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8 12 SEPTEMBER 2017 United Voices is the official publication of North Dakota United, 301 N 4th Street, Bismarck, ND 58501. Contact Us 701.223.0450 Postmaster, send address changes to: North Dakota United 301 N 4th Street Bismarck, ND 58501 Kelly Hagen Director of Communications Tom Gerhardt Director of Public Affairs Image Printing Design/Publisher


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In Minot, one longtime member told me why she is proud to be a member of the Minot Education Association. She said that during her 30+ years in education, no group has done as much to life up her profession as did her union. No one, other than her union, has given her the same support that she needed to do her job well.

Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China area few of the places that a Minot kindergarten teacher visited this summer after being named a National Education Association (NEA) Global Learning Fellow.


At the center of all organizing is relationship-building. You cannot organize potential members into joining our organization, nor current members into becoming activists and leaders within the association, if you do not establish a relationship first.


School can be difficult for most kids, but especially for those coming up through high school while struggling with poverty. At Fargo South High School, 41 percent of the students utilize the Free and Reduced Meal Program. That only represents the number of students whose families are willing to fill out the paperwork required to qualify. So, unofficially, probably half of the student population would qualify for the program.


Jan Phelps is exactly the variety of public employee the state of North Dakota should wish to retain. She has worked as a Life Skills Manager and Residential Manager at the Life Skills and Transition Center in Grafton for the past 12 years, with great distinction.


Art, like any discipline, requires practice. Lots and lots of practice. Art teacher and North Dakota United member Marlene Biondo knows this lesson well. She has been plying her craft for many years, across the country and throughout the world, working as an artist and as a teacher.


If you’ve ever had a triple-shot espresso on an empty stomach, you have experienced the same shot of energy that Wishek Public School history teacher, and the 2017 North Dakota History Teacher of the Year, Sarah Crossingham delivers to her students each day.

ND United Voices

President’s Post

MEMBERSHIP IS IN OUR BEST INTEREST When we’re stronger, all of North Dakota benefits

As I write this column, I have just returned from visiting with new teachers, from Fargo to Williston and points in between. Just yesterday, I had the honor of visiting pre-service teachers at Turtle Mountain Community College near Belcourt. What I experienced on this trip was a look at our past, as well as our future.

By Nick Archuleta NDU President

But for us to be truly successful, we need you!

Membership in North Dakota United is everybody’s business.”

In Minot, one longtime member told me why she is proud to be a member of the Minot Education Association. She said that during her 30+ years in education, no group has done as much to lift up her profession as did her union. No one, other than her union, has given her the same support that she needed to do her job well. That is a powerful testament from a long-time education professional on the importance of joining your union of professionals. And I saw this played out across the state. Everywhere I went, I saw that experienced educators were reaching out to teachers new to the profession, in order to help them understand the importance of membership. Everything was on the table. From Click and Save to insurance, from travel discounts to inexpensive magazine subscriptions, it was covered. More importantly, the experienced teachers were sharing their personal narratives about why they value membership in their professional organization. Some pointed to the outstanding professional development offered by NDU. Others told of experiences where members ran afoul of their administrators and were able to turn to NDU’s experienced field staff for help in resolving their issues. Those things are all important, of course. But some of the most important things we do are not seen by our members. At NDU, we represent all public employees, whether they work in our terrific public schools, on our amazing higher ed campuses, or in state, county or city agencies, providing vital public services. We take this responsibility very seriously and have determined that our work must be focused on advancing three basic principles: increase membership, increase the engagement of our membership and increase the size of our government relations footprint. And we advance these principles while still providing our members and locals with what they need to be successful. To that end, we have undertaken the task of focusing our budget where our priorities lie. Together with the AFT and NEA, NDU has focused more resources on organizing and increasing membership in each of our constituency groups. We have increased our emphasis on providing meaningful professional development based on what our members have told us will make a difference in their workplaces. Finally, we have strengthened our communications department so that we recognize the good work of our members, as well as assisting our locals and chapters in creating strategies for effective internal and external communications. But for us to be truly successful, we need you! Membership in North Dakota United is everybody’s business. You know the challenges ahead. You know that we need to be strong. You know that we need to have a powerful voice and message when important decisions about the terms and conditions of your employment are being decided. And you know the people with whom you work. Public employees of all stripes want and deserve the same thing: respect! Respect for the work we do. Respect for the value we add to North Dakota and our local communities. Respect for the people we are and the lives we touch. With that in mind, NDU, let’s do what we can to make our organization bigger, better and more effective than it has ever been. Have that conversation in your workplace with your colleagues. Share your story about why you are a member of NDU. Listen to them and help make the connection between their values and the values of North Dakota United. The chances are that we share the same values. So thank you all for your membership in NDU, for the great work you do every day, and for your efforts to improve our organization. Be well!



2016 Teacher of the Year Amy Neal visits China as NEA Global Learning Fellow By Tom Gerhardt,

Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China are a few of the places that a Minot kindergarten teacher visited this summer after being named a National Education Association (NEA) Global Learning Fellow. Amy Neal, the 2016 North Dakota Teacher of the Year from Lewis and Clark Elementary School, was among a prestigious group that included high school history teachers, math educators, a counselor, a music teacher and a pre-school teacher, on a nineday trip to China. Neal also visited a public middle school, a traditional Hutong neighborhood in Beijing, a public market and a mall (which she described as being similar to the Mall of America). It was exactly the contrast of cultural experiences the NEA Foundation wants its global fellows to experience and take back to classrooms and students in the United States. While the flight from Minot to Beijing took 22 hours, thoughts, ideas and educational experiences can be shared around the globe in seconds. Neal said the NEA realizes how important it is to teach kids about the world we live in and how connected we are by technology. “They immerse teachers in a multi-cultural experience so that we have a sense of a little bit of struggle, of how hard it is to understand a different culture and just to have an experience of how can we take a global cultural immersion experience and bring the meaning of it back to the classroom,” Neal said. Beginning in Beijing The group landed in Beijing (population 21.5 million as of 2016), and Neal said the first day they visited Tiananmen Square — best known outside of China for the 1989 pro-democracy rally called the Tiananmen Square massacre — that ended with thousands of Chinese protesters arrested and an unknown number killed. Neal said that right next to the square is the capitol building, known as the Great Hall of the People, and close by, the 4

Forbidden City, which they were able to walk through. Day two, the group visited Wenhui Middle School in Beijing. Neal said one of the top priorities of the trip was to get the teachers into schools to talk to students. She said it’s broken down like an American school system (grades 6-8) with the students immersed in an English language program. She said the students spoke excellent English. Neal said that was impressive, but what really caught her attention came after a visit with the vice principal. “As Americans, we’re asking how she deals with behavior problems and parents. The vice principal honestly just shook her head. They don’t have behavior problems at their school. Their families put education on a pedestal, and teachers in China are on a pedestal,” Neal said. She said parents there demand excellence and good behavior from their children. Neal visited with one student whose mother was a doctor and father worked in the military. That student got to go home every day, but because the city is so large, Neal said some students lived nearby during the week. Another wake-up call came after the teachers spent the rest of the day receiving a designed cultural immersion lesson at an open market, bartering for things like water, and later at the mall where they had to try to overcome the language barrier to order lunch. “I went and ordered something, and I ended up walking back to my table with a plate full of tofu. And I can’t return it! How do you return a plate of food? I don’t know how to explain this to someone who doesn’t speak English. My friend who ordered a rice and chicken meal shared it with me so I didn’t go hungry that day,” Neal said with a laugh. The Great Wall Neal said visiting the Great Wall of China had been on her bucket list since a college friend had visited. That dream became reality the next day. She said the part of the Wall they visited was about a two-hour bus ride out of Beijing, called the Mutianyu Great Wall, built around 1400 A.D. She said the experience was overwhelming, ND United Voices

bringing one teacher to tears. “To stand on the Great Wall and touch some of the rocks, it was honestly like it was alive. You think about how many people built it, and they were slaves or they were peasants who worked for the Chinese government to keep them safe back in the 1400s, and how many people have walked on it since then. It was incredible to me; it was breathtaking,” Neal said. While on the wall, Neal heard another woman speaking English and approached her. The woman ended up being a kindergarten teacher working in Dubai. The two exchanged email addresses and plan to connect their classes this fall so their students can meet. Neal also realized the Great Wall isn’t one giant wall across China, but a series of pieces of wall built during different eras. In total, it measures over 13,170 miles. The largest portion, the Ming Great Wall, measures just over 5,500 miles. Terracotta Warriors/Army Neal’s history lesson continued in central China at the city of Xi’an. She learned it was the original capital of China, and it’s where she experienced the extraordinary story of the Terracota Warriors (built 200 B.C). “After being at the Great Wall, which I thought was the most amazing thing in the world, we go to the Terracotta Warriors, which are 600 years older than the part of the Great Wall that we were on,” Neal said. “The emperor was Buddhist and wanted to be protected in the afterlife, so he had slaves and peasants build 8,000 life-size soldiers and horses (total) to protect his tomb in the afterlife. They are made out of pottery, and each one took many months to build. They had around 10,000 people working on these warriors and the most interesting part is how they found it in 1974,” Neal said. A farmer was out digging a well and ran into some broken pottery and decided to call the government. “Archeologists starting digging this up, and they have found 6,000 warriors standing up and they had real copper and brass weapons in their hands to protect the emperor,” Neal said. She said she thought the Great Wall was overwhelming, but the Terracotta Warriors left her almost speechless thinking of the time and effort put in to create them. Implementing Lessons in Classroom Neal says all of the Global Fellows were asked to reflect on how

they will implement what they learned about Chinese culture, history and education in the classroom. She says she plans to build upon a lesson she’s done in her classroom for around 10 years where students say hello in a different language each morning. “We’re going to find that country on a globe, and then we’re going to move into using Google Earth to use the technology side of it because my students need to see a real globe versus what it looks like on a computer. It’s one way I can make it meaningful for my kids and show them some of the hands-on things I brought back from China to show them that kids in a different country look at different letters, they speak a different language and they might wear different clothes,” Neal said. She also hopes to build upon the connection she made with the kindergarten teacher in Dubai. Highlights Neal says there were several other takeaways from the trip. She said, despite her mishap ordering tofu, the food was fantastic. She also said she shied away from trying scorpions, grasshoppers and spiders sold at a market. Neal also said she found people in China are extremely conscious of use of electricity and water. One night in her hotel, the electricity was shut off for two hours to conserve energy. China’s population is over 1.3 billion people — compared to around 325 million people in the United States. Neal laughed as she said the three things she missed the most included air conditioning, ice and porcelain toilets! A Call to Action Neal says the Global Learning Fellowship has given her the “opportunity” to challenge her communication skills, comfort level and understanding which she believes will help her relate to students who may feel uncomfortable or misunderstood. Neal said one of the Fellows summed up the entirety of the experience, saying, “Globalizing our classroom is more than reading a book.” She said teachers should decide how to bring global competence to their students to cultivate curiosity and learning. Also, she said educators need to bring “a variety of global experiences into the classroom so our students get a global perspective, spark their curiosity and ask lots of questions.”


Education Perspectives


Talk to at least one colleague about joining NDU

For me, walking into the classroom in the fall always drums up feelings of excitement and anticipation of the year to come. I review the class list and decide on a theme for the school year. Printing name tags and designing the classroom for a learning environment that will engage and encourage students becomes a priority. The floors are shiny clean, the books are lined up neatly on the shelves, and the copier is in full use. I have the back-to-school meeting with parents planned, and now it is time to consider what I need to do for myself. Do I have the support I need? Have I read my master contract and reviewed policies to be sure I am following the district’s expectations? Do I have the support I need to be the professional I strive to be? Where do I get professional support? By Karen Christensen Vice President of Education

There is strength in numbers, but organizing those numbers is one of the great challenges.” John C. Mather

This is the time to think about membership in a union. I need an organization that will help me work for fair wages and a fair contract. North Dakota United can do that for me. The organization will help me understand my contract and work expectations, and for certified staff, will help me bargain my future contract. I know that my employee rights will be protected when I have questions. Employee benefits such as insurance, retirement plans, holidays, and sick pay can be clarified through bargaining conferences and conversations with other members. Joining my professional union will also support a safe working environment. I can help assure that my workplace is one where I can work without retaliation or the fear of dismissal without representation. I have the responsibility to carry out educational responsibilities, but know I am not alone if a challenge arises. North Dakota United also provides the professional development I need to be the educator my students deserve. I can get involved in the professional seminars that develop my skills and knowledge to give my students an educator that is a topnotch performer. This increases my ability to be hired in districts that are in the market for my expertise. I can be my very best. Because I want to make a difference in the policymaking process of our state, North Dakota United tracks issues that impact my employment and the lives of my students. Expert representation at legislative sessions and on state committees gives me a voice at the table. I can contribute in ways that fit my schedule, but also can be involved in the process through my membership and representation by union leaders and lobbyists. It is also my responsibility to share my experience with others that work in my school. I need to invite those that have common goals in my school to join me in my union. Together, as part of North Dakota United, we can make education for all public-school students the greatest. I would like to ask that you talk to at least one colleague that is not a member and have a conversation about the benefits of becoming a North Dakota United member. You may make someone’s professional career more successful!


ND United Voices


Public Service Perspectives

Tell your union what trainings you’d like to see

Why did you join North Dakota United? What do you want from your union? I joined the North Dakota Public Employees Association early in my public service career to have a voice in the work place and be part of the union movement. Some of you may not be politically active, don’t have a desire to be active in the union movement and aren’t looking to be an officer of the North Dakota Public Employee (NDPE) local, but there are many other opportunities and reasons for you to be active in NDU. One of the great opportunities of being a member of NDU is attending personal and professional development sessions. Many state agencies and universities do not offer personal or professional development for their employees, so the public employee local and NDU tries to fills that void while providing another opportunity for you to become involved in your union. Several public employees and I recently attend the American Federation of Teachers Public Employee National Conference in Washington, D.C., where several professional development sessions were presented that I found very interesting, personally and professionally. One session offered was de-escalation training to prepare employees for situations where tension or conflicts may arise with the public we serve or with co-workers within our office. A second session was a college debt clinic, which helped members learn about how they can enroll in income-driven student loan repayment programs and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. These free federal programs help many borrowers reduce their monthly payments and possibly have their debt forgiven. NDU is the collective voice for all public employees, and our professional development programs are one way for you to become involved, experience the benefits of membership and become the U in union. In the coming months, NDPE and NDU will be offering these and other professional development opportunities. We want to offer personal and professional development sessions that you want your union to provide. Please contact me at or take our survey at to let us know sessions that you want offered or those that you would be interested in attending.

By Gary Feist Vice President of Public Employees

NDU is the collective voice for all public employees, and our professional development programs are one way for you to become involved, experience the benefits of membership and become the U in union.”


1) What personal or professional development sessions should NDPE/NDU offer to its members? A) College debt clinics B) De-escalation training C) Social media do’s and don’ts for public employees D) Workplace ethics E) Other ____________________________

2) When is the best time for you to attend a professional development session? A) Right after work B) Early evening 7:00 to 8:30 PM C) Saturday morning D) Saturday afternoon



No better way to build a relationship than one-on-one By Jane Rupprecht,

t the center of all organizing is relationship-building. You cannot organize potential members into joining our organization, nor current members into becoming activists and leaders within the association, if you do not establish a relationship first. As an organizer for your union, you must be trusted. You must be authentic. You must be respected. And how do you attain that level of status with any person? You talk to them, of course. When you talk to them, make it count. Have a Quality Conversation with them!

And always remember: STAY ON MESSAGE! Connect the vision and values to members’ and potential members’ concerns.

3. Share your story. Why did you join our association? What benefits are most valuable to you, personally? What attracted you to your profession? How has your membership contributed to your job satisfaction and your professional standing? Giving your own answers to these big questions that our potential members face will help them understand the advantages of joining!

1. Determine your local association’s message. Why are we here? What are our priorities? What do we want to be known for in the community we serve?

4. Tell them about North Dakota United. Yes, our member benefits are great, and the liability insurance and attorney referral program are must-haves. Sure, we can offer exceptional professional development and training. Of course, we have field staff to help address and consult about local issues, and we provide opportunities to attend regional and national conferences. But the MOST IMPORTANT REASON to join?

Respect. Power. And a VOICE!

By being a member of your state and local union, and being personally involved in their operation, you are given an opportunity to be part of the solution. If we believe that what is good for students and communities is good for education employees and public employees, then who knows the most about what’s best for students and citizens than the people who serve them?

When we all speak together, we have a LOUD voice that can be heard!

But what does that mean? Here are the nine steps to having Quality Conversations with your colleagues about becoming an active member in our association.

Your local leaders and members should take a look at how you communicate as a collective. Once you’ve answered these questions, try unifying them into one centralized statement that best represents your local. Then broadcast that statement as far and wide as you can! Develop a logo and a slogan. That is your Message! Share it!

2. Discover what lies at the heart of your local. This will provide you with context for all of your organizational communication efforts! Make sure your communications are easily understood, compelling to members, connected to the external world, relevant to your community, and consistently delivered. 8

5. Practice “Deep Listening.” Think of it this way: In an organizing conversation, you should spend 80 percent of your ND United Voices

time listening, and 20 percent talking. Additionally, concentrate on the following goals during your conversation:

Try saying this: “Can you think of some ways that we might deal with this as a group?”

• Establish common ground by minimizing natural barriers

“Can we count on your support and involvement so that we can improve this?”

to listening and creating a safe space for the interaction.

• Focus on what the member wants/needs. Set aside your personal agenda, and focus on the member’s words, their actions and intentions.

• Listen! Listen! Listen! Resist the urge to jump in. Show empathy for feelings or concerns. Validate what the potential member is saying by paraphrasing their concerns. Ask follow-up questions for clarity. And DON’T ARGUE. Do not contradict them! Try saying this: “I hear what you are saying. Many of our members feel the same way.” “Let me do some checking on that for you, and I will get back to you in the next few days.” 6. Utilize the “Feel, Felt, Found” Approach. Consider the words you use when you speak, and frame them around these three important words: feel, felt and found. Try saying this: “I know how you FEEL …” “I understand how you feel about not having time to attend the meeting …” “I’ve FELT that way myself …” “I always felt there were more important things to do…”

“Will you attend the meeting next week?” “Will you join us and become a member?” 8. Just as important to the ask is your follow-up. If you’re trying to recruit a new leader, return for a second meeting for the sake of thanking them for the first. “Thanks for doing this! How can we help? What do you need?” If you’re approaching a possible new member for a follow-up, you should bring additional information from what you talked about during your first meeting. Member benefits information works well. A welcome message from current association members is great, too. Ask them if they might consider signing a commitment card, if they’re not quite ready to sign the membership form. But the key to good follow-up is affirming your interest in helping them, supporting them in their practice and your own genuine enthusiasm for seeing them succeed. Try to follow-up with your second meeting within 48 hours of your first, if possible. And if you promised information in the first meeting, MAKE SURE that you are bringing that information with to your second meeting. 9. Now … let’s mobilize! Take the BIG things, break them into LITTLE things and then find members to ACT on them – one LITTLE thing at a time, until the BIG thing is accomplished!

“But I have FOUND that…” “But after I attended a few, I found that I really started to benefit from the information that is shared at these meetings. Plus, I liked being part of shaping our agenda.” 7. It’s time for the All-Important Ask! Start by referring to identified issues. Make sure that you get an immediate commitment to an action, whether that’s a membership form, an agreement to meet a second time, or a commitment to serve.



Use this helpful guide for talking to potential members about being part of NDU By Kelly Hagen, When you’re out talking to colleagues this fall about joining your local association and North Dakota United, you are likely going to hear the same issues repeated a lot from people who are reluctant to join. Our membership chairs and volunteers who are out talking to new employees and their colleagues who have resisted joining in the past about becoming a part of our association have asked for guidance on what they should say when they hear these same reasons for why people don’t join. Here are six things you might hear from potential members, and how you can potentially answer them: Membership costs too much! If you lose your job, what will that cost you? Look at membership in North Dakota United as insurance for your profession. You have access to expert assistance in the terms and conditions of public employment, as well as legal assistance, advocacy, bargaining and maintaining the terms of your contract, a stronger voice at your workplace, help with strengthening your relationships with governmental bodies and the public, and professional development trainings. All for less than $2 per day. I can get all the benefits of membership for free! Nothing is free. If you aren’t paying for the services of the union, your co-workers are paying for you. It costs money to represent public employees, and your dues pay for this. The more public workers who join our association, the more support we can offer to everyone. Without a strong membership base, we can’t possibly win everything we want for you and others. Together, we’re better. I don’t agree with North Dakota United! As a member of North Dakota United, you are our voice. We don’t collectively take stands on any issue without the guidance of our members. If you want to change NDU’s stance on an issue, you can’t do it from the outside, looking in. Join, get involved and make a difference! NDU policies are determined annually at our delegate assemblies. You can join and run to be a delegate to our annual assembly. NDU is a representative organization. You have a voice and a vote in all of our activities and policies. 10

I don’t like unions! The school board has its own association. Administrators have their association. Businesses have their advocacy group. We have North Dakota United! The dictionary defines union as “joining together for a common cause.” You have a stronger voice when it’s part of a collective, all moving in the same direction. We work together to provide quality public education and quality public services for every North Dakotan. If our union didn’t exist, what group would represent you in this same fashion? NDU should stay out of politics! By law, political funds must be kept strictly separate from your NDU dues. As a member, you can decide whether to support our political activities with UPAC contributions, or not. All decisions made in the political arena are decided by NDU members. Our national affiliates do not make the decisions on which candidates or initiatives we support. There is no outside influence on who we support in elections. You make those decisions! UPAC has supported both Republicans and Democrats that support public education and public services in North Dakota. The people who determine our working conditions are elected by all of us. You can vote on your boss? Who else has that ability in the private sector? Use it! NDU doesn’t care about kids! This couldn’t be any further from the truth. North Dakota United is teachers, professors and school support staff, and these are the people in all of our communities who care the most about everyone’s kids! Our association works in collaboration with the state Legislature, with local school boards and on the federal level, with the Department of Education, on student issues. Read through a copy of United Voices or NEA Today, and you’ll see stories about our members and the lengths they go to in their jobs to help kids, every day, year after year. Plus, our professional development program aims to help kids by improving their schools and the professionals who work there. NDU cares deeply about kids! ND United Voices

THE INS AND OUTS OF BEING A BUILDING REP If you are serving in this important role, know what will be expected of you By Geoff Greenwood,, and Dana Hillius, What is a building rep? Building reps are representatives of your local association in each building of your school district. If you are a member of a local in a small town, where there are only a few buildings total in your town, or you’re a member of our statewide North Dakota Public Employees local, you probably don’t have building reps currently. However, that’s not to say that you couldn’t have them!


Building reps are our most active members. They are trained regularly on how their union’s structure works. They can serve as a first point of contact when a member has an issue they’d like their union to assist them with. What is the building rep’s role? • To be the first contact for members and to communicate with the membership-at-large • To be the first impression for new and potential members • To be an important link in the organization between building-level members and the local association executive team, and the state affiliate, which is North Dakota United • To understand the dues structure • To promote the organization and membership • To attend local meetings • Explore common issues/concerns amongst members • Stay informed on local, state and national issues affecting members • Be welcoming and get to know members. Seven Things to Know About Being a Building Rep: 1. When a member comes to you with a problem, listen and don’t judge! Ask clarifying questions and try to understand the problem. If you’re unsure about how to proceed, contact your NDU Field Consultant/UniServ Director. 2. It’s important that you represent without judging! Remember that we only ensure the process is followed. Also, advocacy isn’t about popularity contests. You should connect the member to the appropriate resources within the union (i.e. local president, advocacy chair, NDU representative), assist the member as documentation is gathered and keep things confidential. 3. If you are asked to sit in on a meeting between a member and administrator, you should act as another set of eyes and




ears. Act as a recorder and take notes, and remember that you CAN audio record the meeting. Ask clarifying questions, if necessary. Ask for a break or stop the meeting if emotions get out of control. And contact your NDU Field Consultant if there are questions. What should you do if a member has questions regarding the contract/negotiated agreement? First, keep a copy of the negotiated agreement available. Familiarize yourself with common occurrences (i.e. leaves, salaries, insurance). Know the standard operating practices of your building and district. And always remind yourself and members that grievances are not a negative thing, but a process available to resolve disputes. When responding to written warnings or letters of reprimand, it’s important to know that, per North Dakota Century Code, ALL PUBLIC EMPLOYEES can respond in writing to any document placed in their personnel file. Use facts, timelines and supporting information and documentation. Be objective, not subjective, and leave emotions and finger-pointing out of it! If you are responding to a student or parent complaint, remember to ask questions. Did the parent/student come to the teacher/staff person first? If they did, will there be/ was there a formal complaint filed? Will there be a written warning? Will this trigger an improvement plan? If not, then when appropriate, you can ask for a chance to address the complaint directly with the student/parent. And remember to contact your NDU Field Consultant for assistance. When a member is put on an improvement plan, know that the employer can use an improvement plan to ask for improvements or address performance issues, among other things. You should encourage the member to ask clarifying questions, suggest changes, and that they CAN respond to the plan in writing. Be sure that the member clearly understands the goals and objectives of the plan, as well as how progress will be measured. Verify that the member feels the plan is reasonably achievable, and make sure that you and the member understand the timeline of the plan and how progress will be checked. And, finally, DO NOT hesitate to contact your NDU Field Consultant/UniServ Rep! 11


Fargo teacher sets up pantry in her school for needy students By Kelly Hagen,

School can be difficult for most kids, but especially for those coming up through high school while struggling with poverty. At Fargo South High School, 41 percent of the students utilize the Free and Reduced Meal Program. That only represents the number of students whose families are willing to fill out the paperwork required to qualify. So, unofficially, probably half of the student population would qualify for the program. The connection between poverty and student performance has been well-documented. When a child is not getting enough food to eat outside of school, they are termed as “food insecure.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as: “households that are uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet basic needs of all their members because of insufficient money or other resources.” Fargo South science teacher, and North Dakota United member, Brittany Olson recognized the struggles of some of her students, and wanted to help. Along with the help of her colleague, and fellow NDU member, Ariel Dowling, they have launched the Fargo South Bruin Food Pantry, for students who aren’t getting enough to eat at home. “It started with Fill the Dome,” Olson said, “and we kind of do that in the Fargo-Moorhead community. And Fargo South is a low-income school. Every year we would do Fill the Dome, and I would kind of look at it and go, why are we giving this to the community when I know kids here could use it?” She began to bounce ideas off Dowling two years ago about what they could do at Fargo South, and they applied for grants from 12

Operation Round Up, which is a part of Cass County Electric Cooperative, and from Fargo Public Schools, and they received both. “Then as our paperwork was sort of filtering through those two pathways, it crossed paths with some people who work for the Great Plains Food Bank,” Olson said. “And through there, Jenae Menske reached out to us and met with us, since this was kind of the first in the state to really do a schoolwide food pantry for the kids, and incorporating a lot more than just the backpack program. And so, we were fortunate enough to partner with them, which allows us to do ordering of food and other products through the Great Plains Food Bank, at a way reduced price.” “They are seriously great to work with, and have kind of gone above and beyond what we expected them to do,” Meske said about the food pantry at Fargo South. “It’s been fun to see the big impact that they’re making there currently. I refer anybody who wants to do a school pantry; I always give them their information, because of the great job they’ve done so far.” Donated items, including perishable and nonperishable food, clothing, hygiene products and household cleaning supplies, are stored in a large room inside South High School. “There’s a key that’s located centrally for staff,” Olson said. “So at any point during the day, staff can grab the key and either grab items for a student or bring a student in and go with them to grab items. Students also have an opportunity to sign up for the backpack program, and that would mean they get a bag of food every week on Fridays to bring home.” When the pantry first started in December 2015, Olson said it launched slowly, because they had difficulties with finding students ND United Voices

Brittany Olson, science teacher at Fargo South High School, led the effort to set up a food pantry.

willing to take the donations. “It was hard to get kids to admit that they could use it,” Olson said. “But we made a few changes over the summer. We added some information into the registration packets that the ninth graders get, which is then a little more private, plus the parents then can see it, too. So, at the start of last school year, we got a lot of those forms back in the fall, and the forms just go directly to myself. And that’s only if they want to sign up for the backpack program, and right now we have a Google spreadsheet that is only viewable by myself, Ariel and then our two secretaries in the office, since they’re the ones who keep an eye on the backpacks every Friday to make sure the kids grab the right one and the student’s not grabbing one that’s not supposed to be grabbing one. But it’s only the four of us.” One of the pleasant surprises that came with this project was the amount of student participation they have found. When she first started the program, the food pantry was located in Olson’s classroom, and she asked her students to help sort items during their study hall. “And every time I asked, all the kids raised their hand,” she said. “And then when we finally got a room at the end of the year, a couple of the kids who kind of routinely came to help asked if they could do it again the following year. I had some students who were willing to step up and do some ordering, or take a leadership role in some fundraising, and activities like that. That was completely unexpected, the students kind of stepping up that way.” Olson attributes that to the atmosphere they have put out. “I would say the atmosphere we’ve worked to kind of create with this at South is non-judgmental,” Olson said. “All of the students know about it, but it’s still private. Especially the kids who pack the bags, they see the bags, and I’m sure they’ve passed a kid who is carrying one of those bags, but no one says a word. Which is really nice.” The Bruin Food Pantry has information available online at www., and you can even make a donation to the pantry at that link. Monetary

donations are used for perishable food items; purchasing breakfast boxes, backpack program, family food boxes and food for the Summer Meals Program; toiletries; cleaning items; gas cards; bus passes; and other items as the need arises. With Menske’s assistance through the Great Plains Food Bank, Olson has also talked to schools across the state about the idea of starting similar food banks for students in other communities. “We’ve had other people from other areas, like Dickinson and Valley City, call in that they’re looking at starting some of these, too. So we’ve passed on what information we have. We’re still kind of learning.” The lessons they’ve learned so far have been invaluable in raising the profile of the program, and increasing the amount of good they can do for their students and families who need help. “Right away, you could tell with some kids, they’re a little more focused, less stressed, less anxiety on their end about things outside of school,” Olson said. “They could focus a little bit more, knowing that at least some of their basic needs were going to be met. And then this last year, a couple kids, they’re so thankful. And even behaviors on some of them, the gratitude that is there now that they’re finding school to be a positive place.” She is equally thankful to everyone who has helped make the Bruin Food Pantry what it is, and will continue to be. She said that she can’t pick any one moment from the last two years of planning and implementing the food bank as feeling the most fulfilling. “I think it’s seeing the kids who need it, use it,” she said. “And the other group of kids who are more than willing to help out and volunteer.” And she hopes her story will inspire similar programs in schools for kids who need them. “Take from it,” she said to anyone reading her story who feels inspired, “and invest in our youth. They’re the ones who are going to be our future leaders out in the community. And think about how you want those students to be out in the community, and set the example for them.” 13


Members come together for a social at Lindenwood Park By Kelly Hagen,

Members of North Dakota United are headed back to school at the K-12 level, as well as in higher education. For the largest university in our state, North Dakota State University, members decided to mark the occasion with a social in the park. On Tuesday, Aug. 16, all of the faculty and staff members at NDSU were invited to gather in Fargo at Lindenwood Park, for a potluck picnic and social. It was an opportunity for them to share some food and pleasant conversation, and get to know each other a little better. The state of higher education in North Dakota has dimmed in recent years. A recent article from The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reported that 61 faculty members -NDSU, which included deans and department heads with professors and lecturers, are resigning their positions or retiring. This number is up from the previous year, at 53 resignations and retirements, and just 36 in both 2014 and 2015. These are the times that we will need to be in close contact with our colleagues on campus. We will most certainly see increasing 14

issues with employees at all 11 of our public universities and colleges across the state, as budgets are shrinking and belts are tightening. Individual voices can go unheard, but if we speak out, together, the Legislature and university leaders will have to listen to all of us. If you are a member from higher education reading this issue of United Voices, please consider becoming more active in your association this year. Run for a leadership position. Plan events and actions on campus. Talk to your fellow members about what we can achieve together. Talk also to prospective members about joining NDU. Now is the time to get vocal about what is working, and what isn’t working, on campuses across our state. We all collectively want to provide the best possible education opportunities to the students who go to college within our state’s borders. Social events like the NDSU Back-to-School Potluck Picnic are a great way to get together and talk about what we all can do with NDU. ND United Voices


Jan Phelps Director of Life Skills Manager and Residential Manager at the Life Skills and Transition Center in Grafton


Jan Phelps looks back on career at care center in Grafton By Kelly Hagen,

Jan Phelps is exactly the variety of public employee the state of North Dakota should wish to retain. She has worked as a Life Skills Manager and Residential Manager at the Life Skills and Transition Center in Grafton for the past 12 years, with great distinction. Her co-workers look to her as their go-to when they have questions or concerns about the rigorous job demands at the center. The clients she serves – currently 63 adults and 20 youths at the site – trust her just as much, and look to her for guidance on how to ultimately live successfully outside of the center. In 2012, Phelps was named the state’s Public Employee of the Year by the North Dakota Public Employees Association (NDPEA), one of the two associations that merged to form North Dakota United in 2013. Most importantly, she loves the work she does and seeing the results of her tutelage. “You wouldn’t believe the satisfaction you get,” Phelps said. “To help people with behavioral issues, you’re on a team, you work together to help them learn to be a productive member of a society. And then you send them out. And you take a lot of pride in helping somebody to learn to live their life normally.” The state was not able to retain the services of Jan Phelps any longer, though. On May 31, Phelps retired from her job. 16

ND United Voices

“I had always hoped I would be able to retire when I was 65,” Phelps said, and she turned 65 this year. She said she would have considered postponing her retirement plans for the right situation, but that her work requirements were becoming too much to bear, due to insufficient staffing at the center. “The regulations changed, so many people were getting hurt,” she said. “With the mandatory stay thing, whether you want to or not, sometimes you work seven days a week. Which if someone didn’t show up for work or they were short and didn’t cover the shift, you had to stay and work. It just got to be too much.” Phelps gave the center three months’ notice of her retirement. Unfortunately, she put in her notice a mere week ahead of Gov. Doug Burgum sending a letter to agency heads in April, announcing a “voluntary separation incentive program” for state workers. Had she waited a week to put in her notice, she could have received a lump-sum payout of three months’ salary, or the ability to stay on the state’s health insurance plan for a year. “I talked to [human resources], and they said no,” Phelps said. “If the letter was already in, then I couldn’t apply for it. But I know that some of the nurses did.” Phelps still worries about the safety of her co-workers, along with the clients they serve. “There’s a lot of injuries,” she said. “People getting hit, even I had a concussion a year ago. I got headbutted and just about knocked out. There were people who were out for two and three weeks with concussions for being hit.” She said the center has “amazing” procedures in place to protect clients from hurting each other or themselves, but that staff become almost an after-thought. “It’s about an 80-20 split, I’m going to say. … The procedure for keeping the staff safe isn’t very good. They’re overworked, and they’re overtired. During this past legislative session, there was talk about possibly closing the Life Skills and Transition Center, or instituting changes to make it more “efficient.” That’s the call being heard by all state agencies, during tough economic times: Do more with less. Legislators and advocacy groups want to see patients being transitioned out of care at the center at a faster pace, while the center has struggled with filling open positions for the entire time that Phelps has worked there. “We’ve only been fully staffed on our living area for one week, one time, since I started there,” Phelps said. “When I first started, my schedule was automatically overtime.” She also said that, whenever possible, they tried to give comp time in lieu of overtime pay, and in Phelps’ second year working there, she had built up enough comp time that she was able to take off several weeks to tend to her dying sister in Fargo, and attended her niece’s wedding in Michigan for nine days, using almost all comp time.

“It was a lot,” she said. “And now they can’t get people to work on my living area, so now they’re paying double time for overtime.” Phelps says she doesn’t see the center closing any time soon, though. “It’s the biggest employer in Grafton,” she said. “But then those people are going to have to go to group homes, somewhere. I don’t see all of them going, because there are so many … for every one we send out, there are two waiting to come in. … They really have no place for the adolescents, where they can get into a more normal environment. That part has to stay. They have the medical fragile people, and there isn’t a provider out here that wants to have that part of that. Because over at the hospital, there’s two floors of clients who have nursing supervision, 24 hours a day. That part will always stay; people forget about that part, too.” The Life Skills and Transition Center has survived in Grafton since early state days of North Dakota, with its largest population peak of 1,381 in 1960, according to the Bismarck Tribune. Now, there are less than 100 residents on site, with the average length of stay for patients being approximately three years. The satisfaction Phelps has gained from her time working at the center comes mostly from seeing the clients move out and they’re able to live more independent lifestyles. “I have one who is placed in Bismarck-Mandan,” Phelps said. “And he has my cell phone number, and it used to be that every month, he would call me because when he would get upset, he just needed to talk. That was the thing that people didn’t understand, I think, in the very beginning was he just needed someone to talk to him and understand that no matter what he did, we still liked him. And he would call me at least once a month when he was upset about something, and we would talk it though. And then he’d be fine. And now I haven’t heard from him … it was every three months, and then every four months, probably. And I haven’t talked to him now for a year. Isn’t that something?” What they provide to one of our most vulnerable populations is a home, and a family, Phelps said. “There are very few that we have that come from a stable home environment,” she said. “The majority of the ones we had, had no home environment. They were bounced back and forth in foster care and various institutions. Their family members really had nothing to do with them, and the ones who do, they’re not to have contact with. We end up providing that home environment for them. We become their family.”


Member Profile

Marlene Biondo, art teacher at Dickinson Public Schools.


Dickinson teacher finds innovative approaches to increase instruction By Kelly Hagen,

Art, like any discipline, requires practice. Lots and lots of practice. Art teacher and North Dakota United member Marlene Biondo knows this lesson well. She has been plying her craft for many years, across the country and throughout the world, working as an artist and as a teacher.

Rainey Zettel

“I’ve taught for about 25 years,” Biondo said. “I taught 12 years in a high school in Minnesota. And I’ve taught here in Dickinson for four years. I’ve also taught in South Carolina and in Utah and in Montana. With that experience, this has been the first time that I’ve taught for elementary schools. I’ve taught all ages – pre-K, elementary, junior high, high school and university level. I’ve also taught at Dickinson State University, but that was like 20 years ago. I had just come from Utah, and I was showing my artwork in a gallery, and some of the local professors saw my work, and they said, we’d like you to come work as an adjunct professor at DSU and teach art fundamentals. So I did that for two years, and I was very flattered by that because they saw the quality in my artwork, as a professional artist myself.” Currently, she teaches art classes for three of the elementary schools in the Dickinson school district. Because she splits her time between 27 classes in grades two through five at the three schools, she doesn’t get a lot of time to spend in front of any one class. “Each class has about 15 hours, at best, of art throughout the year,” Biondo said. “That’s not very much. For second grade, it’s only 30 minutes per class. I’m scheduled for 27 classes per year. In grade two, that’s split in half, as far as time goes. So it’s not 27 hours; it’s 27 half-hours. For third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders, it’s 40 minutes. As a result, I feel


ND United Voices

like students really love art, they love what we do in class. But they always want more.” Biondo has had to become creative in her approach to teaching, in order to give students more time with the arts. She has started a Home Art project for her students, which encourages them to work on artwork at home, with their parents, and to bring those assignments back to school for her to see. “Part of the Home Art comes from a class that I’m taking online from Drake University,” she said. “What I am presenting, but am working on, really has magnified what I do in the classroom. One of those was teaching in the inclusive classroom. Another was home-to-school partnerships. This is part of that. What we try to do is get parents involved in the educational process, and the student to connect with the parent about something that is happening in school.” Biondo is a proponent of utilizing technology to maximize the time she has with her students, and to increase their curiosity and enthusiasm for art. “When I think about the 21st Century school, we’re really going to have to use the Internet as another learning tool,” she said. “I see art as very, very important. Yet the limited time we have in curriculum, in our schedules, for art doesn’t indicate that yet. I see that changing in the future. I see some schools that are going to be 21st Century schools that are really on the edge of technology, will see that need and then promote the arts a lot more. I hope.” Biondo has made exceptional use of one technological resource, the Smart Board, as a way of projecting her love for art onto her students. “You see my Smart Board, I’ve already got that up. And we are actually going to make a stencil that we put on black paper, and then we’re going to splatter paint on it like Jackson Pollack. This facilitates a really easy transition from image idea, rather than just holding up a poster. I love the Smart Board.” She also uses the Smart Board as part of her art-assistant program. “My art assistant sits in front of the class, and they sometimes draw right over here on the Smart Board,” she said. “As they’re working, if they have a problem or question where they don’t understand something, I can correct it right here. The kids love this! At the beginning of last year, it was just a buzz around the lunchroom. I was telling the principal about it at a different school, and she said, ‘Oh, I know already all about your assistant program. I hear the kids telling me about it at lunch time, and they’re really excited.’”

Another one of Biondo’s students in Dickinson also won the 2017 Overall Winner in the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Earth Day Patch Contest. Ryan Schumacher, whose dad works as a custodian at Prairie Rose Elementary School, entered the contest with Biondo’s encouragement, and ultimately took the top prize. “Well, you know Theodore Roosevelt National Park?” Schumacher asked, “Well, one day, I was thinking and then I knew that there was going to be a contest, and I thought of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and I drew the bison. And then I drew the trees and then I did the sun and the mountain. I live out in the country, so when I thought of (Theodore Roosevelt), he was the one who saved every animal species – prairie dogs, bison and other animals, because they were about to go extinct. Theodore Roosevelt helped bison come back to life, so he brought back buffalo.” “Our students did such a phenomenal job on this Earth Day patch, and I presented it like a graphic design opportunity for them to compete,” Biondo said. “And I set a goal, and I told the kids about my goal. I said, ‘I have a goal; I would like to have at least one winner in the winner’s circle.’ And you know what? Ryan took that goal, and he implanted it. He worked in the classroom, he worked outside the classroom. He wasn’t satisfied until he had his very best work.” Biondo wants her students to grow up, knowing that art is in everything we do in life. “They can develop skills now that they can use in the future. Doesn’t matter if they’re not going to be, let’s say, an artist or a teacher or a career professional in graphic design. Even if they’re in the business world, and have to create a brochure for advertising. Giving the students the basics, the foundation, to be able to do whatever they want to with the arts.” And the best reward she receives for her dedication to the arts is the thanks and appreciation of her students. She points to a note she recently received, and reads it aloud. “Mrs. Biondo, thank you for being an awesome art teacher. From Trevyn. I love this!”

One of Biondo’s standout students is Rainey Zettel, who has won multiple awards from the Badlands Art Association, including Best All-Around Artist, People’s Choice and the Austin Cole Rosler Memorial Award. She was one of the first students to participate in Biondo’s Home Art project, which came easy to her because she likes to draw in her free time. “Art is just fun,” Zettel said. “If I’m bored, I’ll find something to draw. My hardest part about drawing is figuring out what to draw. It’s so hard to think of something, but once I think of something, I start drawing. I asked my friend, ‘What should I draw?’ She said a rainbow, so I did, but then I drew this elephant-zebra-unicornpegasus thing on it. And I think it was part dog, too.”

Marlene Biondo and the winner of the 2017 ND Game and Fish Department Earth Day Contest, Ryan Schumacher.



Coffee shops teach special ed students responsibility and confidence By Kelly Hagen,

Most people know, if you’re looking for a boost during your daily life, coffee is always a great option. And so it’s probably not a surprise that special education teachers in North Dakota, who are looking for a way to boost life skill knowledge for their students, are turning to coffee. More specifically, to selling coffee to students and teachers, in schools in Bismarck and Minot. At Legacy High School in Bismarck, North Dakota United member Pam Aadnes works in special education. And she had been talking with her colleagues for the first few months of school during the 2016-17 year about the concept of project-based learning for her students, by letting them run a coffee shop in their school. “We talked a lot about it in November, December,” Aadnes said. “We talked and we planned, and OK, we just have to do it. It’s improved every week, as far as efficiency and customer service. You just had to start …” At the start of the project, Aadnes had to pull together resources, from the school and the community, in order to get her “Saber Sips” shop up and running. “I got a $50 grant at Sam’s Club, starting off,” she said, “and we borrowed some money from the Bank of Pam, and we kind of grew from there. Our administration has been really supportive, and they think this is awesome because it’s project-based learning and all those things that go with Legacy High School. We had mod schedules, so we have bigger blocks of times sometimes when kids don’t have class, so it’s worked well with that, too. To really get things percolating, though, she needed to find a cart that would work. “The janitor kept coming out and saying, ‘Pam, that cart you’ve got is not that strong,’” she said. “I’ve been a member of the Council of Exceptional Children for many, many years, and 20

ND United Voices

At left and right: Legacy High School teacher Pam Aadnes and volunteers at Saber Sips. Center: From left, Kristi Reinke, Stephanie Neether and Ashley Grina prepare for Mystic Coffee.

they have a professional grant for $300. I applied for that, and we bought a more sturdy cart that’s a little more permanent.”

They will fill all those orders. They will deliver the coffee, make the coffee, the drinks that we’ll have.”

Since opening in January, they were able to build up the expectations for this project, and their business’s productivity level. “When we started, we thought, if we can do 50 or 75 cups, that would be awesome,” Aadnes said. “We figured out what it would cost per cup and what we would need, and what we thought we should get for profit. We kind of talked about that before we opened. And I would say, the last Friday, we were selling 275 cups. I mean, it’s busy. And even some of that business is interesting, because the kids get a little rattled and shook up. So there’s a lot of teaching that goes on then, too. Take a deep breath. Take your time. Just do a good job. We’ve got this! It’s those kinds of things.”

They, too, have had to rely on donations from their school and community to get their shop started. “We’ve had quite a few items donated to us, which is really great,” Grina said. “And it’s a great way to just get started and get going on this. … This works on the job skills, those life skills, the social skills, being able to talk to teachers that they don’t typically interact with. There’s so many different skills that you can work on that will be lifelong for these children.”

In Minot, at Jim Hill Middle School, a trio of educators – NDU members Ashley Grina and Kristi Reinke, along with speech pathologist Stephanie Neether – are on the verge of launching their own coffee shop, too. It started with an idea from Reinke, when she was a special education teacher early in her career. “When I first started, my first year of teaching was in special ed,” Reinke said. “And we’d send them out to other classes, and they’d go to math and science and social studies. They’re all important; I get that. But I always thought, what was the most important when they came back in was real life. My eighth graders, they were on the verge of filling out applications at grocery stores and the Dairy Queen, and I’m thinking, that’s like the skills that we need to be teaching them. … By the time I finally got comfortable enough to start implementing that stuff, then I changed into general ed and it just kind of went on the way side. Now with Ashley here, and watching her with the kids and watching the kids going out into the classes and doing stuff, I thought, hmm. What do you think of this, Ashley? And, of course, Steph is the department chair. So the three of us have been, all this summer, like, we have to get this going!” “Together, us three have kind of been brainstorming, what do we do, how do we start this?” Grina said. “We’re going to start out slow, and start serving coffee or different drinks, starting Fridays. And then maybe we’ll work to two days a week, and slowly build up to almost every day of the week. We have a time in the morning. And that’s when, it’s about a 25-minute block, and that’s when we’ll do this. The children will take the orders from teachers.

“Plus building relationships with other peers and teachers,” Neether added. “I think they’ll be really excited about it, too. They like getting out of the classroom and seeing other people. I think they’ll feel really proud of themselves, delivering coffee and fulfilling those orders.” Mystic Coffee will launch at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, and that’s when the students will first hear about this project, and be given the keys to make it their own. “We’re excited for this,” Grina said. “This is going to be something new, so that’s why we’re going to start off very slow. We plan on having a barista from Starbucks come in to talk to the kids and do different things. We will be putting together different visuals, halfsequences for the kids, to see step-by-step, how to use a Kuerig, how to mix coffees and different drinks. So we’ll have visuals, we’ll have everything there for them.” And soon, they will have a coffee shop operating in the heart of their school that will become part of the culture of Jim Hill Middle School, the same way that Saber Sips has become at Legacy High School. “This kind of just took off,” Aadnes said. “The school and students really like it, they enjoy it. Teachers say, ‘I can’t wait for Fridays!’ The sophomores coming in did a tour, and they were in small groups, going around the building. And I was very proud when the student guides were saying, ‘And this is our Saber Sip coffee shop. They have awesome coffee! So every Friday, we get to have coffee here.’ I just thought that was such a big compliment. It wasn’t like, oh, special ed kids do this. It was, this is part of our school. For me, that’s awesome.” 21

Communications Corner


Word-of-mouth will make all the difference in spreading our name familiarity No. We’re not a soccer team. North Dakota United is the state’s foremost advocate and champion of public education and public services. We’re 11,500 working professionals in the public sector. We are city, county and state employees, higher education faculty and staff, teachers and education support professionals. We are all North Dakota United. Not everybody knows that, though. We’ve done polls of our members and polls of the public for the last several years, and the good news is that almost all of you know who North Dakota United is. You are North Dakota United. When the public is asked how familiar they are with North Dakota United, a lot of them think we’re a soccer team. By Kelly Hagen Director of Communications

In fact, everything we do becomes easier as we’re more recognizable. Government affairs and political activism? Yes. Collective bargaining and advocacy? Indeed. Public affairs? You betcha.”

It’s fairly easy to understand why. United is a popular team name for soccer teams. In fact, there is a professional-level soccer team in the state directly east of us called Minnesota United. And there is a youth soccer team in Bismarck that’s named Dakota United Soccer Club. I do like that soccer teams are often called clubs, by the way. Clubs are cool. Everyone wants to be part of a club – hanging out in a clubhouse, doing club things. But we’re not a soccer team. We’re a union, and a champion for educators and public employees. I only mention this because this issue of United Voices is the first of the 2017-18 school year, and we are in the thick of membership recruitment. Now is the time to ask your colleagues, new and old, to join our club … nay, union. That pitch will be made easier as more and more people in our state become familiar with our name and brand. In fact, everything we do becomes easier as we’re more recognizable. Government affairs and political activism? Yes. Collective bargaining and advocacy? Indeed. Public affairs? You betcha. Professional development? That, too! Community activism? For sure. We do a lot of stuff, but soccer isn’t one of those things. So here’s the “ask” of this Communications Corner: Tell a person or two about North Dakota United. It’s not that easy, I know. We all easily overlook this aspect of membership. We’re all a part of NDU; we’re right in the heart of this association. Because we’re immersed in the organization, we don’t always see what it looks like from the outside, looking in. But that’s the good news! As we introduce North Dakota United to the world around us, we can start off by making a good impression. It’s like when you first meet someone really cool. A person who listens really well, smiles a lot, is incredibly positive about everything, feels very authentic, and is both confident but humble. A real David Beckham type – everybody loves that guy, right? Let’s bend it like Beckham! Except for the part where he’s a really good soccer player. We probably shouldn’t tell people how good we all are at playing soccer. Just be good representatives of our union, within your sphere of influence. Talk about your membership in North Dakota United to your friends, your family, your neighbors. Maybe even strangers at the supermarket. There’s 11,500 of us, so if every one of us tells 10 people about NDU in the 24 hours after you first read this column, that’s 115,000 who hear about us overnight. That’s pretty good, right? And say nice things. That’s all I’m saying.


ND United Voices


PROFESSIONAL COURSES As part of our mission, North Dakota United regularly presents opportunities to all of our members for professional development and growth. Training courses, workshops and conferences are offered in-person at locations across the state, as well as online. Visit our Professional Development website regularly at to see upcoming events. Here are a few of the Professional Development opportunities scheduled for this fall: Educator Ethics This course reviews ethics as defined by the North Dakota Educational Standards and Practices Board (ESPB). Participants examine various ethical situations along with actual cases that ESPB has addressed in the past. Topics include: technology do’s and don’ts; contracts and resignations; relationships with students, parents and colleagues; and the dichotomy of a school employee’s life. It includes a method to use when making decisions, and it is a highly interactive course. 0-1-2 Credit Options: Cost: Depends on credit option and NDU membership   Visit for dates and times. Mindful Me, Mindful You This “Mindful You, Mindful Me” course will offer a combination of in-person, online and book study course with both a one- and two-credit option. Phase one will be focusing on self-care and being a mindful teacher; phase two would be creating a mindful classroom. “Self-care is an essential part of the work of teachers and can contribute to a more positive school environment and better outcomes for students. This Mindfulness training will provide tools to reduce stress, frustration, and burnout by combining movement, breath-work, mindful awareness, and deep relaxation for teachers and support staff.” For more information about mindfulness, visit

Online Book Club/Study: Participants will be able to choose from a variety of books to complete a book study on. Credit and cost will depend on how many topics the individual chooses to do and registration is per book. Some book topics include: The Boy who was Raised as a Dog, Collaborative Leadership, Collective Efficacy, High Expectations Teaching, and the Three Levels of Leadership. The entire book study will be completed online, with each topic taking 6-8 weeks to complete. The first book study will start on Sept. 18, 2017. Open dates for trainings on a first-come, first serve basis: The following dates are currently available for the Educator Ethics training and will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Locals need to contact to request the training. Spots will fill fast, so contact us today!

Sept. 8-9, 2017 Sept. 15-16, 2017 Oct. 18-19, 2017 Oct. 27-28, 2017 Nov. 3-4, 2017 Nov. 17-18, 2017 Dec. 1-2, 2017 Dec. 15-16, 2017

If you are interested in a training for 2018, contact



Sarah Crossingham, 2017 History Teacher of the Year.

Wishek educator reflects on winning state History Teacher of the Year award By Tom Gerhardt,

If you’ve ever had a triple-shot espresso on an empty stomach, you have experienced the same shot of energy that Wishek Public School history teacher, and the 2017 North Dakota History Teacher of the Year, Sarah Crossingham delivers to her students each day. “I don’t know if you can bottle up what she has,” said Wishek High School Principal Yvonne Engelhart, who nominated Crossingham for the honor. “And the enthusiasm, it’s amazing! I am so proud of Sarah and so honored that we have her at our school. She does amazing things.” Crossingham is a proud member of her education local, the Wishek Education Association, and of North Dakota United. We sat down with Crossingham recently in Wishek, and talked to her about winning this prestigious award, which is given out annually by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and to discuss what motivates her as an educator in her community, and as a public employee and working professional. Crossingham’s passion for teaching is evident, and she makes an effort each day to convey that enthusiasm to her students. “If I’m excited, I’m hoping that will make them excited about history so that’s how I try to teach. My big joke with my world history classes 24

is, ‘This is my favorite unit to teach! This is my favorite unit!’ Finally one of my students said, ‘Every unit is your favorite unit!’ And I say, ‘No, this one’s my favorite, I promise!’” The surprise news of the honor came via email while she was in Chicago for a wedding. Crossingham immediately sent a text to Engelhart, telling her she’d won. “I was jumping out of my skin!” Engelhart said. “I was so excited for her because, about a year ago, I wanted to nominate her but she hadn’t been teaching long enough (you have to have been teaching three years) and then this year came around and I said, I’m nominating you!” Kevin Richland, a high school history teacher from Big Sky High School in Missoula, Mont., is the person Crossingham says inspired her to become a history teacher. She says she incorporates many of the things he did in his classroom into her classroom. And she also gives credit to former Dickinson State University professor Rebecca Pitkin for solidifying her choice of choosing a teaching career. “She was one of the best mentors I ever had. Even to this day, I think, ‘What would Rebecca Pitkin do in my classroom?’ So I try to model my teaching after her,” Crossingham said. Pitkin, now director of the Education and Standards Practices ND United Voices

Board in North Dakota, says she remembers Crossingham’s enthusiasm. “When she student-taught, she would stop by and tell me about her day and she would go on and on about how much she loved it. The individual she pre-service taught with said she was one of the best he had ever seen; she was very, very creative and engaged students in their learning!” Crossingham says her goal is to make history come to life and to teach her students why it’s important to learn history. “I love to do a lot of collaborative work, I love to do a lot of projects — so project-based learning — to me sitting and just listening to a lecture or doing worksheets or doing the same thing over and over again kind of gets boring, so I like to do fun things. I like to do mock trials. I like to do different group presentations.” One of her most memorable lessons involved our recent presidential election. “We had three Donald Trumps and three Hillary Clintons, and we hosted debates for the whole school to see and did a whole mock election for the entire school. So it’s fun for me to get the kids excited about education and to get the kids excited about social studies,” Crossingham said. Sarah and her fiancé made the decision to move to Wishek nearly five years ago. As a graduate of Dickinson State University, she was looking for her first teaching job, and the couple knew nothing about Wishek. “We had to Google it on the map. He (her fiancé) said it’s an hour and a half away from Bismarck in the middle of nowhere!” Sarah’s closest family was 12 hours away in her hometown of Missoula. However, the nervousness of that first day teaching in a new school has quickly progressed to strong friendships in a welcoming community and a new sense of family.

humbling and eye-opening. “We were able to get a maternity clause added to our contracts, so to me, that was amazing. I’m a teacher, but I was able to influence our entire contract. So that was very exciting for me to be able to do that.” The less than five-year journey from new teacher to 2017 North Dakota History Teacher of the Year has been filled with rewards, challenges and exciting opportunities. Sarah says that even on the occasional tough day, she keeps her focus on the students. “You are here for them. How are you making their lives better? How are you teaching them, and how are you making them better people? That’s what I focus on.” And the young teacher who once had to find Wishek on the map now calls the school and the community her home. “It’s really humbling now when I’m going around Wishek and I hear congratulations, what an amazing award, we are so proud of you,” Crossingham said. “That makes me happy to be a part of this community and this school system. It’s everything, it’s my school, it’s my colleagues, it’s my community and the students that make me the teacher that I am.” Crossingham is now a finalist for the National History Teacher of the Year award, which will be presented by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner at a ceremony in New York City on Nov. 8, 2017.

“It is different teaching in a smaller school. In a larger school, you can’t make those connections, and what’s really nice about teaching in a rural school is you have them from seventh grade through 12th grade. I know what they learned in seventh grade and what they’re going to be exposed to when they’re 12th graders.” Family back home in Montana quickly became a fan of Wishek, especially the sausage. “What’s funny is my dad makes me pack a cooler every time I come home! He gives me the order: Let’s do $100 this time; let’s do fry sausage, bologna. I always bring some back!” North Dakota United has also played an important role in Crossingham’s career. She says she knew from the moment local WEA President Karen Christensen talked to her, NDU was something she wanted to join. “I love the community sense of it,” she said. “If you’re having a tough day, it’s really nice to be able to go talk to another union member and just vent to them or ask about what they are doing in their classroom. You meet so many people around the area, too. I joined TeachForward, and I’ve met a lot of colleagues from Linton. It’s about the relationships you build with other teachers. And even though we are still young, it’s nice to know everyone goes through the same thing you’re going through.” As an NDU member, Crossingham helped negotiate their contract with the district this year and called the first-time experience

Sarah Crossingham stands in front of portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Crossingham also serves as coach for the girls’ volleyball team.



Andee Woodmansee, Century High School biology teacher.


Biology teacher takes summer school students on nature walk By Tom Gerhardt,

Naturalist John Muir once wrote, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” Biology teacher and North Dakota United member Andee Woodmansee is hoping that holds true for her summer school students. She’s taken them out of the classroom and into nature. The day we caught up with her, 16 students were navigating the Outdoor Wildlife Learning Site at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck. “Instead of just being in the classroom and learning about things, now they can take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it out in real life. We’ve studied ecology, and so they get to see interactions of organisms in their natural environments,” said Woodmansee. Woodmansee has been teaching biology for 19 years, most of them at Century High School in Bismarck, and says she’s taken this popular field trip many of those summers. It’s a nice break from the five-hour school day, which runs from 7:30 a.m. through 12:30 p.m. Each day equals a week of class during the regular school year. “A lot of times we’ll have a speaker out here and they’ll show us furs and animals that are native to North Dakota, and kids can learn about them and see them. 26

ND United Voices

Sometimes we have a chance to fish. There’s a pond and for some kids it’s the first time that they’ve ever fished,” Woodmansee said. For this class, students walked the trails looking for answers to a variety of questions on their worksheets. “As they go along there are different markers on the path that describe, for example, how to age a tree. They have to answer questions about that information using things they find all along the trail,” Woodmansee said. Legacy High School sophomores Katin Vetter and Kaitlyn Mertz are in Woodmansee’s class. Mertz says science is one of her favorite subjects. “Being able to see how things work together and how everything supports each other is cool to me, and how the plants grow and everything that you can’t see — I like seeing how it works,” Mertz said. Vetter says she hasn’t thought a lot about her future, but that Woodmansee’s class has provided her a lot of insight that could lead her to study biology. “I like living organisms, to see how they work and how they form in cells and stuff, and I wanted to take this class this summer so I could take other classes as well in science,” said Vetter.

Woodmansee has been an NDU member her entire career. In fact, she joined as a student member while attending the University of North Dakota. “There are just so many benefits that come along with it. As a teacher, you have people that are fighting for you, standing up for you. And you never know when something can happen, and you have the association to help support you,” Woodmansee said. Woodmansee has taken her summer school students on multiple field trips this summer, including one to the Garrison Fish Hatchery, another to Harmon Lake north of Mandan and another to Medora. She says the trips outside the traditional classroom setting into the real world are impactful for students. Woodmansee also said they had a great discussion following the trip about the information presented by a Game and Fish speaker, and she reported that students got a bonus question right from the presentation, which shows they were paying close attention. “They are a great class for discussions, and they like to give their input. I have a really good class,” Woodmansee said. 27

Fall Educators Conference OCTOBER 11-13, 2017 Bismarck Event Center


Tara Brown — Survive and Thrive: Unleashing the

Ron Clark — Creative Practices for Motivating Students, Parents and Co-Workers

Dave Weber — Sticks and Stones Exposed: The Truth Behind Words & Relationships

Potential of Under-resourced Youth





NCES 600 East B oul evard Av enue, Dept 201, Bismarck , ND 58505 | toll free number: 1 -888-605-1951 | f: 701.328. 0203


ND United Voices

How do you pay dues? TAKE CONTROL of your payment! Switch your dues deduction to ACH!




Grandpa Daughter



NEA members are entitled to Complimentary life insurance. Have you named your beneficiary? If you’re an eligible NEA member,* you’re covered. You have NEA Complimentary Life Insurance issued by The Prudential Insurance Company of America (Prudential). It’s active right now and you don’t have to take a nickel out of your pocket to keep it active. But you will want to take a minute or so to name your beneficiary. Or reconfirm the choice you already made. Making your choice can speed up benefit payments to loved ones who need them.


Don’t wait! Name your beneficiary today and get this FREE tote bag from NEA Members Insurance Trust. Go to or call 1-855-NEA-LIFE and mention offer code: TOTEBAG (632-5433)

*Visit us online or call for eligibility requirements. NEA Members Insurance Trust is a registered trademark of the NEA Members Insurance Trust. NEA Complimentary Life Insurance coverage is issued by The Prudential Insurance Company of America, Newark, NJ. 0289584-00001-00




When we talk about membership, what do we mean? By definition, membership is “the fact of being a member or part of a group.” How do we take best part in our group? Some might say your role is to participate in the organization however you can, follow direction, research and prepare thorough dedication to the cause, meet deadlines, communicate as necessary, and meet all the specific requirements of the group. But this still does not answer the question: Why should I join? By Nancy Peterson NDU-Retired President

So I asked members why they joined ND United Retired. Here are some of their comments: • “It’s the right thing to do.” • “I believed in this organization when I was active and still believe in it when I am retired.” • “I want my children and grandchildren to have the best education possible, and this organization works to ensure this.” • “I have worked for the state all my adult life, and I want to make sure members’ rights are protected.” • “I worked hard for my pension, and I want to make sure it’s protected.” • “I enjoy the member benefits I received as an active memberand want them to continue into retirement.” For these reasons and many more, I encourage you to join us (see membership form below) and continue the work of this organization, now and in the future. You know that the strength of any organization is its members. We need YOU in NDU! Please consider joining an organization of hard-working North Dakotans who work together to protect you and your family, your pension, your rights and benefits, and the future of education and public services, now and into the future. Please look for the NDUnited Retired group on Facebook, or visit the NDU website at Join the conversation and keep this organization growing. You are the KEY to make this happen.

YES, SIGN ME UP NOW IN NDU/NEA/AFT-RETIRED Complete and mail with your check today to NDU-Retired, 301 N 4th St, Bismarck, ND 58501-4020 Name: _________________________________________________________

Social Security Number: ______________________

Address: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ City: ______________________________________________________________ State: ______________ Zip: ________________ Phone: _________________________________________

E-mail: ___________________________________________________

Local Association: _______________________ Signature: ___________________________________________Date: ____________ _______ I wish to join as Annual Retired and pay $54 per year. Mail this form and your check to NDU, 301 N 4th Street, Bismarck, ND 58501-4020. (NDU membership year is from Sept. 1 to August 31.) _______ I wish to pay a one-time payment of $459 for Lifetime Retired. _____ Expected Date of Retirement ___________ (month/year) _______ I wish to pay one payment of $51 and have 8 (eight) electronic transfers of $51 from my bank account for Lifetime Retired.























North Dakota United 301 N 4th St Bismarck, ND 58501-4020


ND United Voices

United Voices, Vol. 4 No. 1  
United Voices, Vol. 4 No. 1  

In the September 2017 issue of United Voices, we are talking membership in North Dakota United! What can you do with NDU? A lot! Read about...