The Cornerstone – November 2014

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Enjoy the November 2014 issue!

Finding His Step… Aiden’s Story

by Deena Recker, Orientation Mobility Specialist

Using his AMD to find the door opening to class.

Using his AMD to find the door opening to class.

I am an Orientation and Mobility Specialist, working with GPAEA since August 2012. My role is to help our students who are experiencing reduced vision or no vision to understand the environment and learn how to move safely within it.

When I began working with Aiden he was 4 years old and not walking or crawling. He struggled to understand the world around him due to his lack of visual information. With the help of his IEP team and paraprofessional, Nancy, who faithfully follows the routines set for Aiden, he has learned to support his body weight using a stander, begin standing alone (with leg braces for support), then walking with support, and now he is able to walk independently and without braces. Using an Adaptive Mobility Device (AMD) and changing it as his abilities have grown, Aiden continues to make tremendous progress. Hopefully within the next year he will be ready to use a long cane for travel.

Aiden attends a regular education class and with the help of teachers, therapists and his paraprofessional, he is learning alongside his peers. The Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Lane Anthony, is instructing Aiden in Braille so he can learn to read and write without vision.

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GPAEA Professional Development Opportunities – Nov/Dec 2014

Businessman with four businesspeople at boardroom table in backgGPAEA has many great professional development opportunities scheduled for this winter! Course categories include behavior, literacy, math, science, autism, early childhood, TAG and fine arts.

Courses are still being added, so please check the catalog in MyLearningPlan for new additions.


  • 11/18/2014 An Introduction to the GOLD Assessment and Reports for Administrators Workshop
  • 12/8/2014 Collaborative Leadership Academy (Burlington, Ottumwa and Albia)

Contact Katie Gavin (Burlington and Ottumwa) at for details.


  • 11/3/2014 Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Initial Training Workshop (Ottumwa)
  • 11/10/2014 PBIS Advanced Tier 2/3 Training (Ottumwa)
  • 11/10/2014 Secondary Transition Planning for Educators and Families (Ottumwa)
  • 11/12/2014 A Behavior Tool Box for Your Classroom (Ottumwa)
  • 11/13/2014 PBIS Advanced Tier 2/3 Training (Burlington)
  • 12/2/2014 Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Initial Training Workshop (Burlington)
  • 12/6/2014 Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Initial Training Workshop (Fairfield)
  • 12/10/2014 Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Initial Training Workshop (Ottumwa

Early Childhood

  • 11/19/2014 Early Childhood Institute—Common Learning 2 (Fairfield)

Fine Arts

  • 11/8/2014 Rug Weaving (Fairfield)


  • 11/13/2014 Iowa LETRS Modules 7-9 (Wapello)
  • 12/8/2014 Iowa LETRS Modules 7-9 (Wapello)
  • 12/11/2014 Iowa LETRS Modules 7-9 (Wapello)


  • 11/10/2014 Ratio and Proportion, Grades 6-8 (Burlington)
  • 11/11/2014 Function, Grades 8-12 (Burlington)
  • 11/13/2014 Ratio and Proportion, Grades 6-8 (Ottumwa)
  • 11/15/2014 Ratio and Proportion, Grades 6-8 (Ottumwa)
  • 11/17/2014 Function Grades 8-12 (Ottumwa)
  • 11/22/2014 Function Grades 8-12 (Ottumwa)

Fun with FOSS Kit at Keota and Burlington

by Rosemary Peck, GPAEA Science Specialist

In late September, I visited pilot classrooms at Keota Elementary (Keota) and Blackhawk Elementary (Burlington). The teachers in these two buildings are implementing the FOSS kit curriculum in a pilot program establishing a partnership between VAST Center (Van Allen Science Teaching Center) at Grant Wood AEA, the Eastern Iowa Science Consortium and GPAEA. More information about this partnership opportunity will be shared with Great Prairie LEA administrators in the coming months.

During my visits to the classrooms, excited, engaged and enthusiastic students were making observations, asking questions, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing data, writing in science journals and making connections to what they were learning in the classroom to the world outside, in their local schoolyards.

Kindergarten students of Mrs. Wax (Burlington), Mrs. Hart and Mrs. McClenahan (Keota), studying FOSS Trees and Weather are observing their “adopted” tree throughout the school year, learning basic characteristics and needs of trees, predicting the changes that will occur, and connecting the seasonal weather changes with the impact those changes have on “their tree” and other living things. Mrs. Wax commented “We are very excited to be learning about trees this year.  We were even more excited when a tree showed up in our classroom.  We will watch our tree through the seasons and see what happens to it.   We also took guesses to see how big our tree will be by the end of kindergarten and when we are fifth graders.” Continue reading

English Language Learners in Great Prairie AEA

by Doreen Underwood, GPAEA Diverse Learners Specialist

Pupils In Class Using Digital TabletOver the past 2 decades Iowa has experienced a rapid shift in number of English Language Learners* and percent of growth as compared to other states in the nation. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics Core of Common Data, Iowa’s EL numbers have doubled twice over a 20 year period. In 2012, Iowa schools reported just over 25,000 ELs, almost doubling our population of English Language Learners again in 8 years. This trend is predicted to continue in a more exponential fashion over the next decade.

What does this look like at GPAEA?

GPAEA Enrollment for ELLs is 2% of the population agency wide. There are 22 different languages spoken across the agency and 22 out of 36 districts (public & non-public) are actively seeking support from GPAEA.


Continue reading

Authenticate Your NBC Learn Teacher Account!

nbclearn_logo_k12_435x40NBC Learn is a subscription database provided to schools in Great Prairie AEA. Digital video can be used for analysis, researching background information or for writing prompts.

  1. Digital Content
  • Current Events, updated Monday – Friday, including live streaming of breaking news events
  • 17,000 broadcast-quality and Emmy-award winning stories….adding approximately 1,500 new stories per year
  • Historic, primary source footage that cannot be obtained anywhere else
  • Original series include “Writers Speak to Kids”, “Science of NFL Football” and “Science and Engineering of the 2014 Winter Olympics”
  1. Features
  • Emphasis on short video resources (one to six minutes) that  are engaging, relevant & inspiring, don’t consume precious class time, and help teachers draw connections to real-world applications
  • Unlimited accounts for teachers, students, and parents
  • Aligned to Iowa Common Core Standards
  • Section 508 certification for accessibility
  • The Cue Card Media Player includes full transcripts, closed captioning, sourcing information, clickable keywords
  • Use Online or download offline, home or in school
  • Ease of use – browsing and searching
  • Mobile compatible for iPads, iPhones, Android devices

To get started, authenticate your educator account. Easy steps are described here:

More on this resource at

Explore –

NBC Learn has so many learning resources related to Halloween, it’s scary! In our award-winning collection, Chemistry Now, students can learn about the chemical reactions behind three hallmarks of the fall season: fear, foliage, and everyone’s favorite treat, chocolate. The Chemistry of Fear and Fright illustrates how “fight or flight” responses rely on adrenaline and cortisol to send a shiver down our spines. The Chemistry of Changing Leaves reveals how the pigment molecule chlorophyll tints autumn leaves to a dazzling gold or a zesty red. And The Chemistry of Chocolate uses the process of chocolate-making to demonstrate chemical reactions like melting point and the formation of crystalline structures.

Two Day Instructional Coaching Institute

Jim Knight flier Nov 2014We are pleased to announce a two-day Jim Knight Institute being held at the Coralville Public Library on November 17 & 18, 2014. This institute is for teacher leaders and their administrators and is the first in a series of instructional coaching training opportunities being held in eastern Iowa. Attached you will find registration information and additional details to register teacher leaders and administrators from your district.

This opportunity was offered first to TLC districts, and is now open to any interested district! Registration is closing November 5.

If you should have any questions, please contact the TLC contact in your AEA:

AEA 267: Amy Moine
Keystone AEA: Sue Daker
Great Prairie AEA: Katie Gavin

Jim Knight flier Nov 2014

New Website Helps Iowans Understand, Apply Iowa Core

Iowa Core Web graphic verticalIowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck recently introduced, a new website created to increase public understanding of the Iowa Core standards and to help educators put the standards into practice in schools statewide.

“Our statewide standards are at the heart of work in schools to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s workforce, and we must do more to help educators, parents and other Iowans navigate them,” Buck said. “ will help bring the standards into focus for all Iowans and will put much-needed resources into the hands of educators who are working to put the standards into practice successfully in schools.” has three components: Continue reading

Secondary Transition Event at Waco Jr/Sr High

Waco Transition Event 10.28.14 3Waco Jr/Sr High Special Education Department hosted a Secondary Transition event for parents of children with special needs.  A panel of speakers were invited to share information about their programs with families.

Speakers at the event included: GPAEA 4 Plus Program Coordinators, Job Corp, SE IA Case Management, Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Central Point Coordination and GPAEA Transition Coordinator and Parent Educator Coordinator.  The event was held during parent teacher conferences and had a wonderful turnout of parents and students with support from special education teachers and the GPAEA consultant.

If your school district is interested in hosting a similar event please contact Parent Ed Coordinators Kelly Wallace or Annette Clarahan at 800-622-0027 ext 3034.

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Teacher Leadership & Compensation Community on Agora

tlc logoIowa’s AEAs and the Iowa Department of Education announce the opening of a new virtual community to support the Teacher Leadership and Compensation system. The purpose of this site is to bring teacher leaders and administrators across the state together to access resources and learning opportunities and to collaborate as we strengthen teacher and administrator leadership.

This community is an Agora site developed by AEA PD Online. To participate in the community, click here.

Community resources include:

  • Self-Assessments – Teachers and administrators will be able to complete surveys, which will help identify areas of need in relation to the Learning Supports Framework.
  • On-Demand Learning – Community participants will find learning opportunities that address the seven focus areas of teacher leadership. The searchable database includes articles, learning modules, websites, videos and more.
  • Community Forums – Participants will have different forum spaces in which to participate, each with a different overall focus. Join in on the discussion, or just choose to follow the conversation.
  • Events – This is a state-wide calendar of learning opportunities for teacher leaders and administrators to support the seven focus areas. Participants can search the calendar and find professional development opportunities to address identified areas of growth for teachers and administrators.

All resources on the site can also be explored by each focus area: Adult Learning, Collaborative Culture, Communication, Content Pedagogy & Assessment, Systems Thinking, Data and Organizational Leadership.

Resources and learning opportunities will continue to be added to the TLC On-line Community. The Event Calendar is currently the most developed section. Events will be added as they become available. The other areas are at the beginning stages of development but will soon be a robust source of resources. Please visit our community. If you choose to enroll in the community, you will be able to sign up for notifications as well as to participate in community activities.

Please contact Lora Rasey at or 515.281.6719, if you have questions about the Agora site.

Celebrate American Education Week – November 16-22, 2014

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American Education Week—November 17-21, 2014—presents all Americans with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate public education and honor individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education. The weeklong celebration features a special observance each day of the week. They include:

  • Monday, November 17: Kickoff Day
  • Tuesday, November 18: Parent’s Day
  • Wednesday, November 19: Education Support Professionals Day
  • Thursday, November 20: Educator for a Day
  • Friday, November 21: Substitute Educators Day

To help you plan these celebration days, National Education Association has developed this online toolkit with background information, activity ideas, and tips for working with the media, as well as downloadable resources, templates, and promotional materials. Click here to access the online toolkit.

STEM Educator’s Make & Take Festival – January 27, 2015

William Penn Make-and-Take STEM Festivals Flier-1William Penn University and Drake University’s South Central STEM hub is hosting a Make-and-Take night for south central Iowa adults geared towards education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  Our goal is to influence as many adults as possible who will, in turn, share their knowledge with children.

Please visit this link if you would like to attend the festival as a participant. 

Participant Registration Link deadline:  January 5, 2015

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.

MTSS for Early Literacy

MTSS for Early LiteracyIs your elementary leadership team using data to make decisions? Do you want to get a head start in building the necessary MTSS infrastructure for participation in later phases of statewide implementation?

If you answered yes, then your elementary literacy leadership team should plan to attend Great Prairie AEA’s November 17th MTSS Overview and three future professional learning dates. Not sure? Attend the November 17th Overview and then opt-out of future sessions. See attached flier.
When & Where?
Monday, November 17, 2014
9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Lunch not included.
  • Fairfield Arts & Convention Center, 200 North Main, Fairfield, IA (Face-to-face)
  • Harold L. Mick Office (AEA), 103 South A Street, Albia, IA (Zoom w/ site facilitator)
  • Burlington AEA Office, 3601 West Avenue, Burlington, IA (Zoom w/ site facilitator)

Who should attend? 

Building Administrator and Elementary Literacy Leadership Team Members (4-5 people)
Dr. Angelisa Fynaardt, Associate Administrator

GPAEA Schools in the News – October 2014

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

Post updated throughout the month. 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.

Free Online Courses through NTC – Open to all Teachers/Instructional Coaches

We just learned that NTC has partnered with Coursera to offer two new MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) for free to any teacher anywhere.
  • Common Core in Action: Literacy in the Content Areas – Exploring Literacy Design Collaborative Template Tasks
  • Common Core in Action: Math Classroom Challenges – Using Formative Assessment to Guide Instruction
These two courses are two of the five that will be offered this year through NTC and they start today!  Feel free to pass this link on to anyone that you think would be interested:

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.