How will you Thank a Teacher?

How will you #ThankATeacher?
Michelle Mueller, Principal of Wisconsin Connections Academy

As a former educator and current administrator, there’s nothing more motivating than seeing students thriving and making connections with their teachers. With Teacher Appreciation Week taking place May 7-11, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to be surrounded by an incredible network of educators who let their dedication and love for teaching shine through every day.

Teachers give so much to students—from a quick boost of confidence to helping understanding a concept that’s causing them trouble—educators are always there. I can think of several occasions where my fellow educators took the time to support me when I needed it. This Teacher Appreciation Week, I encourage you to take a moment to thank your colleagues, past educators and administrators for the commitments and differences they are making, each and every day.

Here are a few ideas to #ThankATeacher this Teacher’s Appreciation Week:

• Share content using the hashtag #ThankATeacher on social media. Have a little fun by sharing photos and stories with the #ThankATeacher hashtag across social media. Many organizations will be hosting contests and other activities, so take some time to join in on the festivities.

• Let teachers know how their teaching connects with students’ lives. Taking a moment to acknowledge how a teacher is impacting a student’s life in a positive way is one of the most meaningful gifts you can give. Simply knowing that you’re making a difference is more valuable than any present could be.

• Get in touch. Whether it’s in person or virtually, take the opportunity to check in and say ‘thanks’ to an educator who has made a difference in your life. This simple action acts as a reminder of how big of an impact teachers make in our lives.

• Take advantage of these fun (and free) resources. The National PTA does a spectacular job of raising awareness and encouraging engagement throughout the week. This year, they’re offering everything from editable teacher appreciation certificates to social media profile graphics.

• Continue showing your thanks. Just because Teacher Appreciation Week ends doesn’t mean the thanks need to stop! We all know the rewarding boost from a quick compliment or a simple hello, so continue the movement throughout the year.

School isn’t just a place for learning, it’s a place for building community. At WCA, teachers are the foundation of our success. Our teachers take care of families, they get to know the learning style, skills, and personalities of our students. We take the time to build relationships with student’s parents. It’s a thrill to have the opportunity to work with families and really get to know them. I recently had a student who graduated four years ago call and say ‘you made a difference in my life’ – and that tells me that we’re doing something right. So please, take a moment to thank a teacher in your life. They deserve it.

Stand4Change Gives Students Hope Against Bullying

By Pam Harlin
Meemic Foundation Director

Let’s get serious … about bullying.
I have many memories of my youth, but the ones that are most vivid are the times when I was bullied. In elementary school in Columbus, Ohio, I recall one particular incident of being followed home from school by a girl and her friends, yelling taunts at me, even standing in front of my house while continuing their hateful comments. The attacks were personal and made me fearful. I felt alone and afraid; my self-image was crushed.
Even as an adult, I can still feel the scars left from those incidents. And I know my story is not unique. Bullying is not a rite of passage. It is wrong, and we can help change this.
With the prevalence of bullying, especially the rapidly growing cyberbullying through social media, it is more important than ever to stand strong with our youth to empower them on the virtues of being kind and respectful to others. We can make a difference.
The Meemic Foundation has partnered with Defeat the Label, a nonprofit organization that is primarily focused on empowering students to take a stand against bullying. One of their premier events is Stand4Change Day. On Friday, May 4, at noon ET, millions of students from around the world stand and take the pledge against bullying. It’s a powerful moment, one that every school across our country should participate in. Registration is simple and free. Visit to sign up today.
For more resources to continue the conversation with your students, please visit
Let’s get serious about bullying … together.

BEEF UP Your Classroom with Two Back-to-School Grant Opportunities!
We’re making back-to-school time mooo-velous for Meemic Foundation Club Members!
Get funding for the 2018-19 school year with our $100 Back-to-School Supplies grant. Use grant funding exclusively through our partnership with! Find out more at

Need new books? Math manipulatives? Microscopes? Art supplies? A special school-wide speaker? Whatever the need, our second quarter Traditional grant provides funding up to $500. Get details at
Not a Meemic Foundation Club Member? It’s free and exclusively available to all school employees. Sign up today at
Applications accepted through June 30, 2018.

Notify your Agent Before Beginning a Remodelling Project

By Meemic Insurance

In the upcoming year, home improvement activity is expected to rise. For those who plan to be a part of this rising number, it is important to have the right type of insurance and the right amount of coverage. Insurance should be in place during and after construction. Anyone considering a remodeling project should contact an agent before the process begins. Many people must alter their coverage or add more. Waiting until the project starts or is finished can be an expensive mistake, so take the following four important steps to avoid an expensive problem.

1. Discuss home improvement plans with an agent. Ask about updating a homeowners policy, and ask whether or not other types of insurance will be needed for protection during the construction process. Only those who are qualified to perform DIY projects should attempt them. People who are not construction workers should not help unless there is sufficient liability coverage for their protection. Many homeowners must raise their no-fault medical protection limit for such workers. For a larger project, it is best to consider a course of construction policy. This covers the home during the building process from weather or theft damages.

2. Make sure the contractor is covered. Before allowing a contractor to start work, ask to see his or her insurance policies. Contractors should carry both workers compensation and commercial general liability insurance. If one of the insured contractor’s workers sustains injuries, that individual will not be able to sue the homeowner. Contractors who are unwilling to provide insurance documents should never be hired.

3. Store all receipts and records. Be sure to take photographs before, during and after the remodeling project. This provides a virtual record of what the property looked like during each phase. Hold on to all contracts from contractors, and be sure to save the receipts for all materials purchased. Keep receipts for any other belongings bought for the home during the project.

4. Update insurance policies after the project. Let an agent know when any home improvements are made. Insurance amounts may need to be increased following a major renovation. All of the records and receipts may need to be copied and sent to the insurance company. This helps them assess needs and assign accurate values for the improvements. An agent will be able to recommend a floater or endorsement for more expensive items. More liability coverage may be needed if a pool or spa was added. An umbrella policy may be the right solution for this situation.

Be sure to ask an agent about discounts. When people install smoke detectors, stronger doors, deadbolt locks or burglar alarms, they may qualify for discounts. Some insurers also offer larger discounts to people who install more sophisticated burglar alarm systems, sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems or other devices. People who update their plumbing, electricity, roof or windows may also qualify for discounts. This is especially true if any energy-saving features were installed. In areas prone to strong storms, shutters, reinforced roofs and shatterproof windows may also result in discounts.

If a remodeling project is the result of a growing family, be sure to consider other insurance changes that may positively benefit a new spouse, baby or adopted child.

Poverty and Trauma are Causing Principals to Rethink How They Lead

William Gillespie, Ph.D. – Director of Educational Leadership
Institute for Professional Studies in Education, UW-La Crosse

People living in poverty suffer the effects of nearly every major societal problem, many of which affect their children’s ability to learn. Families in poverty lack access to health care, living-wage jobs, safe and affordable housing, clean air and water, and so on. These conditions limit their abilities to achieve to their full potential and have a direct effect on their children’s education. For example, compared with their wealthier peers, poor students are more likely to attend schools that have less funding; lower teacher salaries; more limited computer and Internet access; larger class sizes; higher student-to-teacher ratios; a less-rigorous curriculum; and fewer experienced teachers. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (2004) also found that schools with high concentrations of families living in poverty were more likely to suffer from large numbers of teacher vacancies and substitute teachers, more teachers who are not licensed in their subject areas, insufficient or outdated classroom materials, and inadequate or nonexistent learning facilities. All of these economic conditions strain students living in poverty from being able to achieve success in school.
Racial disparity of children living in poverty continues to increase also. The percentage of school age children living in poverty in 2011 who were Black, Hispanic, Indian/Alaska native, Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander and children of two or more races averaged 35% where families living below the poverty threshold that were White or Asian averaged 13%. These statistics are an indication that children are experiencing trauma due to living in poverty at an increasing rate. Trauma in children associated with poverty such as parental job loss, loss of a home, displacement from family and friends, etc. is often causing children to come to school unable and often unwilling to learn. Childhood trauma leading to stress can have long lasting neural effects, making it harder to exercise self-control, focus attention, delay gratification and do many of the other things that contribute to learning and a happy life. Therefore, the school principal is increasingly relying on their ability to provide support through positive relationship building and therapeutic counseling to combat the often untreated traumatic events children are experiencing due to the side effects of poverty.
Many children may experience traumatic effects from poverty but children from all social classes are experiencing trauma associated with verbal, physical, and sexual childhood abuse at an increasing rate. These life altering childhood experiences create serious challenges for schools when left untreated. Learning becomes increasingly difficult for these students whose mental health is often temporarily or permanently impaired. Their academic success is often put in jeopardy because school principals do not have the resources or training to support these students and their learning needs. Therefore, an increase in childhood trauma often related to poverty challenges a school principal’s ability to successfully create an emotionally safe school environment where learning and academic success can take place. This challenge has created the need for principal leadership style to change.
Often referred to as a manager of people, the school principal has been able to be effective at increasing academic proficiencies by using traditional methods of educational leadership. A traditional style referred to as autocratic or top-down leadership utilizes a hierarchical approach to decision making that often created positive results in student learning. However, recently school districts are finding this type of leadership to be ineffective in many schools today because a child’s ability to learn has changed.
As mentioned earlier, children are experiencing poverty and childhood trauma at an alarming rate. Customary principal leadership styles that focus primarily on academic outcomes are often failing to create successful learning environments. Principal leadership styles need to change to meet the diverse learning needs of the students and school communities they serve.

Aud, Susan. (2012). The Condition of Education, May 2012. Natl Center for Education.
Books, S. (2004). Poverty and schooling in the U.S.: Contexts and consequences. Mahway, NJ: Erlbaum.
Barton, P. E. (2004). Why does the gap persist? Educational Leadership, 62(3), 8–13.
Carey, K. (2005). The funding gap 2004: Many states still shortchange low-income and minority students. Washington, DC: Education Trust
Gorski, P. (2008). The Myth of the “Culture of Poverty” – Believing that poor people are different from those with higher incomes is dangerous and wrong. Educational Leadership, 65, 7, 32.
Tough, P. (2012). How children succeed: Grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character.
United States Census Bureau. (2009). 2010 Census. Washington, D.C: U.S. Census Bureau.

Tips for Implementing Online Learning

By Michelle Mueller


Online classrooms have become a revolution in today’s education. As principal of Wisconsin Connections Academy (WCA), one of Wisconsin’s first virtual schools, I have seen first-hand the benefits that online learning brings to students and their families. WCA’s virtual school program helps students build on their individual skills and interests in a setting that is both personalized and connected to a larger school community. I started with WCA in 2002, and since then have helped serve thousands of K-12 students throughout the state. With online learning becoming more and more popular, it is incredibly beneficial to understand the anatomy of what makes an online classroom successful.


Here are some tips to consider when teaching online:


  • Ensure that students have access to needed tools. It isn’t uncommon that a student doesn’t have regular access to the internet or a computer, or their ability to access these tools is limited. It is important to help students connect with needed resources prior to starting any online lesson plan.


  • Be available. To defeat the stigma that online classrooms are impersonal, it’s vital that teachers are available for questions and feedback as they would be in a traditional face-to-face classroom. Setting up a timeframe that you will be available for students not only helps you connect with your class, but also helps ensure your students don’t fall behind or become overwhelmed. We have found that our online school teachers get to know the learning styles, skills, and interests of their students, which in turn gives students the best opportunities to excel.


  • Create a collaborative online community. When designing a course, a great strategy is to develop a plan that involves consistent social feedback from each student. Discussion forums and group projects are an easy way for students to connect with each other and share ideas, compare experiences, and have fun learning together. Our school even has opportunities for students to attend in-person gatherings, activities, and field trips that bridge online and offline experiences.


  • Provide effective feedback. Written feedback isn’t the only way to provide responses to students. Alternative, more interactive methods of communication can foster engagement and success in the learning environment. For example, video chats make feedback more personal and also give the student a better idea of what they did well on or where they could improve.


  • Reflect on your teaching. Whether online learning is something new or you’ve been involved in a virtual classroom before, it’s not a bad idea to reflect on successes and opportunities for improvement after conducting classes. At WCA, our teachers are committed to continuous improvement. Working with parents, we regularly hold conversations to evaluate effective approaches to curriculum. We have found that this feedback is vital to the success of the student. Likewise, it can be beneficial to gain feedback from students to see what works and what doesn’t. Nurturing relationships and extending the student experience beyond the screen really helps to open communication with students.


I love working at a virtual school. Technology has given us the ability to grow and adapt to individual student needs and provide flexibility for those who need it. Knowing that we are able to make such a positive effect on students’ lives tells me that we’re doing something right.