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 http://www.iowaaea.org/about/aea-awards/past-winners/

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 https://www.naeyc.org/events/woyc/faq

Shoutout to our Early Childhood and Early ACCESS staff for all their work with young children and families! Learn more at https://www.gpaea.org/services/early-childhood/.


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 – http://www.autism-society.org/get-involved/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!

The Cornerstone – March 2019


Click on an article link below or scroll down to begin reading.

ICYMI – Highlights from February Issue

Summer Courses Open for Registration

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GPAEA is excited to announce that summer courses are open for registration! Check out our list of summer courses being offered for renewal credit! Keep checking our catalog for more additions: https://aealearning.truenorthlogic.com

Recommended for Substitute Teachers, Para Renewal as well as Educators

Recommended for Educators and Administrators

Paraeducator Courses Available in Fairfield, Ottumwa & Burlington

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Paraeducator Courses released for March – April 2019 as listed below. Click on the title of a course to register:


Professional Learning & Student Expo – April 10

You are invited to join students, educators, and business professionals on Wednesday, April 10, in Ottumwa to learn about how local districts and business are partnering to provide real-life learning experiences for area students!

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Download PDF: IowaALNRegionalProfLearnandExpo (1)

Diane John selected to receive 2019 Innovative Creator Award from Iowa’s AEAs

Congratulations to Diane John on being selected to receive the 2019 Innovative Creator Award from Iowa’s Area Education Agencies. This award celebrates amazingly innovative, creative thinking and actions. She received multiple nominations from co-workers, colleagues, and friends.

Working as a speech-language pathologist for Great Prairie AEA, Diane expressed that she is humbled to receive the award and referenced the hard work and team effort of all the teachers that she works with and her colleagues. Alicia Sherwood, an instructional coach at West Burlington Independent School District, said that Diane “brings a lot of knowledge” to the team. She is truly committed to a “kids first” mission.

Ms. John will be honored at an awards ceremony in Johnston on March 28 and a news release from Iowa’s AEAs will follow.

27 GPAEA Schools Honored for Creating Safe, Positive Environments

PBIS-webimage-400x260Released on March 7, 2019 – The Iowa Department of Education has awarded schools statewide for their work on implementing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). PBIS is a multi-tiered system of support for behavior and provides the framework for teachers to provide and monitor prevention and intervention practices.

The schools’ work in PBIS focuses on conditions to support learning by providing positive, predictable and safe environments. If done effectively, PBIS has been shown to reduce major disciplinary infractions, reduce out-of-school suspension, improve prosocial behavior, improve academic achievement and improve school climate.

Listed below are the 27 schools within GPAEA who have been awarded and honored – congratulations!


To earn Banner Plus, teams have met fidelity for Tier 2, are providing more than one Tier 2 intervention to meet students’ needs; and through progress monitoring, are able to show that 70 percent of students are responding positively to Tier 2 supports. Banner Plus schools are beginning to develop Tier 3 systems.

  • Cardinal Elementary, Cardinal Elementary, Great Prairie
  • Hawthorne Elementary, Keokuk CSD, Great Prairie
  • Oskaloosa Middle School, Oskaloosa CSD, Great Prairie
  • Horace Mann Elementary, Ottumwa CSD, Great Prairie
  • Evans Middle School, Ottumwa CSD, Great Prairie
  • Wapello Elementary, Wapello CSD, Great Prairie


Banner schools are sustaining universal systems and practices. Students are accessing interventions such as Check in/Check out and 50 percent are responding positively to the support. The Tier 2 team engages families and staff; and uses a daily progress report to progress monitor student response to additional supports.

  • Grant Center Elementary, Albia CSD, Great Prairie
  • Columbus Elementary, Chariton CSD, Great Prairie
  • Keokuk Middle School, Keokuk CSD, Great Prairie
  • Harlan Elementary, Mount Pleasant CSD, Great Prairie
  • Wilson Elementary, Ottumwa CSD, Great Prairie
  • Eisenhower Elementary, Ottumwa CSD, Great Prairie

Honor Plus

Honor Plus is awarded to schools that are implementing universal features with fidelity. Additionally, classroom systems and family/community involvement are included in their plan. These schools are developing Tier 2 systems and have defined a decision rule to identify students who may benefit from additional supports.

  • Lincoln Center Elementary, Albia CSD, Great Prairie
  • Central Lee Middle School, Central Lee CSD, Great Prairie
  • Central Lee High School, Central Lee CSD, Great Prairie
  • Washington Elementary, Fairfield CSD, Great Prairie
  • George Washington Elementary, Keokuk CSD, Great Prairie
  • Van Allen Elementary, Mount Pleasant CSD, Great Prairie
  • Mount Pleasant Middle School, Mount Pleasant CSD, Great Prairie


Schools that earn the Honor level award have rolled out their PBIS plan to students, staff and families. They have identified and taught behavioral expectations and implemented systems to develop a consistent response to appropriate and problem behaviors. The building team meets regularly and is using data to inform decisions.

  • Central Ward Elementary, Centerville CSD, Great Prairie
  • Central Lee Elementary, Central Lee CSD, Great Prairie
  • Mount Pleasant High School, Mount Pleasant CSD, Great Prairie
  • Lincoln Elementary, Mount Pleasant CSD, Great Prairie
  • James Elementary, Ottumwa CSD, Great Prairie
  • Van Buren Middle School, Van Buren CSD, Great Prairie


These schools completed training during the 2017-18 school year and developed all of the products needed to begin implementation. They were ready to roll out their PBIS plan in the fall of 2018. The following schools met criteria for the Emerging level:

  • Harmony Elementary, Harmony CSD, Great Prairie
  • Winfield Mount Union Elementary, Winfield Mount Union CSD, Great Prairie

See the full press release and list of honored schools at https://www.educateiowa.gov/article/2019/03/07/schools-honored-creating-safe-positive-environments

GPAEA Van Delivery Updates – March-May 2019


Great Prairie AEA provides van delivery service to each school in the Agency’s service area. Please note there will be no van delivery on the following dates:

  • March 18-21
  • April 22

Van Delivery EXTENDED

Since many school districts have had to extend the school year due to closures for inclement weather, GPAEA will be extending our van delivery schedule one week. The new schedule is as follows:

  • Last Delivery Date will be the week of May 20-23, 2019
  • Last Pickup Date will be the week of May 28-31 (Since May 27th is a holiday, all routes will be delayed one day that week. Monday routes will run on Tuesday, Tuesday on Wednesday, etc.)
  • Districts in session after May 31st will be contacted individually to arrange final pickup.

Celebrate National School Social Work Week – March 3 – 9

School social workers confront some of the most challenging issues facing students and their families. National School Social Work Week is always celebrated the first full week in March, and we wish to acknowledge and thank our team of dedicated school social workers!

Great Prairie AEA School Social Workers: Shelli Blazic; Nancy Cristoforo; Shannon Dameron; Lacey Dickey; Tana Fourdyce; Nancy Gutman; Katherine Horn; Amanda Larkin; Lindsey Long; Heather Main; Jodi Marlette; Carie Masters; Heather McAtee; Amy Molyneux; Kim Richert; Kibben Rumohr; Lynn Sheagren, Samantha Smith; Abby Spence; Brenda Starr; Cindy Starr; Brianne Stuchel; Joan Summer; Kathy Utterback; Katie Vansickel; Ashley White; and Kacie Wood

Thank you for all that you do for GPAEA and area students and families!