Making a Difference in Education: Iowa’s AEAs Award Recipients

On April 5, 2018, Iowa’s AEAs presented their 2nd annual AEA Awards to five deserving recipients. This is the second year for the awards, which are an opportunity to recognize and celebrate outstanding candidates for their contributions to education and the AEA system.


Evan Abbey, Janet Stutz, Cindy Cavanagh, Teresa Wyant and Miller Roskamp

E. Robert Stephens Award

Evan Abbey, Project Director of AEA Learning Online, was awarded the Dr. E. Robert Stephens Award. The Dr. E. Robert Stephens award acknowledges contributions in the areas of innovation and support to local districts, AEAs, the Department of Education and other partners/organizations.

Over 50 years ago, Stephens was a graduate student at The University of Iowa. He was asked by the Iowa Department of Public Instruction and rural superintendents in the state to direct a study to find a prototype to distribute instructional services equitably and efficiently across Iowa. His vision eventually found its way to the Iowa Legislature in 1974, when Iowa’s AEAs were passed into law. This award is named after “Dr. Bob” to honor exemplary work by those associated with educational service agencies and AEAs.

Evan has been the driving force behind instruction in the areas of online and personalized learning in Iowa. His vision for AEA Learning Online has transformed how schools in Iowa use blended and online learning opportunities. With Evan’s support and expertise, AEA Learning Online has developed multiple systems with learning opportunities for adults and students.

“We are honored to present this award to Evan Abbey,” said Tom Lane, Executive Director of Iowa’s AEAs. “Evan provides strong leadership for this work and his vision benefits Iowa’s educational system.”

Friend of the AEAs

Miller Roskamp was named a Friend of the AEA. The Friend of the AEA acknowledges contributions by policymakers, citizens, board members, school district partners, businesses and organizations who have been great partners and demonstrate strong support for furthering the mission of Iowa’s AEAs.

Roskamp was nominated for his support of the River Hills School, a public sponsored special school for students with moderate, severe and profound developmental disabilities. The school serves students from age 3 through age 21. Approximately 120 students from local school districts within Central Rivers AEA attend River Hills School. The parent of a Rivers Hills graduate and respected community philanthropist, Roskamp took on a leadership role in renovating the infrastructure and spirit of River Hills. His motivation and leadership with a variety of initiatives and campaigns has resulted in significant building and grounds improvements. Students now enjoy safe and modern outdoor adapted playgrounds, and the learning environments in all 24 of the building classrooms have been enhanced.

“Miller is not only a friend of the AEA but also a friend to all children with special needs,” said Sam Miller, Central Rivers AEA Chief Administrator. “His support for the integrity-filled work of River Hills School and the larger community it represents has literally changed lives.”

Friend of the AEAs

Dr. Janet Stutz, superintendent of Grinnell-Newburg Community Schools, was also named a Friend of the AEA.

“Each day finds Janet focused on doing the best for the students of Grinnell-Newburg,” said Sam Miller, Central Rivers AEA Chief Administrator. “She openly admits the district can’t do the work that needs to be done without the support and cooperation of the AEA. Her administrative team meets regularly with the AEA regional administrator, who is always viewed as a partner at the table. Janet supports the AEA staff assigned to her district and believes they play an important part in the achievement of students.”

Innovative Creator Award

Cindy Cavanagh and Teresa Wyant, staff at Mississippi Bend AEA were selected for the Innovative Creator Award by Iowa’s AEAs. The Innovative Creator award celebrates innovative and creative thinking and actions to enrich student learning. Cavanagh and Wyant  were instrumental in creating the Assistive Technology Team at Mississippi Bend AEA. For over 25 years, they have worked with teachers, students and families to ensure each child has voice and an environment in which to thrive.

“It is with great appreciation that we present Cindy and Teresa with this award,”  said Tom Lane, Executive Director of Iowa’s AEAs. “We also thank you for the creative ways you offered students to stretch their minds in school and engage them in thoughtful, meaning activities.”

The Cornerstone – April 2018


GPAEA Rolls Out the Iowa Authentic Learning Network (IOWA ALN)

Laura Williams, 21st Century Learning Specialist

Something new is on the horizon for Great Prairie AEA and the State – the Iowa Authentic Learning Network or IOWA ALN. In response to #futureready Iowa, Great Prairie AEA and Green Hills AEA partnered together to create a support network for educators interested in bringing more authentic and application-based learning experiences to their classrooms. The result… an exciting, eye-opening, and real-world experience for high school students.

Since the beginning of the school year, Iowa ALN has been developing local project pools with area partnerships in a few pilot districts. By creating these school to community connections, students apply current knowledge and skills to a local business’ challenge. Students experience how to communicate and brainstorm in a professional setting, meet deadlines, and learn from business leaders. Eventually, the hope is that all schools in Iowa will have access to partnerships in their community through this work.

Iowa ALN invites students and educators to experience 21st Century learning through the development of authentic learning experiences with area businesses, industry, and other organizations. The vision is to provide students the opportunity to explore their passions and engage with experts while learning and applying 21st-century skills that prepare them for their future within the K-12 setting.

What can Iowa ALN do for GPAEA schools?

  1. Assist in the planning, development, and implementation of ALN program;
  2. Provide consultative services for the successful implementation of ALN program and achievement of ALN goals;
  3. Provide professional development services or broker such services for the district, for the successful implementation.
  4. Develop and provide access to a project database for partner schools.

What does this look like?

IOWA ALN Spotlight: Mt. Pleasant Middle School

Amanda Sanders of Bridges of Henry County pitches a project to engage local Mt. Pleasant Middle School students in a community project as part of their social studies class.

Mr. Williams, a middle school teacher for Mount Pleasant CSD piloted one of the projects housed within GPAEA ’s developing regional project pool and was able to see the connection to this real project and how it linked up to the new Social Studies standards Iowa recently adopted on March 11, 2017.  When asked how this project fit with the new standards, Williams replied “the new standards really puts an emphasis on learning locally and engaging students in compelling questions. These questions lead them into a process of inquiry at which we have information at our fingertips. It’s what they do with that information, the application, that can start to make a difference- and in this case, a difference for our community.”

So just how can authentic project-based learning link to Iowa standards? The following project summary will give some insight into just how this looks in the classroom:

Summary of Project

Class- Mr. Williams 7th Grade Social Studies Class (for information contact )

Partner – Bridges out of Poverty Henry County

Project- Marketing/Communications regarding resources to support the community in order to end the cycles of poverty and homelessness locally.

Description- Students were empowered to come up with ideas of how they could promote this and engaged in research to better understand poverty at a local level. Students created fliers and shared with the partner for feedback.

Duration– 1 Week

7th Grade Social Studies Connecting Standards:

  • SS.7.13. Identify social, political and economic factors that can influence our thoughts and behavior.
  • SS.7.14. Examine what causes inequalities and how they exist within a society.
  • SS.7.17. Describe the roles of political, civil, and economic organizations in shaping people’s lives. (21st century skills)
  • SS.7.18. Explain and evaluate how economic decisions affect the wellbeing of individuals, businesses, and society.

For more information on Iowa ALN, please visit or contact GPAEA’s 21st Century Learning Specialist:

Support for Districts Through AEA PREP (Postsecondary Readiness & Equity Partnership)

IowasAEAs_Primary_RGBWhat is AEA PREP?

In support of Future Ready Iowa’s and the AEA Compact’s goals, Iowa AEAs recently established AEA PREP (Postsecondary Readiness & Equity Partnership).  PREP is a statewide partnership and resource center focused on improving postsecondary readiness and education attainment, with a focus on closing attainment gaps that exist for those populations traditionally underrepresented in higher education, including first-generation college students, students from low socioeconomic households, racial and ethnic minorities, and students with disabilities. AEA PREP’s mission is to “ensure all students are ready and prepared to succeed in a variety of postsecondary opportunities through partnerships with districts and key stakeholders to support healthy systems in an environment of equity and shared accountability.”  AEA PREP will accomplish its mission by providing actionable postsecondary readiness and success data to all Iowa PK-12 school districts, developing a statewide network of Postsecondary Readiness Leads and teams in each AEA region who will provide leadership & support in using these data, and creating a resource center with updated research, postsecondary readiness data dashboards, presentations, webinars, and other information to support postsecondary readiness programs and initiatives.


According to a collaborative study conducted by the Iowa Department of Education and the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, “only 28 percent of U.S. jobs required education beyond a high school diploma in 1973” (2016). However, the report also concludes that current projections estimate by 2025 “68 percent of jobs in Iowa will require education and training beyond high school.” Future Ready Iowa advances the results of this study by establishing that Iowans need postsecondary education and training to meet the state’s workforce demands and economic development needs and to provide each Iowan with a living wage. While there are many adults currently in the workforce eligible to upgrade their education and skills, K-12 schools possess access to the greatest number of entrants into the talent pipeline needed to meet Future Ready Iowa’s goal that 70% of Iowans have education or training beyond high school. Iowa’s Area Education Agencies (AEAs) support this goal in its compact, which states “a postsecondary readiness goal will be established that most accurately identifies and tracks postsecondary success.”

The Iowa AEA Compact and College & Career Readiness

The Iowa AEA Compact outlines a partnership with PK-12 schools, which pledges, “every child who graduates from an Iowa pre-K-12 public or non-public accredited school will be prepared for success in postsecondary studies, a career, and citizenship.” Iowa’s definition of college- and career-ready defines readiness as: 1) achieved proficiency in essential content knowledge; 2) acquired practical transitional skills; 3) developed key learning skills and cognitive strategies; 4) build a strong foundation of self-understanding and engagement strategies.

What does it mean to support College and Career Readiness (CCR)?

There are four ways AEA PREP plans to support districts in preparing their students on their journey to become College and Career Ready.  First will be to work with district and building leadership teams to create data-driven PLC structures focused on both system-level and student-centered analysis of all four CCR outcome categories.  Second districts will be encouraged to examine equity gaps in postsecondary readiness & success and create action plans to work to close them.  The AEA PREP team is also committed to providing professional learning to targeted audiences (school counselors, administrators, district career planning teams – ICAPs, teachers, CTTs, community partners, etc.) on best practices instructional strategies to increase achievement so our students are ready for their post-secondary choices.  Finally, AEA PREP is working to develop timely and relevant programming to address student-centered needs (i.e., numeracy, literacy, FAFSA completion, learning skills and cognitive strategies, self-awareness and engagement strategies) to increase student engagement and achievement which can impact their postsecondary success.

What will be provided to all Iowa school districts for postsecondary readiness data?

Interactive postsecondary readiness and success dashboards will be provided to all Iowa public PK-12 school districts with a comprehensive high school. These dashboards will include postsecondary enrollment and completion data from the graduating classes of 2010-2017, with annual updates thereafter.  The dashboards are intended to replicate and replace all information contained in National Student Clearinghouse StudentTracker for High Schools paper reports, with additional functionality to sort/filter enrollment and award status based on a variety of postsecondary readiness and success measures and demographic subgroups.

In addition to the postsecondary data dashboards, FAFSA completion status for all current high school seniors will be shared with districts. In its first year, AEA PREP, in partnership with Iowa College Aid and the Iowa Department of Education, has provided student FAFSA Completion data to over 160 Iowa high schools, and will complete its bi-weekly distribution to all Iowa high schools in March 2018, making Iowa the first state in the nation to provide this level of support to 100% of its public high schools.  Financing a postsecondary education is a key barrier for many students, and this partnership will help schools identify which students need additional supports to complete required financial aid forms.

As AEA PREP evolves, districts will begin seeing a greater emphasis on college and career readiness for all students.  This includes data analysis, resources, and support for all educators in the areas of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, school leadership, and school counseling. A one-page overview and summary of AEA PREP’s Primary Functions are available here.

For questions, please contact GPAEA Postsecondary Readiness Lead, Doreen Underwood, at or GPAEA PREP Data Lead, Evan McCormick, at

2018 Young Writers’ Conference

YWC Logo 12

By Carol Ryon, Young Writers’ Conference Coordinator

William Penn University was the scene for the Great Prairie AEA 2018 Young Writers’ Conference on March 6 & 7. The purpose of the day was to encourage students to become better writers, to share their stories, and realize writing can be exciting when they tell the stories within them.

On the elementary day, approximately 300 students in grades 3-6 attended from 15 of schools. The students were treated to four activities throughout the day. They participated in the published author keynote/sharing sessions and 2 workshops.

Jill Esbaum has published over 25 fiction and non-fiction books. Her newest books include Little Kids First Big Book of Why and Explore My World: Kangaroos, through National Geographic for Kids. In 2016 she received the Best Children’s Books of 2016 with a star for Outstanding Merit – Bank Street College of Education. Jill lives on a farm in Eastern Iowa with her family and shared her love of reading and writing with the students.

Students chose two workshops to attend from a variety of offerings: Linda Fox – Prepare to Scare; Gregory McCaulley – Teaching the Pillars of Character through Puppetry; Molly McCaulley – Eliminate Boring Words!!; Joni Camp – Calligraphy The Art of Elegant Writing; Winter Peck – Once Upon a Dark and Stormy Night; Laura Ross and the Story Book Players from Oskaloosa High School – Collaborate, Create & Perform; Janna Lundein – Say What?!; Crystal James Puppetry for All Occasions; Ann Morris – Why are Monarch Butterflies; and Debb Kent – Get Your Cheer On!.

Students were required to create an original work of writing, which they read to a small group of 9 students and a teacher. Time was taken to listen to each other and provide positive comments.

The secondary day was for students (grades 6-12) and approximately 250 students and their teachers from 12 school districts attended. The day was a similar design with a guest published author, workshop and sharing sessions.

The keynote speaker was Wendy Delsol and is the author of a young adult trilogy: Stork (2010), Frost (2011), and Flock (2012). The books are inspired by Norse mythology, adventure, and Icelandic folklore. Stork was one of 25 titles out of over 1000 to receive a 2010 VOYA Perfect Ten and one of ten to win a 2011 Westchester Fiction Award. Delsol’s adult novel, The McCloud Home for Wayward Girls, was named an August 2011 Barnes and Noble Pick of the Week. The book (set in Iowa) tells the story of three generations of women and the secrets that bind them. Born in Canada, Delsol grew up in Michigan, lived in Los Angeles for 20 years, and now resides in Des Moines with her husband and two teen sons.

The workshops included: Linda Fox – Prepare to Scare; Lory Chaplin – Calligraphy The Art of Elegant Writing; Winter Peck – Once Upon a Dark and Stormy Night; Laura Ross and the Story Book Players from Oskaloosa High School – Collaborate, Create & Perform; Bruce Carlson – Writing for Success; Crystal James -Celebrate Enjoyment of Poetry; Debb Kent – Get Your Cheer On!; William Penn Media Team – Writing Visual Stories; and Janna Lundein – Say What?!

Teachers were invited to attend the “Everyone Writes!” session led by Fran McVeigh and had opportunities to network with other teachers during the day.

This was the first time many students had been to a college campus and showed great excitement as the day progressed. Throughout it they remembered the quote, “I read to discover your soul; I write to discover mine.”

April is National Autism Awareness Month

April is National Autism Awareness Month –

Great Prairie AEA provides consultative support for children birth through 21 years of age who are identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder or who demonstrate autism-like characteristics. Learn more about our services at

Shout out to our GPAEA Challenging Behavior & Autism Staff: Teran Buettell, Crystal Hornback, Sarah McCollum & Julie Thomas. Thank you for all that you do for area students and families!

GPAEA Success Stories


April is Occupational Therapy Month

OT webApril has been designated as Occupational Therapy Month nationally and is celebrated throughout the country. Occupational Therapists and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants are part of an important profession that helps people across their lifespan to participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. Their customized approach to evaluations, interventions, and outcomes help a child with disabilities participate in school and in social situations, and offer the specialized support and services to people of all ages and in all circumstances that only occupational therapy can provide.

We want to take this opportunity to recognize and thank our own Great Prairie AEA Occupational Therapists and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants for the services they provide throughout our Great Prairie AEA service area.

Week of the Young Child – April 16-20

woyc_colorApril 16-20, 2018 is “The Week of the Young Child”™ – an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) celebrating early learning, young children, their teachers, and families. More info can be found at

Shoutout to our Early Childhood and Early ACCESS staff for all their work with young children and families!
Early Childhood
  • Joan Garrett
  • Dawn Johnson
  • Anne Michel
  • June Morgan
  • Vickie Parker


  • Catherine Benson
  • Jan Bergman
  • Linda Boshart
  • Hollie Couch
  • Katie Edwards
  • Denise Evans
  • Nicole Fraker
  • Angie Green
  • Kim Johnson
  • Jennifer Keith
  • Amanda Larkin
  • Michol Ludington
  • Leesha McGee
  • Lauren Moyers
  • Carmela Murphy
  • Erin Perry
  • Kathy Schneider
  • Lynn Sheagren
  • Nancy Sieber
  • Kristin Stuekerjuergen
  • Lisa Vohoska