Monday, April 25, 2016

The Future Me: A Valuable Activity for Students and Educators

             Cassie Benak, Challenging Behavior Consultant, Council Bluffs Community School District, Council Bluffs, IA

The following is a blog entry written by Cassie Benak. Cassie is a Challenging Behavior Consultant for the Council Bluffs Community School District, in Council Bluffs, IA. She has been working in education for the past 6 years and has had the opportunity to work with all grades K-12. She has her master’s degree in clinical counseling (Bellevue University) and in school counseling (Buena Vista University). In addition to her work in education Cassie facilitates an infant bereavement group (Open Arms) in Omaha, NE, and plans to incorporate her learning and activities about hope in that environment as well.  Cassie attended the 2016 Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders and was inspired by the keynote speaker, Dr Shane Lopez. Here she shares how she brought back an idea to her students and colleagues.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. ShaneLopez, speak at the MSLBD conference. He began talking about the power of hope. This resonated with me as I meet so many kids that have trouble seeing any opportunities in the future and appear "hopeless". I then started to take a great look at my colleagues, so many of them (myself included) become anxious when we talk about the future, the changes in roles, administration, and schools. Working in the school system there is never much certainty. I decided to really revisit my thoughts from Dr. Lopez's keynote and try and addressing two areas.

First, I thought about my conversations with some of my most challenging students, many times the these talks revolved around their behavior of attending school or how they are acting in school. I have started changing the way I address these conversations, I start with talking about their future. What job do you want to have, do you want to go to college . . . from here I have been actually sitting down with kids and looking at different colleges and different job opportunities. Bringing them into this conversation has really helped change their mindset. I can already see that they are improving their behavior because they are feeling they have something to work towards. I am excited to move on to my next activity with them, which is writing a letter to their future self.

The second activity, writing the letter to your future self ( is an activity that I have started to use with staff members. At a training this past week, I encouraged some of our behavior specialists to write a letter to themselves. Many of them are struggling, and well, it's April in a school setting. . . who isn't? Half of them are new to their role this year and are anxious about what next year will bring and the other half are continuing their education and don't know what the next steps will be for them. We talked about thinking about what they wish they would have known going into this role and what they hope to see happen in their rooms this coming fall. My hope is that their goals will be emailed to them this fall and they will get to continue to have some follow through. I plan to continue to do this activity, as it has been so exciting and well received from those who have already completed it! 

If you are interested in submitting a blog entry please contact Keri Frey at

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

MSLBD to Post a Variety of Entries on Blog

Dr. John Maag delivered the keynote address at the 33rd Annual Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders in Kansas City, Missouri.

Consistent with our social media goals, this blog will serve as a unique opportunity to connect, learn and engage online. Many types of entries are planned.

1. Conference experiences - many conference participants walk away inspired by messages they've heard by others, connections they have made, or are motivated to learn more about a particular issue or strategy that will support the work they do with students with EBD. Our first entry was written by Keelie Stucker, a middle school assistant principal, who enjoyed her first experience at the Conference on Behavior Issues for School Leaders in October of 2014. You can also share your experiences with us and get selected to be posted on the blog. Click above on the tab that says "Guidelines for Blog Entries" to learn more about how you can submit a small piece of work highlighting your conference experience(s).

2. Current topics in the field - MSLBD professionals, students, and families will have the opportunity to submit an entry on the topic of their choice, related to supporting students with EBD.

3. Updates, news items, announcements - the MSLBD planning committee will share new information as it becomes available.

Monday, February 23, 2015

2014 MSLBD Leaders' Conference Inspires Hope, Introspection and Action for Assistant Principal

Keelie Stucker, Assistant Principal, Excelsior Springs Middle School
Earlier this fall I attended the Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders (MSLBD) in Overland Park, Kansas.  When educators gather for conferences with hundreds or maybe even a thousand people, the keynote can seem just like another face or a distant voice.  Many times keynote speakers arrive in a narrow window, rush onto stage, and then quickly hurry off to the next engagement.  But not MSLBD, this conference experience was different. 

The keynote speakers
Dr. Richard Van Acker and Dr. Jerry D. Weast were informative, engaging, and shared valuable messages.  However, what truly set this conference apart from other educational experiences was the collaborative environment that existed where participants were encouraged to share ideas.  Dr. Van Acker participated in the smaller breakout sessions.  He sat in the sessions, listened and asked questions, just like me.  He was very approachable, in fact I went to Dr. Van Acker and asked him about resources from his presentation.  The speakers give me hope.  These experts are still learning, just like the rest of us.  They are not afraid to ask questions, humble themselves and let others know they don’t know everything. This was my first visit to the MSLBD and perhaps this is a one-time thing at MSLBD, but I think the planners are intentional in keeping it a welcoming environment and will continue to choose presenters that are knowledgeable and helpful.

During his keynote at MSLBD, Dr. Van Acker shared his thoughts on student discipline in our current system.  All too often our schools are heavy on punishment, but what children need is more positive praise.  Teachers don’t always realize the amount of reprimands or the absence of positive feedback.  From the presentation I brought back a system to provide teachers information on the specific kinds of feedback they are giving students.  During observations I now track these comments with the hope that teachers will use this information for reflection and work to increase the rate of positive praise in their classroom.

Dr. Weast, a former superintendent covered several topics of interest at MSLBD.  He said, “Teachers can do great things when you ask them the right questions.”  When we provide professional development it is mostly about telling teachers what to do.  Instead of telling, we need to collaborate and listen to each other.  Dr. Weast said we need to encourage our teachers to conduct action research and work together to improve student achievement. 

So many of the presentations got me thinking about our behavioral practices at Excelsior Springs Middle School.  At the pre-conference sessions I was challenged to think outside the box with our suspensions.  During another session I learned more about universal screenings and implementing a social skills curriculum.  Dr. Reese Peterson shared a website with a wealth of resources located at  This website will be utilized by our PBIS teams. The MSLBD was worth my investment of time.  It is always hard to be away from the building, but it gave me information, ideas, and helpful resources I can bring back to my school and use immediately.

About Keelie 
Mrs. Keelie Stucker is the 2014-2015 GKCMPA Assistant Principal of the Year. She has served as assistant principal for 5 years at Excelsior Springs Middle School, successfully leading the implementation of Tier 2 and 3 supports and providing leadership for PBIS practices. During her tenure in Excelsior Springs her school has received multiple recognitions from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for PBIS efforts including the following: Silver Level Award (2011, 2012), Gold Level Award (2013, 2014), Statewide Video Project (2014), and the Dr. Mary Richter Missouri SW-PBS District of Distinction Award (2014). Prior to administration, Mrs. Stucker served as a band director and District PDC chairperson in Excelsior Springs. 

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