Constantly learning

Alli ThompsonAlli Thompson, from Wisconsin Rapids is currently a senior at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh majoring in Human Services, with a minor in History.  At the UW Oshkosh she juggles four classes while serving as president of the Human Service Organization along with being a member of  National Society of Leadership and Success and Golden Key International Honor Society. Follow her as she blogs about her final semester at UWO and her internship experience at Winnebago Mental Health Institute.

It is April already?  Where did the last month go?  It is crazy how fast this semester is going.  I can say with full confidence that the WMHI is a perfect fit for me.  Like I said in my previous post,  I am constantly learning.  I feel like every day I learn something new about mental illness or about WMHI itself, which is makes coming into WMHI every day fun.

A quick overview of the last month: I continued to work with the Occupational Therapist staff, which consisted of me going up on the units.  During my time spent on the units I worked with patients on social interactions with others by partaking in a morning coffee group, playing cards such as Uno, Skipo, Phase 10 and participating in daily exercise, creativity and personal growth groups.  My time spent on the units is always different but also a ton of fun.  This month I also had the opportunity to go down to the Waterwood School.  This was a learning experience, because it was a different than what I had originally expected. I learned that many of the students have drug abuse issues and every day for an hour they partake in ADOA class.  The teachers are wonderful individuals who truly care about the schools and work hard to prepare the students for their future outside of the WMHI.

Lately I have not been on the units or at the Waterwood School, because I have been focusing my time down at Volunteer Services  working on our Volunteer Recognition event.  My supervisor Linda has given me full authority to make the event my “baby”.  Our theme is “Volunteers are Recipe for Success” with green and red colors.  I never realized until this internship how hard and time consuming it is to put on event like this.  I have had to go out silicate to local businesses, call them up to make see they had time to consider our donation request.  My supervisor and have come up with ideas for the volunteers gift, because I have made up a bingo game, which consisted of me thinking of 36 questions, because it is somewhat different than a typical bingo.  This game asks questions and then you have to find the answer on the board in the form of picture.  I have also typed up recipes for the volunteers to take home.  These recipes are all recipes used frequently at WMHI as meals and are considered staff and patient favorites.  On top of Volunteer Recognition we have spent a lot of time preparing for WMHI’s 140th Birthday.  For this we are supporting together poster boards of information, playing the bingo game I have created, and opening the museum for two days and for longer hours.  So, for anyone interested come visit the WHMI Julianne Farrow Museum on Tuesday April 23 and Thursday April 25 between 1-6 p.m.  to learn more about WMHI and see what it once was to what it is now.

On top of my internship I have still have my classes and balancing my time between Human Service Organization, National Society of Leadership and Success and Golden Key.  I am constantly busy and feel like at times I never have time to breathe, but like I said early I love my internship which gets me excited to go bed at night and start the day all over again.  This semester I have learned a lot about myself and have had great opportunities to work on my professional skills such as time management, communication, and leadership abilities.  As busy as I am would not trade it for anything. But sadly, it is getting late and I am rather tried, one thing this internship has done to me is make me morning person and no longer an night owl! Stay Tuned!

Cherish the small victories

Michael HarveyMichael Harvey is an online Human Services Leadership student in his final semester. Originally from Appleton Wis., he moved around the country after two years of college as a way to help him determine what he wanted to do with his life. Those experiences lead him to want to help those less fortunate, which is why he chose to major in human services leadership. Follow along as he shares his experience throughout his final internship.

The middle of the semester has hit, spring break is winding down and the snow is finally starting to melt.

My time at COTS homeless shelter has been anything but routine.  Sure, I have my set appointments with clients where we set goals and figure out what resources are needed.  In between those times it is a roller coaster ride. And  I am finding these experiences to prove invaluable.  I have all the responsibilities as the other case managers as well as the frustrations that come with that.

There are times in this field when you give and give for a client.  This client may come strides forward, find stability and is ready to make the next step towards independence.  He or she may talk about how proud they are of themselves or say that they have not felt this good in many many years.  Then they might decide that they are not ready to make these changes after all and regress several steps, only to end up back where they started.  I am finding it is the small victories are those to cherish.  It is a labor of love.  We cannot help the unwilling and we cannot force choices, even when you know in your heart that it is probably not the best idea.

As an intern I feel lucky to have found a place like COTS: one that is willing to give their interns the full experience to those willing to learn.  I am shoulder-to-shoulder with staff.  I would highly recommend to anyone who is looking for a placement that wants experience as a case manager to check this place out.

Spring Break Fever is in the Air!

0Samantha Hessel, from Maribel WI. She will be licensed Special Education Cross Categorical Middle Childhood through Adolescence with an emphasis in learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate, and a Spanish minor. Her 18-week placement is taking place at Shattuck Middle School.

The kids are ready for a break and so am I! Being a full time teacher is exhausting! There are not enough hours in the day to get all of my materials prepared. Many times I feel two steps behind or I just make my deadline. Not only are there not enough hours in the day to get prepared, but there aren’t enough hours in the school day to teach my kids everything they need to be taught. I often feel like I need to teach 24 hours a day, 365 days a week, which is impossible. This sometimes leaves me feeling like I am failing my kids, but I have to know I am doing the best I can for them. When I look at how long the students are in school and how intense it is, no wonder they are tired!

On a positive note my kids just finished up their short story unit in my co-taught language arts class. At the culmination of this unit they had to compile a portfolio of elements project. There were fifteen possible items they could choose to complete based on the short story unit vocabulary. To accompany this project we read short stories as a class that they could use to complete this project or they could use their choice book. The students really struggled with the idea of this project and how to get started. At the first check point a week after we had assigned the portfolio many of the students were not on track. If they did have some started many times they weren’t right. We thought we were going to have to revamp the project because it was not going well. This caused me a lot of stress. I offered a lot of extra assistance to my students during my reading mediation class. The projects were due last Friday so my co-teacher and I graded them over the last week. I can’t speak for the both of us, but I was pleasantly surprised on how well the students did with the project. Two students that really struggled in the beginning did phenomenal jobs on the project. One of the students even did extra credit! Also at the end of the unit the students had to take a test. I am so proud to say that one of my students aced the test! It is these moments that make all the stressful, pull your hair out, crash in your bed at the end of the day moments worth it! To see them succeed and help them know how smart and successful they are brings so much joy to this job!

An Incredible Journey Comes to an End

jenniferbackesJennifer Backes,  from South Milwaukee, is majoring in Music Education with an emphasis on Instrumental and General Education. Her inspiration to become a teacher comes from long line of educators and a desire to spread her passion of music to others  Her 18-week placement is broken down by the first 9-weeks at Rosenow Elementary in Fond du Lac, and the second at Merrill and Webster-Stanley Middle Schools in Oshkosh.

Wow.  It is hard to believe that I have completed my first placement of student teaching.  It seems like yesterday when I sang my song of introduction to all of my kids back in January!  Has nine weeks really come and gone?  Yes it has.

My third through fifth graders had their Pirate concert and I couldn’t be more proud of them for how well it went!  Every student had some sort of fun pirate outfit/costume on and it was the cutest sight to behold!  My third graders were performing first so we were all on stage when the principal welcomed the audience.  He then introduced me as the “amazing student teacher” and presented me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers!  I was so touched and thankful for such a wonderful sentiment that I couldn’t stop smiling.  And then I really couldn’t stop when I led my kids in their songs and they did an outstanding job!  They remembered everything I had told and taught them and did even better than I could have imagined!  I was so proud of each and every one of them that I couldn’t help but get a bit emotional when they came up to me afterwards to hug and thank me.

The fourth and fifth graders performed their Pirates Musical next and they too did an amazing job!  They all had their lines memorized and I only needed to prompt one student.  There was even a part where a few kids got to run around in the audience which everybody loved!  But all of the songs and speaking parts were so good and many people complimented us on such a fantastic concert!

Words cannot even begin to explain what an incredible journey it has been.  My cooperating teacher was easily the best elementary music teacher I have ever observed!  She was so organized and extremely helpful throughout my whole time of being there.  Definitely an excellent inspiration and someone I will certainly be remaining in touch with.  She and I are practically the same person and we would even joke around and say that we were twins separated from birth.  Everything from our personality, to our organization, and to our styles of teaching were so similar that even the kids would laugh!

Not only will I miss her but I will miss every single one of my kids as well.  We all bonded really well and I was basically a crying mess on my last day as I kept getting tackled by kids hugging me with teary eyes.  I am so thankful for this experience and for being able to not only touch many students’ lives but to have them touch mine as well.  One successful placement is complete and now my nerves are back again as I prepare for my next placement with middle school orchestra!

Developing professional identity

JacquelineJackie Paplham, from Kewaunee, Wisc., is in her fifth year at UW Oshkosh and will be graduating this May. She is majoring in Human Services with minors  in Psychology, Women Studies and Social Justice with an emphasis in Prejudice and Discrimination. Follow along as she shares her internship experiences during her final semester at UW Oshkosh.

My internship at CHAPS has been a wonderful experience thus far.  I am acting in accordance with CHAPS governing principles and regulations regarding their three mental health services.  I have been observing and interacting with many aspects of the non-profit organization.  I have been able to observe therapy sessions with clientele and the horses and participate in activities with the Day Treatment Program.

Through these experiences I am able to demonstrate a conceptual understanding of the situation and develop effective problem resolution and intervention strategies.  I sit in on staff and collaboration meetings as well as developing a food program and creating a fundraising event.  Through these opportunities I exhibit leadership ability by multi-level thinking and resourcefulness.  I really enjoy working with the staff as well as interacting with the clientele.  Through CHAPS I am able to really experience the many avenues of a non-profit organization and create my professional identity.

My internship with Peggy Miller I was able to observe a divorce mediation facilitated by a retired judge.  It was a valuable learning experience to evaluate his method of mediation as well as an opportunity to display my interpersonal communication skills at a professional level consistent with the Human Services profession’s conduct and ethical standards.  In addition I have been able to use technology and information management skills to perform administrative aspects within Dispute Solutions system.  Dispute Solutions is a new institute and is extremely well structured.  I am honored that I am able to continue creating my professional identity through Dispute Solutions.

Touring for Experience

Loryn CornetteSenior Human Service Leadership major, Loryn Cornette, of Greenleaf, blogs about her final semester at UW Oshkosh. Loryn juggles being a full time student, holding the Treasurer position of the Human Services Organization on campus, having an on campus job in the Undergraduate Academic Resource Center as a Peer Advising Liaison, and working 21 hours a week at her advanced internship placement at UW-Fox Valley’s Student Services Office.  Follow Loryn’s blog posts as she writes about her final experiences on campus before commencement in May.

The TRiO – Educational Talent Search program took their first spring field trip on Friday, March 15 to Milwaukee.  The trip was an overnight field trip to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Marquette University and Discovery World.  The program was able to accommodate 49 middle and high school students on the two day trip. I was able to chaperone this field trip and had a fantastic time. I primarily work with the TRiO Alumni college students at the University of Wisconsin Fox Valley so it was great to be able to work with middle and high school students from the Menasha and Kaukauna school districts.

The students were very excited to attend the overnight trip.  We had a pizza dinner at UW Milwaukee where we heard college experience stories from other college students and were able to ask questions. The group then attended a science experiment lecture in one of the large lecture halls in the Physics building. After talking with many of the 6th and 7th grade students, they could not believe the size of the classroom!

Saturday morning we attend a pre-college fair at Marquette University. Students were able to learn about different summer opportunities at colleges around the state and get a mini tour of Marquette. Saturday afternoon consisted of workshops and exploring Discovery World. Students were able to do hands on experiments and explore the museum on their own, which they found to be very exciting and interesting.

Trips such as these through the TRiO program are very beneficial to students because they are able to experience the college atmosphere and attend college like lectures to get a better picture of college life. Students are able to tour different colleges around the state so that they have an idea of which schools fit them best and which ones they would like to apply to in the future. The TRiO students really enjoy these opportunities because every field trip always hits maximum capacity. Other upcoming field trips include the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Fox Valley Technical College, the University of Wisconsin Fox Valley, the University of Wisconsin Steven’s Point, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and the University of Wisconsin Whitewater.

New opportunities, new experiences

Alli ThompsonAlli Thompson, from Wisconsin Rapids is currently a senior at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh majoring in Human Services, with a minor in History.  At the UW Oshkosh she juggles four classes while serving as president of the Human Service Organization along with being a member of  National Society of Leadership and Success and Golden Key International Honor Society. Follow her as she blogs about her final semester at UWO and her internship experience at Winnebago Mental Health Institute.

It is hard to believe that month has already gone by.  I have learned so much over this month and I am excited to share my experiences with you.  My first month at WMHI was a huge learning experience.  I am into the internship with no prior knowledge or experience with working with individuals with a mental illness.  I had to quickly learn some of the most common mental illnesses.  Coming into the internship with no prior knowledge was both a pro and a con.  It was a pro because everything was new and exciting and I was constantly asking questions and taking in the new information.  However, it was overwhelming and I felt apprehensive because I felt that I would not be useful.   I get to work with a wonderful staff who understood my lack of experience and allowed me to take baby steps.

I have had the opportunity to work with the occupational therapist (OT) staff up on the units and interact with face to face with patients.  During time spent with the OT staff I get to have casual conversations with the patients during the morning for coffee.  This is important interaction because this casual conversation is both therapeutic and helps the patients work on their daily communication skills. Every day we have exercise which can range from doing a work out video on the unit to going down to a recreational room where the patients can walk on treadmills, elliptical, bike or walk circles for 20 minutes.  Then they get to part take in an activity ranging for Wii to playing pool to playing cards.  Depending on the day we either have provide the patients with creativity, relaxation or a personal group activity.  It must be noted that patients have the choice to join the group activity or not.

I also spend majority of my time down in Volunteer Services where I continue to learn about the hospital and mental health itself.  I have been given the opportunity be a part of the Volunteer Recognition.  I have so far created a program and invites. I am learning a great deal of what it takes to plan a huge banquet.  I will say a lot more thought and time go into putting a large scale program such as this that most who are attending do not even think of.  I am currently helping put together three boards for the 140th anniversary of WMHI.  This project has been interesting because I have learned a great deal of NOW and THEN.  I am truly grateful for my experiences thus far at WMHI.  I look forward to March and planning more for Volunteer Recognition and continuing to learn about WMHI.

A Unique Experience

MelissaMelissa Walters, from Milwaukee, is graduating with a dual major in special education and general education for first through eighth grade. She has had a life long dream of becoming a teacher. Her 18-week session is broken into two 9-week programs. Oliver Wendell Holmes Elementary  for the first 9-weeks, and Bethune Academy for the second both in the Milwaukee Public School System.

It is hard to believe that my first student teaching placement is halfway completed. This week I began full-time, lead teaching.  This means that from our entering procedures to assigning homework and signing behavior sheets, I am in charge.  Thanks to the consistent support of my cooperating teacher, it has been a very smooth transition.  My students have also responded very well to the change. Each day is definitely a unique experience, but there has yet to be a day where I don’t find joy in teaching and working with the amazing students at O.W. Holmes. These students have truly become my students and have already affected my life.  Beyond lesson plans and homework, this is what it means to be a teacher.

One very stressful part of being a teacher in the world today is the hunt for a job.  Although it has been mentioned that the Milwaukee Public Schools are looking for 700 to hire for the fall, there is a crowd of much more than that 700 looking for employment.  This reality hit me hard this weekend while attending a job fair in Milwaukee. I spent almost four straight hours meeting teachers and principals from throughout the district hoping that someone would remember my face, my resume or my mint green blazer.  It can be difficult to make sense of everything that needs to happen between now and teaching.  Although finding any job can be difficult, it is a unique experience in the field of education.  In a district such as MPS, there are so many people with so many various experiences, you have to simply hope that someone finds a special trust in you.  In your hands are the minds of any number of students who need you to be at your prime to help them reach their full potential.  Teaching is what I’ve always wanted to do, I just have to find a way to get there.  Fingers crossed.

There have been so many situations throughout my student teaching placement that catch me off guard, teach me something new, and sometimes, take my breath away.  It is in those moments that I realize that I am in the right place.

True Connections

0Samantha Hessel, from Maribel WI. She will be licensed Special Education Cross Categorical Middle Childhood through Adolescence with an emphasis in learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate, and a Spanish minor. Her 18-week placement is taking place at Shattuck Middle School.

To begin with, I always thought I could prepare for the classroom and student teaching through my classes. This last week it truly hit me, NOTHING could truly prepare me for this except actually being in the classroom full time. These kids are my kids and I feel responsible for their education. There are not enough hours in the day to teach them everything I need to, which breaks my heart. But tomorrow I will get up again and try because there are break through moments where you feel you have truly connected with a student. There are other moments you could pull your hair out because they just do not understand what you are teaching them and it is so frustrating to know you haven’t done your job. This is what being a real life teacher is like.

In other words, I absolutely love my placement. The kids are great and I have a great team that I work with because that is what we are, a team. I am co-teaching with another student teacher from UW Oshkosh, along with both of our cooperating teachers. There are two educational aids that work with my kiddos and another specific learning disabilities teacher. We work together to provide the best we can. As I am writing this I am thinking of everything that goes on in the school day and how constant communication is key. My cooperating teacher created a binder for me when I came to the school and in her first paragraph she used the quote “It takes a whole village to raise a child” and she is absolutely right. Thursday one of our educational aids was home sick and it was tough without her because she had knowledge about classroom assignments that we didn’t.

Developing as a co-teacher has started off on a positive note I feel. I am lucky enough to have a co-teacher who wants to share the classroom with me and wants me to be an active part of the class, not just another person in the classroom monitoring behavior or taking on the role as an aid. In the beginning I took on a more of a secondary role, letting him be the leader. He spoke up and gave me the push I needed to become more of an active role in the classroom. We take on the challenges together and brainstorm how we can make things better or what needs changing.

I am teaching two sections of a reading mediation class and three sections of co taught eighth grade language arts. One of the things that drew me to special education was the fact I would be working on real life skills with my kiddos and not just one specific content area because I didn’t have a passion for one. I am drawn to academics and application of real life skills. Since I am teaching kids with learning disabilities I am working more with academics. Today proved I will be forever learning. Since I only teach language arts I do not attend any other classes with my kiddos. Not only do I miss out on that information, but my kiddos have a wide variety of teachers because they are included in the classroom. I had to quickly grasp the material in order to be able to assist my kids with their assignments. That was one of the most frustrating moments in this placement. I cannot be everywhere with my kids and I just have to help them the best that I can.

Benefits of Extra Activities



Paul Franzowiak, Menomonee Falls, Wi., is a Secondary Education Major with an emphasis in Mathematics. After tutoring friends in math, he was inspired to become a teacher. He will have a full 18 week placement at Maplewood Middle School in Menasha.

I’ve been at Maplewood for just over a month now and have started to take on many more roles at the school. I have begun to branch out from being the student teacher and have tried to take on more roles as a professional would in the field. Many of the staff members I teach with have become more than just co-workers, but friends I can turn to. I have gotten to know more and more about people in the building and how much some of us have in common outside of school. I have also taken on the role of the student learning from them. Many of them share words of advice, wisdom, and characteristics in what it means to have such an important role in the development of a student’s life.

Before starting my student teaching, one word of advice that I heard over and over again was to get involved in as many activities possible. When presented with the chance to play a supporting role in a department wide play, I jumped on this opportunity. The play entitled “The Time Machine” is a social studies department activity to present material in differentiated way. I cannot give out many of the details about this play, but am very excited to be part of something outside of my content area. Participating in this will definitely be one of the many the highlights of my student teaching experience.

As much as I am enjoying my placement, there have been a few days that I have struggled to get through and questioned if I am doing the right thing. There have been a few lessons that I have struggled to get through and had a hard time finishing up. However, struggling through these and reflecting upon how I could improve or reword what I was trying to say, has made me become a better teacher. I have learned about my own teaching style. There are many areas of teaching that I thought I was pretty good at, however, as it turns out these areas need a lot of improvements. After seeing these needs to improve this has shown me where I am at this point and how much I have already grown since I began a month ago.

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