Tag Archives: class

What I’m Into: May 2015

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Celebrations & Travel 

We had lots of celebrations with friends and family this month. We traveled to Tulsa for a surprise birthday party for Brian’s cousin, Mark.
Surprise Party | StairStories.com

We celebrated the graduation of some of our favorite Barton students (let’s be real, we have a lot of favorites). It was also my first Barton commencement ceremony to attend as faculty, so that was fun!
Barton Graduation 2015 | StairStories.com

We celebrated Mother’s Day in Ottawa with my extended family.
Mother's Day 2015 | StairStories.com


I tried the OPI Gel Color I Eat Mainely Lobster. It is a summery, vivid coral color that looks fun and summery on my toenails. I tried it on my fingernails but it seemed to clash with some of my pink, red, or purple clothing.
OPI I Eat Mainly Lobster | StairStories.com

In my May Birchbox, I tried jane iredale Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain in Forever Pink. In the tube, it looks like a pale pink balm. The stain goes on lightly pink but brightens a bit over several minutes.
Jane Iredale Lip & Cheek Stain, Forever Pink | StairStories.com
Jane Iredale Lip & Cheek Stain, Forever Pink | StairStories.com

Around the House

I am propagating Christmas cactus from the one I inherited from my grandma when she and Grandpa moved out of their farmhouse. As best I know, the original is at least a decade old. Grandma could not remember when she got it.
Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

Mint is currently taking over my vegetable garden because Cola knocked over the flowerpot where I planted it last year. Does anyone have good recipes that use lots of fresh mint???
Mint Garden | StairStories.com

Favorite Reads from around the Web


Brian and I have been taking Cola on longer and longer walks this month. This week we are up to two miles at a time.

During Jazzercise’s May promotion, my friend Jessica invited me to try a free class. I did Jazzercise about ten years ago, but the instructor in my hometown moved away and it was no longer offered. I enjoy the exercise even though I lack coordination at footwork and rhythm.

What are you into this month?

I am linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately.

Disclosure: Some affiliate links included in this post. If you click through, any purchase you make supports this site.


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Filed under celebrations, life, milestones, photos, something to try, Travel

Lows & Highs: Goodbyes & Adventure

Welcome to Lows & Highs, a Stories from the Stairs weekly-ish feature! Feel free to join in by posting your lows and highs from the week in the comments or by posting a link to your own lows and highs blog post.

 Sometimes Adventure Brings Goodbyes | StairStories.com

Over the past week, I began sharing a big, life-changing announcement with family, friends, and coworkers. They had mixed responses and I am experiencing again what it is like to tell people news that is exciting for me but sad for them.

The Sad Part

I resigned – with two weeks’ notice, of course – from the fun, fascinating English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher assistant job I have had for a year and a half. I have enjoyed working with students who do not speak English as a first language, working with a sweet (though constantly changing) department of ESL professionals.

The Happy Part

On Friday, I accepted the one job in town that I want most of all, the job I trained for, the job I muscled through three years of grad school for: College instructor.

Starting January 26, I will embark on a new adventure of teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). I am thrilled to have a job that fits my education and experience as well as the opportunity to work with students from a wide variety of countries and cultures.

Besides the job – naturally the best part of this change – I also get to work at Barton Community College, an institution I really like. I will freely admit that I am biased about the school. Over the eighteen-ish months I have lived in Great Bend, Brian and I have built a lively community of student friends through the Campus Christian Fellowship we lead with our friend, Clay. To support various student friends (and because we find it entertaining), we have attended concerts, plays, volleyball, basketball, art shows, and graduation festivities. I am looking forward to being on campus and being even more involved in campus life!

How has your week been?


Filed under life, milestones

What I’m Into (August 2014)


College students back on campus & coming to our house for Sunday lunches. We are all getting back into the swing of school and campus ministry.
2014-08 Sunday Lunch


I used to disdain iced coffee unless it was really, really hot. This summer, though, I discovered Pioneer Woman’s cold-brewed concentrate that I mix with almond milk and one of my homemade coffee syrups. It tastes delicious and the college students who come to our house think so, too!

French Toast Roll-Ups with blueberries and cream cheese… Brian and I liked these so much we rated them “let’s have it again every month.”
 2014-08-19 21.34.36

My tomato cages toppled from the weight of the vines, but they kept growing. Now I have what I call a “tomato thicket.” Rabbits kept eating the unripe fruit but my puppy decided they’re fun to chase. Now we have tomatoes!
2014-08-30 13.43.56

2014-08-30 13.46.32


On TV: Rizzoli & Isles and Girl Meets World.

On Netflix: Doctor Who season 7. I like Clara, “the impossible girl,” who gets scared and plunges in anyway. “We never just walk away.” In addition, I’m working my way back through Haven (currently on season 2) because I missed having a new season this summer.


Colbie Caillat’s Gypsy Heart Side A, especially “Try.”
The Likes of Us (self-titled album) from Noisetrade has been a fun addition to my jazzy weekend breakfast playlist.


Since school started this month, I’ve been using Quizlet to make free electronic flashcards for the high school students I work with. As an a added bonus, they can use my flashcards (as well as any they create) online or on their smart phones.

Now that the entire school email system is run through Google, I have been using Google Drive for sharing documents with coworkers (I had never used it for document creation before this month.)

I upgraded to a iPhone 5s and a waterproof, drop-proof Otterbox Preserver case this week and I am enjoying both! FYI: The Preserver cases appear to still be on sale for 50% off on Amazon.

Same-day Instagram prints from Walgreens, especially when I procrastinated making them until the day before I needed them!
 2014-08-18 17.54.41

Random Fun

I like the graphic design of the @HomeGoods Stylescope quiz to “find your home design personality“. I’m supposedly “The Traveler” and liked the graphic so much, I made it my iOS wallpaper.

What were you into in August?

Linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately.


Filed under life, lists, photos, something to try

The Student Planner Challenge (free download at end)

Simple, Free Student Planner | StairStories.com
If you are looking for a revolutionary student planner that will transform every student into a star pupil, this is not it. This is about coping with educational expectations.
Learning in Another Language
I remember feeling overwhelmed on my first day of “Civilizations of Spanish-Speaking Countries” during my junior year in college. I discovered the textbook, lectures, assignments, discussions, and tests would all be in Spanish with no English!
Now I am a teaching assistant working with high school students who learned – or are learning – English as a second language (ESL). Most of them seem even more overwhelmed than I was. Can you imagine trying to navigate high school classes and society when almost everything is in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable language?
The Practice
Personal organization is one tool that can help students take ownership of their work and break it into manageable parts. With that in mind, I made a simple, non-distracting planner and am trying to teach students how to use it.
1. Write the date below each day of the week.
2. When you get an assignment, write it on the day that it is due (not the day you get the assignment).
3. When you do homework, check your planner and start with what is due first.
4. When you complete an assignment, check it off on the planner.
I like this practice because it helps students recognize that the order they receive assignments is not necessarily the order in which they need to be completed. It is easy to check the planner and make sure they have everything ready for the next day. Our long-term goal, of course is to give the students tools to help them be self-sufficient in high school, college, or wherever life takes them.
The Challenge
The ESL teacher assistants have been encouraging the students we work with to try the planner pages. To add motivation, if a student updates and uses the planners for four consecutive weeks, he or she will get a prize.


Get my simple, non-distracting planner. 

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Filed under advice, something to try, Uncategorized

Mismatched Crazy Hair Day

At the high school where I work, this is spirit week in preparation for our homecoming basketball game on Friday. Monday was Mismatched Crazy Hair Day, so I wore my hair like this.

Crazy Hair FrontCrazy Hair Side







For reference, it usually looks like this.

Highlighted Hair

I received a variety of responses and determined that today’s hairstyle was not crazy in many other people’s perspectives.

Male teacher: Oh, you got a haircut.

Female teacher: Hey, I like your hair! You should wear it that way more often.

Male student: Nice hair, Mrs. Howe!

Female student 1: What is up with your hair?
Me: It’s for crazy hair day.
Female student 2 (to her classmate): You shouldn’t say that. What if she was actually trying to look nice?

My favorite anecdote from today:
In one class, a female student mocked my hair derisively in Spanish to the girl across from her while I was standing in plain view near their table. After a minute, I continued circulating around the room to help students and overheard the other girl inform the mocker that I actually speak and understand Spanish. The first girl was shocked and grew a little quieter after that. I simply smiled and continued helping students with their assignments.


Filed under photos, stories

Geometry Oops!

Earlier this week, I was assisting with a geometry class where students were preparing for a test. The review included various “centers” of triangles like incenters, circumcenters, centroids, and orthocenters. I asked the teacher a question and we were interrupted by a girl pointing to a problem and asking loudly, “Isn’t that one a circumcision?”
 2013-11-14 10.18.17
The teacher and I both paused in surprise and I tried my utmost not to laugh as other students started giggling and the girl turned pink, realizing what she said. The teacher handled it admirably, “No,” he said carefully, “But it is a circumcenter.”

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Lows & Highs: 8/14-8/20/13

I meant to have this post publish this morning, but completely forgot due to the craziness of Monday and Tuesday.

Mid-afternoon on Tuesday, I had a headache start and grow into a monster that lasted all evening. (Which I am sure contributed to my forgetting to schedule this post.) As best I can tell, I probably breathed some kind of weed pollen that did not agree with me. I am grateful it did not interfere with my new job though!

I began my new job as an ESL paraprofessional on Tuesday and already love it! The staff and teachers have been helpful and friendly; I enjoy getting to know the students and their personalities, too.

What were your lows and highs from the past week?

Lows & Highs is a Stories from the Stairs weekly feature. Feel free to join in by posting your lows and highs in the comments or by posting a link to your lows and highs blog post.

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Filed under life, milestones

Lows & Highs: 8/7-8/13/13

I have battled headaches several days this week and my usual over-the-counter anti-inflammatory has not been helping much. Stretching and rubbing the back of my neck seem to partially reduce the discomfort, though.

On Sunday, we visited a new church. In Sunday School, we answered the usual questions: We are visiting churches because we want to make the choice together instead of doing everything the same way Brian started when he moved here as a bachelor years ago, he teaches math at the college, I am still looking for a job and recently finished my M.A. in TESOL… last part was still on Brian’s lips when the Sunday School teacher, the high school principal, looked at me with a grin, “Want to be an ESL para at the high school?”

I smiled, “That doesn’t sound too bad.”

“I’m serious.”

“So am I.”

“Come see me at my office tomorrow.”

On Monday, I visited to discuss the position and fill out an application and he called on Tuesday to officially offer me the job!


What were your lows and highs from the past week?

Lows & Highs is a Stories from the Stairs weekly feature. Feel free to join in by posting your lows and highs in the comments or by posting a link to your lows and highs blog post.

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Filed under life, milestones, stories

Lows & Highs: 12/12-12/18/12

Low: For the second week in a row, I cannot think of a low.

High: I graduated on Saturday with my M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language! I met up with family for barbecue at my favorite local joint in Emporia, KS, and lunch was as tasty as I remembered from my undergrad days. After lunch, we headed to the campus for the commencement ceremony. We were early, so I took the opportunity to show them around a bit, pointing out different buildings I used to frequent. In a stroke of genius, someone at the university had decided to hold separate ceremonies for the graduate and undergraduate students. You may wonder how long a December ceremony with only graduate students at a small-ish university would take. You are in luck; my dad timed it at 49 minutes. That was the shortest graduation ceremony I have ever attended, and I greatly enjoyed it!

Fall 2012 Emporia State Doctorate, Specialist, and Masters Commencement
What were your lows and highs from this week?

Lows & Highs is a Stories from the Stairs weekly feature. Feel free to join in by posting your lows and highs in the comments or by posting a link to your lows and highs blog post.

Leave a comment

Filed under celebrations, milestones, photos, stories

Lows & Highs: 11/28-12/4/12

Tuesday was our last campus Bible study for the semester. I know it makes me sound old, but where has the time gone?!

Low: Monday was a stressful and exhausting at work and then I left work and grew frustrated trying to finish my Teacher Work Sample (TWS) as my final project.

High: Tuesday I did the last proofread of my TWS and submitted it to my professor… My very last project of my very last class of the masters degree I have been working on for over three years.

I cannot put into words how excited and relieved I am!


What were your lows and highs from this week?

Lows & Highs is a Stories from the Stairs weekly feature. Feel free to join in by posting your lows and highs in the comments or by posting a link to your lows and highs blog post.


Filed under celebrations, milestones