All posts by educonnections

About educonnections

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

When Storms Rage On In Life or In Classrooms…Regain Your Control

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Flash flood – “a sudden local flood; raging torrents after heavy rains that rip through river beds and streets.” Or in our case here in the Midwest, “raging torrents happening due to heavy rain during winter months when the ground is still frozen and the sewage drains are blocked by 5 feet of plowed snow.” There is nowhere for the water to go…besides over roads, in fields, and in basements, schools, and hospitals. 😥

With the temps dropping below freezing, now we get to add to the flash flooding the new term used by meteorologist, Brian Karstens, a “Flash Blizzard” is pummeling the area!

Flash blizzard – “a sudden local blizzard ripping through our communities.” The wind is howling, the snow is horizontal, and nature’s fury is screaming at us.

Sometimes teaching can feel like a flash blizzard. One moment all is good, and the next moment a storm rips through our classrooms. Yikes! Raise your hand if you can relate! 🙋

I remember Andrea…a 3rd grade girl who went from happy to ANGRY in .02 seconds. Oh my goodness. No gradual decent with that kid. It took us all off guard and shook us to the core. When her ‘flash blizzard’ would hit, the teachers had a code blue plan in place for her. We needed to keep her safe and we needed to keep the other students safe. We had a special room for her to go so she could calm down. A place where she could listen to soothing music and fill her lungs with oxygen.

If and when Andrea was ready to visit, she would sometimes share what was causing her to be so upset. Usually, within 30 minutes or so, she was ready to return to her classroom.

Anger is not bad or good. Anger is an emotion we all experience and those teachable moments will arise for us to teach our students HOW to deal with their anger. Hurting others or self is not okay. The best way to get started on anger prevention in your classroom is to visit with your school social worker and ask her/him for ideas. Prevention is always best.

I can guarantee you will experience “flash blizzards” once in a while in the classroom. Thank goodness these storms are rare. When they do rip through our classrooms, let’s have a plan in place. Also, keep in mind what Brian Mendler says about storms like this, “the behavior isn’t the problem, it’s the solution to the problem.”

Always remember…it’s okay to have a good cry when classroom storms hit. I know I certainly did! Just don’t wallow in those tears.  Regain your control and ask others for support when you need it.

When life rages on, the song below helps me find peace in the middle of my storms.


Prayers for all who are experiencing the challenges of this storm right now…the flash flooding and flash blizzard. I pray for everyone’s safety! 🙏

Blog storm kelo

Stay Calm & Survive the Storms!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

Tell Your Story – Write Your Own Path

Far too often we see the mountain as the struggle and not the journey.  We allow the steep struggle uphill to blind our path and cloud our goals. The journey should shape us but not stop us.

Our stories of struggles and victories are waiting to be told.  Who better than to tell our stories than us? Far too often we let our stories be told for us. We let unknown authors write our paths. The world turns, and we turn with it.

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Story writer, Adam Braun, shares his story in The Promise of a Pencil, which began when traveling as a college student to India. He asked a begging boy on the street what he wanted most.  The boy told Braun that he wanted a pencil. From there, Braun has changed his path and the lives of many others.  Pencils of Promise has since built more than two hundred schools all over the world.  Braun shares his story and path to help others to be inspired, ignite their own passion, and find their ways.

Some of Adam’s inspirational excerpts…

For anyone going through a restless period in life, looking to make a change but not sure how, start with an ambitious but attainable goal. I set out to build just one school. Only after I realized that it was possible and how much of a difference it made in the life of others did I focus on enabling anyone else to have the same experience too. The key is to think big and then take small, incremental steps forward day by day.

Start by changing the subjects of your daily conversation from the life you are living to the life you aspire to create. By speaking the language of the person you seek to become, you will soon find yourself immersed in the conversations that make you most come alive. You’ll sense the energy you emit attracting similar energy from others. Your conversations will lead to opportunities, which will become actions, which will become footprints for good.

But you can’t keep saying, “I’ll get started tomorrow.” The world has far too many problems, and you are way too smart and capable to not tackle them.  Your time is now.

As humans we are natural storytellers. We weave narrative into nearly every relationship  we build and value. …Regardless of age or status, if you’re not satisfied with the path you’re on, it’s time to rewrite your future. Your life should be a story you are excited to tell.

It requires strength of imagination. It relies on that ability we each possess to suspend belief in the restraints of today to enable the possibilities of tomorrow. Most of all…each morning that we make a choice to bring positive or negatively into the world, and that with every single person there lies an extraordinary story waiting to unfold.  (p.249-251)

Stop. Pick up your pencil and have the courage to share it with others. Write your own story. Find your own path. Let your imagination guide your way. You are your best storyteller of you. Write your path. Today.

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Thanks, Adam Braun, for sharing your story – your change. It all begins with a pencil.

Braun, A. (2014). The promise of a pencil: How an ordinary person can create extraordinary change. New York, NY: Scribner.

Stay Calm & Write On to Change On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

The Houses that Built Us

Blog Paw Patrol

My hubby and I had the enjoyment of taking our two middle grandchildren to the Paw Patrol Live! The Great Pirate Adventure last Wednesday in Sioux Falls, SD. What a fun, interactive show it was. I think grandma and grandpa had just as much fun (if not more) as the kids did, waving our Jolly Rogers and yelling “PIRATE PARROT” every time we’d spot that sneaky little bird. It was 85-minutes of adventure that kept our eyes on the stage.

After the show was over, we let the 3 and 4 year old choose where they’d like to have lunch. Of course they picked McDonald’s. 😉🍟🍔

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I share this little story because later that evening, sitting by the fireplace, my husband and I began to share memories of when we were younger. He said he could count on one hand how many times he had been to McDonald’s as a kid. For me, it was never. And off we went down memory lane sharing many interesting facts about the homes that built us.

I think my favorite story of his was about where his childhood home came from. His mom and dad moved an old country school house onto their home place and added a basement, a kitchen, and remodeled inside. My mother-in-law was a school teacher back in the early 50’s, married in the 50’s to a gentleman with the last name of Schoolmeester, then went back to teaching after her 6th child left home.

So…think about that. It just makes my heart smile. 😍 My beautiful, God-loving mother-in-law was a school teacher living in an old country school house whose last name was Schoolmeester. That was a whole lot of schools right there. I adored her.

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One more story my hubby shared that I found intriguing was his bedroom was on the third floor of that old country school house, and it was cold up there. He liked the fact that his bedroom had a clothes shoot in it. He would head to the basement, open the clothes shoot down there so the heat from the wood burning stove would meander up to his bedroom.

Our homes we grew up in have helped shape who we are today. I’m sure you’ve started to think of many memories from your home. Maybe some good and maybe some not so good.

I’d like to share an activity I’ve used in my Children’s Literature course to allow my teacher candidates the opportunity to share memories of their homes, and how those homes have shaped them into who they are today as a future teacher.

Blog House that Jack Built

After reading a favorite Little Golden Book classic called The House that Jack Built, I ask my students to flip around the last two words in the title and fill in the blank with their name: The House that Built ____________. As best as they can, they rewrite the story using the same format as the book, sharing with us about the house that built them into the person they are now.

Even though this can be a challenging assignment for college kids, I believe it is one that elementary children could be successful with. Their success will depend on OUR delivery of the assignment. 😊👍

Take a few moments today and enjoy memories of the house that built you. And, if you ever get a chance to go to Paw Patrol Live! The Great Pirate Adventure it is worth every minute!!! Argh…⚓😊

Blog Paw Patrol Fun

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

Grandma…You Have Blue Teeth 😳

Blog Dentist Animal

My granddaughter and I were playing with her dolls the other day. She said something silly which triggered a good ole belly laugh in me.  Though she started out laughing with me, she stopped and just looked at me with this serious look on her face. I quit giggling to ask her if she was okay. Very concerned she whispered, “Grandma, you have blue teeth.”

Tooth be told…😆 I got a little concerned. You know how your mind starts to go through scenarios and gets all twisted up like spaghetti? I thought…did I drink something blue? Did I suck on something blue? Did I chew something blue? And…as quickly as those thoughts flew into my mind, they soared right back out. I knew. I knew what she saw.

I am from the ‘olden days.’ Back when we had cavities, our teeth were filled with silver. UGH!!! Well…after about 45 years of that silver taking up long term residency in my tooth, it has stained the whole tooth and it’s a gross gray. My granddaughter saw blue. 🤦‍

Being the elementary teacher that I am, I used this opportunity as a teachable moment. How much this 4-year old little girl grasped about cavities and silver and how lucky she is because fillings are now white is questionable. But, I went into full teacher mode and she got the full lesson on taking care of her teeth. Floss as much as you can! Brush twice a day. Visit the dentist, sweet girl. Poor thing…all she wanted to do was play dolls. 🤷‍

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. The American Dental Association’s slogan for 2019 is “Brush and clean in between to build a healthy smile.” Back when I was teaching 3rd graders, the school nurse always came into my classroom during February and my students got to chew on red tablets. They certainly got a kick out of it, and thought it was funny to show off their red-toothed smile! Do they still do that? The ADA offers activity sheets on dental health regardless if your school nurse comes in or not. Click here to check them out. If The Dentist Were An Animal written by Rachel Grider and illustrated by Summer Morrison is a cute book to read with your students. There are many dental health children’s books to choose from. Check out google for other titles.

I brush at least twice a day, floss at least twice a day, and irrigate twice a day. Plus, I’m fortunate to get to visit the dentist every six months. At my age, I’m doing everything in my power to keep my teeth. Want to join me? Let’s take care of our teeth together…even if they are blue. 😉 Happy National Children’s Dental Health Month.

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Photo credit: American Dental Association

Stay Calm & Brush, Floss, Irrigate!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.


Leadership Lessons from Snowshoeing

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As my husband, Dean, and I were out snowshoeing today, I began to think of the leadership lessons I was learning during our cold yet refreshing one hour adventure. There are commonalities among the two.  Let me share my thoughts on this, and then please share yours in the comments… 🙂

Leaders Offer Resources: I do not own a pair of long johns or a pair of wool socks. My hubby had extra of both and was willing to allow me to borrow them both so I could go snowshoeing in below zero wind chill temps. Employees don’t always have the necessary resources they need. Fabulous leaders offer the resources available that assist their people to become equipped to take on the task at hand and succeed. Great leaders offer their people essential resources.

Leaders Offer Support: My snowshoes were not fitting correctly. My husband showed me how to tighten the straps so the shoes wouldn’t fall off. He also showed me where the ball of my foot should hit when I’m walking, which I had no idea about even though I’ve been snowshoeing for years. He even told me WHY the ball of the foot is supposed to hit that certain spot.  I get confused about which foot goes on which shoe so Dean shared his secret to remembering which one goes on which foot. Dynamic leaders offer the same kind of support to their administrative team, their faculty, and their staff. Leaders demonstrate the HOW and the WHY to the people they lead. Leaders share ideas that have worked for them to become awesome so their people can also become awesome.

Leaders Offer Freedom: After my husband offered the support I needed, he gave me the freedom to ‘do my thing.’ He knew I had the skills and abilities and willingness to snowshoe, so he let me exercise those skills and abilities (and what revitalizing exercise it was). He trusted me to use my talents to do the best I could while snowshoeing. Superb leaders offer their people the freedom to put their best foot forward and trust them to use those skills and abilities for the greater good of the students.

Leaders Offer Safety: When we first started out, we were walking side by side. The deep fresh snow was difficult for me to walk in so I let my husband go ahead of me. The wind was strong, so after about 10 minutes of watching him lead, I decided to put my head down and just follow the trail he was making. 🌬❄ A few places were tougher because the snow was deeper, but by him going first, this made it more doable for me. I knew he would keep me safe from any treacherous terrain. Outstanding leaders earn the trust of their people by going forward first and breaking trail. Leaders take the safest route for their followers. Not the easiest, the safest. It’s easy to trust and follow the direction leaders are going when its evident they have our best interest in mind.

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Leaders Offer Reassurance: Since my husband was in the lead, he didn’t know if I was still following close to him or if I had fallen behind. On several occasions, he stopped and turned around to check on me. If I had lagged behind a little, he would wait for me to catch up and then turn back around and continue on. He didn’t have to say a word…he just turned around to make sure I was doing okay. I found this immensely reassuring, especially since it was now snowing and blowing. Caring leaders offer reassurance to those they lead. They will check in on their people often to make sure all is going well and to see if there is anything they can do to help; especially if times are tough for some reason.

Leaders Offer Do-Overs: If you know me at all, you know I love to take pictures. After we had been out for a little while, we stopped by an evergreen that would block the wind so I could take our picture. My glasses had steamed up and were full of ice so I had no idea if the picture turned out or not. We continued snowshoeing. At the end of our adventure, shortly before we reached our house, I asked if we could take one more picture just in case the first one didn’t turn out. My husband was a good sport and granted my do-over wish. Empathetic leaders offer do-overs to those they lead. There are many circumstances that can interfere with our ability to perform. Calling all leaders; whether you are a school board member, superintendent, principal, special education director, curriculum coordinator, instructional coach, teacher, volleyball/basketball/baseball coach, parent, grandparent, whomever you are; offer compassion and know we ALL want a second chance, we ALL want do-overs!

Regardless of the snow, wind, and cold, our snowshoeing adventure turned out to be invigorating! 🌨🌬❄☃ Leaders…want to revive and energize those you lead? Then offer them the resources, support, safety, freedom, reassurance, and do-overs they need to be revitalized. ☺💪👍🏂

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

Say Hello to POWERFUL Teaching

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We teach future teachers…those people who will positively or negatively influence YOUR children. We just want you to think for a minute of the impact that will have on thousands and thousands of kids throughout the world! No small task in that power!

We believe in preparing our teacher candidates to be POWERFUL teachers. We positively role model it every day, leading by example.  We build positive relationships with our teacher candidates so they know we sincerely care about them because “students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” ~anonymous

We have passion and enthusiasm for this profession, and we bring our WOW game to work! We toss unexpected kindness around our department like pixie dust so our teacher candidates learn to soar as powerful teachers.

WE are POWERFUL teachers, and we facilitate our teacher candidates to become POWERFUL teachers too. They are sponges, wanting to absorb all our thoughts, stories, insights, and ideas on HOW to become a powerful teacher.

Our teacher candidates requested us to pencil these experiences into a book so they will have a reference to use when they finally get out into the real world and begin teaching. We have unconditional regard for our teacher candidates so we complied.

Our book was born. 🙂 Say hello to POWERFUL Teaching, which hit the bookshelf this week! Tangled author emotions abound. Excited to be published, hopeful it meets our teacher candidates’ expectations, fearful of being scrutinized. Squash that fear!!

You will find this book has a unique twist to it as each author has their own writing style. We believe you will find these varying styles intriguing while you read the book. Below are a few excerpts from POWERFUL Teaching. Enjoy!

Passion for education can be expressed in multiple ways. A voice that exudes contagious, excitement as it echoes through the building. While others are subtler, showing their love for the craft in more understated formats; that after class discussion which includes a nudge when needed, staying late, arriving early, never looking for recognition. No matter how it is illustrated, what is evident in those who are passionate about teaching is a deep love for the craft that is recognizable from the moment you encounter the person.” ~Dr. Mary Risacher, page 2.

Open-mindedness does not happen overnight. It is equivalent to exercise. We know it is good for us and we should do it as often as we can, but humans do best when they build slowly. So, think of it as an exercise for your brain and conditioning until it becomes more automatic; a sort of rewiring for your brain!” ~Dr. Mary Risacher, page 16.

“We write history together each day in our ordinary and extraordinary work. What story we create and tell together depends on the WOW-factor in our work and lives. Together we can do more, be more, wow more. Wow is our collective creativity. Be the WOW-factor in teaching and learning. This work is serious business. This work is seriously an art form. Wow brings joy into learning…” ~Dr. Sonya Vierstraete, page 31.

“If you plan to hang out with children all day you absolutely have got to go out and find yourself some serious enthusiasm! Enthusiasm simply means having intense interest or zeal for something, which in your case would be your teaching.” ~Dr. Sonya Vierstraete, page 46.

“Ongoing research from the Search Institute (2014) has shown that ‘young people…need people in their lives who challenge growth, provide support, share power, and expand possibilities.’ Since many students spend more hours per day with their teachers than they do with parents/guardians or other adults, it becomes essential that teachers develop these types of positive relationships with their students.” ~Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter, page 65.

“To make your best first impression, make sure to use your best professional language—in writing (no texting abbreviations!) and speaking (avoid the use of slang as much as possible). Make sure to make contact with your mentor teacher as soon as you receive your placement, and respond to any questions your mentor may have in a timely manner.” ~Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter, page 84.

Unexpected kindness can happen anytime, anywhere, in any workplace. My husband came home from his office one day (he is a software developer for insurance companies) and told me they had had a fire drill. When the workers all got outside, there were ice cream treats waiting for all of them. An unexpected act of kindness in the business world…got to love that. Educators, it’s time to take a stand and BE kindness. When our students witness us giving unexpected kindness to others, they, too, will want to pass it on.” ~Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester, page 108.

“We have power to change our schools by being a positive example. Let’s put an educational twist on John F. Kennedy’s famous quote: ‘Don’t ask what your school can do for you; ask what you can do for your school.’ What can we do? We can be a positive role model for all to witness. Let’s become a conductor and orchestrate school improvement by being a positive example for others. Let’s become a quarterback and throw a touchdown for school successes by being a positive role model. Let’s become a chandelier and illuminate brightly for children and lead by example.” ~Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester, page 123 – 124.

powerful teaching meet the authors

Meet the POWERFUL Authors:

Dr. Mary Risacher, Dr. Sonya Vierstraete, Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter, & Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester

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

May Your 2019 Be Practically Perfect in Every Way

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My husband and I went to the movie Mary Poppins Returns last night. What a delightful show. If you haven’t seen it yet, please go! It is magical, enchanting, charming, witty, poised, and helps our inner child come back to life.

I have fond memories of the first Mary Poppins; watching it with my own children when they were young. So when this new one was advertised, I told my hubby we were having a date night with a large popcorn.

I absolutely LOVED this new version! I laughed. I cried! My heart did a flutter and a dance when Dick Van Dyke made his appearance and then danced on the desk. At 93, the man still has it! I smiled a big smile then did a fist pump while whispering YES when Mary Poppins saw her reflection in her balloon and said those well known words once again…Practically Perfect in Every Way.

Do you remember the scene from the first movie when she said those five words? Let’s reminisce for just a moment. After Mary Poppins arrived at the Banks home, she was upstairs with Michael and Jane and she is frantically looking in her bag for her measuring tape. Michael asks what for and she replies, “I want to see how you two measure up.” Their measurements? Michael is stubborn and Jane tends to giggle. The children want to know how Mary Poppins measures up. She measures herself and boasts; “as I expected…Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.” 🙂

With 2019 arriving in less than 24 hours, may I get personal and ask you how your 2018 measured up? Was it a stubborn and suspicious year? Was it a year full of giggles? Or, was it practically perfect in every way? No matter what kind of year 2018 was for you, let’s welcome the New Year with the advice from Jack in Mary Poppins Returns: “Let the past take a bow. The forever is now.” ❤

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We are excited to embrace NOW! Right now. This very moment. NOW…the best gift ever. We hope many doors are opened for you in 2019. Step through those doors, and enjoy the adventures that await you! Just like Mary Poppins did. And may your 2019 be “practically perfect in every way.” Happy New Year, readers! Thanks for always hanging out with us. May God bless you all!

Blog Dr V Me 2019

Stay Calm & Embrace Now!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.


Lessons Learned from Serving on the School Board


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Tonight was my last evening to serve as the School Board Chair. While it was my decision not to rerun, it is still bitter sweet!  I was first appointed and then elected to a 4 year term. In my quick 5 ¼ years on the school board, I was voted in as the chair each year for my last 3 years. An experience that I gained incredible insight from. Thank you to my esteemed board teammates for believing I could handle it. 🙂

This is my 32nd year as an educator…teaching elementary students in grades 3 and 5, then serving as an elementary principal, and now teaching teacher candidates at SMSU how to be powerful teachers. Serving as a school board member provided me the opportunity to view education through a brand new lens. An educational understanding you can only acquire by serving on the board.

Here are a few essential lessons I learned while serving the students of my home district as a school board member and chair:

Run for school board WITHOUT an agenda!

Read and understand the School Board Code of Ethics!

You can’t please everyone so always do what’s right for the kids!

Make your decisions for kids then move on!

Make INFORMED decisions!

Pray about every decision you make (this should be THE number one priority)!

Communicate with your state School Board Association for advice (THANK YOU to Sandy, Gary, Katie, and Cathy at MN School Board Association for ALL your help)!

Attend the yearly School Board Conference. Excellent leadership professional development!

Assume positive intent when you are questioned on your decisions!

Know that people will make speculations and assumptions (especially when they are not at the meetings and only get their information from the local newspaper).

Social media (especially Facebook) will attack you! It can get downright nasty…oh well!

Do NOT engage in social media rage!

You are ONE voice! Do not speak for the rest of the board!

Be professional!

Prep prior to the meeting!

Respect those who are speaking…no side bar conversations!

Listen to ALL points of view!

There are two sides to every story!

Bring ALL concerns to the superintendent!

Use face-to-face or a phone call to communicate with the superintendent!

Ask questions, then follow up on those questions!

Offer your perspective!

Respect the opinions of others!

Keep an open mind and heart!

Support the board after a final decision has been made!

NEVER tell the public “you will take care of it.”

Know your role!

You are NOT the superintendent!

You are NOT to micromanage!

You will finally know what you are doing by about year four!

And please, follow the chain of command!

Those are just a handful of lessons learned from my time serving. There are many more I could share, but I’ll save them for a possible book someday. 😮

A gratitude-filled shout out to my hometown, Pipestone, MN. Thank you for having faith in my abilities. Did I make mistakes? Of course I did! I’m human, and none of us are perfect. I strive for “continuous growth.” 🙂 However, I know my servant leadership had a positive impact and made an uplifting difference for this district while serving. And that is what life is all about…serving others. It’s been an honor and a pleasure! God bless!

Board Chair (Kyle Kuphal)

Photo Credit: Kyle Kuphal, Pipestone Co. Star

Stay Calm and Respect Your School Board,

Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.


Giving Thanks for the SMSU 2-Day, Theme Based Elementary Clinical 2018

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That’s a wrap, folks, for this year’s production of the 2018 SMSU 2-Day Elementary Clinical. It was a BIG hit!!! Each year, the SMSU teacher candidates have the opportunity to team teach for two full days and be in complete charge of a classroom. The classroom mentor teacher is close by, however, our teacher candidates do ALL the teaching. Everything from reading to math to social studies to gym and music. They get a lunch break and that is about it. They do have each other, however, which settles down some nerves.

This 2-day, theme based clinical is an experience of a life time. And it is one they will never forget. It is a lot of work for them, but, let’s face it, teaching is a lot of work.

One teacher candidate was overheard saying his feet were killing him. Another teacher candidate was overheard saying she hadn’t been to the bathroom all day. One teacher candidate said directly to me that she was exhausted…and it wasn’t the end of the first day yet. Yes indeed, teacher candidates, these are all realities of teaching.

I asked if a few teacher candidates would describe their clinical experience using the format of the children’s book called The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown. Each thing this author describes in her book follows a pattern. It begins with “The important thing about __________ is __________.” Two or three more description sentences are added and then is ended with “But, the important thing about __________ is ___________.” The same exact sentence as the first.

Blog Clinical Important Book

Below are a few of my teacher candidate’s thoughts on “The important thing about clinical was______________.” Enjoy. 🙂

Alexis Streich, Elementary Education Major with a minor in SPED shared the following:

“The important thing about clinical was realizing that students inspire teachers just as much as teachers inspire their students.

Clinical was time consuming, challenging, thought-provoking, tiring, and inspiring. It was full of trial and error, can you help me tie my shoes, muffled giggles of students who should be working quietly, and too many cups of coffee to count.

But, the important thing about clinical was realizing that students inspire teachers just as much as teachers inspire their students.”

Maizie Schacherer, Early Childhood Education Major, shared the following:

“The important thing about clinical was having the opportunity to experience two full days in the life of a teacher.

It is a rewarding experience, it provides new learning for both the students and teacher candidates, it provides an opportunity for growth, it builds a foundation for teaching, and it provided us with the opportunity to better ourselves as future educators.

But, the important thing about clinical was having the opportunity to experience two full days in the life of a teacher.”

Emily Augustin, Early Childhood/Elementary Education Major; Megan Hacker, Early Childhood Education Major; Amber Tietz, Early Childhood Education Major shared the following:

“The important thing about clinical was this gave us the opportunity to truly be the teachers and prepare for our future classroom.

Clinical was the most overwhelming, stressful, and nerve-racking experience we have ever been a part of. However, it was also the most enlightening, informative, and educational process a future educator can go through. It gave us the tools and resources needed for a classroom and the chaotic times which come with it. On our first day, we had to have gym in our classroom which we were not prepared for at all, but teaching is all about rolling with the punches and dealing with anything that might come a teacher’s way. Even though clinical was easily the most stressful part of our educational career at SMSU, it was, without trouble, the most rewarding adventure.

But, the important thing about clinic was this gave us the opportunity to truly be the teachers and prepare for our future classroom.”

Congrats to all of you, teacher candidates. We are proud of the outstanding educators you are becoming. We give thanks for you…and we give thanks for this clinical experience! 🙂 Enjoy your much deserved break!!

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Stay calm and Rest…

Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Make Your Little Corner of the World a Better Place for the People You Serve

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“Something I tell my teacher candidates all the time is that we all get the same 24 hours in a day and days in a year, so I encourage you to use your time the best you can and hopefully to make your little corner of the world a better place for the people you serve around you.” ~Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter

My colleague/friend and I just returned from the Minnesota Rural Education Association (MREA) Conference that was held at Cragun’s Resort near Brainerd, MN. I serve on the board for MREA representing Higher Education. In addition to Higher Education, others who attend this conference are teachers, principals, superintendents, school board members, curriculum coordinators, counselors, and many others. It is a fabulous conference with much learning. If you live in MN and your school is a member of MREA, we highly recommend this conference to you!

MREA includes an Awards Banquet during this yearly conference. Schools are nominated for the Profile of Excellence Award. These schools are selected based on programs that are innovative, benefit students, have collaboration efforts, and are adaptable for other schools to replicate.

Teachers are nominated for the Educators of Excellence Award. The criteria for these teachers are those who have a positive impact on students and student achievement, are a leader in their school and district and community, have an innovative and creative teaching practice that impacts all students, and who collaborate with colleagues, parents, families, and the community.

One last award that MREA offers is the Distinguished Service Award.  MREA asks that these leaders demonstrate one or more of the criteria listed on their website. While I was reading through these criteria, the first person who popped into my head was my colleague and friend, Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter because she doesn’t meet just one criterion, she meets them all. So of course, I nominated her.

Rhonda was chosen to receive this award. ❤

Being an MREA board member, I was offered the privilege of introducing her at the awards banquet. Of course I said yes. I was a nervous wreck getting up in front of 300 plus people, but I survived it. Below is an excerpt from my introduction to give you just a glimpse of who Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter is:

Rhonda is a person who I have come to trust and appreciate and love. She has many diverse experiences and has achieved so much in her life. I’d like to share just a glimpse of who Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter is and how she got to where she is today.
Rhonda is the mom of 4 children…three daughters and one son. Her son happens to be here tonight with us. Thank you Josh for being here to support your mom.  
In addition to her 4 children, Rhonda and her late husband Jeff were foster parents to numerous children. She shared with me that she lost count after 40. 😀
Rhonda began her career as a paraprofessional as a young mom.
With encouragement from two teachers, Dr. Bonnstetter decided to attend college to become a math teacher.
**She taught high school math at Murray County Central for nine years.
**Rhonda continued on by earning her Master’s Degree in Math Education and then her Educational Doctorate degree in Curriculum and Instruction.
**She then joined us at SMSU as a faculty member in the School of Education in 2005. Four short years later Rhonda was voted in as our Department Chair and held this position from 2009 until 2014.
Among her recent accomplishments was her visioning to create and gain legislative approval for a para-to-SPED teacher program as a non-traditional pathway for mid-career individuals to join the profession.
Rhonda has held a variety of local and state leadership positions to advocate on behalf of Minnesota teachers. She served on the MREA board for 8 years and also served as president. Rhonda is the president elect for MACTE and she has worked closely with PELSB.  
Rhonda began phased retirement this school year however…I know she’s not done yet.
How do I know this? Well…because Rhonda is an “and then some” kind of girl. She does what is required, and then some. She has written a textbook for her Technology class. She has co-authored a textbook with myself and other SMSU professors. She teaches math at Marshall High School during the summer. She plans and presents math workshops through the SW/WC Coop.  She watches her 12 grandchildren to help out her adult children. She has done all of this ‘and then some.’  As Fred Nolan has said about Rhonda, “She is like the Energizer Bunny. She just keeps going and going.”
I’m grateful for Rhonda and her commitment to the teaching profession. She is truly making a difference in the lives of every student she works with…

Readers, if you’d like to watch the awards presentation check it out on YouTube. The video is the whole banquet so skip ahead to 1 hour and 47 minutes to watch Rhonda’s award. Thank you to MREA for Live Streaming it. (Click on the MREA pic below to watch).

Blog Rhonda Awards BanquetOne funny story from the day after the awards banquet. A gentleman approached Rhonda to shake her hand and congratulate her. He smiled and said to Rhonda, “After all those experiences that were mentioned in your introduction, I thought for sure an old lady would walk on the stage. And then I saw you…you are young.” 😀

Rhonda, if you are reading this, we just want to say congratulations again! You are so deserving. As your Granddaughter Abriel Bonnstetter has been known to say… “Grandma, you’re kind of a big deal.” We couldn’t agree with her more. 🙂

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Stay Calm and Make Your World a Better Place,

Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.