Monday, February 27, 2012


It's Monday and I have the Hootenanny Blues.  The ECFE annual family dance was a huge success this year and I am sorry that it is over.  I just have to tell you how amazing our PTA is here at ECFE. This group of dedicated parents really pull out all the stops to put on a party.  Our Hootenanny had live music, an auction, a real live cowboy, a cupcake walk, and games. We had a blast. Our PTA is lead by our President, Heather Bradberg. Heather is such an asset to our program here at ECFE. She is the face of our Facebook page and the heart of so many of our projects. We will miss her terribly when she graduates. I wish I had gotten a picture of the whole PTA crew but they were busy all over the building making sure that kids and parents were having a good time. My heartfelt thanks go out to each of them!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness

                                                              Toddlers are curious.......

                                                                     and MESSY!!

And since we have been talking in second grade about being good friends, it made sense to share another favorite book with my friends in Mrs. Yess' class "One" by Kathryn Otoshi. The class had been to a Climb Theater presentation on bullying in the morning.  This book was a wonderful way to connect their learning with the project I had in mind. After talking about what makes a great friend, the second graders went to work in our early childhood classrooms.  It feels so good to do something nice for someone, even if you don't know them.  Thanks to my second grade friends, we here at ECFE are all cleaned up and looking forward to the HOOTENANNY!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Patrick's Class

I am crazy about the book "A Dog is A Dog" by Stephen Shaskan and was so happy to share it with Mrs. Mehling's kindergartners this morning. What great listeners they are! We had fun guessing what animal came next by listening and rhyming. The kids had a few questions about my fun adventures as the teacher of the year and were very excited about my trip to the White House to meet the President.
Patrick, my great nephew was the leader of the day. Patrick loves sausages!  We have been planning how to share them with his friends at kindergarten since Christmas. They were a big hit! It was so much fun to hang out with Patrick and his friends at school. Thanks for the invitation.

Ms Relentless and Ms Persistence Have Lunch

I have been chomping at the bit to meet and commiserate with Debbykay Peterson from the Minnesota Department of Education.  Debbykay heads up ECFE and School Readiness programming at the department.  I am sure the other diners must have thought we looked like hummingbirds at, talk, talk,, talk, talk,, talk, get the picture! I was so happy to walk away feeling connected to someone who feels as passionately about parent education as I do. I have often said that the most important key to closing the achievement gap is parent education. Minnesota is the only state in the nation with parent education embedded in it's public schools. It is very exciting for me to think about the possibility of expanding parent education into the elementary schools.  One of my favorite magnets on my fridge reads "Given a cape and a tiara, I might just rule the world".  Debbykay might be that cape!  I am looking forward to working with her on a few of the ideas we bubbled up over lunch to meet the changing needs of parents.  Thanks Debbykay (Ms. Relentless).

Drum roll 6:00 pm on my drive down the river to Winona.....this.....

It is still LIGHT OUTSIDE!!  I cranked up the 70's music and sang all the way home!  It was a pretty great day after all.....

Thanks St. Kates!

I have finished Real Colors training with every athlete at St. Kates! I so enjoy working with college kids and was especially impressed with the ladies and the coaches at St. Kates.  I have a new friend in Nicole Hempler and will likely give a shout out to her parents in Red Wing every time I drive through town (which is more often that you might think these days). Good Luck to the spring athletes as they head into the season.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Y'all Come Down Now, Y'hear?!

I hope you have the 6th annual ECFE Family Dance on your calendar!  Our Hootenanny is on Saturday night, February 25th from 5:30-7:30pm. I have blog followers from all over the state and I will tell you, the Hootenanny will be well worth a trip to Winona this weekend.  The PTA here pulls out all the stops to create a fun event for kids and their parents. It is a fun week at work as all of the preparation and anticipation builds to a hoot of a good time.  Don't be shy about dressing up, it's part of the fun!  Lookin forward to seein y'all on Saturday night! Yehaw!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bel Air Elementary PTA

I met Mark and Ruben, Bel Air Elementary Schools PTA Presidents last summer at the state PTA conference and was so happy when they asked me to come to their school to speak to the PTA.  What a great discussion we all had about the challenges families face to create a family life that supports what kids need from childhood. There were parents, teachers, the principal, and a school board member in attendance all interested in what is best for kids.

I wore one of my many aprons, not to cover a coffee spill but to emphasize the importance of a family meal.  Eating dinner together is a great predictor of a students academic success.  We talked about the forces that compete with that family time and shared encouraging tips to keep at it. Dinner time can be challenging but rewarding too.

My  heart went out to the mom who talked about her regrets about buying her 5 and 7 year old each a DS for Christmas.  She told me I could tell the whole world about how they have changed her families free time.  I will, I promise.  Thanks for a great evening!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lunch with Eleanor Roosevelt

It has happened more often than you would think that I am asked "If you could have lunch with a famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?".  Maybe it's because I hang out with brainiacs or that love team building games.  My pick would be Eleanor Roosevelt so you can imagine how excited I was to find this statue at the FDR Monument last week!  Eleanor has a long list of inspiring quotes.  My favorite is "Do one thing every day that scares you".  On this day that I stood next to Eleanor, I was scared about wearing skinny jeans in public. For those of you who think skinny jeans are new to the fashion world, take a trip to DC.  In nearly every painting of President George Washington, he is wearing an outfit much like mine.  George was all over skinny pants tucked into boots with a long flared jacket. We salute you, Mr. President!!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

NEA Foundation's Salute to Excellence in Education Gala 2012

The Smiths clean up pretty well when we need to.  We headed to the National Building Museum for the Gala and we were blown away with how lovely it all was.  I wish you all could have seen just how elegant the setting was. Fancy dresses, flowers, champagne, and lots of oooh la la made for a very special evening.

It was a celebration of education, teachers and the work we do in our unions.  I was proud to represent Education Minnesota and am grateful for all of the professional opportunities I have had in the organization.  Denise Specht, Tom Dooher, and Paul Mueller make up our Executive Board and are a hard working bunch. As you can see, they clean up pretty well too.

Luke Merchlewitz and his family were there to celebrate too.  Luke is the 2011 National Teacher of Excellence.  Luke's enthusiasm fills any room on any given day, last night was no exception. He was so happy to meet up with his traveling buddies and fellow honorees from 2011.

Karl Aaro is the Executive Director of Education Minnesota and a really cool guy. He is so kind to me and always interested in my stories of life as the MN TOY. We both struggled to finish our spinach last night. I was afraid that it would stick in my teeth and everyone would spot it on the jumbo tron. I am not sure what Karl's excuse was.
I wonder if my loyal blog followers will recognize....guess....take a stab at it....keep trying.....yes!! It is Jeanne Del Colle, the 2012 New Jersey Teacher of the Year! It was so great to see her again.  We had dinner tonight and got all caught up on our lives since we met in Dallas.  She is rocking it in Jersey like I am in Minnesota.  Both of us feel so lucky to have the opportunity to represent all the great work teachers and students do in classrooms everyday. I think Minnesota misses us, she sent a hello today in the form of a crazy, windy, wintery day here in DC!

Our Nation's Capitol

Yeah! A chance to take in some sights.  Matt and I headed straight to the Capitol.  It is a stunning building full of stories, history and beautiful art work. In the interest of time (I couldn't miss the ball), we took the tour. The rotunda is breathtaking and I was wishing I had lugged my big camera to Washington to capture it better.

The clock was ticking but we took our chances of finding Ms. Elizabeth Frosh at work.  Liz is one of my surrogate daughters from Winona.  She has been Amanda's friend since middle school.  I did my best not to cry when she gave us a tour of Senator Klobuchar's office where she is a legislative assistant.  I am so proud of her!  It was so great to see her and I waited until we were out of the building to cry. Thanks Liz, I will try not to call you Honey Bunny in front of your co-workers when I see you again in April!

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Flurry of Activity in DC!

To say that it has been a wild ride would be an understatement.  I have just come back to the hotel after three days of training with my fellow NEA Teachers of Excellence.  We have been in classes to prepare us for our trip to China this summer.  Most of us are shocked and stunned by this amazing opportunity to travel as Pearson Global Fellows.  We were asked to think long and hard about a guiding question as we travel to bring the trip focus and relevance to our classrooms.  I have some pretty interesting ideas that I will need to ponder but I think my focus will be on play and the connections that parents make with their children through it. Last night the group from Education Minnesota invited us, Matt, Erin and me to join them for dinner. That's Tom Dooher, President of Education Minnesota with us.  I keep trying to talk Tom into extending my year because I am having so much fun and just hitting my stride.  I wonder if he knows that I am serious?! 

What a treat to be at Famous Luigi's for dinner on a Thursday night, they have a violinist! When he found out my name was Katy he sang "K-K-K-Katy" not once, not twice, but three times!!!  I haven't heard anyone sing that song with such gusto since my dad died.  He brought me champagne adorned with fireworks to make the evening a real celebration!  I am off now to see a bit of the city before I meet the rest of the awardees in the lobby to head over to the gala.  A GALA!!  I can hardly believe that this is all happening to me.  I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ball Gowns and Skinny Jeans

I would do just about anything for those daughters of mine.  Last weekend, the mission was ball gowns.  As it turns out, being the NEA Teacher of Excellence and the Minnesota Teacher of the Year has some wardrobe challenges.  My wardrobe consists of pants that toddlers paint and shirts that babies spit up on.  I don't own a ball gown but needed one for the ball in Washington DC this spring.  My daughter, Erin will be joining Matt and me in DC this week for the National Education Gala.  She was needing a ball gown too. I picked up my pal Karen and we headed to the mall to meet up with Erin and go ball gown shopping!  Erin nudged me to try on dresses that, on the hanger, were way out of my comfort zone.  She urged me to keep trying things on.  I have spent many hours in stores with daughters holding up clothing I am certain they would look fantastic in only to be shot down with giant eye rolls. No eye rolling this trip, thanks to Erin and Karen, I had a ball gown!

And oddly, a pair of SKINNY jeans!  Both Erin and Abby (pictured above) insisted and wondered how on earth I have gotten by all these 51 years without a pair. Erin does a crazy, jumping dance to get into skinny jeans and showed me how it is done. Once in them, I wondered if I could count the experience as a workout had I put them on at the YMCA!

I am heading to Washington DC this week!  This trip will not include meeting the President but I am counting the days. I will meet the Pearson Learning Fellows I will be traveling to China with this summer. How cool is that!? I will be busy with classes to prepare me and will blog along the way.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Preschool Backpacks

This picture was taken last Wednesday, February 1st! When backpacks are lined up outside, it gives parents a heads up to pick their kids up on the playground.  The playground, on February 1st! This has been a weird, warm, snow less winter. I am curious about the line up of backpacks.  I wonder if the kids or the parents picked them out.  I wonder if they are hand me downs from big brothers and sisters.  I wonder if it is possible to find a plain backpack anymore that isn't an advertisement for a television show, a movie or a line of toys.  I wonder how long it might be before I see a "Glee" backpack in front of preschool.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pumped in Pine Island

It's always hard on me when great parents leave our community. Marlo and her family moved to Pine Island a few years back and when she heard that I was headed there, she offered to buy me dinner before my community presentation.  Thanks Marlo, it was great to catch up with you!
My congratulations go out to Mr. Mish for being honored as Pine Island's Teacher of the Year!  Thanks for letting us gather in your room and good luck to you.
It was great to see so many Pine Islanders at school on a Thursday night to talk about childhood.  We shared our concerns and our hopes for children. Each one of us seemed to leave the room energized to take on the task of designing a childhood that honors the important skills that children learn as they prepare for school and life. It was an engaging community conversation.

Miss Kelly and I have been friends for a long, long time.  She has been inviting me to Pine Island for about eighteen years to speak to groups of parents.  She, like so many ECFE teachers all across the state, is so excited about how my award has validated the work we all do with small children and their parents.  ECFE is a great place to find support, great curriculum and the cutest kids in the state.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Our Sweet Guy

When my dear friends John and Caer were pregnant with their fourth child, we had six girls between our families.  When Caer found out her fourth was a boy, she promised to share him with us. Jonathan is a gift that keeps on giving.  Here is that sweet guy of ours during his winter break (which seemed to last about two years).  I love so many things about him and especially love how he listens to Matt's stories again and again with steadfast enthusiasm. My busy schedule has kept us from visiting him at college.  I am  hoping a gushy shout out on my blog will make him smile.  We are crazy about this boy! Do you think it is a coincidence that the famous Winona Chiefs sweatshirt has made another appearance on the blog? Nope, no coincidence. Seriously, he wears it ALL THE TIME!