Thursday, February 18, 2021

Finally...Change is Coming

 CAPS Teacher Education will be participating soon in a long-awaited opportunity—working in classrooms in person!  So far this school year, the
Teacher Education students have been zooming in to classrooms to help with various activities and even managed to provide online activities for students and their teachers with their Kids’ Konference held in January.  The students are excited to step into the environments created by our awesome teachers and have an even more robust experience as future teachers.


Along with their classroom experiences, the Teacher Ed students are still learning through other projects and activities.  They have welcomed guest speakers from Hawaii and Kansas and local university students and professors.  In addition, they still are practicing teaching skills in SimSchool, an online teaching simulation, creating substitute folders, designing learning experiences and lesson plans, writing their philosophies of education, and level 2 students are even designing their own Canvas courses.  


Follow our CAPS Teacher Education adventures on Twitter @wevegotclass.  Also, check out our website at and see some of our activities in action at

Monday, February 8, 2021


The students in the CAPS Teacher Education program have been patiently
awaiting a time when they can walk into a classroom, arriving to work with teachers and students, experiencing first-hand a day in the life of a practicing educator.  This semester has been difficult, but the students have not lost hope.  

Creating lesson plans seems superficial to them...something detached from students and the educational process, but it is hoped that soon they can again walk physically into a classroom and feel the surrounding awesomeness of being a teacher

In the same way, listening to tales of misled classroom management, watching TED talks about the future of education, listening to speakers discuss university requirements for teacher licensing, and zooming in to the occasional classroom are not allowing them to touch and feel this profession of their interest.

Soon, students...soon...soon you will be able to fully experience the greatest profession in the world.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

 The CAPS Teacher Education students recently embarked on yet another adventure for the semester. Under normal circumstances, Teacher Ed students spend time in classrooms, working with teachers and students, designing lesson plans, and learning many classroom management skills.  This semester was required something different.

From the start, the Teacher Ed students found themselves "zooming" into classrooms to observe rather than traveling across the district to spend time in classrooms.  Out of this reality came the concept of the "Kids' Konference."  What would happen if they could create a mini conference of activities in which the elementary students could participate, similar to the way they interacted with professional development conferences of their own during the semester.

Immediately, the students went to work, brainstorming resources and ideas to begin its taking shape.  Early on, Dr. Fry, CAPS Teacher Ed instructor, applied the design process to the project so that not only were the students coming up with activity ideas, but they were learning some design fundamentals related to creating lessons or activities for the elementary students and planning a large-scale event for a virtual platform. The students began with a survey to see if this was something that would even interest teachers.  They also laid out what they were thinking about doing and asked for suggestions for not only the execution of such an event, but also suggestions for activities of which they had not originally thought.  The students also included a choice of two dates for the prior to the holiday break and one after.

With survey results in hand, ideation began to take place, and a prototype rough draft website was created.  Through many iterations, a final layout was decided upon.  Next, students outlined the activities that could be done virtually and attached themselves to those activities that interested them.  After many days of breakout rooms and whole-class discussions, the "Kids' Konference became a reality.

The conference was held on Thursday and Friday, January 7 and 8, and teachers, some virtual, who had not been able to attend on those particular days requested customized time slots on Tuesday, January 12, when students zoomed into the teachers' classrooms to carry out the conference activities with these students.

From the experience, the CAPS Teacher Ed students, in their reflection on the activity said that they learned several things including the demand for patience, especially in a virtual classroom environment; the necessity for teachers to "think on their feet" when working with classrooms of students; the excitement of realizing that something you created could engage and interest students and help them learn; and the realization that every group of students is very different and that sometimes it is required to pivot and adapt to meet student needs.

It is the hope, after what the students thought was a successful first attempt, that this could be an event that could be repeated as an amazing outreach to our Blue Valley Elementary communities. The students are also considering using this experience as a basis for a concurrent session presentation at the National Educators Rising Conference this summer.

Here is a video overview of the fun!

Monday, January 4, 2021

Thank You, Teachers!

 Hey teachers out of my pet peeves is hearing, "I'm just a teacher."  I was at a conference once, and the lady in front of me was having trouble adjusting her badge and was fidgeting with it.  After struggling with it for a few minutes, she gasped and said, "you know...I'm just a teacher."  I looked her in the eyes and said, "don't ever say that about yourself!  You are a teacher, and you should be proud of that."

Why has our society put such a low rating on teachers?  Now this doesn't apply to everyone, but I can't tell you how man times I've heard, "must be nice to have a break," "best thing about teaching is June, July, and August," or "those who can't teach!"  In response to these comments, I say that the breaks that we have are not always breaks. 
Do you know how many hours I spent yesterday (on a day off...the Chiefs were playing...) on a puzzle site, creating fun puzzles on teacher content so that my students could start out after break with something rather fun?  Would you like to see the transcripts I created over the summer months during which I not only planned teaching in all modes:  in-person, remote, and hybrid...because there was no telling what mode we would be in come the Fall beginning of the new school year?  And, lastly, would you like to see my college courses and transcripts?  I CHOSE to go into teaching.  Could I have been an engineer?  Yes.  I lived with four over my life...I could have done it.  Could I have been a medical doctor?  Yes.  I earned a PhD in 3.5 years.  I could have been anything.  I CHOSE to go into teaching.

I work with students who also have a passion for working with students.  It is not fair that they have to rack up expenses for a 4-5 year college education and come out of school and earning less that many and then try to survive college loans.  No...that is not fair, and these are some of the most bright, compassionate, and able people I know.

Come on people...let's give teachers the credit and the respect they deserve.  As I tell my students all the time...I never remember or contact the person who set the interest amount on my bank accounts and tell them that that rate just enriched my life...I never go back to visit my mechanic to tell him or her that the new muffler made me a better person...but I ALWAYS remember and go back to visit teachers who have been such an inspiration to me.  Thank you, Teachers!

Monday, December 14, 2020

Fall 2020 Brings a New Format for CAPS Teacher Education students!

CAPS Teacher Education students took part again this Fall in the annual Kansas Northeast Regional Educators Rising Conference  This year, the conference took on a new format, as the entire conference took place virtually.  Students had the availability, on November 4, 2020, to attend virtual sessions offered throughout the day, including keynote presentations and breakout sessions on education topics.  Conference Logo designed by CAPS student, Dasha Carver

Jeremy Anderson, inspirational speaker and author, launched the conference with his keynote presentation which encouraged the promotion of the teaching profession through his stories of how teachers helped to change his life and shape his future. @1jeremyanderson Other speakers included Kwame Sarfo Mensah, author of Shaping the Teacher Identity and From In Action to"InAction," @identityshaper and Tabatha Rosproy, Kansas educator and National Teacher of the Year @tabatharosproy.  Other speakers and sessions were offered throughout the day, and the conference ended with a cafeteria of university Zoom sessions during which students could learn about education programs at various universities.

Over the last several weeks, our Teacher Education students have spent time virtually observing and working in classrooms around the district. While Zooming into classrooms, students have been developing lesson plans and practicing the integration of technology to promote student engagement with elements such as gamification and augmented reality.

When not observing, they have participated in sessions with Cyndi Kuhn, instructor at Kansas State University; Kristin Asquith, Special Education Coordinator for the Blue Valley School District; Tracey Idica, NBCT educator and state coordinator from Hawaii, and others.  Also, while meeting virtually in our CAPS Teacher Education classroom, the students have been able to learn and practice classroom management skills and content delivery with student avatars in the SimSchool online teaching simulation.

Looking ahead, CAPS Teacher Education students are planning an online activity conference for elementary students called "Kids' Konference," developing a STEM lesson to teach remotely over Double Robot, working with Carrie Gardner and Lindsey Hallet of our Blue Valley Blended Learning Team, and continuing their intensive learning in the classrooms of practicing teachers.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Teaching Simulation for Practice

CAPS Teacher Education students have been working with SimSchool, an artificial intelligence-operated teaching simulation program.  The program gives students a chance to practice their teaching strategies in a low-risk environment with avatar students. 
After some initial training sessions, students, this week, chose various age levels, abilities, and subject areas to add more focus to their practice.  At the end of their sessions, the students get a report which analyzes their interactions with the “students” to determine whether or not they want to re-teach the same group or move on to another class of students.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

RIP Sir Ken Robinson

 I had the opportunity to meet Sir Ken Robinson at FETC in 2018.  I can't deny that I was kind of a Groupie and waited an inordinate length of time just to get a chance to speak to him, shake his hand, tell him how I valued his work, and have him autograph one of his books. 

Each year that I have worked with future teachers, I have played a few of Sir Ken's TED talks and had tremendous discussions with my students about his views and the example he set for charging forward and trying to reform education to provide the best opportunities for students.

I was saddened to hear that he passed away on August 21, 2020.  Though he is physically gone from our world, his soul and spirit for exciting educators everywhere will never go away.

I will continue to keep his spirit alive, and my students will always know his courage, his views, and his life as a great forward-thinker in education.


Friday, May 1, 2020

A New Era for Teaching...

If someone had told me that I would be teaching totally online for the rest of the Spring semester, I would not have believed them.  I do teach online for two universities, so it's not that I am a stranger to the format, but taking away the f2f opportunities of students in a hands-on future teacher program just wasn't in my wheelhouse.  As a result, I and my colleagues, who teach at a career center embedded in design thinking and project and profession-based learning, have had to re-think the way we interact with students who are also having a difficult time dealing with the change.

I feel for my seniors who lament that they are missing their proms and graduation parties, but I also see this as an opportunity for them (and us) to put things in perspective.  Missing a grad party seems minuscule compared to dying from a disease or losing one's financial support for family.  It is time to take a long look at ourselves and the way we manage and execute our daily lives.  My daughter mentioned that she had never seen so many families out doing things together.  While that is true, I fear for those students whose positive vibes were solely provided by their interactions with students and teachers at school.

This is a time when we can reimagine and think of what could be.  Education will likely never be the same after this.  Teachers have learned new techniques and districts have considered scheduling and operational changes.  Let's not let this time spent be wasted but rather used to reinvent ourselves and look forward to change.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The New Normal for us All

This week began a new era in our Teacher Education program history at CAPS...moving online.  The students were great and seemed eager to see each other again! 

Instruction will certainly change.  Normally at this time, the students in our program would be out doing internships in classrooms, observing, teaching, learning; however, we will be looking ahead to try to simulate activities as closely as possible to the college course curriculum we would be continuing face-to-face if this all had not happened.

That being said, it was GREAT to see the students' faces and catch up with what is going on in their worlds.  I look forward to many more Zoom calls and conversations as we proceed.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Kansas Educators Rising State Conference Results February 2020

The following students competed at the state Educators Rising Conference on February 11, 2020, held at Emporia State University.  As a result of their results, they have qualified to compete at the national Educators Rising Conference in Washington, D.C., June 2020:

Kateann Penrose, state Vice President
Madilyn Veatch, 3rd place, Creative Lecture/TED Talk
Molly Stasieluk, 2nd place team, Ethical Dilemma

Samantha Randazzo, 3rd place, Educators Rising Moment Talk
Mackenzie Paul, 1st place team, Children’s Literature K-3

Jaden Webster, 2nd place, Impromptu Speaking
Jaden Webster, 2nd place team, Ethical Dilemma
Veronica Weng, 2nd place team, Ethical Dilemma
Justin Pfeiff, 4th place, Impromptu Speaking

Dasha Carver, 1st place team, Children’s Literature K-3

Friday, November 15, 2019

Thoughts on "Five Principles for Workable Client-Based Projects: Lessons from the Trenches" by Lopez and Lee

In "Five Principles for Workable Client-Based Projects:  Lessons from the Trenches" (2005), Lopez and Lee discuss considerations for making experiential-learning opportunities successful.  The benefits for client-based projects (CBP's):
  • Providing active-experiential learning
  • Promoting skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, communication, teamwork
  • Adding "realism" to coursework
  • Increasing student motivation and engagement due to developing products for an authentic purpose
Often, teachers shy away from these types of opportunities because of time, uncertainty of assessments, and unfamiliarity with the process of finding clients.  

Teachers should be selective with the client search and develop projects of varying scope...semester-long, month-long, year-long, etc.  This might present a problem for teachers who are still dealing with a traditional school schedule and grading system.  The recruitment of clients should be thought out carefully in advance with objectives clearly in mind.  In addition, teachers should carry high expectations for clients and outline the process well in advance to avoid any misconceptions.  Periodic and productive means of feedback need to be built in to the process as well.

Teachers in this environment should work to develop their networking skills and should always be looking out for potential clients.  At the early stages, it would be great to have a centralized "client center" so that teachers feel confident in connecting with a quality and vetted client population.

For students, using a project management system online, such as Basecamp, Trello, or another, would allow consistent checkpoints and accountability.  

It is important to look for a client who has an identifiable problem that can be addressed, has appropriate time availability to guide students effectively and is available to students and the teacher, has great interest, enthusiasm, and a positive outlook but who understands the risk of failure and has realistic expectations.  It is also good to seek out the client's reason for working on this project and his/her open-mindedness about the outcome.

Lopez and Lee designated types of clients:
  • The Talker-talks but gets off subject-teacher would have to spend a lot of time re-directing students so that they stay on target
  • The overaccommodator-too open and not structured enough with requests-again, teacher would spend a lot of time making sure that objectives remain clear to the students
  • The undecided argumentative client-internally, the client's organization is not sure of direction which could confuse students and ultimately cause frustration, confusion, and lack of interest
  • The add-on client-keeps adding new ideas to the project-again, this could add to student frustration and confusion, leading to less than desirable buy-in and results
The teacher's role would be to mediate between all types of clients and the students, ensuring that projects stay on course for all.  This would require training for teachers who are not used to fulfilling this role in a traditional school setting.

One of the largest issues for teachers coming from a traditional setting will be scope of the projects and dealing with students who have short-term vs. long-term projects.  There could be an issue with structuring traditional class time when students are dealing with projects of varying length, demand, and deliverables.

Students and teachers will need clearly written/created instructional aids providing the guidelines for beginning and managing a successful project.  Aside from the normal design process, students not used to such a structure will need clear instructions and flow charts to allow them to navigate through this type of learning.  Accountability will need to be present for students of varying interests, abilities, and learning styles.  Pre-work with self-assessments such as Indigo or YouScience, and discussions around group dynamics and teamwork would be critical before any set up with a client on a project.

The quantitative assessment involved might be at issue with teachers as well.  With subjective "grading" that goes with the feedback process, it would be imperative to develop guidelines and rubrics ahead of time that meet student and teacher needs within this changing paradigm.

Something else that must be available to students would be a toolkit of resources that can be used, many to help with the soft skills necessary for students to communicate and work with clients on a professional and authentic basis, ie. guidelines for writing professional emails and reports, recording of data, asking good questions, conducting effective meetings, etc.

Non-disclosures should be discussed with students, and expectations should be set for regular feedback for teachers and students.

In summary, time and care should be put into making teachers feel comfortable with experiential learning opportunities and finding ways to merge this and complement teaching styles already in place.  By including teachers in the planning process from step one, their ownership in the process will be instrumental in the success of the project work.