Friday, September 23, 2016

Governor Brandstad is coming to Benton Community Keystone Elementary

Gov. Terry Branstad will visit Benton Community Keystone Elementary Center on September 28 to learn about how we have improved students’ reading skills by the end of third grade.
Assuring students read proficiently by the end of third grade has been a top priority of the Branstad-Reynolds Administration. In 2012, Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed and the Iowa Legislature adopted early literacy legislation to identify struggling readers starting in kindergarten and require schools to provide intensive assistance. That legislation also created the Iowa Reading Research Center, which supports improving students’ reading skills in a variety of ways from conducting research on high-quality literacy instruction to providing other resources for educators as well as for parents to help their children at home:
Nearly 25 percent of Iowa third-graders did not read proficiently on the state test in 2014-15. State test results for 2015-16 are expected to be released later this month. On the 2015 national test, Iowa ranked 24th in fourth-grade reading, with an average score one point lower than in 1992 when Iowa was a top performer.  Some states with a larger share of low-income students, such as Kentucky and Florida, now score higher than Iowa. This shows the importance of continuing the work under way in Iowa to assure students read proficiently by the end of third grade, including closing the achievement gap between some low-income and minority students and their classmates. This is critical so all students graduate from high school genuinely ready for college or career training and so employers across the state are able to hire the skilled workers they need.
Branstad is visiting three districts who made progress in third-grade reading proficiency on both a brief universal screening assessment (Formative Assessment System for Teachers) given three times a year to measure students’ reading skills as well as on the most recent state assessment.  This will be Gov. Branstad's second visit to our District in past two years.  
Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016
Benton Community School District
Keystone Elementary School
280 Fourth St.
Keystone, IA
1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Contents of this story were provided by Office of the Governor.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

BC Homecoming 2016

I have written before that I am a proud graduate of Benton Community.  One of my favorite things about our District is how we are a "community of communities".  One time of the year when this is incredibly apparent is during Homecoming Week.

My graduation day with RoseMary Meyer our Senior Class Sponsor
Our staff have been sharing many pics from Homecoming Week on our insta-gram accounts.  


Marv Bell, father to our beloved 5th grade teacher Debra Miner, started a document which shares the history of our Kings/Queens and scores to our homecoming games since BC became BC in 1966.  Marv shared this document with our staff every year during Homecoming Week.  When he retired, he asked that I continue with the tradition of sharing this history and document.

Mr. Bell is one of my former teachers, colleagues and mentors. I blogged about his impact on me in May of 2016.  Since, I've always done what Mr. Bell asked me to do, I'm including his Homecoming History document, of which I continue to proudly update since 2008, to this blog.

Marvin Bell

Homecoming, 2016

New teachers: Pay close attention, please.

Seating Schedule for the Homecoming Pep Rally

Remember that it is vitally important to follow these seating directions.  We will have 2,000 people in the gym, including high school students, middle school students, elementary students, preschool students, parents, relatives, other community adults, and BC graduates. If you have questions, be sure to ask your building administrator for clarification.

Elementary Grades

·       Atkins/Keystone students will enter the gym via the north gym doors but must exit by the industrial arts department doors.  Signs will be posted.  Keystone students will enter by the industrial arts doors but will exit from the north gym doors.  Signs will be posted, but do not confuse with the Atkins/Keystone signs or the Atkins/Keystone students, who will be headed the other way.

·       Norway, and Central Lutheran students will enter on an alternating basis (Norway student, CLS student, Norway student, CLS student, etc.) from the west doors (the doors from which you can see the football field.)  However, Norway and CLS students must exit from the south doors (behind the school) so that they will not collide with the Atkins and Keystone Students (Please re-read the directions for Atkins and Keystone students).  .

Middle School/High School
  • As in the past, students whose last names start with the letters ranging from and including “A”-“M”, regardless of MS/HS grade levels, will sit on the left half of the home side of the gym.  MS/HS students whose last names start with the letters “N”-“Z” will sit on the right half of the home side of the gym, the purpose being to allow students in grades 7-12 to get to know each other, and for the younger students to assimilate the spirit of BC Homecoming from the other students.

All Faculty, regardless of grade level: Please sit back to back and face each other so that your full and individual attentions will be directed to those students who are seated both directly in front and directly in back of you.


Homecoming History at Benton Community

Queen and King (Kings were not elected until 1972.)

Football Scores

1.       1966 Wendy Wardenburg
BC 20, Dysart 15
2.       1967 Jane Boddicker
Iowa Valley 30, BC 0
3.       1968 Jean McMann
West Marshall 33, BC 13
4.       1969 Denise Kromminga
BC 8, Iowa Valley 7
5.       1970 Bev Walters
Ackley-Geneva 73, BC18 (Not a misprint: Ackley-Geneva was ranked #1 and had not been scored on all season. BC passed 50+ times for three TD’s, which angered Ackley-Geneva, and A-G intentionally ran up the score. )
6.       1971 Vicki Wilhelmi
BC 29, Iowa Valley 13
7.       1972 Roxie Franck, David Eckhart
Linn-Mar 37, BC 18
8.       1973 Jill Kromminga, Bill Swanson
BC 22, Iowa Valley 0
9.       1974 Kathy Schmuecker, Steve Silhanek
Linn-Mar 33, BC 18
10.    1975 Amy Morrison, Gary Thompson
BC 10, Iowa City Regina 6
11.    1976 Julie Maas, Greg Merchant
Linn-Mar 25, BC 0
12.    1977 Terri Johnson, Mike Wagner
Iowa City Regina 36, BC 7
13.    1978 Barb Bridgewater, Mark Prusha
Linn-Mar34, BC 14
14.    1979 Carol Wagner, Steve Carl
BC 27, Iowa Valley 0
15.    1980 Joni Wilhelm, Bill Boies
BC 19, Linn-Mar 13
16.    1981 Andrea Himan, Brian Strellner
BC 27, Iowa Valley 0
17.    1982 Jana Brady, Mark Pirtle
Linn-Mar 26, BC 8
18.    1983 Ronda Donald, Jon Schrage
BC 51, Iowa Valley 6
19.    1984 Sheri Zillman, Scott Werning
Linn-Mar 26, BC 14
20.    1985 Susie Andresen, Steve Junge
BC 48, Iowa City Regina 0
21.    1986 Deanna Ternus, Troy Werning
BC 10, Anamosa 6
22.    1987 Kellee Becker, Jason Seboldt
BC 46,Waverly-Shellrock 0
23.    1988 Dee Wardenburg, Matt Kopecky
BC 18, Cedar Rapids Regis 7
24.    1989 Shelly Kienast, Greg Buelow
BC 41, Cedar Rapids LaSalle 7
25.    1990 Michele Becker, Tom Bridgewater
BC 29, Vinton 14
26.    1991 Amy Hagen, Aaron Brecht, David Kaestner
BC 28, South Tama 0
27.    1992 Leah Lenhart, Jason Wilhelm
Pella 27, BC 10
28.    1993 Darci Franck, Sheramee Werner, Dan Peddicord
BC 29, Marion 12
29.    1994 Jessica Janss, Jason Furler
BC 35, Oelwein 21
30.    1995 Aneasha Wilhelm, Mike Peddicord
South Tama 12, BC 0
31.    1996 Stephanie Werner, Josh Rempfer
BC 28, Maquoketa 0
32.    1997 Jocelyn Jurgens, Jared Haar
West Delaware 22, BC 21
33.    1998 Ashlee Frese, Nathan Gross
Maquoketa 28, BC 6
34.    1999 Jenny Anderson, Jeremy Morrison
Marion 27, BC 26
35.    2000 Valerie Kaiser, Ben Miller
BC 41, DeWitt 26
36.    2001 Becky Koopman, Daric Kaestner
BC 42, Union 0
37.    2002 Nicole Larsen, Ryan Etscheidt
BC 20, Marion 10
38.    2003 Jennifer Gahring, Brady Callison
BC 35, Vinton 14
39.    2004 Amber Havran, Marcus Hemaseth
BC 33, Grinnell 6
40.    2005 M’Leigh Rempfer, Cody Schminke
Williamsburg 41, BC 13
41.    2006 Sarah Parr, Chad Schwarting
BC 14, Oelwein 0
42.    2007 Paige Myers, Evan Brehm
BC 42, Independence 6
43.        2008 Kaitlyn Kromminga, Tony Stenburg
BC 25, Vinton 18
44.        2009 Val Reinberg, Shane Reinberg
Union 37, BC 7
45.        2010 Jamie Hodenfield, Patrick Koopman
Grinnell 35, BC 28
46.        2011 Alicia Gage, Austin Cassill
BC 22, Washington 21 (OT)
47.        2012 Madison Weekly, Jessie Nelson
BC 35, Anamosa 28
48.       2013 Kelsey Ettleman, Andrew Thompson
DeWitt 46, BC 20
49.       2014 Brooke Boddicker, Ben Haerther
BC 20, Nevada 12
50.       2015 Hannah Thompson, Julian Wilson
BC 26, Newton 20
51.       2016

Thursday, September 15, 2016

BC Student Amber Rohlena shares her Internship Opportunity with Johnson Gas and the Kirkwood's Workplace Learning Connection


What were you doing the summer before your junior year in high school? Amber Rohlena, a student from Benton Community, was putting her knowledge and skills to work as a summer intern at Johnson Gas Appliance Company.

"In past years my brothers had taken multiple internships. My dad recommended them highly," shares Amber. "When I started looking at internship opportunities I was looking at a bigger company but then I saw the opportunity at Johnson Gas. They were a smaller company and it referenced working with Computer Aided Design (CAD).  I had taken a few Project Lead The Way (PLTW) classes (Intro to Technology and Intro to Engineering Design) where I learned about and used CAD. I also used CAD a lot in my Robotics club and I really liked it. So I went for it. I am glad I did!"

Dan Hodel, Amber's internship supervisor at Johnson Gas, is really glad she did too! "Our experience with Amber has had a dramatic impact on our whole division! During her internship she was part of a huge project where we were experimenting with a new software." According to Dan, it was through Amber and this project they were able to prove the effectiveness of this software. " Her success was a major factor in convincing corporate management to buy the new software licenses for our division. We're now 10 times faster, a number we can prove quantitatively."  Corporate management took notice too. "They have much more interest and investment in our division. In fact, in the past fiscal year, our division has had more orders than ever before. The increase was not economy driven, but all directly tied back to work Amber did during her initial internship here at Johnson Gas."
When asked about the highlights of her experience at the end of her internship at Johnson Gas, Amber writes "Everything is a highlight! The people here are amazing and fun to be around. The work area is beautiful. I love the jobs that get handed to me. I love the challenges that I come by every once in a while. It feels good to walk into Johnson Gas."

The internship had plenty of learning experiences for Amber. "I loved learning more about CAD. They taught me lots of new things I didn't know, like shortcuts and little tricks to make it easier."  The experience also afforded Amber opportunities to apply problem-solving, communication, and organizational skills in a professional environment. During this experience Amber says "I forced myself to be more organized. When I was more organized it was easier to build upon what I was doing. I think it really helped everyone else  too."

Laura Kowalski-Bliss, Workplace Learning Connection's Internship Coordinator for Benton, Cedar and Jones counties met Amber at a site visit during her internship at Johnson Gas. "Amber had great skills and knowledge from her classes. She just needed practical experience which is what the internship program is meant to provide. It is why internships are so important. Everyone benefits, the student, the company, and the community!" Dan agrees, "This truly was a major win-win!"

Since completing her summer 2015 internship, Johnson Gas has hired Amber as a part-time employee working on small projects from home during the school year. "I love how flexible Johnson Gas has been. It really helps since I am still in high school."

As for the future, Amber, now a senior, says "It did make me start to think about other aspects of engineering. I definitely plan on going to college next year."  Amber says she has narrowed down her college choices but regardless where she lands next fall all agree, her experience with Johnson Gas was a building block for a very bright future!

Are you inspired by Amber's story? Now is the time to act for Fall 2016! Check out our WLC  Partnership.  This story was published in the September 2016 - Work. Learn. Connect. Newsletter from the WLC.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

50 Years of Impact -- Ladies full of laughter

Role Models…

As I think about role models in my life, I realize they have come in all ages, shapes and sizes in my life.  But one consistent theme among the woman role models in my life is their laughter.

When I became employed for Benton Community I worked in the Keystone and Van Horne Elementary buildings.  The two secretaries in those buildings were Darlene DeVries and Marilyn Schlotterbeck.  Even though I worked part-time and was only in their buildings a short amount of time during the week, both of them left a lasting impression on me of the importance of laughter in schools.  No matter what, I could count on both of these ladies to help me find my smile on any given day. 

I spent a little bit more time in Keystone Elementary during my weeks and Marilyn and I became kindred spirits.  We would spend many days after school sharing our life stories and helping each other remember life is full of challenges – but how you respond to those challenges really defines who we become.   Each year, when school pictures were taken, I would give one of my pictures to Marilyn and she’d keep it on her desk.  I hope when she looked at it, she was reminded to smile and laugh everyday a little more.  Marilyn worked for Tim Sanderson and when Mr. Junge transitioned into the building, Marilyn stayed and helped Ryan learn the ropes of working in the elementary setting.   Marilyn has always a person I could count on to make me smile and laugh.  Marilyn worked for the District for a total of 30 years.   I value her and our friendship.

Marilyn and her beautiful smile!

When I moved to the MS/HS as a school counselor, the three building secretaries there continued that sound -- laughter.  Peggy Nelson, Shari Stepanek and Deanne Becker were, and are still, full of laughter.  Recently, I took them to lunch and I laughed so much that my mascara was running down my face.  We even got asked to leave the restaurant because they needed to close after their noon meal!

These three ladies were mothers to twelve children and I soaked up all the parenting knowledge I could gain from them – whether they knew I was listening or not.  Each of them supported and listened to the others as they shared celebrations and concerns about being a mom of “teenagers”.  Our oldest daughter, Katie, was in 8th grade, so I knew their stories may be my stories someday – so I better learn what worked!   All of our children are now adults and doing very well thanks to the parenting lessons shared with each other!

They also loved to be part of practical jokes that happened at the MS/HS.  Some of them included:
  • Cans of cat food opened in drawers of desks
  • Unplugging phone cords so when it rang the other person could not hear or talk
  • Greasing phones
  • Calling in sick on April Fool’s Day and Doug Embray being all of them at once, until he looked at the security camera and saw them all smiling up at him
  • Dressing up for Halloween/Homecoming or any other event that was cause for such an outfit
  • Dead squirrels on desks
  • Air hoses ran into offices and turned on to cause a ruckus
  • Putting pictures on the backside of office doors
  • Secretary Day meal and bill that resulted in one administrator saying “We can’t fire them all!”

If they weren’t participating in the practical joke – they were trying desperately to keep their poker faces on.  They knew that all the staff got along in and outside the classrooms and they were a huge part of that culture and wanted to keep it going.  The one thing they did better than any other three women I’ve ever worked with is support and helped one another.  Or as they said “Laughter was abound, but we stuck up for one another!”

Deanne graduated from BC in 1969 and began working for the school in 1989.  Shari started working for the school in 1990 and Peggy followed in 1993.  Their combined years of commitment to the District and their friendship inspires me today to make sure I am working on keeping relationships and laughter a mainstay at Benton. 
Andy & Deanne Becker and their grandkids
Each of the ladies I’ve written about in this blog post has helped form who I am as a mom, wife and BC employee.   Their influence on me has helped me remember to be someone who loves to have fun and help others smile and laugh each day at work!

Monday, July 11, 2016

50 Years of Benton --- Norem Impact

I’ve never been a science or math head.  I took the minimal amount of math and science in high school to get into UNI back in the early 80’s.  What I am though is someone who has benefited from people who tried to teach me math and science.  One of those people is Dick Norem.  Dick is my former High School Chemistry Teacher and Basketball/Softball Coach.  

When I met with him recently at a local Panera Bakery, I learned so much about him and his family that I didn’t know.  It really made me come away with a renewed sense of there is so much more to an educator than one can learn from being a student in their classroom or athlete on one of their teams.

In his life, he says he has “few regrets and that God has truly blessed us.”  Dick and Patsy were looking for employment after graduating from UNI.  Along with employment, they were also looking for a desk and saw an advertisement for a desk being sold.  When they went to look at it they found themselves at the Associate Pastor’s house from their church in Cedar Falls. The Pastor asked if them if they had ever considered going overseas as a missionary teacher. To make a long story short, they ended up skipping the graduation ceremonies to start packing all their belongings into two 50 gallon barrels to go to Ethiopia.  Dick shared that this was an incredible experience to gain perspective on life.  

Dick and Patsy have continued service trips over the years including going to Mexico 6 times to build houses with the high school youth group from their church. These trips always serve to give kids a better perspective on their own lives as well as the lives of people around them. 

After being in Ethiopia for two years, Patsy got typhoid and they came back home and started their life in Dunkerton.  Dick was looking for a coaching position so he was being particular about where he went and Dunkerton fit the bill the best.  Principal Ed Schank turned out to be a great principal for him to work with in his first years of teaching in the states.  Dick remembers him being behind the teachers 100% and a sports guy.  Dick coached girls track, softball, and was assistant girls BB for 2 years and then head girls BB coach for 3 years for a total of 5 years in Dunkerton. 

When I asked him about what brought him to Benton, he responded, “God” (He is and always has been in control).   He was finishing up his MNS at the University of Idaho through a National Science Foundation Grant.  The US Government at that time paid tuition, books and a small stipend to complete the four summer program.  When offered the opportunity to come and teach and coach at BC he readily accepted the job offer with great anticipation. The coaching position was open due to the resigning of Larry Wiebke so he could assume the position of Activities Director.  Dick said that he inherited a group of very talented girls and a great program. 

That spring Dick was off to Idaho to finish the last summer of his masters program. He and Patsy had 2 little girls at the time, and Patsy was left with the task of selling their house in Dunkerton and buying their house in Van Horne  while taking care of their two small girls.  They paid $10,000 for a mustard colored house inside and out.  Eventually they bought the house north of them and tore it down for a nice yard.  They lived in that house the entire time Dick was teaching at Benton Community – plus two years- 33 years!  

As a student of Mr. Norem’s, I remember he and Mr. Bell as being very close.  They walked or worked out every morning at 6:30 and solved the educational problems that had surfaced the day before.  In many ways Marv and he are as close as brothers.  He told me that he and Mr. Bell experienced very few discipline problems because  the students were usually motivated to learn in their classes.  He and Marv taught many of the same students and they enjoyed sharing their classroom experiences.  He thinks that Benton Community has rock solid core values with the families they serve, as well as the staff.  I also remember that Mr. Norem and his wife sang at many events.  They have beautiful voices.
Patsy & Dick Norem

Here are a few other parts to the Norem story I didn’t know:

    • Dick and Patsy have continued service trips over the years including going to Mexico 6 times to build houses with the high school youth group from their church. These trips always serve to give kids a better perspective on their own lives as well as the lives of people around them.   
    • Dick taught science for 47 years full time and he is still subbing today.  He loves the high school age student and he shares, “they keep him young”
    • Dick and his wife, Patsy, met at Waldorf College.  He graduated from UNI after attending 2 years at Waldorf.  He recently attended his 50th class reunion at Waldorf with 50 other classmates. 
    • Dick coached three sports at at BC:  Girls BB, Assistant Softball and Boy’s golf.  He and Patsy were also sponsors of FCA.  He says, “Kids haven’t changed.  They want structure.”  
    • He left BC because he got a call from Steve Russell (who he went to church with) and he asked if Dick wanted to teach at Cedar Valley Christian.  “During those 9 years it was the greatest place to be.”  He wasn’t looking to leave Benton Community at the time.  “All my life I knew that God was in control.”  “Benton Community was a great place for me all those years and I wouldn’t trade those years either.” 
    • Jay Lieb and Dick take a fishing trip every summer and have been doing that for over 20 years.
    • Dick taught with Steve McGrew for many years.  They both like to experiment with chemistry.  One of their chemistry experiments was a pressure thing that caused a loud reaction, which they planted in the classroom and in the hallway.  He still has the book with the recipe for that “experiment”.
    • Dick’s Chimney sweep is a former student who lived in the house they tore down to gain more of a yard.  This student now owns his own successful business.
    • Dick spent time with one of our former superintendent’s family when their daughter died recently in a tragic car accident.
    • Dick has a brother that was a school counselor, teacher and coach at the high school level. He went on to become a teacher of counselors at the University level.  He is to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at UNI this October.
    Mr. Norem being honored for his service to others

Dick ended our conversation with saying, “I love running into former students no matter where I am.  I always remember the face, not always the name.  Patsy does though.”   People in your life can fade from your memory when you aren’t in contact with them on a consistent basis.  Dick made me feel like there had been no time passed since the last time I spoke with him.  His passion for people and serving others is an inspiration to me.  I may not have been a math or science head, but what I hope he did transfer to me is his faith and ability to share that gift with others.