Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Race for the Cure...The Story of the Runners

The Race for the Cure is a fantastic opportunity for runners and walkers to get out and share in a great cause. As a runner, I have never actually been involved with this race until this year.  My mother-in-law  is a breast cancer survivor, and I lost my aunt to breast cancer a few years ago. So, my husband, Gavin, and I, decided to run with the Des Moines University team, Team DMU.

Anyone who knows me understands I love to capture moments, and I had planned on creating a great collage of the DMU participants to share with the campus. The streets were lined with people of all ages, some dressed in crazy outfits others had pink hair. I laughed as I passed women who wore bra-caps, feather boas,little boys wearing sports bras over their hot pink tees, and even those sporting pink mustaches.  I was encapsulated by all the smiling faces, face paint, and pink as we prepared to run.

The streets were lined with supporters, survivors and those still battling the disease. There were children high-fiving, bikers in tutus and a steady stream of pink costumes all around the runners.
However, I was not prepared for what happened next, and I captured many moments, which will last a lifetime.

The sound of the cannon explodes in my chest
Slowly I begin quickening pace with the rest
 Breathing in and out to find my steady beat
As my hot pink shoes fall upon the street 
Focused on running, breathing, mile one 
The glitter from a passing runner glinting from the sun
Draws my eyes and brings me from my reverie
As I focus on the person running steadily past me

My breath is caught between the intake and express
As I read the words, "In my daughter's memory, God Bless." 
A picture of her loved one smiles, "goodbye," as she pulls ahead
This devoted mother runs this street in honor of life; a tear I dare shed

I started paying attention to the backs of individuals all around
For this is where the stories were shared and memories were found
The stories of loved ones who succumb to the disease, or had clung to life and battled back. 
I was inspired by shirts that read, "Survivor," and families running together in a pack

Pure love fueled the hearts and pumped the legs of the young and old 
As they each ran to honor and fight, and allow a powerful story to unfold
My heart captured moments of love, support, and community 
As we all became part of the Race that brings hope to humanity

I am so honored I was able to share in this great day with some of the strongest individuals I have ever met.  Thank you to all of you for allowing me to share in your stories, and for giving me permission to take your pictures. I am blessed because I was able to capture those precious moments of memory with you and to be part of the Race for the Cure Des Moines 2016 story. Continue to overcome through courage and strength.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Facebook Feed: The Power of Words

Our church, Crossroads in Norwalk, has been a wonderful new home for our family. We have come to enjoy new friends and fellowship and are feeling connected more than ever before. This past week Pastor Glen and his wife, Sally, paid for half of the subscription to an amazing collection of bible studies online for the entire church family. This subscription is through RightNow Media and it has an app and everything.

Gavin, Nehemiah and I watched a great study entitled, "Watch Your Mouth."  We had a wonderful discussion about the power of our tongues, and the ways we destroy or build up those around us. I was overcome with guilt as I thought about all the ways I have harmed or hurt others with my words in the past. I confess I have had problems with profanity, careless insults or inappropriate comments. Another area I acknowledge as a weakness for me is gossiping. Dave Ramsey defines it as talking to someone about someone else or venting a problem when that individual has no power to help you solve it. Even listening to the words of others, and not asking them to stop sharing information I cannot help them with, is allowing gossip to destroy others.  I am sure other mothers can relate to another area where I feel convicted. Shouting or speaking in a stressed tone when I feel rushed or angry. We all do it, but after watching this video tonight I know I can do a better job of keeping my "lion caged" in my mouth.

After sharing our weaknesses, Gavin, Nehemiah and I,  discussed what the Bible says about the power of words. We talked about ways to improve and will be relying on God and each other to help hold us accountable.  I started to wonder what others see and hear from me. How can my words and heart be shaped in a way that can bless instead of harm? I thought about social media, as it is a place many go to vent and rant. I decided to scroll through my own Facebook feed and copy and paste my entire last month of posts into a word cloud. This would give me a visual of what I say in the virtual world as well.  The bigger a word appears the more it was used. My big words are God, Love, First Day School (hmmm August), Lily, Aunt, Blessed, Mom, Wonderful and babies. I was pleasantly surprised and hope to use this to inspire me to share my heart through my words.

I challenge you to try this strategy to see what you say most in the world of social media. We have to be careful of what we say. After all, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me," is a total lie. Words can hurt, and they have power beyond the moment they come out of your mouth. So, think about how your words will impact the world around you before you speak them or type them. God is the Lord of my tongue, who is the ruler of yours?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

I notice...

I notice

When you look at me with love in your eyes of blue
I notice
When we cuddle close and you pull me closer to you
I notice
When your hand finds mine while we drive or walk
I notice
When you listen to me process and talk
I notice
When you rub my back just as we start to fall asleep
I notice
When the little notes of love I leave, you keep
I notice
When you go out of your way to show me an ugly car
I notice
When you bow your head, hold my hand and pray
I notice
When you show God through the way you act each day
I notice
When you go on a run with me no matter how far
I notice
When you tell others I am wonderful and a lady too
I notice
When you wrestle with our son and do the girls' hair too
I notice
When you hold me when I am feeling lonely or cold
I notice
When you tell me stories about when we grow old
I notice
When you take great care to fold the laundry or clean the dishes
I notice
When you do all you can to make me smile and grant my wishes
I notice
When you brew me a fresh pot of coffee after a long day
I notice
When you struggle and because you always find a way
I notice
When you mow the yard striped, straight and neat
I notice
When you stand over the grill even in the summer heat
I notice
When you hang up the flag each morning and lock the doors at night
I notice
When you push me to reach my dreams and never give up the good fight
I notice
When you believe in me even when I don't know where I am headed
I notice
When you shed light on things I once feared or dreaded
I notice
When you make me laugh out loud
I notice
When you are humble even when you should be proud
I notice
When you make me feel the love of Christ through your actions each day
I notice
And I praise God for blessing my life with you and forever yours I'll stay

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A True Educator = My Husband

Every time I go to the doctor who is hosting a medical student, someone says, "Gavin Gardner is your husband?! I love that guy! He is hilarious." I was beginning to wonder if he just went around with a joke book in his pocket all day or something.  However, today I learned why he is famous among the medical students in our area. I had the pleasure of attending a lecture of which my husband, Gavin Gardner, was a facilitator. It was by far the most enjoyable, engaging, and enlightening two hours of my teaching career, and this is not coming from a place of bias.  The content was medically-based and important for patient safety; however, it was not the content that made this lecture come alive. The educator, Gavin, breathed life into every aspect of it.

Each story Gavin told, the videos he embedded, and the pieces of information he relayed were delivered in a way that gave students more than just content knowledge. He taught students not material, and that made all the difference. He is not just a teacher, he is a true educator.  A true educator is someone who teaches with a passion that is felt not just heard, connects with students, shows human emotion, and believes all students can and will succeed.

Passion: Students see it, feel it and hear it in your voice and your actions. 58% of your message is delivered in body language. Gavin was moving around, jumping, reaching out to students, and acting out his stories. It was fun to watch him not just listen to his jokes.

Connection: When we connect to students we find ways to bridge the gap between learning and teaching. We show them we respect them and care what they have to say. Multiple times Gavin showed students he cared by waiting for an answer. Wait time is a great way to connect, as students need to know you will hold them accountable and are wanting to hear what they have to say. Praising their thoughts, thanking them for taking the risk to share and highlighting or repeating the words of students throughout class are all ways to show students you really heard them. I witnessed these actions repeatedly today, and students were truly engaged in his lesson because of it.

BE HUMAN: You have to let students see you as an individual with thoughts, feelings, and someone who makes mistakes too. Gavin was able to do this by telling jokes about himself, pointing out errors he has made, and sharing about his life. (I have to admit I was the butt of some of his jokes or stories but loved it). Today,  a class of 200 medical students got to see one of the reasons I fell so madly in love with him 20 years ago. He makes me laugh!!!

Believing in Students: Giving your students opportunities to fail, highlighting learning moments, and taking the time to celebrate student success is important. Gavin made it very clear he was there for students. He showed students he was approachable, and that when they failed he would be there to support them.

As an educator, you can get wrapped up in lesson planning, accommodations, emails, and the daily grind. This can cause you to forget why you became an educator in the first place. However, I have a cure for "complacent disorder" or to "restart your engine" for education. Go to a class all the students rave or talk about in the hallways, and take the time to learn a new way to reach your audience. All too often we see the world as we are not as it is. Therefore, get out of your own head, and see the world from another fantastic educator's perspective. Capture the fire that instructor can provide just by showing you what it means to "teach."

I have always believed Gavin was a far better educator than he ever gave himself credit for, as he is extremely humble. Today's learning experience proved that to me in so many ways.  I was blessed to be able to experience education through his heart, and he has given fuel to the fire to educate in my own heart. Praise God for true educators like Gavin, who can make us see what we did not even know we were missing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Ain't She an American: Sojourner's words to Hillary


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Ain't She an American: To Hillary from Sojourner Truth

Great American women in history are haunting my American soul tonight. Sojourner Truth gave an awe-inspiring speech in 1851 at the Women's Convention. It was titled, "Ain't I a Woman." Her courageous speech is one of the best in the world of liberty and freedom. However, this is how I imagine Sojourner's words might have changed if she were here to witness the atrocity and failure of American justice. 

Ain't She an American?

Well, fellow citizens, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the democrats and the republicans, all talking about rights, all Americans will be in a fix during the election pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?
That Obama Administration and FBI men over there says that this woman, Hillary Clinton, need not pay for her actions, yet she  broke the law everywhere. Nobody ever helped other traitors guilty of treason over mud-puddles, or gave them a free pass when a prison is clearly the best place! And ain't she an American? Look at her! Look at her guilty actions! She has ploughed and planted, and gathered into lies and emails, secret information, and no man could deny she knew what she was doing was wrong. And ain't she an American? Who could commit such traitorous acts and eat such deceitful words as this woman - others would get it - and she should bear the lash as well! And ain't she an American? She has borne deceit and taken fathers from their children and told critical secrets to adversaries who wish not for freedom but slavery. When Benghazi cried out with need and grief, none but Jesus heard them! And ain't she an American?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? "Intellect" That's it, honey. What's that got to do with American rights or citizen's rights? If her cup won't hold but deceit and lies and Uncle Sam's holds a quart of justice, wouldn't you be mean not to let her have her half measure full ?
Then that little FBI man in black there, he says this American has more rights than other citizens, 'cause they aren't a Clinton! Where did her rights come from? Where did your rights come from? From God and "We the People" must "secure these rights," as "Governments are instituted among Menderiving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Other than fighting for imprisonment, every American should have nothing to do with her.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, then this woman has proven history repeats itself and as an American, she has turned her back, and WE THE PEOPLE must turn this country right again! And now America, we are being asked to do it, the democratic society better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now this old American ain't got nothing more to say. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Summer Bucket List

 There are only a few days of school left!!! So, I asked my 9-year-old about her summer bucket list. The answers were not quite what I was expecting, but they warmed my heart and I had to share.

Lily's Summer Bucket List
1. Go to our new church
2. Go for family bike rides
3. Go to the library a lot
4. Read under the trees
5. Read with Mommy on a blanket
6. Play games
7. Camping
 in the backyard
8. Swimming at the lake at least two days
9. Cuddling with Mommy and Daddy
10. Exercise with my family

Her bucket list is simple, yet so incredibly powerful.  Her faith and heart are innocent and beautiful, and her list stunned me. I was thinking of all the places we could go, saving for a vacation I am not sure we will be able to afford, and finding time to fit in a new job, gymnastics, karate, and workout time. However, she listed activities that involved spending time with our family, God, and sharing the greatest gift; love. My little girl has her priorities straight, and her list helped me to see this is going to be the best summer we have ever had. We will make time to simply spend time together, living, laughing and loving.

My Summer Bucket List
1. Do everything on Lilyan's list

I challenge you to create your own #summerbucketlist, post it, share it, and live it! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cancer...the monster is real

Monsters...as a parent you understand there is a variety of them in this world. The imaginary ones that like to hide under beds or in the closet. The snaggle-toothed ones that growl every time the furnace kicks on in the dark basement. The green ones that seem to be portrayed as a friendly, blob on tv. Then there are the ones based in real life. The bully on the bus, the dog down the street, the neighbors cat, or the creepy guy that follows your daughter a little too closely in the grocery store. As a mother, protecting your children from these monsters is a 24:7 job. However, we can never fully understand the reason some monsters suddenly attack, and when one of the scariest monsters hits we are powerless to deflect its blows. This monster is named "Cancer."

Cancer...A six letter word that is more terrifying than most of the monsters we have battled for our babies. One that brings you to your knees and tests the faith of even the strongest believers. As a mom, it is one word I pray never finds its way into my children's closets or lives.  I would gladly endure the diagnosis if it meant my babies could avoid it.  In our home, we follow no sugar and no grain (#nsng), and we do not smoke. We exercise and pay attention to labels. However, these actions do not ensure this closet monster is not lurking somewhere else; embedded deep in our genetic code.  After all, it can strike without a moment's notice, and can overtake the purest of hearts.

This past month, I was overwhelmed with emotion as I learned a cancerous monster was found wreaking havoc on a baby boy named Kai. His mommy, Mariah, and I are friends from high school. We shared many wonderful moments together and even had our first born sons the same year. Mariah is one of those women who seems to radiate joy and is able to turn the dingiest things into a beautiful work of art. She is artistic, funny, and loving. She always puts other's needs ahead of her own and does it with a smile on her face. She never surrounds herself with negativity or drama and was always positive and caring. In her adult life, she serves others as a social worker and has 7 children with her husband Gary.

Their loving family learned Kai, has T-Cell All (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia)  a form of cancer that is only seen in adults. After weeks of her little baby being ill, Mariah knew this illness was a monster and insisted on more tests. His white blood count came back at a whopping 180,000.  Gary and Mariah learned this monster was destroying his organs and his body.  He was hospitalized and has been receiving chemo. However, his liver is still not doing well, so they have to stop treatments to get his liver healthy again. He is being transferred to another hospital to help with his liver, and then he will be starting chemo again.

I am calling on all parents who have ever had to chase away a monster in your child's life. Please, pray, donate and contribute to help this loving family fight for their baby boy. Help them to overcome the financial monster they are facing as they focus on getting their baby free of cancer that is hurting him daily. This family needs your prayers, support, and help. Please share this post with everyone you know. Only 7% of your friends see your posts on Facebook, and we need to get the word out. So, share it, email it and spread it.

There are multiple ways to help support this family. 
  1. PRAYER!!!
  2. Purchase t-shirts: http://crispyprint.com/kai#.Vz4oc6g8kn0.facebook
  3. GoFundMe account (It is legitimate...I checked): https://www.gofundme.com/KaiMcAlpin
  4. Give to Arves Bank to the Kai McAlpin Trust Fund.

Please stand with this family, and help keep the monsters away while they focus on not letting cancer win.  God be with Kai and his family. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Religious Bullies in School

This past week, the pastor at church spoke about the onslaught of religious bullying young people are facing in our schools.  There is a constant attack on their morals, a call to be “cool,” and a desire to destroy the connection they have or could have with the Lord. As the mother of three children and a public school educator, I know all too well what this "bullying" looks and sounds like. In fact, some days, I feel like I am headed into battle with a secret that must be shared. After all, I know I could be the only “Bible” some of my students ever see.

Knowing this fact, I strive to make connections with every student in my room. I shake their hands when they come into class. I laugh with them and share important moments in their lives.   I challenge them, care for them, and even hug them. I have been teaching for over a decade and have experience from preschool through college. Therefore, I have taught students fighting battles and religious bullies of every kind. I always say "nothing can surprise me anymore," but every time I mention that phrase I am proved wrong.

I have worked with students who have been abused, were homeless, on probation, or in drug and/or alcohol rehab. I have tutored students before school who were struggling to get homework done between work, babysitting siblings, or caring for their own child.  I have listened as a young lady shared about her life as a 13-year-old prostitute in Mexico, and tried not to break down in the teacher's lounge when I learned she and her family were being deported.  I have counseled a young girl who just learned she had a sexually transmitted disease and one who relapsed and began snorting crank again. I have taught kids who were heavily involved in gangs and had to go to gang training because of my complete naiveté in this area. (There was a small incident where I unknowingly ran into the middle of a gang brawl to stop two of "my kids" from fighting.)
I have laughed, cried, and cheered for "my kids" as they performed in sports, plays, concerts, and academic bowls. I have celebrated with their families when they beat cancer, welcomed a new sibling or became the first in their family to graduate. I have mourned the loss of students killed by a drunk driver, heroin overdose, and suicide. I am still haunted, as I lie awake at night, thinking about a young boy I should have adopted my first year of teaching. 

These all seem like painful, awful experiences, but these are actually highlights in my career. Why? Because they were all opportunities for God to show what He can do. Each one of these students was prayed over, and some even came to church with my family and I.  I knelt with some in prayer, laughed and cried with them, and provided many with food, clothing, and school supplies. I told each one they were talented and that they were loved. Now, I am not a special teacher, nor am I "trying to toot my own horn." I am just pointing out what God can do with one broken, sinful vessel. It still amazes me God is using someone as unworthy as I am to share His word.


It does not matter if students grasp the difference in transitive and intransitive verbs or understand prepositions are, “anywhere a mouse can go.” However, it does matter if I show students God’s love. I feel my job is to share the true knowledge of Christ through my actions and the way I care for my kids. I want them to learn that being a follower of Christ is not about being blameless, but about seeking forgiveness. It is not about knowing the Bible word for word, but about learning what God’s word can do in their lives and in the lives of others.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14

My desire is to prepare them for the battles they may face, armed with the words of 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. My prayer is that the young people in our world embrace these words as a call to action, grapple with them, wallow in their simplicity and use them in every choice they make in their lives. I am definitely not worthy to call myself a disciple of the Lord, but I am willing to be and this is how I can make a difference. It is not always going to be easy, but it will always be worth it.   I am an educator, not just a teacher, and I want my students to leave my room knowing all that I do is “done in love.”

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Wealth of Health

As the mother of three very active kiddos, I have found my own balance and health can become second, third, fourth or even fifth to all the schedules filling our family calendar.  There are some weeks we have one meal at home because we are at events all week. Yet, we have learned that dinner time is still important for our mental, emotional and physical health. So, even when we are on the go we make time to eat a quality, balanced meal as a family. There are days it is more challenging than others but overall it is well worth the planning and forethought. 

The trunk of the car is ready for the week with blankets, activities, and a cooler, which is refilled each day. Due to life-threatening allergens and the pursuit of a health, our family does not consume grains or added sugar (NSNG) products. This can make the picnic a bit more challenging because we have to plan further than a pack of crackers and sandwiches. Therefore, we are creative, and our bodies benefit from a little extra planning.

 We  used to think if we worked out five times a week ,in an anaerobic state (Zone 4-5), we would burn off the carefully counted calories we ate throughout the day. However, with very little evidence of the strain we were invoking on our bodies, we began to feel drained, pained and discouraged. So, after a little research, we started paying more attention to what we were eating, not the number of calories we were consuming. We bought heart rate monitors and started working out in Zone 2 (aerobic state). The decreasing numbers on the scale seemed to be tricking us until our eyes began to see the results too. However, it was the lack of fatigue, and strength we felt, which overpowered the numbers on the scale. We felt better. 

This week's grocery cart.
Now, we are a family happy to be "weird" when it comes to our lifestyle choices. We shop on the outside aisles and no longer feel the addicting pull for products that were once making us sick or feeds cancerous cells.  We still eat foods we love with modifications which make us feel better. Instead of spaghetti we make what our kids have coined, "spagragus." This is spaghetti with no added sugar and made with asparagus instead of noodles. The flavor is intensified and it is better for our bodies. 

We model the habits we want to see in our children. Therefore, as we eat our NSNG picnic meal at the three track meets, taekwondo dojo, and gymnastics studio this week, I know my kids will see that we care about their health, happiness and value our family time. We are not wealthy financially, but we are a wealth of health. After all, we want to be around for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well. We know this means choosing to care for our own bodies and minds while we raise health conscious children too. 

Monday, April 11, 2016


Spring is here, even if the weather seems to suggest otherwise.  It is a time of rebirth, regrowth, and a fresh spirit. Our students feel it, and so do we. I am sure the crazy spring fever can be seen in the classrooms across the nation. This meme popped up on Facebook, and it seems to match my mood as of late. I was working on a paper with students today and came home completely burned out and frustrated. The students were distracted, acted confused, and seemed to have little interest in putting forth any effort.  So, when I left the building I felt... well... like Carol Burnett looks.

After standing in the wind ,at a freezing track meet and eating a cold picnic dinner, I had cooled off enough to reflect.  Is the April face of this teacher a problem because of my own lack of focus on my actions and words?

I am a firm believer that we should use choice words in our classroom, never use sarcasm, nor should you yell.  Yelling becomes white noise after awhile, and sarcasm is just anger's ugly cousin. Choice words help to steer students to the expected behavior and do not highlight the negative. I have been heavily trained in Positive Behavior Supports and Interventions and know it works. If you want to change the classroom behaviors then do not demand control, gently guide by choosing your words wisely.

So, the rest of the week I am going back to the basics of SPRING.

  • Smile before I respond. (Take a moment to think a happy thought and reply with a smile) 
  • Positives first. (According to PBIS you should have a 5 to 1 ratio for positives to redirects)
  • Reply to questions with renewed vigor instead of a frustrated sigh or tone.  
  • Individual student behaviors will be handled one on one, and not across the room. 
  • Notice the behaviors I want and call them out loud and proud.
  • Give permission for brain breaks every 15 minutes for you and your students.

I hope you will join me as we welcome SPRING into our classrooms, homes, and businesses. If you give it a try I am sure you find the rewards to be plenty and the joy to be invigorating. Please share and comment to spread the warmth of SPRING.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Establishing Norms

When students enter your room they must understand the norms of the classroom. How do you create norms? You should establish some norms from the first day of class. These norms are going to help you manage your classroom from the start. So, the first few days focus on establishing those norms, getting to know the students and determining what norms are necessary to help the classroom run smoothly. If you establish these norms during the first few days you will be able to jump into instruction much easier because you will have less behavioral issues to deal with in the long run.

On the first day, I explain there is only one rule in my classroom; "Be Yourself." It is from my favorite quote: "You might as well be yourself because everybody else is taken," by Oscar Wilde. As a class we brainstorm what the one rule means to them, and why that rule is important in helping us to become better learners, citizens, and individuals. We use this one rule to establish our class norms.

The first thing we do is to discuss in groups of positive experiences we have had in classes before, and those experiences which made learning more difficult. Next, we share as a whole group some of the things we feel are necessary to a positive classroom climate, which allows everyone to be who they are and to learn. Then we create a social contract as a class detailing how we treat each other. T
There are four sections to the contract.
1: How will we treat each other?
2. How will we treat the teacher?
3. How will the teacher treat us?
4. What are the consequences if we break a social contract norm?

NOTE: They must list the items with positive language, so exclude "do not","should not," and "no," from their vocabulary options.

  • Listen quietly while the teacher is talking VS Do not talk while the teacher is talking 

The students work in small groups to discuss each section. Next, we share out whole-group and create an anchor chart that stays up in the front of our room. The students each sign the contract, and we hold each other accountable.  The teacher is not the only one who can manage behavior anymore, as it becomes a classroom norm to uphold the social contract as a team. Therefore, every student has a voice, knows the norms and expectations, and is able to support our one classroom rule: Be Yourself.

In class assignment on creating social norms using technology.

Monday, April 4, 2016


When a student enters your classroom he or she should feel welcomed. The environment itself should be a warm, safe place; however, the teacher sets the tone as the head of the welcoming committee. Therefore, station yourself at your door, and greet each student with a smile on your face.  I know you are busy and we all have things we need to complete prior to students entering our room. However, when a student walks into the room you should not be staring at a computer screen or focused on anything else in the room. Students should know they are your priority, and by greeting them you are showing them you are aware of their presence.

I learned early on that greeting kids at the door can mitigate some poor behaviors for attention. When I served students with behavioral and emotional disorders,  I dealt with a lot of behaviors. However, there were far less on days I greeted the students at the door. I had to show them that no matter what happened yesterday they had a clean slate, I was genuinely happy to see them, and I used that greeting as a way to start the day off on the right foot.  I follow the acronym T.U.M.S. I picked up from an amazing conference I attended featuring Dr. Laura Riffel, the Behavior Doctor. 

  • T- Touch- Shake their hand, high five, elbow nudge, fist bump or pinky hug each student as they come in the door. 
  • U- Use their name. Someone's name is the most beautiful sound in the world and the "most crucial" according to Dale Carnegie. 
  • M- Make eye contact. Look at the student and show them you see them for who they really are.
  • S- Smile. Smiling lets the student know you are happy to see them, excited to have them in your room and have cleared the slate from the day before. 

Friday, April 1, 2016


Becoming an educator has been a dream of mine since the first grade. (For those of you who do not know my history in the field of education, it might be helpful to read my blog, "Moment I became a Teacher," as it will explain a lot about how I became who I am.) No matter how many years I teach I have found that I am still amazed at how little I know, how much I need to learn, and how amazing it feels to see learning happening in the hearts and eyes of "my kids."

I love the fact that God has a way of spotlighting your purpose when you need it the most. It is the last quarter of the year and as an educator, you can get pretty bogged down in the routine, the spring fever, and the attitudes exuding from teenagers who are ready for summer. However,  I had one of the most enlightening conversations of my teaching career today. It inspired me and made me see there is a purpose to the crazy inside of my head and heart. Although I love my job as a reading specialist this year, I have truly missed coaching and leading educators. I had an opportunity to do so the last few weeks, and it has energized me. Therefore, I have decided to push myself to try something new.

 I edit and write for foreign and local individuals or companies, and develop curriculums and lessons for schools around the world. However, I am going to try to focus on my own writing purpose and my love for coaching and teaching. I am not 100% sure what is going to come of it, but it will be a trial in teaching and a bearing of this educator's soul. I will be creating a regular blog post about education and would love to interact and connect with my readers as well. Therefore, if you have questions about education, have a student or child who is struggling, or just want to share a tip you have about education or life please leave me a comment or two.

I had a question about my training and education and thought I would list those things to share a little about who I am and where I have come from in the field of education. This may give you some insight into why my posts are all over the place. I was told once that I am "a Jack of all trades, but a King of none, " and it was meant to hurt me. However, I am so thankful for this eclectic experience because it has made me see education in a different way each year. It is also clear to me that I do not want to be an expert on one thing. I want to continue to learn and I am humble enough to admit when I do not know something. After all, God has led me down the paths I have taken, and I know He is preparing me for something, and putting me where He needs me. I will gladly follow the King instead of trying to be one.

To learn more about my experience and education feel free to watch my online resume or read the info below. 

As an undergrad, I took the scenic route, not the interstate. It took me 5 years to graduate, as I was married to a military man, had two kids, dealt with deployment, and moved 6 times in 5 years of school. I also ran a daycare during the day then went to night classes. So, I transferred to different schools and ended up having to retake classes due to the non-transfer of some courses. During these years, I majored in education and minored for the first year in theater and the first three years in psychology. I ended up with 240 credits and needed 172 to graduate.  I have a Bachelor of Science in Elementary and Middle Grades Education with an emphasis in Language Arts and Social Sciences.

Master of Arts in Teaching in Instructional Strategies with an endorsement in Reading. This was a degree I obtained to help decrease the chances I would get pink slipped AGAIN. I was pink slipped my first 4 years of teaching as the low man on the totem pole. Therefore, I decided to complete the one course I needed for my reading endorsement K-12 and to complete courses to ensure I would always have a job with special education services. I took this three-year program in 1.5 years because I was terrified my husband was going to get transferred in the middle of it, and I would be unable to transfer courses. I was so glad I put myself through that stress because the last semester he was transferred. The kids and I stayed until the end of the school  year and I was able to complete my thesis and graduate prior to moving.

Master of Education in Leadership was the degree I just finished up. It was a three-year degree I completed in a year as well. (Undergrad scarred me for life). I never saw myself as a "leader" and was not even sure I wanted to take this on, but after some coaching conversations with my spouse, superintendent, colleagues and a whole lot of prayer I decided to give it a try. I am so thankful I did. I see education from an entirely different perspective now, and I know I am a better educator and employee because of it. So, technically I could become a principal, but my passion really lies in special education and curriculum. Therefore, I do not see myself becoming a principal anytime soon, but a magnet on my fridge has proved true time and time again, "We plan and God Laughs."

I am a graduate of the Ottumwa Leadership Academy, Highly Qualified in Elementary Content Knowledge, MS Language Arts, HS English,  and earned a certificate in Science in Project Wild through Aksarben in Nebraska.

I have had experience teaching in a variety of grades (preschool through college), subjects, and levels. I have been a general education teacher, special education teacher, college professor, English specialist, instructional coach, lead mentor and special education director/leader.  I have developed curriculum for 4 countries, created non-traditional classrooms online, Moodle programmer, and have written grants with awards over 1 million dollars in revenue. I have been lucky enough to see education in various states around the country (Missouri, Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska, Alaska, and Florida). I  have taken classes or been trained in Reading Apprenticeship, Alaskan studies, Cross-Cultural Studies, Second Chance Reading, Dyslexia, Instructional Coaching, Mentorship behavior management, PLC, Emotional Intelligence, Fierce Conversations, and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS).

Throughout my education and experience I have learned that a life-long learner is not just a buzz phrase, but a daily goal.  I make mistakes(daily), am not an expert,  still have a lot to learn, and believe the smartest person in the room is the room. As an educator,  I want to show my students and audience that learning is important and can happen anywhere. It should be something you strive for, not perfection. Failure can teach you how to be flexible and give you more knowledge than getting the answer right the first time. Therefore, I will ask all of you to forgive me for the many mistakes I am sure to make on this 100-day journey. I will screw up, I will create horrible posts, boring ones and even those you feel wasted your time. However, I pray that the intention to share God's purpose is clear in every post along this journey and that you will read, share and grow alongside me.