• Agriculture Education Moves Forward in Maquoketa, Iowa

    Today you’re meeting a former student of mine, Cassie Miller, and her colleague Matt Lansing from Maquoketa high school. Initially, I asked for this interview because I read a recent facebook post from Cassie’s singing the praises of their FFA alumni and the construction progress made on their new Ag learning center, but as the interview went on, I was blown-away, really, by the level of support and opportunity these two educators provide their students. Maquoketa High school is in eastern Iowa, approximately halfway between Dubuque to the north and Davenport to the South. The high school has just 620 students in 9-12th grade. The town itself is under 6k people. It’s a small, rural school, and yet…they move forward. This is a rural community with driven educators who have devoted time to create a robust agricultural education and FFA program, and their FFA Alumni not only share the same drive, but push to make it happen.

    Maquoketa Ag Learning Center Floor Plan
    Maquoketa FFA Ag Learning Center – January 2021

    Click here for an excellent news segment celebrating the development of the Ag Learning Center.

    You an also follow Maquoketa FFA on Facebook by clicking here and the Maquoketa FFA Alumni by clicking here.

    Cassie Miller: cmiller@maquoketaschools.org
    Matt Lansing: mlansing@maquoketaschools.org

    Education in the Driftless Region offers a host of opportunity. This story is a prime example of educators who work hard, provide opportunity, and inspire community support. Maquoketa, Iowa — what a proud, agricultural community!

  • Transition Plus & Culver’s = an Impactful Partnership – PRTP10

    Today you’re meeting three wonderful people who have developed opportunities for students in the Baraboo school district for over the 15 years as part of a program called Transition Plus. Just to give you geographical context, Baraboo is 15 minutes south of Wisconsin Dells. In a nutshell, the Transition Plus program provides services to students with educational disabilities and transition needs in post-secondary education, training, employment, and independent living to promote a successful transition from high school to adult life. Students are paired with businesses to learn new skills, make community connections, and earn income. One of the partnerships happens to be a Wisconsin icon in the restaurant industry. If you thought “I bet that’s Culvers,” you were right. Today you’re meeting Shelley Mordini and Kathy Tuttle. Shelley and Kathy began this journey 15 years ago. Shelley continues the program today. You’re also meeting Tanya Sulik, general manager with the Culver’s restaurant in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Shelley and Tanya received the 2019 Baraboo Education Association’s School Bell Award for their work as part of the Transition Plus program.

    If you’d like to learn more about Baraboo’s Transition Plus program, email Shelley Mordini (smordini@barabooschools.net). To learn more about Culver’s visit https://www.culvers.com/. Be sure to click on “stories” to learn about how they support their communities and the farming industry.

  • Creating Opportunity and Sharing Joy through Music in Viroqua, Wisconsin — PRTP9

    This episode of the Proud Rural Teacher Podcast is part of the Stories from the Driftless Series, a series dedicated to telling the digital stories of the teachers in the Driftless Region. The series is made possible thanks to a grant from the Rural Schools Collaborative. The grant is part of RSC’s I am a Rural Teacher campaign, a national advocacy effort that is supported by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  

    Today we are talking about opportunity, community support, and the love of music in the Viroqua school district. Set in the heart of Wisconsin’s Driftless Region, the district is 25 miles Southeast of LaCrosse, with a student population just under 1200. Today you’re meeting Brad Thew, the MS/HS band director and music educator of 35 years. In this episode, he’ll share with you how he turned challenges into unique opportunities to create impactful moments for both his students and the community.  I hope as you listen, you’ll feel a sense of inspiration as we move into the second semester. 

    Watch the performances 👇👇👇

    VHS Marching Band Tailgate Party 2020 with High Mileage (Vernon County Broadcaster news article, October 13, 2020)

    VHS Marching Band playing at the Vernon Memorial Hospital (Vernon County Broadcaster news article, November 5, 2020)

    VHS Marching Band playing at a local senior care facility

    Additional moments of opportunity not mentioned in the podcast audio: “Coffee, Camaraderie and Keys”  features student & local musicians playing a short 30 minute concert at the start of each Wednesday (Viroqua’s staff only days). What a lovely way to begin a hectic day and show the value of Music Education!


    If you have questions, you can contact Brad at bthew@viroquablackhawk.org and/or follow him on Twitter @digitalbaton.

    You can also like the program on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ViroquaBands/

  • The Proud Rural Teacher Podcast Receives a Grant from the Rural Schools Collaborative – PRTP8

    Grant will help share Driftless area teachers’ stories nationwide

    PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Platteville School of Education recently received a grant from the Rural Schools Collaborative (RSC), a national nonprofit committed to strengthening the bonds between schools and communities. The grant is part of RSC’s I am a Rural Teacher campaign, a national advocacy effort that is supported by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

    The grant will support a collaboration between the RSC and the School of Education that will expand the Proud Rural Teacher podcast – created by Jessica Brogley, a lecturer in the School of Education – giving it a national audience.

    “The podcast initially started as a platform for us to share our initiatives, connect ideas related to rural living and education, and gather stories of teaching in rural areas, as a means of providing direction, resources, and inspiration for others who are just like us,” said Brogley.

    The podcast caught the attention of Gary Funk, executive director of the RSC, who found it to be a good fit for the I am a Rural Teacher campaign, which shares stories from rural teachers across the country. Collaborating with the RSC, Brogley will produce the Proud Rural Teacher Podcast: Stories from the Driftless, a special series from now until summer, that will celebrate the stories of educators in the Driftless region of Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota.

    “We’re offering a platform for teachers in the Driftless region to share their stories of success, challenge, creative problem solving and, really, their passion for education in our rural communities,” said Brogley. “There is something very unifying in

    Proud Rural Teacher podcast host, Jessica Brogley.

    storytelling; it can create a shared experience that provides definition, awareness and inspiration. It’s important to celebrate the uniqueness of where we live and the work teachers do in those places. I’m thankful that we have this opportunity to facilitate the storytelling that represents education in the Driftless region.

    According to Funk, a goal of the I am a Rural Teacher campaign is to strengthen the capacity of partners to share their rural teacher stories, in different parts of the country. Soon the Driftless region will be among other partners’ stories – from the Missouri Ozarks to New England, Appalachia, the Alabama Black Belt region and more.

    “UW-Platteville’s presence in the Driftless region and history of working with students in rural communities, who then go back and serve as teachers in small towns is a great match for us,” said Funk. “I think the School of Education colleagues have a real focus on the importance of place and are doing activities that really tell the stories of folks – like the podcast – and those really align nicely with our mission and what we are trying to accomplish.”

    With approximately 80% of School of Education graduates teaching in rural places, UW-Platteville is well poised for this partnership, said Dr. Jennifer Collins, director of the School of Education.

    “It’s so cool to think that here in Southwest Wisconsin, there is such an opportunity for us to have our stories shared nationally,” said Collins. “There is real value in hearing our stories, just like everyone else’s stories. Particularly now, it’s important that we demonstrate that we value those voices and they have meaning and impact. It is so exciting.”

    Written by: Alison Parkins, associate director of Public Relations, UW-Platteville, parkinsal@uwplatt.edu

  • Capture Those Farming Stories – PRTP7

    Staying current with last week’s theme of digital storytelling, I wanted to share with you another example of the importance of recording our history. As part of a class assignment, one of my students, Jalen Schmitz, chose to learn how to use Soundtrap to record an interview with his grandfather about his time as a farmer in Lancaster in Southwest Wisconsin. It’s such a nice example of how we can leverage technology to facilitate conversation and capture a piece of our rural heritage. I’m hoping you’ll feel inspired by Jalen’s work and interview someone who has a story to tell.

    Google Meet allows you to record conversations when you can’t meet in person. In a nutshell, you’ll start your own meeting and click “add people.” From there you can add by email or by phone number, as Jalen did. Just warn your guest that their caller id will say “Google Meet” and not your name. 🙂 After they’ve joined the call, click the three dots in the bottom right corner and click record. Once you’re done, stop the recording and hangup. The file will arrive in your Google Drive account and you’ll be notified via email.

    Soundtrap allows you to edit the recorded conversation. For example, if there was downtime or disruptions, you can clip all of those out. You can also add in background music or sound effects.

  • Stories from the One Room Schoolhouse Days – PRTP6

    Bloomfield School, Wisconsin State Historical Society

    For the first half of the 20th century, if you were a kid in Southwest Wisconsin, you attended a one-room school. K-8, one room, one teacher. You walked miles to school throughout the seasons, and spent a tremendous amount of time with the same group of people. In Grant County, by 1912, we had 201 one-room schoolhouses, but by the end of the WWII, schools began consolidating. By 1950, most were gone. Today, some have been converted into homes, but many have been lost. Something though, that hasn’t are the stories. Today you’ll meet a dear friend of mine, Ron Weier of Platteville Wisconsin, who attended the Bloomfield school in the mid to late 50s. Bloomfield was centrally placed between Mineral Point and Dodgeville and served about 10 families. This type of school was pretty representative for our area. Part of our rural spirit, rests in capturing, understanding, and appreciating where we’ve come from. Enjoy today’s chat — it’s part of our history.

    You can read more about Grant County Rural Schools at the Wisconsin State Historical Society Website. There are lots of photographs too!

    Someday be sure to visit the Southwest Wisconsin Room at UW-Platteville where you can enjoy amazing resources about our local history.

  • “Funding Opportunities Through the Rural Schools Collaborative — PRTP5

    In this episode you’ll meet Gary Funk, Director of the Rural School Collaborative. The RSC’s mission is “to build sustainable rural communities through a keen focus on place, teachers, and philanthropy.”

    In this conversation we are focusing on two funding and support opportunities for educators — the National Signature Project Award and the Grants in Place Fellows Program

    To learn more about the RSC, visit their website at https://ruralschoolscollaborative.org/.

  • An Interview with Laurie Heimsoth: 5th Grade Teacher from Mineral Point Elementary — PRTP4

    Today’s podcast episode features Laurie Heimsoth, a 5th grader teacher at Mineral Point Elementary in Southwest Wisconsin. Laurie, like many teachers, has moved her class to remote learning at home. Mineral Point is considered a rural area where not all kids have access, but Laurie has done a great job preparing her crew for this change in environment. Listen to hear how she is making the transition. 🙂

    Laurie’s email: laurie.heimsoth@mp.k12.wi.us

  • Why Learning About Our Rural Heritage Matters: An Interview with Jerry Apps — PRTP3

    In this podcast episode you’ll meet Jerry Apps, Wisconsin author, speaker, and storyteller on Wisconsin history, agriculture, and our rural heritage. Over the years, I’ve read his books, blog posts, and I’ve been able to hear him speak. I’m always left feeling a sense of gratitude for rural Southwest Wisconsin. His words are important to share because it reminds us that where we live…matters, and we should be fostering that narrative. As you listen to this episode, I am hoping that you’ll be able to gather some ideas of how you can facilitate learning about our past, our culture, and our rural heritage so the next generation can also feel that sense of gratitude and pride.

    Information about the work of Jerry Apps:
    https://www.jerryapps.com/

    Tools for recording oral histories:
    https://www.soundtrap.com/ https://www.wevideo.com/ https://web.seesaw.me/ (for elementary students)

    Resources to get started in 4h, county fairs, and Wisconsin Dairy Breakfast events:
    https://4-h.org/
    https://4h.extension.wisc.edu/ (4h in Wisconsin, specifically)
    https://www.wifairs.com/
    https://hooraywisconsindairy.com/

    Resources to start a school garden:
    https://wischoolgardens.org/

    Resources to teach Agriculture (k-12):
    https://www.agclassroom.org/

  • Recruitment & Retention Pays Early Dividends — PRTP2

    This fall our School of Education has developed a new position called “Recruitment & Retention Specialist.” For a small School of Education in a rural area, this type of investment is important as we strive to support our students through their undergraduate career and encourage incoming freshman to consider education as a career. Kayla Murphy joined the school of education this fall to lead the charge. Listen to discover how Kayla has developed programming, redesigned a student center, collaborated on cross-departmental outreach, and increased prospective student traffic as our students prepare for entering teaching in rural areas. Kayla’s Email: murphykay@uwplatt.edu