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Instructor Tips: Dennis Kelly—Downsizing by Design

Community Education Instructor Dennis KellyIt seems like one of the biggest 2017 trends may be downsizing and decluttering. Experienced downsizer and Community Education class instructor Dennis Kelly is passionate about helping others downsize and declutter their way to less stress. Whether you are cleaning out your closets or your contact list, he can offer practical help and tips for taking on these challenging tasks. Here are four tips for anyone looking to get a head start on their spring cleaning!

Tips from a Downsizing Expert

  1. Take it slow. Downsizing can be hard to tackle because it takes time and introspection. Give yourself permission to slow down long enough to truly get in touch with yourself.
  2. Look at your life. As spring approaches, ask yourself if your home, career, and relationships are where you want them to be. Think about which things you are ready to freshen up.
  3. Start with positivity. The goal of downsizing is to make room for more joy and happiness in your life. With that in mind, decide what kind of changes you want to implement.
  4. Embrace change. Downsizing takes courage because it is all about new beginnings. Face your downsizing fears, and get excited about making a fresh start!

Instructor Tips: Angie Loney — Keeping Your Summer Musical

It may be summertime, but the show must go on! As summer gets into full swing, here are some tips from WDMCS teacher and Community Education instructor Angie Loney to keep your child’s music skills polished.

Tips to Keep Your Summer Musical

  1. If your child plays an instrument, encourage them to practice  To make it easier, use a timer and set a goal.  Whether it’s practice five days a week or 90 minutes a week, choose a goal and a reward to motivate your child to practice!
  2. Is your child a singer? Then sing! Sing along with the radio, in a children’s choir, sing with a CD, sing at church, or sing songs in the car. It doesn’t matter what song you sing, just sing!
  3. Does your child like drama? Encourage your child to take a drama class, or take them to see a show at one of the many community theaters or the Civic Center.
  4. Another way to motivate your child to practice is a performance! There are many places your child can perform. An informal performance can be as simple as performing for family and friends at home (even the cat or the dog), while a formal performance could take place at a retirement home or church. Have your child choose the songs, create a program, and plan snacks for after the show.
  5. Most importantly, music should be fun! Find what your child likes to do and encourage them to participate and take lessons, classes, or workshops.  As a family, take time to listen to a variety of music and enjoy the many arts experiences our community has to offer.

ced_blog_AngieLoneyTipsAngie Loney has taught vocal and general music for 21 years, the past 14 at Crossroads Park Elementary.  She has taught music for grades K-12, including show choirs, honor choirs, musicals, music camps, bell choirs, and community choirs. Outside of school, she enjoys spending time with her three children, reading, shopping, and maintaining her black belt in taekwondo. Along with her excellent tips, she included a quote that will inspire everyone to start enjoying music this summer: “Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.” — Ronald Reagan

To learn more about Angie Loney’s classes and other WDMCS Community Education summer music programs, visit and our post about Band Bash and Summer Strings.

Instructor Tips: Dennis Kelly — Tips from a Downsizing Expert

ced_blog_DennisKellyTipsDennis Kelly is an experienced downsizer passionate about helping others declutter and destress. Whether you are cleaning out your closets or your contact list, he can offer practical help and tips for downsizing without feeling overwhelmed. Here are four tips for anyone looking to get a head start on their spring cleaning!

Tips from a Downsizing Expert

  1. Take it slow. Downsizing can be hard to tackle because it takes time and introspection. Give yourself permission to slow down long enough to truly get in touch with yourself.
  2. Look at your life. As spring approaches, ask yourself if your home, career, and relationships are where you want them to be. Think about which things you are ready to freshen up.
  3. Start with positivity. The goal of downsizing is to make room for more joy and happiness in your life. With that in mind, decide what kind of changes you want to implement.
  4. Embrace change. Downsizing takes courage because it is all about new beginnings. Face your downsizing fears, and get excited about making a fresh start!

Instructor Tips: Amy Schafer — Tips for Buying a New Home

ced_blog_AmySchaferLicensed since 2001, Amy Schafer is the vice president of sales for the Betsy Sarcone real estate team and a WDMCS Community Education LEARNwest instructor. She has an extensive history in not only selling homes but also exceeding expectations and providing stellar customer service. Amy joined the Sarcone team in 2015 to further her passion for helping buyers find their dream home. Amy is a native of southeast Iowa and holds a degree in interior design from Iowa State University.


Amy Schafer’s Five Home Buying Tips and Secrets

  1. Get pre-approved! Having your financing in order will save time, make you look like a rockstar buyer, and make the home buying process much more enjoyable.
  1. Set your criteria. Create a needs and wants list so you have direction on what you would like to purchase. The list can change, but it helps to start with a vision.
  1. Hire a professional realtor. An agent becomes the gatekeeper of your strategy, motivation, and finances. Pick one to guide you through the process.
  1. Don’t rely on the Internet. The assessor’s website and sites like Zillow and Trulia (just to name a few) can be filled with inaccurate information. Rely on your realtor to verify information and availability.
  1. Write an offer! When you find a house you like that also fits your needs, write an offer. Homes are selling fast and can be gone in moments. If you do choose to wait, make sure you are comfortable with possibly missing out on that home. The homes at the best price and in the best condition sell fast in any market.

Happy home hunting! To learn more of Amy Schafer’s home buying tips, register for her LEARNwest class, Top Home Buying Tips and Secrets.

Class Information and Registration

Instructor Tips: Diane Browne — D.I.Y Repurposing and Restoring

ced_blog_tips-jan2016The January instructor tips come from LEARNwest instructor Diane Browne, who will be teaching the “Rescue, Restore, and Redecorate Your Furnishings” class. Browne grew up in a family of antique lovers, auctioneers, appraisers, and furniture restorers. She now works in the paint department at Johnston Ace Hardware and enjoys helping people pick out colors to enhance their homes and teaching chalk painting and furniture restoring classes. She is always on the lookout for a garage sale or curbside find just waiting
to be repurposed!

Six Repurposing Tips for the D.I.Y. Enthusiast

  1. Use your imagination! If you have a piece of furniture that is outdated, scratched, or does not fit in, try to visualize what it could become or what you could use it for in another area of your home.
  2. Go to consignment or antique stores for inspiration. They are a great place to find repurposing ideas. Then use those ideas to create new pieces out of your own furniture.
  3. Always look for curbside items. Keep an eye out when you are driving down the street — you might see something unique you can repurpose for your home.
  4. Go to garage/estate sales with an open mind. Something that you never would have pictured in your home might just jump out at you as perfect for repurposing.
  5. Always make sure that the pieces you want to work with have good “bones.”  As long as the basic structure of the piece is sturdy, the sky is the limit as to what it can become.
  6. Think of all the possibilities, not just the first one. An old headboard does not have to be repurposed as a headboard; it can be turned into a unique bench.

Once you start the process of repurposing things, you will never see “junk” again! Every piece is full of possibilities. Check out Diane Browne’s upcoming class to start seeing those possibilities for yourself.

Check Out Session 1
Check Out Session 2

Instructor Tips: Julie Gieseman — Health for the Holidays

dietitian_gieseman2013Staying healthy during the holiday season is a common struggle. We’ve compiled five simple tips from Julie Gieseman, RD, LD, CDE, a Hy-Vee dietitian and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Central Iowa Dietetic Association. She is also a Certified Diabetes Educator and trained wellness coach.  She recently taught a LEARNwest class on Holiday Appetizer & Wine Pairing.


Five Tips for Keeping the Holidays Happy and Healthy

  1. It’s tempting to stay up late decorating, shopping, and cooking during the holidays so don’t forget to Stop, Drop, and Roll: Stop what you’re doing, drop into bed, and roll over! Your body will thank you for the extra sleep which can help you fight off illness, make better food choices, and have more energy to enjoy the holidays.
  2. Stick with your exercise regimen. Especially during the holidays, it needs to be a priority. Remember: minutes, not hours — ten minutes is better than nothing. It can burn off a few hors d’oeuvres or a drink and be a healthy release of stress.
  3. Make sure to still get your nutrients. Fill up on healthy food by eating five fruits and vegetables each day, before allowing yourself to snack on holiday treats. Have a hard-boiled egg, an apple, and a healthy drink like water or tea before you attend gatherings where lots of unhealthy foods will be available.
  4. Be mindful of what you’re eating. Pace yourself by taking smaller bites, chewing thoroughly, and putting down utensils between each bite. You can also record what you eat, to help you avoid a holiday binge.
  5. Don’t forget one of the best parts of the holidays: enjoying the people around you. This can also help with staying healthy. Socializing can provide a distraction from food, and you can showcase your holiday spirit by sending your leftovers home with others.

Instructor Tips: Amy Drake — Encouraging Student Reading

These tips for encouraging students to read come from West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) second-grade teacher Amy Drake. This summer, she taught the WDMCS Community Education Summer Adventures in Learning Sports Spectacular class. Drake has always been a sports fan and knows how interested her students are in sports and athletics outside of school, so she decided to combine learning and sports for her fifth year teaching summer programming.

Six Tips for Encouraging Student Reading from Amy Drake

  1. Struggling readers are often discouraged by the lack of interesting text at their levels.  Get to know students and their interests and hobbies outside of school.  In my experience, reluctant readers are motivated by texts related to sports or other hobbies they participate in.
  2. Use the local or school libraries for texts on these topics. During SAIL, I checked out nearly 40 books about different sports and physical activities for my students to read throughout the week. Some higher level books contained the history of the sport, rules, professional leagues, skills, and more. Introductory texts for my younger students contained the basics, but great photos and diagrams to keep readers engaged.
  3. Remember to work on writing skills too. We tied in writing each day of Sports Spectacular by making connections to our knowledge of the sport discussed each day. Students who are reluctant to write due to a lack of ideas are much more willing to write about a topic they know. Encourage personal narratives about experiences playing a sport or participating in an activity.
  4. Ask media center staff for digital resources provided by our district. Epic is an iPad app that provides categories of books at all levels, lengths, and genres and has a search option. Reluctant readers enjoy searching for books about their favorite sports and hobbies. The iPad app Write About is a great tool for giving students a photo and a posed question as a writing prompt. The full version (purchased) has several sports-related prompts that could be used, and there is also a free version.
  5. Use Readers Theater related to sports and hobbies. Some buildings have subscriptions to Reading A-Z, where you can search for texts by topic. Readers Theater scripts can also be found on the site, as well as fluency practice passages.
  6. Encourage team work. Whether studying sports or any other topic, more can be achieved by working together.  The students in Sports Spectacular worked together throughout the week to learn to play the sports, stay safe while playing, partner read, and encourage each other in every activity.


Instructor Tips: Peri Halma — Baking Like a Pro


This month’s instructor tips come from Peri Halma, a family and consumer science teacher at Stilwell Junior High and an avid baker. She has entered baked items including cakes, pies, breads, cookies, and candies in the Iowa State Fair for the past 20 years. Peri loves to see the joy of cooking in young people and wants to inspire them to continue this joy at home. She will teach Community Education’s Summer of Learning Baking Academy class this summer.

Peri Halma’s Top Five Baking Tips

1. Use the best ingredients available. Think you won’t be able to tell the difference between imitation and real vanilla extract, or that Dutch Processed Cocoa won’t make a difference? Think again! Using quality ingredients makes a huge difference.

2. Bring ingredients to room temperature. Okay, confession: I don’t always do this — but I really should. When you use eggs or milk straight out of the fridge, they don’t combine as smoothly with the dry and room temperature ingredients. This can result in clumps of one ingredient sticking together and making an appearance in one unfortunate bite, which is no fun.

3. Preheat your oven, and then take the temperature. It goes without saying that you should preheat your oven, but I’ll say it anyway: preheat your oven! If you put batter in before the oven is ready, it will mess up their baking process. Ovens can also be finicky. Invest in a good oven thermometer, and then use it! Double-check the temperature of your oven before you put your batter in.

4. Bake in the center of your oven. When you’re ready to bake, set pans on the center of a rack set in the very middle of your oven. This will ensure good airflow and help even out heat distribution, preventing overcooking on any one side of the pan.

5. Resist the urge to peek. I know that baking is exciting, but don’t open the oven door over and over to check on your progress! If you slam the door open or closed towards the start of cooking, it can cause fragile air bubbles in the batter to burst, and you’ll end up with a dense product.

Check out Halma and her students in action in these photos of her Kids in the Kitchen class from the WDMCS Community Education Adventures program.

Instructor Tips: Julie Lundy — Running Tips

Close Up Of Runners Feet On Suburban StreetJulie Lundy. a Community Education administrative assistant, provided 10 great pointers for this month’s Instructor Tips. Lundy is a recreational runner who has completed two marathons and several half marathons, Dam-to-Dams, and 5Ks. She sees running as a way to control stress and have some time alone. It is something that can be done anywhere, at any time, with anyone. Lundy likes to remind students in her 5K for Beginners class that running does not have to be a race, and it does not matter how fast you are!

Ten Running Tips from Julie Lundy

  1. Buy good shoes! Have your feet measured later in the day when they are at their biggest. Many people end up getting a running shoe that is a half size larger than their street shoes. Do research: there are many types of shoes, from high stability to lightweight to no stability. A higher price does not mean that shoe is best for you.
  2. Socks are just as important! A good pair can mean the difference between running bliss and painful blisters.
  3. Stay safe when running! Let others know where you are going. If running on a road, run against traffic so you see the oncoming cars and be visible.
  4. Start your training slow. If you start out too fast, you will get discouraged. It is okay to incorporate walking into your training sessions, but try to make your walking sessions shorter each time you go out.
  5. Give yourself goals as you run. Goals can be to run for five minutes before you walk or to run to a road mark, like a sign or tree, before you start walking.  Your goals will get bigger before you know it, and you will have one final goal: to cross the finish line.
  6. Eat and drink smart.  Know what foods digest well for you, and eat a smart amount of those at least 30 minutes before your run.
  7. Eat smart, part two: Running is a great way to burn calories. This makes many people believe they can eat anything they want because they run. Running can be a great way to allow people to eat more, but it does not give you freedom to eat anything in any amount. At the end of the day, your body needs only enough calories to replenish the ones you burn. I usually figure you burn about 100 calories for every mile you run.
  8. Don’t think about your workout — just do it! Sometimes, if you start thinking about whether you should go or not, you end up deciding you have something better to do. Don’t make it an option!
  9. Getting up early to run is my favorite time, and I find that if I don’t do it in the morning, it doesn’t happen. Running in the morning also gives you more energy for the whole day!
  10. Find a running buddy. Not only will they keep you accountable, they will make your run more enjoyable!

Instructor Tips: Cindy Lin — Tackling Group Fitness Classes


Cindy Lin, WERQ Dance Fitness instructor.

The March Instructor Tips are focused not on marching, but on dancing. Cindy Lin is a third-year podiatric medical student at Des Moines University. She is originally from Portland, Ore., and graduated from the University of Oregon in 2012. Lin first fell in love with fitness while taking Zumba classes with her mom in high school. She became a “group fitness junkie” in college, taking a wide variety of classes, from yoga to kickboxing. She started teach WERQ Dance Fitness classes in August 2013, and it has become her favorite way to work out. She loves teaching group fitness and challenging others to push themselves to their full potential during workouts. Lin is teaching a WERQ Dance Fitness class starting March 25. She can be found on Facebook and Pinterest.

Register Here

Five Tips on Group Fitness from Cindy Lin

  1. Go into the class with an open mind and a smile. Those who come in with no expectations tend to have the best experience. Give different classes a chance; you might be surprised by which ones you like.
  2. Try each class three times. For dance fitness, the first class is getting used to the class, and the second class is about learning the choreography. By class three, things are more familiar, and students can bring out their inner Beyonces. Once they are more familiar with the choreography, it is easier to add flair and have more fun. If you still aren’t a fan by that point, it’s okay — not every class is a good fit for every person.
  3. Get to class in time for the warm-up. WERQ Dance Fitness is different than other dance fitness classes because it utilizes the warm-up to ease students into the workout and previews dance moves that come up later in the class. Gradually easing into the workout helps prevents injury, and the previewed dance moves make it easier to master the choreography later.
  4. Do not worry about what you look like to others. Most people are too focused on watching the instructor and learning the moves to pay attention to anyone around them. Remember to focus on yourself during a workout — the workout is about you.
  5. A workout is what you make of it. Fitness instructors are there to guide the workout and provide external motivation. Students who feel sore and tired can make the workout a little lower intensity. To get their heart rate up, a student can add more intention to their movements — jump higher, dance bigger, and squat lower. Each student is in total control of their body and workout.