Oh, Willowbrook!

Did you know Willowbrook has had 4 different school songs written over the past 50 years? The first song was written in 1971 by Lisa Arnold & Barbra Stern. The most recent version was added to our Friday flag raising this month. Our music teacher and math Navigate teacher (a former Willowbrook student) re-worked version #2 from the late 1980s/early 1990s.

Version #4 (Current)



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A Kindergarten Update

This is our 4th year of the full-day Kindergarten Program. We are very proud of the positive culture and high quality of instruction our teachers have cultivated for the students of District 30. Much of this was shared last night in the annual report to the Board of Education.

This year, we have 118 students spread across 6 sections of Kindergarten. In comparison, we had 117 students enrolled last year. Over 30 of our students are receiving English Language support. Another 12 students are receiving supplementary academic interventions. We share 3 students with our friends at the Northern Suburban Special Education District.

Our reading and writing instruction is highly differentiated through a balanced literacy model. Guided reading (a.k.a., Team Read) begins this month. For 30 minutes every day, our students receive feedback and guidance on important reading behaviors at their individual stage of development. It is remarkable to see the growth from fall to spring! Magic!

In our math workshop, we continue to access the Math In Focus and Bridges resources. There is collaborative plan time scheduled with our math coordinator and specialist. The workshop includes multiple visuals and games. The students love composing and decomposing numbers with dice.

This is our third year incorporating the Shared Collaborative Imaginative Play (SCIP) curriculum. Our specials teachers and classroom teachers co-teach important social-emotional skills and concepts during the play block. We will be giving a presentation on this at the upcoming Illinois ASCD Kindergarten Conference.

Registration for next school year is Thursday, February 7 from 1:00 to 7:00 PM at Willowbrook School. For more information, visit http://www.district30.org/willowbrook/welcome-to-the-kindergarten-center2

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year

The holiday excitement is palpable at Willowbrook School. At this time in the year, we are all trying to stay healthy and wrap up our units of study before the winter break. The teachers are trying to hold off all student celebrations until Friday.

“…there’ll be much mistletoe-ing and hearts will be glowing when loves ones are near…”

Some of our parents may want to join us at the All-District Winter Sing or the Willowbrook Winter Sing on Friday. Per D30 tradition, Willowbrook and Wescott students will board buses and travel to Maple School for an all-district sing-a-long. We should begin around 10:40 a.m. Following principal read-a-louds in the library and room parties, Willowbrook will hold a sing-a-long in the gym. Parents are welcome to join us at 2:15 p.m. This is a very special school event.

With all the holiday parties, shopping, and year-end work requirements, it is easy to forget the purpose of these winter holidays. I am often guilty of failing to “live in the moment”. With that in mind, I am trying to remember to be fully present for my students and my 2 boys at home. That means slowing down and turning off all screens. I am also trying to let go of my expectations for a perfect “Griswold” holiday. I am also telling myself to be more gentle with my co-workers and family members.

There is much be thankful for at Willowbrook. I hope you will join me in counting blessings and being “fully present” with each other. I wish you and your family a peaceful season and a restful break. Maybe I will see you on Friday.

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5Essentials Survey

On behalf of the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois 5Essentials Survey will be administered online by UChicago Impact at the University of Chicago. The survey gathers data related to five indicators that can predict important student outcomes, including improved attendance and larger test score gains. These five indicators that affect and predict school success are:

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

The Parent Survey Supplement will be conducted through February 15, 2019. To take the survey please visit https://survey.5-essentials.org/Illinois/ and select the appropriate survey to begin.

The Illinois 5Essentials Survey for students (grades 4-8) and teachers will be conducted December 11 through February 15, 2019. If you do not want your son or daughter to participate, please contact the Willowbrook front office.

For more information about the Illinois 5Essentials Survey, or to view previous years’ Reports, please visit https://www.5-essentials.org/illinois. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact 5Essentials Client Services at 1-866-440-1874 or 5essentials@uchicago.edu.

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Willowbrook Story Project

In celebration of Willowbrook School’s 50th birthday, current students are collecting 50 years worth of memories from former students and staff. Do you know of someone who would like to share? They can click here to express interest in this project or contact our librarian at aeichmiller@district30.org

Stories can be short, 2-5 minutes in length. Possible themes include friendship, lessons learned, fun memories, persistence, etc. The idea was inspired by the Story Corps Initiative.

We plan to post our favorites on the school webpage. We may even share some at Friday Flag Raising. You can visit the Willowbrook Story Project page at http://www.district30.org/willowbrook/willowbrook-story-project

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If I Could Turn Back Time

The Willowbrook 5th grade gave an entertaining performance to students and parents this Tuesday. Their musical “The Time Solution”, helped us relive some school history. In addition to some great music and a zany script, the audience enjoyed performances from current and past teachers. In fact, the students went back in time to visit Ms. Nadine Lee’s 1976 classroom.

Mr. Barker and the specials staff always do a great job collaborating and bringing out the student’s vision. We had many great musical performances. Here is a short clip of the February 1969 hit song “Everyday People”.

The show’s finale included a remake of the Willowbrook School Song. Students and staff should expect to hear this song at Friday Flag Raisings throughout the rest of the year. Our 50th anniversary celebrations were kicked off this week. Thank you 5th grade! Thank you Mr. Barker!

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Daily Reading is Homework

Homework is a common topic addressed at parent-teacher conferences. Some parents want less homework sent home. Some parents want more homework. Homework can come in different forms (e.g., worksheets, activities). However, all teachers assign daily reading. Some grade levels may place a suggested time limit, but all agree that daily reading is the most important form of homework.

Researcher Richard Allington has written extensively on the topic of reading achievement for the past 30 years. He argues for greater time spent in voluntary reading, inside and outside of school. Reading fluency and the exposure to a variety of texts is the most significant path to improved comprehension (Allington, 2014). One simple analogy – You are not going to become a better runner without increasing your time spent running. Here is a graphic that illustrates the differences between students with daily reading habits.

The most valuable form of homework is engaging your child in nightly reading and holding frequent conversations about what they are reading. We have a finite amount of time to work with at school. While we build in some independent reading time each day/week, it is not enough. Parents are in a unique position to ensure the daily reading habits of their children. Model daily reading and hold your children accountable by expressing interest in what they are reading.

Allington, R. L. (2014). How Reading Volume Affects Both Reading Fluency and Reading Achievement. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 7(1), 13-26.

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Character Counts! Week and Food Drive

We celebrate Character Counts! Week, beginning Monday, October 22. The Pillars of Character are something that Willowbrook emphasizes every week at Friday Flag Raising. Next week, we will recognize a pillar each day. Be sure to wear the corresponding color. Our schedule includes:

    • Monday Blue for Trustworthiness
    • Tuesday Red for Caring
    • Wednesday Purple for Citizenship
    • Thursday Orange & Yellow for Fairness & Respect
    • Friday Green for Responsibility

The annual Kids Care Food Drive to support the Northfield Food Pantry will also be held next week. My Spirit Committee has been busy planning this event. We will keep grade level totals each day. At the end of the week, the grade level with the largest numbers will receive an extra recess or a dance party in the gym.

Here is a short video the Spirit Committee created to advertise the food drive.

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Nadine Lee, a Willowbrook Historian

Most of the staff in Northbrook/Glenview School District 30 know Nadine Lee as the Learning Enhancement Coordinator. She coordinates professional development, orders curriculum, runs the mentoring program, provides counsel to building principals, and more for the past 9 years. However, her contributions to the school district go back further. Did you know Ms. Lee taught at Willowbrook for 34 years?! She began teaching fourth grade in 1975 when Willowbrook School served students in Kindergarten through 8th grade. Eventually, Ms. Lee moved to fifth grade (room 211).

Ms. Lee was recently interviewed by the current fifth-grade students as research for their fall musical program. She explained that our building was very crowded back in the 1970s. There were mobile classrooms on the blacktop. Students had to bundle up in winter coats, hats, and boots to walk between the Kindergarten and music classrooms. Art was delivered on a cart for all elementary students and everyone shared lockers. There was no formal library when Willowbrook was first opened. Books were stored in room 206.

The gumball machine is one thing that has not changed since the school first opened. It began as a seventh and eighth-grade art club project and was repainted around 8 years ago. Most alumni come back and ask to get a picture in front of the classic mural.

Ms. Lee told the fifth-grade students that the Northbrook/Glenview District 30 schools had a very different grade-level arrangement before 1976. Wescott had grades K-4 and Maple had grades 5-8. When Willowbrook opened in February of 1969, it serviced students in grades K-8.

Here are some other facts or details about Willowbrook’s past that Ms. Lee shared with the students:

  • There was no differentiation. Everyone received the same lesson at the same time, on the same day. Today, teachers are expected to individualize their instruction and reach each student. Teaching is much more complicated.
  • Paul Szerszen, a former P.E. teacher, started Field Day. You may have seen his sneakers hanging in the gym.
  • Willowbrook teachers and students used to dress in more formal attire. Teachers didn’t wear jeans on Friday. Children changed their clothes after school before they went out to play.
  • There was no orchestra, only band.
  • The first principal was Tom Oakson. He was followed by Tony DeGrazia, Brian Teal, Don Lazarus, Robert Olsen, Barbara Rieckhoff, Melissa Hirsch, Jill Weininger, and Scott Carlson.
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Parent Teacher Conferences

You can register for your fall parent-teacher conference anytime between 6:00 a.m. on Monday, October 1 and 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 10. You will register at http://www.ptconferencemaker.com/willow

Parent-teacher conferences are on October 17 from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m. and October 18 from 12:00 to 8:00 p.m. Please note, there is no student attendance on October 18.

This fall conference is a great time to share academic and social goals that you have for your child. Ask your teacher for help refining or focusing these goals. Some other questions you might ask:

  • What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • How does my child get along with the other students in class?
  • What can I do to support him/her at home?
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