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Introducing RE@L EdTech “Teachers Corner” With Two Experienced STEM Teachers: Jackie and Todd LaFrenz Who Share Some Powerful School Startup Ideas!

by | Aug 20, 2018 | RE@L StudentCorner | 0 comments

RE@L logo_Corp_TM_New Tag_8-15-17_CMYK    RE@L is thrilled to welcome two, new STEM-based teachers, Jackie and Todd LaFrenz, to our RE@L Teachers Corner…Hangout…Watering Hole…Whatever you want to call the place for sharing big ideas!

This new Corner is a gathering place where any teacher can go and read about ideas to help more kids learn more.


JackieSchoolvideo-300x198Throughout the school year these two experienced teachers, and others, we hope, will serve as periodic bloggers willing to share what they know. Both teachers have over 20 years of teaching experience.

In 20+ years, good teachers can often learn to walk on water….because, by then they know where the stones are. They know about both state and national standards; they know field-based and cross-curricular learning; they have created their own curriculum that addresses standards while motivating kids to explore real-world, relevant, hands-on, “place-based” projects.

UnknownThe concept of “place-based” also addresses the environment in which learners live. See the graphic to the left.

Here’s a short quote from Todd’s bio:

“Students must be allowed and expected to explore, ask questions, and make mistakes. Students need to sit less and do more. Since information is so readily available, students need more opportunities to use data, be creative and to collaborate. Schools should enhance a student’s natural desire to learn.”

PowellButte-School-300x175Here’s Jackie’s summary:  “The challenge today is to work effectively within our established and historically very traditional educational system to create meaningful change. I believe students need choices and that as a teacher we must remember it is all about today’s 3 Rs-relationships, relevancy, and keeping it real!

front_of_school-300x211Todd offers this in closing: “Teaching is becoming so much more about the skills learned rather than the content.  Students can access information all around them, they need to learn how to apply it.”

And, here’s Jackie’s salutary send-off to all those brave and committed teachers out there. Read on!

     “As a new school year approaches, teachers everywhere are making the transition from schedule free summer days back to the daily routine of classroom life. Preparation always includes meetings, schedules, curriculum planning, tech prep and the physical arrangement of classroom furniture and supplies. Undoubtable, these are all needed and important tasks to complete. However, teacher in-service time is rarely spent planning for the most important role a teacher has: building a positive classroom culture.

In the words of James Corner, “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.” The goal of every teacher is to make a difference in the lives of young people. Here are some tips to help build relationships and the ultimate learning environment from day one.

Unknown#1. Play. When people play they share, interact and trust. You will learn more about yourself, your students and your community by playing together than you could in a year of conversation. Start the school year with time with lots of play. Take your students outside when possible. Choose activities in which no one wins or loses or sits out. Facilitate short and sweet team building activities and longer, more challenging ones. Let the students choose how to play and let students create play activities. Creatively group people in different ways and permanently eliminate students self-selecting partners or activities that encourage boys vs. girls. Play with your students. Let the sheer joy of play be an important objective and continue to plan time to play all school year.

Unknown-1#2. Trust. Trust that you are a capable teacher and trust that each student was meant to work with you. Have high expectations and trust that your students want to learn. Trust that they want to make appropriate academic, social and behavior choices. Discuss school and class responsibilities vs. listing rules. Provide and model communication and problem-solving skills. Repeat and review simple positive “I think/feel/ wonder…” statements all year long. Trust students to design classroom systems, rubrics, and goals.  Trust them to reflect and adjust when things are not working well. Trust that giving students A LOT of genuine, specific, personalized and positive feedback does make a difference.

images#3. Love. Love teaching- love the challenges, love the successes, love the people, love the busy work, and most of all love yourself for all you do. Find good in all people and situations. Love the school experience. Teachers have an endless to do list. If it was easy, everybody would do it. Love your students, love their families, love your co-workers, love your administrators. Love the students who are the hardest to love the most. Your job is to guide and inspire, but most important, your job is to love and care.

images-1#4. Learn. Teaching, like learning is not boring. Sometimes it flows free and easy, and sometimes it is painful and hard. Either way, learning helps people evolve, think and grow. Never stop learning. Sign up for as many and as varied professional development opportunities as you can find. Try new teaching strategies, activities, and technology. Watch your peers and learn from their gifts. Have a teacher buddy you can share, vent and cry with. Be prepared and plan engaging, fun activities to help your students practice and learn. Take your students into the community and learn from local experts. Model for your students how to reflect, how to give and take feedback, and how to be appreciative. Publicly celebrate the little learning moments as well as the great big ones.”


RE@L believes those four reminders of “Play, Trust, Love and Learn” can help every teacher and the students they teach form a life-long and, as James Corner said, “significant relationship.”

PS: Here a link from Todd and Jackie that tells more about their place-based, hands-on learning:

Screenshot 2018-08-12 13.57.04

•   Trout Creek Restoration Project – Forest Service Video w/Powell Butte Community Charter School: Click here.

Thank you, Jackie and Todd! RE@L believes Jackie’s 4 Reminders above will be helpful to the many teachers who are getting ready to teach again. Teachers out there: “Give it a try!”

If you have some good tips, please pass them on by clicking on “Comments” below.

It’s almost impossible to change a country’s K12 schooling, and the same is true for a state, or a school district, or even a school. We know. We tried tooBut one thing you can change for the better is YOUR own classroom. How? You can plan real-world lessons with students. Invite them into the planning. They will feel a greater ownership of the lesson.

You can also add a “Team-Room” concept  to your classroom instruction, a place where students work together toward a learning goal, a place where each bring their talents and interests, a learning place like a real-world work place…..a learning environment where ideas and interests can introduce future careers and jobs to girls and boys.

Our new world needs these students, and it needs YOU as teachers to help make more success happen.

So, Happy New School Year to all. As teachers, you all have another chance to make it even better.

Greet those students with a smile on your face. Try some of these new ideas you read here, and watch your students leave your class next year with an abundance of smiles on theirs!


Randy Nelson & Dale LaFrenz


/// Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L, Inc and one of the founders of MECC, Inc - the Minnesota company that brought “Oregon Trail” and more than a hundred products to millions of K12 students across the world. HIs RE@L Inc continues to serve K12 as a LearningProduct "launching pad" for schools, online learning and the rapidly growing STEM market. /// Randy Nelson recently joined RE@L as a BlogMeister and Director of Education for RE@L's new STEM-based LearningProducts. Randy has long been an advocate for more positive, effective changes in K-12 teaching and learning, from his teaching days to his former career as a Superintendent who positively reformed the school district of LaCrosse Wisconsin.w