November School Leader Update

school leader update - a monthly journal for iowa educators

November 2020

Collaboration is key to preparing students for college and careers

Director Ann Lebo, Iowa Department of Education

One of the most important goals of our educational system is to prepare students for college and careers. Today’s knowledge-based economy requires not only academic preparation, but acquisition of employability and technical skills needed for high-demand careers in some of our fastest-growing fields.

Expanding access to real-world experiences, which include work-based learning, is critical to modernizing how we work and learn, and further improving our quality of life in Iowa. Bringing awareness to this work and expanding access to high-quality programs across the state is a top priority that wouldn’t be possible without the strong support and commitment from community, education and business leaders.

I had the privilege of being in Forest City this week for the groundbreaking of a new regional center that will be the first of its kind to serve students in North Central Iowa.

Health and safety license renewal credit

Health and Safety puzzle piece.

The Health and Safety Modules (R2L: Return to Learn) are now available for license renewal credit. Administrators, teachers, and other educators can complete the course Creating a Culture of Preventative Health and Wellness for one license renewal credit. Credit is given for any health and safety modules previously completed, with additional application of content to reach the 15 hours of coursework required for the credit. Coursework is aligned to job duties with optional application by leadership team members, professional development delivery, instructional coach, or classroom teacher/other educator supporting students. For more information, contact Stacie Stokes at or Jen Adams at or 418-1336.

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New, improved Teach Iowa launches November 2020

Teach Iowa logo

Teach Iowa has transitioned to a new platform. Starting Nov. 2, all new jobs will need to be posted on the new Teach Iowa job board. As a reminder all public school districts and Area Education Agencies (AEAs) are required to post all education-related jobs on Teach Iowa (Iowa Code). The url will remain the same, but starting Nov. 3, the url will automatically redirect to the new site. 

If districts/AEAs/nonpublic schools have an open job for which they are continuing to seek applicants, the position should be reposted on the new system. 

Those seeking jobs also will be affected. Applicants will need to create an application in the new system in order to be considered for a job at any district/AEA/nonpublic school that is using the Teach Iowa applicant tracking system. Applicants can create a new application by visiting or by clicking on directly on this Teach Iowa application link.

Jobs that were posted in the old system will no longer be searchable/viewable from  but can remain open until Dec. 31. After December, all materials in the current system will no longer be available to districts/AEAs/nonpublic schools.

Representatives from PowerSchool, our new Teach Iowa vendor, have been and will continue to host training sessions for human resource administrators and hiring managers. For questions about the training sessions, reach out directly to Julie Stremski with PowerSchool at

For questions about the new Teach Iowa platform, contact Kris Kilibarda at or 515-322-7620.

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Register for Emerging Educators Academy

Emerging Educators Academy logo

“Building a Foundation for the Future” is the theme for the Sixth Annual Emerging Educators Academy on Dec. 5.

Designed for preservice teachers up through third-year teachers and their mentors, the academy is hosted and run by Iowa’s Outstanding Educators.

A day of interaction will focus upon elevating, inspiring and educating the new teachers. With a virtual format taking the place of the traditional face-to-face interactions, attendees will join via Zoom to engage in quality presentations from some of Iowa's finest educators.

This year’s keynote will be delivered by Iowa’s own Sarah Brown Wessling, the 2010 National Teacher of the Year. Breakout sessions will be presented by several of Iowa's award-winning educators, as well as a student panel.

The day aims to celebrate all that teachers do to support their students, their students’ families and each other, and empower Iowa’s newest educators to continue to make a difference to those in their lives.

 6th Annual Emerging Educators Academy "Building a Foundation for the Future" - Registration Form

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Get these equity webinars on your calendar

Equity Series graphic

Nov. 5 - (2 presentations will be combined)

Presentation 1: "Inclusive Schools & Communities for Queer Youth" by Nate Monson, executive director for the Iowa Safe Schools. This webinar will dive deeply into the challenges facing LGBTQ youth in 2020. According to The Trevor Project's recent data, 40 percent of all LGBTQ youth have seriously considered suicide this year. Educators and community members play a critical role in creating safe, supportive, and affirming schools for LGBTQ youth.

Presentation 2: "Know Your Rights: Supporting Trans Students" by Jordan Mix, deputy director of education at Iowa Safe Schools. In this webinar, participants will learn about what it means to be transgender, common obstacles facing transgender students, and state and federal rights protecting trans students in schools. Participants will leave the webinar with a new understanding of best-practices for teaching and supporting trans students, and strategies for how to advocate for their academic success.

Registration link:

Nov. 19

"Every Kid, Every Day: Using Technology to Create a More Culturally Responsive Classroom" by Leslie Pralle Osborn, instructional technology consultant at Prairie Lakes AEA who is a leader in focusing on designing culturally responsive classrooms, social justice and empowering students through global citizenship, civil discourse and connected education.

This session will provide participants with an overview of what defines a culturally responsive classroom, strategies for making real change and technology tools to support that work. Participants will gain access to teaching tools and strategies, including graphic organizers and editable documents. The session will also include an opportunity to experience virtual tools to help enhance culturally responsive teaching methods.

Registration link:

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Webinars: Meeting the mental health needs of students, families

Mental Health Webinar series graphic

It cannot be understated the impact our national crisis has had on our children and families across the state, and how such ongoing stressful events can lead to an ever-increasing number of mental health needs. 

To continue to address this issue, Iowa Department of Education will be holding a three-part series of webinars in the month of November from 3 to 4 p.m.:

  • Mental Health Needs and Resources: Wednesday, Nov. 4
  • Prevention and Intervention: Thursday, Nov. 12
  • Self-Care and Social-Emotional-Learning Competencies: Wednesday, Nov. 18

Join members of the Department team for this series, via Zoom (see instructions below).

Read more

Zoom link:
Passcode: 890012
Topic: Mental Health Supports Webinar Series

     Nov 4, 3:00-4:00

     Nov 12, 3:00-4:00

     Nov 18, 3:00-4:00

Or iPhone one-tap :
US: +16699006833,,97556284768#,,,,,,0#,,890012#  or +12532158782,,97556284768#,,,,,,0#,,890012#
Or Telephone:
Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
US: +1 669 900 6833  or +1 253 215 8782  or +1 346 248 7799  or +1 646 558 8656  or +1 301 715 8592  or +1 312 626 6799
Webinar ID: 975 5628 4768
Passcode: 890012

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Support school meal programs

School nutrition staff at Riceville CSD

Connect with your school nutrition director – School nutrition programs have adapted the delivery of meals to meet safety protocols and align with school operations while meeting USDA requirements. It is critical to include school nutrition directors in ongoing planning efforts to ensure the school nutrition program is prepared for new protocols, including time to prepare for logistical or financial challenges.

Meal participation - School nutrition revenue, whether from federal meal reimbursements, supplemental state reimbursements, or sales revenue, must be reinvested back into the school meals programs. Be aware of participation numbers and the impacts that meal delivery models may have on these numbers. Participation in school meals helps ensure a successful program.

Have a plan - Schools are encouraged to be prepared for a situation that would impact the ability of the school nutrition team to provide meals to students. Schools need to make reimbursable meals available to students when school is in session. An option to consider is to have meals provided by another area school. Having an agreement in place will allow for a quick response.

Spread the word - No Kid Hungry has created a communication tool-kit that contains social media graphics, sample language, and flyers to share with families and stakeholders on the availability and importance of school meals. No Kid Hungry Back to School Resources

For more information, connect with the School Nutrition Consultant in your area or visit the Iowa School Meals Webpage.  

Pictured are school nutrition staff at Riceville Community School District in Riceville, Iowa

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Meal flexibilities support families, school nutrition programs

Summer Food Service Program Logo

At a time when families face tough challenges pertaining to home, school and work life, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently extended waivers and flexibilities to allow free meals to be available to all children throughout the entire 2020-21 school year. This unprecedented step ensures healthy meals are available to all students, regardless of circumstances.

The USDA recognizes the need to ensure nutritious meals reach all children, especially as schools and families adjust to ever-evolving situations while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. The waiver flexibilities allow schools to continue to utilize the USDA Summer Food Service Program during the school year, typically only available when school is not in session during the summer months. Now, meals are available all year, both when students are at school was well as through curbside pick-up when learning is online.

Read more

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Food service directors: It’s a win-win for school districts, families

Cafeteria worker serving school meal

Holy Family Catholic Schools in Dubuque are conducting classes in-person every day and also providing families with the option for 100 percent distance learning. Marie Miller, director of food and nutrition for the school system, is responsible for making sure 1,900 children, from 8-week-old babies on up to high school seniors, are well nourished for success in school.

Terry Marlow, director of food service for Glenwood Community School District in Glenwood, understands very well the challenges during a pandemic -- of safely, reliably and efficiently providing meals in a district where most students attend classes in the school buildings while others opt for online learning.

Read more about how these school district nutrition directors are implementing extended USDA Summer Food Service Program waivers to help provide healthy meals to all students. 

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Education of deaf/hard of hearing in Iowa

Deaf student working with parent and student.

If you are an educator or parent with a student who has a hearing loss, The Iowa Department of Education needs you. The Department, in collaboration with Area Education Agencies, is seeking input from stakeholders. The intended audience is for those with an interest in the education of our students with hearing loss, including but not limited to students, parents, educators, deaf community, and other agency partners.

The survey focuses on all ages, all modes of communication and all types of educational settings. This information will be reviewed by a larger group of stakeholders to shape recommendations for increasing success for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Interested stakeholders have until Nov. 11 to complete the survey.

For questions, contact Tori Carsrud, at 515-577-7894 or

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New educator tool for concussion and other brain injuries

Get schooled on concussions graphic

To help ease the burden of knowing what academic adjustments to use and how to best support students with concussions and other brain injuries, the Iowa Department of Education partnered with the Iowa Department of Public Health to provide statewide access to the Get Schooled on Concussions Website, including the Teacher Acute Concussion Tool (TACT).

To enter the website, use your school email to login and password: TACTiowa2020. The tool utilizes a just-in-time model; therefore, no training is needed. Educators will receive four specific week-long classroom strategies delivered to their email inbox tailored to teaching styles, content areas, environmental and student factors. Also included with the website is access to over 30 tip sheets and video tutorials on academic support of concussion management in elementary, middle and high schools.

If you have questions on TACT, email Additional questions may be directed to Maggie Ferguson or Melissa Walker .

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Computer Science Standards: A self-paced course

African American student with laptop computer at table.

As computer science education expands in Iowa, many educators and administrators are not sure where to start or even what computer science is, much less know the standards. To address this, the Iowa Department of Education built four computer science content modules.

Iowa’s computer science standards, adopted by the Iowa State Board of Education in June 2018, are the CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards.

When confusion, misunderstandings and fear about the Iowa Computer Science Standards is removed, computer science education becomes approachable. The modules include a variety of resources for educators and students. The modules can be viewed individually or together as a self-paced course for one renewal credit.

The course, and individual modules, are now available through the AEA Learning Online platform.

For questions, contact Wren Hoffman at or 515-981-3306.

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Updated: Social-emotional learning competencies

Female student working on computer at a desk.

The Iowa Department of Education has updated Iowa Social-Emotional Learning Competencies for fall 2020, and has a new designated webpage for Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). Social-emotional learning is defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) as “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”  

SEL has been demonstrated to increase students’ academic performance and create a more positive learning environment. Schools are being asked to consider social-emotional-behavioral health in concert with Iowa’s Academic Standards (e.g., literacy and mathematics). To support schools in these efforts, the Department worked closely with a broad group of stakeholders to develop Iowa’s Social Emotional Learning Competencies. For Iowa schools, use of these competencies is voluntary and not required.

Based on research and recommendations from stakeholders, the decision was made to use the CASEL SEL framework as the focus for providing SEL resources in Iowa. The CASEL framework identifies five broad and interrelated competencies that comprise SEL: Self-awareness, Self-management, Social awareness, Relationship skills, and Responsible decision making. The Iowa Social-Emotional Learning Competencies are organized around these five competency areas to include: Learning Targets, Developmental Indicators, Adult Examples for Instruction, and Learner Examples for each competency area across 4 grade bands, K-2nd, 3rd-5th, 6th-8th, and 9th-12th. Learn more.

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Work-Based Learning Projects

Two students working together on a lesson.

Are you looking for an opportunities to connect student projects with real employers? Maximize your time by using projects listed on the Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning Website. The project board connects students with industry and brings value to the curriculum taught in the classroom. Projects are organized by subject, age, location, type, and business involvement. Unsure of how to prepare students for industry partner projects? A list of educator resources are available in a user-friendly format.

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2 high schools, community college forge new path for postsecondary success

Transition counselor working with students.

Jennifer Fernandez-Miranda knew she wanted to be an English teacher. But the real question was: How? After all, Fernandez-Miranda hadn’t had anyone in her family take this path. The logistics – not to mention the cost – seemed insurmountable.

Fernandez-Miranda’s dilemma was pretty common at Columbus Junction High School, and educators there were seeing bright students turning away from bright futures. It’s not like the district didn’t have counselors. But they, like pretty much everyone in their profession, have been stretched thin. Career and postsecondary counseling seemed to always take a back seat to more pressing issues.

In a neighboring district, the Louisa-Muscatine Community School District was noticing those same stumbling blocks for their students. That’s when the Louisa-Muscatine Superintendent Mike Van Sickle had an idea.

Read more.

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Iowa College and Career Readiness Academy registration now open

Iowa College and Career Readiness Academy logo

Registration is now open for the November session of the Iowa College & Career Readiness Academy. These professional development courses are offered for license renewal, graduate credit, or for no credit (free). The Academy was developed by Iowa College Aid and represents a partnership with AEA Learning Online, AEA PREP, and the Iowa Department of Education. The Iowa School Counselor Association (ISCA) has formally endorsed the Academy as well.

Participants may earn a College Access Professional Certificate by completing 101-301, a College Access Specialist Certificate (101-501), and an Equity digital badge by completing 601.

See the full 2020-21 course schedule at or contact Megan Sibbel at

Courses beginning on Nov. 9 include:





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Nearly $4.4 million awarded to Iowa colleges and universities to expand student access to technology, increase internet connectivity

Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund graphic with school building in background.

The state of Iowa and the Iowa Department of Education announced 43 Iowa colleges and universities have been awarded nearly $4.4 million to increase internet connectivity for students in the 2020-21 school year.

The funding is part of the state’s $26.2 million in Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Funds, and is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The awards will help colleges and universities address barriers to online and remote learning opportunities for the 2020-21 school year and help ensure students have equitable access to technology needed to continue their education throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more

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School district collaboratively works to improve literacy instruction

Improve literacy instruction graphic

The Pella Community School District K-6 Leadership Team took the initiative to complete the Standards Professional Learning Opportunities in English language arts/literacy course over the last school year.

They worked through the course collaboratively when preparing to lead a district research team, which consisted of approximately 20 educators.

Read more

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news headlines

Iowa Department of Education
400 E 14th Street
Grimes State Office Building
Des Moines, Iowa 50319
Ph: 515-281-5294