Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Second Great Waterloo Elementary School

One of the many responsibilities of Lead Teacher and Waterloo Education Association President Kathi Latta is to work with fourth graders on Math. Here Mrs. Latta works with a 4th grader on division with remainders. After Math class when the students moved on to Music class, Mrs. Latta gave me a tour of the facility.

As we traveled throughout Cunningham, we stopped in 2nd grade Mr. Jeff Ferguson's all-male-classroom. Jeff is pictured here with WEA president Kathi Latta. I remembered Jeff's classroom when I visited Cunningham in the fall of 2004. He has committed to the students and community to continue leading this class of boys through their 5th grade year. The gender specific classrooms are just one of the strategies Cunningham staff have implemented to help close the achievement gap. Great things are happening at Cunningham Elementary because of dedicated professionals like Kathi Latta and Jeff Ferguson!

Just One of the Many Great Elementary Schools in Waterloo

Today I had the opportunity to visit two of the great elementary buildings in Waterloo. First on the day's schedule was a visit to Lou Henry Elementary School. Pictured here is Head Start/Pre-School teacher Miss Jill Dubberke. The children in Jill's room are all four years old and were incredibly excited about the learning challenges ahead of them for the day.

The children sang, counted, did the morning calendar, colored an elephant picture, all within the first half hour. It was a very stimulating environment. It was a most inviting classroom, a place I would want to come back to every day! How lucky we are to have such terrific young educators as Jill leading classrooms in Iowa!

A second classroom that I had the opportunity to spend time in was Ms. Jean Seeland's 2nd grade room. Here Ms. Seeland is leading the 2nd graders in discovering combinations on numbers that equal 16. Students used manipulatives and dry eraser boards to discover all the possibilities. There are bright and creative students in Ms. Seeland's room!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Reconnecting With a Friend

Twenty-eight years ago Elaine Moore and I shared a classroom at Peterson Elementary in Council Bluffs. I was teaching 6th grade at the time and Elaine was a first year teacher, teaching Title I Reading. Today we had the opportunity to reconnect and reminisce of that small neighborhood school on the south end of Council Bluffs (which is now an AEA center) and all the years that had escaped us. Elaine taught just one year in Council Bluffs before returning home to marry her High School sweetheart (who is an Elementary Media Specialist in Cedar Falls). She has continued her teaching career to this day in Waterloo.

I got to share a favorite read aloud with Elaine's 4th grade students at Edison Elementary before the end of their school day. This evening, Elaine and I had the chance to share a meal and catch up on the last 27 years. I'm so grateful that Elaine continues to teach, her student's lives are richer because of her!

North Tama Schools in Traer

Monday, January 30th marked my first visit to Hawkeye UniServ Unit for the year. Pictured here are two association leaders I met in Traer (left to right) Kim Howard, North Tama EA president; and Connie Courbat, long-time association activist and bargaining team member. I had the chance to share a read-aloud in Kim's Kindergarten class and in Connie's 3rd grade homeroom. Thanks to both Kim and Connie for your advocacy on behalf of North Tama EA members!

Another great treat was in store for me after having read to two elementary classroom....I got to meet a couple of great High School students that were bubbling over with enthusiasm for newly arrived equipment in the Music department. Pictured here are Piper (standing) and Shawn (seated) demonstrating a computer program that allows them to create their own music. There were four computer work stations that individual students could work on, all at the same time. The students explained that a community member that had recently passed away, had left $5,000 to the North Tama Schools Music Department. When another family member realized of the gift, they contributed an additional $5,000 to the Music Department too! How lucky the North Tama Schools are to have this level of investment from community members to your school and in North Tama students!

Pictured are Shawn (left to right), Mr. Terry Shay, and Piper. Terry is the Music teacher for Kindergarten, and 3rd through 12th grades. How lucky North Tama is to have Terry to provide leadership for these awesome challenging Music opportunities!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Indianapolis "500"

Five hundred members of Team NEA's nine midwestern states gathered in Indianapolis, Indiana on January 20-22 to participate in the 2006 NEA Midwest Regional Conference. Pictured with me (from left to right) are Patti Lu Ford, Southwest UniServ President; NEA President Reg Weaver; and Tom McLaughlin, Southwest UniServ Vice President. Sixty Team ISEA leaders traveled to be a part of the Indianapolis "500" that took part in this year's conference: "Responsibility, Respect, Resources...Fast Track to the Future". Conference attendees were treated to remarks from our Team NEA Leadership Team throughout the weekend, kicking off with NEA Vice President Dennis Van Roekel on Friday night; NEA President Reg Weaver following lunch on Saturday; and NEA Secretary-Treasurer Lily Eskelsen Sunday morning.

Six Keokuk EA leaders participated in the weekend's conference. What a great investment this local association is making in connecting members to Team NEA close to home! Thanks, Keokuk EA for investing in leadership training!

Southwest UniServ leaders (from left to right) Julia Dyche, Shenandoah; and Becky Poen, Stanton; "stretched" one scholarship from SWUU for the two of them....paying the rest out of their own pocket! Both Julia and Becky had participated in a Midwest Regional Conference before and knew the value of a conference opportunity "close to home".

One of the highlights for me was bringing together Team ISEA for dinner on Saturday evening. Look closely to see if you recognize all Team ISEA members that gathered for good food, good conversation, and a lot of fun!

Team ISEA was especially proud of our own Jim Young, NEA Director from Cedar Falls who co-chaired the weekend's conference. Awesome job, Jim!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Lamoni EA After School Reception

Our last stop of the day was in Lamoni. A nice gathering of members made their way to the Art room at the end of their school day to have a slice of cake and discuss education issues. Pictured at right are members (seated, left to right) Pat Bolingbroke, Jennifer McKinney and Jo Lester; (standing) Jenny Hanson. The district has continued to cut deep in to programs that make a difference for students and our EA members discussed their concerns.

A big thanks go out to Lamoni EA president, Josh Culbertson, for setting up the event. Thanks, Josh!

Central Decatur in Leon

Knowing Central Decatur was on our schedule for the day, I could hardly wait until we arrived. Our first classroom visit was to long-time friend, Council Bluffs native, Ms. Jane Leuck. Back home I first met Jane's parents, Bob and Reva Leuck. Bob was a political activist and encouraged and helped me in many ways when I first ran for the state legislature in 1992. Many evenings the Leucks would prepare dinner for me, knowing I would stop only briefly and return to door knocking. They spoke often of how proud they were of their only daughter that was a teacher. Jane and I often connected in the summer for coffee to share our school stories. It was so fun to see Jane in her classroom setting and see the great relationships she builds with her students. You're the best, Jane Leuck!

Lynne Skinner's Reading group (at left) were absolutely such fun to read aloud to. They joined in on the familiar repeated pattern portions of the southwest version of the Three Little Pigs. When we finished I challenged them to take a familiar story and write their own version. They also really liked the ISEA pencils.

A big thanks to Amy Hamilton, Central Decatur EA president, for setting up the schedule and making time in her day to introduce us to the school district Superintendent. Thanks for all you do, Amy!

Clarke-Osceola EA Visit

Our second South Central visit of the day took us to Clarke Elementary. Pictured with me are the two local presidents, Mac McFarland, EA president (left) and Melissa Pitt, ESP president (right). Thanks for your leadership Mac and Melissa!

After reading to Mrs. Patten's 1st grade class, they demonstrated (at right) a song and dance that they've been practicing.

Third graders in Mrs. Ellis's 5th grade
posed for a class picture (left) following the read aloud. They were a delightful group!

Mrs. Adams's 3rd grade (at right) were so engaging during the read aloud! It was quite evident they are terrific readers by the level of engagement! Keep reading boys and girls, you will continue to grow as readers and writers!

Sixth grade teacher and Association activist, Ms. Body (photo on left) is pictured with South Central UniServ Director, Jim Crotty. Thanks for all you do every day to provide great opportunities for your 6th grade students, Ms. Body!

Martensdale-St. Mary's Visit

On Thursday, January 26th I visited four locals in South Central UniServ Unit along with UniServ Director Jim Crotty. Pictured here are Bob Sondag, Martensdale-St.Mary's EA president (left) and Josh Moser (right) EA past president. Several dozen members joined us in the Media Center for muffins before the school day began. Thanks for your leadership, Bob!

Association activist, Tish O'Mera, welcomed me into her classroom as the school day began. I shared a favorite read aloud with her fourth graders, then stopped in the Superintendent's office to introduce myself before heading to the next school visit.

After School Reception at Titan Hill

Building representative Maggie Bennett poses next to the "Titan" that greets 5th-8th grade students at Titan Hill.

Lewis Central teachers from Titan Hill that arrived early to set up cider and cookies for an after school reception are (from left to right) Maggie Bennett, Rebecca Hudec, and Gina Johnson. A dozen educators visited with me about concerns for class size, teacher-portfolios, multiple assessments and the additional paper work it brings, as well as teacher salaries.

Elementary Buildings in Lewis Central

My afternoon in Lewis Central took me first to Kreft Elementary to read to five different classes. Pictured (at left) are Linda Hahn's 1st-2nd Multi-Age homeroom classroom.

Pictured at right are teacher Denise Geier and her 2nd graders. They did a super job in assisting with the read-aloud!

Listening intently (at left) are Amy Higgenhotham's Kindergarten-1st grade Multi-age classroom. I met such enthusiastic students at Kreft! I would be an enthusiastic student too if I had such great teachers leading instruction every day.

Kindergartener's from Tara York's homeroom get involved in the read-aloud (at right).

First year teacher, Ms. Parkinson's 1st graders (at left) loved making predictions as to what was to happen next before we turned the page.

A special thanks to Kathy Moe for arranging the schedule to visit so many classrooms with my favorite children's books.

A Visit to Lewis Central Schools

Wednesday, January 25th I had the opportunity to visit educators in the Lewis Central District. Arriving before the start of the school day are High School teachers Shelby Sievers (left) and Matt Huth (center) to give my Lewis Central visit a great start.

I spent the first two class periods of the day visiting with students in long-time friend, Tom McLaughlin's, High School Speech classes. It was such a treat to see the magnificent way Tom works with students! Tom is the past-president of the Lewis Central EA and currently serves as vice-president of Southwest UniServ Unit. Thanks for all you do, Tom!

LCEA leaders at the Lewis Central Middle School organized a home-made soup luncheon to bring folks into the lounge at noon. Pictured here (at left) is long-time friend and past-president of the LCEA, Nancy Bleth. Thanks to LCEA leaders Nancy Bleth, Beth Frank, Barb Motes and Al Lorenz for the great luncheon and the great opportunity to meet educators from Lewis Central.

January 24th a Special Day

Council Bluffs City Councilman, Matt Walsh, presents me with a proclamation from the city of Council Bluffs, declaring January 24th "Linda Nelson Day". Thanks to the city I call home!

The Council Bluffs Education Association held a coffee at Woodrow Wilson Junior High at the end of my day of school visits. Many administrators as well as teachers and support staff attended. Thanks CBEA for the great day!

Among those attending the coffee at Wilson Jr. High, were colleagues from Carter Lake Elementary. Pictured here (at right) is Mrs. Ann Belt, my fourth grade teaching partner for many years. Ann continues to go above and beyond what might be expected of her because as a professional educator, she knows what it takes to help the students in her classroom be successful.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Abraham Lincoln High School-Council Bluffs

American Government teachers, Mr. Rob Kenney (left) and Mr. Dirk Waller (right) invited me to address their combined classes when in Council Bluffs on Tuesday. How lucky we are to have young professional educators a part of our district team!

Returning "Home" to Council Bluffs

I returned to my home district, Council Bluffs Community School District, on Tuesday, January 24th. Patti Lu Ford, Southwest UniServ President accompanied me throughtout the day. I started the day by visiting with Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Richard Christie (pictured here). In addition to his Council Bluffs Community Schools responsibilities, he is chair of the Urban Education Network, a group which is made up of the largest 8 school districts in Iowa. Thanks for your leadership, Dr. Christie!

Walnut Grove School secretary, Debra Campbell, is one of many great school secretaries that I have honored this year with a "magic wand" from Team ISEA. I present each school secretary with the "magic wand" and a card that states: "Thanks for the magic you do every day!" We all know school secretaries are the first to meet parents and the public as they enter our buildings. School employees couldn't do our work without school secretaries!

Council Bluffs EA past-president, Jo-Ann Tews (pictured at left) allowed me to read to her fifth grade homeroom at Walnut Grove Elementary. One student shared that "Mrs. Tews really talked you up!" Thanks Jo-Ann for your leadership in the classroom as well as in the association!

Pictured at the right are Mrs. Teresa Rindone's homeroom. They did a great job of helping us through the read aloud. Keeping reading, reading, reading students! You will grow as readers and writers the more you read and the more you write!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Shenandoah Middle School and High School

Students from Anne Travis's Middle School Talented and Gifted class (pictured here with me) discussed issues surrounding state government. They were very bright and engaging students! It was exciting for me to meet such great young people that will be leaders in their school, their community and for Iowa.

High School teachers gather in the staff lounge at lunch time to share their concerns for layers and layers of new expectations for them them in the classroom with nothing being taken away from their "plate". Members were encouraged to attend legislative forums in the area and to invite state legislators into their classrooms.

Senior students from Jennifer Cole's Government class visited with me about topics ranging from community service, the impact of state government on their lives, as well as issues that are impacting their community. Jennifer, we are lucky to have you teaching in Iowa!

Chemistry 2 student, D.L., has teacher Nicole King rechecking his work for accuracy. Nicole was celebrating her anniversary of three years + 3 days of teaching in her home town. How fortunate for the community of Shenandoah to have their talented teacher returning "home".