Page 1

Inside: From Minnesota to Mumbai Giving Back Poetry CafĂŠ at Riverside A publication of the Brainerd Dispatch



Features From Minnesota to Mumbai....................................... 5 Realizing their dreams, this couple taught overseas, making it a family affair. By Jodie Tweed

Building Character and Community...........................10


Students young and old learn to serve the community, “Kiwanis-style.” By Jenny Gunsbury

Giving Back.............................................................13 Home grown, Kent Montgomery gives back to the school district and the community that gave him so much. By Carolyn Corbett

Dynamic Duo..........................................................20

Two fourth grade teachers at Harrison Elementary have been collaborating for nearly four decades. By Jenny Holmes


Junior Great Books................................................. 24 Read how grants and volunteers enhance reading opportunities for students with a literary bent. By Judy Kuusisto

In This Issue We are Volunteers..................................................8 Hello Grandma Goose By Sheila Helmberger


We are Healthy...................................................14 Today’s Lunch Menu By Steve Lund

We are Creative...................................................18 Poetry Café at Riverside By Mary Aalgaard

We are Culturally Diverse.....................................22 Soaking up Spanish like a Sponge By Jan Kurtz


On the Cover: BHS students meet and greet at their lockers. Cover photo by Joey Halvorson We Are 181 • Fall 2012


Meeting the Challenge of Change


s we make the transition from summer to fall, we are reminded that change is inevitable. And nowhere is change more apparent than in Brainerd Public Schools. Back in school for the new school year our students are meeting new teachers, making new friends, and learning new routines. Our food service program is meeting challenging new federal nutrition standards for school meals, ensuring that meals are healthy, well-balanced, and provide students all the nutrition they need to succeed at school. All staff members are learning the ropes of historical technology changes including expanded wireless access and increased internet bandwidth that will greatly improve the opportunities for students and staff. While change is inevitable, it often signals new educational prospects for our students. As we approach any change in Brainerd Public Schools we know that the key to making a successful transition is thoughtful, deliberate planning. We need to anticipate change, understand its potential impact, and create a roadmap for how it will roll out. To accomplish effective change we know that what guides us best is our history. We have a rich history in our community for providing our students with three core ideals — opportunity, innovation, and success. Our collective future will experience and be affected by rapid change. It’s our tradition to lead the way and ensure we do what’s best for our students, staff, and community.

Staff PUBLISHER Tim Bogenschutz EDITOR Meg Douglas ART DIRECTOR Nikki Lyter PHOTOGRAPHER Joey Halvorson

We are 181 is a publication produced in cooperation with The Brainerd Dispatch and School District 181 • For advertising opportunities call Sam Swanson 218.855.5841

E-mail your comments, suggestions or topics to copyright© 2010 VOLUME ONE, EDITION THREE FALL 2012

Steve Razidlo, Superintendent Even the superintendent adds exercise to his busy life to stay healthy. 4

We Are 181 • Fall 2012

506 JAMES STREET, P.O. BOX 974 BRAINERD, MN 56401 (218) 829-4705 •

By Jodie Tweed


Minnesota to Mumbai: Two years teaching, learning in India For Craig and TyAnne Rezac, it was now or never. The Brainerd couple, both longtime Independent School District (ISD) 181 teachers, decided three years ago that if they were ever going to spend time teaching abroad, a shared dream they discussed many times, they needed to do it now.

Craig and TyAnne Rezac, both longtime Brainerd School District teachers, and their sons, Barrett (left) and Carey, outside the Taj Mahal. The Rezacs spent two years teaching in Mumbai, India.

We Are 181 • Fall 2012



raig has taught science at to interview. They were interviewing for them both. Brainerd High School for 18 together as a teaching team, and that It was also important that they years while TyAnne has spent morning when they looked in their file, find a school with a reputation for 15 years teaching in the district. She they were thrilled to discover they had educational excellence, just like ISD is now the media specialist at Baxter 12 invitations for interviews. If they 181. “We didn’t want to go backward Elementary and previously taught at were offered a job, they had to make professionally,” TyAnne said. “We Lowell Elementary and the former a decision within 24 hours. “Having wanted to go to a school as good as Whittier Elementary School. a total of 16 first and then second Brainerd.” “As we kept talking about it, we interviews in two days was really The Rezacs were offered teaching realized we needed to make this intense,” TyAnne explained. They contracts in Qatar, Shanghai, Kuwait, happen,” Craig explained. “If we didn’t weren’t looking for a specific country China, Nicaragua, Bahrain, Riyadh and do it then, we felt we wouldn’t do it.” to work in but looking for teaching India. It was a big decision to make. Their sons, Carey, 16, and Barrett, 8, positions at a school that would be a fit They believe Brainerd public schools were at good ages played a pivotal role to spend two years in providing them abroad, they thought. with so many job At the time Carey was opportunities. The starting middle school school district is and Barrett would be known nationally and starting kindergarten abroad for its high the following fall. educational standards. In early 2008, the “Brainerd is on the Rezacs traveled to an map for international overseas teacher job schools,” TyAnne fair at the University of said. (Former Brainerd Northern Iowa to start Superintendent Bob the process of finding Gross, now serving as jobs. Recruiters from interim school head in more than 100 schools Abu Dhabi, also helped and 65 countries were place Brainerd Public gathered that cold Schools on that map.) February weekend in The Rezacs Iowa to meet, interview narrowed their schools and offer jobs to down to two; one in hundreds of licensed Saudia Arabia and the teachers seeking to other, The American teach internationally. School of Bombay in Interviews were Mumbai, India, with c o n d u c t e d 600 students enrolled everywhere, even in in pre-kindergarten hotel rooms, one right through 12th-grade. after another. Craig was offered a job To get an interview, teaching middle school an applicant would life science, something receive an invitation in he wanted to do, and their folder after they TyAnne was offered arrived. TyAnne said a reading specialist TyAnne and Craig are dressed up for the Diwali Celebration at the American they hoped to have position, something School of Bombay in Mumbai, India. Diwali means the “Festival of Lights.” at least one invitation she wanted.


We Are 181 • Fall 2012

w s w i r t t

a B t t f j

2 f m t t H l s t

n a l p w t “ T s o M

a c

For the Mumbai positions, they were interviewed by the school’s superintendent, Dr. Paul Fochtman, who is from Apple Valley and vacations in the Brainerd lakes area. “It felt right,” TyAnne explained. “We liked the people we interviewed with and the reputation of the school.” The couple requested and secured a two-year leave of absence from Brainerd public schools. They spent the next several months packing up their home, finding a temporary home for their dog and getting ready for their journey. After two days traveling in late July 2009, the family arrived at their new, fully-furnished apartment well past midnight. Dr. Fochtman personally met them at the airport in Mumbai to drive them home. Craig, a 1985 Brainerd High School graduate who has mostly lived in Brainerd his whole life, said he spent that first night wondering what they had just done. They had left their comfortable north Brainerd home in a city with a population of about 13,000, to live in Mumbai, with its staggering population of about 20 million, many who are impoverished well beyond the imagination of many Americans. “Mumbai is an assault on your senses,” TyAnne said. The sights, smells, sounds, and staggering condensation of humans is a complete contrast from Minnesota lake country. But the family felt immediately at home within their new school community. It was the first time that all

four of them spent each day working and studying under the same roof. They often would eat lunch together in the open air cafeteria. Fifty-two nationalities were represented at the school. “It was like the Festival of Nations every day,” said TyAnne. “The parents and students spend a lot of time on campus. It felt like a family. You have a common experience and the school becomes a gathering place.” The Rezacs often traveled on weekends or school breaks. They spent three-and-a-half weeks during their Christmas break in Bali their second year in India. They hiked in the Himalayas, floated down the backwaters of the Kerala River in southern India, saw the Taj Mahal, visited a Darjeeling tea plantation, traveled to the scenic beaches of Goa, spent time in the monasteries of Kathmandu and attended a traditional Indian wedding. The newlyweds were cousins of Jatin and Sujata Patel of Brainerd, who also were there. “Anytime we had a break, we jumped on a plane,” TyAnne said. TyAnne worked with preschool to fifth-grade students. For many, English was not their native language.“Teaching struggling readers is my passion,” TyAnne said. “It was fascinating to work with children who are multilingual.” TyAnne said she is now working at Baxter School with a couple of students who are multilingual and feels her experiences in India helped provide her with “more

tools in my toolbox” for working with multilingual students. Craig taught life science to sixthand seventh-graders, averaging about 15 students per class. He learned more about the educational benefits of integrating technology into the classroom. Craig also coached Carey’s track team. Carey competed in track meets in New Delhi and Bangladesh, and soccer in Sri Lanka. The Rezacs enjoyed India but made a decision as a family to return to Brainerd after their two-year teaching contract was over. “Carey really missed hunting and fishing and he was ready to come home,” TyAnne explained. Craig added, “And we wanted to give him a Brainerd High School experience.” It was a more difficult transition for Barrett. He was young, and all he knew about school was in India. The Rezacs have been back for one year. Will they travel abroad again to teach? “Our minds are open,” TyAnne said. “We feel very fortunate and grateful to ISD 181 to have had the opportunity to take a leave of absence and give our kids an international experience which would be impossible to replicate in any other way.”

Jodie Tweed is a freelance writer living in Pequot Lakes with her husband, Nels, and three daughters.

We Are 181 • Fall 2012


a Go m d o n a



o o el looooo

! se


By Sheila Helmberger

After retiring from teaching, Sharon Jendro dresses up as Grandma Goose and reads Mother Goose nursery rhymes in Kindergarten classrooms.


f you’re going to pretend to be one of childhood’s most popular characters you might as well dress the part. Every girl knows that clothes can make the difference — even Grandma Goose. When retired ISD 181 teacher Sharon Jendro decided to read Grandma Goose rhymes to Kindergarteners and other elementary school students to help them learn to read she thought exactly that. Jendro taught first and second grades in the Brainerd School District for 33 years. She started her career with a year at Lincoln Elementary School and two at Garfield. Then she made the move to Lowell and stayed there for 30 years. Nine years ago, when she decided to retire from teaching, it was always


We Are 181 • Fall 2012

part of her plan to stay involved in the schools and active with the students. She has. She filled in as a substitute teacher and became an active volunteer. “Oh, I’ve been around,” she said with a laugh. One of the volunteer positions she enjoyed the most over the years was as a visitor to the classrooms and events of the district’s kindergarteners. “Back when I was a first grade teacher I realized one of the most important things kids can do to start learning is to hear rhyming like the type in the Mother Goose rhymes and I used to use that with my own classes,” she said. “I would read the poems to them and then I showed them the books and it got them to read.” Sometimes she read the stories to other classes too. After retiring,

Grandma Goose went to Harrison and Lowell schools each month. “It’s such a good basis for reading,” she said of her classroom visits. In her initial appearances she didn’t dress the part. “Oh, all of that came after retirement!” she said laughing. “And a few of the other schools had their own Grandma Gooses, too.” So how did she find those outfits? With a little creativity and again, like any other girl, Grandma Goose likes a wardrobe with a little variety. “I have a couple of different dresses I wear,” she said, “And of course, I always wear the goofy hat.” Busy classrooms have meant fewer visits the past couple of years, “There isn’t as much time for things like this,” she said, “They barely have 20 minutes to spare in a school day because there

Grandma Goose is still happy to pull her dress and hat out of the closet if she’s invited to do so and Jendro and her character obviously make an impression on some of her audiences. “Some of the kids will recognize me right away and already know me from just subbing,” she says and occasionally a student will recognize her when she least expects it. Jendro laughed, “One of my students stood up in a crowd when I was out in public one day and yelled nice and loud, “Helloooooo Grandma Goose.”

Have rocker will travel: Grandma Goose greets young ones at Kinder Friend Day.

is so much to do.” But, still, when they invite her she’s happy to go and has played the part for a few other special events too. Grandma Goose made an appearance one year for Kinder Friend Day. When she’s not playing Mother

Goose, Jendro continues to volunteer by participating in events like the Mud Run, Sour Grapes, Buddy Run and is a Friend of the Brainerd Public Library. “I help wherever they might need it,” said Jendro. She is also a mentor to a Kinship Partner.

Sheila Helmberger lives in Baxter and has been contributing to local publications for over 12 years.

We Are 181 • Fall 2012


By Jenny Gunsbury

Kiwanis members work alongside students in the Kids Clean up Group, modeling leadership and community service.


he lakes area is fortunate to have numerous service organizations that help make this a wonderful place to live, work and raise kids. One such group, Kiwanis International, with chapters in Brainerd and Baxter, has found its mission in partnering with Independent School District (ISD) 181 students of all ages. Kiwanis members are volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time. “We want kids to feel like they can make a difference,” Greg Breen, Brainerd Kiwanis Sponsored Youth Committee chair explained. “They learn leadership skills by serving others and experience the joy of giving.” The Brainerd and Baxter Kiwanis Clubs sponsor several school groups and clubs. Adult Kiwanis members either lead the clubs, mentor, or work side-byside with students for service projects. At all levels, the focus is on developing


We Are 181 • Fall 2012

leaders, building character and serving others. In January 2012, the Baxter Kiwanis Club started sponsoring a new afterschool group at Baxter Elementary School called K-Kids for third and fourth grade students. “Along with developing leadership skills, the goal is to do service projects that have an impact at the school, neighborhood, community and international level,” said Jennifer Pedersen, media secretary and co-leader of K-Kids. The group elects officers and learns how to run an official meeting. All group decisions are studentdriven, planned and implemented. K-Kid Evan shared, “I love K-Kids because we help do service projects. When I see people doing good things I ask if I can help.” Students made bulletin boards for the hallway displaying leadership qualities, raised money

and supplies for Heartland Animal Rescue Team (HART), served at the Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen, cleaned up garbage around the gas station near the school, and are collecting pennies for the Kiwanis International program, Eliminate Project, an effort to eradicate tetanus in developing countries. Pederson and co-leader media specialist TyAnne Rezac say there’s also a wonderful multi-generational aspect with volunteers from the Baxter Kiwanis Club that make it really special. “Marwin Bogue and Jean Collins are amazing. They attend every meeting, assist with projects, and are great with the kids.” Baxter Kiwanis members Karl Samp, Greg Anderson and Dave Csanda lead a program called Terrific Kids at Baxter Elementary. Every Tuesday morning, they visit the third grade classrooms to talk about character


al e d r s m, e

a s al r l. e g, h

development and goal setting. Students are asked to make two ‘smart’ goals for the week, one for school and one for at home. The following Tuesday, kids self-report on their progress by putting stickers on a chart if goals were met. To celebrate their accomplishments in Terrific Kids, all third graders go to the Good Samaritan Bowl-A-Thon in the spring. “We try to reinforce the curriculum and what teachers are doing in the classroom with goal setting,” said Samp. “Close to the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) testing period, we talk about being ‘capable’ and setting goals about doing their best work on the tests.” The Brainerd Kiwanis Club also sponsors the Kids Triathlon at Whipple Beach in Baxter each August. “Participating kids are encouraged to set a goal related to the triathlon,” said Samp. “It gives them something healthy to work toward over summer vacation.” Joe and Christian participated in Terrific Kids last year. “One of my goals for school was to get my math homework perfect every day,” said Joe. “A home goal was to help with every load of laundry,” Christian said. “One of my school goals was to be responsible and keep my desk clean,” and for home, “not to fight with my big sister.” Joe and Christian summed up their experience by saying, “I got smarter by learning to set goals,” and “I learned how to make the community a better place.” Kiwanis Clubs also recognize students for academic progress. Lowell, Harrison, is a Garfield and

Baxter Elementary schools sponsor of Bringing Up Grades, or BUG, program for fourth graders. In January, a Kiwanis Club member introduces the BUG program to participating classrooms. Winners are announced in the

spring at a special awards dinner for students, family members and teachers. Middle school can be a tough time to recruit kids to a club, with sports and other extracurricular activities requiring more of their free time. But Forestview Middle School science teacher Dalen Hodge has had success in getting kids excited about Kiwanis’ Builders Club. There are about 50 active members in fifth through eighth grade at Forestview. “Word-of-mouth is our best recruiting method,” stated Hodge. “Kids who have been involved have a great time and they tell their friends. Once they do it, they realize it’s a great thing.” Eighth grader Jessie Ernster said, “I’ve learned how much fun it is to help people. It feels good to do good.” “It’s about building kids who are

(Above) Kids Clean up Club, (Middle) The Builders Club at Forestview serve the Retired Teachers’ Dinner, (Left) Students raise money and supplies for H.A.R.T.

great examples of young people in the community,” explained Hodge. “Builders Club has evolved into a group that has established relationships with a variety of community organizations.” Students have raked leaves, planted grass and trees at Camp Confidence Learning Center, decorated and auctioned off bowling pins for the Good Samaritan Bowl-A-Thon, and sponsored special events at Forestview to recognize administrative and custodial staff. Hodge’s goal is to have students grow in leadership skills, be good role models for others, and have a zest for volunteering. “It’s one small piece of turning kids into good human beings,” said Hodge. At Brainerd High School (BHS) students can build on the foundations of leadership and service set in elementary and middle school by participating in Key Club. Ginger Augustinack, math teacher at BHS, advises the group of 69 members. “It’s fun to see club members gain time management skills and learn to be responsible for projects

rl a at y e r We Are 181 • Fall 2012


Brainerd Kiwanis Club sponsors the Kids Triathalon in August.

and trustworthy with club funds,”she said. For Key Club president senior Emily Bukowski, running meetings and coordinating the service projects are her focus. “I’ve learned to take more risks and go outside my comfort zone,” explains Bukowski. “It’s great to be out volunteering and helping with projects in the community.” Key Club projects span a variety of areas in the community and beyond, all year. “We help serve monthly dinners at the senior center and work


We Are 181 • Fall 2012

at the Ageless Expo and Harvest Bingo event,” said Augustinack. “DeAnn Barry from the Senior Center is very generous to the Key Club for volunteer opportunities.” Last spring, they sold frozen treats during the lunch hour to raise money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a nationwide pediatric cancer research fund. They made decorative pillows for the women’s shelter. They helped at the Crow Wing County Fair grandstand concession booth, and haunted the Haunted Trail at the Northland Arboretum in October, and

they will volunteer at the Baxter Kids’ Triathlon, providing a lot of service hours for students’ college and work applications. In the fall and spring, the group coordinates a blood drive at the high school with the Red Cross. In return, the Red Cross donates scholarship money for the group. Key Club also awards three senior scholarships each spring. After graduation, the hope is that students continue in leadership positions and volunteer work. “You hear a lot about kids today. Sometimes the impression is that they are selfish or too busy. But if the 250-plus kids involved in the Brainerd and Baxter Kiwanis programs are our future, our future is in good hands,” concluded Breen.

A freelance writer for area publications, Jenny Gunsbury lives with her family in Nisswa.

By Carolyn Corbett



A graduate of the Brainerd Schools, Kent Montgomery has served on the school board, as a ski coach, and continues to volunteer time on sustainability projects.


ome Brainerd High School (BHS) graduates travel far afield to make their mark. Kent Montgomery chose to stay in Brainerd to give back, thankful for his educational experiences. Montgomery knew from his grade school years at Nisswa Elementary that he’d go into natural resources. In high school he took those natural resource classes, as well as being involved in football, track and skiing. “It was a progressive district even then,” he said. “We didn’t really realize it at the time until later we heard other stories.” In woodshop, students did practical things. They hung shelves that needed hanging, built bookcases and did whatever else needed doing right there in the school. In forestry and wildlife management classes, Bob Groneberg took his students on field trips to apply what they had learned in class. They went

down logging trails and two-lane roads in an old blue bus that came from an Air Force base. Montgomery remembers scaling timber and estimating flow rates for streams in the spring. He also recalls several occasions when a few students would distract Groneberg while the rest pushed the bus down onto another cross trail – sometimes as much as 50 yards – trying to hide the bus from their teacher. “When I was in school in Brainerd, there were so many resources in the school district,” said Montgomery. “If teachers had an idea they could try it. If it worked, they kept doing it. A teacher might say, ‘I don’t really know what will happen, but let’s try this out.’ Kids benefit so much when things are not cookie cutter, when the schools can try things that are different,” he said. When Montgomery graduated from Brainerd High School in 1982, he left for a year at Northland College in

Ashland, then headed to the University of Montana at Missoula. Why did he choose those schools? He wanted to try some place where no one else from Brainerd was going. He chose to pull the rug out from under himself and see what he could do. Along with parts of two college summers working at Schaffer’s Foods in Nisswa, Montgomery began the avid pursuit of field research. He spent time in the islands off Washington state coast studying seabirds and marine mammals, where it was a wonderment to a Minnesota boy to hear pods of orcas surfacing at night. He took his future wife on their first date, radio tracking moose. Montgomery graduated from college with degrees in zoology and education. He wanted an education degree in part because of the good experiences he’d had in the Brainerd schools. Between college graduation and beginning graduate school in Duluth in 1991, Montgomery studied elephant seals and breeding seabirds on the continued on page 16 We Are 181 • Fall 2012



We Are 181 • Fall 2012

We Are 181 • Fall 2012


continued from page 13 Farallon Islands off the California coast, wood storks in Georgia and South Carolina, penguins in Antarctica, and wildlife in south Florida. In 1998, Montgomery and his wife returned home, building on property in the South Long Lake area that had been homesteaded by his greatgrandfather from Norway. No matter where in the country he had traveled, he knew he wanted his kids here in the solid Brainerd school district, wanted his kids to have the kind of education he’d had. So they returned and he began giving back to the Brainerd community. He worked at the Northland Arboretum for a year in 1999, then with The Nature Conservancy and extension service, each for about five years. Meanwhile he was thinking, “How can I put back into the school system and ensure as best I can to keep this great thing going?” In 1999, Montgomery joined the school board. At the end of December 2012, when his term expires, he will have spent 11 out of the past 13 years as a school board member. “It was a learning curve,” he said, “and I got a lot more out of it than I feel like I put in.” It would be wonderful, he believes, if every person could have this experience. His decision to run for school board was influenced by his involvement with writing a Blandin Foundation grant that, in part, resulted in an addition to the YMCA and the establishment of the Crossing Arts Alliance. The school board seemed like a natural next step. That and the fact that his father had been on the township board and he realized it was something a person could do. No longer on the board, Montgomery continues to give back through a sustainability project. Using the school farm, the Brainerd Future Farmers of America alumni are searching ways to compost food waste at Franklin Middle School, perhaps creating up to two tons of compost a year. Montgomery also volunteers as a Nordic ski coach and has for seven years. His kids were involved, it’s a lifelong sport, and he sees Now a natural resource instructor at Central Lakes College, Montgomery’s office is filled with collections used for identification purposes. Top to bottom: eagle, horse skull jaw, map turtle. 16

We Are 181 • Fall 2012

i r N C b e u a h c t B c a e c s s s w s

M m

it as an opportunity to help out. He remembers 1979-80, the first year Nordic skiing was offered at BHS. Coach Deb Roberts had about a $500 budget for the year to cover busing, event registration, wax, etc. As a result, uniforms were not a consideration and the team simply wore what they had - sweat pants, sweatshirts, any ski clothing they happened to have - and they caught rides with the alpine team. But they learned to ski, and to take care of their equipment. They learned about competing in the sport – lots of extremely hard work in challenging conditions on solitary trails with no stands of people cheering one on. “This selects for a certain type of person,” said Montgomery, “which is why I love working with these kids and the sport so much.” “Academics get you one place,” Montgomery said. “What happens in music practice or on the football field

or the soccer field gets you someplace else.” Extracurricular activities are a big part of the education experience, he believes. Competition, along with working as a group, a team, is an important learning experience. Montgomery started teaching at Central Lakes College in 2009. “Working here, with these young people, is where I need to be.” He loves teaching Introduction to Natural Resources – to get them when they come in the door and broaden their horizons into to all that natural resources encompasses. The most important things we can give students during those two years is a basic toolbox, professionalism and soft skills, and the ability to learn and adapt. This is so critical to education for all of us. The position at CLC is the combination of natural resources and education that he trained for. Montgomery sees service work as being similar to geocaching.

Geocaching is a free, outdoor treasure hunting game where you use a GPS to hide and seek containers with other participants. In geocaching when you take something out of a canister you’ve discovered, you put something in for the next person to find. He believes in doing the same thing in giving back to the community, refilling the “canister” of opportunity.

Prior to her passion for playing with words, Carolyn Corbett taught elementary school for 14 years. Today, as a freelance writer/editor, she has over 200 articles published in cruising, parenting, and general interest magazines.

We Are 181 • Fall 2012


By Mary Aalgaard

Poetry Café I

n Guy Kelm’s second grade class at Riverside, students demonstrate their learning during Poetry Café. Once a month parents are invited into the classroom where students’ artwork decorates the room. Students craft bags, posters and creatures to go with the theme. Even the tablecloths and placemats are designed and colored by the students. For a bug theme last May, students served nectar punch and fruit and veggie kabobs, stuck into a halved melon or rutabaga to look like a bug. The decorations and the food were a feast for the eye and the tummy. Students recited or read their poetry in a large group, in small groups, in pairs, or as a solo act, with confidence and poise. Every child was easy to hear and understand, performing with great eye contact and stage presence. Parents sat mesmerized at the edge of their seat,


We Are 181 • Fall 2012

a few admitting they didn’t have as much confidence in front of a group as their child. Kelm uses poetry as his primary tool for teaching the second grade curriculum. It works for him and his students because he’s a writer, a poet, a performer and a lover of words. The students see that writing is about everything. A poem can be written about any subject ever studied. They learn how to research the topic to get the details for their poems. They look at pictures and handle the material to know what it looks and feels like to be part of an ecosystem, like plants and bugs, or what it was like to live in a certain time in history. Dinosaurs are a favorite theme including science, history, research, archeology, the earth’s crust and the definition of omnivore and herbivore. Students get excited about learning.

They take the material and apply it to other areas, then bring it to life in their own way through their writing and reading of poetry. Planning the menu is all about math — estimating how many people will be there and how much food to prepare. Students need to read a recipe, which has measurements. They do some sorting and categorizing, adding, subtracting and dividing. How many people can sit at one table? How much food needs to be on that table? How many sets of plates, napkins, etc. do we need? They’re creative with what they serve and how to make it look like the theme, as in the bug-like kabobs from May, or the googly-eye punch for the October theme. They added blobs of sherbet to the green punch and called it “swamp water.” In addition to all the research and writing, party planning and preparation,

G p

at Riverside Guy Kelm invites parents to his second grade classroom at Riverside to hear students read poetry. Student crafted tablescapes, posters, refreshments, all enhance a theme.

the students work on public speaking and confidence building. Kelm starts the first day of school by sharing at least one poem a day. Some students know his reputation and come prepared with their journals already filled with poems they’ve written over the summer. Other students are not so sure they want to get up in front of the class and read or talk. Kelm spends time in the first two months building a community within his classroom where students feel safe and confident with each other. The first time they invite parents to watch is the end of October. Then, they have Poetry Café once a month until the end of the school year. In October, a few students might not feel ready to get up alone or in a small group, but they all participate in the group poem.

Kelm encourages the students to communicate with their parents, letting them know how much they’ll be participating. It’s always a choice, never forced and always encouraged. Kelm is right there with kind eyes, supportive words and comforting presence. He usually does the announcing, but one year, a boy who didn’t think he could ever read or recite a poem did the announcing. Speaking more than he would have with a poem, he was confident and self-assured throughout the performance. Kelm said that every year he has students who go from extremely shy, barely audible, to boldly walking on the stage, looking the audience in the eyes, and speaking with expression and confidence.

From legislators to building principals, someone is always trying to “fix” education by making changes. A teacher can get bogged down and overwhelmed by trying to add one new thing into the already tight classroom time. Kelm said, “Don’t look at it like you have to do something more, or different. You’re probably already doing it. Find the format that works for you to teach the information that you have.” The one constant for Kelm is poetry and his belief that writing empowers students.

Mary Aalgaard is a freelance writer in the Brainerd lakes area. She lives in the Brainerd lakes area with her four sons and cat named Leo.

We Are 181 • Fall 2012


By Jenny Holmes


w b w v

fi t t i f

Eva Fitzsimmons (right) and Pat Nelson have team taught fourth grade at Harrison Grade School for nearly 40 years.


heirs is a partnership that has lasted longer than many marriages. After nearly four decades of teaching fourth grade at Harrison Elementary School together, Eva Fitzsimmons and Pat Nelson have created a friendship that goes far beyond the school day. “For nine months out of the year,” Nelson noted, “we’re inseparable.” In fact, within the last few years when the school district encouraged teachers to partner with others in their grade level for collaboration and resources, the two women said they laughed, as it’s been a regular occurrence for them for the last 37 years. Nelson began her tenure at Harrison, teaching the fourth grade in 1970. Fitzsimmons joined the fourth grade team in 1975, transferring from two years of teaching at Lowell


We Are 181 • Fall 2012

Elementary. It was certainly a different time, the women reminisced, sitting together one afternoon in Nelson’s classroom. Along with fifth and sixth grades housed at the elementary level, the two noted other significant changes they have witnessed since the 1970s, ranging from curriculum to computers and many things in between. They’ve seen the coming and going of four principals in almost as many decades, as well as the influx of new staff and students, especially when Lincoln Elementary closed its doors in 2008, forcing the redistricting and distribution of students. Both Fitzsimmons and Nelson agreed the overall attitude toward education, as well as parenting involvement, has also changed with the passing time; as have the demands and expectations placed by way of testing.

“We are forced to such a tight schedule now,” Nelson said. “Education is so test-oriented. The school day is much tighter than it ever used to be.” Added Fitzsimmons, “It’s difficult to leave the structured curriculum, even for a day, or we fall behind. But, you adjust to the changes.” Both women say they have had each other to turn to throughout times of change and increased expectations. “For the first few years I taught, I felt alone in the classroom,” Nelson said. “But here, if I’m struggling, I can go to Eva with it.” The women each have their respective students and classrooms, separated only by a boy’s bathroom — which, they joke, should have a hallway cut through for easier communication opportunities. Students are taught, primarily, by their assigned teacher. However, the women collaborate

e t

r p d n m

b fi s N t s h t a t

Y NAM IC when teaching math, dividing students by ability level and allowing them to work more closely to meet students’ varied needs. The teachers also enjoy taking field trips and classroom outings together, including an annual trip to the Lindbergh State Park and museum in Little Falls, which they have done for the last 20-plus years. And the women agree they play off each other’s strengths to the benefit of their students. “She’s very good about remembering names,” Nelson said, pointing to Fitzsimmons. “We just depend on each other for what we need,” Fitzsimmons concurred. “She’s my right arm.” When the pressures of teaching become difficult to bear, “we always find things to laugh about,” Fitzsimmons said. “Everybody has frustrations,” Nelson noted. “We’re able to talk things out to each other to alleviate the stress.” Adds Fitzsimmons, “I can’t go home and tell my spouse about this or that with a particular student, but with a teaching partner, you can bounce things off one another and problem

solve. We’re always working through things together. It’s really the non-stop collaboration that works for us.” It’s this unspoken understanding that lends itself well to this well-oiled teaching partnership. “We’ve both gone through family crises over the past few years,” Fitzsimmons said. “And we’re able to step in for one another and hold down the fort if the other needs to leave for some reason. We can walk over and help the substitute with the lesson plan to ease the transition. It’s just a given; an assumption more than an expectation.” Their friendship spills over outside of the school day and school year, as the women have attended each other’s family events and gatherings. They’ve celebrated personal milestones together, including Fitzsimmons’ wedding anniversary; as the year coincides with the first year they began teaching together at Harrison. And on the filing cabinet in Nelson’s classroom are faded masking tape marks with corresponding dates, where “Auntie Pat” charted the growth of Fitzsimmons son who, today, is now

28 years old. “I don’t know that I’m ‘Auntie Pat’ anymore,” Nelson laughed. “We share ideas, materials, kids, duties, joys, sorrows,” Fitzsimmons noted. “In many ways, I think of Pat as my other sister.” In teaching for nearly 40 years, the women are now starting to see second and, even, third generations of students attending Harrison, but don’t think they’re ready to retire any time soon. “We’ve been together longer than many people stay married,” Fitzsimmons laughed. “For me, Pat is stability. We share the same strong faith and beliefs. No matter what happens, she can always understand.” Looking on, her teaching partner of 37 years simply smiles at her friend. “And I would say ‘ditto.’”

Jenny Holmes is a former reporter with the Brainerd Dispatch and currently owns a public relations and communication firms. She lives in Nisswa with husband, Tim and their two school-aged children.

We Are 181 • Fall 2012


By Jan Kurtz

Soaking up Spanish like a sponge: A

s a senior at BHS, Haley continued, Haley Needham “We changed methods found working to repeating the word with preschoolers at for the colors as they Kinder Klub a challenge. colored items, such as Needham was one red, rojo, for the apple. of five students from It was surprising to Señora Qualley’s fourth see how you could tell year Spanish class that the different learning presented language and styles and who might cultural activities to a be successful, just group of 32 preschoolers, by listening to their age 3-5-years-old. “This pronunciations of new is a perfect age to teach words. language as the kids “Part of the are little sponges!” she challenge,” she explained. continued, “was the The first lesson was need to be patient and learned by Needham encouraging. Teaching and her companions — language is repetitious Lyndsey Roesner, Kari and slow paced. It Urness, Andrew Meyer is important for the and Taylor Crowell. It teacher to keep saying, Students from Señora Qualley’s BHS fourth year Spanish was their responsibility ‘good job,’ ‘nice try’ or class will teach Spanish and cultural activities to Kinder Klub pre-schoolers in the spring. to do the lesson plans ‘you can do it.’ I did and provide the teaching find it helpful that some materials for an hour students were fans of session each Friday for 11 Dora the Explorer! weeks. They were comfortable “I had a lot of ideas trying new words and from relatives who teach could be prompted by kindergarten, but we vocabulary they had “We had planned a fl ashcard all worked as a team, learned through Dora’s tweaking our plans before going to activity, where an item of a certain books and DVDs. class, she said. “ We learned from trial color was pictured with the word “These kids are growing up in a “Almost bilingual country. I believe it will help and error and then made adjustments for the color,” she said. as we went along. This was necessary immediately we discovered that this them in their future careers. I plan to age level did not necessarily read yet.” go to college, do some mission work on our very first day.”

BHS Students teach prechoolers at Kinder Klub


We Are 181 • Fall 2012

and graduate with a social work degree using my Spanish. I would also like to travel to Spanish-speaking countries,” said Needham. When asked how she began her Spanish career, she quickly responded, “It was at Pequot Lakes. Spanish sounded like a fun class to take. After the first year, I felt I had a knack for it and wanted to continue. I also loved the culture. We did culture with the kids by presenting, Fun Facts. “For instance, in one class when talking about tacos, a little girl shared that she knew how to make tortillas. I asked if she made them of corn or wheat flour. She hadn’t heard of corn tortillas, but her curiosity led us into a conversation about cooking in Mexico. She was only 5.” Needham was also impressed with her student’s English abilities. “When we were working in small groups, we overheard the children using,

what I considered, really advanced vocabulary for their ages. It was then that it occurred to me, we were working with children who likely have no any concept of what languages are or where they are spoken. They don’t need to know if the word is an adjective or a noun. Kids are automatic language learners. “That is why a program like this is so important,” Needham emphasized. “These kids aren’t exposed to a lot of diversity in this area. This is the time to introduce them to other languages and cultures… any other! They get all excited about learning and run home to tell Mom and Dad. Like I did! “Yes, it was a challenge, but a gratifying one. When I was in third grade, some high school Spanish students had come to my class. We played games, won prizes and learned new words. It had an impact on me that continues to influence me today. I

truly hope that I have impacted at least one of these children with the love I have for language and cultures,” said Needham. And, what was the lesson that Haley took from her experience? “In this program, I learned that the number one lesson is to be open-minded. Second, never presume you know the level or ability of a person (student). And last, be patient and encouraging,” she concluded. Now, that sounds like a life lesson.

Jan Kurtz recently concluded a sabbatical updating her courses at Central Lakes College in Spanish and Latin American studies. She is now writing and doing presentations on her travels.

We Are 181 • Fall 2012


By Judy Kuusisto

Junior Great Books teaches children to think critically and share ideas.


earning to ask questions about what is in a story, learning to disagree with others politely while citing evidence to support reasons from the text, there is a program that is teaching those skills to students in District 181. The program, Junior Great Books, has as its mission helping people learn to think critically and share ideas. It is not a new program, but it is constantly evolving to help students stay excited about leaning and delving deeply into works of literary value. Although the Great Books Foundation has programs for adults the focus here is K-4. At present several schools are using the


We Are 181 • Fall 2012

program with exciting results and high expectations. Lisa Worden and Jill Marohn have been working to implement Junior Great Books to supplement District 181’s core literacy curriculum. Because students’ needs are being met “and then some” the teachers said, the district is in the enviable position of having advanced readers who can benefit from age appropriate literature to meet their needs. As the then gifted and talented resource teacher, Worden wrote a grant and the District 181 Foundation has given funding for updated materials. Junior Great Books is an unusual

program in that it requires specific training for teachers and volunteers. In 2011, volunteers could commit to five hours training by district professionals and one hour a week working with small groups of students. The training is vital because, while the concepts are good for all learners, the way they are presented is quite different. Students are provided with books containing age appropriate stories. Authors include Langston Hughes, Ray Bradbury, Rudyard Kipling, Leo Tolstoy and Isaac Bashevis Singer. Folk tales and fables from around the world add to the rich mix of literature for each grade level. The stories may

be grouped around a concept like meaning as they read and find support discussion. Examples of core questions friendship, responsibility or bravery. for their interpretations through are given for each story, but learning Each year’s learning builds skills for reference to specific passages. Leaders to write one’s own questions is highly the next year’s participation. Reading often describe the excitement that recommended. It is not easy to write comprehension, critical a good interpretive question. thinking, writing, listening and Leaders make an effort to learning to agree or disagree choose or write questions respectfully with other students that will interest students and are some of the benefits spur a lively discussion, giving experienced. the entire group a chance to There are several different participate. Five criteria are ways the program suggests recommended for formulating to allow for flexibility within good questions: doubt, the school day as well as curiosity, evidence, clarity and ways to meet the needs of specificity. Instead of asking K-1 pre-readers and early questions with factual answers, readers. Whole-class as well as the discussion leader will often English as a second language exchange a “what” or “how” versions make it possible for question for one that asks “why” many children to participate when looking for what made if a school district decides to the characters say something or implement them. However, all behave in a certain way. “Why” versions of the program require is an important word in these individual preparation and discussions because it can lead participation. to many interpretations. All students read the story Five guidelines are given, twice; before it is discussed. as part of training, that speak Group leaders are facilitators of to the criteria for formulating a “Shared Inquiry Discussion” good questions as they work which is at the heart of every with in the discussion itself. aspect of the program. What is In the “heat” of the discussion Jill Marohn (right) has helped establish the Junior it? Junior Great Books program it is very hard to make sure all Great Books program to supplement the core literacy provides this definition, “an curriculum. Bridget Crabtree is a volunteer leader who are being followed at all time, active and collaborative search helps facilitate Junior Great Books groups. but that is often part of the fun. for answers to questions of 1. Everyone must have read meaning in a text.” Unlike the story to participate. 2. If questions having a correct answer, occurs when students are dealing with the story is a long one, divided into the questions used in a shared inquiry the “problems of meaning that can be sections, only the section everyone discussion ask the students to think for answered in more than one way.” has read can be discussed. This can themselves. Open-ended questions, Each volunteer discussion leader is be important because there is always having more than one answer give provided with a book describing how a temptation to bring in personal students a chance to delve deeper into to effectively lead a shared inquiry experience or another version or film

We Are 181 • Fall 2012


of the story and take focus off the text. 3. Support must be given for ideas directly from the story. 4. Listening to other participants and responding directly to them is necessary. 5. Expect the leader to only ask questions. This is hard for both students and leaders to do at first. However, it serves the purpose well. The leader’s manual states, “It may feel strange for leaders not to tell students what the story means, but readers must learn to develop their own ideas about meaning. Asking questions also helps to show students that adults, too, wonder about the meaning of the selection. Asking questions and avoiding judgments, whether positive or negative, signals one’s own

curiosity and give students the freedom to try new ways of thinking, unencumbered by the feeling that their ideas are being continuously evaluated. Leaders refer to these guidelines frequently. As noted above, during the discussion, children are encouraged to speak directly to one another. The leader often does not require hands to be raised. Everyone is also given a chance to contribute. Participants often say that within this discussion they feel more confident expressing themselves than in a typical right/wrong answer setting. Instead of clarifying statements for students the leader can ask follow-up questions. These questions can help the speaker rephrase and express their ideas more clearly. At the end of a shared inquiry discussion the students have opportunities to explore the ideas presented in further activities. Writing and art work, as well as evaluative “What if” questions, may be part of the experience. Individual groups may decide to move quickly through the stories or concentrate on one over a period of several weeks. One of the wonderful things about Junior Great Books is that the learning experiences of one year are built upon by succeeding school years. Jill Marohn, second grade teacher at Garfield, expressed her excitement after seeing the program implemented in her school during 2011-2012. She described the enthusiastic volunteers and the children who were experiencing academic growth. At present the program is focused on building opportunities for those students who excel in reading. Marohn said, “Over the next year or two, it will be fun to notice the effect the Junior Great Books experience has on classroom discussions and comprehension during guided reading. It’s our hope that students will apply their advanced critical thinking skills in the classroom.” Learn more about the program at Judy Kuusisto is an artist, illustrator and writer.


We Are 181 • Fall 2012



Welcoming Dr. Neil Bratney, Pediatrician There’s a special time between birth and adolescence called childhood. Lucky for you and your child, Dr. Neil Bratney specializes in kids. As Lakewood Health System’s first pediatrician, Dr. Bratney will provide the care your child needs during this stage of their life.

I am excited about joining the Lakewood team because of its outstanding dedication to its patients, allowing time for personalized care to each and every patient. —Dr. Neil Bratney, Pediatrician

Dr. Bratney sees patients at our Staples and Pillager Clinics. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bratney, call 218-894-1515.

Welcome to our family Dr. Neil Bratney, Pediatrician now seeing patients at our Staples and Pillager Clinics.


2012_PediatricianAd.indd 1

218-894-1515 •

10/5/2012 12:30:35 PM

12-5349_Ad Design_Layout 1 10/5/12 7:23 AM Page 1

During our 25th Anniversary Celebration this year, we received donations from alumni spanning seven decades. These donations help create opportunities in our public schools. Thank you to our wonderful donors. We are feeling the love! Celebrating over 100 years of excellence in public education To learn more or to support the Foundation see 218.454.6921 路 804 Oak Street Brainerd, MN 56401

We Are 181 - Fall 2012  

As we make the transition from summer to fall, we are reminded that change is inevitable. And nowhere is change more apparent than in Braine...

We Are 181 - Fall 2012  

As we make the transition from summer to fall, we are reminded that change is inevitable. And nowhere is change more apparent than in Braine...