Monday, December 19, 2016

Read everyday

I have always been a reader.  My grandmother made great burnt chocolate chip cookies and told us to learn something new everyday.  Much of my learning has come from reading, while enjoying chocolate chip cookies.

In the house I grew up in, my favorite to place to read was in our bay window that faced the south and was covered by a heavy full curtain.  This curtain served two purposes:  keeping out the cold and if you were on the bay side of the window, helped dim some of the noise from the other side of the curtain in a house full of nine other children.

Picture Source

Just last week I was sharing with some of my peers the title of a book my mom gave me for 1st Communion.  At the time I was not quite sure why she chose this book, but at 53 I'm finally figuring it out!  (I'm still a work in progress:)

Picture Source

As the holiday break is approaching --one thing we hope is on everyone's list of things to do is finding time for reading.  I've asked Patrice, our local librarian, to order some books I heard about on IPR for me to read over break.  

Atkins Elementary is doing a marshmallow challenge to encourage reading.

Why is it so important to read everyday?  Andrea Townsley, one of our Teacher Leaders here at BC, shared this graphic on one of her blog entries to highlight the importance of if we want to be better readers, we need to read.

Importance of reading source
So what will you do over the holiday break.  We hope you take at least 20 minutes everyday to read.  Everyday!  And, if you want to make it even more enjoyable, find some chocolate chip cookies and a bay window!

Friday, December 9, 2016


This past week on Iowa Public Radio there was a story about gratitude.

As we think about what we have to be grateful for.  One thing I think about is my warm boots that are on my feet as I type this.  My tooties are so grateful to be warm when it is only 5 degrees outside.

With the cold weather now upon us snow pants, snow boots & shoes are needed at each of our Elementary Centers. If you have any filling up space in your closets or want to purchase new -- any of our Elementary Centers would appreciate donations. They would also appreciate your sharing this message with our families and service organizations within our District.

Thank you to our community for being gracious and sharing what you can with our students and families.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sharing thanks...

Thanksgiving.  What a special time for each of us to reflect on all the blessings bestowed upon us.


  • a daughter of 2 truly amazing parents
  • a sister of 10 "I love to spend time with them" siblings
  • a niece of 8 tremendous role-models
  • a wife of the best man around
  • a sister-in-law to 11 crazy out-laws
  • a mother of 3 beautiful (inside and out) women
  • a mother-in-law of 2 very special additions to our family
  • an aunt of 28 fantastic nieces and nephews
  • a great aunt of 15 (3 more on the way in 2017)
  • a grandmother of 5 beautiful human beings
makes me so thankful.  

Bridgewater Family Fun 2016

Prusha Family Summer 2016
One way we keep in touch as a family is with technology.  We've create google docs to help figure out who is bring what food items to our family gatherings.  We email and text each other to ask for help and provide support/information.  We also frequently FaceTime.  When our parents go south for the winter, FaceTime provides a connection to the winter they are experiencing vs. what we are enjoying in Iowa.  Teaching our parents how to FaceTime was a similar experience to the video linked below.  Even though these are not my parents in this video, I'm thankful video's like these are out there to make us laugh. 
Click here to view this video
Last night as we FaceTimed with our grandchildren, they shared how they have been using the Osmo to create extraordinary images.  Below is a link to one of their impressive pieces of art they shared with us:
Click here to view the video of their creation
After making the list above and thinking about other blessings in my life, I am also incredibly blessed to to serve the staff and families of @BentonCSD.  I have the opportunity to work with people who believe in giving their best everyday to the students and the community they have the pleasure of working with and for.   
Veteran's Day Celebration 2016
For all who make our world a better place today and tomorrow, I am forever grateful. 

Picture source

Friday, November 18, 2016

BC Learning Update


We are trying a new format for our BC Learning Update. Below is a snapshot of the information -- to get the the active link to this information -- click here.  Then you can access all the items linked within this update:)

Happy Weekend!

As always, if I can be of support in anyway, please let me know.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Workplace Learning Connection Nov. 2016 Update

Find out more about the Workplace Learning Connection here or contact our Benton Community Guidance Office.

Veteran's Day 2016

Goosebumps.  Tears,  Smiles.  Hugs.  Pride.

I got to experience all of those things today in one short inspirational hour.  There are moments in our lives that go much to fast and we hope we never forget.  This morning was full of those moments for me.

Here's a few snapshots to share a small part of what I want to remember:

Benton FFA  raises $1,400 for Benton Co. Vets

Maya Sahu & Alyssa Ellis share thanks to Veterans (past, present and future)

3rd Graders share their Honor Flight Service Project

Jacob Allen (2012 BC grad) stands to be recognized as a Veteran

Eldon Bridgewater (my father) stands to be recognized as a Veteran

BC Elementary choir (725+ strong) sing "God Bless America"

Celebrating Veteran's Day 2016 with my parents.

I am blessed.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to every Veteran, and their families, for continuing to make moments like this possible.  

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Recruitment of Officials Challenge

I’m challenging all Athletic Directors and all registered officials to help out in the recruitment of new officials.  We all need to do our little part, so that we can increase the pool of officials in Iowa and surrounding states.  It will help all of us as we move forward.  There aren’t any special prizes or awards, just the satisfaction of knowing that we are doing our part to help solve a problem!

The challenge is for every Athletic Director and every registered official in Iowa to recruit just one person to become a registered official with the IHSAA or IGHSAU by April 30, 2017.  If we accomplish that task over the next 6 months, we’ll double our workforce and then we will face the challenge of keeping the new officials registered and working games.  Please accept this challenge and go out and recruit one new person to register to become an officialLinked here is a document you can print or share with your prospective official.

This new recruit might be a student in your school, it might be a neighbor down the street, it might be a fan in the bleachers.  Think about someone who can interpret and apply rules, has poise and strong communication skills, enjoys athletics and working with young people, and wants to be physically active.  If you know such a person, consider asking them to register to become an official.

Take the challenge and help recruit an official.  If you are successful, please email me ( the name of the new official you have recruited.  I’d like to recognize our ADs and officials who got the job done!

Benton Community Activities Director Rob Arnold shares "We have a lot of lower level activities that we could use officials for.  This is a great way to stay connected to our youth and help out in a much needed area.  If anyone has questions or interest feel free to contact me at 319-228-8701 ext. 352." 
The Book Fair is Coming!!! 

The Fall Scholastic Book Fair will be held in the Benton Community IMC from Monday 11/14 through Friday 11/18/2016.  

Click here for more info

Be sure to stop down and check out the great selection of books available for purchase.  The book fair will be open during Parent-Teacher conferences on 11/16/16.  Once again 50 Lucky People will have the opportunity to win a $5 Gift Certificate for use at the Book Fair.  

Simply stop by the IMC, print your name on a ticket, and place it in the box – one entry per person please.  It’s that easy!!!  All students, teachers, and support staff are eligible to enter.  

Ten winners will be drawn daily starting on 11/9.  Winning names will be posted in the Daily Announcements.  Remember: You can’t win if you don’t enter!!!

If you have questions -- please contact Mr. Leonard: or 319-228-8701 ext. 311.

FFA Breakfast to benefit Veteran's Nov. 6, 2016


The Benton Community FFA Chapter will be hosting a Veterans Benefit Breakfast on Sunday, November 6th at the Van Horne Community Center from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  

The breakfast will consist of pancakes, eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, milk, juice, and coffee.  The cost of this breakfast is a free will donation.  All proceeds will go to the Benton County Veterans Assistance Program.  

The Benton County Assistance Program provides assistance to veterans and their families in filing applications for service, connected disability, compensation, non service connected pension, claims for aid and attendance/household status, serving spouse pension and other federal and state benefits. They also provide short term assistance to veterans and dependents who need help with rent and utility payments, food and provisions, prescription medications, and transportation assistance.  

Please come join the Benton Community FFA and enjoy a great breakfast while raising money for the men and women who have fought for our freedom!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Learn to be a better grant writer

Learn to be a Better Grant Writer at Grant Writing Workshop

Tuesday, November 15
6:30 p.m.
Cost: $10 / person
Van Horne Community Center
115 Main St
Van Horne, IA 52346

Please join the Benton County Community Foundation and Benton Development Group for a grant writing workshop. Workshop speaker Katherine Ollendieck has fourteen years of grant writing experience and has helped secure more than $21 million in grants for Iowa projects. Her workshop is a great opportunity to get clear and concise information about grant writing and learn how to identify additional grant opportunities to energize your project.
For your participation, you will also receive two hours of free one-on-one consulting with an experienced grant writing professional at your location to be schedule after this event.

Workshop Overview
  • Discussion on: Eligibility, Application Requirements, Deadlines, and Reviewing Application Guidelines 
  • Overview of a Project Budget: Project Costs and Funding Sources
  • Keys to Preparing A Grant Application
    • Project Summary/Executive Summary
    • Determining Impact and Providing Sources
    • Demonstrating Need and Sustainability
Click here to RSVP by November 9, or contact Emily Upah, Executive Director of Benton Development Group, at 319-472-5545 or A link for online payment can be found on the online RSVP form.
A message from speaker Katherine Ollendieck
"I believe strongly in Iowa's ability to develop economic resources and offer citizens an excellent quality of life.  I have had the opportunity to work closely with many Iowa communities to prepare high quality, comprehensive and concise grant applications.  I am proud of my partnerships; it is a privilege to work with citizens who are making a difference for Iowa."
Benton County Community Foundation | 319-287-9106 |

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Chab Eby Quartet & Giving back

A very special concert took place on Wednesday, October 26th in the MS/HS Auditorium!  

Check out our Benton Community on Facebook page for more details or the twitter account 

Chad Eby, a Benton Community 1991 graduate, and his professional jazz quartet performed in concert at 7:00 p.m.  Chad is a Saxophone Professor and Professor of Jazz at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Chad grew up in Newhall and he is very proud of his Benton Community roots. 

Chad and his quartet are in the state of Iowa doing concerts at Drake University and Luther College, and included Benton Community as an additional stop for a concert and oh so much more!   Not only did we get to hear the Chad Eby Quartet, we were also treated to a few numbers where our First Street Jazz Ensemble, directed by Dr. Brad Williamson, accompanied Chad and Brandon Lee.

Benton Community First Street Jazz Ensemble with Chad Eby Quartet

Chad Eby Quartet -- photo courtesy of  L.J. Schneekloth

The hook for me to attend, because I didn't have the pleasure of knowing Chad as a student and his legacy, was Chad is a Benton Community graduate and he and his quartet were taking time not only to perform, but to share their talents with our students.  When people are willing to help our students -- I'm all in!

During the Quartet performance, it was incredibly gratifying to notice the typical boundaries between the performers and the audience were non-existence.  Chad worked the room the entire performance and mentioned members of the audience by name -- even making sure he was making his mom and former principal @GZittergruen and teacher's @LoisDeerberg and @dnottger proud.  Chad's remarks from the stage were frequent, supportive and funny and helped share the story of his music and the bands talents.  There was an admirable balance between the ensemble playing and solos, and each member of the quartet had opportunity to shine and share with all of us their talents. 

Chad Eby Website
I've shared before how proud I am of being a Benton Community alumni.  Last night was another shining example of what Benton Community is all about - planting seeds to trees we may never sit under.  Last night our community was blessed to sit and enjoy the produce that Chad Eby and his quartet have grown.  

Chad, thank you for being willing to inspire our current students to make the most of the incredibly opportunities to come.  Also, please be sure to thank the members of your quartet for making an investment in our community and more importantly our students.

Dr. Williamson -- thank you for believing in the power of your leadership and students to rock this one out of the park!

Monday, October 24, 2016

P-T Conference On-Line Sign Up


We are using an on-line system for scheduling our elementary conferences in November.  You should have received a full sheet note that had a sticker on it with a web link, as well as your individual parent password for signing up for conferences.

We are very excited about this P-T conference sign up to make it more convenient for you as parents to sign up for conferences.

If you have any questions or need to have your password resent please email your building principal or call the school building.

Keystone: or call the office at 319-442-3221
Atkins: or call the office at 319-446-7525
Norway: or call the office at 319-227-7142

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Alerts for changes in our school day

This is to notify you that Iowa School Alerts, the free e-mail and text message notification service provided by the State of Iowa has changed vendors to GovDelivery. If you are interested in this subscription based notification system you will need to access the following link to establish a NEW account. 

The Benton Community School District will continue to use Alert Solution through Power School as the primary means for important notifications to students, staff, and parents. This notification system is not subscription based and patrons do not need to establish an account -- but you might want to call your child's building secretary to verify we have your correct email address. 

Transfer in Iowa web portal

Iowa's Regent universities and community colleges have joined a partnership to create a web portal to assist students with the transfer process.  This site serves as a resource for students as they navigate educational opportunities.

The purpose of this website is to provide resources to students that may be helpful in educational planning.  The portal contains explanations of articulation agreements, either within the state or from program-to-program within community colleges.  These resources help develop transition plans for students who are currently in PK-12 systems and those that are interested or currently attending a community college or Regent university.

Currently, students, at Benton Community High School, have the opportunity to take courses that are offered for college and high school credit (check pages 48-54 of our 2016-17 Course Book). If you'd like more information about these options -- please see either Natalie Nesbitt or Aaron Cretin in the Guidance Office at the Middle/High School.

Makerspace at Benton Community

We also have a Makerspace Room in Keystone Elementary and a STEAM Room in Norway Elementary.  Each of these spaces has the same purpose -- to allow students to use their creativity and tinker to foster learning.

Seesaw at BC

Benton Community teachers are finding ways to increase communication between home and school.  One great way to do this and have students involved in the process is utilizing a tool entitled SeeSaw.

This site allows teachers to organize and personalize parent communication and provides a safe place to teach 21st Century skills. Seesaw also allows students to independently document their learning and share it with those their own personalized audience.  It also helps foster communication at home and allows families to have a glimpse of what students learned during the day, so conversations at home can focus around "learning not doing" in school. 

We (Todd and myself) now know we were asking the wrong question around our supper table when our three girls lived at home.  We know now we may of gotten deeper conversations if we'd been asking:

"What did you learn today?" vs. "What did you do today?
Seesaw would of allowed us a cliff note into their days to build conversations around.

We live by the Maya Angelou mantra in our house, "Know better do better".  This type of questioning is something we are doing much better with our grandchildren than we did with our own children.

Jodie Kimm, a Kindergarten teacher at Keystone Elementary, shared with me how she is using this tool in her classroom.  She learned about this option while she attended iPadU 2016.  She has created a site where students can post information and share their learning with their families in real time.

I sincerely appreciate Jodie taking the time out of her day to share how she is using this site to maximize communication with her students and families.  My great nephew is in Jodie's class -- so now when I see him I get a chance to personalize my questions to him based on what he has shared on SeeSaw.  It's awesome to be able to have this type of discussion focusing on "learning" in a Kindergarten classroom.

If you are interested in learning more -- these three links are from our GWAEA Digital Learning Team  and Mindy Carney @TeamCairney  sharing more SeeSaw resources.  Our Grant Wood Digital Learning team is a vital connection for us to continue to learn with and from.  

Socktober at Benton Community

Students at Keystone & Atkins Elementary Centers will be participating in a month-long service project, called Socktober, starting October 3rd. We will be collecting NEW socks of all sizes to donate to Olivet Neighborhood Mission Waypoint Family Services in Cedar Rapids to help people in need. 
Your help is needed to help us reach our goal! Please encourage donors to include a short note stating where the socks are coming from as well as a few words of encouragement. Also, please put a short note in to let the students know where the socks came from. You may send new socks to Keystone Elementary or Atkins Elementary Center!
Keystone Elementary
PO Box 306
Keystone, IA 52249
Atkins Elementary
217 4th Ave
Atkins, IA 52206

Below is a graphic Keystone Elementary used to share with their families.  Both Atkins and Keystone Centers are collecting socks.  This is a great project for our students to learn with and from.  Please consider donating. 

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.