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In My Classroom December 2010

Tech tools for teaching

volume 3 | issue 3

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Coming this fall ... Featuring the Everyday Heroes Moving Education Forward ... C

oming this fall, WEAC launches a new campaign featuring our members – the Everyday Heroes who are Moving Education Forward. During American Education Week, November 14-20, the campaign will premiere with television and print spots across the state. Its stars are some of the 98,000 WEAC members who make a difference every day in our public schools. The campaign takes its plot directly from what you and your WEAC colleagues do to inspire your students and strengthen your schools and communities. It establishes a public identity for our union to showcase who the public school employees are in Wisconsin and what they value. We know that members of the community consider educators to be experts when it comes to their children’s education. The

new WEAC campaign builds off of that, with educators telling their own stories of how they reach students and what they do to achieve success. The campaign features educators such as English and Spanish teacher Leah Luke of Mauston High School and education support professionals such as Ron Lunford of Morse Marshall School in Milwaukee in their schools with interviews featuring students and parents. For more on those featured, see page 8. The “storytelling” feature of the campaign puts educators at center stage to show their passion for their profession and how they’re inspiring the students, parents and families in their communities. It shows the real continued on page 8

insideandonline The evolution of pen pals

Convention's focus: quality

New school of thought on lunch

Comparing tax sheltered annuities

Project brings second-graders in touch with students abroad

Educators set their sights on professional development

Food service adds choices, healthy options to meals

Not all TSAs are created equally, Bob Moeller writes

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Deadline for amendments, resolutions is January 28 The deadline for submitting proposed amendments to the WEAC Constitution, By-laws or Standing Rules is January 28. Amendments may be submitted to the office of the WEAC Executive Director, P.O. Box 8003, Madison WI 53708-8003. The deadline for submitting proposed amendments to WEAC Resolutions also is January 28. Resolutions may be submitted to the Resolutions Committee through the office of the WEAC Executive Director, P.O. Box 8003, Madison WI 53708-8003, or by e-mail to ■

To see all of the WEAC Resolutions, visit

Mary Bell, President Betsy Kippers, Vice President David Harswick, Secretary-Treasurer Dan Burkhalter, Executive Director Kim Haas, Public Relations Director Bill Hurley, Editor Matthew Call, Assistant Editor Laura DeVries, Graphic Design Specialist Contributing writer: Bob Moeller


Member Spotlight Debbie Coats Second-grade teacher Clay Lamberton Elementary School, Berlin


decade ago, Berlin elementary school teacher Debbie Coats found herself on a website that matched teachers from around the world. Two trips to Australia and dozens of classroom projects later, Coats is expanding her second-graders’ knowledge of the world. Coats’ classes at Clay Lamberton Elementary School take the idea of pen pals into the digital age. Her young students write e-mails to their counterparts in Australia. They chat with students abroad using Skype. They exchange videos of themselves over the Internet. Coats’ students connect with e-pals in the classes of Sheryl Jamieson, who teachers third- and fourth-graders at Nuriootpa Primary School in South Australia.

things may be called different names in different countries.” The e-pal project in Coats’ classes highlights geography, social studies, math (such as graphing the climates of Australia and Wisconsin) and, of course, English. “The students learn how to write paragraphs and how to compose a friendly letter,” Coats said. “They share experiences, question each other about foods, movies, toys, playground games etc.,” said Jamieson, via e-mail. “This means that students are writing with a purpose. It is meaningful, relevant to their daily lives and helps them with sentence structure and grammar.” ■

“They definitely learn very quickly that the students in Australia have some of the same interests as they do,” Coats said. “They also learn about differences in spelling and that

To read more about te Coats and to nomina r be em M r someone fo it Spotlight vis

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December 2010



Become a UniServ intern Are you interested in becoming a UniServ Director? You can apply for a full-time, one-year internship working directly with a group of mentors, including UniServ staff and WEAC program staff. The intern program is designed to be an on-the-job learning experience, and interns are selected from applicants who are interested in an opportunity to become professional staff. Interns can expect to receive cross training on a number of programs and within a variety of UniServ units. Applications are due January 4. Visit and click on “WEAC Job Opportunities” for more information. ■

For a list of career openings at WEAC, visit and click on “WEAC Job Opportunities.”

Convention focuses on quality in the classroom In Madison on October 28-29, educators from across the state joined for professional growth workshops and seminars during the annual WEAC Convention. Teachers, student educators, education support professionals and other school staff attended professional development courses on classroom management, instructional technology, academic tools and other topics to help them in the classroom.

Keynote speaker Susan Moore Johnson

On the exhibit floor WEAC President Mary Bell

Keynote speaker Susan Moore Johnson – a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and director of the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers – explained that teachers are leading the charge when it comes to teacher evaluation and education reform. That idea of quality in the classroom is an ongoing focus for your union, WEAC President Mary Bell said. “Wisconsin educators – you never shy away from important challenges,” Bell said. “You are the antidote to the atmosphere of blame and short-sighted decision-making. Education is the key to lifting Wisconsin into a new and more vibrant economy.” For more on WEAC Convention, visit ■

O n l i n e e x t r a s | Get more from your union on the Web Scholarships deadline is February 20 WEAC offers the children of its members a chance at four scholarships of $1,450 each to pursue higher education and a career in education. Only high school seniors are eligible to apply, and only if a parent qualifies in one of these membership categories: an active WEAC member, an active retired member, or a parent who died while holding a WEAC membership. For guidelines and an application form, visit ■

Winter Conference registration now open Registration for the regional Winter Conferences is now open! Last year’s change to a regional conference in Madison and Wausau was so popular the format is repeated this year. A registration fee of just $25 opens the opportunity for you to select an all-day Saturday session and includes all meals and training materials. In addition to bargaining and contract enforcement there are sessions on leadership skills, culturally diverse classrooms, social media applications, teaching labor history, ESP Professional Development, WTCS Issues and more. There are bus tickets for a route to each event available if you don’t want to drive, and double lodging is only $30 for Friday night. For detailed information online visit and go to the Winter Conference link or contact a local leader or your UniServ. ■

Are you following WEAC on Facebook? More than 1,500 of your colleagues are following WEAC on Facebook, sharing comments, news tips and event details. Visit to join in. ■


December 2010


In My Classroom

Tech tools for teaching Class site allows students to collaborate, add multimedia to lessons O

dds are you’re well familiar with Web tools such as Flickr and Twitter. But have you ever heard of Glogster? How about Voki, Yodio, Kisseo, or ToonDoo? For the students in Kathy Casey’s Spanish classes at Pardeeville High School, those online apps are in play daily as part of interactive lessons Casey uses to enhance Kathy Casey her language Spanish teacher instruction.

Pardeeville High

Thinking that School lugging home and correcting 90 student journals every weekend was an outdated method, Casey, who is in her 38th year of teaching, instituted an online wiki for her class. The Web page – a collaborative site where many users can add content, such as the way functions – allows her students to journal and chat and share information electronically. “I understood as a seasoned veteran teacher I needed to enter the 21st century with upgraded technology skills,” Casey said. That meant boning up on technology through workshops and classes through

To watch a video of Casey describing the technology she uses in her instruction, visit


Kathy Casey leads students in an activity using LetterPop, an online design app, one of the many Internet-based programs she uses for her classes.

CESA 5, John Muir Academy and the Wisconsin Association For Language Teachers. She learned to mold interactive tools into her lessons and shed some of the more outmoded, and intimidating, practices such as journals and lengthy exams. “As I gained more technological knowledge, I realized how the Web could provide the perfect venue to practice and re-enter second-language learning for my students,” Casey said. “Instead of the dreaded four-page unit test, I discovered that assessment could be accomplished through technology projects which incorporate and synthesize upper-level language skills and open the door to creativity.” That creativity is evidenced in the tools Casey puts to use in the class wiki site, hosted on That’s where students use their language skills to create projects using Glogster (multimedia posters), Voki (speaking avatars), Yodio (audio added

to digital photos), Kisseo (online greeting cards) and ToonDoo (customized comic strips). The apps most popular with students are VoiceThread (multimedia slideshows) and Prezi (online presentations), Casey said. Each app is used to infuse lessons with a cultural aspect, focusing on a specific country or custom, Casey said. The best aspect of using the online tools, Casey said, is that it adapts to students’ skills and allows for collaborative thinking. “Most of the activities involve a collaborative team of two to four students, providing an opportunity for group work, support and encouragement,” she said. ■

December 2010



Share Your Photos

Ian Peterson of the Riverview Elementary School in the Silver Lake/Salem Joint School District #1

GBEA President Toni Lardinois, Kimberly student Madeline Bukowski, and Madeline’s mother, Tamara Maxwell

To share photos of activities in your local association or school district, please e-mail photo files to

An exciting UW Badgers football season has seen another successful year of Kickoff Kids, the partnership between UW Athletics and your union. WEAC members from across the state nominated students from their classrooms to take part in pregame activities at Badgers home football games at Camp Randall as part of the second year of Kickoff Kids. Visit for more information on the promotion. ■

QEI gets a makeover

Educators staying up to date on licensure and their professional development plans can expect a few changes to Quality Educator Interactive, the coalition website that makes planning your PDP easier. The website,, incorporates a host of changes recommended by QEI members, such as:

Muskego’s Tommy Anderson

• Easier process for assembling review members • Easier method of using the review checklist while reading a PDP • Better navigation to video tutorials and resources for creating a PDP Additional updates are coming soon, such as more PDP samples and an interactive timeline generator for QEI members. First launched in 2005, QEI is the online place to build professional development plans. Educators can quickly find and use the training resources and tools they need to fulfill their PDP requirements.

Waunakee Middle School’s Aaron Liebe

The QEI is available at no cost to coalition members: WEAC, Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials, and Wisconsin Council of Administrators of Special Services as well as education students and faculty from University of Wisconsin institutions. To see the changes, visit ■


December 2010


Focus on ... Food Service Holmen food service workers John Popple and Shelly Miller dish out lunch to elementary school students based on their choice of three options.

A new school of thought on school lunch T

he food service program at the Holmen School District is used to taking orders – and not just from students. Sure, there are orders from among the choices each student gets for lunch (at least three at the elementary level; more for middle- and high-schoolers). But the food service staff also takes orders from a local YMCA, several area day-care providers and elder care programs in four nearby communities. They take orders from staff, some of whom grab the same lunches their students are chowing down on. And they take orders from parents such as Amy Brown, who occasionally has lunch with her kids in their cafeteria.

Tammy Rytilahti helps a student pay for lunch.

“It’s pretty tasty,” said Brown, a PTO member with three children who attend Holmen’s Prairie View Elementary School. “It is so nice that they get three different choices every day. I know I’ve packed more lunches before than I do now. It’s one less thing I have to do in the morning.” Variety is the spice Choice is paramount at Holmen, with elementary school students getting three options for lunch as well as a selection of fresh fruit, some


of which is harvested from local farms. Middle and high school students get even more selection, with a la carte fare and salad bar offerings to complement the variety of meals cooked daily.

December 2010



“The generation of students we’re feeding is used to choice,” said John Popple, who has been working food services in the district for 11 years. “We just followed that trend and it’s really paid off in our district to do that.” Choice means asking elementary school students every morning for their preferred option and managing the orders that come in to the food staff. Students walk up to the lunch line and hold up one, two or three fingers to designate their selection. Often, food service staff will offer options such as fresh vegetables or a fruit cup. “We’re very customer-oriented,” added Tammy Rytilahti, a food service worker in the district for 14 years and president of the local Holmen Area Food Service Employee Association. “At the same time, we’re encouraged to bring in ideas, ways to save money.”

“The generation of students we’re feeding is used to choice.” John Popple, Holmen food services worker What’s a kiwi? Staff members are encouraged to come up with recipes using produce (some of it grown locally) in season at the time. The district uses a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant administered through La Crosse County to buy local produce and educate students on the importance of healthy eating. In addition to apples from a farm less than 10 miles away, staff brought in kiwi for a bit last year, eliciting curious reactions from students. “Some kids had never seen it,” Rytilahti said. “Some of them had to be coaxed into taking it. It’s a learning experience for everyone.”


December 2010

Some of the food options in Holmen are from local farms, such as these apples offered to students.

Buying into the program The district has a 96 percent participation rate in its lunch program, a number calculated from using enrollment to determine the maximum lunch load versus what was served, according to Mike Gasper, nutrition services supervisor for the district. The district even served thousands of more meals last year compared to the previous year – all without raising operating costs.

School lunches part of First Lady campaign School lunches are a part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, an effort to combat childhood obesity. The campaign encourages kids to eat healthy and get plenty of physical activity. The “Let’s Move!” campaign incorporates the HealthierUS School Challenge, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program begun in 2004 to recognize schools in the National School Lunch Program that have created healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity.

“We have a terrific staff here at Holmen,” Gasper said. “We’re very lucky the staff all cares about kids. They really enjoy what they do, they believe in what they do. I think that’s really the key to it.” Educational efforts have been a key part of the food service options at Holmen, Rytilahti said. Students are given a primer on why certain choices are better than others and how to moderate types of food. “When we first started we had to beg the kids to get them to try something, and now they’re taking three or four servings of fruit and sometimes coming back for more,” Rytilahti said. “They are learning that the fresher things – the fruits and vegetables – are better for them nutritionally, and they’re actually choosing them. Hopefully we’re making a difference.” ■

To watch a video of Holmen's food service program in action, visit

Schools can apply for HealthierUS School Challenge awards, based on criteria. Some of the measures include whether students are offered healthy choices during meals, nutrition is part of local curriculum, and physical education classes are provided for all students. The awards come with prizes of $2,000 to $5,000, depending on award level. The program has handed out 854 awards to schools in 38 states; none so far is from Wisconsin. To learn more about the program, visit ■


Moving Education Forward E d u c at o r s s h a r e t h ei r o w n s t o r ie s The new WEAC media campaign features these members in the first reel: JoAnn Lens, fourth-grade teacher, Milwaukee: The 2009 -2010 Wisconsin elementary school Teacher of the Year, Lens teaches at MPS charter school Hawley Environmental and is in her 19th year of teaching.

The new WEAC media campaign features Milwaukee ESP Ron Lunford (top), Mauston English and Spanish teacher Leah Luke, and others in their own schools and classrooms. To see more and to share your Moving Education Forward story, visit continued from page 1

classrooms and work places of members and the stories of how they’ve helped students achieve their academic goals. How we’re all Moving Education Forward What the campaign represents is our push as professional educators to Move Education Forward. You and your colleagues, your union of educators, champion education improvement and the need to advance a quality agenda for public schools. Educators are in the best position to direct the next phase of education ideas and reform – you are the experts. That’s why we’re all Moving Education Forward. “It is powerful to have something you are for,” WEAC President Mary Bell said. “We must develop an agenda or reform will be defined by those who are not educators.” The campaign features educators who already are Moving Education Forward and will explore more themes of what’s to come for education reform. What’s your story We want to hear from you: how are you Moving Education Forward? The stories we tell – across television, print and radio spots as well as online at and through local and UniServ newsletters – show the unique lives behind public education. This is a great way for members of the public to connect with those who deliver high-quality education in See the campaign spots and their public schools. share your story at Get in touch with your UniServ director or visit to share your story and tell us how you’re Moving Education Forward. ■


Leah Luke, English and Spanish teacher, Mauston: The 2009-2010 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year, Luke has been a strong supporter of school funding reform. She recently spoke at the Moving Wisconsin Forward rally in Madison (see next page). Ron Lunford, ESP, Milwaukee: A special education assistant at Morse Marshall School for 20 years, Lunford has worked in Milwaukee Public Schools for three decades. Jennifer Sweeney, art teacher, Black River Falls. Sweeney is the 2009-2010 Wisconsin art Teacher of the Year. The projects of her students line the halls of Forrest Elementary School. Kevin Van Ess, middle school band teacher, Green Bay: The band leader at Washington Middle School, Ess instructs an orchestra of 450, about half of the school’s entire population. To be a part of the campaign and share your Moving Education Forward story, visit ■

December 2010



Joining together in Moving Wisconsin Forward N

early 2,000 people joined together October 16 to support public schools and the essential public services that improve the quality of life for residents across Wisconsin. Calling for an end to cuts to education, safety agencies and public infrastructure, thousands of Wisconsinites rallied at the State Capitol in Madison with calls to Move Wisconsin Forward. Leah Luke, 2009-2010 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year and a member of WEAC, led the call to Move Wisconsin Forward. Leah Luke, 2010 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year, leads the call to Move Wisconsin Forward.

“Just as we need involvement from our communities to have successful classrooms, we also need involvement from our communities and policymakers to ensure our schools have what they need,” Luke said. “These are tough times for our communities. I see that firsthand in my classroom every day. But I believe that in tough times, moving forward is more important than ever. Good thing we live in a state that’s never been afraid to innovate. Education is no exception.”

Public education is one of the public resources that has seen continued cuts over the years, leading to increased class sizes and reduced course offerings. Karen Kleinert, a former Janesville teacher and a member of WEAC-Retired, attended the rally because state residents should “support education no matter what,” she said.

Jeffery Johnson – a WEAC member, NEA director and high school and AP art teacher for South Division High School in Milwaukee – said he wants to make sure that state and local resources are protected for future generations. He said resources such as education are crucial not only for the 75 students he teaches while on the job but also for young people such as his 9-year-old son, Seth, an elementary school student.

Added Paula Volpiansky – a member of WEAC and the State Professional Education and Information Council: “Public education is the most important resource I think our country has.” ■

“He’s why I’m here – to help move us forward to help give him a better brighter future,” Johnson said.


December 2010

“I’ve been retired for 10 years, but I still believe in supporting the schools,” Kleinert said.

For more on the rally and the effort behind it, visit


Noodling on the purchase W

ith the holidays just around the corner, good deals are popping up everywhere. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype. If you’re trying to reduce your monthly expenses, it can be difficult to resist deals that are seemingly too good to pass up. There’s something about the shopping experience that makes it easy for smart people to make not-so-smart purchasing decisions. For example, the MIT Sloan School of Management conducted a test by setting up a fake auction for tickets to a sold-out Boston Celtics game. Half the participants in the study were told they had to pay in cash in 24 hours. The other half by credit card. Those with the credit card were bidding about twice as high as the consumers with cash, defying the simple logic that if you can’t cover the cost with cash, you probably can’t afford it.

Can I afford it?

❒ Yes ❒ No

Have you covered your basic monthly expenses such as mortgage/rent, utilities, loan payments, and insurance premiums? Fixed expenses should be paid first.

Do I need it today?

❒ Yes ❒ No

MIT researchers also found that we are more easily influenced to spend money by promotions and other factors when we don’t have concrete goals in mind.

If the answer is no, walk away. Delaying your purchase can often eliminate the impulse to buy, and it gives you the chance to shop around for a better deal.

Before you swipe, pass the purchase test

Have I paid off my credit card balances?

Whether you’re shopping for the holidays or for yourself, it’s easy to fall into the many traps that can cause you to spend more than you should and more than you need to. Stay in control of your shopping experience by asking these questions before you buy:

❒ Yes ❒ No Remember that unpaid balances cost you big time. If you carry a $1,000 balance on a card that is charging you 18% APR, you blow $180 every year on interest. That’s money you

could use elsewhere. Don’t add to the problem. Pay off your balances first.

Do I have the cash?

❒ Yes ❒ No

Leave your credit cards at home. Shopping with cash allows you to shop within a budget and makes it easier to know when to stop.

Have I compared prices? ❒ Yes ❒ No This is especially important for big-ticket items. Check Consumer Reports and product reviews to make sure you’re getting the best value. Check out sites like and for a quick price check. To learn more about ways to avoid common financial mistakes, check out a free live online seminar titled Finances 101: Seven Mistakes New Members Make With Their Money at ■



Celebrating 40 Years

of serving Wisconsin public school employees!


December 2010



By Bob Moeller – WEAC Member Benefits

Again, the NEA 403b-7 is operated like the typical Class A, B, or C mutual fund, with annual fees dependent on if you pay a front-end commission or have withdrawal charges. The WEA max of $300 equates to a balance of about $86,000. Once your account is higher than that you have no additional fees. The NEA products have no maximum. NOTE: None of these fees include any separate mutual fund or sub-account fees which a buyer should get information on.

Take control of your personal finances



EA Trust Member Benefits markets a tax sheltered annuity (TSA). Members know that. The NEA also markets a TSA, using Security Benefit Life Insurance Company (SBL)commissioned agents. The NEA/SBL product has not been marketed a lot in Wisconsin, but recently a chain of events has made it important that a comparison should be made. Should members just assume that because the NEA endorses this SBL product it is a good deal? Of course not! As I always do, I recommend that you carefully analyze any investment before you put your money in. I have researched some important cost factors with the NEA/SBL product and then compared them to the same cost factors of the WEA TSA Trust program. The questions below were answered by an NEA Valuebuilder fact sheet sent to me by NEA, and also by the WEA TSA Trust. Actually, there are two types of NEA products so I got answers for both types. The first NEA product is a 403b product that is a typical insurance company product with typical insurance company provisions and charges. The second NEA product is a 403b-7 product, which is a mutual fund-type product using “load” (commission) mutual funds. The WEA TSA Trust product is a 403b-7 product using “no-load” (no commission) mutual funds. The main thrust of these questions is, How much do these products actually “cost” the member:

I have long recommended that life insurance is not a desirable feature in a TSA contract. At 0.75%, The NEA/SBL product has a slightly lower fee than many insurance companies, but this feature only has value if you die and if your account value happens to be less than you invested. Maybe it worked out after the crash of 2008 if you died, but usually this turns out to be an expensive ongoing cost with no value to you. Cost of this on just a $50,000 account is $375 per year.

The NEA 403b product is the typical life insurance company TSA. You pay a reducing withdrawal charge of 7%, 7%, 6%, 5%, 4%, 3%, 2%, 0% over seven years. The charge applies to every deposit, so even after you have been investing for 12 years, you still have withdrawal charges on the past seven years of deposits. The 403b-7 is being run like the typical load mutual fund, Class A, Class B, Class C. You either pay a 5.25% front-end sales charge like a Class A fund, or much higher annual fees like a Class B or C fund. There are also withdrawal charges on the Class B and C-type arrangement.

In products with lots of funds to choose from, there will be some that perform better some years and some that perform better other years. This review made no effort to judge performance. However, one item that is extremely important to WEAC members is the fixed guaranteed percent paid. In these days of exceedingly low interest rates it becomes even more important. For 2011 the WEA Trust Member Benefits has announced a rate of 4.25%. The minimum allowed rate is 4%. The NEA/SBL current rate in the 403b product is 2% if account is over $25,000. The NEA/SBL minimum rate is 1.25%. But, Security Benefit offers no guaranteed rate investments in their 403b-7 product. As always, I recommend that members carefully analyze the costs of any investment. I have long recommended a list of questions members should ask. The list is in my seminar handout. If you wish a copy or have comments or questions, don’t hesitate to e-mail me. This article is for informational purposes. ■

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December 2010




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