Category Archives: small town living

Better Than a Blue Ribbon

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Each morning a small group gathers outside my classroom door waiting for the key to unlock their home away from home. While I stow away my winter gear, a few wander about, turning on lights and checking the temp. We chat about last night’s events, the latest flick (even though I’m clueless unless it’s a Dreamworks or Disney production), newest drama run down, mostly about life. This group keeps me centered in a lot of areas. Usually I’m reminded that my hair is disheveled…perhaps oohs about my jewelry…a mention that my mascara is smeared…an occasional compliment on the outfit, or random remark about my overall “look”. They check in before lunch incase I’m needing a tea or a little lunch pick me up. For most, we will grow together as an educational family over the 4-5 years of high school.

Amongst this group is a bubbly, sweet lady. My colleague and I are her pushing her to meet and surpass many family obstacles. The first to go to college, not get pregnant at 18, and to get a career beyond minimum wage; she can do it, we have faith in her. Today it was my day to learn from her. Outside her friends and secure special education class, she’s quiet, shy, and watcher instead of her usual leader role. This day, she set her nerves aside and read aloud to her general education class a poem written about me. Better than a blue ribbon, national award, or administrative thumbs up is the honest words of a teenager. Here are Miss A’s wonderful words. This deserves a frame.

Sometimes Mrs. Ziemelis
can be overzealous.
She is very short, in height,
and still very delight.
From her glasses to her dark brown hair,
from the beautiful jewelry that she bares.
She is like no other,
but a wonderful mother.
The fun of her personality,
and she has mentality.
The smile on that face,
can never be replaced.
From what she teaches,
is what she preaches.
From the helping hand,
to the smiles that stands.
Mrs. Ziemelis’s beauty
can be fruity.

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Here is Miss A hanging out with my youngest at a Christmas gathering. She’s a sweetie!

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The Lost Ones

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Local news, printed and gossiped, surrounds the lost ones. Souls lost to drugs, alcohol, forgotten love. Kids, adults looking to soothe the aches and hurt with substances.

Where were you? Where was I? What went wrong? Who is responsible?

Whether deceased, incarcerated, or trashed, these souls need us to not turn away, pretend not to notice, or leave them alone.

Do you know that your teenager is doing drugs? Harmless you may say, but what’s next? Do you know who she is with? Read the headlines, listen to the chatter. Is she next?

What will you do? Can we save the lost ones? Walking the hallways are souls wedged in the crack, soon to fall through. Can we close the gap before they stumble? That boy, in the headlines, reached the crack, looked around, and fell. No one, no net, no agency caught his stumbling ways. Now it’s too late.

The next lost soul, who will it be? What will you do? Can we reach the lost ones, extending a hand, offering an ear? Is innocence an excuse? Do you know?

Questions; my head is swimming, my heart aching.

Ego Boosters

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Yesterday was a day for my history book. Not one. Or even two. But three shout outs from former students. All in different life phases, all reaching for different horizons, but found the time to connect.

One is starting a new life path and diving into entrepreneurship. I remember having deep conversations about life, college, and career paths. He may not be heading down the path originally planned for, but he did not give up. Now, he is opening his own t-shirt shop in town. I look forward to working with him on Peer to Peer shirts later this year.

Another struggled to graduate last Spring. For over a week, I monitored him while he completed laps for PE. He needed the class, along with another credit, to graduate. Each planning period, I revisited tally mark skills as he logged in over 20 miles! He stopped in to say he finished his last credit and received his diploma. I’m not shy, I cried as he gave me a bear hug.

The final ego booster arrived at 12:10 am. A lengthy email from a recent graduate. He is postponing college to follow his dreams and he’s having some successes. “Thank you so much Mrs.z For always having faith in me and always seeing what no one else could you have been my favorite teacher since i stepped in those Doors Freshman year. I will never forget you!!” I’m done, I cried. Again.

The hard days where I’m struggling to manage 18 hormonal teens, I’ll refer to this day. On the sad days when a student wants to drop out and walk away, I’ll tell the story of a student who fought through to the end. Or the days where I wonder when he/she will just “grow up” (mature) and see that there is a purpose, I will reach into my teacher bag and show a flyer from a student who is making it.

As I say as we reach that final senior day together…No matter the path, no matter the distance, I’m here for you.

I’m a proud mama bear.

Challenging Times

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This week, after a torrential morning downpour, several students sloshed through the high school halls. Coats, pants, and shoes were soaked, let alone the students being chilled. How are they to focus? Learn? I grabbed socks, shoes, and hoodies to put in a nearby dryer. The results? Toasty warm gear to refocus the day. Only, I reached a tiny, select group of students. What about the others squeaking down the halls? How did they concentrate whilst drenched and cold? Not well if it was me. My husband, a counselor gave one an umbrella for her walk home in the continuing downpour. The problem? We need more umbrellas to distribute!

Also this week, a male student, who is battling the homeless odds against him, had all of his remaining belongings taken. Our social worker sent out a plea for undergarments, socks, shoes, and clothing – everything. No essentials like socks and underwear? How is he to perform in class, take in discussions, or even take the ACT? When I had a break, I went and purchased socks, underwear, and daily grooming essentials. It was not in our family budget, but my kids are learning about putting others first. Our staff is rallying around this student. Many would be unable to pick his face out of a line up, but supporting one of our own is needed. The time is now. There are others on similar paths.

We educate those who walk through our doors. Whatever the path they walk, we are there. We meet them where they are and hopefully lead/guide them to where they need to be. Often I feel we are failing this generation. Too many go home to homes with inadequate parental support, if any. Some receive their only meals while under our roof. Others live on couches because the one bedroom apartment supports several families or are couch hopping due to homelessness. Yet, we want them to stay awake, pay attention, complete homework, LEARN, and get community service hours…something has to give. Usually, it’s the student.

Answers elude me. Questions build. Five weeks into this school year and I wish I could take in several struggling students. If I had my way, the hubs and I would open our table up for home cooked meals, family time, and maybe a game or two.

This year my focus on Pastoral Care has led me to walk in student shoes, to personalize his/her needs. If it was last week, I would have been cold to my core, sporting soaked garments, and needing a long, hot shower. Each deserves better.

Where will my questions take me? How can I utilize myself to support these needs? More questions…

And so it begins

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And so it begins

I am competitive. Losing is despicable. Maybe growing up with three older brothers left me scarred into always feeling weaker and less able. With my children, sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, and I’m okay with that. We are teaching our children the agony of defeat is okay to learn as well as triumph in a victory.

Now let’s talk preschool. In our small town, there are few choices. We applied at two and was accepted by one. Through facebook I see friends trying to sift through a dozen options. Mandarin? Spanish? Nature play? Gifted? The application and interview process for these can be multi-tiered! To this small town gal, that is incomprehensible. For college, elite sports teams, or advanced programs, yes.

But preschool? Where am I going with this? Recently a parent questioned the placement of our child with his child. Are my son’s second language skills as developed? Nope. Does he comprehend the Latvian language? Minimally. So perhaps you are right, he is not on the same skill level as your child. But he’s a sponge. They all are! Don’t discount his current lack of language. Remember the old saying, don’t judge a book by its cover? Well don’t judge his language base until you dive into the language.

We want our kids to have a well rounded kid’s life. The ability to run in a creek, play 4 square, catch frogs, camp, build a fire, visit special places, and most importantly learn about themselves. What is it that makes each special? Perhaps we spend extra time living a kid’s life, growing a future, and need to weave in additional language time. We’ve attempted to create a happy balance between school, sports, Latvian heritage, activities, and community involvement. But honestly it’s a work in progress.

Don’t start getting all competitive and selective, the kid is 4 and learning daily. And to the father who told me that his kid is way smarter than mine and cannot imagine they will be in the same grade upon entering school, again they are 4! Let’s save the competitive, my kid is better than your kid crap for later, much later. Let them be kids. IMG_5842.JPG

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40 in 40

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40 in 40

40 words for forty years.

Birth illness hearing loss

growing changing learning beginnings

college hope education career

love art friendships puppies

infertility hurt excitement birth

motherhood son premature tiny

faith courage patience surprise

rest daughter small strength

shock pregnancy precious family

travel laughs fun now.

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My life.

Support Local Schools

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Support Local Schools

Monies are being cut. Plain and simple. Schools are educating 21st century learners despite federal and state slashed budgets. What can you do? Support your local district. Vote. Visit. Ask the staff questions. If you want to see a change, lend a hand, a voice, a presence.
Our local district is fortunate enough to have supportive partners and community members. This year they are putting on the second C.O.D.E. Orange community event. C.O.D.E. Orange stands for Community On Deck for Education. C.O.D.E. Orange. Find out additional information on the website. One highlight is the district wide YouTube video!
If you are in Allegan or from Allegan, come out and support our schools, this Friday, October 4. Purchase a C.O.D.E. Orange shirt at local Allegan shops for $10. Wear the shirt to Fridays event and get in free!

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