Donation Drive for Nueva Ponce de Leon School

Willowbrook School is showing that character counts by collecting donations for a school in Puerto Rico that was severely affected by Hurricane Maria.  We are holding a a school & art supply drive for the week of October 10.

At this Friday’s Flag Raising, two Willowbrook students with family in Puerto Rico gave a short presentation about Hurricane Maria’s impact and next week’s donation drive.  They shared a video introducing Nueva Ponce de Leon School.

Nueva Ponce de Leon School is located in Barrio Juan Domingo, a very poor community in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.  Some of the school’s buildings were completely destroyed, including the art room and the building that housed the high school.  Twelve families in the community lost their homes.  The school, which is the true center of the community, is working to care for the children and affected families as the community rebuilds.  All donations will benefit the school via Juan Domingo en Accion, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.  You can find more information by visiting

Willowbrook students are invited to bring in monetary donations, school and art supplies next week.  These may include pends, pencils, colored construction paper, crayons, markers, paint and brushes.

We will have collection boxes in the front school entrance.  Monetary donations can be brought in a marked envelope and handed to the classroom teacher or front desk.  If you wish to write a check, you can make it out Northbrook/Glenview School District 30 with a memo notation of Puerto Rico.  We will share our collection totals in a future issue of “What’s Up Willowbrook”.

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Play Packs

As you may know, Willowbrook’s school-wide theme is around PLAY this year.  We believe that play is essential for learning.  This is an opportunity for more holistic learning experiences – to find natural ways to include play in our day-to-day work with children.  This is another opportunity to build social-emotional skills.  Finally, we hope to strengthen our school community with multi-age grouping.

Play Packs were launched today.  The entire school was grouped into 17 packs of 20 to 21 students.  Each Play Pack had 3 staff leaders/facilitators.  A steering committee created the lessons plans, borrowing aspects from the Responsive Classroom meeting structure (greeting, activity, share, reflection).

We plan to bring these Play Packs back together again on future half days.  I expect these play gatherings will forge new social networks and increase the social capital of all our students.  Just as the Whole-Scale Change innovater Kathie Dannemiller posits – Smaller groups work best when they are maximally diverse.  The Willowbrook Play Packs can serve as a microcosm of the larger school.  Our structured and unstructured play in these diverse small groups gives us the opportunity to put down our individual interests and care for the well-being of the entire school.


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Authentic citizenship

I thought I would share a thought on community and citizenship that came to me this week while preparing for today’s Flag Raising ceremony.  As you may know, staff and students will recommend a student for a Character Counts! Award on occasion.  That student is called up to the podium at flag raising and their behavior is shared.  This is a long-standing practice or tradition at Willowbrook School.  We have many deserving students and staff who demonstrate strong character every single day!

I recently re-read Peter Block’s book Community: The Structure of Belonging.  In his book, Block describes authentic citizenship as “holding ourselves accountable for the well-being of the larger community and to choose to own and exercise power rather than defer or delegate it to others” (p.55).  He goes on to introduce something called the Inversion of Cause (p. 65) in which our beliefs or thinking about who is in charge shift, causing the power base to shift.  This shift of thinking is profound.

  • What if our citizens created leaders?
  • What if an audience creates the performance?
  • What if children created their parents?
  • What if students created their teachers… their principal?

I believe the students and families in our Willowbrook community have created better teachers and principals.  We can become a more rich, diverse, and kind school community by actively looking for the gifts and diverse experiences within our student body.  There are so many to find and enjoy.

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National Day of Service and Remembrance

Today is a special day in America.  Our students may have noticed the American flag flying at half-mast this morning.  We honored September 11 with an assembly focused on community service.  First responder spouses and family members were invited to serve as flag raisers.  Our honored guests included:

  • Battalion Chief David Schweihs of the Northbrook Fire Department
  • Firefighter Paramedic Peter Goss of the Highland Park Fire Department
  • Detective John Madden of the Chicago Police Department
  • Sergeant Landon Girard of the Wilmette Police Department
  • Officer Dustin Kauth of the Des Plaines Police Department
  • Officer Dan Marsh of the Glenview Police Department

These guests are examples of people in our community who have dedicated their lives to helping others.  Their service can inspire us all.  They deserve our respect and gratitude.

The spirit of service and community exists at Willowbrook School and in District 30 all of the time.  On September 11, we are reminded of our responsibility to help others in need.  I am sure the recent natural disasters in Houston and Florida are on all of our minds.

Our assembly concluded with singing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” and a moment of silence.  “Let Freedom Ring!”

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Character Counts! Poster (and Video) Contest

The CHARACTER COUNTS! in Glenview Committee has announced their Annual Poster (and Video) Contest for 2017.  A sheet with contest information, rules and entry form will go home in backpacks today.

This year, the Poster Contest is for students in grades K-4.  Students in grade 5 are invited to participate in the Video Context.  In addition to the Six Pillars, students also have the opportunity to choose to illustrate how the Jackman Park Bear – turning 100 years old this year – contributes to good character in Glenview.

The contest is supported by the Kiwanis Club of Glenview-Northbrook and monetary awards in the amount of $75 for first place, $50 for second place and $25 for third place will be presented to the prize winners in the grades K-2 category and the grades 3-4 category at the Village of Glenview Board of Trustees meeting on October 17, 2017.

Information about the Poster Contest may also be found on the Character Counts website at and information about the Jackman Park Bear may be found at

Willowbrook school is setting a deadline of Friday, September 22 for all contest entries.

District 30 had several contest winners last year.  We look forward to see what our Wildcats create this year!

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First Day 2017

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!

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Senior Walk

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.

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Principal for the Morning – Adriana

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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Cardboard Challenge to Benefit Blessings in a Backpack

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.

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Do you have any educational podcasts that you would like to share?

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.

    • NCTE – Writing Workshop in the Digital Age
    • #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.

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