25 June 2014

My Public School Life

Today was my last official day of school, not just for 2014, but for the rest of my life!  I have given 25 years of my life to educate the students in the great state of Missouri and I have been so grateful for the opportunity to do what I love. 

Selfie outside of my last school
I did my student teaching with Willie Strickland at Lee School in Columbia in 1989.  Mrs. Strickland made me learn the song "We Shall Overcome" before I could start teaching the class!  I loved Mrs. Strickland.  Even though she was a different teacher than I was, she embraced my style and encouraged Dr. Ron Schlimme to hire me when it became apparent that there would be a need for two third grade classrooms at Lee.

I started in Columbia Public Schools in 1989 at Lee Elementary School after graduating from Columbia College with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education.  I taught third grade for three years and then was switched to sixth grade.  I was scared to go to the sixth grade but it probably was one of my most favorite years.  I was the Young Astronaut advisor at Lee and a group of students and I went to Washington, D.C. to participate in a conference.  Lee was an arts integrated school and I loved working with my art teacher and music teacher in my classroom.  I was initiated into Delta Kappa Gamma while teaching in Columbia.

Enlarge to see my first school picture!

In 1993 we moved to Jefferson City and I was hired to teach fourth grade at West School.  I taught fourth grade, fourth/fifth grade and fifth grade while there.  I started a Book Club for teachers with the encouragement of my principal, Marcia Heberle.  The Book Club is still meeting today!  This was my longest run in a single building and I built some wonderful teacher friendships that still last today and family relationships where I had all or nearly all the kids in the family; Kiekhaefers, Wildings, Newmans, and others.  I know I was influential in creating another teacher in one of my students, which is an honor I hold dear to my heart.  During this time I was so fortunate to become a National Board Certified Teacher, a STARR teacher (and became friends for life with my co STARRS), MSTA President (district level), Teacher of the Year finalist and Chair of the Professional Development Committee.  As a teacher I was able to work with DESE on writing for the MAP test in Language Arts and Math, and worked with State Certification on the new teacher certification path.  I was initiated Alpha Delta Kappa education sorority.  I earned my Masters Degree from Lincoln University in 2000 in The Elementary Principalship. This was such a rewarding part of my career.  Working with students, watching them grow, seeing the profession take off!

Such a typical teaching outfit!!  This is at a MSTA conference at the Lake, around 1996
In 2002 I decided to become a principal at South Callaway Schools.  It was a difficult road but I had a wonderful administrative team and met one of my lifelong friends there. It was the first time to supervise support staff and I was so lucky to have such wonderful secretaries and custodians. Those first years as an administrator are very lonely and for someone who was used to collaborating with the great teachers at West, it was very hard to give up.  I was fortunate to have hard working teachers who were dedicated to their students in both buildings.  South Callaway Schools paid for my Educational Specialist degree from Lincoln University where I graduated from in 2007.

Mrs. Steffes as Zero the Hero
2007 opened up an opportunity to become a principal at a larger school district, so I joined up with Moniteau County R-1 Schools.  Such a large staff!  I had such a good time working with an assistant principal and wonderful secretaries!  The teachers were a hard working staff and we made great strides in student achievement.  My dad passed away from cancer during my first year.  In 2009 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the staff was instrumental in helping me recover from several surgeries.  During that year my father-in-law and uncle passed away and in January of 2010 Ashley was diagnosed with Crohns.  Such a difficult time in my personal life!  I was able to begin my doctorate degree in 2010 at Saint Louis University.  My cohort group was a lifesaver and godsend to me during this time.  In 2012 it was time for me to leave California and with this timing, Bob and I decided to pursue looking at life in the St. Louis area.  It had been a life long dream to live in St. Louis and here was the opportunity.

Go Pintos!
I was hired by the Wright City School District in 2012 and served as the principal of East Elementary School, which was a K-1 building.  What a great experience!  Completing my years of service with our youngest students was a joy for me. I finished my doctorate degree and graduated in 2013 with a Educational Leadership degree.  I learned so much while at Wright City:  Balridge Continuous Improvement, Leadership Academy, and superb strategic planning.  I met and worked with a wonderful support staff and hard working and dedicated teachers.

As I ready to move into a career in Professional Development, I am eager to use my knowledge and expertise in helping those in Missouri see what dedicated teachers can do when given the tools to be successful in the classroom.  I am looking forward to serving the University of Missouri and the Heart of Missouri Regional Professional Development Center doing just that.

18 June 2014

Our 37th Anniversary Celebration

For a couple who regularly dines out, it was quite the conversation to choose a restaurant for our anniversary.  One of the very reasons we chose to move to St. Louis was the variety of opportunities for fine dining.  One restaurant was on our list that we hadn't yet tried, and that was Tony's.

Tony's is that restaurant that still has a dress code, but doesn't have to enforce it... you WANT to dress up when you come here.  That's probably one of the reasons we hadn't ventured out to it, we wanted to save it for a special occasion.  It reminds me some of the Gaslight in Macon, for those of you who read my blog and remember this fine dining establishment that was so popular.  It is where Bob and I held our rehearsal dinner.  Loved that place!

We are seated quickly and served a beautiful bread tray immediately.  We are introduced to our table captain, who I believe was Bruce. He got us both a cocktail and took our order for appetizers.  We decided to try squash blossoms stuffed with cheese and batter dipped and fried.  We also had a bit of pate.  A nice suggestion and very tasty.  The squash blossoms were served over a leafy green salad.

We ordered dinner and here's where things got fun.  Tony's does tableside service for nearly every food dish.  We watched salads being made, soups heated, meat dishes assembled... it was fun!  Time flew by as we watched our neighbors being served.  Bob ordered the Dover sole, and it came to our table by our waiter who heated the fish and deboned it while we watched.  Deboning a filet of fish is difficult but our waiter made it look like a ballet!  So talented!  I ordered a lobster dish that required him to make a cream sauce at our table.  It was so beautiful and the garlic, butter and cream melted together and the aroma!  The fettucine on my dish was house made and delicious.

As we were waiting on dessert, one of the owners, Vince Bommarito, came over and greeted us and wished us a happy anniversary.  He came back at different times and when he learned it was our first visit, he dropped his card on our table and told us to come back. 

We ordered dessert, a chocolate cake with homemade banana ice cream on the recommendation of our server (note:  Table Captain, Waiter and a Server).  Fabulous!!  Then a piece of cake comes to us from Vince to wish us a happy anniversary.  We were over-the-top full so it was boxed up for us to take home.

Wonderful experience, fabulous food, attentive table staff, charming Vince, and when we came out, the trees were sparkling with lights.  A perfect, romantic dinner for the two of us.

04 June 2014

Bucket List Check Off-Alaska Cruise!

Sometimes things don't turn out the way you think they will.  I have dreamed about going on a cruise to Alaska for some time, probably ten or more years, and I added it to my Bucket List so that I would really try to make it happen!

Ashley had a proposal accepted for presentation at a conference and the location?  Anchorage, Alaska!  I hemmed and hawed about going, the timing wasn't great and it wasn't really what I wanted, but I was getting hints that perhaps I should take her up on the offer to go and see some of Alaska.  At first it was just Ashley and me but later on Bob learned he could take some vacation days.  Eric was just at the beginning of his summer internship, so he couldn't go.

The airplane ride was hard!  To Phoenix and then to Anchorage and reverse on the way home.  We had fun as usual, being silly.

As usual, Bob planned our meals and found some wonderful places for us to eat.  Most are posted on Facebook so I won't go about posting those here.  My job was entertainment.  Since Ashley had to work and present at the conference, I planned cultural activities in the afternoons when she was off.  We visited the Anchorage Cultural Center and the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge Center.  Both were amazing places that we loved.  The Refuge Center works with rescued animals and gives them a home if they cannot be reintroduced to the wild.  We saw bear, moose, elk, caribou, buffalo, fox, owls and much more.

Ok, so maybe a spa day isn't cultural but it is sure fun!
 The final day we went on a day long cruise into Prince William Sound to look at glaciers.  What a magnificent trip.  The views were stunning.  Interestingly enough, it satisfied my urge to go to Alaska, and now Ashley and Bob want to do a full on cruise with Eric.  Of course, I won't say no!