Friday, May 26, 2006

Former Kirkwood President is Named ISEA Friend of Education

Norm Nielsen, retired president of Kirkwood Community College, was selected as the recipient of the prestigious Friend of Education Award for 2006 by the Iowa State Education Association. Norm was honored on Thursday, May 25, 2006 at a reception at the Class Act Restaurant on the Kirkwood Community College campus in Cedar Rapids (in the atrium of the Mansfield Center).

Pictured with me are Dr. Norm Nielsen (center) and past president of the Kirkwood Faculty Association, Jack Terndrup (at right).

Dr. Nielsen has dedicated his life to strengthening educational opportunities for students of all ages. He epitomizes the spirit of service that our Friend of Eduation is designed to recognize.

As a member of the Kirkwood Community College faculty and later as its president, Nielsen's contributions forever changed the way business and education work together. As a result, he helped develop a knowledgeable workforce that impacts economic development well beyond the borders of Cedar Rapids. The ongoing success of these partnerships continues to be a model for other communites across the state and the nation.

Dr. Nielsen has a vision that goes beyond educating incoming high school graduates and providing continuing education courses for adult learners on campus. His vision created Career Academies for high school students that enables them to begin exploring their dreams. Under his leadership, business throughout the community found they could provide professional development and training opportunities for employees at their job sites.

Although he retired as president of Kirkwood in January of 2005, he continues to serve as a board member on a variety of projects.

Nielsen was nominated for the ISEA Friend of Education Award by the Kirkwood Faculty Association and the ISEA's Cedar Wood UniServ Unit. The award has been presented by the ISEA since 1959 as a way to honor and encourage citizens who get involved in their local schools and work to improve opportunites for students.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Council Bluffs Superintendent Stepping Down

Long-time friend and Council Bluffs Community School District Superintendent, Dr. Richard Christie is stepping down from his position June 30th, 2006. Dr. Christie takes with him the memories of 39 years in education, the last 18 heading the Council Bluffs schools as Superintendent.

A favorite memory of mine was of those early years when Dr. Christie first became a member of our Council Bluffs School team. Dr. Christie's first assignment in Council Bluffs was that of Personnel Director. I was President of the Council Bluffs Education Association one of those early years and a 6th grade classroom teacher at Carter Lake Elementary. I remember Dr. Christie sitting on the edge of the metal trash can discussing personnel issues with me as my 6th graders were sort of "having a good time"---not really attending to the work on their desk tops. I remember the meetings were brief, not very frequent, but we always found common ground.

Dr. Christie is also one that "gets it" when it comes to the connection of policy put in place by state legislators and the direct impact their policies have on the classroom. He is always in attendance at the bi-monthly Legislative Breakfasts and makes himself available to policy makers when they are interested in what impact the policy would have on our district.

"Hats off to Dr. Christie!" We are grateful for your years of commitment to students, their families and the educators of the Council Bluffs Community Schools. My best to you always!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Great Things Happening in Humboldt Because of Great Leadership

Middle School Special Education instructor, Greg Wickett took time away from his valued planning time to give a guided tour of Humboldt Middle School and Taft Elementary School on Thursday, May 11th. In addition to his teaching duties and association role, Greg also is the head High School track coach. I don't know how he does it all (and he does it all so well!).

As we toured Taft Elementary, we came across a familiar face. In the fall of 2004 I visited Taft Elementary and had the chance then to read to Diane Bacon's 3rd graders. Diane (at right) brought us into her classroom on Thursday and had her 3rd graders interview me about my role and responsiblities as ISEA president. It was extra special to reconnect with this extra special educator!

The final classroom we had the chance to visit in Humboldt was Mrs. Josephine Alstott's 3rd grade. Mrs. Alstott selected the book Inch and Miles, Journey to Success by former UCLA Head Basketball Coach John Wooden. It was a wonderful book and we only made a good start at it!

Thanks Greg, Diane, and Josephine for all you do every day to provide challenges for the students!

Laing Middle School and Lucia Wallace Elementary in Algona

We made a brief stop at Otto B. Lain Middle School in Algona on Thursday, May 11th. We visited with the building administrator as he gave us a quick tour of the building. The care that takes place in keeping this older building in great shape is remarkable. There are terrific things going on inside here to challenge students!

The last classroom visit before departing Algona schools was to Chris Van Deventer's 5th grade Talented and Gifted class at Lucia Wallace Elementary. Chris had the students explain to me the value of compacting in Math class as they ready for Middle School next year.

In addition to serving on the Algona EA Executive Board, Chris serves as a member of the ISEA state-wide committee on "Building a Better Teaching and Learning Environment". Thanks, Chris for your leadership in and out of the classroom!

Algona EA Executive Board Meets and a Visit to the High School

Algona EA president and High School instructor, Pete Waltz leads the Algona EA Executive Board in an early morning meeting on Thursday, May 11th. Committee members shared their work and final touches were put on the year end celebration for retiring educators. In addition to leading the Algona EA, Pete also serves on the ISEA PAC Central Committee. It is exciting to see a young leader stepping up to make a difference!

Leaders also participating were (left to right) Steve King, Unit 10 UniServ Director; Diane Kleinwebber, 4th grade teacher at Lucia Wallace Elementary; and Chris Van Deventer, Elementary and Middle School Talented and Gifted teacher.

Pictured here are Executive Board members of the Algona Education Association. How lucky we are to have you all involved in taking charge of your profession and of your professional association. Thanks for all you do as leaders on Team ISEA!

After the Algona EA Executive Board meeting, UniServ Director Steve King and I were able to explore the hallways of the Algona High School. One person we met along our way was Pat Twait, High School Teacher Librarian. Thanks, Pat for all you do in directing students to great literature.

Iowa Central Community College HE Executive Board Meets

Leaders of the Higher Education local at Iowa Central Community College met on Wednesday, May 10th over lunch to put finishing touches on their association year. Pictured (from right to left) are EA leaders/Executive Board members: Jeanette Tate; Amy Simpson, Vice President and a member of the Negotiations team; and Jennifer Condon, President.

Also a part of this great leadership team are (from left to right) Julie Hoesel, association secretary; Dale Eldridge; and John Hansen, association treasurer.

The Iowa Central HE EA leaders shared with me the concern of adjunct faculty hired by the college administration. The Language Arts instructors shared that with a beginning level course (I and II) there were 9 full time faculty with 20 adjunct instructors to teach the courses. The instructors in Social Sciences shared they have 3 full time instructors with 80 adjunct instructors in their area. They said the instructors are quality people, but aren't eligible for benefits.

Thanks Iowa Central HE EA leaders for all you do as leaders on Team ISEA!

Armstrong-Ringsted EA Leader is Unit 10 President

Diane Blom, Armstrong-Ringsted 4th grade teacher, not only serves as a leader in her local association but leads the Unit 10 Executive Board as their President. Diane (back row at left) had a portion of the students she leads during the day in for Language Arts class. Pictured with the 4th graders and Diane is Delores Larsen (at right) a Title I teacher and association member. How lucky the students are to have two highly qualified teachers to direct their reading instruction.

Estherville EA Leaders Meet Early at Demoney Elementary

Members of the Estherville EA met bright and early on Wednesday, May 10th to have coffee and coffee cake with the ISEA President. Pictured here are (left to right) Ruth Moreberg, 4th grade teacher and newly elected ISEA Executive Board representative; Diana Sanders, member of the Negotiations team; and Lili Jensen, President of the Estherville EA. Thanks for all you do as leaders on Team ISEA!

My first classroom visit of the day was in Deb Seylar's Kindergarten class. What bright, attentive, and engaging students! The students were delightful, Deb! Thanks for the extra effort you make each and every day.

I was also able to share a couple of favorite pieces of literature with Margaret Evans' 1st grade class. The children especially loved singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame after they stood and stretched for the "7th inning". Thank you Margaret for all you do to challenge students every day!

Unit 10 Executive Board Meets

Leaders from the UniServ Unit 10 Executive Board met for their final meeting of the 2005-2006 school year in Algona on Tuesday, May 9th, 2006. It was a great opportunity for me to learn the training opportunities they've had this school year and the plans they have begun putting in place for next school year.

I want to extend a special thank you to UniServ Director Steve King (standing in back row--far right) and UniServ Secretary Jodi Erpelding for putting together such a great schedule this week to connect with Unit 10 members. In addition to meeting with members throughout Unit 10, Team ISEA/Unit 10 staff had me visit with 3 local newspapers and 2 radio stations. Thanks Steve and Jodi for all you do every day as important members on our Team ISEA!

Thanks Team ISEA leaders of Unit 10 for your leadership in the classroom as well as in the association!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Prairie Valley Elementary in Callender

A second community a part of the Prairie Valley Community Schools is the (Pre-K through 2nd grade) elementary building in Callender. A third community, Gowrie, is the home of another elementary building. While in Callender I had a chance to share Take Me Out to the Ballgame with 1st graders in Diane Adam's class. Pictured are teacher Diane Adam (standing at right) and school Counselor Sue Johnson (standing at left) with Diane's homeroom of 1st graders.

While visiting the Callender building I met two great advocates for students and public education. Pam McBride (on the left) is a Resource teacher and local EA leader. Pictured with Pam is Kim Peterson (on right) a Kindergarten teacher. Thank you both for all you do every day for Iowa's students!

At the end of the school day association members gathered in the school's Media Center for goodies and soda along with some conversation.

Thanks Prairie Valley educators for the great opportunites you provide each and every day for all your students!

Unit 10 Tour Takes Me to Prairie Valley Community Schools

My Unit 10 Tour began on Tuesday, May 9, 2006 by visiting the Middle School in Farnhamville. Here I found K-12 Talented and Gifted teacher and Prairie Valley EA president, Ann Albert (pictured at left). Ann served on the ISEA Executive Board when her Prairie Valley EA was a part of Lincolnway UniServ Unit. The local was moved to Unit 10 in the fall of 2005 (a total of 50 locals were moved to a different UniServ Unit to make more even the workload of UniServ Directors). It was such a treat to visit with Ann's Middle School students about my experience in having served in state government. It was great to see Ann in her "element", doing what she does with students! Thanks Ann for your leadership in and out of the classroom!

Another great association leader I had the chance to reconnect with while at the Middle School in Farnhamville is Barb Langner (at right). Barb, a 5th grade Math and Science teacher, attended her first ISEA Summer Conference in 2005. She is now an elected member on the Unit 10 Executive Board and has already registered to attend this year's Summer Conference.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Intern in ISEA Communications to Graduate and Move On

Erin Driesbach of Lincoln, NE will graduate from Drake University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics on Saturday, May 13th, also marking the completion of her internship at ISEA. Erin whose work experience at Team ISEA was in our Communications Department, is the person responsible for getting me started in "blogging". I'm grateful for the perspective the young and energetic Erin brought to our Team. Thanks, Erin!

With Erin's graduation, she will move to Louisville, KY where she will be an AmeriCorps worker serving as the Volunteer Resource Coordinator at Kentucky Refugee Ministries. Her service in AmeriCorps is a one-year commitment, earning her a $5,000 "education grant" in which she intends to use for graduate school.

AmeriCorps workers live at 105% of the poverty level, qualifying for food stamps and Medicad.

Erin, we wish you the best! Our lives are richer because of your time with us!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Indiana State Teacher's Association President Serves as My Association Mentor

Judy Briganti, President of the Indiana State Teacher's Association, volunteered to serve as my mentor as I began serving as President of ISEA. Judy, pictured here with me, has also become a great friend. Traveling to Washington, D.C. four times during the school year, state presidents meet as members of the NEA PAC Council. The NEA PAC Council meets on Thursday, the day before the NEA Board of Director's meetings, which are on Friday and Saturday. In addition, state presidents gather informally on Wednesday evening for a two-hour session to meet with NEA President Reg Weaver.

NEA Directors from Indiana have become great friends of our Team ISEA NEA Directors too. Pictured are two of the three NEA Directors from Indiana along with Team ISEA as we dined together while recently in Washington, D.C. Pictured here are (seated at left) Rick Wright, Indiana NEA Director; Judy Briganti, ISTA President (center) and me. Pictured (standing, left to right) are Jim Young, Iowa NEA Director; Callie Marksbary, Indiana NEA Director; and Gayle Jeffers, Iowa NEA Director.

Having an opportunity to share a meal while discussing the important issues to each of our states has become invaluable. While we discover we have much in common, we have learned a great deal from one another about new directions we might consider in the future.

Team ISEA Meets Maquoketa EA Member While in D.C.

Team ISEA had a pleasant surprise in Washington, D.C. while attending the "Constituent Breakfast" hosted by U.S. Senator Tom Harkin when we met Maquoketa EA member Tod Bowman. Tod (2nd from right) a High School Government teacher at Maquoketa High School, is serving a one month internship in Senator Harkin's Washington, D.C. office. What a great way to get a thorough understanding on the actual "workings" of the federal government, then to be able to share those experiences with students! We wish you our best, Tod and know your classroom instruction when you return home will be richer with your first-hand-experiences!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Team ISEA Meets With U.S. Senator Tom Harkin

On Wednesday, May 3, 2006 Iowa's U.S. Senator Tom Harkin hosted a "Constituent Breakfast" in which Team ISEA were one of the many guests present. The event was held in the Dirksen Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Senator Harkin took time to visit with Team ISEA on issues important to all Team NEA. We thanked Senator Harkin for his leadership in the Specter-Harkin Amendment that passed the U.S. Senate adding $8 billion to education. The amendment faces uncertainty in the U.S.House.

Pictured here with Senator Harkin are NEA Directors from Iowa Jim Young (at left), a fourth grade teacher at Hansen Elementary in Cedar Falls; Gayle Jeffers (2nd from right), a High School French teacher at East High School in Sioux City; Iowa U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (2nd from left); and me (on right).

One of the true highlights of my association experiences over the years came back in May of 1989. I was a member of NEA's Congressional Contact Team at the time and I was asked to represent ISEA in Washington, D.C. at an NEA Banquet honoring the members of the 100th Congress for their 100% voting record with NEA. Yes, I got to present Iowa's senator, U.S.Senator Tom Harkin with his 100% voting record from NEA. Senator Harkin continues to be a champion for children and their families and for public education. Thank you Senator Harkin for the great work you continue to do for America's students!