Student Recognitions

We had 2 fun student recognition events this week.  On Wednesday, Sodexo held the 3rd annual Future Chef Contest at Maple School.  There were 3 finalists from Wescott and 5 finalists from Willowbrook competing.  Supt. Wegley, Principal Brown, and I judged the food entries on several factors including: Plate presentation, kid-friendly preparation, taste, originality, and healthy ingredients.

Willowbrook Chef Finalists and Supporters

Willowbrook Chef Finalists and Supporters

Our very own, Victoria Caputa, was the 1st place winner.  She offered a truly original “S’more Crepes”.  I was so proud of all the contestants.  This is such a fun event.


1st Place Winner

On Thursday, Willowbrook and Wescott were represented at the Illinois Principal Association’s North Cook Region Student Recognition Breakfast at the Metropolis Theater in Arlington Heights.  Each year, my professional association allows members to bring one student from the exiting grade level for recognition.  With help from the 4th and 5th grade teachers, I selected Nathan Kuncheria.  The keynote speaker was Ricardo Castro, Illinois Teacher of the Year.


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Kindergarten Conference Presentation

The talented Kindergarten Team and I presented at the statewide Pre-K & Kindergarten Conference last week.  The title of our session was “Transition to Full Day Kindergarten: A case study of developmentally appropriate practice”.  The experience caused us to reflect on how fortunate we are to work in a close-knit community with significant resources, inquisitive children, passionate teachers, and a supportive school board.  The transition to a full day Kindergarten has been a highly successful change initiative.  Our students are thriving.

IL ASCD PreK & K Conference

IL ASCD PreK & K Conference

Popular media has portrayed a false dichotomy between academic rigor and developmentally appropriate practice.  We believe it is less to do about “what” you are teaching and more about “how” you are delivering content.  Our presentation illustrated how our instructional strategies, differentiation, staff collaboration, and focus on play/integrated learning has created a rich experience for our youngest students.

I am so proud of our team and feel fortunate to work in such a wonderful school district.  With the full day program, we have lowered the stress level of our students and staff, increased the stamina of our students for academic engagement, and strengthened relationships.

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Battle of The Books!

Congratulations to the Willowbrook 4th and 5th graders who participated in this year’s Glenview Public Library’s Battle of the Books.  Go Wildcats!  The library had over 330 students participate this year.  Willowbrook sent 40 students.  That’s nearly half of our 4th and 5th grade!

I would like to recognize the following teams for a strong performance: Bedazzled Beauties, Book Owlettes, Darth Paper, Dolphin Artists, and Book Slayers.

I would like recognize our teams that earned a place on the 2017 honor roll.  These teams earned one of the top five scores of the season:  Cute Little Fluffy Bunnies Plus One, Fluffy Unicorn Readers, Solid Dot, Angels and Golden Readers.

Finally, special recognition goes to the Angels and Golden Readers.  These two teams earned PERFECT SCORES!  What an amazing showing for our school.

We are so proud of all the students who worked with their teams to read a list of 28 books and then came to the library to test their knowledge.  Thank you to Willowbrook Librarian Sue Sparks, Glenview Librarian Rachel Snyder, and the classroom teachers for their encouragements and support.  Of course, thank you to the parents for their time and support.  Our parents recognize the importance of a rich reading life.

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Exploring School Community Through Drama

What does it mean to be Willowbrook?  Who or what makes a community?  What does it look like, sound like, and feel like?  These are some of the essential questions that our students explored this week with our Artist in Residence.

With the financial support of the PTO, we hosted teaching artists from The Writers Theatre of Glencoe.  They worked with each individual class and guided the students through dramatic exercises and creative movement.  Their play was guided by this year’s school-wide theme of #bewillowbrook.

Kindergarten and 1st grade students created tableaus (3D pictures with their bodies) that represented the qualities of a safe and strong school.  At 2nd grade, students used creative movement to generate ideas for a class poem about Willowbrook School.  The teaching artists helped the students stretch out their ideas with sentence stems:

  • Willowbrook is…
  • 2nd grade is…
  • I am…
  • I am…
  • We are…

At 4th grade, students were led through a variety of ensemble exercises.  One of my favorites included the sharing of personal stories.  Students were challenged to share their stories and then let them go.  It is difficult to let someone else tell your story and act it out!

Once the 5th graders were warmed up, the teaching artists asked which school experiences shaped them?  They were also asked about their best days, worst days, and challenges they faced over the years.  With all of these individual moments, the students made statues of their feelings, smells, and sights.  This collage of individual moments represented BOTH a piece of their individual story and the collective story of OUR Willowbrook School.

The teaching artists appreciated how the classroom teachers jumped right into the dramatic exercises and played with the students.  The students were able to take risks and demonstrate vulnerability with their peers as they took on different aspects of an ensemble.  We all walked away from this experience reflecting on the impact that our feelings and memories have on the choices we make, because the choices you make build your identity and the identity of your community.

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Actions that impact energy

Dave Wilms, former Stevenson HS teacher and current energy consultant, visited our 4th grade for the third time this year.  He has been exploring the concepts of energy efficiency, conservation, and the impact on our environment.  What is the difference between energy conservation and energy efficiency?  I will give you a hint.  One has to do with behavioral changes and one has to do with technological advances.


These classroom visits were scheduled to augment a recent unit of study.  As you may have heard, we have been replacing our old science units and aligning our curriculum to the Next Generation Science Standards.  Here is a link to the 4th grade standards.  We are grateful for the leadership of Kery Obradovich, Math/Science Coordinator and Kristin Cioffi, Math/Science Coordinator.

The students explored common items and how much energy could be saved by recycling.  Did you know that it costs less to recycle than to pay for garbage removal?  Only a small amount of things need to go to the dump.  Most city waste is paper (27%).  The second biggest item is food (14%).  Yard trimmings (14%) is third.

Our students were able to “describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment”.  They were able to “generate and compare multiple solutions to reduce the impacts of natural Earth processes on humans”.  Having observed the student discussion today, I am confident these students will grow up to solve the energy problems of today and tomorrow.

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Maple Student Visit

Wednesday offered a special opportunity for 7th grade students from Maple School to interact with our Kindergarten students.  Each year, we bring together the Maple child development students and our Kindergarten students.

The child development students assisted our Kindergarten classroom teachers with the reading workshop.  They led literacy games and activities.  Following the reading workshop, everyone came down to the gym for a performance of Pinocchio.  The afternoon showtime students performed the Glass Slipper.  These experiences help to make our school community feel smaller and more connected.

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Love Is Out There

Love and kindness are out there.  They certainly were on full display at Willowbrook this week.  The Spirit Committee hosted a week of random acts of kindness.   With the help of the Kindness Connection, we made care packages for hospitalized veterans in the Chicagoland area.  Below is a short video that a few of the 5th graders made, reflecting on the week.

On a related note, I found this Google year in review video in my news feed.  See what the world searched for in 2016.  Fantastic!  It has a difficult beginning, but ends on a positive note.  It is worth a watch.  There is kindness in the world.  There is love out there.  At Willowbrook, you don’t need to search too far.  It’s all around us.

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Buddy Benches

We know the importance of a kind and inclusive school culture.  We work hard to “Be Willowbrook!” and ensure that all students feel welcome and included.  Recess and lunch are times of the school day when students may feel left out.  Watch this new video on the history and purpose of the playground Buddy Benches, produced by two of our talented 5th grade students.

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5Essential Survey

You are invited to share your thoughts on the important elements of school effectiveness in a survey about Willowbrook School.  Parents and teachers are invited to complete the Illinois 5Essentials Survey between November 16 and January 16 at

The Illinois 5Essentials Survey is administered online by UChicago Impact at the University of Chicago, on behalf of the Illinois School Board of Education (ISBE).  This survey identifies five indicators that can lead to important student outcomes, including improved attendance and greater test score gains.  The five indicators that have been identified by the University of Chicago to significantly improve school success are:

  • Effective Leaders
  • Collaborative Teachers
  • Involved Families
  • Supportive Environments
  • Ambitious Instruction

School-level reports will be generated if at least 30 percent of parents respond to the survey and will be sent to schools and districts in June.  Results will also be included in the Willowbrook School report card, released by ISBE each October.  Parent identities will be kept completely confidential and responses will not be linked to any individual (see Privacy Policy

Thank you for sharing your time and thoughts in responding to this survey about Willowbrook School.

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We gathered this morning as members of a proud and grateful nation.  The sacrifice and service of our military veterans has given us the peace and freedom that we enjoy today.  We owe our veterans thanks and deep respect. 


Our honored guest today was US Army Captain Michael Beslow.  Cpt. Beslow served as a helicopter pilot in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The students were excited to learn that he was a Willowbrook student!  You can see his photo across from our school gym.


Our 5th grade Spirit Committee ran a beautiful assembly this morning.  The 5th grade Girl Scouts served as flag raisers.  Students learned about the history and significance of this national holiday.  They learned various ways to thank Veterans (Willowbrook will be making care packages for hospitalized veterans next month).  Mr. Barker closed the assembly by leading us in singing “America the Beautiful”.


Each week, we pass out Character Counts! awards to students.  We certainly had a number of deserving students this week.  However, I felt the need to give the teaching staff of Willowbrook special recognition.  Thanks to their service, we are raising a generation of kind and generous Americans.  Our District 30 teachers serve as important role models of honesty, character, and compassion.  Families of all backgrounds are welcome at Willowbrook School.  We are an inclusive community of learning and respect.  I am filled with optimism for the future of our country.  I look forward to these students leading our country in a positive direction.

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