Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Keeping Up with the Challenge!

Currently, all of our CAPS Teacher Education Internship students are working in classrooms around the district.  For more information, and a list of current mentors, visit our website at capsteach.org.  Our Foundations students are observing in various classrooms and are still working virtually two days a week with one of our Blue Valley virtual elementary teachers.


Right before Spring Break, three CAPS Teacher Education students participated in the Remake Learning Days Kansas City DeBruce Design Challenge.  Seniors Molly Thomas, Courtney Farley, and Junior Erin Fitzgerald met with other Metro teams during a two-week period that culminated in a Pitch Presentation.  The Teacher Ed students pitched their idea of creating “activity kits” for elementary teachers and students coordinated with objectives and essential questions for grade levels.  Below is a summary of what the students presented in their pitch.



  • We are CAPS Teacher Education students interested in future careers in education as well as students of the pandemic. 
  • This year, most of school has been remote learning and hybrid learning. in fact we have never met the other half of our class in person. we have lost engagement that is important in school
  • We remember elementary school as fun and engaging but because of the pandemic the elementary student’s experience has not been the same. Many are still remote, and the ones who are in person have lost the social aspect of learning
  • How do we create a fun, engaging, and informative learning experience for elementary students and something to make the lives of their teachers a little easier?
  • In the Fall of 2020, we created a conference for students called the Kids’ Konference
  • Teachers could click a zoom link to take them to a synchronous activity to engage their class, led by us CAPS Teacher Education students
  • Everyone involved had a good time and we discussed doing this again. 



  • We are proposing to provide students and teachers with fun, informative and engaging activity kits that we call CREATIVITY IN A BOX.   As a way of analyzing our market, we  reached out to teachers in a survey format to see if this was something that they would be interested in. Of the 57 teachers who responded, over 83.9% said yes. Learning from our previous experience, we offered the option of activity kits, something these teachers would welcome into their classroom. Our current design is for students in person and if schools go back to virtual we can make adaptations as needed. 


  • We want to provide these kits for teachers and elementary students in our district
  • During our prototype round, we plan to target five classes 
  • Each kit will contain the materials necessary to complete created activities, packaged in boxes with our CAPS Teacher Education logo and instructions
  • The purchase of boxes, 5 packages of construction paper, and 5 craft kits containing varied materials, as well as miscellaneous objects give a total of $345
  • We will gather feedback from those involved and, if we receive positive response, we will make plans to create more kits in the future for more classes of students.
  • The kits will provide engaging activities to promote student learning
  • One example for an activity emphasizes the idea of friendship. Teachers can read a book about friendship and then students will use the items provided in the box to create a gift for a person in the class. 
  • This allows students to become friends with their classmates despite being in a pandemic. 


What value does it bring?

  • These kits and the activities created will bring joy and learning to elementary students in a very trying time as well as make the lives of teachers easier



  • For this project, we will need to locate funds to purchase the materials necessary to create these and possibly additional kits 
  • We hope that you can see the value in our project and help us to make the livesteachers easier and students more engaging.


This was a great experience for our students, and it laid the groundwork for a potentially inspiring project for next Fall.


Follow us on Twitter @wevegotclass


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 http://bit.ly/capsteacheredweb and see some of our activities in action at http://bit.ly/aboutcapsteachered

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 event...one 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 there...one 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 Sunday...my 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 http://edrisingks.wixsite.com/reimagine2020.  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 www.jeremyanderson.org
www.nextlevelstudents.org. Other speakers included Kwame Sarfo Mensah, author of Shaping the Teacher Identity and From In Action to"InAction," @identityshaper
www.identitytalk4educators.com 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