Student I Am From poems

This semester I am teaching a section of English 12 that only has two students :) It is a new section and students didn't know about it until the first day of classes this school year, so I'm hoping to have more students enroll next semester! But until then I am enjoying having a small class...it's easier to get to know the students and I can offer them a more personalized education. On the first day of class last week all three of us wrote "I Am From" poems...these are from my two girls:

I Am From

I am from Cheryl and William.
From Ogallala and Lake McConaughy.
From small community and sandy hills.
I am from home cooking eaters, Chinese eaters, stroganoff and manicotti eaters.
I’m from politeness, kindness, love, and hospitality.
From a hair artist and telephone technician.
I am from “Be yourself even though its hard” and “Be kind to all, even your enemies”
I’m from no-abortion-no-homosexuality Baptists.
From all-me only child and only grandchild.
From no retiring, lifetime workaholics that I’m nothing alike.
From writing fantasy novels, reading Inkheart, and silver ford focus.
I am from then intense love of animals and expressing oneself in song.
From kittens, dogs, and anything else small and huggable.
From the love of working as a waitress and helping people.
I’m from the passion of singing and choir.
From blue roses and day lilies.
From shopping for clothes and shoes.
From meteorology, performing, and astronomy.
I am from finding all the constellations in the star lit sky to looking at the moon in a telescope.
From watching cartoons on Saturday morning and going to youth group on Wednesday.
From Cornelia Funke, Obert Skye, J.K. Rowling, and D.J. MacHale.
My own passion of expression through my art and my love for life.


I Am From

I am from Ron and Theresa
From the small town homeliness of beautiful Ogallala Nebraska
From where children are taught young “you will never have anything unless you are willing to go for it”
From where you see the red white in blue not just on the streets but in the people you see everyday
From where everyone knows your past your present and sometimes your future
From where you can’t get away for who you are and where you come from
I am from deer hunters and car racers
From lawful men and intellectual woman
From conductors and rail workers
From happiness, love and, togetherness
Form families both large and small
From hope, heartbreak and, loss
From “everything will always happen for a reason, you just got to live through it pumpkin” and “be strong no one can make you stop fighting but your own self, it’s all up to you”
From the crucifix and Christ
From water to blood
From bread to body
From virgin to mother
From lemonade stands, fun at the lake, and fishin’ at the ponds
From cornfields, bonfires, and cowtippin’
From sisterly love and horrible arguments
From proud father of a young soldier son
From the old and the new, from the great and the true
From strict but always right caring hands
From tears laughter and loads of confusion
From boots and spurs, farmers and ranchers
From responsibility, respect, and honest
From the golden rule and country grammar
From where a real man opens your doors and pulls out your chair
From home where you will always find a loving heart and a warm embrace, because living here we are just one big disfunctional but beautiful family, all together all for one, one for all, Ogallala Nebraska.


Mapping out where I'm from- childhood

Reading through this week's reading assignments and viewing other Place Conscious blogs made me think about the places I have lived. I decided that I would describe a little about each place that I have lived because I really do feel that these places have shaped me into the person I am now. I wish I had pictures for some of these places, but unfortunately my family is not big into pictures. So words will have to do :)

Omaha, Columbus, and Milford

I was born in Omaha, Nebraska and lived all over eastern Nebraska and in a small Iowa town during the first two years of my life. After my parents divorced my mom and I moved back to her home town, Columbus, Nebraska. She asked her parents for help, but they lovingly told her she was on her own. They believed in tough love, and it worked. My mom found a modest apartment she could afford, landed a job waitressing at Pizza Hut, and invested in a sturdy bike that was equipped with a baby seat. This is how I got to and from daycare every day, on the back of a bike. My mom is one tough cookie and I respect her for forging her own path after my biological dad left. When I was three or four my mom married her high school sweetheart, my step-dad (who I refer to as my dad) who had just returned from the Army. We then moved to Milford, Nebraska and lived on campus at Southeast Community College so my dad could go to school. Soon after, my brother was born. I don't remember much about Milford, but I do remember that there were other families who lived on campus. We had a swing set in the backyard that all of the kids played on in the evenings while our dads either went to work or did homework. I remember that my parents went to the food pantry every now and then because we were dirt broke. It seems like these were some of the toughest years in my parents' lives, yet my dad talks about this place more than any other place we've ever lived.

When I entered Kindergarten we moved to Crete, Nebraska where my mom worked at Region V with mentally and developmentally disabled adults. My dad commuted to Lincoln to work at Appleton and my brother and I went to school at St. James Elementary, a small Catholic school. We lived in an old, Victorian style home that was a block from the city pool. The house was so old that on our deed there was no year listed; instead, where the year would be listed it simply said "old." The house was quite the "gem" when we moved in. Their was no electricity in the upstairs, the basement was unfinished, the kitchen and bathroom were in serious need of repair, and the dining room had bare wires sticking out in some places. Fortunately my dad is a handy man. He wired the upstairs (although he never got to my brother's room!), completley flipped the kitchen and bathroom, remodled my bedroom, started on my brother's room, and fixed up the dining room. It seemed like this house was in constant disarray, at one point my mom had no kitchen sink and she had to wash the dishes in the bathtub! I loved this house. It had a spiral staircase, french doors leading into the living room that housed an antique up-right piano, a gigantic yard, a clawfoot bathtub (before the rennovation), and my bedroom was the best: an attic-looking room equipped with two large built in bookcases that housed every single Babysitter's Club book available to man-kind and two small windows that I often sat in front of reading the night away. I would have loved to stay in Crete for my entire life. We ened up moving to Columbus the summer before I started 7th grade (years are fuzzy for me). My brother and I were devestated. The day I moved I was supposed to meet my best-friend, Kevin, to say good-bye. Kevin was so sad that he wrote me a letter and gave it to a mutual friend to give to me. I remember sitting in the backseat watching out the back window, tears running down my face hoping that Kevin would run down the block. My brother was only in 1st or 2nd grade but had a terrible time with the move. It actually ended up being a pretty traumatic event for him. The rest of elementary school was a rocky road...he was made fun of a lot and turned to fighting these hooligans which led him to be suspended quite frequently.

My family moved here to be closer to my grandparents (I suppose new jobs played a role in this move as well!). My dad accepted a job working at one of the many factories in town working as a supervisor and my mom found a job working at a place similar to Region V. Columbus was a large adjustment for us. We went from a town of 5,000 to a town of 20,000. Looking back on our move and our time in Columbus, I am beginning to realize that it was more of a rough transition for my brother and I than we probably realized at the time. Like I said earlier, he didn't fit in in this new place and thus turned to fighting to stick up for himself. I was no angel child either. I found a few friends, but got in more trouble than when we lived in Crete. I talked like crazy in my classes and drove my teachers nuts. I also had quite the attitude, this put me in the principal's office more times than my parents would have liked. 7th grade was also my first fist-fight and my first experience with alcohol. Luckily, by about my freshman/sophomore year of high school, I straightened up and turned out to be a pretty good kid. It's funny how much a place can affect or change a person. I'm sure when we first moved to Columbus, my parents probably wondered if they had made the right decision simply because of the drastic turns my brother and I took.


I Am From poem

Here is the latest copy of my I Am From poem. I have written several copies over the years, but sadly, have not saved any of them! Have no fear, this one is saved :) My English 12 students have also crafted an I Am From poem....I will try to post these tomorrow!

I Am From

I am from Jan and Mitch, Dave and Pat, Bunk and Jeanette, Elaine and Don—a family tree that looks more like a knotty forest due to divorce.

I am from eastern Nebraska, where the Platte and the Loup house barefoot children splashing through shallow waters and where sunbathers occupy sandbars.

I am from do as your told and don’t be afraid to rattle their cages—you don’t want them to forget who you are. I’m from a home where we were free to speak our minds but encouraged to be sensitive while doing it.

I am from garden-fresh tomatoes with every summer meal, from radishes dipped in salt, from creamed cucumbers and breaded pork-chops. From meals of corn on-the-cob and watermelon. From brown sugar and cinnamon Pop-Tarts and three at a time popsicles.

I’m from lakewater, four-wheelers, and wild sunflowers. From sand in our hair and bathing suits hanging on the cabin’s deck, water slowly dripping onto the weathered wood.

I am from Husker football on Saturdays, mom screaming at the TV and Grandpa Kinzer’s laugh ringing loud above the announcer’s voice.

I am from blue-collar workers who value education and a good red beer. From occasional church-goers to fire and brimstone pulpit preachers.

I am from The Beatles, Alan Jackson, and 38 Special. From Reader’s Digests on the backs of toilets and Nebraska Life on coffee tables.

Though I keep these values, I am now stomping out my own path in a classroom filled with ninth grade students in the Cowboy Capital of Nebraska—my life before me like an open highway, my right hand on the steering wheel and my left out the window grasping for whatever comes my way.


A little about me...

This fall I am taking a course through UNL called Place Conscious Teaching. One of the course requirements is to create and maintain a blog, so to save me a step or two I figured I would just use the blog I already have established!

A little about me and where I come from:

My name is Danielle Helzer and I am a 23 year-old English teacher, wife of three years, daughter, sister, aunt, and volunteer. My husband and I live in Ogallala, Nebraska with our two year old Cairn Terrier, Sampson.

New jobs brought us from Kearney out to the Cowboy Capitol a year ago. Previously we had lived in Kearney, Nebraska where I was attending UNK and substitute teaching at Gibbon Public Schools and Elm Creek Public School and my husband was in his second year teaching K-12 Vocal Music at Elm Creek Public School. Around our second year of marriage, I had joked around with my husband about moving out to western Nebraska. Being very family oriented, he had always said that he wouldn't move further west than Kearney...but here I sit in my newly finished basement in Ogallala, Nebraska!

To make a long story short, friends of ours were moving to Ogallala and had mentioned to us that the Vocal Music position at OHS was open. My husband, wanting to transition to a larger school, applied for the job in March 2008. As soon as he sent out his application I began looking for possible jobs. However, I had not yet complete my student teaching experience. In fact, I had just recently been assigned to student teach in Minden, NE. Nonetheless, the day after Nate sent off his application I attended the educator's employment fair at UNK and dropped off my resume to every booth whose representing school was in a 45 mile radius of Ogallala. Luckily, the principal from Perkins County High School in Grant, NE just happened to be looking to fill an English opening. Later that week my husband and I were making the two hour trek to interview for jobs. A day later we were offered positions. I remember getting "the phone call"...it was during one of my classes and when the principal offered me the job I danced up and down the halls of Thomas Hall (the English dept. at UNK).

Last year proved to be a rough year for me. Because I had not yet student taught, my first semester at PCHS was spent "student teaching"...basically I taught almost all of the classes I was assigned to while my cooperating teacher (a full-time sub and retired History teacher) got paid to supervise me. I had a massive load: Creative Writing, English 11, Practical English 9-12, Journalism, Yearbook and the asst. speech coach. In December I finished my student teaching experience, graduated, and began collecting a pay check! Though I enjoyed my time at PCHS, the class load quickly wore me out and I turned in my letter of resignation in March. I was blessed enough to be offered a job at Ogallala High School teaching English 9, Reading, and one section of English 12. Needless to say, I quickly accepted!

This year has been much better. I am enjoying teaching in the same town I live in and love teaching at the same school as my husband. I've gone from a small, rural, upper-middle class farming community to a larger district with a high percentage of free and reduced lunch and much more diversity. I'm still getting used to all of these changes, but they are welcomed and keep my job interesting.

Though I often long for big-city-life, over the past year I have grown to love this place. I love the movie theater that also houses a coffee shop. I love hearing the sounds of roosters' crows filtering through our bedroom window in the early morning hours. I love running the town's trail that winds through hills and is littered with cactus and yucca plants. I love seeing students at the grocery store. I look forward to Summer Indian Rendezvous every September where downtown is cluttered with food vendors, live performers, pep rallies, and other festivities. And I love visiting Arthur Bay to watch sunsets at Lake Mac. Many of my friends are occupying urban areas, but I am happy right here in Ogallala.

Tomorrow I will post my I Am From poem as well as a few of my students' I Am From poems that they have been crafting over the past few days!