Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lu Ann Staheli Wins Utah Best of State Educator K-12

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli has been named as the Utah’s Best of State Educator K-12 at a recent Gala. Staheli graduated from Alexandria-Monroe H.S. in Alexandria, Indiana, in 1972, and the Indiana University Blooomington School of Education in 1976. She taught English and psychology at Rockville Jr. Senior High School in Rockville, Indiana, for five years before moving to Utah. In 1984, Lu Ann joined the staff at Payson Jr. High School in Payson, Utah. For the past twenty-three years she has taught English, Writing for Publication, and Reading Options. In May she earned a Masters Degree in Instructional Technology with a Library Media endorsement through Utah State University’s School of Education.

Lu Ann is a teacher of teachers. Two of her former students teach with her at Payson Jr. High, one is an administrator there, and numerous others have entered the education field. She has been a mentor to four students teachers, all of whom have continued in the field. In addition to helping students become teachers, she also has moved students to careers in creative writing and journalism, but perhaps the most successful thing she has done is encouraged a generation of lifelong readers.

During her twenty-nine years as an English teacher, Lu Ann has shared her love of reading and writing with over 4,000 students, and it doesn’t look like she is ready to stop teaching them anytime soon. “Once my student, always my student” is her personal philosophy, and her students seem to know that without ever being told. They come back to visit her classroom years later, stop her in the local grocery, and track her down via the Internet to ask her for book recommendations, tell her about their latest writing project, or share a favorite memory from a long-ago class she taught. Through shared literacy, students develop a sense of connection to Lu Ann that leads them into an adult world where books and writing are important. The fact that many of her own students have become teachers, and that she also mentors student teachers, broadens her influence even farther across the state and perhaps the world.

“Until I’ve given them a million words, I can’t teach them how to write,” describes the beginnings of an English program under Lu Ann’s tutelage. “So many students come to me—even in my Honors programs—with a limited view of reading and a fear of writing. A boring book or a single blood-red paper returned from a well-meaning teacher can halt a student’s progress toward engagement in reading or improvement in writing for years, sometimes even a lifetime.”

To help her students overcome those fears, Lu Ann begins her school year with reading. She teaches strategies and tips to improve reading skills, no matter what level a student currently tests, then she gives them plenty of time to practice those skills. She reads high interest books aloud to them, lets students read in small groups, and includes time for plenty of independent reading, providing audio books for students who need additional reading support. “The more words I can put in front of them, the more likely they will discover something—a book, short story, poem, or piece of non-fiction—anything that will hook them, giving them a reason get excited about reading and hopefully leading them to reading on their own. If it takes giving a student something new to try every day, then I’ll do it. All it takes is one book—the right one—to make a lifelong fan of reading.”

In addition to reading, Lu Ann leads her students into writing fluency. “Getting words down onto the page is hard for most people, but this is especially true of junior high students who are already a little insecure. I believe in letting students feel comfortable with writing, validating their efforts and ideas, long before I make corrections and suggestions.” A professional writer herself, Lu Ann teaches the craft of writing rather concentrating during early draft stages on the skills of editing. “Editing is the final process in writing. Too many teachers seek perfection from their students long before the work is ready. Editing too early can ruin voice, stop the flow of fresh ideas, and squelch any student desire to attempt, let alone perfect, a piece of writing,” she says. This process of building readers, then teaching the craft of writing, has found Lu Ann’s students of all ability levels not only among the highest scores on a variety of state and standardized tests, but also eventually following career paths that allow them to use these skills without fear.

“People who read succeed, or so the slogan goes. If a student reads well, school is easier for him or her. The information disseminated via teacher lectures, textbooks, and other materials becomes accessible and interesting,” Lu Ann states. “Eventually my students leave the junior high school. Most of them graduate from high school. Obviously, those who leave with reading and writing skills will move on to successful careers that add to the economy,” something Lu Ann herself does through the various employment and volunteer opportunities she follows beyond her work in the classroom.

In addition to teaching, Lu Ann has long served her local community. As a member of the staff at Alan Osmond Productions, Lu Ann was an Associate Producer for Stadium of Fire, a member of the Spanish Fork Arts Council, State Coordinator for the National Council of Teachers of English’s Promising Young Writers program, on the Speaker’s Bureau for the League of Utah Writers, and has been on the Middle Level and Young Adult Book Selection Committees for the Children’s Literature Association of Utah. Lu Ann served as coordinator for the Spanish Fork City Arts Council Writer’s Workshop and the Nebo Young Writer’s Conference. She is often called upon by church groups, book clubs, and other members of the local and state community to present workshops on literacy, give book reviews, or serve as a judge in writing contests. She has worked on district and state textbook and media adoption committees, as well as helping to write the previous state CORE for Secondary English Language Arts. Past-President of the Utah County League of Utah Writers and freelance editor for WriteWise, Deseret Book, and Covenant Communications, Lu Ann edits for several local and nationally published authors. She is currently a member of the Payson Jr. High School Accreditation team, and works for the One Heart Foundation and

Lu Ann has earned several awards and recognitions through her teaching career, including Nebo Reading Council Reading Teacher of the Year 2006, Christa McAuliffe Fellow Utah 1999, Utah English Language Arts Teacher of the Year 1999, Excellence in English/Language Arts Instruction 1999 from the Utah Writing Project, and Celebrate Literacy Award 1996 from the Utah Council IRA. She was selected for the USWest/UtahLINK Teacher Network Project 1995, the Marquis Who’s Who in American Education for several years, and has previously been nominated for both the Disney Hand Award for Outstanding Educators and the Huntsman Awards for Excellence in Education.

Beyond the classroom, Lu Ann continues to teach reading and writing to former students and the community at large. Through her two weekly newspaper columns, "Read All About It" and "Out of the Best Books," Lu Ann shares her love of books and her expertise when it comes to literacy issues. In addition, she writes two subscriber-based e-zines, several blogs, and publishes book reviews in three national educator magazines, Library Media Connection, The SIGNAL Journal, and The ALAN Review. She has taught classes and workshops for her school, district, and state organizations, including her popular workshop “Recipe for the Reluctant Reader.” As a Senior Editor for the Precision Editing Group, she teaches Mastery Writing classes for BookWise Publishing. Her own publication record in the area of education includes an invitational chapter in Teaching Ideas for 7-12 English Language Arts: What Really Works (Christopher-Gordon Publishers), Books, Books, and More Books: A Parent and Teacher’s Guide to Contemporary Adolescent Literature, and Teaching Secondary English: One Day at a Time, as well as featured articles in the Utah English Journal.

Past-President of the Utah Council of the Teachers of English Language Arts and the League of Utah Writers, Lu Ann currently serves on the board of the Nebo Reading Council and the UVSC Forum on Children’s Literature. Through her newspaper column and personal donations, she helped the Nebo Reading Council build a library collection for the Nebo School District Young Mother’s School in 2008.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Joey and Rory Finish Third, but . . .

So, Joey and Rory finished in 3rd place on Can You Duet, but that may turn out okay. I've heard through the grapevine that a record company exec may already be talking contract with them, and the exposure was certainly good for Rory's already established song writing career. I expect we will be hearing more from this duo in not too much time. Here's what Naomi Judd had to say about them:

I must say that I could have never predicted how this competition was going to turn out. Not that I’m unhappy with the final choice. In fact when you look at it purely from inside the music business, the duet with the best chance of establishing themselves and making a long career as artist were the winners.

It’s no secret that Joey and Rory were my favorites. To me they were the most authentic duet on the show and I loved practically everything they did. After the filming of the last episode I found out that my masseuse, Richard Valdez and family, is their next-door neighbor and never told me. It must have been difficult for him to have kept that secret, but knowing that it could have impacted the show, he knew it was best not to tell me. My husband Larry and I just had lunch a few days ago at Joey’s little restaurant, Marcy Jo’s, outside of Columbia, Tenn. Pork Chops, mashed potatoes and green beans. (

Saturday, June 14, 2008

BEA for Booklovers

I had the best opportunity in the world for a bibliophile like me: FREE BOOKS! I spent a day in Los Angeles the end of May, meeting with agents, editors, booksellers and hundreds of authors who were at this annual trade show, ready and willing to give away and autograph copies of their books. You’ll be hearing more about some of these authors and books in the coming weeks, but I wanted to give you an overview that might make some of you salivate to attend the one scheduled next year in New York City.

BEA stands for Booksellers Expo America, and it is the place to be if you have anything to do with the book industry. In addition to the open trade show and author autographing areas there are workshop sessions, special breakfast and luncheon presentations, in-booth one-on-ones with authors, illustrators, editors, agents, book publishers, and others involved in the industry. Some of these opportunities are geared toward specific audience members such as librarians, educators, book buyers, booksellers, and those who are building and renewing contacts with others in the industry.

You’ll have the opportunity to meet just about anyone and everyone at BEA. While standing the line to meet Peter Walsh (
Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?), I chatted with an agent who handles Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction, one of the many things I write. She handed me her card so I could send her sample chapters. Walking from the trade show to the autographing area, I ran into T.A. Barron (Merlin’s Dragon) who I had met several times at conferences in Utah. We talked about doing an interview for one of my blogs. Back at the autograph tables, I met George Hamilton (Don’t Mind if I Do) most recently of Dancing with the Stars fame, who was just as good-looking, tanned, and suave as ever.

Sometimes the encounters I had there were almost comical, like when I tried to find the end of the line to meet Slash, a member of the heavy metal group Guns and Roses who was there giving out copies of his forthcoming autobiography. The line wound out of the autograph area, and halfway around the building, yet I still hadn’t found the end! Then there was meeting Brandon Sanderson (
Mistborn) and realizing as we talked that I had taught his wife at Payson Jr. High School. And I loved the moment when a publicist chased me through the line to get my card so she could add me onto her list of advance copy reviewers.

It’s easy to forget these people are famous or critical to my writing career when I have authors like R. A. Salvatore (
The Orc King) stop in the middle of autographing my book to introduce me to Heather Graham (The Death Dealer) whom I had actually met last fall at the WriteWise conference in Salt Lake; the head of Roaring Press Books take a minute to introduce me to one of her favorite agents while we were discussing my review of one of their recent publications; And New York Times best-selling authors like Richard Paul Evans and Robert G. Allen giving me advice on how to pitch to an agent or editor while at the conference.

All in all, going to BEA was a great experience for me, as I’m sure it was for the rest of those who went from here in Utah. And it’s one I plan to have again, only this time I hope it’s me sitting at the table autographing copies of my book. Target date: Las Vegas 2010.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Lu Ann Meets Her Favorite Organizer at BEA

Anyone who read my article at Desert Saints about Clean Sweep knows how much I love Peter Walsh. I admire the genteel way he works with people to overcome their clutter habits and obsessions. When I saw that Peter was going to be signing copies of his latest book, Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? I knew I had to get there early to be in his line. I wasn't disappointed. Peter was funny, he was kind, he posed for this photo, gave me his email address so I could contact him about doing an interview, gave me a hug with a kiss on the cheek, and declared that I was hysterical, meaning in a funny way not like a super-fan gone crazy. I told him how I was training my boys to clean house the clean sweep way, and his publicist through that was great, too. Okay, I know my house has a long way to go to be as neat and clean as the ones Peter does for his stint on Oprah, but at least the memory of this day will help keep me on the right path when I battle the mess that I call an office. Speaking of which. . . I guess I should get started now or it will take me all summer to do. In the meantime, if you want to read more about another one of Peter's books, visit my Book Review blog about It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Leading a Richer Life with Less Stuff.