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Inside all of us….

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“Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.” It’s dark outside, the sun has not come up yet and I am walking into my classroom. I love my new classroom. Actually, I love our entire building. When I walk through those doors each morning and look around…I see what we could be.  I see hope. I see opportunity. I see a future for Willard that has the power to change our community.

Our latest adventure started when we looked at the plans for the new building. The plans showed  a cyber cafe that would be near my classroom. Someone stated we should have a student run coffeehouse and the idea became a dream. A place where students with special needs and typical students could work together. My head filled with vocational skills, social skills and financial literacy goals that would easily apply.  But a coffeehouse…in a school???

After making a trip to Norwalk High School and spending a morning watching their coffee shop, we knew we needed a plan. It’s not about the coffee! The students were not purchasing a lot of coffee. Students were buying lemonade, tea, hot chocolate, fruit smoothies and frozen white chocolate. However, it was so much more than that! There were students showing up early, smiling, talking, sitting together at tables and just hanging out. They were collecting money to give to charities through tip jars and changing their part of their community.

CaféLatteThe Crimson Cafe is NOT just a coffee shop. We want to change our small part of Willard. This is a student lead endeavor and students will work together to produce coffeehouse style drinks. We will be team up students with special needs, at-risk, attendance issues and regular students to start a new tradition. The Flashes Pride will be up early, working hard and providing awesome drinks for our students and staff!

What can you do to help? It’s will take each and everyone of us to change the world. If we each donate what we can, whether it be time or money or supplies, we can make a difference. We can connect with those students who need us the most in a way that might just change our little spot of the world. If you would like to help in any way, we would love to have you as part of the Crimson Cafe.

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Crimson Cafe List of Equipment


Contact: Shannon Wyckoff –

One Last Day

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Tomorrow has been one of the most anticipated days of the school year, the last day of school! Each year this is a day of rejoicing in the fact that early mornings, tests, studying and homework assignments are finally over. This year, this last day means so much more.  Since 1925 these hallways have contained WHS students and teachers.  Crimson Flashes who have performed in the PAC, studied in classrooms and ran through the hallways to lunch.  How do we say goodbye to something that has been such a huge part of life in Willard?

When I think back to my memories of WHS, my thoughts go to the people who were such an integral part of those memories.  Teachers who became my mentors throughout this crazy adventure in education.  Teammates who taught me to “think outside the box,” make a leaning Tower of Pisa out of tables, dancing is always more fun in the hallways and that you have to laugh when things go crazy.  Places and locations throughout the building hold memories of these friends that helped me become the teacher I am today.  The green room, the 400 hallway, the teacher’s lounge and just hanging out in the office are just a few locations that trigger some memorable moments at WHS.

There are students who come to mind when I walk through classrooms one last time. Students who taught me that teaching is not always easy and to expect the unexpected. That sometimes students shave their heads in the bathroom, tackle administrators when asked if they want to wrestle and tell their parents you put them in a box if the room is shaped like one.

This building will be missed but the memories are packed.  My teammates, friends and mentors will be boxed up and moved into our new building. The memories belong to us, as we share them with each other and reflect on all our great times here at WHS.  So as we watch the students walk these hallways one last day…..let’s do what we love to do….and DANCE!

It’s Better Than Scratching!

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Today is April 2nd….the day my students and I have been anticipating since January, but to be honest it goes back a couple of years. Today was going to be the day we would find out if I would become the 2015 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail. However, things don’t always turn out the way you want. Last Friday evening I received an email announcing the winner as Erin Montgomery. I was spending time with Corey before she headed back to college, and looking back, I know someone had a hand in allowing me that time with her before I had to deal with the disappointing news.

Mrs. Wyckoff's ClassroomThis journey began several years ago when my supervisor asked me if I had ever heard of the Teacher on the Trail for the Iditarod. What she didn’t know was I was already working on my application and was preparing to ask my administrators for their support. In 2012 I was elated to be chosen as a 2014 Finalist and found myself in Alaska at the Iditarod for the start of the race. The experience was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life and words can not describe the emotions that went along with it. Being at the ceremonial start and watching Matthew Failor prepare for the race really brought home how lucky I was to experience the Iditarod as a finalist.

My first year as a finalist was one of trials and tribulations coupled with total exhilaration. I survived everything from my plane being delayed 5 hours and missing every other flight to running a temperature of 103 degrees. There were late nights, early mornings, challenges, interviews, presentations, a trip to the ER and I was having the best time of my life. I was witnessing history in the making and sharing the experience with my students back in Willard. I was living the dream and praying I would be chosen as the Teacher on the Trail.  However, it wasn’t meant to be. The hardest part was breaking the news to my students. After many discussions, my students decided that it would be okay because it just meant that I needed to try again the next year. How could I argue with them when I am always telling them if you don’t get it right the first time you just have to keep trying.

This year I reapplied and was elated when I received a phone call telling me I was a finalist again. My students, along with the entire student body not only knew what I was doing, but was excited about my upcoming journey. It’s amazing to walk through a tunnel of high school students as they throw you a send off prior to your trip. I still tear up when I think of all those students giving me hugs, high fives and wishing me luck. I am lucky to work in an amazing school full of students and co-workers that are awesome! They not only followed my blog articles but skyped with me on a daily basis and offered me encouragement.

2015 FinalistsWords can’t describe my experience as a 2015 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail Finalist. The Iditarod has so many different aspects that make it a truly remarkable experience.  One of my favorite things about the Iditarod is the people. I have made some amazing friends all because of my Iditarod experiences and being able to be with them again made the journey even more special. Not only was I able to visit old friends, but I quickly became friends with the other two finalists. We were competitors, but first we were educators sharing the journey of a lifetime.  Please understand that I truly am proud of Erin and wish her the best of luck. At the same time, I know I will see Mark apply again someday and see him win.  (His Facebook skills are improving at an amazing rate!)

So, how do I tell a group of high school students I didn’t win? How do I explain to my students how lucky I am even though I am sad? How do I continue teaching using the Iditarod? How do I answer everyone when they ask, are you going to do it again? How do I explain to my family, friends and students how much it means for them to have taken this journey with me?

I didn’t have to look far for inspiration; the Iditarod provided it for me.

Aliy ZirkleThis year I chose a musher different than who I typically chose as the musher I would follow. I did it for purely selfish reasons.  I wanted to see Aliy Zirkle win the Iditarod.  I wanted her to cross under that burled arch with her head held high representing the amazing woman I have known her to be. My new pink t-shirt that read, “Alaska, where men are men and women win the Iditarod” was begging to be worn. History was going to be made and I was going to be there at the beginning of the race to wish her luck.

Aliy ZirkleAliy has come in 2nd place for two years in a row and I just knew this was her year. Aliy was running an amazing race even though the trail conditions were the worst they had ever been and she had torn a hamstring. She was behind Jeff King and I was watching the GPS trackers along with thousands of other fans when all of a sudden Aliy’s tracker placed her in the lead. It was all over the internet; Aliy Zirkle was in 1st place and had made it into Safety. This was the last checkpoint before Nome and history was about to be made. Aliy Zirkle was finally going to achieve her goal of winning the Iditarod.

Once she arrived at Safety the seriousness of the storm she had just come through came crashing down on her.  She was not only thankful to be alive, but thankful to see her competitor Jeff King. The reality of what could have happened and what she could have lost took a toll.  Then along comes Dallas Seavey, who blows through Safety and takes the lead. Aliy decides to chase after Dallas and finish what she started. As a fan, I can’t tell you what it is like to be glued to the computer as you pray that little GPS tracker catches up. The last few miles coming into Nome the trackers were right on top of each other.  As I watched the live finish, I was praying for a miracle. Praying that Aliy was able to beat Dallas down Front Street to the burled arch. Sadly, it didn’t happen. Aliy Zirkle finished in 2nd place, just 2 minutes and 22 seconds behind Dallas Seavey.

When Aliy crossed under the burled arch it was to thousands of fans screaming her name. She held her head high, thanked everyone for their support, thanked her fans and described the race as the toughest mushing she has ever done! all with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face. A short while later she was interviewed by the Alaska Dispatch and gave the most emotional interview that I have ever seen.  She continued to smile with tears in her eyes and shared how she felt about the race. She laughed, she shared her fears and her disappointment. She respected her competition and shared how much she loves her dogs. She shared how this was the hardest mushing she had ever done and the worst conditions. Then came the comment, “Three 2nd places.” Her response, “It’s better than scratching!” Her friends, fans and family erupted in cheers at her response. Then she goes on to say she is sure she is going to be bummed and that she couldn’t watch him get the truck. She briefly mentions hindsight and with a big smile on her face says, “2nd is pretty good.”

So how do I explain to my students that I wasn’t chosen as Teacher on the Trail again? I hold my head high, I smile, I laugh, I get tears in my eyes and I say, “It’s better than scratching!”  I gave it my all and am proud of what I have accomplished. Not only am I proud of myself, I am proud of every single student in my district. They stood by me, encouraged me and gave me their hearts. I want to thank every co-worker, family member, friend, reporter and my administration for everything they have done. I am lucky to not only have been on this journey, but to have their support along the way.

Someday Aliy Zirkle will win the Iditarod! Until then, Aliy and I have dogs to train and students to teach! So what do I say when I am asked If I will apply again? Well, what would Aliy Zirkle say?  

Balto – ThingLink

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Balto – ThingLink

ThingLink allows you to create interactive pictures that contain “nubbins” which are points that are linked with pictures, websites or videos.  It will allow the viewer to not only see the ThingLink that you have created but any image that is related to your topic.  This will be so much fun to use with my students!  This website is free and just requires you to set up an account.  For a quick tutorial on how to use ThinkLink you may want to begin by watching this youtube video.

My Next Classroom Book – Hatchet

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Hatchet by Gary Paulsen will be the next book I will be reading to my classroom when school starts back after break.  I wanted to chose a book that would keep all my boys’ attention and what better story than a young boy who has to learn how to survive in the wilderness.  Image

The book tells the story of Brian Robeson, a thirteen-year-old who is flying to Canada to visit his father.  Brian boards a small plane where his adventure begins.  This book contains tons of action that I think my boys are going to love!  It takes place in the Canadian wilderness which goes along with our “Where in the world” and Alaska units.  I would like to be able to complete Hatchet and then continue with another Gary Paulsen book called Winterdance. I am hoping I can work out the timing so that we are able to kick off the Iditarod with a bang!

Some great resources that I plan on using include:  This website includes Smartboard activities, Vocabulary activities, Science experiments and so much more!  This website includes descriptions & pictures of the animals and plants Brian encounters.  This is a great website for students to use!

I am currently looking for the movie that was made from the book called, A Cry in the Wild.  There are several youtube video clips that I plan on using to get the students excited about the book including:  I will add more to this post as we progress through the book.

Bringing the Race Into the Classroom

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On Saturday, July 6th, I had the privilege of spending the day with the Tony Schumacher racing team.  Tony nicknamed “The Sarge”, proudly represents what he refers to as the backbone of the United States.  Tony said,  “I get to drive the coolest car in the world,  8,000 horsepower, 330 miles an hour in four seconds – two football fields a second – it’s lightning fast. But it’s kind of funny … I can’t even start it by myself.” Tony Schumacher

I considered myself very lucky that I was chosen to represent Willard City Schools at the Norwalk Raceway for this event.  The Army brought in educators, administrators and community members to introduce them to several educational programs they promote.  We began our day by receiving badges, earplugs, tickets, bracelets and behind the scene passes.  We were immediately taken to a huge tent area that was set up as a reception area in between two of the Schumacher Racing team cars.

After checking in we were taken to a helicopter simulator.  We strapped in and were given some basic directions.  It was very surreal.  At one point we were laughing and yelling so loud that the crowd outside could hear us.  One of my favorite activities of the day was watching the Top Thrill Dragsters race down the track.  Feeling the sound travel through your body was quite the experience.  After each time trial, Tony or “The Sarge” as he is called, would return to the tent area to talk to everyone.

The Sarge is an exceptional speaker.  He discuss how he had five best friends that he would never allow to work on his car.  He went on to say that you have to pick people to be on your team that are the best of the best.  His life depends on their knowledge and skills.  He wants to make sure that when he steps into that car, his team has done everything possible to make sure he is safe.

The Army has a free program for high school students that allow them to practice OGT, PSAT and SAT questions for free.  The website is:  Students and teachers can register online without fear of being contacted by any form of the military.  This service is provided for any student or teacher.  The Army no longer accepts students who have not graduated high school.  They only want the best of the best fighting for our countries freedoms.

Taking the car apart.At the end of the day I was exhausted and full of information and ideas.  I can’t wait to use some of the math questions and science lessons that use Top Thrill racing as a theme.  Thank you to the Army for a wonderful and informative day.  I can’t believe I have only lived 20 minutes away from such a wonderful educational opportunity.

A Ride At the Top of the World

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Today was another amazing day here in Alaska!  The temperatures were in the high 20’s all day and the wind was barely blowing.  I stayed in my room a little longer this morning trying to catch some extra rest and deal with my lovely cold I have caught.  I woke up with a slight fever which keeps trying to pester me throughout the day.  However, I am determined to give it my all here!  

I met up with Susan one of the other finalists around 1p.m. and headed back to the Fur Rondy.  This morning they were auctioning off bear hides which were laid out all over the ground for people to view at the carnival.  ImageSusan and I walked down the hill to see the snow sculpture contest.  It was amazing to see what they were able to create out of just snow and ice!  I would have loved to see what kinds of tools they use to create these sculptures.  My favorite sculpture had to be the moose with the hunter hiding behind him in the trees.  It was complete with a gun, binoculars, a woodchuck and a campfire.  

While we were looking at the snow sculptures I decided to grab lunch from the local reindeer dog stand.  They sell a lot of reindeer dogs here in Anchorage on the streets.  They taste a lot like what we call a Big Red Smokey in Ohio.  They come with all sorts of toppings but I like mine with cheese and ketchup!  We trudged back up the hill and bought tickets to ride the ferris wheel.  If we were going to be here in the winter at the carnival, we thought it was only fitting to at least try the ferris wheel.  

ImageI was amazed that the guy who was running the ferris wheel actually had ice crystals hanging off his mustache when he helped us board the ride.  It was a little difficult getting into the seat and fastening out seatbelt with all the extra clothing and gear.  However, we made it and off we went. It was a little cooler at the top of the ride since the wind was blowing a little more.  I couldn’t believe how far you could see.  We tried getting some quick pictures before the ride came to an end.  The ride was a lot of fun but not something I would want to ride over and over.  It was pretty cold when the ride was moving and I found myself trying to huddle into my parka to stay warm.

Our last adventure of the day was to head to the Millennium where the Iditarod headquarters are during the race.  We had to register as volunteers and get our name tags.  ImageThere was a gift shop in the lobby set up by the Iditarod committee which provided the volunteer t-shirts.  I ended up buying another t-shirt for myself.  Susan and I decided to head into the restaurant and kill some time by eating supper.  The menu was quite comical with all the interesting fare they offered.  Susan ordered meatloaf made from bison and reindeer meat.  I stuck with what I know and ordered Chicken Picatti.  

Our last task of the day was to meet with Diane the Education Committee Director to begin our official “work” as a finalist.  Diane provided us with our schedule for the next week and our assignments.  Things are about to get interesting!  We hit the ground running tomorrow!  This will be the last blog I post on this website until after I return back to Ohio.  I will now be posting to the finalists blog on a daily basis.  We will be posting daily in a journal and articles on various assignments.  We start in the morning at 8 a.m. and end the evening with a social with ExxonMobil.  It’s going to be a long day but full of adventures.  

I am off to bed to try to get some rest and get over this nasty cold!  I have a lot to do tomorrow and no time to be sick!  Please continue to follow me on this amazing journey by going to: