How Do You Connect Big Rocks?

Dr. Jon Sheldahl, Chief Administrator

Stack of pebble stonesWhen Steven Covey used the analogy of putting big rocks in a bucket to emphasize the importance of aligning personal and professional priorities in life, he likely had no way of knowing that the term “big rocks” would become such a ubiquitous term in the field of organizational leadership in future years.  No doubt you have seen the illustration where a jar or bucket represents a finite amount of resource capacity and big rocks represent priority areas in work or life, while sand and gravel represent lesser or competing priorities.  The most common resource limitation is no doubt time, but the size of our bucket could just as easily represent limitations in money, people etc.  No person or organization enjoys unlimited resources and, metaphorically speaking, who among us hasn’t stared at what seemed like a big pile of rocks and a woefully small bucket?  The point of the illustration is that the big rocks will only fit in the bucket with the sand and gravel if they are put in first.  When one puts the small stuff in the bucket first, the big stuff doesn’t all fit.  One can find a myriad of videos and articles illustrating this principle by simply entering “big rocks” into any search engine.  You will find the big rocks illustration being applied to personal, spiritual and professional priorities in colleges of business, churches, and time management seminars throughout the world.  It’s a powerful, but very simple message about the importance of  “keeping the main thing the main thing.”


The Future is Now: GPAEA’s 21st Century Classroom

Dr. Sally Lindgren, Director of Technology & Innovation

21st Century Classroom Open House
Tuesday, September 30
3:00 – 7:00 p.m.

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Room 21C is the result of re-designed learning efforts to create a learning environment specifically designed to promote both collaborative and personalized learning though the use of technology. GPAEA’s Bright Bytes data suggest that there is a large-scale need to develop the attributes of 21st Century learning. These attributes, known as the 4C’s (communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity) are factors that are linked to improved student achievement and career success.

Recent research about active learning spaces comes under several different names including SCALE-UP, TEAL, TILE and others. But regardless of the name, the conclusions are the same. The classroom must support active learning using digital media and flexible space.

GPAEA’s 21st Century Classroom, located in the Burlington AEA Office, offers a two-fold design: a classroom and a learning lounge.

The learning space integrates the three tenets of classroom design:

  • The classroom furniture must be mobile and flexible.
  • Each collaborative area must have access to a digital display.
  • Each collaborative area must have a writeable surface.

The use of digital media is a primary ingredient used to promote understanding and engagement with content. The room also has an interactive table, networked lighting, a two-way audio management system, a theater sized screen with a 3D projector, and all of this is controlled by an iPad!

GPAEA’s Room 21C is only one of several efforts that are underway in Southeastern Iowa to re-design the K-12 classroom into 21st Century Learning Spaces. The Mt. Pleasant Middle School Science classroom has been transformed. Cardinal Community School District is in the process of creating both a classroom and several learning lounge spaces at the Middle/High School building.


Professional Development Opportunities – Fall 2014

Woman in living room using laptop smilingGPAEA has many great professional development opportunities scheduled for this fall!  Course categories include behavior, literacy, math, science, autism, early childhood, TAG, and fine arts.  Also being offered are Paraeducator certification courses, Substitute Authorization courses, and Evaluator III.  Courses are still being added so please check the catalog in MyLearningPlan for new additions.



  • Paraeducator Certification courses (evening classes)
  • Para Educator Certification Level II Generalist with Area of Concentration: Special Needs (Saturday and evening classes)

Substitute Authorization

  • evening classes
  • Ottumwa and Burlington sessions

Assessing Academic Rigor: Evaluator III


  • Bullying Investigation Training
  • A Behavior Tool Box for Your Classroom
  • Developing a Social Skills Tool Box
  • RESPECT: Recognizing Everyones Strengths by Peacebuilding, Empathizing, Communicating and Trustbuilding
  • PBIS Tier 1
  • PBIS Tier 2


  • K-2 Counting and Cardinality/Operations and Algebraic Thinking
  • Grades 3-5 Number and Operations/Fractions
  • Ratio and Proportion, Grades 6-8
  • Function, Grades 8-12


  • K-12 ELA Curriculum Design
  • 6-12 Content Curriculum Design
  • Iowa LETRS 1-3
  • Ongoing MS-HS Second Chance Reading: 2014-2015


  • HS Science Networks 1 & 2
  • Elementary Science Networks 1 & 2
  • HS Science Networks 1 & 2


  • Professional Learning for Gifted Programs


  • ST-AT 1 Structured Teaching for Autism: Basic Components

Early Childhood

  • Teaching Strategies GOLD Assessment Data Study Group
  • Creative Curriculum for Preschool (3-5) An Introduction
  • Inquiry Based Learning in Early Childhood
  • Teaching Strategies GOLD Assessment

Fine Arts

  • Weaving Class

Workshops and Other Trainings:

  • Collaborative Leadership Academy
  • Iowa Alternate Assessment Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) Training
  • SWIS Training Workshop
  • Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Initial Training

Please visit our online course catalog to register.