After Prank, Royal Oak Michigan Teacher Appears on ‘Ellen’ – from MEA Voice Online

MEA member Joe Dombrowski is such a huge Ellen DeGeneres fan that he says he blacked out mentally while appearing on her show last week and couldn’t remember exactly what he said during the interview.

But when he watched a tape of his segment on last Friday’s The Ellen Show, he was amazed to see her laughing at his jokes.

“I’ve idolized her forever, so to realize I made her laugh was just mind-boggling,” the Oakland Elementary fourth-grade teacher said.

Dombrowski was invited to appear on Ellen after a video of his classroom April Fool’s prank went viral on Facebook. Dombrowski gave a joke vocabulary quiz with outrageously spelled words featuring lots of silent letters and other oddities.

With a remarkable ability to keep a straight face, Dombrowski read the “correct” spellings of words such as Blorskee, Tangateen, Rol-aska-tox and GÜRRR. The sounds of exasperated students correcting answers can be heard in the background.

Dombrowski said he was able to keep from laughing during the prank because he’s been performing improvisational comedy at a Detroit club for the past five years.

“I was just too committed to the joke to give in,” he said.

Posting a video to Facebook was supposed to be something fun to give a chuckle to family and friends, although previous funny videos he’s posted have gotten several thousand views before, Dombrowski said.

As people began to share the video, and the number of views increased, he started to contemplate at what point he could declare it “viral,” he said – maybe 100,000 views?

He never imagined what he would see the morning after he posted it when the number had jumped to 1 million views. As of now, more than 20 million people have watched Dombrowski’s prank – including DeGeneres and her producers.

During his appearance on the show, Ellen gave Dombrowski her own joke word quiz before presenting him with a $10,000 check and then surprising him with a second $10,000 check made out to his school.

She called the April Fool’s video hilarious, before deadpanning to audience laughter, “I don’t know if you’re teaching them anything, but I think it’s good that you’re funny.”

Source: After Prank, Royal Oak Teacher Appears on ‘Ellen’ – Michigan Education Association

MEA Listening Tour Spurs Educator Action  – features business executive Jamie Vollmer, a public schools critic-turned-champion

Public education advocates need to speak up and share their stories wherever they can – with friends, family, and acquaintances; in public forums and political arenas – and they need to start now, according to business executive Jamie Vollmer, a public schools critic-turned-champion.

The former business executive keynoted an NEA-sponsored “Listening and Engagement Tour” run by the Lansing Schools Education Association with a rendition of his inspiring and hopeful “blueberry story.

In it Vollmer details how he transformed from a CEO fixated on running schools like businesses into a powerful advocate for public education. He shared ideas for pushing back against the Trump-DeVos privatization agenda by focusing public sentiment against it.

“You have the power to leverage this energy in a conversation that increases understanding and trust, and if you do that – if you stand up now – then this is public education’s most hopeful time,” Vollmer said.

Hundreds of educators, parents, and community leaders from Lansing, Mason, Okemos, and surrounding areas attended the Wednesday night event that also featured a panel discussion of educational leaders, including Lansing School Board President Rachel Lewis, MSU Assistant Professor Dr. Terry Flennaugh, Rep. Andy Schor (D-Lansing), and others.

Moderator Chuck Alberts, a Lansing teacher and president of LSEA, said educators don’t want to be politically active; they want to be left alone to do what’s best for kids. But Flennaugh, who prepares future educators in MSU’s Department of Teacher Education, said teaching is inherently political.

“We need to start getting political, and we need to start making demands of our leaders,” he said.

Ray Telman, executive director of the Middle Cities Education Association, noted several recent studies that concluded Michigan’s school funding is inadequate. Meanwhile, poverty in the state is growing, and state lawmakers want to punish high-needs schools rather than providing resources, he said.

“Poverty matters, not as an excuse but as a guide for when we put our system together,” Telman said.

Standardized tests provide little useful data for helping students, instead serving as tools to label teachers and schools, a purpose they were not designed for and don’t accomplish accurately, said Lansing Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul. Top-down micro-management of curriculum and accountability from the state “is starting to feel like it’s more about deconstruction and deciding who will survive and who won’t,” she said.

Dr. Ruben Martinez, an MSU professor of sociology and nationally known scholar, said dogmatists are using propaganda to destroy public education for profit. He called it “trickle-up economics” designed to redistribute public funds to the wealthy.

Whether attackers of public education use propaganda or simplistic ideas about free markets and capitalism, educators need to fight back, Vollmer told the crowd in his keynote address. That’s what happened to him when he was spouting “free-market bumper-sticker rhetoric,” he said.

A teacher who wasn’t afraid to speak up and challenge his assumptions during a public speaking event triggered the start of his shift in thinking, Vollmer said. She had the advantage of being “armed with the truth.” View a full rendition of the blueberry story here.

Vollmer now calls the idea of running schools like a business “foolish.”

“Do not let some bigshot local business leader, politician, or your idiot brother-in-law back you into a corner and say what a cushy job this is,” Vollmer told the crowd of school employees, parents, and community leaders gathered at Pattengill Middle School on Wednesday night.

He urged attendees to share stories of struggle and accomplishment wherever they can to help the public understand the truth about how schools operate and what they’re up against today.

“I beg of you to begin to think about building a conversation with your family, your friends, your neighbors, your acquaintances,” he said.

Vollmer and the panelists were persuasive, said Christina Powell, a kindergarten teacher at Lansing’s Riddle Elementary School. After years of staying out of political advocacy, Powell is ready to act, she said.

“I feel a lot more empowered to get out there and talk to people and do what we can do to make some changes,” Powell said.

Source: Listening Tour Spurs Educator Action  – Michigan Education Association