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I have been so blessed in my life in education. At the end of this school year, I will have completed 36 years in this business. Boy, when you write it down, it looks like a really big number. This past week, I attended the Iowa 1:1 State Conference in Des Moines. I think it was the best of the three so far. Many good sessions covering many good topics. The best part though? It was lunch.
There was a group of us that walked downtown to a restaurant. Within this group was Russ Goerend (@russgoerend), an impressive young teacher from Waukee who is doing amazing things in his classes; Andy Crozier (@acrozier22) and his wife, Julie, in his first year as a superintendent in Andrew and Google ninja; Matt Townsley (@mctownsley), the School Improvement Director at Solon who continually pushes the envelope with Standards Based Assessment and Reporting (SBAR) and is a state leader in that movement; Brian Abeling (@wdmTECH), the Director of Technology at West Des Moines, one of the largest districts in the state and the one in which my daughter has taught for seven years in the Family and Consumer Science department; and my old administrative team from Okoboji; High School Principal Brian Downing (@downing413), Middle School Principal Ryan Cunningham (@rcunningham78), Elementary Principal Rob Olsen (@rolsen88) and Director of Technology Chris Koink (@koinker), all great leaders in their own rights. If you are on Twitter and do not follow these people, you are missing out.
The impressive thing about this group is that they are all young. I realize that the term “young” is relative but I could almost guarantee that they are all at or under the age of 40. As I sat and listened to stories being passed around, questions and answers concerning school, school improvement and how technology can help in the process, I thought to myself that I was witnessing the passing of the torch. Me and my generation of educational leaders are giving way to this next generation of people who are just as passionate about teaching and learning as anybody. This group “gets it.” They know what good teaching is and how it relates to preparing today’s students for success.
With all the confusion in Iowa about school reform, school start dates, funding, waivers, etc., I feel very comfortable that the leaders of our schools, the eight educators I had lunch with, will do an exemplary job for the continuation of great education in our state. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter when school starts, whether there are waivers or not, what matters is what is happening in the classrooms across the state. We, at Pleasantville, continue to make strides in the classroom and we will continue to work hard to make our school the best it can be, improving on a daily basis.
Yes, the torch may be in the process of being passed from one generation to the next in terms of school leadership, but rest assured Iowa, education in this state is, and will continue to be, in good hands.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Back several jobs ago, I received a mailing inviting me to attend the World Food Prize Banquet in Des Moines. I did a bit of research on it, shared it with some teachers to see if they had students who would want to attend and when no one indicated they wanted to attend, used the old standby excuse, “Des Moines is a long way from here and it really doesn’t affect us.” Boy, was I wrong.
Now that we live in Pleasantville, which is only minutes from Des Moines, I was re-introduced to the project by our Ag teacher, Monte Collins. In fact, Pleasantville High School has been represented at the World Food Prize for many years. This year, Lauren James, a senior here at Pleasantville, attended and I asked her to write a reflection on her experiences. Here are the reflections of a high school senior and how she has been affected by this idea.
World Food Prize
By: Lauren James
I attended the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa on October 13 through October 15. There I met with teenagers from all across the country and four other countries, as well as meeting with mentors and leaders from all over the word. This experience was really life changing. I had the amazing opportunity to listen to the former president of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor, and former president of Brazil, Luiz Inaco Lula Da Silva, speak as well as watching them receive their award for being the 2011 World Food Prize Laureates. I especially enjoyed listening to President Luiz Inaco Lula Da Silva speak the most because his speeches were full of passion and excitement.
On Friday we also had the privilege of being able to tour Syngenta, learning about the work they do there. Another experience I had that I enjoyed was packing meals for those in Iowa that are hungry, which are one of every six people. Later that night we had the hunger dinner, which was where we were assigned as lower class, middle-class or upper class. I was assigned to the lower class and had to sit on the floor for my meal. When it came time to eat, the women had to wait for the men to get their handful of rice and glass of water for their meal. Then with what food was left, we women went up and received our meal, having to eat the rice out of our hands since we were too poor to afford dishes and silverware. The World Food Prize leaders said that 60% of the people in the world are classified in this lower class. The middle-class was a step up from lower class, but any family that would have to suffer through a drought or other costly event would put them into the lower class. The middle class had rice and beans to eat, as well as chairs to sit on. However, the women had to wait for the men to get served first, and they actually ran out of food for the women. That’s how the life is typically for women in poor countries. The upper class is a different story though. They had the luxury of chairs, dining room table, and a delicious meal that had salad, chicken, vegetables and cheesecake. Only 14% of the world’s population is in the upper class. This hunger dinner was a huge eye opener, allowing all of us students to really see the blessings we have in this life.
On Saturday, all of us students had to give a three-minute presentation over the country we choose. We then further had to explain about the troubles they are having that are contributing to high hunger. After we explained the causes of the hunger, we then explained our solutions on how we would fix the high amount of hunger in that country. For example, I chose the country of India and discussed how low wages; poor education and recurrent droughts were contributing to the high malnourishment and undernourishment in children and adults. My solutions to fix this problem was by providing more nutritious meals during the school day to encourage children to come and get an education, as well as receiving nutritious food. I also encouraged fortifying more “atta” (wheat flour) with iron and micronutrients and then distributing it across India, thus helping everyone receive more protein each day. And finally, with the recurrent droughts they are suffering from I decided that we need to make drought resistant seeds more affordable and available to them.
All in all, this experience really helps open your eyes to see how fortunate we are. Not only that, but it really makes you want to help bring this awareness to more people and help figure out solutions to fix world food hunger. Thank you.
As you can see, Lauren is a bright young lady who will take this experience and take advantage of this opportunity. Please encourage your students to get involved like Lauren did. Thanks for your support.