Happy New Year!

It was a successful week back to school. The Willowbrook teaching staff and I were thrilled to see the smiling faces of students as they streamed into the building. We welcomed 115 Kindergarten students and another 27 preschool students this year.

Four new teachers joined our staff over the summer. Rachel Hawkins is teaching our 6th section of Kindergarten. Katie Greenawalt joined 2nd grade. Molly Shanahan joined 4th grade. Ana Stockler assumed the role of learning/behavior specialist supporting students in the primary grades. We also welcomed 3 new teaching assistants.

At the opening ceremony, I announced Willowbrook’s 50th anniversary. Our school opened in February 1969. We presented the students with a giant birthday cake. Watch the surprise in this short video. 

We have also created a Facebook page to inform current and past Willowbrook Wildcats about this year’s celebrations. We hope past students and staff will share memories or post pictures from their time at Willowbrook. Visit us at https://www.facebook.com/Willowbrook50th/

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Summer Reading

Research has shown that kids who do not read regularly over the summer can lose up to 3 months of progress. Think about that cumulative reading loss over the course of elementary school! We think it is very important that children maintain strong reading habits throughout the summer.

The Glenview Public Library & Northbrook Public Library have terrific summer reading programs designed for kids, teens, and adults. You may consider signing up the whole family and making it a weekly event to visit and log your reading. Often times, the library provides rewards or incentives. There will also be hands-on activities and projects. Registration begins June 10.

Here is a link to TumbleBooks (ebooks and audio books) through the Glenview Public Library. TumbleBooks are animated, talking picture books that teach kids the joy of reading. There are many iPad-compatible TumbleBooks now available. Students will need a public library card to use this service.

The Willowbrook Library has purchased a subscription to Axis 360. You can read ebooks and listen to audio books. In order to use the service, student should download the app or visit this website. You will also need your Willowbrook student email username and password. Here are directions explaining how to register.

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Dance Party!

The Willowbrook PTO provided our school with another incredible artist-in-residence experience this week. We hosted 2 dance artists from the Old Town School of Folk Music. Over the course of 3 days, these artists worked with each grade level on the basic elements of creative movement: Space, time, and energy. We learned new vocabulary words such as locomotion, contrast, and choreography. A couple of before school staff workshops provided teachers with examples of how they could bring dance and creative movement into their classrooms.

Using our school-wide Play Pack structure, students formed 17 different dance groups this morning. Each pack created a short dance representing the theme of “summer”. Out on the Willow Park grass field, each pack performed their dance. Next, the dance artists led the whole school in a 8-movement composition. Finally, we turned the music up and let the kids have a wild dance party. The attached video illustrates the multi-age play.

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Thank you parent volunteers

This afternoon, the Willowbrook Staff and I held our annual “tea” to thank the many parent volunteers who have contributed to our strong school community. Willie the Wildcat was on hand to pass out small thank you gifts. Our PTO presidents recognized the outgoing and incoming board members. Finally, each grade level came to the gym and performed 2 songs from their student musical. It was a great review of the year.

We are grateful for the time and talent of our parent volunteers. They add so much to the children’s elementary school experience. It most certainly takes a village. A special thank you to Mrs. Melissa Carr, outgoing Co-PTO President.

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Principal for the morning

This year’s “principal for the morning” was third grader Mia Michael. She performed her duties faithfully. The morning began with Principal Michael and I taking the South Loop of the Walking School Bus. She delivered a couple of successful jokes at Friday Flag Raising. Head custodian, Mr. Pablo, let us inspect the boiler rooms and mechanical rooms of the school. Principal Michael read a book to Mrs. Kauth’s kindergarten class and called a surprise recess for the whole school. We finished the morning having a pizza lunch with two friends in the office.

I had a few minutes to interview Principal Michael. It was a pleasure getting to know this Wildcat a little better.

Q: What is your favorite part of Willowbrook School?

I love meeting new friends every year. When new students come in, it is really fun getting to know them.

Q: What is your favorite subject?

I really like math. I like learning things, so when I get home, I can teach them to my parents. I also like reading. My favorite author is Peter Brown. My class is reading “The Wild Robot Escapes” right now.

Q: What do you like best about being the “principal for the morning”?

It is really fun seeing different parts of the building. It is a different kind of day. I am looking forward to calling a surprise recess.

Q: What is the hardest part of being the principal?

Calling students down to the office. You don’t want to make them feel bad, but you want them to understand… why they need to change their behavior.

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?

I wanted to be a veterinarian. Now, I want to be an elementary principal!

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Butterfly Garden

Our 1st grade students had an opportunity to help plant a beautiful new garden in the front of the school today. A butterfly garden was brought to Willowbrook School courtesy of the district’s Environmental Awareness Committee. Committee representative Melanie Roth and 5th grade teacher Heidi Fletcher provided the necessary planning and scheduling for the project. Math and science coordinators, Kery Obradovich and Kristin Goss were also involved. Over 250 plants were placed in the ground by students. Their work was guided by local botanist, Rob Sulski.

Additional planting will be done in the fall. We hope this garden attracts butterflies to Willowbrook School in years to come. It will support our 1st grade Life Science Unit and bring beauty to the area around our flag pole. Our next step is find an appropriate marker identifying the purpose of the garden for the larger community.

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A window into the classroom

More than ever, teachers are providing parents with a window into the classroom with social media and other web-based applications. Many teachers are empowering their students to contribute or direct aspects of the classroom communication. Students are motivated by working for these “authentic audiences”.

One great example is our weekly digital curation of Willowbrook tweets. Our technology integration specialist, Mrs. Rich, has used the Storify network service to compile the week’s tweets that include #d30learns or #wbplays. She recently moved these tweets over to the Wakelet service.


Another application that teachers (and families) have embraced is Seesaw. These are student driven digital portfolios. Many teachers have replaced their weekly newsletter with this application. We believe there may also be aspects of this platform that could guide articulation for students (grade level to grade level) and alignment to our new report cards.

With so many powerful tools, our teachers are sharing more student learning and school information than ever before! Of course, this is a lot to manage. We often wonder which communication vehicles are the best. Do we need to spend time on Twitter, Seesaw, School Messenger, S’more, Kidblog, email blasts, etc. Could we focus our efforts on one or two applications? We welcome parent feedback as we work toward establishing common expectations.

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A special student recognition

A very special student and his talented Willowbrook teaching team was recognized at the North Suburban Special Education District’s Leadership Council Meeting tonight. Second grader Jonathan Ortega and his teachers Brittany Brown, Lauren Randazzo, and Ann Angel were presented with certificates for their excellence. Jonathan is an inspiring example of fortitude, character, and academic growth. The partnership between the NSSED staff at Willowbrook and our general education teachers is a model of best practice.

My heart swells with pride for this young man and the hard working teachers of Willowbrook School. Dr. Wegley, Lauren Schulman, and Betsie Onsrud were also present to cheer on Jonathan. What a great learning community!

This recognition came on the heels of our Ability Awareness Week. This week was another collaboration between Willowbrook and NSSED staff. All students were exposed to adaptive sports, assistive technology, and individual learning differences. We stand for inclusive classrooms and differentiated instruction.


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Grade 4 Energy Vlogs

Our 4th grade students explored renewable and non renewable resources in their most recent science unit.  Among other learning standards, this activity was aligned with Next Generation Science Standard 4-ESS3-1.

Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment… Over time, people’s needs and want change, as do their demands for new and improved technologies.

Mrs. Eichmiller pulled various clips from student-created Vlogs that feature their learning, experience, and growth.  This unit of instruction was a collaboration between the library, instructional technology, and classroom teachers.  You will also see the students posing questions to an outside expert in the field.

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IPA Student Recognition Breakfast

Mia Hermann and her parents joined me yesterday at the 8th annual Student Recognition Breakfast of the North Cook Region of the Illinois Principals Association.  The event was held at the Metropolis Ballroom in Arlington Heights.  We enjoyed music from the Maine South Jazz Band.  Our keynote speaker was Brian McBride, a retired soccer player from the US national team.

My professional association allows each of its members to invite one student from their exiting grade level to attend and receive recognition. With input from the 4th and 5th grade teaching staff, I selected Mia.  We are proud of Mia’s work ethic and character.  She has consistently demonstrated responsibility and respect at Willowbrook School.  She is dedicated to her academic and personal growth.  Mia is a positive person to know!

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