Sunday Suggestion


This week’s suggestion is an overall recommendation to “go for it.” Stretch yourself. Take a risk. Invest money and time in yourself to be better.

I’ve been teaching for over 11 years and the subject of pursuing “National Board Certification” has come up multiple times. Each time, I dismissed it immediately, based on what I had heard as simply “extra work” for an empty title. But the people who have been saying that are people who did not pursue the NBCT. 

Recently, a colleague (who IS certified) spoke highly of the program. I attended two meetings this week and I’m now completely ALL IN. I’m going for it. I don’t even care about the title or the actual certification. It’s the process….the four modules will require me to create, re-create, and reflect on my teaching process with students and their parents. I have discovered a renewed sense of respect of the profession. Teachers create the certification process for NBCT. How refreshing: Teachers having control of an education program.

Yes, it it will require a huge time commitment. But it will be worth every minute to gain a heightened awareness of my teaching process: be the best teacher I’ve ever been, be able to mentor others, gain confidence and forge new friendships on district, state and national levels!

If there is something you’ve been considering, but worry about the time or expense, ask yourself, “What is the cost if I don’t do it?”


Some trivia: Did you know that although Arizona is often in the bottom 3 in terms of investment toward public schools, we rank anywhere from 12th to 16th in number of National Board Certified teachers in the nation? Teachers in AZ are working hard in their profession – despite the bum rap – for our students.



As a teacher, I have many different types of students:

talented, but not diligent,

talented and diligent, and

not naturally so talented, but diligent

I do not have any untalented and non-diligent students.

It is the diligent students who meet the most success. There really is no substitute for hard work, self-discipline and care. With facts and “knowledge” readily available at our fingertips (Internet), it is not “knowing data” that will lead to success, but knowing how to use that data and knowing how to interact with people that will lead to achievement.

Grit is proven day by day, hour by hour, and on a consistent basis.

What will you be dedicated  to – every day – in 2018?

Drawing practice #55 – Lower right corner – acrylic paint is not so great on black ink.

I’m Glad I Asked

He came in the second day without his backpack.  I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and sigh. How can a 5th grader forget his backpack? Didn’t he feel like something was missing? 

Instead,  I asked him to walk me through his morning. Maybe I could help him.

“I pack my things and walk to the garage.  I put my backpack down and get my little sister.  Then I strap her into her car seat. I guess I forgot to get my backpack. ”

My irritation became empathy and respect. 

This illustrates why judging others can be harmful – to others and ourselves. We each have our own cross to bear.

Don’t Overestimate the Power of Review



A couple weeks ago, I taught my 5th graders how to diagram sentences. We started out very simple. They liked it, because it was kind of like geometry in English class. Basically, students were to separate the subject from the verb and create dangling shelves for modifiers. After practicing ten sentences, we started our literature study and left diagramming off to the side.

On their vocabulary test today, I decided to be generous and offer extra credit for diagramming a very simple sentence related to our literary study, The Sign of the Beaver. Here are two responses:


Where’s the other woman?



I’m speechless.


What Do You Want?

Summer school students

yawning, with heads on their desks

                                                                 Why are you here?

To get smart!

College – what is that?

Listen – you can be whatever you want to be

You can do it!

But you must work hard

Now, write down what you want to be

Dream Big!

Mrs. Wipff, how do you spell….

(a list of jobs shouted out)

I write them down


There. You can be successful,

but you need strong math skills

you need to work hard

it’s all up to you

For the rest of the day, I call on

the doctor, the engineer, and the mechanic

(oh, the teacher and the artist, too)

they smile with their new monikers

they work hard on this hot summer day


To Behold

My heart is singing for joy this morning! A miracle has happened! The light of understanding has shone upon my little pupil’s mind, and behold, all things are changed!

Anne Sullivan (Helen Keller’s Teacher)


Until I was in third grade, I was invisible. I was only one of two Korean-American kids in our school (my sister was the other one), so I should have “stuck out.” But I was quiet, shy and bookish. My parents dismissed me early on as an underachiever to my more outgoing, dynamic younger sister. As most introverts do, I quietly accepted this reality.

It changed one day.

During a parent/teacher conference, my mother asked haltingly in her strong accent, “Is she OK?”  I braced myself for comments about the need for improvement…in focus or math…but Ms. Meretta looked me straight in the eye and said, “Oh yes, better than OK! Caroline is my hardest worker.”

I felt an electric charge throughout my body that caused my eyes to well.

My identity underwent a dramatic transformation: I wasn’t lazy or dumb (as I had overheard). I was a hard worker. I held promise.

I’m a teacher now, and looking back, I realize Ms. Meretta would not be considered a very good teacher today. She sat at her desk the entire day, giving papers to helpers to pass out for her. She was morbidly obese and rarely moved. She allowed me to get up and read books – a LOT. I rushed through math worksheets in order to read about Ramona or even Archie. She would most likely not embrace technology or move about the room to watch progress. Most likely, she would not attend ISTE and come back with cutting edge techniques to use in the classroom.

Still, she saw me. I consider her to be my most important teacher ever. She knew my personality, my friends, my parents, my interests. She invited my mother to come in and teach my peers about Korean customs, dress and food. My mother, a housewife, was positively giddy for weeks after her presentation. She had knowledge to impart! I realized that my culture was something to be proud of, not an aspect of myself to hide.

I’m not saying that using effective teaching strategies in the classroom lack importance, but in our fast-paced, technology-driven world, we need to stop multi-tasking. We need to slow down, ask real questions (How was your gymnastics meet?) and behold the people in front of us.





Delicious – highly pleasing to the senses, esp. to taste or smell. (

Painting this in my kitchen was a delicious experience.


I love tiramisu. I love painting, drawing and writing.  But I don’t do it as often as I like because I’m so “busy.”  I know this is a cop out. I have plenty of time to write, draw, paint, play with my daughters, and eat tiramisu. So why don’t I do it more often?

Because I’m supposed to be working.  Because there is a house to clean, people to feed, bills to pay and tiramisu has too many calories.

But….all of that is delicious! Playing Uno with my daughters is highly pleasing, writing this blog gives me joy, and eating tiramisu, well…it’s divine!  Why do we (especially mothers) deprive ourselves of joy? Why do we allow other people and things to come before our own desires?  We’re afraid of being called “selfish.” But I believe that if we are happy people, we will be all the better as mothers, wives, friends, teachers, nurses, lawyers, daughters, writers and whoever else we are.

So paint, do your yoga, change your job, say “no,” and eat dessert.

This is your life.








Whisper Words of Wisdom

When I arrived, the class was in chaos.

I had been warned by numerous staff (secretary, Title I Specialist, other teachers….) that this class had no classroom management from their previous teacher. They walked all over him. They jumped on desks (yes, sixth graders), fought (yes, physically), ran in and out of the classroom at will, and showed disrespect to all adults.  This class was created six weeks after the start of school, they went from one teacher to Mr. R., and as a first year teacher, he did not know how to manage them.  And now I would be their third teacher.  Mr. R. quit two days before spring break and didn’t even say goodbye to them. On my first day, a teacher walked up to me and said, “I will pray for you.”

7-16-2013 11-16-07 AMI thought I would come in and teach them at least some of the sixth grade curriculum. Having taught previously for six years in the MPS system, I was confident I could get them focused and prepared for junior high. Of course, the students I had taught previously were in the highest socioeconomic bracket. These kids were in the lowest.  I didn’t know how challenging it would be and how much I would learn.

At first, the students were quiet and listened to me. I introduced myself, and let them know that I was a teacher with experience and that I loved teaching. I was there to teach them for the rest of the school year, and I was not going to leave or call in sick. I told them about my family (naturally, they were very curious!) and then I outlined my expectations. “We will line up in the hallway each morning. You will no longer just walk or run into or out of the classroom. I will shake each of your hands and you will look me in the eye and say good morning.”   I heard snickers and the students looked at each other. Is she serious?

27 students.  45 days. State standardized testing would take place three weeks after my arrival.  Where to start?

The classroom was filthy. The carpeting was soiled with food and other spills layered over time. Posters and student work were stapled haphazardly on the walls. Rules for the classroom were published using a lot of words and not enough action.  A woman from District came to visit me. “Boy, you sure do have a lot of work to do.  I hope you don’t spend all of your weekends cleaning and organizing in here.”

I got acquainted with the troublemakers quickly:  Bruno* who entered the room shouting profanities and telling everyone to “shut up.” Samantha* who I was told by several adults was “strange, very strange, but not mean. Just can’t stop talking to people.” And about five or six other boys who ran around the classroom and spent their days as if they were on the World Wrestling Entertainment channel.

They chided each other, talked incessantly while I was teaching and brazenly spoke back at me when I doled out consequences for such behavior. They received cherry tomatoes for snack time and when I turned my back, they had food fights. I stopped allowing tomatoes in the classroom.  Each time I sent a child to another classroom (many teachers made this offer upon meeting me) or to the Principal’s office (for hitting), the culprit would yell, “Great! Thank you, I WANTED TO LEAVE!” I learned that it was much more effective to have them lose their recess for 1:1 tutoring with me.

One day, when I had been there just long enough to gain their trust, but still new enough to be deemed naïve, I made a startling discovery. We were in the computer lab, about to start some math practice when Jake* asked, “Mrs. Chung-Wipff, wanna see a picture of my dad?” I thought, How nice, I’d love to see his father’s corporate bio page. I wonder what he does? On Jake’s screen was a mug shot of a man whose unkempt appearance rivaled Nick Nolte’s close up. “Oh my,” was all I could muster. Jake said, “I haven’t had a relationship with him for nine years, actually.”

flowersThe kids around Jake had already seen the photo, had already heard the stories. “Mrs. Chung-Wipff, want to see my dad?” Diego* asked. I looked at his screen and saw another mug shot.  “Over here, Mrs. Chung, over here.” Another mug shot, Rodrigo* beckoned me. It was too much. “OK, everyone, let’s get to work.”

I learned through the next few weeks that their fathers were mostly incarcerated for DUIs or physical violence. Their dads beat their mothers, stepmoms, and strangers in bars or neighborhood parties. One of my students, Bruno*, had both his parents in prison for violence. Bruno was living with his three older brothers (all gang members) and his stepmother. There was something a little off about his face and I couldn’t place it until one of the other teachers told me that his brothers had tied him down and shaved his eyebrows off. They never grew back the same.

These students did not choose their parents or their home lives. They want to succeed like everyone else does. But no one is telling them to go to bed at a decent hour, to eat nutritious foods or to even care about their homework and what they have learned. They have dreams of becoming veterinarians, football players, video game producers and they are smart. Boy, are they smart!  But how to reach them? How to connect? I learned that the most effective thing to do is be there.  Model the importance of learning, the passion. Listen more, speak less.

Love unconditionally.

*all names have been changed