Sunday, December 28, 2008

Love, Peace, Harmony, and Fruitcake

I asked one of my sons, "And what do you want for Christmas?"

His reply, "Love, Peace, Harmony, and Fruitcake." Humm, that's a great list to give and will take thought. Perhpaps, the easiest on the list is the fruitcake.

And so, on Christmas Eve, I sent my youngest and the Dad on a mission to find the fruitcake. "Don't come home till you find it!" They were quite successful from the start and the present was wrapped with loving care! To my surprise, on Christmas morning, my son had a German fruitcake for me, as well.

After the hustle and bustle of playing with the toys, we pulled out the fruitcakes. It seems these fruitcakes have more to offer than simply the eating! We were sharing our love and some precious time together; I rather think a new tradition has begun. Stories were shared of great-grandmother's special cake wrapped in the old barrel soaked in grape juice. These, too, were happy times for many family members that have passed on. Another great-grandmother's best recipe was her fruitcake. It's time to pull that recipe out of the 'ole church recipe book and give it a try. A few smiles from heaven will look down joyfully on that!

And the special meaning of this activity goes on! To think, we were sharing a German cake and an American cake. Perhaps, this represents a vision of world peace and harmony, a sharing of cultures and traditions. Who would have thought that the exchange of these gifts could symbolize world harmony!

So, in 2009, I shall give my best effort of providing love, peace, and harmony to everyone. This was, after all, the top request on my son's list. Won't you share in this effort? And about the fruitcake, Christmas will be here soon enough. I'll look forward to another afternoon of sharing a healthy dessert, love, and time together!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Guarding the Printer

Guarding the Printer
Originally uploaded by vanhookc
This fellow is in charge! There will be no wasting of paper and ink in this house with him around. As we move to an Web2.0 society, perhaps we can all think about conserving more, writing and saving to the Web instead of wasting so much paper, ink and resources!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Teens share from the heart!

SE Polk Book Club enjoys giving new books to the Seasons of Sharing Project, sponsored by Central Place. This is an effort to provide gifts to others in our community. The teens raise the money to buy books by working concession stands. It is rewarding that we can handle these books, bringing back memories of our own childhoods. We personalize these books from the Book Club and know that these books will make families in our area very happy during this holiday season.

"Love grows by giving. The love we give away is the only love we keep." ~E. Hubbard Teens Share Slideshow

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Madam Speaker Please Recognize Me!

Originally uploaded by vanhookc

December 8, 2008--It has been a yearly tradition for six years that the SE Polk Senior High School joins together with another school in Iowa over the ICN to have a simulation creation of a bill. This year the mission was to make a bill for a school dress code! The simulation's governor did indeed pass the bill! He commented that the students were stricter on their bill than his own school's policy! That's a good thing!!!

And do the students learn how difficult it is to pass a bill? You bet.

The SE Polk students were commended for being one of the best groups ever! That makes a teacher proud to hear!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Piece of the Berlin Wall at the Hoover Museum

A warm, sunny November day only two days before Thanksgiving -- well now, that's something to be thankful for. Southeast Polk students headed out, on this day, to the Hoover Museum and Library and to Kalona, Iowa, on a luxurious charter bus! And what was accomplished?

This bus load of students, staff, and parents learned about
Iowa's economy
Iowa's history
Iowa's people
Iowa's culture and traditions
Iowa's beautiful farm lands and prairies
Global issues and connections
and more....

It was as though, we traveled through time, stopping briefly into the past, present, and future! New friendships were made. Everyone had a good time. These students warmed the hearts of the people they came in contact with, as well. Southeast Polk students, you rock!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Libraries Rock!

Brown pebbles
Originally uploaded by rogergordon
Learning rocks in the K12 school library!

The library is a solid rock foundation to a strong school and the students are its most valuable support system!

The library rocks to overcome ignorance in literacy and prejudices!

The library rocks! It's a cool place to just hang out with your friends and share some great thoughts in an environment filled with page after page of everlasting thoughts of brillancy!

The library is rockin' and rollin' into the 21st Century as it takes its users down the avenue of new ways of reaching destinations, web2.0 style!

Thanks, Flickr user rogergordon for allowing me to use your Creative Commons picture!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

SEP off to Hoover Museum -- Library & Kalona, Iowa

Source: Flickr, Originally uploaded by Mc Morr
Be on time! The bus needs to roll out before rest of student body rolls in!

Got your camera ready? You might want to bring it along! Thanks McMorr for the Creative Commons use of this picture in Flickr.

On Tuesday, 47 SEP students and staff will depajavascript:void(0)rt by charter bus for West Branch and Kalona, Iowa! This trip is long-time in the making and finally here! We will leave promptly at 7 o'clock and be back at 5!

The Library sponsored trip is providing special holiday cookies from the Kalona Bakery and water bottles! The Hoover Museum and Library are planning a great tour for us as is the Cheese Factory in Kalona!

We are looking forward to a great trip. We have a full bus! You may snack on the bus, but we will expect not a single crumb or drop to be left behind! We will bring school lunches for those who selected this on the menu (others will bring their own). Additionally, we have cheese curd samples and special ordered cookies and water bottles for all; I think you will have plenty to eat! We have a 20-minute video on the Museum to show during the ride over and will also bring another movie!

The special feature on Elvis Presley begins this weekend at the Hoover Museum. To get you in the holiday spirit, please read this great promo from the museum!

See you soon!
Mrs. VanHook

A Very Elvis Christmas

West Branch, Ia – The Herbert Hoover Museum has come up with an exciting new holiday exhibit that features twenty trees showcasing the life and career of Elvis Presley. “A Very Elvis Christmas” opens on Saturday, November 22, 2008.

There are trees that recall some of the places where Elvis lived and worked. For example, there is a Hawaiian tree covered with ornaments of the islands – leis, hibiscus, and the like. And no one can forget Elvis’s frequent appearances in Las Vegas; the tree will feature dice, playing cards, and coins. The most important place in Elvis’s life was his beloved Graceland estate – and the tree standing in the rotunda will be decorated in the likeness of a tree from Graceland.

There are trees decorated to represent songs that Elvis sang and recorded during his career. The “Love Me Tender” tree is filled with hearts and other signs of love. The “Teddy Bear” tree is filled with teddy bears! How about a “Hound Dog” tree featuring bones, dog collars, and fire hydrants, among other items? And, of course, there is a “Blue Christmas” tree covered with blue lights and blue ornaments.

Elvis was more than a singer and selected, non-musical aspects of his life will be included in the holiday exhibit. Not surprisingly, there is a tree filled with items that recall his service in the U.S. Army. Several trees are decorated to represent themes from movies that Elvis made. For example there is a “Western” tree, a “Race Car” tree, and a “Beach/Ocean” tree – all three recalling Elvis’s appearances in various genre films of the 1950s and 1960s.

Fame visited Elvis early and often so several trees concentrate on Elvis’s achievements. There is a tree devoted to various kinds of Elvis memorabilia – from mini album covers to collectible playing cards. Another tree concentrates on his gold records and is covered with – gold colored records! And since Elvis was known as the “King of Rock and Roll,” there is a regal tree featuring crowns and the colors of royalty.

These are just some of the themes and trees that are included in “A Very Elvis Christmas.” It is an exhibit that will bring back memories of holidays past. In fact, it may encourage you to go up to the attic or down to the basement to find your old copy of an Elvis’ Christmas album. And if you can’t find it, you can buy a new one. More than fifty years after its original release, the album is still in stores – the top-selling holiday album of all time!

“A Very Elvis Christmas” opens at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum on November 22 and continues until January 4. The museum is open daily from 9 – 5, closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day and located just off I-80 at Exit 254 in West Branch, Iowa. For more information call 319-643-5301 or

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Promise of Clear Skies Ahead

Couldn't pull the car over quickly enough to snap this photo!

The sky was playing wonderful color games at sunset! I loved driving westward and watching the picture change by the minute!

This picture suggests that even though skies may be cloudy, brighter days are ahead!

And, yes, the sun is shining today. What new discoveries, adventures, and good memory makers are waiting to happen?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Football Success 2008

Football Success 2008
Originally uploaded by vanhookc
At the climax of every football season, this is what awaits as I drive around the corner to the rear of the school. I'm going to miss seeing this as we move down the street into the new school building next Fall.

This symbolizes so much. It represents a whole year of training, a lot of sweat and hard work in the summer as the season begins, great excitement, focus and concentration, team effort, friendships, healthy competition, great plays, wins and losses, happy memories, and family and community support.

It's all in the game and something we all look forward to each year!

These seniors have played hard and are to be commended! Way to go RAMS! You did a great job and we are proud of you!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


What fun! I love the power of letters and words! Of course so...I work in a school library. I, also, love photography! Combine the two and this is what you get...

S E27 R Door E. N - Nessim\ D I p-ca Plain Educational Block I T Pewter Lowercase Letter y

Try this yourself! It is a lot of fun. And of course, you might like to start an A to Z photo shoot! Drop your letters in the box!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Love for SE Polk

Originally uploaded by vanhookc
This is a kind, compassionate symbol for a very caring school community. Hoping that each student and staff feels the love being shared at school. Each person has great worth to the health, happiness, and well-being of this great school. Through sadness, know that there are brighter days ahead.

Each individual in this school is important! May God bless all...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Words of Wisdom in Education

Do you see the key to educational success here? It's there; literally in shape as well as in words!

Here are our SE Polk summary notes from the National School Board Association Tech + Learning Conference visualized in Wordle! What fun to wait for the churning of the computer until POP... the Wordle results!

How in the world this came out looking like a key is a mystery to me! But I believe this cloud picture is a true vision of success in our 21st Century classrooms!

See if you agree?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Learning and Working Hard in Seattle

SAM of Seattle
Originally uploaded by vanhookc
Recently, I participated with a team of educators from our district in a national conference. Six members of the Southeast Polk Community School District attended the National School Board Association's Tech + Learning Conference, Oct. 28-30, 2008.

And my thoughts?
The major focus of the conference was: The future is now! We must open doors for our students to learn, compete, and achieve in new ways of classroom exploration. "Minds-on" and "hands-on" learning must become a natural way of life, a "lifelong learning habit." We must equip our students with the tools needed to travel the 21st C Literacy Avenue and encourage them to explore their mountaintops and to achieve their highest levels of excellence!

I loved every minute of it! I heard great presentations by David Warlick, Paul Saffo, David Thornburg, Jim Brazwell, and Gary Stager.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Adobe Premier Elements and Photoshop Elements 7, Atomic Learning, netTrekker, ProQuest, and Student Response Systems.

One of my favorite sessions was on transforming the library from a 19th Century library to a 21st Century learning center!

I especially had a wonderful time sharing this experience with a fellow teacher librarian, Harriet. To learn more, my library colleague and I have uploaded our notes:

It was certainly a highlight of my teaching career to attend this conference!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Toilet Paper Wiped Off Local Grocer's Shelves

Homecoming SE Polk style
Originally uploaded by vanhookc
This certainly took a lot of that 'ole fluffy white necessary stuff! And what an artistic flow of paper. Two weeks later, the campus is still littered with bits and pieces.

In a funny kind of way, school spirit is pictured here. The project happened way past the bedtime of most humans or past mine. It took some strong arms to throw these little shot puts. But it was CLEAN fun!

Now it's a faded memory. The grocer's shelves have been restocked. And on to other events...other football games, school work, school drama. That's what it's all about. But the picture really says, we have a strong, upright and respectable student body that's there to help out through the thick and the thin!


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Do you plurk?

Plurking is pretty awesome! You can ask a question or share your thoughts. Quickly, you have some feedback with folks around the world!

Testing out a comic strip generator, I did this quick comic on plurk.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wanted: You to Visit Your Library

Who'd of thought! Back in 1994, as a nice collaborative effort, I pulled out a puzzle of Lewis and Clark and placed it in the high school library! I was doing my part in a collaborative teaching project for a group of students researching Lewis and Clark. They loved it!

To my surprise, many other students and teachers took a few minutes to add their assistance in this puzzle. I wondered if mischievousness would cause pieces to disappear. Quite the contrary!

It has been five years now, and I guess we have completed about 75 puzzles. Rarely does a piece disappear! It is a sense of accomplishment by many when a puzzle is completed. This is left on display for a complete day, but rest assured, people are anxious to get started on a new one.

There are very few puzzles that we cannot step up to the challenge. It provides a community sense of accomplishment for our students and staff.

The puzzle spot offers a quiet zone where people can unwind, reflect, or calm down! It is a pleasure to see a group of five standing or sitting around this area, working together. This is a happy place to be! So, come on over. We have a 1,000 piece puzzle to do! And wait until you see what is next!!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reading is the Cat's Meow

Reading is the Cat's Meow
Originally uploaded by vanhookc
When I sit down to read on the couch, I usually fall asleep! But it is a favorite time for me. I have a cat that tries to sit on the pages and a dog that snuggles in his spot right beside me!

Where do you like to read?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cozy library

Cozy library
Originally uploaded by vanhookc

Could you lend a helping hand in keeping our library nice for all?

In reading and responding to a blog over at:, I have the following thoughts:

I am a high school teacher librarian for six years and have transformed a traditionally quiet library into a popular social / learning spot from 7a.m. to 3:30 p.m. We offer a nice collection of books for 1800 students, with an average copyright age of 12 years. We also offer high-speed Internet connection and an array of outstanding online research databases. The students are encouraged to use these and are learning how to critically evaluate sites reached by search engines. Students like their library! We even offer upwards of 90 different magazine titles, not to mention, we have chess and puzzles!

We will soon move into a brand new high school and a new library. I am hoping to gain approval on an outsourced coffeehouse in the library, to be enjoyed on the vinyl, tile flooring of the library and within a small library cafe.

In reading the global buzz about whether or not libraries should offer fun and food, I do see my "relaxed" policy (allowing for (1) more personal comfort and (2) more social, interacting zones) has often edged out common courtesy. Bottles of pop, water, chips and candy make their way into the lab, and supplies that are freely accessible at a station are left lying around everywhere, with cut paper also strewn across the room. Spills show up in areas where food and drink are discouraged. I wonder why a person doesn't think to clean up the trash left behind or a spill on a tabletop.

So how best might we instill self-discipline, respect and appreciation of one's public surroundings, manners and common courtesy? This can happen, but it takes the dedicated effort of many helping hands and voices to become a reality. Hmm, I need to give this more thought and enlist the help of others in our school to make this happen. Any suggestions???

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Photo Play : Take on Education

The sun is trying to break through as I drive up the hill to our high school campus. What are the challenges that await today? Learning will happen, I know, in big ways and small ways.

May I do my best at making a positive impact on the lives of these teens. I may never know the difference I have made in the lives of others. Just a smile, a word of encouragement, a nod of endorsement.

Each student is special and each student is important! There's magic in learning!

Thanks @dianecordell for a great idea on writing poetry on the flickr pictures! Your work inspired me to try thiis!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Picture of my Thoughts

Let me snap your picture
Originally uploaded by vanhookc
It's the end of week #2 of school! It's Friday! I have co-taught today with a lovely teacher. We have just completed six classes on research skills. Phew...we're exhausted. The kids are ready to move on to thoughts of football and a three-day weekend vacation! As we wrap these lessons up, I seek the big cozy chair at the front of the library. Waiting there is a former student with a bundle of joy, four weeks of age. As a single mom, she is happy but very busy. In walks another former student; she shares academic woes. College and life can be tough sometimes.

By now, the bell has ended the day! Rather than join the race to exit the parking lot, others drop by to say farewell, as the long three-day weekend approaches. One of these students shares her personal poetry that makes me shed a tear inside. I am touched by her writings and confidence. Another speaks his thoughts on teen issues! And yet another, seeks a parting hug of affirmation to last the weekend. Wow, there are so many stories happening here simultaneously in this small area of the library.

Each takes away a reassurance from these brief minutes together, maybe a lighter load after sharing with others, maybe just food for thought as they head to the weekend. And of course, my tired state of being has just been refreshed and re-energized. Why didn't I snap a photo of the old friends that dropped by? Next time.

These unscheduled moments are priceless, yet pass quickly. Classroom teaching is worthy and important. But it's these informal moments of sharing with students that are golden.
And thus, this is why being a teacher is wonderful!

Friday, August 22, 2008

A great team of State Fair workers

This was an impressive site. On the last day of the fair, it is my guess that these teens had their last supper together. These kids surely had a big part in making the Iowa State Fair 2008 a successful fair. The official website says, "Based on attendance estimates, the 2008 Iowa State Fair boasts the largest crowds in the Fair’s 154-year history. This year’s estimated attendance is 1,109,150, surpassing the previous record of 1,053,978 set in 2004. This is the seventh year in a row the Fair’s attendance has exceeded one million."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Iowa's Shawn Johnson 'n Butter

Wishing you luck on these upcoming competitions! We'll be cheering for you all the way, back home, here in Iowa!

Sunday night, Aug. 17, 6-11 p.m.: Floor exercise finals. Shawn is the defending world champion.

Tuesday night, Aug. 19, 7-11 p.m.: Balance beam finals. Shawn is one of the favorites.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Butterfly House

The Butterfly House
Originally uploaded by vanhookc
These butterflies are primarily raised in Costa Rica, The Philippines and Africa by small family farms just for zoos, fairs, and butterfly houses. Using the rainforest in this fashion provides a sustainable living for the indigenous people of the area. The butterflies are imported as chrysalides and hatch within the Butterfly Birthing Center, as viewed in this picture.

Friday, August 15, 2008

At the end of the rainbow

Originally uploaded by vanhookc
Day Seven was beautiful as have been all the days, except a couple have had some rainy spells. This picture shows a treasure chest of pure happiness at the end of this rainbow.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Iowa Supports Their Own!

Iowa Supports Their Own!
Originally uploaded by vanhookc
Look at this crowd. There is not an empty seat! See you on the grandstand soon, Jason Brown! It was a great concert. Your band is wonderful, too! You make Iowa very proud of you!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Onions of Perfection

Best of Show in Onions!
Originally uploaded by vanhookc
I am absolutely impressed with the quality of agriculture in Iowa. There is ample opportunity for practically anyone, of all ages, to win an award, if they work with plants and animals and related areas.

Did you know...How many ribbons are handed out during the Fair?
Approximately 45,000 ribbons, rosettes and banners are awarded annually to winners.

The official fair website has more interesting trivia. See:

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Altoona Offers Fun & Friendliness - Day One

It's great to see my friends volunteering to the make the Iowa State Fair the great event that it is! It makes me proud to be an Altoona resident!

That sure is some fine artwork, Polly!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

U gotta love it!

U gotta love it!
Originally uploaded by vanhookc
The Iowa State Fair has so much to offer in the way of opportunity, education, entertainment, celebration, and community spirit! It is a highlight of my year!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A beauty

A beauty
Originally uploaded by vanhookc
Wonder what year? Wonder the brand? Wonder the stories this tractor has to tell? I will just bet someone at the IA State Fair knows.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A celebration of counties

A celebration of counties
Originally uploaded by vanhookc
A lot of folks are getting ready to make the journey to Des Moines to come to the State Fair. The grounds are looking beautiful and these flags went up today.

Young and old alike will be making these counties very proud of their accomplishments at this year's fair!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

This RAM's watching ewe

This RAM's watching ewe
Originally uploaded by vanhookc
It's funny how you never seem to notice things until you look through the camera lens. This guy's probably been overseeing the IA State Fair since 1015 when the Sheep Barn was constructed.

He is in the shade and that's a good thing because the temp today registered 95 degrees. The workers getting ready for fair time in four days had to think it was a lot hotter than that!

FFA rocks!

FFA rocks!
Originally uploaded by vanhookc
The Iowa State Fair is such a great event! I hope to blog and upload pictures about the Fair every day. The fair is four days away yet but already a flurry of activity.

The FFA organization has a beautiful little cottage on the grounds and some of the prettiest pictures around!

Hope you will follow along with me as I tour the 2008 IA State Fair.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why have a Personal Learning Network

Personal Learning Networks are taking off at rapid speed. So, it looks like an interstate of roads and pathways all intertwining with one another. How does one keep on the pathway and headed in the right direction?

There has to be organization--a map, you might say. What is the purpose of web 2.0?

I have tried to list a few reasons to use online social networks and tools. See if you agree?

personal contacts
quick pics of the relatives across the country or world
connect with friends
professional education and training
sharing work
collecting data and information
visual storytelling
training and providing instructions / procedures
quick announcements and advertising
news announcements
quick contact
podcasting / video and audio
training briefs

Being able to leave comments...that's it! As I look at each tool I use, being able to comment is the quickest means of connecting, learning, and growing! Bouncing around ideas generates new knowledge! What success!

And what do you think?

Today, I am using the following (and tomorrow, there will be new tools to add to my list, I can only imagine):
  • A personal webpage
  • Several social networks--two for personal / professional contact and one for a global learning project
  • Several wikis--one for global booktalking and one as my PLN home base
  • Flickr
  • Doodle
  • RSS Feed Aggregator
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Google Docs
  • Shared Feeds
Your comments are welcome! Thus, I can probably begin to add to this list!