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.

History Day 2014: “Rights and Responsibilities in History”

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by Shannon Johnson, GPAEA Instructional Secretary

On March 14, 2014, 240 students, grades 6-8 (Junior Division) and grades 9-12 (Senior Division) from 13 districts and 1 non-public participated in Great Prairie AEA’s National History Day contest held at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center, Fairfield, IA.

These students shared their research regarding this year’s theme, “Rights and Responsibilities in History.” We have talented and gifted and social studies teachers in our local schools who believe their students strongly benefit from participating in National History Day. With a new theme each year, students research history and learn about a person, place, or event. Rules and guidelines are set for consistency for student entries. Selecting a topic is usually the hardest part. Understanding the theme is important and National History Day has a structured curriculum for teachers to assist students to learn about history, while collecting research, sharing their views, learning to write a bibliography and a process paper. This curriculum guides students to share and illustrate their thoughts as an individual or in a group. Once students find their topic to support the theme, they decide how they will best share their research, either in a exhibit, documentary, performance, historical paper or a website. Many different skills are expressed and learned to illustrate the person, place or event in history based on the category students chose to enter.

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Young Writers’ Conference 2014 a success!

Shannon Johnson, Great Prairie AEA Instructional Secretary


Jude Mandell and student, Paige Munson

The 2014 Young Writers’ Conference was held March 4th (for Secondary day grades 6-12) and March 5th (for Elementary day grades 3-6) on the William Penn Campus in Oskaloosa to honor student writers. With the cold and snowy days leading up to the event, even the snow on Elementary day could not keep the teachers and students away. There were 252 secondary students and 27 teachers from 14 districts in attendance, as well as 510 elementary students with 79 teachers and parent volunteers from 24 districts and 2 non-public schools. It provided an opportunity for young authors to share their writing with peers, and introduced them to professional authors, teachers, storytellers, and other communicators. Students also attended workshops and writing activities.

Jude Mandell, educator, TV-performer, improv-actor/singer from Chicago, presented on Secondary day. Jude read sections from her books and shared her writing experiences as a teacher and as an author. She shared her journey of writing her biography of “Super Sport Star Gary Payton,” and Princess Dragonblood in “Half-Human,” as well as her book of plays “A Thoroughly Modern Rapunzel.” Then she worked with the students on building characters. Jude spent the last part of her session going through an exercise building from pictures she shared with the students while asking them questions. Students worked in teams to sort their ideas. She shared that building a character is based on motivation, point of view and personal environment, and that a character needs a full name and items in their possession to tell a story. What secret is the character hiding? What scares them the most? What do they desperately want? All these things drive their experiences. Their choices, obstacles and struggles are what build the character. The character gets smarter and grows emotionally to attract the readers to find out more about them. At the end of the exercise, a few students shared their new character with the group. The day was a success. One student, Paige Munson, Ft. Madison Middle School (pictured above with Jude) was inspired and anxious to share her experiences.

Dori Hillistead Butler, an author from Coralville, Iowa presented on Elementary day. Dori is known for her books, “The Buddy Files: Case of the Lost Boy” and “Trading Places with Tank Talbott.” She has a new series coming this summer, “The Haunted Library.” She shared how she wrote some of her books using her dog Mouse and her two sons’ experiences as inspiration. Dori shared with the students how long it took her to get books published, how many rejections she received and where she writes. She also shared her “Top 10 List” or the top 10 things she is asked most often. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity for Dori to come present since living in Coralville before her family relocates to Seattle, Washington. Students enjoyed visiting with her and having her sign their purchased copies at the event.

There were breakout sessions on calligraphy, performance, poetry, puppetry, telling pet stories, on-line self-publishing, getting published, writing workshops, and many others.
A special “thank you” goes out to our presenters who helped make this conference a memorable experience for all participants, our teacher and parent volunteers, William Penn University and staff, and Jane Broeg of Great Prairie AEA for making 2014 a success!
It was an exciting day full of rich experiences, helping students to discover new ideas that will spark their writing!

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.

GPAEA Professional Development Opportunities – April & May

GPAEA has professional development opportunities scheduled for April and May. Some deadlines for minimum enrollment are this week, so register soon!


  • Social Media and You (evening class)
  • Para Educator Certification Level II Generalist with Area of Concentration: Library, Media & Technology (Saturday and evening classes)
  • Wheel Thrown Pottery II (weekend and evening classes)
  • Painting Layering Up (Saturday classes)
  • ABA Strategies and Curriculum: Using STAR Program to Support Students with Autism
  • Substitute Authorization (evening class)

Workshops and Other Trainings:

  • EduVision: The Force Behind The Flipped Classroom Workshop
  • Instructional Shifts and your Social Studies Curriculum – Getting started!

Please visit our online course catalog to register.

Paraeducator & Substitute Authorization Courses

Paraeducator Certification Level II Generalist with Area of Concentration: Library, Media & Technology

Participants will develop skills and strategies in library, media and technology to support school library goals including literacy development, information skills and technology integration. Participants will demonstrate understanding of the role of the paraprofessional in supporting the goals of the school library program and the school curriculum.

Target Audience: K-12 Paraprofessionals. All participants in the Level II Generalist with Area of Concentration: Library, Media and Technology must have successfully completed the Paraeducator General Program.

April 26 and May 17 8:00 am – 5:00 pm (Saturdays)
May 5 and May 12 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm (Monday evenings)

Location: Great Prairie AEA office in Ottumwa

Deadline for minimum registration is April 4th, so register soon!

Substitute Authorization Course

The course is designed to enable participants to become competent in the skills necessary to successfully substitute in Iowa’s secondary classrooms. The substitute authorization must be renewed every three years. Renewal requirements for the substitute authorization consist of a minimum of two renewal credits and completion of an approved child and dependent adult abuse training program.

A substitute authorization allows an individual with a baccalaureate degree to substitute in a middle school, junior high school, or high school (grades 6 -12) for no more than five consecutive days in one job assignment.

An individual who holds a Paraeducator certificate and completes the substitute authorization program is authorized to substitute only in the special education classroom in which the individual Para educator is employed.

Target Audience: Individuals that hold a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution or holds a paraeducator certificate from an approved paraeducator certification program.

April 17, 22, 24, & 29 and May 1
5:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Location: Great Prairie AEA office in Burlington

Deadline for minimum registration is April 10th, so register soon!

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.

GPAEA Professional Development Courses – Summer 2014

Professional Development courses for this summer are now available for registration through our online course catalog (MyLearningPlan). More courses will be added to the catalog as we receive them.

To visit the catalog:

If you are an instructor interested in offering a course, please get your syllabus in as soon as possible. If you have questions, please contact Megan Cramblet at