This is Eli…

Jennifer Woodley, Communication Specialist

A little over a week ago, I visited Jamie Reifsteck’s first grade classroom in the Fairfield Community School District to participate in an Autism Awareness activity. I was welcomed by a group of smiling faces and blue shirts! “We are all wearing blue today – for Eli!” they told me, “Eli has Autism.”

Eli’s family (mom, dad, and sister) visit the class a couple of times a year to share information, lead awareness activities, and encourage the kids to ask questions about Eli and Autism. “All this is to help build a community around Eli. We don’t want the kids scared or confused, and we want them to be comfortable interacting with Eli anywhere at any time,” explained Eli’s dad and Great Prairie AEA School Improvement Specialist, Mike Stiemsma. “It’s great when they see him at Hy-Vee, they run up and give him a high 5 and say “hi” even if he doesn’t say “hi” back.”

After reading the story, I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont, Eli’s mom, Sarah, begins a puzzle activity. “You are becoming Eli experts!” she states. “And becoming Autism experts, because of all of the time you spend with Eli.” The students then took turns raising their hand to share facts about Autism and Eli on a puzzle piece.


Traci Adkins is Eli’s full-time aid, “I’ve been with Eli for two years,” she says as he hugs her goodbye for the day. “He’s such a great kid – I love my job and I love working with him!”

I agree with Traci and applaud Eli’s parents for building a community around him by visiting the school building and offering to visit with other classrooms about Autism. Thank you to the Fairfield Community School District and Ms. Reifsteck’s first grade class for allowing me to visit. And a special thank you to Eli and his family for allowing me to participate and help spread awareness.

Autism occurs in approximately 1 out of every 68 births (CDC, March 2014) and is five times more common in males than in females. To learn more about Autism and support from Great Prairie AEA visit

Local students compete at Tater Toss Catapult Competition

Originally shared in Lee County Economic Development Group Newsletter - April 2015

Originally shared in Lee County Economic Development Group Newsletter – April 2015

The competition was flying at the first Tater Toss Catapult Competition Wednesday, April 8th in the SCC gym. Thirtythree students from schools throughout Southeast Iowa designed and built working catapults to compete. Catapults earned points for accuracy, distance and design. SCC Work-Based Learning Specialist, Leanne Krogmeier, says the event is a fun way for students to showcase their imagination and represent their schools. “There’s a lot of talented kids out there who were busy building some pretty clever contraptions.” Krogmeier says the event allows students to learn more about the fields of science, architecture, construction and engineering.

Accuracy of the catapults was tested as the teams aimed for targets at 15 and 30 feet. New London High School placed 1stat the 15-foot distance and WACO Middle School placed 1st at the 30-foot distance. Keokuk High School focused their efforts on the longest distance, winning first place in this category. Team coach Matt Hodges stated their practice shots were in the 170 ft. range. The WACO Middle School 7th grade team placed first overall and there was a tie for 2nd place overall between WACO Middle School 8th grade and Wapello High School.

Photos from GPAEA Science Consultant Rosemary Peck:

UbD = Increasing Implementation of Quality Iowa Core

UbD June 15 (1)If you are looking to increase the effectiveness of unit planning by using a process that can be used in any content area or if you have already begun using UbD and would like more time to collaborate and continue learning this workshop is for you. Collaborate among content areas and across districts.

Who should attend?  PK-12 Teachers (all content areas), Teacher Leaders, Coaches,Curriculum Directors, and/or Principals

8:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Lunch on your own

One recertification credit $50

Iowa’s Next Big Thing to Spark Youth Entrepreneurship

Happy studentsSoutheast Iowa high school juniors and seniors will have the opportunity to learn what it takes to be an entrepreneur during the 1st Iowa’s Next BIG Thing Youth Entrepreneur Challenge. This new initiative will be hosted by the Entrepreneurship committee of the Greater Burlington Partnership in coordination with Iowa Workforce Development and Southeastern Community College and the University of Iowa Jacobson Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship

The event will be held April 30th, 8:30-2:30 PM at the Middletown, Iowa Armed Forces Reserve Center. During the course of the day the students will receive instruction on idea creation, marketing, and finances that will prepare them to develop a basic business plan. At the end of the day students will pitch their product and business plan to a panel of judges (similar to a mini Shark Tank). The judges will choose winning teams who, in addition to being named one of “Iowa’s Next Big Things”, will receive gift cards.

The keynote address will be given by Tana Goertz, an internationally-recognized TV personality, motivational speaker, business coach, reality TV casting call coach, radio talk show host and author. Goertz is also known for her appearance on NBC’s “The Apprentice” with Donald Trump.

Register for Iowa’s Next Big Thing at Each student must register separately. Space is first come, first serve.  Students are encouraged to bring laptops.

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.

Celebrate the Week of the Young Child, April 12-18

The Week of the Young Child™ is 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

The local chapter of IAEYC-The Rolling Prairie Chapter- will be displaying the Artwork of young children around the squares of the county seats in our local 9 county area – April 12-18-this includes, Appanoose, Monroe, Mahaska, Wapello, Jefferson, Keokuk, Davis, Van Buren and Washington Counties.  Also, join the group for a Literacy event on Tuesday, April 28 from 6-7:30 PM in Fairfield. See flyer below.

Rolling Prairie Literacy Night-1

Here are some ideas to assist you in your daily planning. Please send us pictures of your WOYC events to

April 13: Music Monday!
Don’t forget to share your own version of our Music Monday song and share it on NAEYC’s Facebook page or post to Twitter using the hashtag #woycmusic. Here are music resources for families and teachers Continue reading

GPAEA Schools in the News – April 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.

The Cornerstone – April 2015

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Also check out:

40 Year Anniversary of AEAs Marks Improved Standards for Student Support

Brent Siegrist, Executive Director, Iowa’s Area Education Agencies

Brent SiegristA fortieth birthday is an important milestone in a person’s life. Amid the joke about approaching middle age is the comfort of being a little wiser than a person was just a decade ago. As Iowa’s Area Education Agencies reach this celebrated milestone we have the opportunity to reflect on the past four decades of service to Iowans.

Regional education in Iowa took a giant step forward in the spring of 1974 when Senate File 1163 transformed the jigsaw maze of 52 county or joint county school systems into 15 area education agencies with the same service areas as community colleges.  The AEAs, as they came to be called, began operating July 1, 1975.

This legislation erased the division and eased the discrepancies that existed between Iowa schools. Iowa’s AEAs collaborated to improve the education opportunities for our most valuable asset: our young people. Prior to that time, only about seven to eight percent of the handicapped children in the state had educational opportunities in their home communities. Similar discrepancies existed in general education classrooms: only 30% of the children in the state had access to current media materials, and the availability of resources varied greatly between Iowa’s schools urban, rural, large and small.

Continue reading

FTC Robotics, with the help of 3D printing, at Cardinal High School

Danae Moses, Student, FTC Robotics Team

This is the first year Cardinal High School has been a part of the First Tech Challenge (FTC) program. It has been a great learning experience for all the students who have been a part of it. Our team first had to come up with a design, build the robot, program the robot, and make sure it met all of the parameters. We did this over a period of months. To help build and design our robot, we used our own 3D printer to build pieces for it! Our teacher, Mr. Olson, received a grant that allowed our school to get the 3D printer. This printer really helped our team as we changed our design to improve our robot.

Our team was comprised of nine seniors, two juniors, and one sophomore. At the beginning of the year when we decided to enter into FTC, we split into groups to specifically focus on certain areas of the competition. We had certain people designing the robot, building it, programming it, looking over the rules of FTC, and three girls on our team were focused on marketing. We met once a week during our calculus class. We went to three competitions. This being our first year as a group, we were focused on learning about the program to succeed even more next year. Overall, our group was fairly successful. At the regional tournament, our team went 3-3. We all greatly enjoyed being able to work with each other and brainstorm ideas of how to make the best robot we possibly could. Our group looks forward to improving and winning even more next year!

April is Autism Awareness Month

coltonToday, 1 in 68 American children is diagnosed with autism. Great Prairie AEA provides consultative support for children birth through 21 years of age who are identified with and Autism Spectrum Disorder or who demonstrate autism-like characteristics. Learn more about our services at

Light it Up BLUE on April 2 – World Autism Day

The eighth annual World Autism Awareness Day is April 2, 2015. Every year, autism organizations around the world celebrate the day with unique fundraising and awareness-raising events. How will you celebrate? Use #LIUB to share your experience accross social media and help light the world up blue this April!

To learn more visit

GPAEA Success Stories

Young Writers Conference 2015

Carol Ryon, Young Writers Conference Coordinator


The 2015 Young Writers Conference is now over for another year.  It was held at William Penn University on March 12th and 13th.  Approximately 700 student writers invaded the campus to share their writing with their peers, listen to interesting keynote speakers, and attend interesting workshops.  Sixteen districts were represented on the elementary day with 380 students and 50 teachers, associates and parent volunteers. On the secondary day, seventeen districts and 35 teachers, associates and parent volunteers participated. Continue reading

Professional Development Opportunities – April 2015

Business teamworkAs educators, we are constantly striving to learn new skills and strategies that will improve student learning. Great Prairie AEA programs are coordinated to enhance the professional, personal, and organizational staff development needs of LEA and AEA staff. These include credit courses, leadership development programs, support staff workshops, school improvement institutes, paraeducator certification and internal staff development.

Click here to register via MyLearningPlan and search for the courses listed below.

  • April 7 – Para Educator Course I – BURLINGTON
  • April 7 – Vocabulary: Making It Meaningful – BURLINGTON
  • April 8 – Secondary Transition Planning for Educators and Families – BURLINGTON
  • April 9 – Poverty and Learning: Breaking Through the Achievement Gap – BURLINGTON
  • April 9 – Nine Essential Skills for the Love & Logic Classroom BASIC – MT. PLEASANT
  • April 9 – Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Initial Training Workshop – BURLINGTON
  • April 16 – Substitute Authorization (Grades K-12) – BURLINGTON
  • April 18 – Social Media and You – BURLINGTON
  • April 18 – Para Educator Course II – BURLINGTON
  • April 21 – Positive Intervention and Effective Strategies for Classroom Management Challenging Behaviors Workshop (The Behavior Doctor) – FAIRFIELD
  • April 22 – Teacher Librarian Spring Workshop – OTTUMWA
  • April 23 – Building Literacy in Social Studies (Year 1) – OTTUMWA

Science Clubhouse Workshops for K-2 (Integrating Science with Reading and Writing)

Shared Gail Wortmann and Lindsey Wortmann

sciclubThe Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are a game-changer for science at the elementary level.  They are performance standards – the students must “do science” in order to show attainment.  Because the science standards need to be worked into the very busy day in an elementary classroom, it is imperative they be integrated with reading and writing workshops and not treated as a separate subject.  The Science Clubhouse Workshop lessons include all NGSS performance standards for each grade level (K-2).  Participants will work through all lessons, practicing the hands on science investigations and tying them to related books and writing assignments aligned with the Common Core.

On March 24th, the Iowa Department of Education announced the members of the state team charged with reviewing Iowa’s science standards agreed the Next Generation Science Standards will be the basis for their work on a final recommendation to the State Board of Education.  The details have not been decided, but the direction is clear.

The Science Clubhouse Workshop courses will help teachers prepare for student attainment of the Next Generation Science Standards as a part of an integrated reading/writing workshop.  Teachers will experience science and engineering practices, learn about cross-cutting concepts, review big ideas in science, and identify where the standards fit into a K-12 science scope and sequence.  The target audience for this course includes kindergarten, first and second grade teachers, science consultants/specialists, instructional coaches, technology coaches, STEM coaches, and pilot teachers.

All courses will be held at Great Prairie AEA (Ottumwa) in Auditorium A/B from 8:00-4:00.  Each participant will need to bring a laptop or tablet to access course materials.

The Science Clubhouse Workshop integrated science, reading, and writing workshops are now open for registration.

All courses will be held at Great Prairie AEA (Ottumwa) in Auditorium A/B from 8:00-4:00. Each participant will need to bring a laptop or tablet to access course materials.

Iowa Teacher of the Year nominations due April 25

TOYLogoBlueGray250x190Thousands of talented Iowa educators lead and inspire their students, but only one is chosen annually as the state’s top teacher. The deadline to nominate the 2016 Iowa Teacher of the Year is April 25.

The award is an opportunity to recognize an exceptional Iowa teacher who is helping to redefine education. Nominations will be accepted from anyone, including students, parents, school administrators, colleagues, college faculty members and associations.

Nomination forms can be found on the Iowa Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year webpage.

The Iowa Teacher of the Year award was established in 1958. The annual program is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Education through an appropriation from the Iowa Legislature.

The Teacher of the Year serves as an ambassador to education and as a liaison to primary and secondary schools, higher education and organizations across the state.

Clemencia Spizzirri, a middle-school Spanish teacher from the Des Moines Public Schools, was named the 2015 Teacher of the Year.

The 2016 Teacher of the Year will be announced this fall.

Originally shared on