The Cornerstone – April 2019


IowaALN & GPAEA hosts Professional Learning & Student Expo

Area students and business partners gathered together at the Professional Learning & Student Expo on April 10th at the Great Prairie AEA Ottumwa Office to showcase projects and share experiences. For the past school year, students have worked with area organizations and businesses to tackle and problem-solve real-world problems. Students have built everything from apps and websites to recording and producing videos and podcasts.

The program is housed under the Iowa Authentic Learning Network (IowaALN). ​In response to #futureready Iowa, Great Prairie AEA and Green Hills AEA partnered together to create IowaALN, a program for students to experience 21st Century learning through the development of authentic learning experiences with area businesses, industry, and other organizations.

IowaALN and GPAEA would like to thank the following Districts for participating in the Professional Learning & Student Expo:

  • Albia (Albia Aspire)
  • Danville (5th Grade)
  • Mount Pleasant (Middle & High School)
  • Oskaloosa (High School)
  • Ottumwa (SparkTank)

A special thank you to GPAEA’s 21st Century Learning Specialist Laura Williams on creating and leading a successful network!

Learn more at IowaALN and the student’s projects at


GPAEA’s Battle of the Books a Success!


On April 8 & 9 avid readers from southeast Iowa competed in the Great Prairie Area Education Agency Battle of the Books competition by reading and studying 30 select books from varied authors, genres, time periods, and cultures. It was a big task, but the students worked together to collectively read the titles–meaning each student read a portion of the list. However, some students undertook the daunting task of reading all 30 books prior to the regional competition.

Teams were allowed one hour to complete a 60-question, short answer test. While the tests were being scored, students enjoyed a presentation by Iowa author, Sarah Prineas. Students were able to purchase books by the author and have them autographed. Five teams qualified to advance to the oral round, where teams were challenged with additional questions. Medals are awarded for first, second, and third places.

Thank you to the following Districts (teams) that participated:

Elementary: Albia, Burlington Notre Dame, Davis County, Fairfield, Fort Madison, Holy Trinity, Keokuk, Lynnville-Sully, Mediapolis, Melcher-Dallas, Moravia, Morning Sun, Oskaloosa, Sigourney, Southeast Warren, WACO, Wapello, Wayne, and Winfield-Mt. Union

Middle School: Burlington Notre Dame, Central Lee, Clear Creek Amana, College Community, Davis County, Fairfield, Fort Madison, Holy Trinity, Indianola, Keokuk, Lynnville-Sully, Mediapolis, Melcher-Dallas, Mount Pleasant, Newton, North Mahaska, Oskaloosa, Ottumwa, WACO, Southeast Warren

Congratulations to the top five finishing teams:


  • 1st – Fort Madison
  • 2nd – Oskaloosa
  • 3rd – Albia
  • 4th – Lynnville-Sully
  • 5th – Morning Sun
Fort Madison

1st Place Elementary – Fort Madison

Middle School

  • 1st – Indianola
  • 2nd – Ottumwa
  • 3rd – Mediapolis
  • 4th – WACO
  • 5th – Fort Madison


Congratulations to all students and teams for a job well done! A special thank you to GPAEA Media Specialist Jane Frizzell (and her team) for organizing a fun and successful event!

The GPAEA Battle of the Books is open to students in grades 3 through middle school, with separate competitions for elementary and middle school students.

Other Features in Area News:

Diane John receives 2019 Innovative Creator Award from Iowa’s AEAs

At the March 28th, Iowa’s Area Education Agencies Boards Conference Great Prairie AEA’s Diane John (SLP) received the Innovative Creator Award. This award celebrates amazingly innovative, creative thinking and actions. She received over 12 nominations from co-workers, colleagues, and friends.

Congratulations Diane!

View other award recipients at

See original release at Diane John selected to receive 2019 Innovative Creator Award from Iowa’s AEAs

GPAEA Supports WMU’s “Out of This World” Family Night

Submitted by Lynn Selking, GPAEA Math Specialist, & Patricia Jones, WMU Instructional Coach

The Winfield-Mt. Union Elementary (preschool-5th grade) held an “Out of This World” Family Night on March 18. Ms. Patricia Jones, Instructional Coach for the district, held monthly meetings to plan and prepare with the help of the elementary principal, the Great Prairie AEA staff, and elementary teachers.  The Winfield-Mt. Union teachers and administration all volunteered to help in certain areas throughout the evening.

Elementary principal, Gabe Wylder, served the meal and experienced the activities with students and their families.  Superintendent, Jeff Maeder, also helped serve the meal and experienced some activities. Middle School/ High School teachers Kathy Mullin, Jill Blake, Lindsey Pogmore, and Kathy Holtkamp provided the night with student volunteers, food, child care serves, and technical abilities for our W-MU Trivia Kahoot competition.  The Elementary teachers helped the GPAEA specialists with their area of expertise: Amy Krieger, Angie Jandrey, Darby Harris, Sara Frahs, Lynn Riley, Emilie Olveda, Ronda Schinstock, Mary Miller, Tabitha Unternahrer and Melissa Selzer, along with paraeducators, Tracy Stucker, Jill Townsley, and Melissa Ball.

Preschool-5th-grade students accompanied adult family members and older siblings to classrooms for specific activities.  The doors opened at 5:00 with a meal and 5:30 for activities.

Miss Selzer, the WMU Title 1 teacher, shared her program and activities with any families that wanted to learn more about the program.

Shelli Blazic, Positive Behavioral Intervention Systems trainer for Great Prairie AEA, shared positive ways to express feelings with families through activities.  Emotional regulation and awareness was the center of the activities shared. Ms. Katelyn McKim, the WMU guidance counselor, and Mrs. Lynn Riley assisted families as well. 


Miss Sara Frahs enjoyed helping families log onto a Kahoot competition game of WMU staff, school, and community Trivia.  She had some awesome HS helpers as well.

Many families enjoyed the new Digital Planetarium.  Tracy Jarrett, Science Consultant for Great Prairie, along with Mrs. Mary Miller and Mrs. Rhonda Schinstock provided expert “tours” of the Cosmos! There was only enough time for four rounds of 20-minute tours, but the planetarium was full each time.  Mary and Rhonda attended the certification workshop in Burlington on March 8th. This training allows teachers access to check out the Digital Planetarium during the school year. The Digital planetarium provides students a model of space. This technology was brand new to Great Prairie AEA at the end of last school year.  Incorporating the planetarium into their curriculum supports several of the new Iowa Science Standards in first, fifth, seventh, and high school.


Ms. Emily Olveda hosted the Math room where families played games and worked puzzles.  The hanging balance game (Suspend) with the wire pieces was wildly popular. A whole bunch of youngsters learned (or remembered) how to play the card game Garbage, suggested by Great Prairie Math Consultant, Lynn Selking, who assisted Ms. Olveda. 


Mrs. Tabitha Unternahrer and Mrs. Jill Townsley worked with their paraprofessionals to create a fun and active night for the 3-4-year-old preschool students and their families.  A photo booth was available for pictures and all the students had the opportunity to make play dough.

Ms. Harris, Mrs. Jandrey, and Kara Veach, Great Prairie Literacy Consultant, assisted families with the making of “constellations.”  The Big Dipper and Leo the Lion were overwhelmingly the favorites. After the students made their constellation cup, they were invited to the cozy Reading Nook to curl up with a large selection of books about stars and constellations.


Winfield-Mt Union CSD families really came together as a community supporting the positive engagement and school success of their students at Family Night.  This is so important for our young students.

IHCC Students Experience Assistive Technology at GPAEA

Lorri Swarney Academic Fieldwork Coordinator/Instructor for the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at Indian Hills Community College brought her students to try Assistive Technology tools in the Ottumwa AEA office on April 9th.

The students were challenged to complete the SETT/Student Environment Tasks and Tools form and determine which Assistive Technology Tools would support the student scenario in the general education classroom.

Click here to learn more about Assistive Technology at GPAEA.

A Tip from FEP – OMG Meeting Magic

Iowa Family & Educator PartnershipShared by the GPAEA Family Educator Partnership

Great Prairie AEA FEP coordinators work with parents, educators, and local school districts to provide FEP programs, services, and activities; they are also parents of children or young adults with special needs. This month they wish to share insights from OMG Meeting Magic.

OMG Meeting Magic In Special Education
School Communication to Build Collaborative Family Engagement
by Carolyn S. Manard & Bradley D. Manard

Part I: Organize – Organize Prior Knowledge

Chapter 2 – Know Your Audience – Summary Points

  1. Use your resources to learn about the child and parents who will be attending (Internet, Student Information System, social media, staff members, etc.)
  2. Find a way to make a personal connection with the family that goes beyond the school setting.
  3. If there is a staff member who already has a positive relationship with the family, have them join the meeting as a bridge between the family and school officials.

Manard, C. S. and Manard, B. D. (2018). OMG! Meeting Magic in Education: School Communication to Build Collaborative Family Engagement

Contact Annette Clarahan or Kelly Wallace for more information about OMG Meeting Magic in Special Education at GPAEA Family Educator Partnership.

Week of the Young Child – April 8-12

Baby indoors laughingApril 8-12, 2019 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! Learn more at


Early Childhood: Joan Garrett, Dawn Johnson, Anne Michel, and June Morgan


Early ACCESS is a partnership between families with young children, birth to age three, and providers. The purpose of this program is for families and staff to work together in identifying, coordinating and providing needed services and resources that will help the family assist their infant or toddler to grow and develop.

Early ACCESS Staff: Linda Boshart, Hollie Couch, Katie Edwards, Denise Evans, Nicole Fraker, Angie Green, Kim Johnson, Jennifer Keith, Michol Ludington, Leesha McGee, Lauren Moyers, Carmela Murphy, Erin Perry, Lynn Sheagren, Nancy Sieber, Kristin Stuekerjuergen, Lisa Vohoska and Norma Whitaker

April is National Autism Awareness Month

April is National Autism Awareness Month –

The challenging behavior & autism team responds to referral requests by school districts and Great Prairie Area Education Agency staff for assistance with working with children who have challenging behavior and/or autism.

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

GPAEA Success Stories


April is Occupational Therapy Month

ot_4a630ead2f531April 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. Thank you!