Happy New Year! Welcome back to school. It was very exciting to have the students back in the building today. Mrs. Fetzer, Mr. Astudillo, and many others have been working all summer long to be ready for this day. The classrooms looked inviting. The hallways had fresh paint and brand new doors…
We had a great opening ceremony to kick off the year. Thank you to Mr. Chuck Gitles, Board of Education President, for joining us this morning. We also had Dale Falk, Asst. Supt. for Finance & Operations and Andy Kohl, Director of Educational Technology. The 5th grade student ambassadors served as flag raisers. Below is the video I pulled together to help introduce our school-wide theme.
A special thank you to the Willowbrook PTO. They are always so supportive and generous with their talent, time and fundraising. This summer, the PTO provided our building with sound canceling panels in the multi-purpose room. The PTO also generously donated new furniture and upgrades to the teacher’s lounge.
We have another 110 Kindergarten students and 28 preschool students starting school tomorrow!
Willowbrook School held its first annual Senior Walk this afternoon. We invited former Willowbrook students graduating from high school to be honored. The seniors gathered in the front foyer, sharing fond memories and catching up with old friends. Once everyone was gathered, the seniors marched through the hallways and received cheers and well wishes from the students and staff. They finished their walk in the school gym for a brief all-school assembly.
Each of the 23 seniors shared a favorite memory, plans for next year, and some advice for the current Wildcats. Mr. Barker and the 5th grade students taught the alumni a song from this year’s musical, “Where You’re From”, and we sang as a community. As the song reminds us, we can always call Willowbrook home. Once a Wildcat, Always a Wildcat.
Pictured below are the seniors and their parents. We are so proud of our Wildcats.
One of my favorite days of the year is “Principal for the Morning”. This is my contribution to the PTO staff raffle. This year’s winner was a confident and talented 2nd grade student. “Principal Adriana” led Friday Flag Raising, walked the building with Head Custodian Astudillo, read aloud to Kindergarten, had a phone meeting with Superintendent Wegley, and called an all-school surprise recess. The morning ended with a pizza lunch in the principal’s office with Adriana and 2 girlfriends.
I asked Principal Adriana a few questions about her morning:
Q: What do you think is the hardest part of being a principal?
A: It is really tiring. You have to get up early and come to school early. The hardest part for me was picking only 2 friends for lunch. Everyone is so nice. I had to pick out of a hat.
Q: Were you nervous leading flag raising?
A: Yes. I didn’t have a lot of time to practice. Some of the student names (that I read) were really hard (to pronounce).
Q: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to become a school principal?
A: One, don’t stay up late. Get your sleep. Two, practice student names for flag raising.
Q: What is best part of being Willowbrook Principal?
A: Giving everyone extra recess time.
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May is a very busy time of the year. Schools are “winding up” as the school calendar counts down. We are running end of year events, and at the same time, planning for the coming school year (e.g., master schedule, class lists, teacher assignments, hiring). Students are taking end of year assessments and bringing long-term projects to a close. The students in 5th grade are probably the busiest.
Our 5th grade student, Elizabeth, took time this week to entertain the student body with incredible cardboard arcade games. Her “cardboard challenge” was the result of a passion project to raise money for the Blessings in a Backpack charity. Students had the option of making a small donation and playing her cardboard games on their way to lunch recess. Her project embodied many of the qualities of what we have termed as #bewillowbrook – passion, play, purpose, and ingenuity.
Do you subscribe to any podcasts? Have you considered this professional learning (and entertainment) tool? There is a great app native to your iPhone or iPad. Hint – it’s colored purple. Here are a few education related podcasts that I have come across recently. Maybe you have one to share.
#EdChat Radio. Ten minute episodes. Hosts scan the popular hashtag on Twitter for interesting discussion points, reaching out to the most influential Tweeters as well as movers and shakers in education for a lively discussion.
Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers. A podcast where teachers can receive validation and an empathetic ear. Topics range from keeping passion high to the lies teachers tell themselves to learning learning how to thrive in the classroom.
Free Teacher PD. A look into the latest, greatest ideas in teaching to broaden your thinking and get those creative juices flowing. Each week there’s a new guest leader from the world of education.
As an epilogue to Poetry Week, I thought I would share a fabulous collection of poetry on the mystery and meaning in life. Here is a link to Krista Tippett’s Poetry Radio Project.
One of the fringe benefits of working in an elementary school is having lunch with the students. As you may know, there is a great deal of research being done on mindfulness and the work place. Science is showing that mindfulness or contemplative practices influences attention, mood, and productivity. When I am feeling overwhelmed, 15-20 minutes of conversation with a group of Kindergarten students is just what I need to “get out of my head” and focus on the important things in life:
A kind note/joke that mom put in the lunchbox.
A silly story from morning recess.
Excitement over a new book.
A friend helping another friend open their yogurt.
A food item that triggers a warm story about grandma or dad.
Five and six-year-olds want to know how the world works. They have many questions. Their sense of wonder and developing language skills result in fantastic conversation stems. It is a fun escape. You need to try it sometime!
This morning was the debut of Willie the Wildcat – our very own mascot… in the fur! Cleaning up from Lighted School House last night, Mr. Barker found an old dusty case behind some of his instruments. When he pried the case open, he discovered some ancient papers (see below).
Mr. Barker and I tried the chant this morning at Flag Raising, but it didn’t work. We quickly realized that we needed the voice and the spirit of the entire school community. Everyone chanted, “Willowbrook! Willowbrook! Come on Wildcats! Hear us roar!!!”
It was then that Willie came alive and ran into our gymnasium. He ran through a human bridge formed by our 5th grade students and appeared in front for us all to see. We now have the power to summon him in the future. Many thanks to our PTO for their contribution!
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
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.
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
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.
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.