Personal Success

Transgress Stress



I went to the mall last weekend and looked at these products. They were not discounted, so I didn’t buy them.

Today, one of my 5th grade students presented me with them! Funny how that happens!  In big letters, they say “Stress Relief.” As we near the end of the school year, stress relief is key. He is so thoughtful!

I wrote an email to his mother to thank her. She emailed me back:

“As for the gift, that was all “M.”* He used his money and it was his idea this year.”

He used his money! He’s in 5th grade and earns money by working for a hockey organization.  What an amazing kid.

Teaching kids like him gives me so much hope and optimism for the future.  Our kids are hard-working, thoughtful, intelligent, and just good to the core. They make me feel like everything is going to be OK.

I’m grateful to be a teacher and work with amazing kids each day.

Personal Success · writing

15 Down, 45 to Go

student paper

It’s that time again: Fifth graders write a research paper on a famous scientist/athlete/politician/artist. They will dress up as the celebrity and give a 30-60 second speech in first person.

Grading the papers can bring tears of joy or sadness.

It’s akin to the feeling when a student gives you an end-of-year gift with the message of thanks:

You are my favrit teacher.


You are grate.




Personal Success


Olu Eletu

My husband is a project manager for a commercial construction company. I’m a 5th and 6th grade English teacher.

This morning, over coffee, he says, “Some of my clients seem to think we work magic.” [He was about to complain about their unreasonable demands.]

“Some of our clients seem to think the same thing,” I say.




Health · Personal Success

Why I Became a Teacher

Joe Shillington

When I was eight years old, my teacher, Ms. Meretta, told my mother I was one of the hardest working kids she had ever had. Until then, no adult had ever said anything positive about me. Really. My parents were concerned that I showed no genius academically. They compared me to other kids (always unfavorably). My other teachers were either distracted by personal problems, or they just seemed mean (maybe they weren’t, but they seemed unapproachable). One teacher said she liked me, but I rushed through my work too quickly to get to the “book table.” I liked reading too much.

I loved Ms. Meretta. I worked even harder after her comment to my mom. But this time, I worked hard not just for myself..but for Ms. Meretta, too.

When I was a young adult, I worked as a summer camp counselor for the YMCA. It was a fun and rewarding job. I loved the energy the kids brought each day. I loved thinking of fun activities and working with them. I laughed every day. I laughed every hour.

I’ve held different jobs but none have had the creative opportunities or the intrinsic rewards of teaching. One of my favorite gifts from a student was a short letter. I had recommended him to go to a school for high-achieving students. He had older siblings who attended a school closer to his home. He always assumed he’d follow their footsteps. It was easy to hold the fastest track time there. It was easy to be the best student. I told him I knew he would succeed at the Academy, a school that was more rigorous and offered both Spanish and Mandarin. “Besides,” I told him. “if you go and you don’t like it, you can always go to the other school.” He went to the Academy and he loved it. He wrote a letter thanking me because he’s so happy and he’s learning so much. His younger sister now attends the Academy, too.

Helping kids is endlessly rewarding.

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. I wish the media and politicians would stop with the negative talk about teachers and public education. Why pick on educators? Of course not every single teacher is highly qualified, but not every doctor, nurse, accountant, or politician is, either. For every lousy teacher you hear about, there are easily 1,000 fantastic teachers. I’ve had to handle a sixth grade student who slashed her peers with a razor. I’ve had to handle a fourth grade student who crapped his pants every week. I’ve had to handle students who complained of verbally abusive parents and who cried of hunger.

I teach in Arizona. We rank absolutely LAST in teacher pay. Last! 

I did not go into teaching for the money and I will never expect the pay to equal the work or expertise.

My reward is working with the children. Yes, we get summer break, but most of my teacher friends will hold a second job (teach summer school, drive Uber Lyft, etc.) to make ends meet in June and July.

Did you know…

  • Teachers must get a fingerprint card renewed regularly and they pay for it.
  • Teachers must get recertified and they must pay for it.
  • Most teachers pay for school supplies for their students.

Let’s stand behind teachers who work to help students.







Dear Ms.K., Thank You for Giving My Daughter Detention


Dear Ms. K.,

I want to thank you for giving my daughter detention today. Per our previous email, you informed me that she has been late to your class every day for several days. This baffled me, as I drop her off an hour early and you are her first class of the day. After several warnings, you emailed me to let me know that should she be late again, she would get detention. I assured you she would not repeat that mistake.

But of course, I cannot guarantee the actions of anyone besides myself.

After confronting her, she hurriedly assured me she learned her lesson. She explained that she gets hungry and her friend meets her to bring her food. Her friend is not always so quick.

Oh, are we blaming our friend?

No, no. It’s not her fault. Mom, it won’t happen again!

I try to give my daughter freedom within strict guidelines. A  “C” in a class at any time means her cell phone gets confiscated until the grade goes up. How she operates within her hours and activities is up to her.

When I remind her to make time for breakfast in the mornings and to pack a snack, I am met with heavy sighs. She is too busy styling her hair and applying makeup to worry about breakfast.

So it happened again today. She didn’t eat breakfast. She got hungry and met her friend. She was late to your class. And, as you promised, she will now have to serve detention – one hour after school tomorrow.

In the car, she was shaken. She’s never had this kind of consequence from a teacher before.

“It’s my fault. I got hungry. I didn’t pack any snacks or eat breakfast. It’s my responsibility. I will pack food the night before.”

I wanted to lecture  her and reinforce the lesson. I wanted to voice my dismay and disappointment. Instead, I said, “I am very proud of you for taking responsibility for this and not blaming anyone.”

Thank you, Ms. K., for doing the right thing. You are helping my daughter develop character and responsibility.







Personal Success

The Disinterest Disease

Elliott Stallion, photographer

Dear parents-who-are-not-voting-this-year,

I understand some of you are disgusted this election year. Your children tell me in my classroom you are so upset with the choice of candidates that you are not voting in this election.

Ok. I get that.

Let me tell you what’s happening. Your kids are shutting down in my social studies class. They don’t want to learn about the election. We had “Kids Voting” this week. Half the class shouted, “I don’t want to vote!” They are repeating very hateful phrases that I cannot believe you’d ever let them hear, let alone say.

This is uncharacteristic of my students. They usually want to engage in discussion of real life issues. They are always thirsty to express their thoughts, to learn, to analyze and participate. I’ve never seen them like this.

So I reminded them that people in some other countries (North Korea, for one) are not allowed EVER to vote. Your kids know about North Korea because I told them my parents were children during the Korean War and that they didn’t have access to a school or new shoes for at least six years of their childhood.  Many of our American children (my daughters included) are untouched by deprivation of basic needs: freedom, shelter, food. But not all American children are untouched by hunger, homelessness or hate. 

I reminded my students that millions of people have given their lives so that their children might vote. Voting is a right in America. If apathy continues to grow, it might become a privilege for just a few. It once was, you know, right here in America.

I encouraged instructed the class to log onto the Kids Voting website. I distributed access codes and told them to open another tab and look up words and issues if they did not know what they were. I told them to vote according to their beliefs. I told them there is no right or wrong answer. Beliefs are your own, like opinions.

They talked to each other, they looked stuff up. They talked some more. Not a single  argument. Friends disagreed, but remained friends. No one tried to talk the other out of anything.

It took 30 minutes for the students to research and vote on about 5 issues/positions.

When they were done, most were very pleased. “I finally know what an electoral college is!” I noted that the students who were not that enthusiastic were the ones who just guessed and voted. I know this because when I asked why some felt “Just OK” they answered, “Because I didn’t know what I was voting for.”

As an educator, it’s my job to ensure I teach your child to think critically. How can they do that if they shut down? Why would they think critically if they adopt a “what’s the use” attitude? Why strive to reach compromises for the Greater Good if you only hear hate?

Upon completion, they received an “I Voted” sticker. Remember those? Remember how proud you were to wear one?

Catherine* raised her hand.

“Mrs. Wipff, why can’t we all just have our beliefs and still be nice to each other, even with people who disagree with us?”

Indeed, why not?

*not her real name