Category Archives: Mustang Educators

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. 

Oh, The Places Mustang Educators Go…Part I

The Adventures of Ms. Devyn Coté

This is a three-part series focusing on three Mustang educators and their adventures.

Recently, I found myself navigating in a new city in search of something. It was actually more like in search of someone in some place. I was adventuring to see Ms. Devyn Coté, SMSU teacher candidate, student teaching in Länna, Sweden just a short drive south of Stockholm. I had never been to Sweden so this was a fortunate opportunity for me to visit a new place and a different school system. It was exhilarating and exhausting all at once. The rational part of me thought that perhaps this was not the ideal time to visit given the immense amount of work and responsibilities that this time of year brings – some usual and some not so usual like adopting new standards to overhaul our teacher preparation program alongside a number of searches for new hires as well as the completion of LETRS – Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling training and deadlines looming for writing projects…the list seems to go on. Also, raise your hand if you are a mom of a graduating high school senior. (That’s me.)

You get the idea… BUSY! That is the exact reason I chose to go. Life is short and learning opportunities surround us, but we have to agree to the challenge to just go and grow.

Recently I was reminded by a colleague and friend that life doesn’t get any easier. We just get better at harder. We learn to juggle a little more, juggle a little better, and be better. I could make this visit work alongside everything else that needed to happen and be accomplished.

If you need to be reminded of handling hard better, check out Kara Lawson’s “Handle Hard Better” speech as she reminds the players on the Duke Women’s Basketball team of the expectation to handle hard better. 

So did I make it to find Ms. Devyn Coté? You bet. Ms. Devyn is most certainly brave to accept the challenge to teach abroad, and she continues to learn how to handle hard better as well. I am thankful for the opportunity to visit Ms. Devyn in Sweden and learn about Sweden as well as the International English School.

I asked Devyn to consider the following questions, and this is what she shared with me. 

Why Southwest Minnesota State University? Why the education profession?
Ever since I was a child myself, I have been around children. I started babysitting from the age of 11 and still do it to this day. When someone would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, there were many answers that I gave such as baker, nurse, neonatal intensive care nurse, day-care provider, etc. These professions were across the board because there are many things that I would have liked to think of myself doing. I originally ended up heading to Normandale Community College (in my hometown) for nursing. After a year of doing nursing courses, I soon realized that it was not for me. I had no idea what I was going to do after. I then signed up for business classes because it is a very broad career path and many options that come out of it. I did one semester of that and absolutely disliked it. During all this, starting from my sophomore year of high school, I was working at my old elementary school as a before and after school activities assistant. I got to see a lot of my old teachers from when I went there but also see the new generation that is growing up in the same hallways that I did. I think just one day I realised that I should be a teacher. I have always loved kids and being around them that it just made sense for me to go into the path of education. How I ended up at SMSU is a little bit of a funny story. I have four older siblings. They each went to their own universities, and I needed a transfer college that would take in the courses I had already taken for credit towards my bachelor’s degree. I researched online all the options through the MinnState program and SMSU is the one that I had never really heard of but saw great opportunities with the education department. I had decided to apply, then was accepted for their education program, and found an apartment before ever even stepping foot in Marshall, MN in my entire life. I wanted to go off and do my own thing, and I can proudly say this was the best decision I could have made. 

What motivates you? What is your passion?
My family and role models motivate me the most. I have always had such a strong connection with all of my teachers growing up that they inspire me to be the best for my future students just like they were for me. My family motivates me a ton because all of my siblings are older. I am the youngest of five children and each and every one of them have made an impact of who I am and what I am doing. My biggest supporter, my mom, has guided me through everything. My supporters, friends, family, colleagues, past and present teachers have all inspired me to continue along this journey of becoming the best educator I can possibly be. One of the pictures is me with my 5th grade teacher whom she’s known me since I was 2 weeks old and am still in contact with to this day. My passion for working with student all comes down to building the relationships with them. I believe that a student will not learn from a teacher they do not like. It does not matter the size of puzzle a student may be, my goal as a future educator is to get to know the students so I can better their education with things they enjoy and can relate to. How will the students be able to learn if they do not get that connection from home life to student life? I believe that all students can learn, and as educators, we need to help personalize the instruction for every child to learn best. My passion lies in the outcome of hard days as well as the days that go by too quickly. Every student has their own personality and I enjoy bringing that out when it comes to teaching. The best feeling in the world is when a student finally gets ‘how to’ do something and that lightbulb clicks on. That is my passion. 

Who is your role model?
I have a ton of role models for all different reasons. My mom is my first and biggest role model because she has taught me to never give up. Stick with it, run with it, and live your life to the fullest. She has been there for me with every decision I make and continues to help me along to this day. My older sisters are also huge role models in my life. They are always there for me whenever I need, and they are incredible moms to their little ones. My oldest brother and I are a ton alike and he always tells me how it is. He urges me to do what I want with my life and pushes me to be the best version of myself. My other older brother was my best friend all throughout school and we could not be separated. He has encouraged me to do what I am passionate about and how to make the most of what life brings you. My other role model in life is my nanny mom back home. She is a businesswoman who has always encouraged me to stand up for myself and know my worth. She never lets me back down out of an opportunity and urges me to go for it no matter what. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 
I see myself teaching 10 years down the road working on my administrations license or something close to it. I would love to say that I see myself still being abroad, but also have no idea where life will take me. If not abroad, I would love to see myself either back in Minnesota or somewhere just a little bit warmer. I would love to have a family and take them traveling in the summers to see what the amazing world has to offer. From going abroad, and seeing the world in a new perspective, I have set off a light in me that just wants to see more of it. The education world has also inspired me to see how different countries have set their educational standards up for their students and incoming generations. In 10 years, I would love to say I have or am teaching in a couple more countries to experience different atmospheres and bring in what they do. 

What advice do you have for Mustang aspiring educators? 
My advice for aspiring educator mustangs would be this: 

  1. Take your time. Life is not a race. Focus on where you are at before rushing through your college years. It can be hard not to just think about your future and what your classroom will look like, and don’t get me wrong, it still matters, but enjoy the classroom you are sitting in at the moment.
  2. Find a mentor at SMSU. The professors are there for your success and want to see you succeed no matter what. Work hard, do your assignments, show up, and be the best version of yourself.
  3. Be open to the change that happens in every single classroom you step into. The classrooms you enter are there for you to take and learn from those students and mentor teachers. 
  4. Being a teacher, you are never ‘the best’ at what you do. Be open to the professional development opportunities that might occur as the education world is ever changing. The students deserve just as much learning from the teacher as the teacher is giving back to them. 

How did Ms. Devyn find herself in Sweden on this adventure you ask?
Wait for Part II of Oh, the Places Mustang Educators Will Go: The Adventures of Mrs. Julie Kelly.

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