Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Dick Hanson....Teacher and Coach: The Best I Ever Saw!

     Dick Hanson (1936- 2016)

Coach and Teacher. 
He was superb at both.  Some would say, and rightly so, he was more coach than teacher. When you're a learner, why that's even better!

My friend of 55 years, Dick Hanson, passed away to his eternal reward on January 26, 2016. I don't know how we get welcomed to heaven, but in Dick's case I think the committee was led by his lifetime love and dancing partner, Phyllis, and a host of heavenly choir singing the "Anniversary Waltz" while they circled the floor.

He touched so many lives as a beloved math teacher extraordinaire, a caring, perfectionist football coach who focused on his players first, and an all-around wonderful person with whom to spend quality time. How lucky I have been to call him "friend."

How have I loved him? Let me count the ways:

In 1961, fresh out of college and smack, dab in the middle of my first year of teaching, and I am lucky enough to be chose for the NSF Summer Institute on Computing at the College of St. Thomas. Fearful I was about the esoteric math, but the instructor was Dick Hanson. 'Nuff said. He always knew a way to make it clear, and possessed the patience to help those of us who needed more "clear." I knew I had found a mentor in life.

On the lookout to keep improving my teaching skills, I attended the Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics conferences, every year. And every time, I looked up Dick Hanson on the Conference agenda and made sure I got their early to find a seat. Dick passed on more nuggets of wisdom to an audience than a gold-miner panned. Most gifts were centered around his humorous tips: engage the learners, smile often, take it one step at a time, inject humor, take pregnant pauses, inject some more humor, and let the students make the conclusions so they can own it.

Dick was so good at teaching mathematics, the most difficult of all subjects (just ask any of his students if you don't believe me) that he was chosen MN Teacher of the Year and a finalist for National Teacher of the Year. As runner-up, he was too self-effacing to have won that title, but it's hard to imagine anyone who could teach better than he did. I've seen thousands of teachers over the years and never saw one better.

My wife, Ruth, and I enjoyed many wonderful times with Dick and Phyl, laughs and loves, poetry and music, jokes and stories about friends and family. All the things in life that truly matter. They would even take the time to drive all the way from Burnsville to visit Ruth's Art Show.

No teacher I've known, let alone a math teacher, had a following like Dick Hanson did. If you were in his class, you never forgot him, and you likely remembered some of the math. Here's one of them:

John Seipp was a student of mine at the University of St. Thomas a few years back. We became good friends, and when we shared some of our memories one day we found Dick Hanson was among them. John wrote a wonderful memorial to Dick on Facebook. I'll share it here:
A legend. I was fortunate enough to have him for Calculus. Best math teacher I ever had, and not even sure who would be second. Also one of the kindest, gentlest men I ever met. 
I will never forget his habit of muttering "Idiot!" at himself when he would make a small mistake on the white board in his impossibly neat writing, before brushing it off and correcting it. One time in class I noticed a plus where there should have been a minus or vice versa, and pointed it out to Mr. Hanson (sorry, even though I later worked with him at Burnsville Sr. High, he will ALWAYS be Mr. Hanson...I respect him too much to think of calling him anything else.)
As he went to fix it something came over me and I mumbled "Idiot!" loud enough for him and the class to hear. It was offered in the spirit of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, but I instantly feared it would not be taken that way, and the hush that fell over the class told me I was not alone. 
I remember Mr. Hanson's back stiffening for just a moment, then him fixing his mistake, turning back to the class, and arching one eyebrow at me with a tiny smile curling the corner of his lips. Those who knew him will remember that wry grin. Then he continued as if nothing had happened.
I learned not take myself too seriously as a teacher from Mr. Hanson. I learned to check my ego at the door. I learned to try to look into the heart of students and believe their words and actions are driven by good, and not by malice. And I learned the power of a teacher's passion for his subject and his students.
Tom Mraz, Ron Ronning, Dick Hanson, Ted Seidel, Craig Stoneberg, Carlene McDowell, Dave Griffith, Penny Damlo, Don Gerlach...I was at Burnsville when giants walked the Earth, and I stand on their shoulders.
Godspeed, Mr. Hanson."
We met another succesful person once at a dinner who had been in Dick's classes. A young woman who took calculus from Dick back in the days when few girls took math. Dick encouraged her and she graduated from college with a degree in mathematics and has been a succesful actuarian ever since. She's still grateful to him. 
My orthopedist, Peter Daly M.D., was one of his students too. I saw him at the funeral. He must have taken geometry from Dick as  the angle of my new knee is perfect. Dr. Daly also played football for Dick and counts it all among his treasured memories.
I'm certain there are hundreds of other such stories. Local TV anchor Randy Shaver announced this on his show the day Dick passed away:
"One of Minnesota's greatest high school football coaches passed away today. Dick Hanson of Burnsville was 80 years old.
Coach won 5 state titles for Burnsville in 1972, 1980, 1985, 1989 and 1991. He was not only an outstanding coach but an award-winning teacher.
I first met Dick in 1983 and watched him win three of those titles.
A great coach, but a better man.
I know the Burnsville community is mourning his loss, but so are thousands others, like me, who were lucky enough to cross his path. RIP Coach Hanson."
Dick and I stayed close over the years. I'd get a call that started with, "Did you see that show last night on PBS?" and I'd counter with a recent book I had trouble putting down.  Even though he was a brilliant teacher and coach, I was so bad at golf that we decided to play tennis instead. I loved listening to the click of Dick's golf balls as he launched them, and in return, tried to show him the advantage of a well-placed dropshot or lob over the head of an aging opponent on the tennis court. We met regularly for my golf lessons until his Parkinson's worsened enough that he claimed that Lucy, from "Peanuts", kept moving the ball on his tee. We moved on to sharing lunches where the conversations ranged from art, to poetry, to football, to math, to Carnac the Magnificent, to music, to....well, it had no limits
Like me, Dick loved to play the piano. He was the far better at it, and loved to take a fistful of sheet music into a nursing home and sit and play the old tunes for the old folks. He continued that until he was one of them, and stopped only when Parkinson prevented the right note from being where it was supposed to be. He then went into his comedy routine of David Lettermen's Top Ten, Johnny Carson's Worst Jokes, and for those of us who go back a ways, some of the Bob and Ray routines. He loved to make folks laugh. 
Upper Whitefish Lake Sailboat Lesson
We both loved the Whitefish chain of lakes, he and Phyl and family on Upper Whitefish, and Ruth and I and our kids on Trout Lake to the east. We loved to share visits, and a glass of wine or iced tea, a pontoon trip to Manhattan Beach for lunch, a sail on his boat. He even gave our kids a lesson on the basics of sailing. Being at the lake in the summer was about as close to paradise as you can get on this earth, and we all believed that. 
When his Parkinson's worsened he still kept up the regimen of doing what he was able to do, making light of his Parkinson herky-jerkies and his runny nose. There were still lots of eyes to light and burdens to lessen. He never missed a chance to make someone smile or laugh.
Coach Hanson greets the 2015 Blaze Team
Dick never quit coaching, even to the end. At the invitation of their coach, he was still meeting with the Burnsville Blaze football players and sharing with them the why's and the wherefore's of commitment, betterment, and wonderment both on the field and off. If you walked into the middle of one of those huddles, you'd hear Paverotti in the background, and Coach Hanson urging those kids to listen for genius, so they could work on their own.
We had the best of times with Dick and Phyl, lunch, coffee, dinner, sharing the many likings we had in common and the love we had for our kids and "grands", as they called them. It was the best of times. And as life can do, these were taken away when Phyl's illness took her away. Two people more in love than Dick and Phyl I've never seen. It was a tragic loss, but Dick went on, sharing his gifts until his Parkinson's finally stopped it all. But only in this life. 

We were kindred spirits, Dick and I. He was my Coach in trying to get to be a better man, like him, even though he didn’t know it. "Carpe diem!” he’d remind me. And I’d recall that quote from Robert Browning:

“Ah, that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for."

He's now back on the dance floor, with the love of his life. When he's not on the dance floor, he's playing those wonderful Gershwin and Porter ballads, telling jokes to anyone who will listen, or at the chalkboard showing us that a well-lived life equals infinity in the divine number system.
Rest In Peace my friend.....Tom 
Click here for the rest of the story!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Twitter Test

Test Test

Thursday, September 10, 2015

So you want to teach Kindergarten, do you? Listen up!


Posted by Fairfield-Suisun Unified Teachers Association on Friday, August 28, 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"I Dare to Dream and Achieve....Please Help These Few Who Want to Help Me"

My name could be Rosa, or Maria, or Jocita. I am one of a small group of girls who need your help.

I live in a poor village in the hills of Guatemala. My father is dead, or he's gone, or he cannot find work to support us. My mother loves us but is desperate. She will take any job to find food for our table. Any matter how demeaning it may be. It is very sad.

But, yes, I still dare to dream. I want to learn. I want to achieve. I want to use my God-given gifts to better my own life and help others better theirs, too. Many of my friends are young girls like me who share my dream, who want to learn, who want to have a better life.

We have a very good man who comes here often from his country to help us dream and achieve. His name is Hugh Mcelroy. We call him "Papa."
Papa Hugh with some of his girls....

He has built a place where 15 girls about my age live together and go to school to learn and make our lives better and hopeful.

There is only "Papa Hugh" and a few others here to help us.

He does not want to change the world.

He wants to help change our world here. He wants to give us the chance to go to school, to learn new skills, to change our lives. Then we can help change the lives of the others we know and love.

He needs your help to help us. We hope you can help him help us! We need your help, too.

Hugh "Papa" Mcelroy knows he can't save the world or solve all the problems, but he can help these two dozen or so young girls from a poor village in the Guatemala hills try to change their lives for the better.

Like the young boy in this famous Starfish Story, he can't save all those in need, but he can save some of them.

Here is Hugh's mission in his own words:

"So many young girls in Guatemala do not get the chance to grow up and become strong, educated, confident and capable women. They are unable to reach their God-given potential in their intellectual, spiritual, moral and social lives.

"Women are often the heart of a modern society but in Guatemala, they are frequently marginalized and impoverished, so much so that it is impossible for young girls to become capable, independent and productive adults.

"They need support during these critical years and we at Asociascion Mujer Atervete (AMA) provide it for the small number we can accommodate."

Our Mission Statement is:"To transform the lives of these young girls through education and character development." We provide this with: a safe community living environment; help in selecting a school that meets their needs; personal guidance; leadership training; career assessment; and school financial aid.

We currently serve 12 young girls in live in our community home and 3 who attend a nearby university.  Our total budget for the entire year is $100, 000. We could seek grants from major foundations, but instead we wish to solicit these funds from a smaller number of individual donors, those who want to take a more personal interest in the well-being of these young girls, and witness the far greater likelihood of their more satisfying, successful lives and careers.

We are not designed nor are we able to serve all those in need. 
But we are committed to serve this small number who walk these paths on our Guatemalen hillside. 

We know, with your help, we can make a lifelong difference to 15 of these young girls.

Your one-time or recurring donation can help us better their lives.
They will, in return, thank each and every one of you.

Will YOU help us help them? 

If you have any questions, please contact Hugh Mcelroy directly at:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Yes, We At RE@L Are Proud: Featured Editorial in the 
St. Paul Sunday Pioneer Press Business Section

featured image launching soon3
RE@L is very pleased to announce that our founder, Dale LaFrenz, was interviewed by the St. Paul Pioneer Press Business Editor, Dave Fondler. The interview was featured at the top of the Business section of the Sunday paper. The important topic discussed was Minnesota's own historical and now current leadership in effective K12 software for students and teachers.

No one knows that story better than Dale LaFrenz. Back in 1978, he called and made a deal with Steve Jobs back that brought the Apple II computer and the simulation learning game "Oregon Trail" to teachers and students everywhere. Oregon Trail is arguably the most popular learning game of all time.

Dale had founded the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC) that brought dozens and dozens of award-winning K12 software to schools all over the country. He knows the history of school software better than anyone, and has used that accumulated knowledge and success to found Real Experiences at Life (RE@L) software that uses today's mobile apps and iPads to better aid learning. DaleRE@L002

His interview can be read in entirety by clicking the link below:
As fate would have it, that same issue of the paper had a critical story on the local school district’s decision to provide every student and teacher with an iPad to help with learning and teaching.

What’s been unresolved to date is how this iPad plan will happen. We applaud the district for planning ahead and bringing that plan to the School Board and public for input and suggestions. RE@L’s software team has many of the same members who brought MECC to the market.
What made MECC so successful was the wealth of information and resources for teachers and students to get the maximum instructional benefit from the software. 

The same is true for RE@L. The district would be well-advised to include those teaching and learning resources in their plan. Tools, without a do-able plan, are worthless.

RE@L is pledged to work with schools districts on criteria for choosing apps and software for their mobile learning devices, from iPads to laptops. Funds well-spent are those directed to products that work.  
about page image

RE@L hopes that the community-at-large of educators, parents, students, investors all understand what RE@L delivers: learning apps and software that works. That’s why we here at RE@L are very proud. 

Check us out! Let us know if we can help!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Missing Links to Learning More: RE@L's New Products Fill the Curriculum Gaps!

Time in school is a fixed quantity.  Some yell for more, others scream too much already!  Kids spend the time, teachers perform admirably and yet too many test scores do not rise.

There is a need for a RE@L solution.  One that is not more testing and retesting,  while taking away valuable learning time.

Our schools need to harness the opportunity presented by the advent of mobile technology and iPads available in schools and homes and everywhere.  

RE@L provides, effective, tested, supplementary teaching/learning materials for teachers and parents to use with their kids.  RE@L apps cut across subject lines and cover what we call Practical Life Skills.

Life Skills are essential to life and living. Often referred to as Family and Consumer Science or (FACS), these needed key skills have been crowded out of the K12 curriculum. 

RE@L has THE answer to fill that learning gap of missing learning skills. A new set of mobile apps that address, present and teach those skills to kids on their own time. Most important, they are so much fun kids will want to do it on their own time.

What are some of the important skills kids missing today?  What is on the minds of these "Tween" learners today, as they make way through the the crowded K12 curriculum? 

Here are some RE@L "need to knows":

   Learning to make and choose meals/snacks that are healthy
   Knowing basic budgeting skills to use their money wisely
   Becoming smart consumers, ones who spend their money wisely
   Knowing social etiquette: working in a group, building relationships.
   Understanding how to care for young children.

RE@L’s Practical Life Skills  product line is designed to provide apps that cover the whole range of  Child Care & Teen Wellness & Study Skills, including Teens and Money.  RE@L uses unique and effective app presentation of content that involve the kids and motivate them to learn more. 
Stay tuned to this blog for more postings about this important issue.  Courtesy of RE@L and coming soon to an Apple App Store near you is first Practical Life Skills app:  Babysitting, Inc. 

            We think it is a game changer – we will want to know what you think. Let us know. It's our mission to continually improve our products.

 RE@L will be there to help students, parents and teachers help make it happen. 

From RE@L! 

Babysitting, Inc - It's All About Tweens Building a Business!

What's a "Tween", you say?

Why, it's those tens of millions of kids out there between the ages of 10 and 16 who know they need to know more about finding a job they like. Even more, they want to know about building a successful business on their own. After all, they are growing up in a world of new opportunities.

That's called "Learning for Life!" folks. That's what RE@L's new learning apps and products are all about: learning now skills you can use now, and also later in life. We call them Practical Life Skills.

So, we are very proud to announce to students, teachers and parents the release of our newly updated Babysitting, Inc - Get Organized mobile app for your iPad!

It's targeted for kids who want to learn these new RE@L Practical Life Skills. This updated version has just been released! It includes new and helpful videos that literally show kids and parents the tips and tricks to successfully getting their babysitting service up and running.

Babysitting, Inc helps kids start a competitive business, offering competent, safe babysitting services to their community. This interactive mobile app shows them the steps from start to finish.

Full of unique features this app includes a number of firsts:

•   Exemplary uses of purposeful media tools
•   Embedded social media, including many helpful features that ensure useful sharing among users
•   Powerful use of Apple's many iPad features: the contacts list; the new still and video camera; the connective communication features of mail and sharing among users, anywhere and everywhere.


•   You will find many new helpful tools like the calculator to calculate your expenses and profits.
•   You will discover options for that allow for either step-by-step structured learning, as well as random exploration.
•   You will note there are a wide range of useful stored symbols and logos for making your own business cards. Let the computer help you generate your own, personal designs and business tools:

Here's an excerpt from a brief video introduction about many of the cool features of Babysitting, Inc from  tween 14 year old Sam.

Click here for Sam's brief video.

Yes, there's more to come: Babysitting, Inc: Eye on Safety will be followed by Babysitting. Inc: Active Ideas, and then by Babysitting, Inc: Ages and Stages

All you need to know is here in this series of apps, all the steps to get started with confidence, and the training to back it up, and the tools to launch your own new. successful babysitting business. 

RE@L has more Real Life Practical Skills in the mobile app pipeline: Child Care, Social Life, Teen Wellness, Consumer Life Skills and more…… 

We all know kids today need to know more. 

RE@L has those answers!