Father surprises daughter at school dance after nine-month deployment

Father surprises daughter at school dance after nine-month deployment

FLORENCE, Ala.—

17-year-old Sydney Brook’s father, Colonel Buddy Brook, was the last person she was expecting to see at her school sorority dance. As far as she knew, he was still in the Middle East on deployment from the Redstone Arsenal U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command.

Colonel Brook has had to miss many family events while serving the nation. “We miss a lot of things, birthdays, anniversaries,” said Brook. “I’ve missed the last 12 anniversaries my wife and I’ve had, except one. On this deployment, I actually left … on our anniversary date. I’ve missed the birth of the two of three of our grandchildren, so that’s been hard.”

But on this return, Brook decided to give his daughter the surprise of her life. “My wife, Sharon, and I planned it out: After getting back home from the Middle East the night before, I’d stay in a hotel so Sydney wouldn’t see me,” said Brook.

“I’m just glad that we get to give Sydney a surprise,” he added. “I hope it goes off well. It’s hard staying in this hotel, waiting for the night to get here.”

Only a chosen few knew about the surprise. “We told the sorority officials beforehand, and the MC, and we arranged for a TV reporter to videotape the dance so we could get Sydney’s reaction on camera,” said Brook.

They did have to tell her dance partner. “We had to ask him to dance with her in a way to keep her back turned, so she wouldn’t see me before I was ready to surprise her,” said Brook.

Just before the dance began, Sydney watched a video from her dad. “Backstage at the dance, before the [sorority] sisters made their entrance, they played a video message on a big screen that supposedly my dad had sent from Afghanistan,” said Sydney. “I just teared up, because I missed him and he couldn’t be here.”

When a father-daughter dance was announced, Sydney had no idea her father was anywhere near. He walked over and tapped her on the shoulder. “I was in shock, then I gasped and started to cry,” said Sydney. The sorority sisters clapped and cheered.

“I don’t even really remember dancing with him, just hugging him while we moved on the dance floor,” said Sydney.

Her father added, “It was a pretty emotional moment for us and for our whole family.” Brook is now on a three-week break before another deployment.

“Sydney hadn’t seen me for nine months, and even though we talked on the phone a lot and did homework assignments together over the computer, being with her in person was … very special,” said Brook.

Jessa Duggar-Seewald and Ben Seewald announce they are expecting first child

Jessa Duggar-Seewald and Ben Seewald announce they are expecting first child

The Seewalds, of 19 Kids and Counting fame, recently announced they’ll be having their first baby this year.

“We’re expecting!” Jessa said. “We are so excited. The due date is November first, our wedding anniversary.”

“We are looking forward to being parents,” Ben added.

Jessa is doing well. “I am feeling pretty good,” she said. “The morning sickness was different every day. It’s getting better, but I’m still hanging on to the heartburn. And I don’t have any super-serious food cravings.”

The couple was very excited when they found out they were going to be parents. “I said, ‘Hey Ben, guess what? Yeah, you’re a dad.’ We couldn’t believe it,” Jessa said. “We are so excited. We have started talking baby names. It is one of those things that is so special, picking a name for a baby.”

As the reality set in, a bit of nervousness came with it. “We are trying to take it one day at a time,” Ben said. “We pray every night that God helps us be good parents. We are getting advice from other parents.”

The Seewalds still plan to adopt eventually, although they won’t be able to until they’ve been married two years. “Our hearts haven’t changed on adoption,” Jessa said. “We are still making plans.”

Jessa isn’t worried about the birth, in spite of her sister Jill’s complications. “I am not comparing, not worrying about what could happen, we are just getting prepared,” Jessa said. “I think having this first year together to share our lives, just the two of us, has been special. We are definitely excited to be parents.”

With older brother Josh and his wife Anna expecting a baby in July, and older sister Jill and her husband Derick just having their first child, life is exciting for the Duggars.

#IWishMyTeacherKnew campaign increases understanding of students’ lives

#IWishMyTeacherKnew campaign increases understanding of students’ lives

DENVER, Colo.—

Kyle Schwartz, a third grade teacher at Denver public school Doull Elementary, started a unique initiative to understand her students better, calling it a “reality check.” She had her students write something they wished she knew, and the results have gone viral.

The majority of the students at Doull are Hispanic, and 92 percent are eligible for free or reduced lunch programs. “As a new teacher, I struggled to understand the reality of my students’ lives and how to best support them,” Schwartz said. “I just felt like there was something I didn’t know about my students.”

Her idea became an activity she called “I Wish My Teacher Knew.” “I let students determine if they would like to answer anonymously,” she said. “I have found that most students are not only willing to include their name, but also enjoy sharing with the class. Even when what my students are sharing is sensitive in nature, most students want their classmates to know.”

She was blown away by the responses. “Some notes are heartbreaking like the first #iwishmyteacherknew tweet which read, ‘I wish my teacher knew I don’t have pencils at home to do my homework.’ I care deeply about each and every one of my students and I don’t want any of them to have to suffer the consequences of living in poverty, which is my main motivation for teaching.”

Among the things students wished she knew include:

“Sometimes my reading log isn’t signed because my mom isn’t around a lot.”

“I don’t have a friend to play with me.”

“How much I miss my dad since he got deported.”

“Vietnamese because then she can say words I forget.”

“She gives too much homework.”

“I love school.”

“I want to go to college.”

Schwartz’s idea began catching on with teachers around the world who want to connect with their students. “I think it caught on so fast because teachers are highly collaborative and freely share and explore resources,” she said. “In the end, all teachers want to support their students, and #iwishmyteacherknew is a simple and powerful way to do that.”

Many students shared their notes with the whole class, which helped to build community. “Building community in my classroom is a major goal of this lesson,” Schwartz said. “After one student shared that she had no one to play with at recess, the rest of the class chimed in and said, ‘we got your back.’ The next day during recess, I noticed she was playing with a group of girls. Not only can I support my students, but my students can support each other.”

Teacher’s inspiring lesson on social media safety goes viral

Teacher’s inspiring lesson on social media safety goes viral

Stewartville, Minn.—

Tenth-grade health and physical education teacher Michele Van Bibber noticed a disturbing trend of over-sharing personal information on social media and decided to make a creative lesson out of it.

“I think that there is quite a bit of new social media out there and it’s changed in the way students, or even the way adults, expose themselves to it,” said Van Bibber. “I think there has been a big boom like the explosion of Twitter, posting on Facebook, and looking at each other’s pictures on Instagram.”

Van Bibber talked with her students about their social media usage. “I know kids are exposing such private details on the Web,” she said. “The students might also want to be friends with people and sometimes they don’t even know who they are.”

She then launched an experiment with her students’ help. One of them took a picture of her holding a sign that read, “Please share this photo for a class experiment on social media. Write your location in the comments. Thanks!”

Van Bibber and her students talked about what they thought the outcome would be. “I asked [the students], ‘if I post this picture on my personal Facebook page, do you think anyone can see it?'” she said. “One of the students said ‘I didn’t think it would work because she doesn’t have many friends.’”

After posting the picture on Facebook, the class watched its status for three days. It eventually received 47,385 likes, 217,649 comments, and over 351,000 shares.

Van Bibber’s students were surprised at how many people saw the photo. “The kids were taken aback,” she said. “I don’t think they realized how fast the picture could get out there.”

After the results came in, Van Bibber talked with her class about social media safety. “I just wanted them to be a little more cautious of who has access to what they post — what if it got into the wrong hands?” she said. “Also, some decisions that we might not think through now could potentially harm us in future endeavors — like the chances of getting into a specific college, or getting a job.”

Van Bibber believes this is one lesson that definitely made an impact. “I think this made them look back at who was actually following them, and I do think it had an impact,” she said.

Clinton, Rubio add their names to the official list of 2016 presidential contenders

Clinton, Rubio add their names to the official list of 2016 presidential contenders

First there was one, then there were four. On the heels of candidacy announcements by Ted Cruz and Rand Paul come two more: Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio.

Clinton announced her candidacy on Sunday in a two-minute video. The video featured scenes of people, predominantly minorities, preparing to do various things. Near the end, Clinton appeared and said, “I’m getting ready to do something too. I’m running for president.”

“Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion,” Clinton said. “So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote — because it’s your time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey.”

Rubio had more to say when he announced his candidacy at the Freedom Tower in Miami. “Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for president by promising to take us back to yesterday,” Rubio said. “Yesterday’s over, and we’re never going back.”

Rubio said the “dangerous concessions” to Iran and the “hostility” towards Israel need to end. “We must change the decisions we are making, by changing the people who are making them,” he said. “That is why tonight, grounded by the lessons of our history, but inspired by the promise of our future, I announce my candidacy for president of the United States.”

“I believe our very identity as an exceptional nation is at stake, and I can make a difference as president,” he said. “I have a debt to America I must try to repay.”

More candidates will be announced over the next few months as the primary election approaches. It remains to be seen who will secure the nominations for the various parties.