Let’s All Hang Together


Dr. Jon Sheldahl, Chief Administrator

Perhaps no one in our great national history is more quotable than Benjamin Franklin, who stated prior to signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately”.  This statement was made during what is arguably the most politically uncertain time in our nation’s history.  No one knew if the signers of that document would go down in history as great statesmen or be hung as traitors.  It was a time when unprecedented uncertainty led to unprecedented levels of purpose, unity, and courage.

Continue Reading: Let’s All Hang Together

Meet Skyler

Jennifer Woodley, Public Relations Coordinator

“She’s walked herself right out of physical therapy!” exclaims Janet Hurt, Physical Therapist for Great Prairie AEA.

Now 18 months old, Skyler has received Physical Therapy Services from Great Prairie AEA since she was 7 months. Doctors feared the twin wouldn’t live past birth, but her spirit proved everyone wrong.

Skyler’s parents Lindsey and Charlie made numerous trips to the University of Iowa for consultation. “We went to the University at 18 weeks [of pregnancy] and the first thing they told us was that she probably had down syndrome and she was so small she probably wouldn’t live to birth,” Lindsey explained. “A month later we came back for a checkup ultrasound and they said well, we’re sorry to tell you but, we don’t think it is down syndrome, we think that most likely it is triploidy, which is not compatible with life.” Determined to carry to term, Lindsey said that at 34 weeks and 2 days after a checkup she was induced because Skyler’s umbilical cord was failing. “After delivery they said, oh, she looks just fine, we don’t need to do genetic testing.” The parents insisted and the results came back totally normal.

Skyler and her twin Madison are both doing well and Skyler has even advanced ahead of her sister in some areas. She has been doing so well that Great Prairie AEA Physical Therapist Janet Hurt will no longer schedule official sessions, but will instead check-in on an as needed basis, “[Skyler] has such a strong will… she’s just tough!”

Click here to learn more about Physical Therapy Services from Great Prairie AEA.

Thank you to Lindsey and Charlie for allowing us to share Skyler’s story and a very special thank you to Janet Hurt and the entire Physical Therapy team at Great Prairie AEA for all that you do for area children and families. 

Woodley awarded NSPRA’s 35 Under 35

December 19, 2016 – The National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) announced its third class of 35/35 awardees recognizing young professional members who are making a difference for their school districts or education-related employers. Nominations were made by current NSPRA members.

Congratulations to Great Prairie AEA’s Jennifer Woodley for being recognized!

As the Public Relations Coordinator for Great Prairie AEA, Jennifer has assisted many districts in the area of school communication. From social media management to crisis communication her consultation and assistance is aimed to improve relationships with internal and external customers for school districts.

NSPRA Executive Director Rich Bagin, APR, noted, “It is exciting to see these young professionals step up to meet the challenges of our school communication profession. They continue to grow and also have much to share with all NSPRA members.”

The program was started in 2012 and many of the awardees continue to provide leadership for their state chapters and NSPRA. Each awardee’s profile will be featured in NSPRA’s e-newsletters during a span of 35 weeks in 2017. The awardees also receive a $100 discount for NSPRA’s Annual Seminar to be held in San Antonio, Texas this July.

Check out the 35/35 Class of 2016!

Costume Making Makerspace at Ottumwa

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Joni Nicholson, Ottumwa Teacher-Librarian

How do you get elementary students to come back to school on a beautiful Saturday morning in October? Well,the idea of creating a costume and learning how to use a real sewing machine was just the right combination to get 50 students out of bed and back to school. They were attending a volunteer-run event called “Makerspace” which is part of a movement to get students interested in STEM careers and tap into kids’ creative side. This event was offered to fourth and fifth grade students in the Ottumwa School District.

Elementary teacher-librarians, Joni Nicholson and Stacy Moran have done several Makerspace events using electronic snap kits, Makey Makey computer tools, robots, construction blocks and numerous other STEM related activities in the past. This time the two librarians decided to take a “low tech” approach and invite students to make their own costumes using everyday items and material scraps. A recent Scale-Up STEM grant also gave several of the OCSD sites sewing machines and other tools that made this event even more enticing.

If the thought of school age kids using hot glue guns and sewing machines scares you, rest assured that the two teachers spent a good bit of time talking about safety prior to turning kids loose with these tools. With such a large number of students showing up for this event, extra volunteers (including other teachers and a local high school sorority group) were on hand to assist and supervise the students in this creative endeavor.

Moran and Nicholson both donate their time and many of the materials for their Makerspace. They also asked for material donations prior to the costume making project. Students were given time to look at the materials available as well as some costume ideas from Pinterest prior to digging into their individual projects. One entire room was dedicated to fabric choosing and pattern cutting. Other materials included: cardboard boxes, poster board, yarn, feathers, foil, t-shirts, socks, gloves, etc.

Over two hours of cutting, gluing, trying on and in some cases, starting over, it didn’t take students long to repurpose these items into unbelievable creations. A cardboard box and solo cups helped one girl turn herself into a human Lego block. Another participant made a creepy monster with a 3D hand reaching out of his torso. Capes, angel wings, Pokemon characters, superheroes and emoji faces were all popular costume themes. With such a wide variety of materials, no two projects were alike.

At the end of the session students were allowed to take all of their creations home with them. The best outcome, however, was the lasting impression that students had about this Makerspace session. Several students were very proud of the fact that they had used a sewing machine for the first time ever. Others commented on how much they accomplished with a glue gun. In fact, one boy asked enthusiastically, “Where can I go to buy one of these? I want to do this at home too!” Comments like that are exactly what Stacy Moran and Joni Nicholson like to hear. After all, the goal of the Makerspace is to generate excitement about STEM and bring out the “maker” in all participants.

Iowa’s AEAs seek nominations for AEA Awards


Do you know someone who has made outstanding contributions to education and the system of Iowa Area Education Agencies (AEAs)? Please take a few minutes to nominate this person for recognition by Iowa’s AEAs. Iowa’s Area Education Agencies bestows three awards to outstanding candidates for their contributions to education and the AEA system.

To submit a nomination, please complete this application by Feb. 3, 2017. Anyone is welcome to submit a nomination. The nominations will be reviewed by a selected group of AEA personnel in February. Both the nominating individual and those who are selected to be recognized will be notified by March 1. The awards will be presented at the Iowa AEA Boards of Directors’ Conference on March 30-31, 2017 in Des Moines.

The three awards and criteria can be found in the attached link on the Iowa AEA website.

Write Women Back into History Video Contest – Deadline March 1

Write Women Back into History Video Contest


Students and Teachers/Organizations: Compete for a chance to win prizes!

To celebrate Women’s History Month in March, the Iowa Department of Human Rights’ Office on the Status of Women (with financial support from the Friends of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women) is hosting its 2nd annual Women’s History Month video contest to celebrate women’s history.  Entries are open to students in grades 5-12 and schools/organizations that work with students in grades 5-12.

Video Submission Deadline: Wednesday, March 1, 2017


The dissemination of information from external organizations by Great Prairie AEA does not infer sponsorship or endorsement of the information. It is being passed on to our stakeholders for its educational value.

Southeast Iowa EdCamp at Winfield-Mt. Union – February 18


We have a Twitter hashtag:  #EdCampSEIA
We have a Facebook Page:  Southeast Iowa EdCamp

Download PDF: edcampflyer

The dissemination of information from external organizations by Great Prairie AEA does not infer sponsorship or endorsement of the information. It is being passed on to our stakeholders for its educational value.

ESSA Public Meeting in Fairfield on January 11 at 5 PM

January statewide meetings set on the Every Student Succeeds Act

Draft plan will be released Jan.6; information meetings run Jan. 9-19, but one in Great Prairie AEA on January 11.

DES MOINES – Iowa Department of Education leaders have scheduled January statewide meetings to share a draft plan for meeting requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The Department will release the draft plan on Friday, Jan. 6. The statewide public meetings will then run from Jan. 9-19, with Department leaders presenting information about the plan, fielding questions and taking input.

ESSA, which replaces the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and will be fully implemented starting in the 2017-18 school year, provides a more reasonable balance between the role of states and the federal government in accountability for the success of all children. State plans must address academic standards, assessments, school and district accountability, and support for struggling schools.

The Department has sought input on the development of Iowa’s ESSA draft plan this fall through a state advisory committee, statewide public input meetings, and focus groups.

The January information meetings will begin at 5 p.m. Meeting dates and locations are as follows (please note that some days have more than one meeting site). Video conferencing will be available for Iowans who want to listen remotely; details will be announced in January.

Monday, January 9

Grant Wood Area Education Agency – Coralville

Room 118

Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa

2301 Oakdale Blvd., Coralville

Monday, January 9

Green Hills Area Education Agency – Red Oak Regional Office

Conference Room

212 E. Coolbaugh St., Red Oak

Tuesday, January 10

Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency – Pocahontas

Blackhawk Lake Room

500 NE Sixth St., Pocahontas

Wednesday, January 11

Fairfield Arts & Convention Center

Expo Hall

200 N. Main, Fairfield

Thursday, January 12

Heartland Area Education Agency – Ames

Conference Room

511 S. 17th St., Ames

Tuesday, January 17

Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency – Clinton

Conference Room

2001 Manufacturing Court, Clinton

Tuesday, January 17

Northwest Area Education Agency – LeMars Service Center

Conference Room – first floor

904 Lincoln St. SW, Ste. 300, LeMars

Wednesday, January 18

Oelwein High School Library

315 8th Ave. SE, Oelwein

Thursday, January 19

AEA 267 – Marshalltown

Rooms A, B, C

909 South 12th St., Marshalltown

For more information on Iowa’s plans to meet the Every Student Succeeds Act, visit https://www.educateiowa.gov/pk-12/every-student-succeeds-act.

Iowans also can submit questions and feedback by sending an email to essa@iowa.gov.

Input sought on draft social studies standards at GPAEA Burlington on January 25

From the Iowa Department of Education


DES MOINES – Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise today announced he’s seeking input from Iowans on a draft of proposed statewide social studies standards for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Wise announced an online survey open through Jan. 9 and public forums in January to seek feedback on the draft standards.

The draft represents the first statewide effort to update Iowa’s social studies standards, which were adopted in 2008. Iowa’s academic standards are the subject of ongoing review as part of the Governor’s Executive Order 83.

“Standards are about setting consistent, rigorous learning goals statewide and leaving decisions about curriculum and teaching to local school administrators and teachers,” Wise said. “If our goal is to make sure Iowa students are ready for college and career training after high school, we must have clear, consistent statewide standards that are right for our state. That’s why public input is such a critical part of this review process.”

The proposed social studies standards were written earlier this year by a team of Iowa educators and leaders. The draft standards are now subject to review by the Social Studies Standards Review Team, which will take into consideration public feedback. The team’s final recommendations are expected to go to the State Board of Education in the spring.

The online survey is available at the following link:https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RLVQ52P

Iowans in Great Prairie AEA can provide feedback remotely from the Burlington satellite sites using video conferencing on Wednesday, January 25th. See details below.


WEDNESDAY, JAN. 25, 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Video Satellite Site:

Great Prairie Area Education Agency
3601 West Ave., Burlington
Conference Room B

Two contests for students and teachers in Iowa – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Call to Serve & Write Women Back into History Video

From Iowa Department of Human Rights

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Call to Serve Contest

Deadline for submission: December 23, 2016

The Iowa Department of Human Rights and the State of Iowa MLK Day Planning Committee are hosting the 7th annual statewide MLK Call 2 Serve contest to promote the 2017 Martin Luther King Day of Service.  We would love to have your students involved!  Please refer to the attached documents for an exciting opportunity for first through eighth grade levels in your school district. Prizes will be awarded at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration in Des Moines on Monday, January 16, 2017.

Contest brochure
Contest cover sheet
DHR waiver release
DHR copyright transfer


Contact Kim Cheeks at kim.cheeks@iowa.gov or (515) 281-3274 or visit the Iowa Department of Human Rights’ Office on the Status of African Americans’ website at: https://humanrights.iowa.gov/cas/saa/news.

Write Women Back into History Video Contest

Deadline for submission: March 1, 2017

Students and Teachers/Organizations: Compete for a chance to win prizes!

To celebrate Women’s History Month in March, the Iowa Department of Human Rights’ Office on the Status of Women (with financial support from the Friends of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women) is hosting its 2nd annual Women’s History Month video contest to celebrate women’s history.  Entries are open to students in grades 5-12 and schools/organizations that work with students in grades 5-12.

Video Submission Deadline: Wednesday, March 1st, 2017


The dissemination of information from external organizations by Great Prairie AEA does not infer sponsorship or endorsement of the information. It is being passed on to our stakeholders for its educational value.

Code.Org’s Code Studio Workshop on January 10 for Elementary & Middle School Teachers

code_logo_cmykCode.Org’s Code Studio Workshop will be held at GPAEA, Burlington Room 21C on January 10, 2017

This is a great opportunity to learn to teach coding to elementary and middle school students! This training and curriculum resources are provided by Code.org and a grant through the University of Northern Iowa.

There is no cost to attend. Teachers will need to provide their own laptop.

Register at 

AEA board member awarded Basics of Boardsmanship certificate


Des Moines, Iowa –  At the Iowa Association of School Boards’ (IASB) 71st Annual Convention on Nov. 17, board member Lonny Morrow was awarded a certificate for completing the Basics of Boardsmanship. Through IASB’s Basics of Boardsmanship program, Morrow completed four components focused on essential board learning concepts.

IASB Board President Amy Jurrens commended Lonny for his hard work. “This program ensures a solid foundation for school board governance, whether you’re a new or experienced board member,” Jurrens said. “The extra efforts put forth to complete this program are certainly commendable.”

Three hundred thirty-five Iowa local school district, AEA and community college board members received this award. This is the first year this awards program has been offered to IASB members.

Congratulations Lonny and thank you for your dedicated service to the students of southeast Iowa!

Register for Understanding Dyslexia on November 29 – Parent Session Added

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November 29, 2016
8:00 am – 3:30 pm
Fairfield Arts & Convention Center
Register: http://bit.ly/2d0wgka

Keynote Speakers:

John Alexander, M.Ed.
GrovesAcademy, Head of School
Head of School of Groves Academy, a private school for students from second through twelfth grades diagnosed with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder.

Dr . Deborah K. Reed
Iowa ReadingResearch Center
Director of the Iowa Reading Research Center and an Associate Professor in the College of Education at the University of Iowa.

Participants will:

  • gain a greater understanding of what dyslexia is and isn’t
  • identify the characteristics of good reading and spelling instruction for students with dyslexia
  • use data from oral reading fluency measures, such as FAST CBM-R, to plan high quality reading instruction
  • review additional assessments and how they might contribute to the overall picture of students’ reading abilities

Download: understanding-dyslexia-fairfield-1

Parent Session: 4:30 – 6:30 PM
Magnificent, Multi-sensory Activities that Make Learning Last!

No Cost – No Registration 

Presenter: Elizabeth Hoksbergen, MSEd, Executive Director of Instruction Services at Apples of Gold Center for Learning, Inc., Decoding Dyslexia Iowa Board Member

Have you every wondered how to help your child become a fluent reader, master math facts, comprehend complex text, or build a bigger vocabulary? Simultaneous, multi-sensory strategies will help you help your child develop skills while cultivating confidence. During this session we will explore how to stimulate the brain through visual-auditory-tactile-kinesthetic activities that you can do right at home. We will learn seven specific learning activities you may do with your child without purchasing expensive resources or online subscriptions. Come and learn how to help your child fall in love with learning! Location: Cambridge Room

Download: parent-session-november-29-2016