PEP Talk Newsletter

New School Year Tips

What are your priorities with the start of the 2016-17 school year? School leaders have a myriad of concerns, interest, and needs that can seem overwhelming. It does not have to be this way. Over the next few months there will be an opportunity through PEP Talks to share ideas and tips that can help readers move their schools forward and also help them to find greater balance in addressing leadership challenges. What follows are a few tips to consider with the start of school.

Tip 1. Safety First! With all of the priorities at your school, this one needs attention both at the beginning and throughout the year. Having a clear array of plans to address emergencies and contingencies need to be in place. If not, address this immediately. The most important reason for this is that as educators, we have the community’s future in our hands. Assuring that our children and those who serve them are safe in all areas of our operations must be a part of the core values and mission of the school.

Tip 2. Have a structure in place, such as a School Improvement Team, to address significant issues surfaced either by the staff or administration. Such a team ought to be invitational and include a representative from all of the various constituencies on the professional staff. I found this to be an effective way to address issues that often are annoying or need attention either from the administration or the staff. One of the important by-products of this type of structure is the opportunity to empower and build capacity in the staff. There will be additional PEP Talks that will address this topic.

Tip 3. Develop and reinforce a culture that focuses upon higher level thinking skills and applications for all students in all areas of the curriculum. This ought to include both core and non-core academic areas. Leaving any area of the school curriculum out of this expectation sends a negative message. On the positive side, exploring ways to integrate higher level application creatively, such as with linking science and mathematics, physical education and social studies, art and music, can yield disproportionate value in leveraging learning.

Tip 4. Develop student voice in the school. Within teaching and Educator Effectiveness, practices that include student voice and choice reflect a quality of teaching that can be in the distinguished range. There are plenty of resources to help with this; Edutopia is one of them. Addressing student voice and choice may be challenging for those educators with command and control issues. On the other hand, those classrooms that have an inclusive, student-centered classroom often have the opportunity to address concepts such as project-based learning and other strategies and practices resulting in higher levels of performance for all students.

Tip 5. Pay close attention to the non-certified staff in your school. Generally, these staff know most of the students in the school and interact with them on a daily basis. Supporting administrative assistants, custodians, and paraprofessional includes having strategies to listen to their concerns interests and needs, as well as to share expectations about serving the key stakeholders in the school. Having them aligned with the vision, mission, and core values of the school will help, especially when they are out in the community and conversations arise about the school.

Best wishes for the start of the school year! Please feel free to contact this writer, Dr. Mike Dietz at with your ideas and tips for school improvement. Also, encourage others to join the Concordia PEP program and network by contacting Dr. Steven Witt,

On Being Professionally Developed: Online Professional Development Credit Options for License Renewal

One thing is certain in education - change. As a professional educator we know that we will need to learn new things to be effective in our craft, to reach our students and to communicate effectively with the school community. Technology may be a tool that you have accepted into your daily life as a necessary evil or something you have embraced as your own personal Swiss army knife; gadgets that help you get life done. When I was asked to design professional development courses in educational technology, I was thrilled because there is nothing I love more than connecting with educators like myself who are traveling down a road with what feels like a little flashlight app to light our way.

I have been a teacher since 1999 but my love for computers and technology began in the 80’s so when I was offered the role of technology teacher I jumped at the chance. Over several years we transitioned from PC desktops to Mac laptops, Google Apps for Education and several iPad carts. My students include 3 year-olds to 8th graders and as a tech coach, colleagues and fellow educators from my alma mater CUW, where I teach in the Bachelor’s and Master’s of Ed programs, the teacher cohort program and OCDE - distance education. Recently, that experience includes providing professional development to other schools, including the online EDGT courses. It is an exciting and sometimes exhausting time keeping up with the changes, but also the incredible amount of possibilities technology has to offer in education. Having the real experience of implementing technology into my own classes and school helps me to understand what teachers are facing as they work to add technology into their classrooms. I see myself as a guide or mentor, someone who wants to help educators find resources that will work for them, their classrooms and their school community.

-Denise Meyer, Technology Teacher and Integration Coach-Hales Corners Lutheran School, Adjunct Professor, CUW

The EDGT program at Concordia is an innovative professional development program that enables educators to obtain credit for license renewal and professional development. Designed with the busy educator in mind, these courses are offered 100% online and on your schedule.

Several new online Professional development courses are available: EDGT 800 iPads in the Classroom EDGT 801 Google in the Classroom, EDGT 802 Notebook software in the Classroom, and EDGT 803 Technology Tools in the Classrooms. Each of these seminars are offered as one, two, or three credit modules at a drastically reduced tuition rate of $141.25 per credit.

EDGT courses do not require you to be accepted into a graduate program. The application process is quick and easy. If you choose to transfer into a graduate program at a later date you may be able to apply your EDGT credits toward your program. 

Counseling Has a New Director! 

Greetings to all of you! Dr. Gary Petersen retired the end of July and I was asked to move from Associate Director to Director. While I have been with the program under Dr. Petersen for the past 6 years, some of what he did on a daily basis is quite new to me. So I will ask for patience as I work myself into this new role and continue in my role as Director of the Alternative Education Certification Program.

One highlight is that we will be revamping our Professional Counseling program to meet the Department of Safety and Professional Services mandates of a 60 credit master’s degree. We will be ‘rolling out’ that new sequence of study in January 2017. We will be adding one new course to the Master’s degree in School Counseling (Methods and Models of Family Counseling) and removing Theories of Personality. Our faculty team thought that this change would better meets the needs of the students and families that our school counselors serve.

Blessings to all of you as you begin the academic year!

Dr. Jan Heinitz

The Graduate School and Professional Counseling program at CUW prepares students through comprehensive, State of WI approved programs designed to provide foundational professional skills for life long service in schools, agencies, churches, and communities. For more information visit or contact Amber Schiessl at 

What's New in THESES and Graduate Education Research 

Two of our recent theses’ completers (with their programs), are Shaina Murn, Education Administration; and Hannah Duffy, Early Childhood.

In May, Shaina presented her thesis, Arts Education and the 21st Century Skills of Creativity, Collaboration, & Critical Thinking, and it was approved by her committee (Dr. Schnake, Dr. Pingel, & Prof. Becker). As a classroom teacher Shaina had recognized that the Arts have long been a part of academia, but in the 21st century many Arts programs have had to fight for funding. And yet standardized testing alone cannot show how a student uses the 21st century skills of creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking, which are highly valued in higher education settings and in the workforce. In designing her study, Shaina’s research question was: Do the Arts improve students’ application of creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking in other academic areas?

Hannah’s study, Storytelling in the Kindergarten Classroom, was presented in June and approved by her thesis committee (Dr. Schnake, Prof. Becker, & Dr. Keiper). An experienced kindergarten teacher, Hannah explored literacy instruction as a key component to early childhood education. Her own experience plus current research supports storytelling activities, with retelling interventions shown to be successful in helping students learn narrative story structure and comprehension. Hannah’s study set out to determine the role which extended story-related activities play in kindergarten children’s literacy development, especially in their ability to retell, dictate, and comprehend a story, and respond orally to a story that had been read aloud.

-Dr. Rick Schnake: Associate Director, ED ADMIN
Grad ED Research Coordinator

Welcome Back Teachers!

For some of you, summer is a time of relaxing and vacation. For others, it is a time of preparation for the academic year, and some of you are teaching year-round because your students, who are at-risk, need the consistency of instruction. So, welcome back from wherever you have been, physically or mentally during the summer months.

I just finished with a cohort of 9 students in our Alternative Education classes leading to a #1952 license through DPI. As always, I learned about so many great things that are happening in homeless shelters, detention centers and schools throughout Wisconsin. We continue to identify more and more families who need additional support in the schools and in the communities. As we move forward in providing support, we need to keep in contact with our legislators, as well as local school boards to make sure that all children, whether at-risk or not, have their educational needs met.

-Dr. Jan Heinitz

The Alternative Education program is a sequence of two courses that addresses ways in which we can all help students and families who are at-risk move toward success in life and it leads to the WI DPI #1952 Alternative Education license. For more information visit or contact Amber Schiessl at 

Calendar of PEP Events: 


  • 10th: New Superintendent License Cohort begins (CUW Mequon Campus)
  • 14th: WASDA Fall Superintendent’s Conference
  • 17th: Messmer Urban Teaching Certificate (Messmer Schools)
  • 19th: LCMS South WI District Administrator’s Conference (CUW Mequon Campus)
  • 29th: Closing the Achievement Gap Consortium meeting


  • 22nd: Messmer Urban Teaching Certificate

Dr. Steven Witt

Dr. Steven Witt is the Director of Preferred Educational Partnerships at Concordia University Wisconsin.

Office: LU 201B