GPAEA Science Specialist Tami Plein Receives ESTA Award

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At the 126th Iowa Academy of Science’s Annual Meeting on Saturday, April 12, in Fort Dodge, Great Prairie AEA Science Specialist, Tami Plein, was recognized and presented with the first Excellence in Science Teaching (ESTA) Award for Science Supervisory.

This is the first year for a Science Supervisory category. Nominating letters for Tami focused on her ability to work tirelessly as an innovative science teacher and as a leader, role model, and collaborative colleague and mentor for teachers throughout Great Prairie AEA.  Under her leadership a small group of teachers has grown into a network of 40 high school and 30 middle school teachers striving toward the improvement of curriculum and teaching for their students. She serves on the state science leadership team, and on the STEM Advisory Council’s Professional Development subcommittee. Tami believes effective teachers must build relationships, have good communication skills, a love of learning, exhibit the ability to assume multiple roles, and have a deep understanding of science, teaching, and learning.

Tami Plein is currently Science Specialist at Great Prairie Area Education Agency in Burlington, Iowa. She also serves as T3 National Instructor, Educational Technology Division, Texas Instruments Incorporated. From the fall of 2000 to spring 2008 she taught AP Chemistry, Honors Chemistry, Physical Science, Science Research, General Chemistry, Biology, and was Water Quality Project Coordinator at Burlington Community High School. Her teaching career began in 1982, teaching Biology, Math, and Spanish at Fairfield Community High School. She has been involved in science education since then in Mt. Pleasant, Southeastern Community College, Great Prairie Area Education Agency and Burlington. Her educational background includes a BA in Biology from Central College, and a MS in Science Education from the University of Iowa.

Congratulations Tami!

April is Occupational Therapy Month

OT webApril has been designated as Occupational Therapy Month nationally and is celebrated throughout the country.  Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants are part of an important profession that helps people across their lifespan to participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities.  Their customized approach to evaluations, interventions, and outcomes help a child with disabilities participate in school and in social situations, and offer the specialized support and services to people of all ages and in all circumstances that only occupational therapy can provide.

We want to take this opportunity to recognize and thank our own Great Prairie AEA Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants for the services they provide throughout our service area.

Occupational Therapists

  • Lynn, Coppage
  • Carol Havelka
  • Marty Hudson
  • Kathy Jaske-Gardner
  • Shanah Sullivan
  • Joe Whalen

Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants

  • Vonn Gould
  • Ashley Hobbs
  • Joe Hudson
  • Michelle Mihalovich
  • Deb Mueller
  • Chris Williams

Learn more about OT services from Great Prairie AEA at

GPAEA Schools in the News – April 2014

A list of the April 2014 headlines featuring a Great Prairie AEA School District:

Did we miss something? Send your school news to

Note: The articles compiled in this list come from independent media sources who are solely responsible for their content. GPAEA staff did not participate in writing any of these articles and GPAEA does not necessarily endorse the content of the articles.  Some articles may be available only by subscription.

New Director of Instructional Services Hired

Dr. Lonna Anderson

Dr. Lonna Anderson

We are pleased to announce and introduce to you the Agency’s new Director of Instructional Services, Dr. Lonna Anderson.  Dr. Anderson comes to us from her most recent position as Assistant Superintendent in the Dunlap School District #323 in Peoria, Illinois.  She is no stranger to Iowa and our area, however, as prior to moving to Illinois in 2009, she served as Curriculum Director for the Oskaloosa Community School District from 2001 – 2008.  Dr. Anderson is from Iowa and attended Ottumwa High School as she was growing up.

Director Anderson’s educational background includes a BA in Secondary Education:  Social Studies major, English and Global Studies minors from the University of Iowa; an Educational Administration Masters and Texas Mid-Management Degree from the University of Texas; an Educational Specialist and Superintendent’s Certification and a Doctorate of Education from Western Illinois University of Macomb, Illinois.

Dr. Anderson has extensive experience in leading large-scale initiatives.  Recent examples include the district-wide implementation of:  the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards, Standards-based Grading, Continuous Improvement systems and tools, Response to Intervention, and Professional Learning Communities.  Dr. Anderson shares that she believes in and practices transparency, teamwork, collaboration, and shared leadership.  She is committed to ensuring a student-focused environment and data driven decision making.  She has high expectations for all students and works collaboratively to develop appropriate educational services to meet the diverse needs of all students.

Dr. Anderson will make her home in Burlington and begin her duties as our new Director in July, 2014.

GPAEA Receives Communication Awards

Great Prairie AEA received two communication awards from the Iowa School Public Relations Association last week at their spring conference in West Des Moines:

Entries had to be created for the current school year and judging is based on design/appearance, clarity/focus, quality in writing, overall effect and evaluation. A Blue & Gold Award is given for best in category. The entries were judged by the Oklahoma School Public Relations Association.

Special congratulations to Jennifer Woodley, Communication Specialist, for her work on behalf of the Agency!

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The Cornerstone – April 2014

Enjoy this month’s The Cornerstone by scrolling down or clicking on an article below.

Summer Institute 2014 – MTSS: Literacy & Student Engagement

Summer Institute 2014 Postcard_Page_1Join us for Great Prairie AEA’s 2nd Annual Summer Institute! Two outstanding keynote speakers will help educators review and plan for working in systems that involve multi-tier systems of support (MTSS) for students in the areas of early literacy and student engagement.

June 16 & June 17, 2014 • 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM

Register now at
No cost. Recertification Credit available. Lunch included.


Mission Possible: Teaching Literacy to All Students
Shannon Harken, Professional Learning & Leadership Consultant, Heartland AEA

Literacy includes a skill set upon which all formal education depends. Students need to be taught in an organized, systematic, efficient way by knowledgeable teachers using a well-designed instructional approach.

Secondary Systems for All
Beth Steenwyk, System Design Facilitator & Implementation Consultant

High School graduation is a significant marker of achievement in a young person’s life and a critical factor for success in postsecondary life. The journey toward graduation begins long before a student even enters secondary school. This strand will explore the following topics; challenges and solutions to creating secondary school cultures that meaningfully engage and support ALL learners.

An opportunity you don’t want to miss! 

Download the PDF flier.

STEM Festival for Students & Teachers – April 26 in Burlington

Burlington.Festival.Save.The.Date.register.lg.posterAre you into exploring, building, and testing?  Are you ready to have fun and learn?

Come to the 2014 Southeast Iowa STEM Festival on Saturday, April 26th from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at Southeastern Community College in West Burlington, Iowa.

Join local experienced scientists, engineers, teachers and education experts as they allow you to explore, examine, design, build, watch and test all kinds of experiments!

Pre-register today and get entered to win an iPad mini and other prizes. To pre-register visit  Pre-registration is not required, but is encouraged. The STEM Festival is also looking for older youth and adult volunteers for the event; if you are interested in volunteering you can do so at the above website.

The STEM Festival is organized by the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, in partnership with Southeastern Community College, Great Prairie AEA and many local economic development and community groups, including ISU Extension & Outreach.

Click here to download a pdf poster of the event.

Flipped Classroom Workshop in April

Flipped Classroom GPAEA flyer one pageFlipped Classroom Workshop Dates:

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 (Burlington)
  • Wednesday, April 23, 2014 (Ottumwa)

This Flipped Media workshop introduces the tools and methodologies used by effective teachers to flip their classrooms.  The use of technology tools to create high quality educational videos will also support learning in 1 to 1 environments, technology enhanced classrooms, blended learning, and professional development.  The session will be facilitated by trainers from JDL Horizons and EduVison.

Concepts featured can be used with a variety of technology tools you may already have.  A 30-day demo version of Camtasia and Snagit software will be provided for all participants. A special purchase for Snagit/Camtasia License Bundle with three years maintenance is being offered for $19.97 for each teacher and $19.97 per three students.  This bundle can be purchased with Microsoft funding if added to your school options prior to the end of March.

GPAEA is also hosting a Relay Server that will allow very easy one-click upload of video taken from hand-held devices such as iPads, iPhones, and androids devices to the district’s EduVision Channel. The free Relay app will be made available for download at the class.

There is no registration fee to attend the workshop, but participants must pre-register using My Learning Plan.  Search for “Flipped Classroom” and select the Burlington or Ottumwa site.

For more information about the sessions, please contact:

Lisa Jacobs, GPAEA Instructional Technology Specialist 1-800-622-0027 or 641-682-8591 ext. 5257 or email

Click here to download the PDF.

Key Survey Ending

Great Prairie AEA’s subscription to Key Survey will be ending on June 30, 2014. Data shows a decline in usage over the last two years. Presently, there are a number of free and available online survey tools such as, Google Forms, Survey Monkey, and others that schools are using.

Any school that has used Key Survey in the past needs to login and copy and/or export any data or surveys that might remain in the system. For login assistance or questions contact Cathy Humble at or 800-622-0027 x5250.

World Autism Awareness Day – April 2, 2014

Logo_WAADThe seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day is April 2, 2014. Every year, autism organizations around the world celebrate the day with unique fundraising and awareness-raising events. How will you celebrate? To share your events, photos and Autism Kindness Acts (#AKA) with us by tagging your social media posts with #GPAEA.

Today, 1 in 68 American children is diagnosed with autism. Great Prairie AEA provides consultative support for children birth through 21 years of age who are identified with and Autism Spectrum Disorder or who demonstrate autism-like characteristics. Learn more about our services at

Help light the world blue this April!

Learn more about World Autism Awareness Day at

Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds to hold Southeast Region STEM town hall meeting on March 6

Iowa STEM logoLt. Governor Kim Reynolds to hold Southeast Region STEM town hall meeting

Thursday, March 6, 2014 
2:00 P.M. – 3:00 P.M. 
Mount Pleasant Middle School 
400 North Adams Street 
Mount Pleasant, Iowa 

** The event is free and open to the public.
Please feel free to invite friends and neighbors.** 

For More Information Contact:
Nick Crawford

Download the flier: Mount Pleasant STEM Town Hall

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The Cornerstone – March 2014

Click on an article below or scroll down to read this month’s The Cornerstone.

Strategic Plan Update

Dr. Jon Sheldahl, Chief Administrator

Like local school districts, each AEA in Iowa undergoes an accreditation process every five years and Great Prairie AEA will be completing that process in the coming weeks.  The process actually takes two years to complete, with the first year consisting of the preparing for and conducting of the formal site visit.  Many of our local districts were instrumental in helping us with the site visit phase last year, providing teachers, administrators, and parents for our focus group interviews.  This year, we have been using the results of that accreditation report, as well as multiple other data sources, to produce our Comprehensive Improvement Plan or CIP.  This is an exciting and critical time for the agency because the CIP charts our course for the coming years.  It is our strategic plan, the plan that will guide us as we endeavor to support and lead Iowa’s education community.

The Process – This year, we have been working as an agency on the planning phase or CIP phase of the process. The first step in the CIP phase of accreditation is to inventory all current AEA services.  After this comprehensive inventory of services, we look at a number of data sources from within and outside the agency:  We review the contents of both AEA and local district accreditation reports.  We analyze the student achievement data and CSIP goals of all of our districts.  We also analyze the qualitative and quantitative data from the AEA satisfaction surveys taken annually by educators in the region.  Finally, we look at the current educational context in the state by reviewing the priorities stated in the AEA Compact and by reviewing recent state and federal legislation that either is impacting or will be impacting our local school districts.  From this needs assessment and analysis phase, two guiding documents are developed.  The first is the actual 5-year action plan that establishes our actions and priorities going forward.  The second and equally important document is the professional development plan that will map out the  internal (AEA) and external (LEA) learning that will need to take place in order for us to execute our plan and to successfully support our districts.

Continue reading on Dr. Sheldahl’s Blog