Saturday, December 29, 2007

Superman Returns to Hometown of Norwalk, Iowa!

Brandon Routh, aka Superman, returned to his hometown of Norwalk, Iowa to campaign on behalf of a candidate running for President of the United States (hoping to keep my personal endorsement off of the blog, I won't reveal the candidate's name).

Brandon, a handsome and slender young man, returned to Iowa to make numerous campaign stops in the closing days prior to the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd, 2008. This campaign stop was at Cal's II, a restaurant/bar, in Brandon's hometown of Norwalk.

All campaigns are making every effort to increase the numbers of their supporters to turnout on caucus night.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Visit to Belmond-Klemme Continues With Stop at the High School

UniServ Director Cindy Carroll and I headed back to the Belmond-Klemme High School where I had the chance to address a class of Juniors and Seniors in Mike Thompson's Government class. I shared with them some of what it takes to get elected to the state legislature as well as duties as a state Representative. Many of these students will be 18 years of age by November 2008, so I challenged them to pay attention to the candidates running for president and go to their precinct caucus on January 3rd.

I was next interviewed by Lee VanderLinden of the Belmond Independent, the local newspaper. Here I am (at the right) visiting with Don Dye and Lee VanderLinden.

I next had the opportunity to visit with the students of Don Dye's Compostion/Speech class. My, they were very bright students! I get so hopeful about Iowa's and our nation's future when I have the chance to engage in conversation with young folks! We are certainly in good hands!

Following a school lunch and conversation with staff in the staff lounge, UniServ Director Cindy Carroll and I were off to Ramsay Elementary.

At Ramsey Elementary I read to two separate groups of students. First I had the chance to read to the combined group of Kindergartners from Marne Markwardt’s and Debbie Jenison’s rooms (Marne was out ill and a substitute Renae was in the room). I read my book, 17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore.

The second group that I read aloud to at Ramsey was Lavon Tanner’s 1st Grade class. Here again I read aloud the book 17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore.

Now back to Belmond-Klemme High School for one more Government class.

Back at the high school, I had the chance to visit with Juniors and Seniors about how state government impacts them not only as young people in the community, but as students too. I shared with them some of the responsibilities I have as a leader and challenged them to take on leadership roles in the organizations and clubs that they belong to.

Here is Government teacher Callie Stein (on the right). Callie is a second year teacher. How lucky we are to attract young people into the profession. Now, to keep great young, teachers like Callie!

One last trip back to Ramsay Elementary to read to a group of 1st graders. Here (at the right) is Sherry Wagner and her homeroom of 1st grade students. I read aloud The Wild Christmas Reindeer.

Now back to the high school where a reception is planned!

Returning to the high school, we gathered with three dozen staff member or more for conversation and home-made goodies! Pictured (from left to right) are English teachers here at the High School Diane Barkema and Wendy Niccum. They, along with Don Dye, are a great team in all that they take on!

One of our great ESP member/leaders here in Belmond-Klemme is Donna Luick. Donna (pictured on the right) is a Night Custodian here at Belmond-Klemme High School. Donna, just does it all! We are grateful for your work as a leader on Team ISEA, Donna and especially grateful for all you do for students and staff here in Belmond-Klemme! And you know something else? Donna is a terrific cook--she even prepared a goody bag for me to take on my road trip back to Des Moines!

Thank you all, Belmond-Klemme EA and ESP members, for your leadership on Team ISEA!

The Association Road Leads to Belmond-Klemme

On Thursday, December 13th a long awaited trip had arrived! I was going to visit Belmond-Klemme where two long-time friends and association activists teach!

Today I connected with UniServ Director Cindy Carroll at the early hour of 6:45 a.m. to travel to Belmond-Klemme. Now that is undoubtedly the hour so many of our educator/members are already on the job!

The first friend to reconnect with was Don Dye. Don teaches high school Speech and Compostion. He gave me this lovely corsage to wear throughout the day! Some of the elementary children even noticed that the ribbons included were their school colors! Just a pretty special fellow, wouldn't you say?! Don did all the planning for my day, a full day filled with meeting members and seeing the great work they do on behalf of Iowa's students!

The other special long-time friend here in Belmond-Klemme is Al Mattison. Al teaches Middle and High School Band. Al also serves on the ISEA Executive Board as the Unit Two representative.

After a start with coffee at the High School in the staff lounge, UniServ Director Cindy and I were off to Parker Elementary!

Welcoming us to Parker as we entered the building was this really cool bulletin board! All the children and staff had each signed their names too! Here I'm pictured with UniServ Director Cindy Carroll. Thanks, Team Parker!

Here I'm pictured with Marcia Burt and her 2nd grade class. We were introduced to “Lucky” the Green Bear, who travels to student’s homes and is read to each day. The student then writes a summary of the book they read in 10 words. I read The Christmas Bear, by Henrietta Strickland (beautiful illustrations) and then was asked to summarize with the students, in 10 words; followed by a three-question interview by students. That Marcia has high expectations for students and visitors alike! I think I measured up too! Yes, I even wore her "Santa hat"!

Next I read to three groups of 3rd grade. I read aloud the book, The Polar Express to the combined group of students. Their teachers are Glenda Cooper, Penny Pederson, and Jolene Smith.

We were off to Debbie Mikesell’s 2nd Grade room next where I read the book 17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore.

My least favorite part of the day was hiking up to the third floor of Parker Elementary. Yes, I know it is good for me, but it still doesn't mean it was fun. Here I had the chance to visit with Ruth Johnson and Connie Suntken's 6th graders. I spoke to them about ISEA and my leadership role in the Association. I also spoke to them about leadership opportunities they have already just being a member of clubs and organizations. They definitely made the hike up all those stairs worthwhile!

The last classroom visit at Parker was in the classroom of Juanita Stromer’s 2nd grade. Here I read aloud the book that Mrs. Stromer had selected for me, Henry Bear’s Christmas.

Next, we are off to the Belmond-Klemme High School!

An All Association Membership Meeting in St.Ansgar

After an early morning start to our day in SCMT, followed by a visit to the Thornton building, then on to Rockwell-Swaledale, I said good-bye to UniServ Director Sandra G. and hello to UniServ Director Cindy Carroll. Cindy drove us to St. Ansgar where the association was holding their monthly all-member meeting at the end of their school day.

It was great to reconnect with so many of these great teacher-members! I first visited St. Ansgar during the 2004-2005 school year.

Tonight what was heavy on the minds of members was that of proposed faculty cuts.

With nearly three dozen members gathered, the conversations from the different levels of instruction (elementary, middle and high school) was not all the same. It was an awesome experience to see these professionals work through what was heard, what was said, and how they as an association could move forward with a unified voice!

How proud we are of each and every member in St. Ansgar for working together to find a solution that you as a group can move forward with as you face this next challenge!

An Afternoon in Rockwell-Swaledale

One of the things I often say when visiting Team ISEA members in their school settings, is my travels are like being on a great treasure hunt. I often find the "gems" of friends that I've met throughout my years as an association activist along the way. Well, Team ISEA....Wednesday afternoon was just one of those moments!

Here on Wednesday, December 12th as I walk into the Rockwell-Swaledale building (in Rockwell) is a friend I met many years ago, Cathy Petersen! Cathy is pictured here with student Anthony N. Gee it was fun to see Cathy in her "element", doing the magic she does every day with students! Cathy Petersen teaches Language Arts and Spanish.

Cathy had arranged for six student leaders to give UniServ Director Sandra G. and I a tour of their school. Now remember, I've had a full morning in SCMT (in Sheffield), then we visited the Thornton building too! What a crew of enthusiastic leaders!

Pictured with me (back row, left to right) are Dylen, Macy, Me, Casey, and Andi. In the front (left to right) are Stephen and Zach.

Of course I tried to keep up with them, but it didn't take long that I had to slow down the tour as I was slowing down! We stopped along the way and met many of the staff and always stopped in rooms of their favorite teachers.

One special stop was in the shop class of Mr. Echelberger. Here several of the students are putting together a model of the framework for a house. Most facinating! It was a beautiful facility with many areas for students to have these experiences!

At one point as the classes were breaking for the next class, the Rockwell-Swaledale EA held their monthly fundraiser for their scholarship fund by having a sale of brownie sundaes! I served the brownies in the bowl, Sandra G. and Cathy put on scoops of ice cream and another association leader had bottles of chocolate syrup for them to top off their sundaes with. I wish I had gotten a picture of that! The association netted $65 towards their scholarship fund!

The last classroom visit for the day was in 1st grade teacher Dianna Ditsworth's room. I read a story outloud that she had for me, then she had a follow-up activity the children constructed.

It was a great afternoon in Rockwell-Swaledale! Terrific students, outstanding staff, and great things happening for the students of Iowa!

Unit Two Tour Leads to Sheffield-Chapin-Meservey-Thornton on Wednesday

After having been snowed in at the motel in Hampton on Tuesday (school in Iowa Falls was canceled) my day Wednesday, December 12th began with a continental breakfast with members in Sheffield. The Sheffield building is the home to Kindergarten through 4th grade as well as 9th through 12th grade. On Wednesday staff and students wear their SCMT sweatshirts that were designed by one of the great para professionals on staff to bring support to their efforts throughout the entire school with "Character Counts".

We were greeted by SCMT-EA President Anne Meester (pictured on the left) a High School Science teacher and Laura Schafer (on the right) SCMT-EA Vice President and 9th and 10th grade English.

Nearly two dozen members joined us in the Media Center before their day with students began. Part of the discussion centered around the possible adding on of Rockwell-Swaledale in which they already have a "campus sharing agreement". The unknown can sometimes be troubling!

I had the opportunity to read to several classes this morning. The first classroom visit took me into the Kindergarten class of Julie Streblow and Rose Markwardt (pictured at right).

Next I had the chance to read to 2nd graders from Wendy Fullerton and Kris Clapham's classes (on the left).

I next read to 1st graders from Sonna McMahon and Cheryl Schnoes homerooms. Here the students and teachers are pictured on the right.

The next class that I did a read aloud in was for the 3rd graders in Mary Schulz and Amy Halloran's classes. The teachers and students are pictured on the left.

The last read aloud here in SCMT was to the 4th graders of Peg Amble and Krista Dickman's classes. Here the students (on the right) are pictured with their teachers.

The final hour here in SCMT (Sheffield building) we had the chance to visit three different High School classrooms.

The first high school room to visit was that of Dawn Guritz, Creative Writing teacher. Dawn is pictured here (on the left) with her students. We discussed my role as a leader and the responsibilities I have; as well as what their role and responsibilities as students and student leaders are.

Art teacher Lucy McLennan (pictured at right) shared with us some of the many projects the various grade levels are working on from her class. Lucy also shared that 18% of the SCMT students going on to either Community College or to a 4 year institution go into the field of Visual Arts. You've built a great foundation here, Lucy!

The last high school class that UniServ Director Sandra G. and I visited before heading out was in SCMT-EA President Anne Meester's Physics class (pictured below). The students were all juniors and seniors and they were very much engaged in their Lab activities. Most impressive! Very bright students and they really knew their subject matter!

Thank you Anne Meester and the SCMT-EA for your hospitality! How lucky we are to have you all as leaders on Team ISEA!

After a very full morning at the Sheffield building, UniServ Director Sandra G. and I were off to Thornton to the 5-8 building. Here the school stands (on the left). If SCMT joins with Rockwell-Swaledale, there is a possibility that this facility will be closed. Lots of decisions yet to be made!

Here I spoke to the combined groups of three 8th grade classrooms--the entire 8th grade! I spoke about making sure we ask people who run for office why they are running for office. We visited about roles they have as students within their school day as well as in their community and how each of them holds responsibilities as members. I challenged the 8th graders if they are not satisfied with the way things are going, first to offer other solutions/alternatives, then to get involved themselves and make a difference!

The 8th graders (pictured above) are from the homeroom classes of Kim Johnson, Carrie Anderson, and Stacey Ubben.

UniServ Director Sandra G. and I joined the staff for school lunch in the staff work room before heading down the road.

Friday, December 14, 2007

NEA's Read Across America e-Newsletter

Celebrate a Year of Reading!

Looking to celebrate reading all year long? NEA's Read Across America's 2008 Resource Calendar and toolkit–with art by well known children's illustrators–shines its light on fun books and book events. You'll also find posters, tips on Read Across America Day events, and links to keep reading on the radar throughout the year. Limited print quantities are available, so order yours today. Request copies by filing out this form.

Tools for Adults To Keep Young Teens Safer Online

NEA's Health Information Network is pleased to announce bNetS@vvy, a bimonthly enewsletter to help "tweens" (ages 9 to 14) stay safer online. It's part of the 4NetSafety project developed in collaboration with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Sprint. Written by kids, parents, educators, and technology experts, bNetS@vvy is designed to give adults real world stories, resources, and skills to help keep young people safer on MySpace, Facebook, and other social networking sites and while using IM, texting, and other wireless technologies. In December and January, bNetS@vvy will focus on the hot topic of cyberbullying and the national launch of the site: and the bNetS@vvy enewsletter. Click on to subscribe to bNetS@vvy.

National Endowment for the Arts Announces New Reading Study

The National Endowment for the Arts recently announced the release of To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence, a new and comprehensive analysis of reading patterns in the United States. To Read or Not To Read gathers statistics from more than 40 studies on the reading habits and skills of children, teenagers, and adults. The report reveals recent declines in voluntary reading and test scores alike and links these declines in reading with poorer academic and social outcomes.. For more on To Read or Not To Read, go to

Check out RIF's Monthly Family Activity Calendar

Use Reading Is Fundamental's monthly activity calendar with children of all ages. The calendar provides new reading and writing activity suggestions for every day of each month. Go to

Class Acts: Ideas for Teaching Reading and Writing

Looking for research-based, classroom-tested teaching ideas? Find what you need for your K–12 students on the International Reading Association's Web site at IRA podcasts are available for free download in MP3 format. Topics include phonics through shared reading; phrasing for fluency; teaching key vocabulary words; understanding big ideas; supporting struggling adolescent readers. The IRA Web site also offers insights from experts in literacy teaching and learning.

Quality Resources from

Visit, a collaboration of the International Reading Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and Verizon, for access to high quality practices and resources in reading and language arts instruction.

YALSA Announces Teens' Top Ten Books

More than 6,000 teen readers across the country voted during Teen Read Week, October 14–20. The poll was sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a Read Across America partner. To find out what books the teens chose and learn more about the Teens Top Ten program, go to

Provide a Safety Net for At-Risk Readers: Screen. Teach. Intervene. Monitor. Adjust.

These are the basic components of response to intervention (RTI)–a proactive process designed to catch struggling readers before they fall. Research-based instruction, top-notch teachers, and solid home-school collaboration are at the heart of a successful RTI program. Learn more on the Reading Rockets Web site at

Cops-n-Kids Program Dreams Big

The first dream, to put books into the hands of the children of Racine, Wisc, has come true–over 250,000 books have been distributed. But Julia Witherspoon, Cops-n-Kids founder, has been working on a bigger dream–she has traveled to communities across the U.S. to help them start Cops-n-Kids reading centers to foster hope, safety, and pride for those who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods. When a safe haven filled with books is around the corner or across the street, the possibilities for the future for these children are endless. To find out more about Cops-n-Kids, go to

The Positive Side of Learning Disabilities

People with learning disabilities have much to offer to their families, their communities, their workplaces, and themselves. We need to overcome the tendency to focus so much on their challenges so that we can see their triumphs. We know that these disabilities can be difficult. We know it takes extra time, lots of effort, and intense persistence to achieve. We know that classroom teachers use every ounce of their professional skills to enable their students to succeed. We know that parents face a daunting challenge as they raise children who march to the beat of a different drummer. In the spirit of the season of Thanksgiving, LD OnLine shares inspirational quotes from people with learning disabilities and their allies. To read more, go to

Helpful Hints from Get Caught Reading Campaign

There are so many ways that book lovers can participate in the Get Caught Reading campaign. Teachers and librarians around the U.S. share pictures and stories of their Get Caught Reading experiences. To learn what other educators have done and to share your helpful hints, go to

Poetry 180 from the Library of Congress

By just spending a few minutes reading a poem each day, new worlds can be revealed. Poetry 180 is designed to make it easy for high school students and other learners to hear or read a poem on each of the 180 days of the school year. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins has selected poems to encourage students and other learners to become members of the circle of readers for whom poetry is a vital source of pleasure. Visit today.

Teachers' Guides from Children's Book Press

The folks at Children's Book Press proudly present Reading Communities: CBP Teacher's Guides. CBP staff firmly believe in the importance of classroom instruction based on high-quality, multicultural literature. The guides present lessons developed by teachers who participate in CBP community programs, along with CBP staff's own ideas for activities that foster literacy across the curriculum in second- to fifth-grade classrooms. Check out the Reading Communities: CBP Teacher's Guides for upcoming Children's Book Press titles, as well as for selected books from their backlist. Visit often to find new guides.

Using the Arts for Learning

Young Audiences, Inc. helps make the arts an essential part of young people's education. YAI advances the artistic and educational development of public school students by bringing them together with professional artists of all disciplines to learn, create, and participate in the arts. YAI's Arts for Learning Lessons project is designed to significantly increase elementary school students' reading comprehension and writing skills by developing arts-based instructional strategies that will help students, teachers, and schools meet local and state standards. Visit for more information.

2008 NEA Regional Leadership Conferences: Get Ready for NEA's Read Across America 11th Anniversary Celebration

Can you believe it? NEA's Read Across America will be celebrating it's 11th anniversary on March 3, 2008! This year, we will offer a Membership Organizing with Read Across America workshop for regional leadership conference participants, so please check your packets to see if it will be offered at your RLC and sign up to attend. And, don't forget to stop by the Read Across America table to pick up the 2008 Read Across America resource kit/calendar, which features a variety of books and is filled with tips on reaching older students as well as key dates to help keep reading in the spotlight all year long. Even though the Read Across America table won't be offering merchandise for sale on-site, we will continue to have wonderful classroom giveaways and contests throughout the conference. The NEA Professional Library will be your source of Read Across America merchandise to make your Read Across America celebrations Seuss-sensational. Find out more by going to Here's the list of Regional Leadership Conferences.

Western Regional Leadership ConferenceJanuary 18-20, 2008Austin, Texas
Midwest Regional Leadership ConferenceJanuary 18-20, 2008Minneapolis, Minnesota
Northeast Regional Leadership ConferenceJanuary 18-20, 2008Brooklyn, New York
Mid-Atlantic Regional Leadership ConferenceJanuary 25-27, 2008Louisville, Kentucky
Southeast Regional Leadership ConferenceFebruary 1-3, 2008Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Pacific Regional Leadership ConferenceFebruary 15-17, 2008Boise, Idaho

And remember, regularly check out what is new on