Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Random Streams of Conscientiousness and Kindness Continued...

Many of you have asked about the Seasons of Giving Projects that our classrooms participated in. Classrooms donated the proceeds from their holiday auctions, while others participated in can or supply drives. Many classes picked the same recipients. Here's a rundown of the many who were helped.

Never have I seen a more generous offering to help those less fortuante and in need. Our students truly learned how to give back to their community. I am so very proud of them! No matter what holiday you celebrate I hope it is a beautiful one, full of fun, family and love.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Random Streams of Consciousness and Kindness

I've been really thinking about a lot of things recently. I am so grateful for my family, friends, and the best school full of people who care about each other and the children they serve. In the toughest of circumstances these people come through and they amaze me with their thoughtfulness and sincerity of mission. Here's just some of the kindness I've been witness to in just the past few weeks:

1 - One of our expected Learner Outcomes for students is that they learn to become Community Contributors and in this time of hardship for so many, our classrooms have elected to choose ways to give back to others during this season. In the past it has been tradition to hold a Holiday Auction in conjunction with our PTA in which all classes create a holiday decoration that is silently auctioned off with the proceeds given back to the classroom. This year we are offering a new twist on this old classic. Classrooms have discussed and chosen how they will participate in our new program the “Season of Giving Project”. Some classes still choose to participate in the Holiday Auction but instead donated their proceeds to a charitable cause. Other classes elected to complete a community service project (ex. making cards for our troops, donating time, etc…) or participated in a drive to collect items to donate (ex. food, clothing, or pet supplies for the animal shelter, etc…). You can't imagine the number of ways in which others have been helped through these gestures.

2 - A parent anonymously sent in $100 for a teacher to place in a needy student's lunch account. They also sent in a shopping gift card for the teacher to send to a family with the greatest need.

3 - 65 Thanksgiving baskets were assembled through the help of one of our Business Partners, Chets Creek Church, and distributed to our families in need.

4 - A colleague anonymously gave $100 to another colleague whose husband just lost his job. The receiving teacher wants whoever their angel is to know who touched and grateful they are. :)

5 - A colleague donated to a cause in the name of her team instead of participating in the team's annual gift exchange. The cause chosen benefits research for a condition a former colleague's child has been diagnosed with.

6 - To date over 200 cans of food and many, many toys have been donated by Chets Creek families to our Giving Tree for distributed to several families in need for the holidays.

7 - Our Behavior Interventionist has almost singlehandedly organized a community outreach event for tomorrow in our largest neighborhood with the greatest challenges. Teachers, staff and volunteers from Beach United Methodist Church will descend to help with home improvements and provide snacks, crafts and activities for our children.

This is a truly extraordinary place with incredibly kind and compassionate people. They touch lives that are forever changed for the better.

Friday, December 4, 2009

My Life As a Writer!

Growing up I NEVER thought of myself as a writer, especially not a good writer. My childhood friend Catherine was the writer - and exceptional at it! I was never confident about it and actually found it to be a painful experience. I wasn't always the best student. I was a major procrastinator and daydreamed way too much to ever actually get any thoughts down on paper.

Looking back I'm not even sure I knew how to write, at least not until high school when I landed in the classrooms of two very special English teachers, Mrs. Hedgepath's 9th grade Honors and Mrs. Gobbel's 12th grade AP. Mrs. Hedgepath taught me to write from the heart and express my feelings about the topic at hand. I loved her, her class and every writing assignment she gave me. Headed into that AP class in 12th grade I never, ever imagined I would pass the end exam - after all, you had to write a 5 paragraph essay on some obsure literary topic in 30 minutes or less. Hardly anybody ever passed the essay portion and I didn't even consider it a possibility. But, Mrs. Gobbel taught me to think critically, organize my thoughts and succinctly put it all down. She was confident in my ability, and guess what, I got the essay done and PASSED. I was one of only a few that year, out of group of peers I considered much more talented than me. It was HUGE for me.

So much of my job over the years has required me to write, a lot, and in many different ways. And even though I find myself complaining about the volume from time to time I actually really enjoy it and the thoughts and ideas flow fairly easily once I'm started. That is, until the last few weeks. I have had the worst case of writer's block EVER! I've started and stopped many blog posts, fought through the technical writing my job requires and basically avoided the creative process because it had truly become painful. It hasn't happened but a time or two in the last twenty years, and I have really resisted struggling through it this time, and it has really bothered me. Ignoring the issue was easy since everyone had very carefully avoided asking me why I wasn't writing until my mother in law, whom I adore :), asked me last week if I had just quit my weekly blog. Ugh - you gotta love those mothers in law for holding you accountable just when you need it the most.

So, I committed myself to pushing through it and getting back on the communication bandwagon again. Forgive me if its rough at first but there is a lot of stuff rattling around upstairs and it will take me some time to sort through it and get it all out. Being able to share through the written word is a huge part of who I am and I've missed the creative expression. When I'm writing I am focused and when I'm focused, I am productive. When I'm productive, WATCH OUT! Thank goodness I had two teachers along the way who brought my inner writer to life, writing has shaped who I've become, how I feel about myself and how I relate to every single part of life.

Even though this post has taken way longer than it should've, I'm already starting to feel better...

Friday, October 30, 2009

It Just Keeps Getting Better

Every year I cannot imagine how the teachers, parents and students can make our Literary Pumpkin Festival bigger and better, but they continue to do so. Special thanks go to the PTA for organizing it all and making it happen! Please take a moment and enjoy a look at our literary pumpkins, trick or treating and carnival pictures and just know that you have made memories that will last a lifetime and once again touched the lives of our precious students. Thank you everyone!

Friday, October 16, 2009

My Life As a Reader!

I love to read, I always have. I am a slow reader though. I can remember this really bothering me growing up because everyone always finished before I did. It's not that I had trouble decoding or with my fluency, and I comprehended and synthesized really well. A number of years ago I finally became a skilled enough reading teacher that I could figure out what had caused me to be so slow. I spend a lot of time while I am reading visualizing the story - probably too much time, but its what helps me glean the most from the story. I think every single one of my elementary report cards said "Susan daydreams too much in class...". Well duh, it wasn't that I was thinking about something other than what the teacher was teaching - its that I was busy making mental images of what I was trying to learn!

Let's face it, most of what I read is professional literature, I just don't seem to be able to find the time for much else. Reading professionally as an educator is essential for professional growth and is a huge part of my job - its work. My real love though, is fiction, and more specifically stories full of intrigue or mystery. Reading fiction is like an escape for me, like taking a mini vacation. Unfortunately I can only allow myself this luxury every once and a while because the reading consumes me. I get lost in the story imagining what the characters and setting look like. If I happen across a series I get in to you can just forget about me until I have them all read. I forget time and start neglecting things around me like dishes, laundry, eating and even sleep! I'm beginning book 7 in a series of 9 books I am completely engrossed in right now - and I just started reading 12 days ago! I will hate to see the end of the series come and wait very impatiently for the author to write another. My family will jump for joy because I will finally return from my extended vacation...
What's your life as a reader like?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Celebrating Community Partnerships

When the school was built we wanted it to become an integral part of our community. In fact, one of our Learner Outcomes is to teach our students to be Community Contributors We knew that by making our school the heart of our neighborhood it would be treasured. We open our doors at night for Girl Scouts, home owner's association meetings and church groups. We always hope to give back more than we take. Last school year our local, and brand new, Chick-fil-A approached us about hosting a Chets Creek Spirit Night. Between the hours of 6:00 - 8:00 PM on the second Monday of each month we assist them in hosting the event and they support us by donating a portion of their proceeds during this time frame to our school! They even extended this offer to include a portion of the proceeds any other time during the day of the CCE Spirit Night if the customer mentions the school. This year we are extending and expanding our support of them by having a different grade level group help host the event each month for no other reason than to show our presence in, and support of, the community we serve. Stop by the Pablo Creek Plaza Chick-fil-A at Hodges and Beach in Jacksonville, FL on a CCE Spirit Night this year, have a great meal and spend some time with your favorite teacher. Don't forget to thank Restaurant Operators Jeff and Christine Weir for supporting our school because your dinner out is helping us provide for our classrooms!

October - Resource Team; November - Fifth Grade Team; December - First Grade Team; January - Foundations Team; February - Third Grade Team; March - Kindergarten Team; April - Second Grade Team; May - Fourth Grade Team; June - Office/Administration Team

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering 9/11 - 14 Cows for America

The Principals' Book of the Month is a monthly tradition where I get to choose an well written picture book to gift each classroom. A faculty meeting is held to share the book with my teachers along with an instructional strategy that can be used in the classroom with students. It is a highly anticipated event that takes research, planning and meaningful execution. I found our first book for this year while attending the International Reading Association Convention in May. The book was not even published yet but I knew the moment I finished that it was the perfect book for September and I had to get it! One little problem...I was to be in South Carolina on vacation the morning of the Book of the Month presentation. My technology mentor, Melanie Holtsman, and I got together and hatched a plan. Could we get our district to unblock Skype just long enough for me to present Book of the Month live? We presented our case, helped with some trial runs and finally got the answer - YES! It worked beautifully and from my mother in law's kitchen table I presented 14 Cows for America, by Carmen Agra Deedy, to our faculty.

14 Cows for America is the true story of one nation’s incredible and compassionate gift to another. Following the devastating attacks of 9/11, Kimeli, a Maasai warrior, returns to his tribe in western Kenya and relates the tragic events of the attack to his people. They are so moved by the sorrow of the story that they offer a most selfless gesture in an effort to reach out to a country suffering with tremendous grief by giving a gift whose very meaning equals life.

I chose 14 Cows for America as the September Book of the Month to remind us not only of the 9/11 attacks, which targeted the very heart of the American people, but of the extraordinary gifts of compassion shown by people half a world away. Being able to offer any gesture of kindness, big or small, to another selflessly is an important lesson to learn in life. As educators we have the incredible responsibility to not only teach our students the academics but to also provide lessons that shape these lifelong behaviors.

For this presentation we also made a video of me reading the story so that it could also be shown to students throughout the day on September 11.

Read Aloud of 14 Cows for America from Melanie Holtsman on Vimeo.

To learn more about the book and access valuable teaching resources visit the 14 Cows for America website. For a complete write up for this Book of the Month you can visit my Book of the Month Wiki.

“Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded,
nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort.”

from 14 Cows for America, by Carmen Agra Deedy

Friday, September 4, 2009

I'm Published! Well Kinda...

Last fall I was contacted by one of the authors of our yearlong faculty book study, Web 2.0 New Tools, New Schools and asked to write a short story about how administrators use technology in innovative ways for the new book she was working on. Seems she had stumbled across my blog and liked what she saw. The vignettes in the book are titled One School Leader's Story and mine was to detail how we were accomplishing the implementation of Web 2.0 tools school wide and specifically to address how my blog was used to communicate expectations for teachers. I was completely honored and then almost immediately panicked! Who in the world would want to hear what I have to say? Y'all are forced to listen to me because you have to work with me. I mean really? I super procrastinated on this one but finally got my thoughts out on paper and got it turned in to Lynne Schrum's assistant. Whew! Done! It actually wasn't all that hard. It never is when I am describing the extraordinary work my faculty does with children. I had made up my mind that if she hated it I wouldn't even bother telling anyone I had done it. Turns out she loved it, thought it was wonderful - ha! Five days later another email arrived asking for another story - I couldn't believe it! This time they had me write about how we keep students safe as they access web tools on the internet. Armed with a touch of confidence I didn't procrastinate this time, got it written and submitted. I think I still expected them to send it back as garbage - they didn't. It was just what they needed. Whoa! I have to say that it was a lifetime high when my complimentary copy of Leading 21st Century Schools: Harnessing Technology for Engagement and Achievement arrived this week. There it was - my name along side the name of the school I love - in black and white!! It's just 1 and 3/4 pages of a 212 page book but I can promise you if my Moma was still alive she'd be campaigning for me to win the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature! I'd love to be able to insert what I wrote at this point but I can't - even though I wrote it I don't own it you'll just have to buy the book or stop just long enough at my office door. I could probably be pursuaded to read it to you!

Can you hear the music?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Chets Creek is the THRILLER...Can you DIG it?

Before last school year ever ended the careful crafting of this school year began. The organizing, planning and plotting for ways to make the new year better excites me. The WOW factor for kids, but especially for teachers, is a huge part of the plan. I have often been asked why so much goes into planning the first day back for teachers and I can tell you why very plainly - relationships. Heard that before? Relationships are critical in the success of any teacher, and any student in any school anywhere! You build relationships through fun play, building awareness of the gifts of others and creating a laser like focus towards your common goal. That is exactly what our first day back was all about.

I had the occasion this summer to be in the company of several Non-Chets teachers who began to talk about how dull and boring the first day back is, "a real snooze fest," one of them called it. They were not excited to go back and the rolling of the eyes was almost seizure provoking. I was horrified and could only shake my head and apologize to them. I made a little promise to myself right then and there to never be the boring principal who talks their teachers to death the first day back and my mind began to whirl with ideas on how I, me personally, could do something extra special to THRILL my teachers this year. I solicited a little help from some dear friends (the Receptionist, Bookkeeper, Attendance, Copy and Guidance Clerk, Security Clerk, Standards Coach, Literacy Coach and Technology Coach), worked out the costuming, began the practicing and created what I hope was far from a snooze fest to kick the day off with my teachers.

Thriller from Melanie Holtsman on Vimeo.

Every moment of time spent here will be a carefully measured beat in creating a rhythm that is sure to make for a masterpiece. An orchestration of learning that produces a symphony of success. Just another school, just another school year - NOT!!! Chets is not and will never be just another school and this certainly won't be just another school year. In the words of Vincent Price "Chets Creek is the THRILLER...Can you DIG it?"

Can you hear the music?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

End of the Year? Nope, It's Just the Beginning!

Last year we packed our bags, squashed our fears and embarked on a quest, a virtual journey that took us beyond the borders of the classroom and to the far reaching corners of the Earth. This year is about experiencing life through the moves of music.

Kindergarten will keep it simple as their little ones boot scoot and boogie into school on a Country beat.

First Grade will do the bump and hustle as they master reading and math in the glow a sparkling Disco ball.

Second grade will face the bright lights of Broadway and show their talents to the musical Showtunes.

Our Resources will hit the high notes like the masters of the everlasting Classics.

Third Grade will synthesize all learning styles into a sound as smooth as Carribean rhythms.

Fourth Grade will know their skills so well that they’ll be able to improvise like the great Jazz musicians.

And Fifth Grade won’t stop without Rockin' N Rollin' us all year long!

Imagine one person banging away day after day on an instrument trying to play a symphony. Imagine trying to make a piano sound like a guitar or a trombone like a flute. Imagine trying to figure out the melody when you should be playing harmony. H.E. Luccock said, "No one can whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra to play it." It takes skilled musicians who have studied, and continue to perfect their craft working together to put each note in just the right place so that the sounds blend together into something so moving that the listener is changed forever. Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination,and life to everything. Next year at Chets Creek Elementary we’ll be orchestrating a symphony of student success. So join our Learning Conductors as we work on tuning our instruments, reading the score perfectly, moving our musicians to deliver each note with just the right timing and put together a beautiful masterpiece the likes of which no one has ever seen or heard.

Chets Creek Elementary: Orchestrating a Symphony of Student Success!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Minnesota Here I Come!

Earlier this school year, my Media Specialist and I were contacted by children's book author Pamela Duncan Edwards and illustrator Henry Cole about presenting a session with them at the International Reading Association Conference this year. They have visited Chets Creek a couple of times and love the Book of the Month work that we do as much as we love them! Our proposal was accepted and we will be presenting a symposium on next Thursday afternoon at the 2009 IRA Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As always, we will be blogging the conference "live" on the Live From The Creek blog and can't wait to bring back all the incredible things we learn about Reading while attending the conference. Be sure to check in on our adventures as we head to the mid west!


Friday, April 24, 2009

A Wiki is BORN!

The Principal's Book of the Month was introduced to us by our founding principal, Dr. Terri Stahlman, in the first year of our standards based reform implementation, America's Choice. It is a leadership strategy in which the principal selects an authentic piece of children’s literature for all classes in the school with the purpose of creating a common literacy conversation between students and teachers. In addition, this strategy can be used to connect children’s literature and an adult professional text to drive professional development. Since its inception in 1999 Book of the Month immediately became a highly anticipated opportunity for our learning community to grow our vision for students and introduce new instructional practices for the classroom. Whether its an oldie but goodie like Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse or a new read like Woolbur teachers and students alike enjoy revisiting these great stories year after year after year. Thanks to Melanie Holtsman we have created a wiki to house all of the work done to create the BOTM experience monthly. It's a work in progress so make sure to check it out frequently and let me know what you think.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Traveling Up I-95 on SEEDLINGS!

Last week, Melanie Holtsman and I were fortunate enough to be invited to speak on SEEDLINGS. This is a weekly show that is audio broadcast by EdTechTalk. EdTechTalk is a community of educators interested in discussing and learning about the uses of educational technology. Cheryl Oakes, Alice Barr and Bob Sprankle hosted a lively conversation with us regarding my role as the instructional and technology leader at our school and the ways that Melanie supports technology work at our school. I am amazed at how all of this happened and that we actually pulled it off. The three moderators were not in the same location in New England, Melanie was in the back office of a store in Orlando on the internet and I was trapped inside my vehicle on a cell phone with my husband, brother in law, child and two dogs as we traveled up I-95 into South Carolina. (No, I wasn't driving, amazingly neither dog barked and I didn't laugh out loud as my husband and brother in law acted out my side of the conversation! ) While it was a a little nerve wracking it was also a lot of fun getting to share all the incredible things that are happening with technology in our classrooms. I was so proud as I shared our story. If you'd like to have a listen Go here :)


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Welcome to the Chets Creek Crab Shack!

The highly anticipated annual opening of the CCE Crab Shack took place this past Wednesday. For one day only our faculty lounge is transformed each school year immediately following our Spring Break into a Crab Shack filled with tons of fishy fun (ironically, we don't even serve crabs). We enjoy food and fellowship together as we sing along to great tunes and even get heckled by the principal, yours truly. Everyone leaves having caught a "big one" (gummy worms to gift cards) and ready to face our final push until the end of the school year. The day is also designed to remind us all to put the four practices of the FISH! philosophies back into our daily routine.

These practices have helped to build the type of school culture that can mirror the success of the fishmongers at Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Washington:
Be There - be present in the moment of anyone you come in contact with, pay attention and participate with them!
Play - have fun, create joy, and laugh!
Make Their Day - do the unexpected in an effort to provide someone else with happiness - it is not about you - its about them!
Choose Your Attitude - you control your approach to the day, pick kindness, try respect because the outcome almost always reflects your attitude in the first place!

At the end of lunch our bellies are full of fish, grits, cole slaw, homemade desserts and a reminder of how lucky we are to be together doing this most special work with children. Here's a peek at the fun:


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chicago: Here I Come!

Duval County Public Schools recently underwent the district accreditation process by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Counsel on Accreditation and School Improvment (SACS CASI). It was an excellent process for reflection of our successes and in planning the next steps to prepare students for the global workplace. During the visit I was invited by the committee chair, Dr. Nikki Armato, to present the incredible work we do at Chets Creek of creating and sustaining professional learning communties for all stakeholders at their 2009 AdvancEd Annual Conference. The conference is being held in Chicago and I really look forward to hearing from other educators about the extraordinary things being done to create environments of change and improvement for students. I will be blogging the conference on Live From the Creek. Be sure to check in on my adventures (I think they are calling for snow one day) and to find out about the new strategies shared that will "Shape the Future of Learning".


Friday, March 20, 2009

More Important Than EVER...

This past Monday night we had over 250 people show up to become educated about the budget crisis facing public education in Duval County and the state of Florida. They asked very intelligent questions and were given a multitude of ways they could become involved. They left armed with knowledge about where we stand and how they could help. Thousands of parents and educators from around the state "Rallied in Tally" this week to urge our elected officials to stop making painful cuts to education. Unfortunately, the news continues to worsen...

Duval County Public Schools just received word from the State of Florida that we may be cut an additional $15 million to the current budget.

This mid-year cut increases the potential shortfall for 2009/2010 to $135 million in addition to the $70 million budget shortfall the District suffered in 2008/2009.

“The news of additional reductions in our budget is devastating during a time when we are already facing a financial crisis in public education,” said Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals. “We remain dedicated to providing quality education to all of our students and will continue to work with our legislators to explore options to lessen the impact to our classrooms.”

Never has there been a more important time for action...

Write, call and get involved! Let your voice be heard to save education for our children and our future!

Risk... Care... Dream... Expect...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Save Duval Schools!

This week, a grassroots effort was launched to assist DCPS in raising awareness about how the budget shortfall is affecting the students in Duval County. The effort, named Save Duval Schools has a Web site where our community can go to get information on the shortfall and find out ways to take action.

On Monday, March 16 at 7:00 PM there will be a special Budget Information Meeting for parents and our community here at Chets Creek in the Dining Room. I urge you to come, get educated and then take action in saving public education in your own neighborhood and in our state!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Is 50th Good Enough for Your Child?

“The right action of all of us is made up of the right action of each one of us. Unless each of us is determined to meet the duty that comes to us, we can have no right to expect that others will meet the duties that come to them.”

~ Calvin Coolidge

No one can deny that we are living in trying times. All around the country, our friends, relatives and acquaintances are suffering. On Monday, your friend was laid off. Last Friday, you heard about your relatives living without power and water as their homes are buried in ice. Two weeks ago, your neighbor left with his unit for a tour in Iraq. Your spouse is worried about their job security. Discount stores are advertising entire store clearance sales. We are all hurting in some way. If we are not yet hurting, we are just waiting for it to trickle down to our house, our job, our bank account. We know it is coming.

Your child’s school is not immune.

Duval County expects to suffer from a $150 million budget deficit for the 2009-2010 academic year. All the facts tell us there is NO WAY to “trim the fat” and balance this budget crisis without affecting the classroom. In short, your child's school will suffer.
Guidance and Media services could be reduced!
Valuable resources like Art, Music and PE may be cut!
Essential supplies and materials could disappear altogether!

It is important to understand that this problem, this CRISIS, is not limited to Duval County alone. This fiscal crisis is statewide. The state of Florida was ranked 47th out of 50 states in tax revenue prior to the passing of Amendment One, which served to further reduce our state taxes. Regarding the total amount of funds allocated and spent on education, the state of Florida is ranked 50th in the nation. I ask you, does this represent your priorities? I doubt it.

Article IX, Section I of the Florida Constitution guarantees that:

"The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida."

"It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for … a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education …."

Are our legislators upholding the requirements of our state constitution?

As voters, we share a heavy burden. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves with accurate facts. It is our responsibility to make our voices heard. It is our responsibility to act.
It is our responsibility to advocate for our children. It is our responsibility to fight for their rights, for today and for their future. If not us, then who? If we do not meet our duties, we cannot expect others to meet theirs.

I urge you. Educate yourselves. Research the facts. Go to the source. Ask questions. Speak out. Make demands. Do not accept it as fact because others believe it to be true.

Ask yourself, is 50th good enough for your child?

If the answer is NO - contact our state's legislative delegation and ask for immediate help from one of these short term solutions:

1. One cent increase to the sales tax of Florida for just 3 years. It generates ten billion dollars over 3 years to plug the education funding cuts!

2. Please give flexibility to the school districts in the areas of categoricals, (SAI, Class Size, Instruction Materials, Reading, Safe Schools).

3. Please suspend unfunded mandates on the districts. (Examples: Transportation, Testing & Curriculum Requirements, Safety Nets, and Staffing Requirements.)

4. Please give flexibility of capital funds—so they can be used for General Revenue.

Ask them to find long term solutions to the critical funding situation in Florida and urge them to make public education a priority so that even our children's children can benefit from a right guaranteed them by our state constitution!


Special thanks to coauthor Jenny Nash

Friday, February 20, 2009

All Hail the Birthday Queen!

I can vividly remember the first time I saw dayle timmons. I was a very young teacher sitting in the lobby of Alimacani Elementary waiting to have my first interview for a REAL teaching job. I was trying to be calm and confident as I sat waiting to be called into the "principal's office" when all of a sudden the intercom came on and Mrs. Timmons was summoned to the front office. Now, I had spent 22 years being Susan Timmons and only 12 days as Susan Phillips so my inital instinct was to get up and approach the front counter. Secretly I was thinking, "Oh my gosh - I haven't even been interviewed yet and they are already calling me to the office - I must have the job!" It never dawned on me that there could be another teacher Timmons out there - I had lived in Jacksonville 6 days! Just as I was about to get the attention of the secretary the Mrs. Timmons they were really after breezed in the door just in time to save me from what was sure to have been total and utter humiliation! I didn't know her at all but she was already my hero.

Watching dayle work with her students shaped my own teaching behaviors early on. She was always the most positive, supportive and focused professional. What she did with children was amazing, it still is for that matter. When dayle landed at Chets Creek several years after we opened I was thrilled, another chance to learn from the master! She is a published author, an avid reader and a dedicated learner of any and everything needed to improve her own craft and to support the work of the teachers she coaches. If there is a new idea - dayle had it! If there is a new risk to take - dayle will try it. If you think it can't be done - dayle will prove you wrong! I was never so proud that she was recognized for her contributions to the teaching profession as when she was named the Florida Teacher of the Year in 2004. After all, dayle's learning journeys reach far and wide, and have effected the work of teachers and children she'll never even know. I am thankful everyday that her journeys have reached out to touch and include me. They have changed my professional life forever and after almost 15 years of working with and learning from dayle I can tell you without a doubt that she is still my hero.

Today at Chets Creek we held a very special "surprise" birthday party to honor queen dayle's 60th birthday. It had to be a surprise because she would never have allowed anything else - and it was a extraordinary celebration of a life's journey that is far from over. You see, at 60 dayle can work circles around even our youngest teachers. She regularly takes all of us to the edge of our own professional capabilities and stretches our thinking to include the latest and greatest practice in education. At a time when most would be thinking of retirement dayle is thinking up the next idea to try, risk to take or initiative to implement. After all, 60 is really just the new 22...


Friday, February 13, 2009

Like Mother...Like Daughter...

At Chets Creek we are family - quite literally in some cases. Beyond the real relationships that have been built among colleagues that make this school feel like a family we actually have a number of employees who are related to each other. These dynamic duos and trios provide strong partnerships in service to children. This year two of our cherished family members were recognized by their peers for their contributions to our school community as our "of the Year" representatives.

Earlier in the year Kindergarten teacher Debby Cothern was chosen as our Teacher of the Year. Debby truly has the heart of teacher and delivers her craft with thought and reflection. Her practice is intentional, carried out with conviction in the name of what is right for the children she teaches. In her every action she encompasses the qualities of a teacher who routinely looks inward and challenges herself for her students. Her own learning is at the heart of her outstanding work with children. Along with her co-teacher and sister in law, Michelle Ellis, they maximize every moment with meaningful learning opportunities for the students and teachers they mentor.

Last month Kindergarten Paraprofessional Barbara Ellis was chosen as our Employee of the Year. "Grandma Barbara" was chosen because you will always see her doing whatever is necessary, in order to benefit the school – even if it does not pertain to her normal duties. Her attention to detail and her willingness to help in any way distinguishes her as an outstanding member of our team. Barbara is a wonderful wife, mother of three great children, and grandmother to eight. However, the kindness she shows her own family is not for them alone. She exerts that same love and attention to welcome every child and adult she encounters in our school.

We are so proud of this mother & daughter duo and the fact that they truly represent the entire Chets Creek family and what we are all about - Relationships! Relationships! Relationships!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

7 Things You Don't Need to Know About Me

Ok - Here we go. I've been tagged by another meme. This time I am charged with telling you 7 things you might not know, or need to know for that matter, about me. I'm a pretty open book so this exercise has been a little painful for me. In fact it has taken me about three weeks to come up with 7 things.

1 – I love MUSIC - ALL kinds of music. Really, I can hardly function when it is quiet and I absolutely can't be still when music is playing. Classical, Country, Pop, Rock, Alternative, Dance, Religious, Jazz, Folk, R & B and Hip Hop/Rap! I know the lyrics to just about any song you could play and my iPod is so diverse I think that even it is confused. I am really a closet rapper. "I'm a poet - bet you didn't know it - make a rhyme everytime"!
2 – My family breeds English Springer Spaniels. I have the Mom and Dad, Grits and Ford, and I absolutely love them and this breed in general. They are the best dogs!!!
3 – I got Engaged during my college Graduation. I came across the stage after receiving my diploma and my sweet husband and his friends unfurled a banner that asked me to marry him – I said YES!! I had no idea a news camera had been tipped off and had been following me that day. They caught the whole story and it made local and national news shows, newspapers and talk radio.
4 – I took Piano lessons for ten years! I started in 3rd grade and played through my senior year in high school. I got to accompany my middle school chorus several times and even played in church every now and again. My absolute favorite songs to play were My Tribute, White Christmas, How Great Thou Art and The Rhythm of Life.
5 – My middle name is Russell. There is 17 years between my sister and I and I think my parents really wanted a boy. Even though I didn’t fulfill this wish for them they let the name stick. I didn’t exactly appreciate the importance of being named after a parent until I grew older. My Daddy died when I was almost four – and I wouldn’t trade sharing his name for anything in the world.
6 – I am a major Night Owl! I very rarely go to sleep before midnight and really only need about 5 hours of sleep to function. I HATE mornings and come ALIVE at night!
7 – I was in England for my sixteenth birthday. My sweet Mama took me and a friend of mine. She wore this crazy hat the whole time we were there and embarrased us to death with it - precious memories. By the way, I still have the hat!

I'll be tagging the following to complete this meme - I can't wait to find out 7 Things We Don't Need to Know About You!

1 - Tom Ruark
2 - Toni Chant
3 - Betsy McCall
4 - Wanda Lankford
5 - Lauren Skipper


Friday, January 30, 2009

And the Traditions Continue...

Today we donned our comfy pj's, carried our handmade teddy bears and celebrated reading at the annual First Grade Sleepover! This grade level tradition starts each year with an at home project designed to get families involved by making a unique bear for the day. These precious creations are displayed the week preceding in the lobby and then carried as students participate in the day's activities. The first grade team hosts a Make and Take during PTA Family Night where families decorate pillowcases commemorating the week. The day of Sleepover begins with a "nighttime" parade complete with flashlights throughout the downstairs hallway while the entire school sings Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and cheers them on. From the parade the entire First Grade gathers in the Dining Room for a pancake breakfast and fun. Even the teachers perform special dances for the kids. Literacy centers taught by our extraordinary resource team provide for a myriad of opportunities to celebrate books and readers. Everyone leaves at the end of the day ready to go home and really "sleep" off all the fun. Traditions like Sleepover are just one of the ways we build a unique culture at Chets Creek that makes it feel like more than just a school.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Have You Gone LIVE Lately?

At CCE we get lots of opportunity to learn professionally right inside the school walls - how lucky are we? However, from time to time we get out and go to trainings, workshops and conferences in an effort to broaden our horizons. For years I think it was so hard to carve out time to share our new learning from these opportunities with colleagues. Often just our teaching/thinking partners or grade level teams got the benefit of our growth leaving the rest of us wondering - How do we make sure everyone gets the benefit of the training? The resounding answer to that questions became BLOG IT - and Live From the Creek was born. Live is a blog devoted entirely so that those attending training outside the school can share their experiences with the rest of us left behind - in real time. Melanie Holtsman, our Tech Coach, and I are currently at FETC (Florida Educational Technology Conference) in Orlando, FL and are posting to Live From the Creek as we sit in the sessions - placing you right in the seat beside us! Have you gone LIVE lately?