Goodbye Northeast Middle School

I’m sorry to say that this will be my last post as Northeast Middle School’s AVID teacher.  After summer school I’ll be taking a leave of absence from Minneapolis Public Schools to pursue a really exciting opportunity, the opening of a new school.

It is not easy to leave a community of teachers, students and families that has meant so much to me.

I’ve really enjoyed learning with my students over the years and watching them grow up.  Before I leave I’d like to celebrate my time at Northeast by sharing a few photos and stories.


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In my first year, I taught only one class at Northeast (and several elsewhere), a year-long course in robotics.  I’d worked on developing this course over two years with considerable input from math and science teachers, but it was the group of students that made this the most rewarding class I’ve ever taught.


These two star students from that class came back to visit recently and it was clear that they were the stars of their high school robotics team.


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2009-2010 was a very busy year for me.  At Northeast I taught 6th grade Robotics, 7th grade World Studies and 8th grade U.S. History.  And at the same time I taught high school students 9-12 grade social studies online.  Let’s just say that I had an opportunity to try a lot of different ideas.


My favorite memory from that year is from our Ancient Egypt Unit.  In the interest of learning about ancient burial practices the class mummified a chicken.


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This was a fantastic year.  For the first time I was able to focus my efforts on just one subject, World Studies.  That gave me an opportunity to bring some solid experiences into the curriculum like Ra Fa Ra Fa and the Model UN (with the help of Taylor Harris).


One of my favorite parts of the class was that after finishing a unit we tried to find ways to celebrate the culture of that part of the world.  This is Latin Dancing Day.


Another part of that year is when I agreed to help chaperone the annual trip to Chicago.  The bus broke down less than an hour into Wisconsin and I ended up teaching a lesson at McDonald’s while we waited for a replacement.  Then a freak snow storm stranded us in the Wisconsin Dells.  It turned out to be a happy accident.  We still managed to visit three colleges, the Wisconsin capitol and history museum.  We liked it so much that the trip became the Wisconsin trip instead of Chicago.


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This year I was honored to be asked to teach AVID.  As I tell people often, I became the luckiest guy in the building.  It’s required that every student in AVID wants to be in AVID, and what teacher doesn’t want to teach students who are eager to learn?


This year we had a 1960s theme.  In one activity we practiced our inquiry skills by interviewing people in the building who lived through the 1960s.  This class was lucky enough to interview Wendy who had gone to Northeast Middle School in the 1960s.  She told us of a secret tunnel where they did bomb drills.  I still want to find it.

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A few teachers around the school helped me in my effort to get more math questions in tutorial.  This is one of many cheesey videos that I did over the years.

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Part of AVID is learning how to collaborate, and what’s a better way to do that than going through astronaut training?  Students had an opportunity to examine actual moon rocks (borrowed under tight security from NASA) and to launch rockets.  But by far the best part was our simulated mission.  My after school GISE group made a spacecraft simulator and worked with me on a script.  Then students in AVID played the parts of astronauts and mission control personnel for the mission.


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That brings us to this year.  I have so many happy memories.  I still smile when I think of our binder king and queen contest.  We took amazing field trips where students impressed me again and again.  We got mail from prestigious colleges from across the country (and England).  I am a very fortunate teacher.

After School

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Over the years I’ve also had the opportunity to work with some pretty talented students.  We’ve won a number awards, including fastest CO2 Car in Minneapolis.  We’ve launched countless rockets.  We’ve programmed and built some very capable robots.

Thank you Northeast Middle School.  I have many happy memories.

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Thank You Tutors

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The students and I would like to thank our dedicated, hard-working AVID tutors.  They have spent the year supporting all of our AVID students both in tutorial and in their core classes.  Their work has made a difference at Northeast.

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29 Sixth Graders Travel to Duluth

Cave Train Museum Group Lake


This wasn’t an AVID trip, but I was invited to join some of our AVID students on a Humanities Field Trip to Duluth May 21 and 22.  The group met early at Northeast Middle School where the local wild turkeys lined up to join us as we boarded the coach.

The fog and rain prevented us from seeing anything farther than our noses at the scenic overlook, our first stop.  But it also made Gooseberry Falls more like Niagara.  The students also saw serious waves on Lake Superior crash onto the shore and Ms. Beutler charm a snake.

After an evening at the hotel (and waterpark) the students woke early to explore Canal Park and the Train Museum.  That’s where we boarded a private train up the North Shore.

We also stopped at Hinkley for a buffet lunch and to meet a Native American elder.

The students were delightful.  Ms. Adams did a brilliant job organizing this trip.  It was a great two days of learning and fun.

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Seventh Grade Visits St. Thomas





Today our seventh grade AVID students visited St. Thomas to be delegates to the State Model UN conference.  The topic was global poverty and each pair of students represented a country on a specific issue.  Students made speeches, communicated with other countries, collaborated to write resolutions and find allies to ensure that their resolutions passed.  It was an intensely academic day on a college campus.

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Eighth Grade Collaborates with William Mitchell School of Law






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Earlier this year one of our eighth grade students, David, wrote a letter to William Mitchell School of Law in St. Paul.  We received back a heartfelt personal letter that included the line “if there is anything else we can do . . .”

That letter started a wonderful relationship with the staff and students of William Mitchell.  In early April our eighth grade AVID class visited the college to interview students and participate in a simulated trial in the colleges courtroom-like classrooms.  Later two William Mitchell students visited Northeast to help prepare us for a more elaborate mock trial prepared for us by Northeast Middle School’s resident expert, Joseph Bloedoorn.

I’d really like to thank Anne Wolsfeld, AnJuanna Napue, Robyn Meyer, Lawrencina Mason and everyone who made this possible.

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College Mail


Lately we’ve been getting a lot of mail.  Envelopes from places like MIT (Connor), Stanford (Shiheina), Princeton (Tenzing) and Cambridge University (Nivea) have been arriving at a regular pace.

I’d like to say that it’s just because these figured out on their own how brilliant our students are, but we did help them by writing formal letters.  Students choose a college after completing career surveys and research.  Then they wrote, editted, rewrote and editted again to create nearly perfect letters to send.

ONE PARAGRAPH from GAO’s ESSAY:  “I am interested in Missouri State University because I would like to become a music major. Missouri State states that with music majors they give “one-on-one attention from excellent educators”. That is a big deal for me because I like to have a lot of help and guidance from those who are experienced. I would really like to share my talent with others and the Missouri State website also states that music majors get “the chance to take advantage of a variety of performing opportunities”. I would also like to enroll in Missouri State because I am interested in the sports program. In particular the women’s basketball team, since I am currently a player and plan on playing basketball throughout high school. Another reason why I would like to attend Missouri State University is because of the opportunities of various student groups, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and Bear Blitz Volunteer Team. In addition, diversity is an important issue to me. One of the goals of the Missouri State Public Affairs Mission is that “students will recognize and respect multiple perspectives and cultures.” I like being able to understand and respect different cultures and I like getting others to appreciate my Hmong culture. For the reasons I stated above, Missouri State University would be a great fit for me.”


Then some colleges responded with personal letters, pennants, posters, handouts, pens and even an envelope full of lip gloss.

SAMPLE RESPONSE:  Dear David,  Thank you for your letter to William Mitchell College of Law dated December 18, 2012.  I am glad you are pursuing a law degree after you finish high school and college . . . Your AVID class sounds like an outstanding way to prepare yourself for success in school and after graduation.  The skills the class teaches, punctuality and organization, are important for success in college, as a law student and as a lawyer.  Congratulations to you on your dedication and to your education . . . 

I’d like to thank this growing list of colleges for their support of our students:

Augsburg College, Bemidji State University, Homerton College of Cambridge University (England), Duke University, Florida State University, Gustavus Adolphus College, Hamline University, Harvard University, Indiana Wesleyan University, John Hopkins University, Juilliard, Louisiana State University, Miami University of Ohio, Minnesota State University, MIT, Minnesota School of Business, Northern Michigan University, Northwestern University, Notre Dame University, Ohio State University, University of Oregon, Parson’s The New School for Design, Princeton University, St. Catherine University, University of St. Thomas, St. Cloud University, University of North Dakota, University of Arizona, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Minnesota (Duluth), University of San Diego, University of Wisconsin, Vanderbilt University, William Mitchell College of Law  


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Engineering Challenge at the University of Minnesota


Today several eighth grade AVID students competed in the Fluid Power Challenge at the University of Minnesota, part of our AVID career exploration unit.  These students expressed an interest in engineering and spent a considerable amount of thier own time preparing.  Congrats to Diana, Bruce, Dinanita, Sophia, Jordan and C.J. 

See the news report about the event here.

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