the road toward home, he became filled with compassion for his son. The father ran to him, threw his arms around him, and kissed him. The father cried out with thankfulness this son of mine was lost and is now found.

The boy in that story lost his sparkle. He realized the only way to get it back was to return to his family.

Teachers…you may have that boy (and girl) in your classroom this fall. Children who may be restless and a little on the wild side. Children who may choose to do some foolish things. Children who may begin to feel unworthy for unknown reasons. When those kids, your students, come to their senses (and they will eventually), how will you show compassion?

You and your classroom of children become a family over the nine months you are together. Most days, you spend more time with those kids than their parents are able to. If you have students who have lost their sparkle, how will you help them find it again? If you lose YOUR sparkle, how will you get it back?

As the new school year begins, our best advice for you is to build a positive relationship with all of your students. Smile, greet them at the door every morning, call them by name, eat lunch with them, listen to their stories, treat them with unconditional regard, give them a handshake, high five or hug when then leave at the end of the day, attend their activities outside of school, make your lessons so awesome that they can’t wait to return the next day to see what you will do this time. And remember…those restless, wild, foolish students are sometimes the hardest to love, but they are also the ones who need it the most.

How will you find balance between your professional life and your personal life so you do not lose your sparkle? Here are a few ways to take care of you: Exercise, eat right, drink lots of water, get some sleep, breathe deeply, play (volleyball, pickle ball, board games, whatever floats your boat 😊), visit with family and friends, take a social media sabbatical, journal, volunteer. Find what makes you sparkle.

We wish you the best school year ever!! Sparkle on!!

blog sparkle on

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