Saturday, April 21, 2007


Excerpts from my Retirement Speech

Many teachers who heard my retirement speech encouraged me to publish it online. The intent of the speech was to amuse, but most importantly, to inspire educators to make a difference. The acutal speech was quite lengthy, so I will publish only a few excerpts. There were also references that only teachers in the district understand, so I have removed those:

I struggled with what would be the best approach to take with this speech. So I decided to “differentiate instruction” so to speak.

For those of you who are fans of Madeline Hunter and direct instruction, here are the objectives for my speech:

The listener will be able to list important events of a 26 year teaching career.
The listener will be inspired to also retire.

For those of you who embrace inquiry based learning, the essential questions are:
How do you summarize or express what has been learned throughout a 26 year teaching career?
How can teachers retire early?

But I decided that neither one of those approaches was quite right so I became distracted and played around at Youtube for a while and I ran across Father Guido Sarducci’s 5-minute University. How many of you are familiar with the 5-minute University? For those of you are not, he teaches what an average college graduate knows after five years from graduation in five minutes. For example, in his economics class he teaches "supply and demand." In his business course, he teaches "buy something and sell it for more." In his Spanish class, he teaches "Como esta usted and muy bien." So you get the idea.

Some of you may have heard that I am engaging in a new business venture, but what you don’t know is that it is called Diana Dell’s 4 minute Teacher Academy. I teach everything you will remember after a 26 year teaching career. I figure if Guido can do it in 5 minutes, I should be able to do it in 4 minutes because I will be integrating technology.

So here are the courses and the content for the 4 minute Teacher Academy:

Classroom Management- First, you have to get their attention
Curriculum: Don’t worry about it. The government will tell you what to teach.
Surviving Staff Meeting: Nod and smile, but not too much or they will think you are volunteering for something.
Higher-Level thinking: Ask questions!
Technology Integration: Use the Internet and fill out a work order when something doesn’t work.
Dealing with Stress: Eat chocolate!
Dealing with Parents: Realize that they always do the best they can.
Keeping up with change: Don’t fight it. Just do it!

Then it is time for spring break. In Missouri that often means an opportunity to study enology at a nearby winery. In the 4 minute Teacher Academy, there is no time for that so you just get to enjoy a quick glass of wine at a local happy hour establishment.

So I am thinking I am doing pretty well with my courses and content… then it hit me that I needed a course on acronyms used in education and that blew the whole idea of a four minute teacher academy right out of the water. It occurred to me that mastering educational acronyms could take years!

So I started listing them. How many of these acronyms do you know? Just shout out what these stand for.

Moodle- Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment
eMINTS- enhancing Missouri's Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies
PD4ETS- Professional Development for Educational Technology Specialist
SIS- School Information Systems
HH- Happy Hour
PSRS- Public School Retirement System

It occurred to me the changes that have taken place in acronyms over the course of my teaching career.

When I first start teaching, we called kids who had trouble paying attention, "Kids who had trouble paying attention." That changed to ADD and then to ADHD.

When I first start teaching, we called kids who couldn’t speak English, "Kids who couldn’t speak Englsh." then they became ESL students, then ELL and now ESOL.

When I first started teaching we had the BEST (Basic Essential Skills Test) test. If we had the best, why on earth did we change it to the MAP (Missouri Assessment Program)?

If you know me well, you know that I love words and I have been known to make up a few acronyms of my own. You also know that I am a natural integrator. If you combine my love of inquiry based learning and acronyms you can generate some interesting questions. For example:
Does NCLB cause ADD in teachers?

Does using Moodle in an eMINTS classroom reduce the impact of ADHD, increase MAP scores and help districts meet AYP?

If you call the PSRS from HH will they raise your monthly benefit amount?

So I think I now have the content for the educational acronyms course in the 4-minute teacher academy….. DBIBA… Don’t Be Intimidated by Acronyms

Changes in acronyms are not the only changes that I have seen in education after 26 years.

Recently the eMINTS National Center referred a reporter to me who was writing an article about the impact of educational, online games in education.

When the reporter called to interview me, Vince (Director of Technology) and I were in my training room working on the Year 2 eMINTS grant application.

The reporter asked me many questions about my website, Gamequarium, and how teachers are using educational online games in their classrooms. Then she asked me how I got started using games with students. I talked about my first home computer: The TI 994A. Maybe you remember these? Programs were loaded by connecting a cassette tape recorder to the computer. I created my first game to help my sixth grade class learn states and capitals during my first year as a teacher. When I told my administrator about what I created and that I wanted to put my own personal computer in my classroom so that students could use it, I was told that playing on computers was not allowed during instructional time. I was given permission to have it in my classroom during the last week of school for a reward.

When the interview was over, Vince said, “You need to stop telling that story about the computer and the cassette tape. You are really dating yourself.”

So later that week, the reporter sent me the preliminary copy of the article so I could check it for accuracy. One line in the article reads,

“Diana Dell started using computer-based games so long ago the game was on a cassette and she had to have permission to use it as a reward during the last week of classes.”

Okay, so Vince was right….. for once:) But has anyone noticed that at the ripe old age of 48, I am the youngest retiree here this evening? Do I get an award for that?

The excitement and the engagement that I saw in my students when I took my TI 94A into my classroom hooked me on instructional technology during my very first year of teaching and it continues to excite me and keep up nights thinking even today. The possibilities of technology in education continue to increase exponentially.

When I learned to design web pages, I gained a voice in the world of education. Many of you know about my hobby of creating educational websites. Gamequarium, the most well known of my sites, a portal to online learning games and activities, was created to complete an assignment for my introduction to web design class. Gamequarium became a labor of love and I continued to expand and develop it. As near as Google and I can figure, Gamequarium is being used in about 50,000 classrooms around the world. It is currently receiving about 175,000 page views a day. I receive emails from teachers, parents, and students around the world each day. It is truly amazing to me that a country girl with very humble beginnings in Leslie, MO, with a love for teaching and learning, has been able to impact the educational community in this way. That is the power of technology.

My mission is simple and my vision is clear:

It is truly a great time to be a teacher. All the world's knowledge is at our fingertips. We merely need to guide our students in asking the right questions. We are on the verge of something great in education and the Valley Park School District is poised to lead the way. There are many people to thank for making Valley Park a leader in educational technology, not only in the state, but also in the country. Dennis Lea’s vision to make technology and the eMINTS program a priority at Valley Park has sustained this district during the past three years since he retired. However, no one has done more to impact technology at Valley Park than my dear friend and partner, Vince Szewczyk. During the past 8 years he has built the infrastructure, installed and maintained the computers, software, the SMART Boards and all of the other technology equipment that our district has been blessed with, much of it with his own hands.

It is my hope that VP continues to do great things regarding technology integration. The best way to do that is to maintain an association with the eMINTS National Center and to continue to employ a Certified eMINTS Instructional Specialist.

Some of my family is here with me this evening to celebrate my career as a public educator. Yes, I know that we almost fill an entire table. We are from the country where big families are still common. We are trying to populate our community. We even left a few of them at home. If we had brought Bella, she would have been the entertainment for the evening! No matter what else I accomplish, my family is the most important thing in my life. David and I will celebrate the 33rd anniversary of our first date next week and our 30th year of marriage this summer. I will do the math for you. I met him when I was 14 on my first day of high school, we went on our first date when I was 15, and we got married when I was 18. Our first child was born when I was 20. Our last child was born when I was 32. So is there a reason I haven’t quite finished school and my dissertation is still a work in progress? It is amazing to realize that David came into my life even before computers with cassette tapes!

Many times I am ask how am I able to do so many things and why I usually have a smile on my face. The answer to both questions is David Dell. He is the secret to my success. He has been my cheerleader and my greatest supporter in everything that I have ever attempted. He is always there to celebrate my successes, to pick me up when I fall, and to rub my feet at the end of a long day. David, I love you.

To my children, Davina, Shanee, Davney, and Drew, thank you for all the times you let me drag you to whatever school I was teaching at on the weekends, for being my page flipper when I had papers to grade, and for understanding that sometimes other kids or teachers needed me more than you did. I love you all. You are all my favorites.

I have been blessed not only at home, but also here at Valley Park. How fortunate I am to have the opportunity to work with Vince Szewczyk. We have spent hour after hour, evening after evening sitting next to each other writing grants, and tech plans, and completing the mountain of paperwork for the technology department and we have managed to laugh our way through most of it. Vince, thank you for being the best partner and dearest friend that anyone could ask for.

There are so many teachers with whom I have had the opportunity to work and learn. Thank you for welcoming me into your classrooms and into your lives.

To the custodial staff who always smile and tidy my room after my eMINTS sessions end late in the evenings. To our food service workers who make the most wonderful cookies. To the secretaries in all of the building offices and the Central Office gang, you have all touched my life and brightened my days.

To the school board, thank you for all you do for children and for making technology a priority and for continuing to do so.

I will be retiring under the HSA retirement plan:


And I have one more course for the 4 minute teacher academy:

How to retire early: Never stop learning, never stop sharing, never stop loving, and never stop laughing. Invest in beach front real estate and find a hobby that you love that makes the world a better place. Dream big, work hard, love much, laugh often, learn daily and always do the right thing. Then, even if your dreams don't come true, you will still have a wonderful life.

I am off to enjoy the next part of my journey through my wonderful life but I will always remember all of the wonderful friends and great times I had at VP.

Hugs to all!


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