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Preschool Students Learn About Space

On Thursday, Gilbert Elementary preschool teachers Mrs. Currans and Mrs. Terrones had the pleasure to welcome Mr. Jim Christensen into their morning and afternoon classes to teach our youngest students about science, specifically the sun, the moon, and space.

A little background on Mr. Christensen, who just so happens to be the dad of Mrs. Anderson, our middle school and high school family and consumer sciences teacher. Mr. Christensen was a sixth-grade science teacher for many years before he moved on to be a Science, Math and Technology Director with the AEA.

After retiring, Mr. Christensen went to work at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where he served as the Director of Education. At the Kennedy Space Center, he led a project designing a new education building named the ATX Center (ATX stands for Astronaut Training Experience).

Currently, Mr. Christensen  is the Director of Innovation for Aldren Family Foundation, an educational non-profit. He writes STEAM curriculum materials and projects, trains teachers, and conducts presentations for students, teachers and the general public.

Mr. Christensen’s vast knowledge and ability to connect with students was quite apparent yesterday. The kids were captivated, particularly when they went outside to see a homemade rocket launch! Anytime the word “NASA” was mentioned, their eyes got wide.

Mr. Christensen, thank you for spending some time with our students. It was so informative and so much fun!

6th Grade Students Win Local, District Essay Contest

We are so excited to share the good news with you that two of our Gilbert Middle School students, sixth-graders Charlie Huntington and Betty Berger, were recognized as local and district winners in a recent essay contest!

All sixth-grade students were offered the opportunity to enter the “What the Flag Means to Me” essay contest, sponsored by the Iowa Elks Association, back in November. Huntington and Berger both earned first-place accolades, and they advanced onto the district contest.

And they won there too!

Now, the essays written by Huntington and Berger will advance on to the statewide contest for judging. We wish them nothing but the best of luck in the prestigious state contest.

With family members in attendance, both students received their certificates and prize money from local Iowa Elks Association members on Tuesday.

Congratulations to both students for their hard work and obviously amazing writing abilities, and congratulations to Mrs. Charlson and Miss Dunn, our sixth-grade language arts teachers, for their incredible leadership and guidance for our students.

We’ll report back if we have some state winners!

Social Studies Teachers Seek Higher Learning To Bring Back To Their Students

Gilbert Schools’ staff members routinely seek out professional development opportunities

Heather Schurr and Jodi Hurn, two of our social studies teachers at Gilbert High School, were like two young children on Christmas morning. The excitement was palpable and they couldn’t stop chatting; not in the airport as they waited to board and not on their multiple-hour flight home.

Unlike that young child, their excitement didn’t stem from a new bike or perhaps a video game system. Instead, their gift was knowledge and they couldn’t wait to return to their classrooms and share all of it with their students.

“It was just so exciting,” Hurn said.

“I quickly wrote down probably three pages of notes just to get the motor running,” Schurr said.

What had both teachers on adrenaline overdrive? The chance to collaborate with some of their peers from across the country, and the opportunity to learn themselves.

From January 18-21, Schurr and Hurn attended a multi-day seminar on America’s involvement in World War II. Hosted by Ashland University, the conference took place in New Orleans, which is where the National World War II Museum is located.

“To be able to sit in a room to talk about what you teach with teachers from across the country, that’s invaluable,” Hurn said. “That’s not an experience you get very often.”

It’s the Power of We on a national level, and these types of opportunities can be invaluable. History is such a broad subject, and the idea of teaching students about World War II and everything it encompasses can be daunting. It’s why seminars like the one Schurr and Hurn had the opportunity to attend are critical to their teaching.

They get to ask questions. They get to gain knowledge maybe they didn’t have. They get to hear their peers talk about teaching methods that have worked for them. And they can bring all of it back to their students.

“We get that expert opinion from a professor the conference hires, but we also get the collaboration aspects with teachers from around the country as far as ‘what did you actually think about this?’ and ‘how did you interpret this?’ just to shed different perspectives,” Schurr said.

The level of excitement from the duo can and will have an impact on their students.

“The kids know when we get jazzed about something and that infectious energy can make things so much more enriching for us and for them,” Schurr said.

Gilbert Schools has long held the belief that professional development opportunities like this are invaluable. Inside our halls, teachers collaborate every day to improve the level of education for our students, so it makes sense that national opportunities could only help.

“Going to something like (the New Orleans conference) only ups their game on what they can do in the classroom,” GHS Principal Cindy Bassett said. “It gives them more tools, more strategies, and allows them to be at a higher level of understanding so they can better teach it. World War II is a huge part of what Jodi and Heather teach … to help students better understand and make connections with World War II can improve our students’ understanding.”

Gilbert CSD Director of Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Carrie Clark constantly encourages our teachers to seek out these types of opportunities in an effort to broaden individual horizons. After all, it’s not only the learning of students that is critical to the success of the district. 

“We believe in the importance of teacher learning and reflection on the practices used in the classroom,” Clark said. “Teaching is fast-paced, and taking time to discuss and reflect makes the work that happens in the classroom much stronger.”

“With the level of students we have here at Gilbert, we have to do that,” Bassett said. “Our teachers are so high-level. They attend conferences, they read, they learn, and they’re constantly refining what they’re doing.”

During the 2023-24 school year, Bassett said three of the high school science teachers took part in a national conference. All four math teachers took a Saturday to attend a conference in Ankeny. Art teachers are signed up to attend a conference in April, and over the summer some of our counselors will be attending a national conference.

And these are only a few of the opportunities our teachers have jumped at in recent months.

“Our teachers, supported by (Clark), really seek out opportunities to become better and better teachers all of the time,” Bassett said.

Schurr and Hurn both acknowledge these opportunities wouldn’t be possible without the encouragement they receive from administration and the Gilbert school board.

“At Gilbert, we emphasize professional development communities,” Hurn said. “The school board was gracious to allow us to take the juniors on a trip to the World War I Museum in Kansas City in November.”

The challenge Schurr and Hurn now face is taking the vast amount of knowledge they collected in New Orleans and incorporating it into their lessons. But the excitement they possess and the passion they have for the subject is sure to translate into their teaching.

“It’s creating a puzzle, but we don’t know what the picture is yet,” Hurn said. “We’ve got all the pieces, now we need to figure out a way to put it all together. But we’ll get there.”

Schurr is equally excited about another out-of-state excursion she has planned for over the summer. In June, she’ll travel to Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio, to take a master’s course in the historical subject of her choosing. She was nominated for this unique opportunity by the Teaching Ambassador at the New Orleans conference.

“I’m probably going to be studying the Supreme Court, the government side of things,” Schurr said. “I’m really excited about it.”

Another chance to learn. Another chance to expand her teachings. Another chance to add to the knowledge available at our students’ fingertips.

The definition of win-win.

Gilbert DECA Advances A Record 20 Entries To International Conference

Senior Noah Lenz Recognized With President’s Award

To say Monday’s State DECA competition at Southeast Polk High School was a success for our Gilbert students would be an understatement. Quite possibly one of the bigger understatements of the school year.

The Tigers absolutely crushed it.

DECA sponsor and high school business teacher Vicki Hales took 28 students to the competition to take part in 29 events. And out of those 29, Gilbert had a whopping 20 individuals or groups qualify for the DECA International Career Development Conference (ICDC) in Anaheim, California.

Let us repeat that — 20 individuals or groups. A new record number for Gilbert!

In addition, Gilbert DECA also received two significant team awards — the Digital Marketing Chapter Award, and the Iowa DECA Cup Challenge title.

And senior Noah Lenz — wow! Noah was recognized as the Most Outstanding Member of the Gilbert DECA Chapter, and he also received the President’s Award, which was given out by Iowa DECA.

Below is a summary of how our students placed at the state competition, and ICDC qualifiers are noted.

Students and Mrs. Hales, your accomplishments deserve a standing round of applause. Your studious commitment puts a shining light on our school district and our community, and we could not be more proud of all of you.

State Results

  • Delaney Anderson – Apparel and Accessories Marketing – 1st place (ICDC qualifier)
  • Delaney Anderson – Independent Business Plan – 1st place (ICDC qualifier)
  • Taryn Hicks – Food Marketing – 3rd place (ICDC qualifier)
  • Taryn Hicks – Integrated Marketing Campaign: Service – 1st place (ICDC qualifier)
  • Maksymilian Koziel – Hotel and Lodging Management – Honorable Mention (ICDC alternate)
  • Lizzie Mitchell – Hotel and Lodging Management – 2nd place (ICDC qualifier)
  • Dennis May – Human Resource Management – 3rd place (ICDC qualifier)
  • Daniel May – Retail Merchandising – 3rd place (ICDC qualifier)
  • John Hales – Personal Financial Literacy – 2nd place (ICDC qualifier)
  • Noah Lenz/Charlie Schreck – Business Law and Ethics Team – 3rd place (ICDC qualifier)
  • Charlie Niegsch/Cam Stephens – Buying and Merchandising Team – Honorable Mention (ICDC alternate)
  • Jaedyn Henry/Brooke Hamers – Buying and Merchandising Team – Honorable Mention
  • Ellie Wahlman/Noreen Diaconu-Voinea – Buying and Merchandising Team – 1st place (ICDC qualifier)
  • Ellie Wahlman/Noreen Diaconu-Voinea – Integrated Marketing Campaign: Event – 3rd place (ICDC alternate)
  • Joey Currans/Nash Hanson – Financial Team – 1st place (ICDC qualifier)
  • Bia Dantas/Kaylin Richards – Marketing Team – Honorable Mention
  • Bia Dantas/Kaylin Richards – Buying and Merchandising Operations Research – 1st place (ICDC qualifier)
  • Raya Mueller/Kaitlyn Dear – Sports and Entertainment Team – Honorable Mention
  • Ella Henningsen/Abigail Thompson – Travel and Tourism Team – Honorable Mention
  • Ella Henningsen – Hospitality Professional Selling – 3rd place (ICDC alternate)
  • Olivia Timmermans – Professional Selling – 2nd place (ICDC qualifier)
  • Noah Lenz/Anson Bernard – Start Up Business Plan – 1st place (ICDC qualifier)
  • Callie Hales – Start Up Business Plan – 3rd place (ICDC alternate)
  • Hannah Becker – Franchise Business Plan – 2rd place (ICDC qualifier)
  • Zane Lytle – Sports and Entertainment Operations Research – 1st place (ICDC qualifier)
  • Sadie Breyfogle – Project Management Community Giving – 1st place (ICDC qualifier)
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Gilbert Community School District

Gilbert Community School District

103 Mathews Drive, Gilbert, Iowa 50105  |  (515) 232-3740