I am on the long bus ride back to Fishers and the sounds of snoring, math questions, laughing, the odd of yelling of “Yahtzee”, and every now and then my phone beeps with another pic of one of babies sleeping.  With my earbuds in and songs from a random playlist filtering out the road; my mind is still trying to place their accomplishment in my mind palace.  Euphoria, satisfaction, and a profound sense of sadness take turns dominating my inner voice.

My mind replays my team powerfully reciting from memory Henley’s Invictus to an enthusiastic crowd of family, supporters, Civic Education staff.  When I see all the photos of that moment that dominate my social media feeds I can see the joy on their faces; not just the joy that comes from a moment of happiness, but the joy that comes from the achievement of dreams; dreams that require work unseen, dreams that require a unwavering commitment, dreams that are shadowed by the fear of the disappointment of coming up short.  Their faces so alive that it lifts the hope and spirits of all who witnessed the moment.

This blog is hard to write.  My mind drifts and for awhile the path is unclear.  So I will default to the way I way raised.  There are a lot of people that need to be thanked:

  1. Crystal Thorpe.  I have said it before and I will repeat myself.  It has been a 20170505_121640blessing to work for Crystal; four years ago I asked her to create an anomaly in our schedule by having me teach one 8th grade class without breaking our strong 7th grade teaming of kids.  The easiest answer for her would have been “no”.  She did what she always does.  She saw the potential of the idea as being good for kids and she said, “yes”.  We have had no bigger cheerleader.  She supports the team without any thought of glory for herself.  My kids could not wait to put the trophy on her desk which they started after Regionals.
  2. Kevin Stumpf. #firestumpf  My brother and my rock.  Kevin has been with me 20170501_115256since the first day.  He handles the small details so that I can concentrate on the kids during competition.  In the second year he added responsibility by working with Unit 6 as their personal advisor.  He takes a TON of grief as the room gate keeper that resulted in Holly Kempfer starting the #firestumpf movement.  This year’s team and parents kept the tag alive.  He dared ask me if I still needed him after our Nationals win.  If I had a stick I would have hit him.  He is the rudder to our ship.  When we were in DC he handled everything about the trip.  He does so without complaint and avoids the spotlight.  There is no one that has been more important to me during the three years of having a We the People team.
  3. Tony Sturgeon.  Outside my family, there is no one that knows me as well as Tony. FB_IMG_1494513309615 He keeps finding ways to help.  During the year he hears papers and makes suggestions.  Anytime I need an audience for my kids during lunch he is there.  Most importantly for me, he knows when I need help.  My heart becomes tender when it deals with friends, family and my students.  There was a moment at Nationals when I knew we won; my brain fogged and my heart ached for my kids. In that moment; the year passed over my memory and all the sacrifices that my kids made to get to this moment overwhelmed me. Tony reached over and put his arm around me; because 20 years of friendship means something
  4. Dave Broviak.  The last member of the BFM.  He attended Regional competition to get a better handle on the traits needed for kids on the We the People team.  Like Kevin and Tony, he immediately set about helping.  When the fire alarm when off just before we were to start he walked among the kids keeping them loose.  He tried to help Kevin handle judges and protect him from the #firestumpf campaign; he failed but the effort was appreciated.
  5. The Staff at Fishers Junior High.  My words are inadequate.  The staff raised Fassold T-Shirt Picture at DCenough money to send two of my kids to DC.  However, their support was more than money.  Kim Rowe wrote notes of encouragement to every unit.  Gifts and encouragements were offered at every turn.  Kelly Watson made gift baskets for every kid and reminded them of how hard they have worked to  be ready.  Her generosity extended to me.  She gifted me a We the People gold tie that I wore on our first competition day.  Beyond the tangible support was the genuine good wishes and offers of help.  It warmed my heart and still does.  Of course, there were some shenanigans associated with a certain t-shirts that my kids unveiled in DC.  #firestumpf #firemodglin #firethorpe
  6. The Indiana Bar Foundation.  The Indiana Bar Foundation and State House has made a commitment to civic education.  The State has made a financial commitment to the We the People program and the Indiana Bar Foundation supports every school that adopts the program.  Our regional and state competitions are first rate and set the tone of excellence in the state.
    1. Chuck Dunlap.  I first met Chuck at the We the People High School Nationals in 2013 when I represented Liz Paternoster when her due date matched the competition dates.  Chuck found me at the semi-finals meeting and helped me navigate through all the details.  He made the unknown known.  I have never forgotten his kindness.  It was Chuck that made every thing happen for us when starting our program.  Of course it was Chuck who was taking pictures at the Invitational awards ceremony and captured so many great moments.  He has a special place in my team’s heart.
    2. Lily Lawson.   My ignorance of starting a We the People team was balanced with all of Lily’s guidance and help.  She has put up with my questions for three years.  Our first Regional appearance was made easier, because Lily made things happen that I did not even know needed to happen.  She remembers the small details like how many of our parents attend competition.  She always makes sure we have a big room with lots of chairs.  She is a treasure.
  7. Bob Leming and the We the People Organization.  It is hard to put into words the impact that Bob and the Civic Ed / We the People organization have had on me.  I 20170501_092111am not so young anymore, but my involvement in this program has inspired me to bring civics to my students and community.  Bob Leming’s dedication is unmatched.  There was a moment at the Invitational that shook my kids.  He watched my Unit 3 compete on the second day when they started to debate the idea of an energetic president from the Federalist Papers.  As my kids shifted from the past to the present and reciting concepts and 20170429_130510ideas from the Federalist Papers and Thomas Paine; my kids noticed that Bob had tears in his eyes.  It proved to my kids how important this program is to people and to the country.  Seeing Chuck Quigley enter the room meant a lot to our program.  He is a national treasure and his role in We the People and Civic Education over the last 30 years has been crucial in the programs expansion and quality.
  8. Shannon Alexander.  Words fail me.  I asked for help at our parent meeting after Shannon Alexanderwe won State.  I was in uncharted territory; I had never prepared a team for National competition before and it meant that I needed to write a second semester program.  What I could not do is balance the fundraising.  Shannon volunteered immediately and she rolled up her sleeves and went to work.  She led our campaign to raise money.  She wrote every update on our GoFundMe and sought out every chance to raise money.  Her efforts resulted in raising over $30,000 for our trip.  When I felt overwhelmed she would post something that reminded me just how special our journey has been.  Shannon never wavered; she never lost strength.  Shannon was not a one-person show.  Bindiya Fotedar, Michelle Koley, and Rani Colzani played major roles in fundraising and making arrangements while in DC.  Of course, the Conde family took care of our banners.  So many families pitched in at fundraisers and dragged family and friends to all our events.  I owe them all a great debt.
  9. The Hamilton Southeastern and Fishers community.  So many schools helped our journey.   Sand Creek Intermediate PTO, Cumberland Road, Hoosier Road, Fishers High School, Sand Creek Intermediate Student Council; school board members, front office staff, city of Fishers members, and teachers from across the district.  The support touched us and was greatly appreciated.  Todd Zimmerman from the City Council was a constant source of support; including coming into my class to talk to my kids after the election about vertical federalism.  His clarity of understanding of Federalism helped out my kids; they actually used some of his talk in their follow up at State.
  10. Larry Lannan.  My favorite local journalist.  “Larry in Fishers” is channel for local 2017-01-04 12.27.55news.  He attends everything in Fishers and came into my class to talk about “Fake News” and the role of the press in government.  Larry also served as a practice judge for me in the run up to the Invitational.  Larry is a selfless man; he has faithfully covered our journey and after we returned he came in and created a podcast about my kids’ journey.  You can listen to the podcast at: Podcast with Larry Lannon and the 2016-2017 FJH We the People Team
  11. My former students.  Nearly 100 of our GoFundMe donations came from my 20170429_093849former students; it warmed my heart no matter the size of the donation.  Each name brought back a precious memory and moment.  So many students from the long ago past helped my students of the present.  Some of those even came in to help my team; Alex “Lordly” Orlowski helped us as a practice judge and Carolyn Homer came to talk with my kids in DC on Saturday morning to go over papers and lead discussions.  It is one of the most rewarding times in my teaching career.
  12. My friends and family.  I was touched by my family and friends.  High school friends, military friends, and Indiana friends all chipped in to help get my team to DC.  It warmed my heart.  I had friends raise money through their business to help.
    Every time I checked it seemed like another person from my blood and past donated to my kids.  More than money was the encouragement that we received.   It made the journey easier.  Even my beloved trivia team, “Mike and the Mechanix” (80’s homage–thanks Bryce) helped get my kids to DC.  They mean more to me than they know.
  13. Liz Paternoster.  Eleven years ago a ball of civic energy named Liz WtP Demo Night 42317 (5)Bailey approached me to help our her We the People team.  I did not know what to say to the request since I had no earthly idea about the We the People program.  It took me a couple years to understand and begin to appreciate the impact of the program.  Her passion inspired and continues to inspire me.  I can’t wait for her to reap the benefits of our junior high program.
  14. Janet Chandler.  My friend.  Janet inspires me to be a better teacher.  There is no WtP Demo Night 42317 (14)better example of a servant-teacher’s heart.  Janet lived in my classroom in our last couple weeks before we left for DC.  Despite an impossible schedule she found time to come and support my kids every day.  She listened, she critiqued, she taught, and she worked with every unit…even Unit 1 which is not her favorite subject.  She lives the ideal that Khalil Gibran writes about in his book, The Prophet about “work is love made visible”.
  15. Laurel. This year has been exhausting; all of my own doing, but Laurel picked up the slack for me.  I have been tired and work all the time; I love her more for being so understanding.  She talks up the program to others and came to Demonstration Night to watch my kids perform…it meant a lot to me.  Her support made the year easier.
  16. My first and second Weople teams.  Without them there is not a National FJHS We the People Team Photo After Districts - Vax Photo - November 3Championship in my room.  Those teams have been so supportive of my current team.  Past units met with current units on Saturdays to offer support and advice.  Group chats were established and lessons were shared.   My first year kids set such a high bar when they finished second at the state We the People Team Photo at State - Dec 2015competition by such a small margin.  My second year kids improved so much from the first year as we addressed the opportunities that we missed the first year.  My second year kids were narrowly defeated again by the great Brown County team, but we identified even more to improve on.  At the end of each year I have told my kids that next year’s team would be better because their teacher would be better.
  17. Mike Potts and his Brown County teams.  My kids knew they could not take a day Fassold and Potts - July 2016off.  They knew that Brown County would be working hard every single day to be better.  Brown County is the Lebron James of Indiana We the People competition (I am a Celtics fan and Lebron kills my Celtics).  Brown County’s success and professionalism inspires my teams.  They have shown my kids how to win and lose with grace.  We have tried to emulate their standard.  I know the Mike will be working twice as hard to prepare this year and we look forward to the challenge.

I don’t know to start this part of my blog.  How do I write about my 31 “Angels”, “Hoodlums”, “Future Presidents”, and “Babies”.  Their journey has been so long; preparing for competition for 9 months.  We have had a countdown calendar for competition for 160 school days.  They never wavered.  They are so resolute.Invictus

From the very beginning we recited Invictus; of course, like most things in my class there was a dual purpose.  One it allowed me to work on their presentation skills.  I also hoped they would begin to understand the importance.  Describing We the People competition to students in the beginning of the year is impossible; my default is to say, “You don’t know until you know”.  There was a moment at State when I forgot my copy of the poem; they recited it from memory.  The moment froze in my mind; a few cited the words from memory, but for most they meant the words they recited.  The knew “the fell clutch of circumstance” was competition; they knew better than to “wince or cry aloud” about what they could not control; they never “bow” their head in submission; they were found “unafraid”; truly they were the masters of their fates and the captains of their souls.

quote-Washington-Irving-there-is-a-sacredness-in-tears-they-92537I have shed many tears over my kids.  They are tears of joy; there is a touch of loss; they are tears of love.  Watching them at State started the waterworks; there were moments when their responses echoed the big ideas from class.  All the work was justified; they had learned; they understood; they had become a “great and powerful thing”.

Watching them grow second semester into what they were at Nationals is the most satisfying moment of my working life.  They rained knowledge down on to the judges; it was the culmination of months of hard work.  The judges were stunned and more than a few times the judges would catch my eye and smile which would cause my eyes to moisten.

In between rounds at State I read to them a chapter from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet Gibranabout work.  Most teared, some cried, some parents cried; of course, I had to fight the good fight to get through.  It was not just the power of the words; it was the power of the application of the words through my band of thirty one.  They transcended education for grades; they desired knowledge, they desired to understand, they desired to work with love; they truly are love made visible….for me.

My kids are not perfect.  They are still 13 and 14 years of age.  But there is a moment when they WERE perfect.  There is a moment of pure joy; of pure bliss; when everything was right in their world; when everything was laid bare; when they could drink deep from the life’s marrow.  Some one captured the moment.  Take a second and look at their faces.  They are, for a moment, immortal.


This is the picture that gives me the greatest satisfaction.  Their joy fills my heart.  These kids fill my heart.

In a couple days we say goodbye.  My chest tightens when I think about it.  It is not IMG_20170430_173716_839unusual for me to struggle at the end of the year.  Saying goodbye is like that for me; it is never the same after my students leave…daily contact dwindles to visits and unexpected moments.  It is why I teach right up to the last day; normalcy is my coping mechanism.

I know the greatness that lies with these kids; it will be fun to watch them grow and contribute to the world’s narrative.  To everyone that helped my kids on their journey; thank you.  To my kids; not everyone that I consider family shares my blood…you are family.

Thank you to our sponsors!

Honorary Weople



  • FJHS Chargers Staff & Students
  • Barry Lux
  • Tom Modglin
  • Jensen/Brewer, LLC
  • Mark Fassold


  • Barnes & Noble, Carmel
  • SCI Student Council
  • Jaggers Burgers & Salads
  • Anonymous Donor
  • Fishers High School PTO
  • Carolyn Homer

Cabinet Members

  • Hoosier Road Elementary
  • Cumberland Road Elementary PTO
  • Meme & Papa Casey
  • Anonymous
  • Chick-fil-A, Noblesville at HTC
  • Katie Theobald
  • Janet Chandler
  • Doug Self
  • Diane Cassidy Realtor/Broker/Stager F.C. Tucker Co


  • Sand Creek Intermediate PTO
  • Bill and Cathy Wainscott
  • Dan Zettel
  • Raymond Cox
  • Ladies Euchre Group
  • Tom, Kathy, Hope, and Matthew VanOsdol
  • Muhammad Munir and Amira Ali
  • Delta Faucet Company
  • Andrew & Tabbatha Collier
  • Brad Prugar
  • Nanci Quellhorst
  • The Pampered Chef
  • Mike Fassold
  • Carolyn Homer
  • Sand Creek Intermediate PTO
  • Dyson & Gurin Families
  • Stephan Rawnsley
  • Nicole (Keenan) Wiltshire
  • Steve Tegarden
  • Scott Whelchel
  • Jeanette Brewer
  • Todd Zimmerman
  • Nick MacFarlane
  • Barbara Waugh
  • Emily Bailey
  • Sherry Chamberland
  • Mike Mechanics
  • Cheri & Bob Higginbotham
  • Michelle Van Tassel
  • Emily Meyer
  • Teitgen Family
  • Angela Kumar
  • Bethann Wilkie
  • Ellery Hunter
  • Jennie Kilgore
  • Rachel Smith
  • Peter Girbert
  • Alex Orlowski
  • Valerie Ax
  • James & Marla Kelley
  • Tabitha Brown
  • Jill Jansen
  • Van Valer Family
  • Chuck, Margaret, and Emma Gillespie
  • Donna Reed
  • Mark McKeever
  • Brad DeReamer
  • Natalie Wood
  • Tiernan Kane
  • Anonymous
  • Douglas Church
  • Annette Probst
  • Kim Beaulieu
  • Scott Sanders
  • The Harder Family
  • Carol Piggush
  • Elizabeth Morse
  • Kim & Mike Broughton
  • Kristy Kokoska
  • Sue Cordell
  • John Delucia
  • Julia Mathews

Special thanks to all our sponsors. The 2017 FJHS We the People team is grateful to have so much support from our friends, family, and community. Thank you!