The Cornerstone – November 2015

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Participate in the AEA/DE Customer Survey



You are invited to participate in the 2014-2015 statewide AEA/DE Customer Survey. This web-based survey provides an opportunity for you to provide valuable feedback regarding AEA services. The web-based survey should take about 10-15 minutes to complete. To access the survey, simply use the following web site URL and follow the directions provided:

Access to the survey will begin Monday, October 19, 2015 and will close Wednesday, November 25, 2015.

If you experience trouble with the survey please contact Dr. Gary Dannenbring for assistance (

Thank you in advance for your participation. The information from this survey provides valuable data that assists the AEA system in evaluating its services and continuing to meet current and future LEA needs. A PLN Quick Start Resource

Jane Trotter, Instructional Technology Coach


Many of us have heard this and we nod our heads compliantly while envisioning speeding threads of tweets that are gone before we can catch the gist.  Perhaps you are imagining yourself wading through Pinterest pins, Google+ posts, Flipboard flips, and ScoopIt scoops. This is overwhelming.  How do people keep up with this deluge of professional growth supplements? Do you feel that way?

Maybe you are not in this camp at all, but rather an educator who values social media and the opportunities for professional growth it has afforded you. You may be an avid Tweeter, contributing to weekly chats and curating resources daily while sharing out with others. You are so passionate about this you want others to join and share the experience but to no avail. Your colleagues are overwhelmed and don’t share your excitement about professional learning communities.    

Let me share with both groups, an online resource which provides easy entry into PLNs and online communities. This website brings together a wide collaboration of educators, administrators, and industry professionals to provide free, anytime, anywhere professional learning. Participants may create profiles and participate in webinars. Individual teachers may use the platform to increase understanding or research new learning by joining communities, “follow” other educators, and create discussion groups around specific topics. This format could easily support district study groups, book studies, or PLCs. Continue reading

Social Studies Activities & Support

Evan McCormick, School Improvement Consultant

teenage pupils in class

Building Literacy in Social Studies Year Two Training
Last year the Iowa Department of Education rolled out state-wide professional development for social studies that was provided to teachers within each AEA. The 2014-2015 professional development modules focused on 1) Introduction to Iowa Core Literacy Standards for History/Social Studies, 2) Overview of Instructional Shifts, 3) Disciplinary Literacy, and 4) Use of Informational Text.

Past attendance in Year One training is NOT required as Year Two professional development is being provided within each AEA. The 2015-2016 modules focus on 5) Academic Vocabulary, 6) Text Complexity, 7) Text Based Evidence and Argument, and 8) Writing From Sources.

Great Prairie AEA will offer this Building Literacy in Social Studies: Year Two professional development in its Ottumwa office March 10-11, 2016. The target audience is 6-12th grade social studies teachers. One license renewal credit will be offered for those participants meeting all attendance and participation requirements. Registration information is available in the GPAEA professional development catalog.

Caucus 101
In the midst of an election cycle with the Iowa Caucus quickly approaching, the Iowa Secretary of State wanted to give teachers an opportunity to engage their students through meaningful discussion and active participation. Developed by Iowa teachers for Iowa teachers, Caucus 101 is a curriculum designed for flexibility with an emphasis on social media enhancements to appeal to how students learn today. Continue reading

What’s That One Thing We Can Do? (Continued)

Annette Clarahan, Parent Educator Coordinator

MR / College Park, Maryland Center for Young Children, laboratory school within the College of Education at the University of Maryland. Full day developmental program of early childhood education for children of faculty, staff, and students at the university. Parent  who also volunteers at the school, has meeting with her child's teacher. They are reviewing some of his class work. MR: Cas8 Wri4 © Ellen B. Senisi

Imagine being in a meeting with two people who were discussing a topic you knew nothing about. Do you think sometimes we have parents who feel like this at school meetings when we talk about test scores or use acronyms?

Think about successful school meetings with a parent, such as a conference or an IEP meeting. What happens in those meetings? Are parents asking questions? Is there a relationship between home and school? Are school and AEA staff doing That One Thing?  Was there a personal attempt to get mom or dad there?

Now think about those difficult meetings that were successful. What happened in those meetings that attributed to a positive outcome? What’s That One Thing? Did it feel more like a conversation than a routine meeting? Were parents engaged or were they spectators? Were test scores explained to the parents at a level they could understand? Were acronyms used? Did the pace of the meeting slow down?

We’ve all heard the saying “Kids do well when they can!” I believe this applies to parents as well. What’s That One Thing We Can Do?

Celebrate National Physical Therapy Month!

October is National Physical Therapy Month and an opportunity for Great Prairie AEA to celebrate and recognize our seven physical therapists and three physical therapy assistants for the work they do with children birth to 21 in our area.

Thank you to our Physical Therapists (PT) and Physical Therapy Assistants (PTA):

Great Prairie AEA’s Physical Therapy program provides therapeutic services to maximize children’s functional motor abilities through assessment, intervention, advocacy and education related to their unique needs within the educational atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation. Physical therapists design interventions that improve a student’s physical ability to access and participate in their educational program.

Physical Therapy Month is sponsored through the American Physical Therapy Association and is celebrated nationally. For more information see

STEM Festival at IHCC, Ottumwa – February 23, 2016

2016 IHCC STEM Festival Flyer PNG-2

Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa will host a free STEM Festival on February 23 from 5-7 p.m. at the Rural Education Center. While the focus is on students in grades PreK-8, the event is family-friendly and open to the public.

Partnering with the South Central STEM Hub, Great Prairie AEA, Southeast STEM Hub and Governor’s STEM Initiative, the festival is an effort to introduce Iowans to educational and career opportunities offered in STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math). Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa will host a free STEM Festival on February 23. With a focus on grades PreK-8, the event is family-friendly and open to everyone. It will take place from 5-7 p.m. in the Rural Education Center. Registration is appreciated, but walk-ins are welcome.

Booths feature interactive learning activities, hands-on demonstrations and make-and-takes.

To sign up as a volunteer or attendee, please visit the SC STEM Hub’s website at

There will also be a STEM Festival at Southeastern Community College, Burlington, April 23, 2016. Look for more information on this festival in the upcoming weeks.

GPAEA Schools in the News – October 2015

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.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

Signs a child may be bullied

  • Unexplainable injuries.
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry.
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness.
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares.
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school.
  • Sudden loss of friends; avoidance of social situations.
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem.
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide.

Signs a child may be bullying others

  • Gets into physical or verbal fights
  • Has friends who bully others Is increasingly aggressive
  • Is sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
  • Has unexplained extra money or new belongings
  • Blames others for his/her problems
  • Doesn’t accept responsibility for his/her actions
  • Is competitive, worries about his/her reputation or popularity

Learn more at

The Cornerstone – October 2015

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Feedback needed: Educator development preliminary recommendations

From Iowa Department of Education

Iowans who make up the Council on Educator Development have spent the past two years studying teacher and administrator evaluation practices and professional development. This document represents their preliminary recommendations. The council now needs feedback on these recommendations from Iowa’s education community, including superintendents, principals, teachers and school board members.

The following link leads to an online survey, which includes instructions for submitting feedback: The survey will be open through November 30, 2015. All survey feedback will remain anonymous.

Gathering input is critical not only to this process, it is required by law. The council was formed in the fall of 2013 in response to an education reform package adopted by Iowa lawmakers that year. The legislation, House File 215, calls for a period of feedback beginning October 1, 2015. Once the feedback is collected and analyzed, the council will use it to develop a final report in November 2016.

The council has carefully studied Iowa’s current system of evaluation in Iowa Code Chapters 284 and 284(a), as well as research and practices across the country.

Support through Assistive Technology – from Pal-Pad to Head Switch: Meet Zackary

Ellie Hamilton, Assistive Technology Specialist

Zackary, a student in the Centerville District, receives homebound special education services* from Great Prairie AEA. The district and AEA work together to serve and support Zachary’s learning. Earlier this year, his IEP team requested that GPAEA’s Assistive Technology Team complete an assessment of his needs. The team, along with Zackary’s family, used the Student Environment Tasks and Tools (SETT) form to prioritize what tools were needed to support him. It was determined that Zackary did not demonstrate a preference for items and was currently using a pal-pad switch to activate switch activities. The goal became for him to demonstrate preferences for items using a variety of assistive technology tools. Continue reading

GPAEA’s Collaborative Leadership Academy

MTSS for Secondary Schools 15_1 (1)Middle and High School Leadership Teams are invited to participate in Great Prairie AEA’s Collaborative Leadership Academy focusing on Multi-Tiered Systems of Support within secondary schools.

Leadership teams comprised of instructional coaches, secondary teachers, counselors and administrators are invited to attend.


  • Burlington – October 29, December 14, February 29, April 18
  • Ottumwa – October 30, December 15, March 1, April 19

Contact: Dr. Lonna Anderson, Director of Instructional Services, Ext.1208,

Postcard PDF: MTSS for Secondary Schools 15


Austin Buffum Kick-off Event

Thank you to the 220+ educators and AEA staff who made the Austin Buffum event a success!

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What’s That One Thing We Can Do?

Annette Clarahan, Parent Educator Coordinatorparent - child

I recently attended a family wedding in Illinois. The mother of the bride has a brother with Down Syndrome who was sheltered living at home with his parents, until the recent passing of his mother. His mother did what she felt was right by keeping him at home and protecting him from others. Taking him out in public was not always greeted with kindness. The stares and comments of the community hurt her feelings, and she didn’t want her son to feel that hurt. Now, his siblings are taking him to community events and gatherings where he is experiencing many firsts. This was his first wedding and after the father of the bride gave the toast, he and Mark sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” to the guests. Everyone cheered showing their acceptance of him. It was fun watching Mark with his family and the guests engaging with him as they all danced the night away. The next morning the mother of the bride told me she was in awe of how her brother was treated and she appreciated that kindness towards him. Continue reading