NAMLE Our Story-December 2015

Nebraska Association of Middle Level Educators

From the President

The Nebraska Association of Middle Level Educators seek to

1) Tell the story of middle level education throughout Nebraska

2) Network-Bring middle level educators together

3) Improve education for 9-15 year old students by providing support of middle level educators.


In October of this year, we brought together middle level educators from around the state of Nebraska. Every year, we come together to learn, laugh, and enjoy a day that brings us together as middle level educators. NAMLE PDI is an opportunity that is unique in that we really learn from each other and it is small enough that we truly get to know each other. It is a day I look forward to every year. Within this edition of NAMLE's "Our Story," we recap some of the highlights from PDI.

Dave Weber – Sticks and Stones Exposed: The Truth behind Words and Relationships-by Desiree Teahon

Dave Weber's keynote presentation at NAMLE's PDI energized the room with a great message about how words and relationships are a critical part of the classroom. Here are some of Dave’s key ideas.


- Be a frog kisser – Use your words to bring out the best in people as the words that you use can shape and lead to the behavior and outcomes that you desire.


-Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships-Education is a three-legged stool - rigor, relevance, and relationships. Without relationships rigor and relevance can lead to rebellion.


- Quality Relationships-The most powerful predictor of student achievement is the quality of relationships among the staff.


- Its not about the destination, its about the trip.


These are just a few of the many great ideas that Dave Weber shared with the teachers at the NAMLE PDI. It was a great presentation and an inspiring message.

NAMLE PDI Afternoon Keynote Speaker, DeMoine Adams-by Mary Jo Leininger

DeMoine’s message, H.E.R.O. Leadership, emphasized the powerful impact teachers have for teaching and modeling not only the “hard skills” of academics, but also the “soft skills” of character development. He outlined four critical character soft skills students need to learn:

  • Hope, “the expectation or desire that a certain thing will happen”. Often students fail to see their potential and do not reach for it. Teachers need to sow hope into students through encouragement and believing in them.

  • Efficacy, “self-belief and/or confidence in self”. Students must believe in themselves and that belief will be transformed from the inside out into action. The actions of students will follow the beliefs that they possess and to change actions you need to change your beliefs. There is tremendous power when a student recognizes that a teacher believes in them.

  • Resilience, “the ability to recover when one faces adversity”. Teachers need to promote the message to students to never give up. DeMoine compared adversity to a comma or period in your life. A period is the end of the sentence and comma is the pause between two thoughts. Each adversity is a comma to allow students time to determine how to handle the adversity.

  • Optimism, “the ability to see the positive, no matter how dark it is”. DeMoine pointed out that adults typically have an unconscious bias toward young people but that teachers must focus on the positive of each individual student and be optimistic about each student’s abilities and futures.

As a former UNL football player, and current doctoral student, DeMoine delivered his message within the context of his personal story. Growing up in a poor, inner city neighborhood, his destiny was changed thanks to teachers that taught and modeled for him, H.E.R.O. Leadership. He challenged the NAMLE PDI audience to harness our power as teachers and be H.E.R.O. Leaders for our students.

Big Fish Contest


Five groups were caught and participated in the first ever “Big Fish Contest”. They included:

  • Susan Christensen - Sunrise Middle School - “Evidence that I Studied Sheets”

  • Bailey Johnson - Hastings Middle School - “Making Educational Music Videos”

  • Matt Kern - York Middle School - “Turbo Powerball”

  • Shelly Patrick - Norris Middle School - “Let the Students Teach”

  • Paloma Mena-Werth and Roan Howard - Sunrise Middle School - “Sunrise Secret Service”


Most ideas centered around review activities and getting students prepared for an assessment, while another aimed at creating positive school climate. Each entry was unique and definitely had the students and learning as their focus. The NAMLE judges discussed the ideas and concluded that all were winners, and the “Biggest Fish” winner was Bailey Johnson. After the conference, Bailey was able to send a link for the instructions and a few of the videos she has created. These helped to not only summarize the strategy, but also give a clearer description of how to replicate the idea and what outcomes can be achieved.


My favorite comment was Bailey’s final comment. It definitely shared why this strategy was a “best practice” idea!


“The kids love these videos, not because they are grandly produced or beautifully sung, but because they see the effort I put into making science fun. The videos are mainly used as a review before the test and to motivate students to perform better. Music videos allow teachers to put vocabulary terms in different platforms for learning, possibly making them comical or witty.”~ Bailey Johnson


Special thanks to all that took the time to share their idea. Keep your eyes open for next year - we may be having another contest and looking for more “Big Fish Winners” in the sea of middle level educators!

Two Hands-on STEM Ideas - Perfect for Middle School!--by Matt Rosenau, Norris Middle School