Sunday, November 27, 2011

I now have letters after my name!

They don't mean much to the average person, but they mean a TON to me! After a very, very long road ... I am proud to say I am now a Nationally Board Certified Teacher. I waited a while to write this post, because I went on quite a roller coaster ride the weekend I received my scores. This is a lengthy post ... but not nearly as long as the journey I've been through :)

This entire process started almost 20 months ago. In February of 2010, I went to meetings that my district provided to learn about the National Boards process. At that point, I was still unsure of whether or not I was going to go through with the process. I had to make a final decision by July. I took a few months to think about it and did sign up that summer. In early August, I received information from a mentor in Emporia who runs a center to help teachers through the NBCT process. I went to a weekend workshop in September of last year and learned even more about what I would be expected to do, how to start the planning and I met other teachers from around the state who would become a great source of support.

I spent many days and hours last year working on my Boards. I drove to Emporia almost once a month for work days with other teachers. My teammates were supportive and often helped to calm me down during particularly rough days. I seemed to live at Panera at night and on the weekends to work on my laptop. My paraprofessionals in the room helped during video taping of lessons. My friends understood when I was too tired or busy to get together to hang out. I received care packages in the mail from friends and my family treated me throughout the process. My parents helped by watching Minnie for me during busy weeks. I had friends to help with the technology pieces of my portfolios. I had a mentor in Emporia and one in the district who answered phone calls & emails late at night, read through my papers and watched countless videos and gave endless emotional support. I met an amazing teacher who was working towards the same certificate as I did. We spent days upon days sitting at her dining room table, typing away and studying for the exam portion of the Boards. She is now a wonderful friend. I spent almost my entire spring break working on my laptop to complete everything on time. By the time I finished & sent off my NBCT box on March 30th, I was drained! Then, the studying for the exams started. Lisa & I took our 3-hour exam in June, just a few days after the school year was over.

And then ... I got to pack everything up in June ... and wait. At some point, I forgot about getting my results. Then the emails started coming. People began asking if I had passed. Mom went to Emporia again with me for a celebration lunch (on having completed the work) and a workshop on understanding our scores and what to do if you don't pass this first time around. We learned that the candidates would all get an email about a week out from the day they will definitely post scores. That email came on Friday, November 11th. I immediately put in for a personal day, because I'd decided that I didn't want to see my scores at school and wanted to celebrate my hard work (regardless of my scores) with a day off from work.

I woke up about 2 weeks before with a ridiculously stiff neck. After many, many trips to the chiropractor, I realized my neck pain is part to blame from a spine that is curved the wrong way ... but I think another major part is based on stress. This is always a stressful time of year. This month was no different. Because of this, I didn't make the appointment for the massage I really wanted on the 18th. I did make plans for lunch with Mom & Dad for after I found out my scores. NBPTS told me on Twitter scores would be posted for sure before noon.

I went to the doctor that morning and was home by 9:00 where I promptly parked on the couch & refreshed, refreshed, refreshed my computer on the NBPTS site. Things quickly went sour ... the site crashed. I couldn't seem to log on. Neither could anyone else I knew that was looking for scores. I kept emailing Mom & Dad, texting Molly, and responding to texts from friends at work ... "I haven't heard anything yet. Site seems to be down. Waiting patiently. Should know before noon." At 12:30, I was frustrated and decided just to head to lunch with Mom & Dad. I was nervous and upset and could barely eat or concentrate. While I was there, I received an email from them saying the site was down, but we should check back at 4:00pm for scores. I did, and the site was still down. The next email said to check at 6:00pm. I pulled myself together to head to dinner with family around 6:00. Still no scores. By the time I left dinner, I had received the last email for that day saying scores would not be posted on Friday, and they weren't sure when they would be up.

So ... I attempted to sleep that night. I had hardly slept in weeks, waking up with bad dreams about me getting scores that weren't high enough to pass. I didn't sleep very well that Friday, but I tried to keep myself busy the next day. I had dinner with friends, and when I got home, I read the latest email from NBPTS stating the scores would be posted by 6:00am Sunday morning. Before I went to bed, I decided I would try to sleep in and then I'd check the scores whenever I woke up. I had waited long enough ... what was a few more hours?

Early in the morning, my phone rang. It was my friend, Lisa, who went through the process with me. I answered and heard, "Betsy! The scores are online." I told her I was trying to sleep in, but wanted to know how she did. The great news was that she had passed! I asked her what time it was. She told me 6:50am and said she would wait on the phone with me while I checked my scores if I wanted. I decided that I wanted to check them by myself, and so I stumbled downstairs in my pj's and flipped on the lights. I logged in. I was confused. What was this pop-up screen that wouldn't go away? I just wanted to see my scores on the window that was hidden! Why wouldn't it close or minimize?

Then, I read that window: "What name would you like printed on your official certificate?" WHAT!?!? What did this mean? Oh, my goodness! I immediately started crying. I saw my score {A 307 out of 400, for those who care. A 275 is passing.} and could hardly see straight. I called Mom & Dad at 7:00am and they were both THRILLED for me! Then, I called Molly & woke her up. Then, a call back to Lisa. And then ... I was on a high until I finally went to bed around 11:00pm that night. I cannot believe I passed. Only 40% of teachers pass on their first try to become a NBCT. I started this journey with 14 other teachers in the district. 2 of us finished. Both of us passed. I am happy. I am relieved. I feel better. I am sleeping better. I am proud. I am a Nationally Board Certified Teacher.

Pin It!

It's time ...

... for this year's annual Christmas/dog/shopping video. This one is really sweet ... and a tear-jerker, too!

Minners got her hair cut yesterday and when I was waiting to pick her up, I saw a group of 5 dogs that were there, looking for their forever homes. If you are looking for a dog to join your family this year, you should check out the adoption events at your local PetSmart. Such cute babies!

Pin It!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Let's play catch up

Well ... I finally did it! I upgraded from my crappy, no-internet, likes-to-make-phone-calls-from-my-purse, simple cell phone to the newest iPhone 4S. I was waiting until the iPhone came to Sprint because I wasn't willing to change carriers since I've been with Sprint for 10+ years and I was due for a phone upgrade.

I've had an iTouch as long as I've had my MacBook Pro, so I already knew about lots of the cool apps that are out there. What I wasn't expecting to love so much was the camera on this phone and all the fun photo apps that are out there. I got this phone on October 17th and I will tell you that I've only picked up my point & shoot or my DSLR camera 2 times since then.

The pictures (and video) are so clear on my phone ... sometimes better than what I can take with my Canon cameras. It's easy to carry around with me and it's fast to get started when I want to take a picture quickly. In October, I've taken more pictures than the last two months, and I would bet that most of them have been since I got my new phone.

I wanted to share some of my 2nd favorite pictures that didn't make it onto The View Across Town. Enjoy!

Taken with the Instagram app. You can turn the camera around so it takes the picture from the front of the phone instead of the back.

Instagram allows you to change all the filters right from your phone to give your pictures a unique look. This app was one of the main reasons why I wanted to get an iPhone. It's free, but it would have been worth it if I paid for it, too!

The main camera is clear and allows me to keep track of things in my classroom. This day was beyond hectic. I shared this picture of our schedule with my classroom parents via my Twitter account.

Erik asked me to bring my camera to his TEAM Tailgate a few weeks ago to take pictures for the blog. I only brought my iPhone and I was very pleased with the pictures. They helped to raise over $6,000 this day for Jamie's Wish charity.

Instagram takes great pictures, even at night. Doesn't this tree look creepy?

YUM! Apple cider donuts at the Louisburg Pumpkin Patch. Instagram allows me to share pictures right then on Twitter if I want with my followers. I HAD TO share this one :)

It even has a tilt-shift feature, which makes some parts of your picture clear & other parts blurry. Can you see the horizontal line that is focused across the middle?

I've been used to carrying my PowerShot with me each time Minnie & I go for a walk. Now, I can just bring my phone (which also tracks the length of our walks). This picture is just as great as the ones I've taken with my camera.

This collage was made with the Diptic app. I'm not sure if I paid for it or not, but it's worth it! You can make a collage in many different shapes and number of pictures. I made this one as Minnie and I cooled down after our walk. Amazing!

Taken at school. The 4th grade team is going to be "Rock, Paper, Scissors" for Halloween this year. We painted these shirts on conference day last week. The backs of our shirts have pictures of our objects. Fun!

I took this picture at the Dollar Tree this weekend. I found these miniature cones in the teacher section at the store and wanted to share the find with my teacher friends on Twitter. Such a quick & easy way to share ideas.

Brought my phone to take pictures of Ellen getting ready for her Halloween parade at school. She is a bee keeper this year. Molls had to put her hair up so it would fit under her bee keeper hat.

The best spot in the world for pet portraits! Still takes a great picture, even with my phone!

I took this one with the MovieFXCam app (free until November 1st). You can take video or pictures with many different effects. This one is called "Seventies Film". I love the way the sunlight looks in this one.

Same app, but this effect is "Thermal Vision". Doesn't Minners look funny?

This one is in the same "Seventies Film" effect. Keifer is one of our neighborhood dog friends. He's pretty fast, so most of the pictures I took of him were a bit blurry. This is the one time when I think my DSLR would do better because it has a fast shutter speed.

Minnie loves her Auntie Mitzi. I was able to share this Instagram picture with Mitzi via Twitter after I took it.

Had to share a picture of one of my grocery store finds with the Instagram app. I love this filter because the apples look so yummy!

What are YOUR favorite apps? I also have 360 (for panoramic pictures) and Pro HDR, but I haven't played around with those as much.

Pin It!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I'm actually excited about grocery shopping!

I've never been a fan of grocery shopping. Do you remember when I diagnosed myself with Grocery Store Sensory Overload? It's a real thing. I promise. I have a hard time planning a menu for the week and sticking to just the things on my list.

When Trader Joe's opened here, I thought for sure I wouldn't care or become a shopper there. The first time I went, Jill & I went just to look around. I was annoyed by the crowds, but it was still new at that point and everyone was super excited about TJ's.

Then, I asked Molly if they'd meet me at the Ward Parkway TJ's to do some shopping and give me suggestions of what to get. 4 weeks later, I'm completely hooked! For someone who used to typically hate my grocery store trips that happened every 3-4 weeks, I'm now excited about going once a week to get what I need for lunch and dinner. I thought I'd share a few of my favorites (so far).

Chocolate-covered banana bites - $1.99. These are in the frozen section and stay frozen. Just take out & enjoy as-is. They are pretty filling and usually, I can get over a chocolate craving with just one or two of the bites.

Bananas - $0.19/banana. Pretty cheap for bananas! They also carry organic bananas for a little bit more money. I love bananas, but I got burned out on them after peanut butter banana sandwiches for SEVERAL meals in a row.

Mini heirloom tomatoes - $3.49. So yummy! The last time I was there, they didn't have the heirloom tomatoes, but had regular cherry tomatoes for the same price.

Whole wheat slim sandwich bread - $2.49. These taste just as good as the Thomas' whole wheat slims I was buying at my other grocery store, but a bit cheaper. One of my coworkers told me today that all the bread from TJ's should be kept in the fridge (and they recommend that) because there aren't any preservatives. Just an FYI for you.

Half-gallon of fat free milk - $1.99. I normally drink fat free skim milk, but TJ's didn't carry it. this milk is significantly cheaper than the price of a half gallon at Walmart where I normally shop. I have a hard time drinking my entire 1/2 gallon, so sometimes I have to pour out half of it. I don't feel nearly as guilty when the milk is less than $2.

Organic brown rice - $3.49. There are three 10 oz. packages inside this box. It's found in the freezer section. So far, I've only made one of the packages, but when I mixed it with a bag of organic frozen veggies ($1.69), it was a great "side" to add to my lunches.

Turkey meatballs - $2.99. Frozen & fully cooked. This is next up on my list of things to make with pasta for some easy lunches for school. I haven't tried them yet, but Molly has and they are getting great reviews.

Chicken & vegetable potstickers - $2.99. These can be cooked quickly in the microwave and they are super yummy.

Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal - $2.99. I didn't actually buy this at TJ's. I'm sorry I didn't, because the day before I bought it at Walgreen's when doing some quick shopping for $4.99. Ugh. I'm still getting over the lack of taste, but attempting to like it because of the high amount of protein it has.

Organic fruit wrap - $0.49/each. I'm a hugh fan of fruit snacks and roll-ups. I used to buy the fruit wraps at Whole Foods, but I rarely shop there. Target's Archer Farms brand has great fruit wraps, too. I really like these, even though they are a bit expensive.

Quinoa duo with vegetables - $3.99. Have you ever tried to shop for quinoa at your grocery store? Of course, my Walmart didn't carry it. When I finally found some in the organic section of a Hen House, a small container cost a small fortune! I left it on the shelf. This is found in the frozen section and it's already pre-cooked. You just need to quickly warm it up in the microwave or a skillet. I got about 3 portions out of this bag and I added a little bit of cheese to it for some flavor and to tone down the spice. I'm sure most people wouldn't think it's too spicy, but I noticed it had a kick to it.

I'm also now a fan of the What's Good at Trader Joe's FB page, with the hopes that I'll get some other new ideas. With a little bit of searching, you can find plenty of blogs & twitter accounts where people share suggestions of what to buy at TJ's and what foods reviewed well (or not so well).

I hope you can find a few things to get next time you're there ... or maybe this will entice you to take your first trip to Trader Joe's. Let me know what you like to get when you are there!

Pin It!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Apparently I'm a dumpster diver now

Do you remember the last time I "inherited" some new furniture from the dumpster in my neighborhood? I ended up with a great piece of furniture that I still use in my classroom.

The new project started Friday when I got home from work. I took Minnie out for a walk in the cold and saw a leaning bookshelf sitting in one of our dumpster carports. I looked around to see if anyone was in the middle of moving and just rested it there. Nope. It was in the trash.

I came home and texted Molly to ask for advice. Should I pick it up? I've always wanted one, but wasn't sure I had the spot for it in my condo. I didn't think I could carry it and was almost sure it wouldn't fit in my car. Molly replied to say, "Take it and decide later!" So, I hopped in my car and drove it around the development to see if the shelf was still there. I put the shelf in my back seat, but had to drive back to my building with the back door open because the shelf was so big.

Mom came over this afternoon to help me find the perfect spot for this shelf. The office seemed to be the best option. Last summer I had rearranged the office to make room for a new dresser. It was still a mess and we had to move things to make it all work.

Here are the finished products! The bookshelf was already painted this gray blue color. Thanks, friendly neighbor! I also hung that brown frame that Jilly gave me for my birthday a few years ago. I'm embarrassed it took me this long to get it hung. It is filled with baby pics of Ells because I don't seem to print pictures out anymore :(

Got rid of the tiny bookshelf on that right-hand wall and moved the brown dresser over there. That small bookshelf is now sitting out at the dumpster. I hope someone else can use it! The top of the desk is cleaned off, too. This couch is Minnie's spot during the day, hence the dog bed & towel.

After Mom left, she told me to get to work & finish organizing. So, I tackled the GIANT piles of filing I've been putting off for months. I hate to file papers, both at home and at work! I sat in that tiny open space for about 2 hours to get all these bills and papers put away.

Mom did a GREAT job of organizing and decorating the shelf for me. I love the way it looks.

I can still access my printer on the bottom shelf for the occasional time that I need to print something. Most of the other items came from on top of my desk or around my condo.

This is the cleanest my office has been in years! I'm hoping it will stick :) Not bad for a zero dollar makeover!

Pin It!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Light, easy dinner

Looks good, no?

I don't think my prep time every matches that on the recipe. I must be slow and/or not very efficient. I left out the following items ... I'm sure you aren't surprised: hot sauce (would have added, but didn't want to buy it just for this), cilantro, shallot. I also used a box of Garden Delight tomato, carrot & spinach pasta instead of the whole-wheat pasta. It came in a 12oz. box, so I added left over penne pasta in my cabinet to get the pound. You'd be fine with just the 12oz. box!
** UPDATE: Clearly my eyes only see what they want to when it comes to my favorite carbs. I honestly never saw that the recipe called for just 1/2 of a 1lb. box of pasta until Molly pointed it out to me. No wonder it made so much! Stick with just half the box, or the 12oz. box for more pasta in the gazpacho. **

Cooked pasta. So pretty looking!

Diced veggies. I used a whole cucumber. I also used an orange bell pepper instead of yellow because it looked better at the grocery store. I forgot to add the cherry tomatoes until after I mixed the pasta in this.

Easy dressing. I thought this wouldn't be enough, but it was plenty. The final (gazpacho) product is less soup-y & more pasta salad-y.

My portion for dinner. This made a HUGE amount! I ate this bowl, gave some to a neighbor, packed some for Mitzi & Brenda & me for lunch tomorrow, and have 2 more portions left for future meals.

Oh, and I dirtied up just about every utensil and bowl in my kitchen!


Pin It!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

This puts things in perspective

Today, I got an email at work from our school counselor. She found this post from a teacher in Joplin, MO. I immediately opened her email and then started crying at my desk during the day. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

This is from the journal of a teacher in Joplin, Missouri as the school year is beginning. It kind of puts many things into perspective.
This may end up being my last tornado journal update. You want to know why? Because for the first time in 87 days, I have been able to breath today. I have been able to feel almost normal today. My kids were able to sleep and have something to wake up for today. We didn't have to spend our summer days wishing the pools hadn't been destroyed. We didn't have to wish we could go to our favorite parks, only to remember that they are no longer there. We didn't have to do anything that revolved around the tornado. We got to get up and go to school!
With the help of donations from around the world, these kids came back in style! Every child received a backpack with Joplin Eagles and our eagle logo on the front that was filled with school supplies appropriate for the grade. Every high school student--whether they were going back to school at the mall campus or the old middle school--received a laptop in the backpack. They will do all of their learning via the computers since the textbooks were destroyed. There is a coffee bar set up in the mall campus that the business classes will run. A theater in Branson adopted the drama department. Barry Manilow sent a truckload of instruments for the band. Amazon donated truckloads of books. As we walked into our building this morning, members of a local church greeted every child and teacher with smiles, high fives, handshakes, and snacks! Media outlets, both local and national, filmed at the various school locations, focusing on the more innovative spots like the high school in the mall and the middle school in an old warehouse. These children will not be disappointed with the facilities that were amazingly constructed over a few weeks’ time. It took a lot of time and effort from many people. We had volunteers from around the country putting together furniture, stocking libraries, cleaning new desks, filling all of those backpacks. There is even a health club in the new high school because there was not space for a traditional gym. Talk about getting the job done!
As a teacher, the best part about today was seeing the kids. There were some physical injuries from the tornado that were still visible. There will be even more emotional scars that will pop up in the days to come. Several former students wanted to tell me their stories today. One boy crawled out of his house after the tornado was over to find an arm in his front yard. Another 7th grader found a child when he was helping to clear the rubble near his home-the child hadn't survived. Another talked about coming up from his basement to find that there was nothing left of his house and how disorienting that was for him. I was lucky enough to be trained by Dr. Arshad Husain and his staff of trauma psychiatrists and psychologists in a Teachers As Therapists program. I have to admit that it seemed a little weird to me that our town needed this type of training as I knew his team works with children experiencing major trauma. I had to admit that we did indeed need his help. Today, though, the tears were mostly from joy and pride and, yes, that hope we talk about around here all the time. It finally feels like we are healing. Never underestimate the role that a school system plays in a community. It was a huge step for our town to get back to normalcy.
We had our Welcome Back session on Monday for all Joplin Schools employees. It had all of the usual things you would expect--the cheerleaders, the band, the speeches. It also had a lot of things we didn't expect--the entire sidewalk heading into the auditorium lined with people from the community shouting "thank you" and holding up "good luck" signs, a copy of the USA Today on every seat that featured a front page story about our schools and one of our students, the governor praising our school and city efforts since the tornado, and even a video with celebrities like Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Charles Barkley, Sugarland, and Lady Antebellum wishing us good luck and shouting, "Go Eagles." There were boxes of Kleenex scattered around the seats because this was no ordinary Back to School session. This one made everyone in that room proud to be an Eagle and proud of our town! Even though it is still going to be awhile before we can truly get things back to normal, we are headed in the right direction. When you have hope, nothing is unreachable!

Pin It!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Crafty time + Crayons = Happy Girl

I saw this project on one of my favorite blogs and knew that I HAD to make it. Apparently this melted crayon art is all over Pinterest, which I have yet to play on because I know I'll never leave my laptop.

Last weekend, I headed to Wal-Mart for a deal on Crayola Crayons, because they are the only acceptable brand of crayons. If you are a parent who shops for school supplies, please don't send your kid to school with Rose Art supplies ... they just don't do the trick! Jill came with me because she saw the link and also wanted to make some art for her classroom!

We each bought a box of 64 and an additional box of 48 for this project. We picked out the pretty colors ... who knew there are so many versions of brown in a box of crayons?

Jill went with blues, purples, white and a few reds. I went with a rainbow of colors, primarily pink. Are you surprised? After we picked out enough crayons, we carefully hot-glued them to the canvases. I had canvases left over from a previous crafty project that I ended up hating. The canvases were about 18x24 inches. We used painter's tape to line them up straight when gluing. About 1/4 inch was left between the top of the crayons and the edge of the canvas.

LOTS of crayons ... glued on our canvases. At first, I thought I wanted to glue my crayons with the color names facing out, but Jill & I decided that the Crayola label facing out added some interesting graphics to the art.

And here comes the hard part. Get a friend to hold your canvas upright. Use your hair dryer on HIGH heat and LOW air flow to heat up the crayons. The papers will start to glisten & then you'll see the tips of the crayons start to drip, drip, drip onto the canvas. I started on one side and melted about 8 crayons at a time. They will start to melt, and you can get them to melt more or less depending on how much you put the hair dryer on them. The entire canvas took about 35-45 minutes to get it looking the way I wanted it.

Then, it was Jilly's turn. This was when she said to me, "Betsy. Even your hair dryer is pink!" :) Her crayons were glued onto the canvas vertically, so she wanted them to drip a bit more/longer than mine did. We realized it is boring to be the "holder" of the canvas, but it is a lot of fun to watch the crayons melt right before your eyes.

My finished product! I'm pretty pleased with it. That brown-looking crayon in the middle of the oranges is actually gold. It didn't look as pretty as I thought it would :( Oh well! It's the first time I've done this.

I took it to school on Monday and hung it up in my room. My students oooooh'd and aaaaah'd over it. Lots of fun & I have a feeling a few of them might tackle this project at home, too!

Pin It!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I still love him

Do you remember when I wrote a few years ago about how much we loved Matt Damon? Well, he's back ... and not afraid to say what he's thinking.

Matt recently attended a Save Our Schools rally in Washington with his Mom who is a teacher. He had this to say when a reporter accused teachers of not being driven to do a good job.

Watch out! I love watching the reporter's wheels start to turn as Matt defends the great teachers in this country!

Pin It!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Road Trip!

Early yesterday morning, Kristin & I got in the car and headed out for a drive. To Denver. We came here to visit Emilie and pick up Julie at the Denver airport on the way to join in the fun.

Teacher Invasion, as Emilie calls it.

The last few summers, we've had plans to get together in the summer for fun, laughs, adventure, food, drinks, and relaxation. Last year it was Chicago. This year, Denver. Emilie assures us she won't be living in another new town next year for us to head to :)

I haven't taken a big road trip like this since the last time Julie & I headed to Denver for a job fair about 8 years ago. It was a blast! I don't normally like being in the car for extended periods of time, but when I'm driving, it's not so bad. So, I hopped in the driver's seat. Kristin was a great co-pilot and we made lots of memories! We made great time, with minimal stops, so we even had time to stop at Prairie Dog Town. For those of you not familiar with this tourist stop, I'll just tell you that their current claim to fame is a 6-legged cow. Oh, and the extra legs come out of the cow's neck. Just wait until I share pictures :)

The first night was a blast, and being able to walk & sit outside without breaking into a sweat is enough to make me love this city. I can't wait to see what today brings us!

Pin It!