Burlington Autism Classroom Receives Support from GPAEA

Jennifer Woodley, Public Relations Coordinator

Inside Sarah Maher’s 3rd, 4th, & 5th Grade Autism classroom at Corse Elementary in Burlington, students experience a colorful rich environment where they have the freedom to learn and experience success daily.

Great Prairie Area Education Agency’s Challenging Behavior & Autism Team have supported Ms. Maher and her students the past year in a variety of capacities. From professional development and training to observations and consultation on a case-by-case basis. “I guess the most important thing to me is that it’s a group effort,” Maher said. “It’s good staff, good leadership and a lot of other support staff outside of this room that has helped a lot.”

Learn more about supports and services from GPAEA at http://www.gpaea.org/en/services/autism/.


Yelick Selected as the Next Chief Administrator for Great Prairie AEA

Dr. Cindy Yelick

The Great Prairie AEA Board of Directors is pleased to announce the selection of a new chief administrator for the Agency. Dr. Cindy Yelick, who is currently the deputy chief administrator at Heartland AEA, will succeed Dr. Jon Sheldahl.

“Dr. Cindy Yelick will be a great addition to Great Prairie AEA team,” said Vicki Stephenson, president of the Great Prairie AEA board of directors. “She brings a wide range of experiences and leadership in her work with Iowa’s AEAs and the State of Iowa.”

As the chief administrator of Great Prairie AEA, Dr. Yelick will oversee over 270 full and part-time staff members who provide special education services, instructional services, professional learning, library and digital resources, technology support and more to over 36,000 students and 2,700 educators throughout the 14 southeast Iowa counties the Agency serves.

Dr. Yelick has previously held positions as executive director of instructional services, administrator for Iowa Core Curriculum, executive director of teaching and learning, and a regional coordinator at Heartland AEA; director of early childhood, assessment, and special education and elementary principal at Ames Community Schools; elementary principal at Des Moines Public Schools; director of McPrep Middle School Academy at Drake University; and assistant administrator at Spring Branch ISD in Houston, Texas. She received a doctorate in educational leadership from Drake University, master’s in curriculum and instruction, second language education from the University of Houston and bachelor’s in elementary education from the University of Northern Iowa.

“My career has centered around ensuring that all students have the opportunity to thrive,” Yelick said. “I am excited to work with the quality staff and leadership at Great Prairie AEA who continue the course for improvement and enhanced learning outcomes for all children throughout southeast Iowa.”

Yelick was selected for the position after the search firm G. Tryon & Associates conducted a nationwide search. She will assume the responsibilities of chief administrator contingent upon release from her current contract in July 2017.

GPAEA Schools Recognized for PBIS Efforts

Congratulations to the schools who attended the state Learning Supports Conference on May 8 & 9 and were recognized in person by the DE for their implementation efforts in PBIS. 17 schools from Great Prairie AEA were recognized, although not all were able to attend to receive their award.


Three Finalists Announced for Great Prairie AEA Chief Administrator

The Great Prairie Area Education Agency Board of Directors has announced three finalists for the position of the chief administrator. Tim Kuehl, Nathan Wood, and Cindy Yelick were chosen from a field of 17 applicants to be interviewed on Thursday, June 8. Finalists will be interviewed by three groups: GPAEA Administrators, local Superintendents, and the Board of Directors.

Tim Kuehl is currently superintendent at Clear Creek Amana Community School District in Oxford. He has previously held positions as superintendent and elementary principal at Gladbrook-Reinbeck; middle school principal at Forest City; high school principal and curriculum director at Allamakee; and elementary principal and curriculum director at Manson-NW Webster.

Nathan Wood is currently a regional director at Great Prairie AEA. He has previously held positions as middle school/high school principal and PK-12 special education director at Pekin Community Schools and PK-6 assistant principal/school administration manager at Sigourney.

Cindy Yelick is currently deputy chief administrator at Heartland AEA. She has previously held positions as executive director of instructional services, administrator for Iowa Core Curriculum, executive director of teaching & learning and regional coordinator at Heartland AEA; director of early childhood, assessment, and special education and elementary principal at Ames Community Schools; elementary principal at Des Moines Public Schools; director of McPrep Middle School Academy at Drake University; coordinator of Moulton Professional Development School at Des Moines Public Schools; and assistant administrator at Spring Branch ISD in Houston, Texas.

Following interviews, the Board will make a final selection. The name of the successful candidate will be announced via the Great Prairie AEA website, social media and Staff Update, as well as area news media.

ICATER Assistive Technology Summer Institute – August 7, Burlington

The ICATER Assistive Technology Summer Institute will be in Burlington on August 7.

This is a unique summer learning opportunity that combines discussion of current relevant topics in assistive technology with hands-on learning opportunities of some of the most recent and most commonly used assistive technology software programs. New this year is a blended course – part online, part in person.

Registration is now openPlease complete a survey. After completion, you will receive an e-mail with directions for registration and payment.


ICATER’s Assistive Technology Summer Institute will be conducted by Patricia Bahr, Director of ICATER and graduate assistants from ICATER. Bahr is a rehabilitation engineer and has worked to match the needs of people with disabilities to technology, since 1988. Bahr developed and is the primary instructor for a graduate class – Universal Design and Accessibility for Online Instruction.

Who Should Attend?

Everyone that works with people with disabilities, especially in the education field would benefit from attending the Assistive Technology Summer Institute. These people include:

  • Assistive technology professionals
  • Counselors
  • General education teachers
  • High school and college students with disabilities
  • Occupational therapists
  • Parents of students with disabilities
  • Psychologists
  • Special education teachers
  • Speech pathologists


  1. Watch eight (8) hours of recorded lectures and demos
  2. Attend a 1-day in-person workshop (7:45am – 4:30pm)
  3. Submit a short reflective paper

Credit Options

  • Certificate of Completion ($100)
  • One UI Graduate Credit ($505)
  • Iowa Licensure Renewal Unit ($125)

2017 Sixth Grade Math Bee Winners

Lori Mueller, Mathematics Specialist

The Great Prairie AEA Sixth Grade Math Bee was held May 2 at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center. 221 students from 19 school districts attended the annual event. The top six out of forty-nine teams were awarded plaques for their accomplishments.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • The Sixth Place team was from Mt Pleasant Middle School and consisted of: Aaden A, Bowen D, Jacob R, and Zerek V.
  • The Fifth place team was from North Mahaska and consisted of: Lane H, P.J. S, Brock W, and Cole G.
  • The Fourth Place team was from Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont and consisted of: Braxton N, Lizzy VU, Aliveah B, and Shallis L.
  • The Third Place team was from Oskaloosa Middle School and consisted of: Anderson K, Lucy R, Jack R, and Cael B.
  • The Second Place team was from Danville Elementary and consisted of Josey W, Madelyn B, Kat W, and Carlea B.
  • The First Place team came from Oskaloosa Middle School and consisted of: Elliot N, Zane I, Lawson M, and Dylan P.
  • Placing Third in the Individual competition was Elliot N of Oskaloosa Middle School.
  • Receiving Second Place was Madeline B of Davis County Middle School.
  • Receiving First Place was Josey W from Danville Elementary School.
  • Placing in the Top Ten were: Cael B, Jack R, Lucy R, Brock W, Olivia S, Eliana M, Kat W, Samual M, Bowen D, Bryce W, Shallis L, Braxton N, Anderson K, and Lawson M. (There are more than ten names here because of several ties.)

Congratulations to these students and their teachers that worked with them. We are proud of all of you!

Elementary STEM Professional Learning Opportunity for Teachers!

pasted image 0

This year’s Iowa Academy of Science’s Iowa Science Teaching Section’s fall conference – branded the “Elements of STEM” conference – will take place on October 8-9, 2017.  Our pre-conference events will take place on Sunday the 8th and the full-day conference will be held on Monday the 9th The location for the Elements of STEM conference is the FFA Enrichment Center in Ankeny, IA. Save the date and keep watching for registration to open: http://scienceiniowa.org/

Questions? Please contact: Eric Hall, eric.hall@dmschools.org; Stacey Rivera, stacey.rivera@ankenyschools.org; or Lisa Chizek, ljchizek@gmail.com

Heartland AEA is Piloting an Additional Course Option for Iowa Evaluator License Renewal

Heartland AEA with support from the Iowa Department of Education is pleased to pilot an additional course option for administrators and/or evaluators who want to renew their evaluator license. The Collaborative Leadership Institute is a two credit hour course that will be held on June 19-20, Oct. 3 and Dec. 5, 2017 at the Heartland AEA Regional Education Center in Johnston. The pilot is open to anyone in the state. Seating is limited to 50 people. Register for the course at this link.

Continue reading

The Cornerstone – May 2017


Click on a story below to get started or scroll down to view all. Check back as new posts are always added!

The Simplest, Hardest Lessons Make the Biggest Difference

This is my last blog for The Cornerstone, as I will be leaving for a new job July 1.  I’ve learned a great deal during the last six years, some of it from more experienced colleagues in the AEA system, some of it from GPAEA team members who have so graciously shared with me the intricacies of their day-to-day work, and a lot of it from the many educators throughout SE Iowa whom we continue to serve.  I’ve seen some resounding successes and some disappointing failures and I want to take a moment to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned.  While I have learned a lot of lessons (many the hard way), these three are the most important ones I want to share upon my departure.  They are simple lessons to remember, but often hard to follow and I have found they often make the difference between success and failure.

The most important thing I’ve learned about service agency work (and educational work in general) during my tenure here is that everything we do has to be driven first by the building of a relationship.  In the absence of a quality relationship, successful collaboration is an uphill battle, if not impossible.  Our successes and our failures are the direct result of the quality of the relationship that exists between the parties involved.  I have encountered some very smart people in recent years who believe that their knowledge or technical expertise is the most important thing they have to offer, but it isn’t.  Solutions must be adaptive to each unique situation and I’ll take a team united more by caring, commitment, and empathy over one heavy on expertise every time.

Continue Reading at The Simplest, Hardest Lessons Make the Biggest Difference

Activities to Gain Independence

Thank you to everyone who attended and participated in Activities to Gain Independence at Van Allen Elementary school in Mount Pleasant presented by Kim Karwal from Easter Seals of Iowa on May 2.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Do you like what you see? All of the items in the virtual tour and more are available through Easter Seals Iowa Assistive Technology Center. Easter Seals has an Assistive Technology lending library and a demonstration center.

Contact: Kim Karwal
Rural Solutiona and At Center Coordinator
Easter Seals Iowa | 401 NE 66th Avenue | Des Moines, Iowa 50313
P: 515.309.2394 | TTY: 515.289.4069 |  F: 515.289.1281
kkarwal@eastersealsia.org | www.eastersealsia.org

GPAEA’s Battle of the Books Results – Elementary & Middle School

Tricia Slechta, Media Integration Specialist

Congratulations and thank you to all of the students and teams who participated in Great Prairie Area Education Agency’s Battle of the Books on April 10!

The Mediapolis Page Turners pictured above won first place at the first area Elementary Battle of the Books competition sponsored by Great Prairie Area Education Agency. The Page Turners are pictured with Scott Slechta the Iowa Teacher of the Year.

The Untouchables (Waco) and Awesome Squad (Fort Madison) tied for second place.

Third place went to the Reading Warriors (Wapello).

To advance to the final round of four, teams had to first take a written exam composed of 60 questions; teams had 60 minutes to answer all the questions. While the questions were checked by a group of volunteers students participated in a question/answer session with local author Carol Gorman. Once the top four teams were announced the four teams engaged in an oral round robin format of 60 questions.

The winners of the first Middle School area Battle of the Books competition are the Reading Rock Stars (Edward Stone, Burlington).

Under the Cover-Bibliophiles (Oskaloosa) and Book Hounds (Fort Madison) tied for second place.

Peculiar Readers (Central Lee) was the third place finisher.

Teams also received spirit awards for designing team t-shirts or dressing in the spirit of their name.

Learn more about the Battle of the Books and get the 2017-18 Reading Lists at https://sites.google.com/aea267.k12.ia.us/bob/home?authuser=0

May is School Board Recognition Month

Our Agency Board of Directors and the Board members of the local school districts in our Area volunteer countless hours of their time each year to serve their communities and schools. Please consider thanking the school and AEA Board members that you know throughout our Area. Click here to learn more about the Great Prairie AEA Board.

A special THANK YOU to our Great Prairie AEA Board of Directors:

GPAEA Students have Success at State STEM Competitions

Tami Plein, Science Specialist

Every year, students from southeast Iowa demonstrate high levels of achievement at state and regional STEM competitions! These competitions provide students with the opportunity to experience an authentic problem-solving situation while applying skills and concepts from multiple disciplines; science, engineering, ELA and math. For example, in a science fair project, students demonstrate and practice the ELA standards related to writing a literature review, preparing a research paper, designing the display board and orally presenting their findings to various judges and audiences. They also create spreadsheets and analyze data using algebra and statistics. All use technology to gather, organize, analyze, design, and/or present their findings. For more information contact Tami Plein at GPAEA or use the links after each section below.

Iowa Physics Competition

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Congratulations to our GPAEA schools Moravia, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, and Ottumwa on their successes at the State Physics Competition at UNI on April 11!

Moravia placed 5th overall in the teams.  The Soda Straw Arm team of Colton R and Zane B brought home the first place medal.  Zane also teamed with Tyler F and placed 3rd in the Catapult.  Moravia is coached by Jewell Rockhold and her school team placed first overall in the GPAEA Regional Competition held last month.

The Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont Mousetrap car team of Claire Jager and Haegen Boyer placed 3rd. EBF is coached by Kristen Birchard and her school team placed second overall in the regional competition. Ottumwa’s Jade Turner placed 3rd in Soda Straw Arm.  Jade and Saelim Butler placed 1st in this event at the regional competition.  They are coached by Theodore Westhues.


State and Regional Science Fairs
Every year SE Iowa is heavily represented at these competitions. Over 200 students from Burlington, Central Lee, Danville, Fort Madison, Holy Trinity, Keota, Keokuk, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, Maharishi SAE, Pekin, Van Buren, and Winfield-Mount Union participated in these fairs, earning thousands of dollars in scholarships, trips, awards and prizes. This year seven GPAEA students representing four districts will be heading to Los Angles for the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in May!

Aaron W, Central Lee High School, is one of the Eastern Iowa Science and Engineering Senior Champions. This is a regional fair held in Cedar Rapids every April. His research, “Engineered Environmental Containment: Using Lemna minor L. to Reduce Nitrate Levels in Aquatic Environments” focused on engineering an aquatic containment system that is able to contain a duckweed. He then investigated using the duckweed to reduce the nitrate and phosphate levels in aquatic environments. Aaron and his adult sponsor, Alicia Schiller-Haynes won all-expense paid trips to Los Angeles to compete at ISEF along with scholarships and awards.

EISEF Junior Champions Serenity H and Claire W, Central Lee Middle School, will also travel to Los Angeles as observers along their adult sponsor, Nadine Weirather. While student observers do not present their research at the international fair, they have the opportunity to participate in hands-on STEM challenges, as well as participate in activities that help them to better communicate and expand on their research, and volunteer for the Education Outreach Program.

Two Burlington High School students and their sponsor, Elizabeth S, also earned all-expense paid trips to ISEF from the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa (SSTFI) held in Ames. Vidya M, State Champion, presentedA Novel 3-D Engineered Solution for Congenital Microtia of the Ear”. Vidya’s project involved using 3-D engineering to form an artificial ear and canal and then testing the ability of it to transmit sound using a sound probe to detect the sound.

Alexandra Z(Grand Honorable Mention winner) researched how to increase the efficiency of a nasal epinephrine delivery system through the usage of pretreatments such as ethanol or propylene glycol in her project “Increasing the Efficiency of a Nasal Epinephrine Delivery System”.

SSTFI also sends student observers to ISEF in Los Angeles. Joining the Iowa contingent listed above are Kamryn B, Van Buren High School (Amanda Schiller, sponsor) and Jarrod K, Keota High School (Jenny Hobbs, sponsor).

Eastern Iowa Science and Engineering Fair: http://www.eisef.org/
State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/sstfi/

The World Food Prize Competition

Over 300 Iowa students attended the sixth annual World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute held at Iowa State University on April 24th. For this competition, students write a 3 to 5 page paper about an area of the world, what’s happening in the area of the world, and a solution to that problem. Students from Burlington, Cardinal, Chariton, Danville, Davis County, Fairfield, Keokuk, Keota, Mediapolis, Mt Pleasant, Oskaloosa, and Wayne attended the Youth Institute.  Students spent the day networking with peers, research and industry experts to discuss solutions to global hunger and poverty. They also participated in interactive activities on the ISU campus to explore research and work currently taking place in Iowa to address global challenges.  In May, seventy-five students will be selected to attend the Global Institute to be held in the fall. These students will have the opportunity to interact with Nobel and World Food Prize Laureates and discuss pressing food security and agricultural issues with international experts during the 3-day event in October.  The institute emphasizes the importance and opportunities in STEM careers


GPAEA Schools in the News – May 2017

Post updated throughout the month. Did we miss something? Send your school news to jennifer.woodley@gpaea.org.

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.