Making IT Happen Award

Just like every other teacher, I keep truckin’ along. I don’t always know if I’m heading in the right direction or if the impact I’m making is big enough. Still, my heart says, “Do this.” And another day is in the books.

This winter two teachers nominated me for the ISTE Making IT Happen Award through WEMTA. I’ve heard of this award but never in a million years expected to be recognized like this. It means a lot to me that someone, “Hey you. Nice job!”

The Making IT Happen award is for someone that strives to keep pushing forward, beyond his or her own classroom walls, to impact change system-wide.

Recipients of this award are recognized at the state level and at ISTE in June. What an amazing opportunity.

For me, it’s a fantastic reminder that the work I do matters. Most days I feel like I’m not making impactful strides, and that people don’t see my role as all that valuable. Moments like this remind me that I’m on the right track.

The other reminder this moment gave me was to recognize others for their work. Teachers pour their hearts into the profession. Part of my job as a professional is to nurture other teachers and make sure they know their work is valued.

I wonder how I’m going to pass this on…


Working With the Community

This spring the pre-service teachers in my integrated methods: Language Arts and Social Studies were given an opportunity to work with children in the community. This was an unexpected opportunity, thanks to Dr. Lindsay Hollingsworth who invited my class into the collaborative effort. Family Connections is an organization in Platteville that provides opportunities for parents in Southwest Wisconsin. My students were invited to provide educational activities for a themed event the day before Valentine’s day, Chocolate Night.

Methods courses are great, but students need more hands on learning. In class students brainstormed appropriate experiences given the environment. Being that I didn’t entirely know the variables, students had to prepare more thoroughly. For example, students did not know how many students would  attending, nor did they know the ages of the children. This information caused us to consider how we might plan for groups of two or seven ages ranging from three to nine. Because I required students to create stations that tied to ELA/Social Studies in some way, students really had to focus on having projects with differentiation. This process was a challenge because they didn’t know numbers, age groups, or the environment. What a great experience in thinking on one’s feet, right?

The groups did well. More than one group had to adjust on the fly. One group was had to merge with another. A second group had to adjust expectations. I was really proud of their willingness to think everything through.

Additionally, I was impressed with the time commitment. The students gave up their Friday night from 5pm-8:30pm. What a long night! Their dedication spoke volumes to me about their willingness to improve their craft and gain experience teaching.

You can read more about this event by clicking here.

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It’s More than Just a Pot

20141216_111928At first glance you might say this is a pot not even fit for a garage sale. It is missing its handle, it’s full of scrapes and dents, and it’s not even flat on the bottom. Clearly it’s seen better days.

There’s more to this story though. This pot is not just any pot. My mother-in-law used this pot to feed her five boys and husband real mashed potatoes for dinner many nights piping hot on the table at 7pm. They rarely missed a meal together, and it was her responsibility to pull everything together. This is something I can’t do two days in a row. She’s done it for, like, six decades.

One day my husband brought this pot home and put on the counter. At first, I thought it was just a bowl for the dogs, but Brad washed it up and put it in the cabinet with the other pots and pans. I never thought much of it until Brad started using it. We have other pots in the cabinet twenty years newer, but for some reason this one makes it to the stovetop. Honestly, it’s kind of a pain to use. There’s no handle, so we have to hang on to it with a pot holder, and since the bottom isn’t flat, it takes longer to heat water. If we stir too fast, the bowl spins. Yet, we still reach past other pots for this one.


It’s because of what it means. It’s the pot used to pull a family together. It’s the pot used to make real food. And it’s the pot that’s been around for more than 50 years, I bet. Isn’t there something to respect in that? I think so.

Historical artifacts speak to me. They tell stories of history and remind me of a life long ago, one that I sometimes wish I could see for a day.

I picked this as one of my artifacts for a class I’m teaching, Social Studies Methods. It’s an artifact that tells a story. The story of a large, busy farming family that was careful with what they had. The story of home-cooked meals where the family sat down together. If I were to use this in a classroom with children, I would tell the story of this simple mashed potato pot, but then I’d use it to…

  • write poetry from the perspective of a tired farmer
  • research farming in Wisconsin, maybe even Grant county in the early 1900s
  • share family traditions and how culture has evolved
  • research immigration into Grant county in the early 1800s
  • write stories from the perspective of a child growing in up on the Brogley farm
  • interview elders for similar stories
  • create recordings of oral histories talking about growing up

Everyone has artifacts like this. Open your cabinets. Look around. Even the most insignificant items tell stories and reveal culture. Acknowledging those artifacts tags them with meaning that was always there, but once noticed, they come something more — a symbol. Suddenly a roughed up pot becomes a family heirloom.

A New Adventure

wpid-img_20140820_180232.jpgToday marked day #2 of being “on the job” at the University of Wisconsin – Platteville. Today was Orientation Day for new employees. During this time I learned about all of the services that folks can access on campus. I knew that UWP offered a lot for students, but I didn’t realize that there were so many opportunities. I left with a mind full of ideas!

I was able to share some of my ideas with all sorts of groups on campus. It felt great to articulate some of those big ideas that I had kept fairly quiet before. Having creative outlets is so important for professional growth.

On my lunch break, I was surfing twitter and I noticed a few chatting about a blogging challenge (@Jena_Sherry & @jmalphy), and I asked about it. Both directed me to @Akevy613 as the facilitator of a 30 day blogging challenge. 

Okay, seriously, I was just asking for information, but within two minutes I think I was in the group, and while I’ve got enough on my plate, this will be good for me. I will also be supporting a practice I preach to my students.

Blogging really IS good for the soul. I don’t care if anyone reads my posts; writing is just my opportunity to iron out my thoughts. I’ve also been able to incorporate original photography just for fun. Actually, blogging has helped me explain concepts to other people later. There’s something about sorting out concepts in writing first.

Tonight @Jena_Sherry suggested that I use Voxer to record quick blogging topics before I forget them. That’s a great idea! I can’t tell you how many times a great topic popped in my head only to drift from my mind two minutes later.

I’m looking forward to a writing challenge. It’ll be good for me! It’s opportunities like this that lead to professional growth and networking. All thanks to Twitter!



Tomorrow the Kittens Go


Since mid-april I’ve been a foster mother for the Purr-fection Animal Shelter and Rescue of Galena, IL. During that time I raised 9 babies and helped 2 mothers transition away from their parental roles. These kittens were born from a semi-feral cat colony that exploded in East Dubuque, IL. We only took maybe 1/4th of the colony to my house, I think.

20130823-230610.jpg My children and I helped the kittens learn the ropes of being kittens and we helped the mothers understand that not all humans are mean. It was a long road. We lost one baby along the way; we never did understand what took his life. He faded in a day and the next night I found his mother resting on him. He lived for a few days, but in the end, his little body couldn’t recover. That was a tough lesson to learn. He was buried by a willow tree in a friend’s yard.

My children learned a great deal from this experience. I hope my son, especially, learned the importance of being compassionate. Whether I like it or not, he’s shown all sorts of images in media and school that tell him men are only tough and domineering. I hope this softens the edges a bit. I hope my daughter learned the value of hardwork. She’s a bit of a princess and at times we had to get really dirty in a cat-poop type of way. It was not pretty work, but the reward was great.


Tomorrow some of the kids are heading to a new foster home. The others that are neutered are heading to a farm where they’ll be reunited with their mothers. They’ll be able to live peacefully with food, shelter, and affection.

I am thankful that I was able to do this the past five months. I’ll admit I’m tired, but I’ve also rekindled a new-found passion for animal-control and neutering awareness. I’m thinking to be the Bob Barker of Grant County if I have to. It seems that I’ll burn out cleaning up the problem. I wonder how I can help from the other end — prevention.


The work is never going to be done, but at least I know I did the right thing this time.

Giving Thanks: My husband

We’ve gone on a wild journey together, haven’t we? Back in September could you have predicted that we would be living in Mineral Point and working in two different educational systems. I never would have imagined it, but I am so glad it happened to us. What a blessing! Everything fell into place so quickly that it just was meant to be. I look back and think about what this has done for our marriage. Over obstacles always makes a marriage stronger, but we are in such a great place and we are able to be better parents to our children. It was with your hard work and support that we accomplished this with little strife. I am so proud of what we have accomplished together. We have one more piece of the puzzle to find, but that will come in time. In the meantime I will sit back, enjoy the turn of events, focus on parenting and my relationship with you. Thank you for being a great husband and father. I love you.
This is a visual of what I wrote above. I used Tagxedo to easily produce it. Try it out! 🙂 Thanks @profhutch!

Giving Thanks: Moving Isn’t Fun Especially When It’s Not Your Stuff

Tonight I’m saying thanks to Elaine, Bob, Josh, Rod, the Rottier family, the Baranczyks, and Steve, Jodi, Amy, and Tammy for helping us when we didn’t know we needed it. Brad and I decided to move just before winter set in to a new town from from our house. We had no place for most of our stuff, including our three horses. Our plan was to move bit by bit down to a small apartment as time allowed. Well, Tammy mentioned an idea to Elaine and from there the flood gates of help opened up. Steve, Tammy, and the girls offered to take our horses for the winter. Without having any other great plan in mind, I felt lucky and took their help. The following weekend, all the people I just mentioned showed up at our house to move 60% of our stuff into storage, and 40% to our apartment. It was a long long day, but it was rather uneventful thanks to all the support. The next weekend it snowed and turned cold. I realize now just how much we needed that help. So thank you to all the people I mentioned tonight. I am thankful for your generosity and willingness to help us make this move happen. Thank you.

This is my experimental, but quick video I made at

Giving Thanks to my Network Administrator

I’m writing this entry as part of the Cool Cat Teacher’s contest, but it’s been on my mind anyway. The contest kinda gave me the push to sit down and write.

I started this new position just over a month ago.  Less than two months earlier I was teaching 8th grade language arts, almost four hours from where I am now. The transfer came to fruition so quickly and it’s been a dream come true. I was hired as the Technology Coordinator for the New Glarus school district. This position requires me to assist in keeping operations running with respect to instruction and curriculum, but more significantly I work directly with the teachers and students in exploring educational technology.

With that being said, my background is not network or server management. A teacher rarely would have that background, but I really wish that I did have it now. Within the first two weeks I was fielding questions that I couldn’t answer because, well…just days earlier I was asking them myself. 🙂

As a result, the Network Administrator, Mike, found himself fielding all those questions by himself and showing me a few things that I could handle with the network. And since people were asking me questions, I started asking him questions…probably the same questions he was asked earlier by staff.

Even now just over a month into it, I’m still not doing a lot to help on the network side of operations. Some of the issue is that it’s just not my area of expertise. Some of the issue is that I live a good 35 minutes away and need to pick up the kids by 5pm. And some of it is that I’m uneasy. I love learning anything related to educational technology, but I’m the artistic visual type. When I try to understand how the network all runs I just can’t see it. I need a Common Craft video on it all, I guess.

Anyway, I really want to thank Mike for his continued patience. I have oodles of ideas swimming up in my mind, but very little that can actually help him. That bothers me every day, but I will keep learning what I can. And he continues to explain and include me in on decisions and conversations. I have really appreciated that. He’s really a  great teammate and I am really lucky to work with him. I think I probably exhaust him with what I can not do, but hopefully as time goes on I’ll figure out ways to chip in and take some burden off him. I’m really lucky that he’s so patient.

Thanks Mike for making me feel welcome and always showing a willingness to explain things to me even when you’re really busy.