Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Great Instruction - Great Teachers!

     What makes Curtis such a great place?  I say it is the teachers!  Curtis is blessed with the most amazing teachers.   Teachers at Curtis continue to search for ways to incorporate high-yield strategies in order to increase learning and improve achievement. Great instruction comes from great teachers which leads to great learning. reprinted an article from 2007 from the Center for Public Education that stated, "The most significant gains in student achievement will likely be realized when students receive instruction from good teachers over consecutive years."   Robert Marzano also states, "Effective teaching is essential to student achievement. "  I believe this with all my heart.   It does not matter how many students are in a classroom.  If the instructionis good, there will  the potential for increase in academic achievement.  With so little time to teach and so many standards to teach, the first teach is crucial to making a positive impact on student achievement and closing achievement gaps.

     One of the reason's Curtis is a great place to learn is because of our 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year!  Katie Pitman, a fifth grade ELA/SS teacher, provides rigorous, challenging lessons in her class.  Her use of high-yield strategies elevates students' thinking and ability to problem solve.  Katie, like many of our Curtis teachers, uses strategies she learned from Lead4ward.  Students collaborate and use these high-yield strategies to not only complete assignments but to also think about their learning.  She uses  strategies like 1 Minute Paper, 3-2-1 Summary, Card Sort, Fact or Fib, and so much more.  In this video you will see her use a strategy called, "Commit and Toss" or "Question Toss:"  Question Toss  Katie is also transforming her classroom with PBL!  Project Based Learning is a great way to engage students with opportunities to become true problem solvers.  Her students will soon go paperless using technology in more authentic ways!
Katie is not a great teacher just because she  uses great instructional strategies to enhance the "First Teach."  She is compassionate and genuinely cares about her students.  She will do whatever it takes to help a student to be successful.  Katie is an awesome representative of Curtis Elementary, and our students are so blessed to have such a super star as a teacher.

    We have so many amazing educators here at Curtis.  Our September teacher of the month this year was Misty Crowley!  Misty teaches 2nd grade at Curtis.  She has a heart for kids at Curtis.  Misty looks for ways to lead her team in order to promote success for all kids.  Misty not only connects with her students, but she also connects with parents searching for ways to partner with them.  It is all about relationships with Misty Crowley.
  In October/November, our Teacher of the Month was Mendi Mahan.  Mendi teaches science in 5th grade and is a little bit of a "MAD" scientist according to her students.  She makes science come to life.  Kids have a lot of fun conducting experiments and investigating theories.   There are high expectations in Mrs. Mahan's classroom which is vital to student success.  Students know exactly what is expected and meet those expectations in science.

     Our latest Teacher of the Month is Vicki Zell!  Vicki is an amazing part of our Curtis Team.  She teaches our FLS students.  These students all have special needs.  Vicki is a master at using the Fundamental Five strategies in her class.  She frames every lesson with her students.  Vicki also helps
her students meet their individual goals each day.  She has devoted  22 years to the teaching profession.  Vicki also has a strong connection with each and every one of her students' families.

     With good instruction being one of the most important components to student achievement, you can see that we are in good hands at Curtis Elementary.  Our teachers strive to use high- yield instructional strategies instead of "Sit and Git" worksheets!  I am blessed to be able to walk through this building day after day and see the great instruction in classrooms.  Just like the name of this blog -  Passion Lives Here at Curtis Elementary!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Time for a little R and R!

Our pirates at Curtis Elementary are working hard to create engaging learning experiences for students.  Teachers have been spending a lot of time planning lessons that will help students to master the standards for the school year.  Teachers are getting tired from all of the hard work planning amazing lessons so it is time to take some R and R!

I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking that I mean rest and relaxation, but that is not exactly what I had in mind.  R and R is Rigor and Relevance!  At Curtis we have been focusing on getting the frame right.  Framing the lesson is critical because the quality of the lesson begins with the frame.  We will continue our work by examining  the Rigor and Relevance of lessons.  Rigor and Relevance helps to ensure that the lesson frame is addressing the learning goals at an appropriate level.  In order to support students in their journey to become critical thinkers and problems solvers, teachers will continue to design lessons with rigor making sure that the content is also relevant to them. 

Rigor is depth.  The teacher has the opportunity to extend a student's ability to learn.  Raising expectations for students will help students achieve academically.    Relevance deals with purpose.  Why does the student need to know the content?  When content is relevant to students, engagement increases as well as effort.   Students become excited about what they are doing in class, and they learn not just because it is something they are supposed to do.  Students decide that they want to learn.

Next week we will begin to examine the level of rigor and relevance more closely in our classrooms by collecting the data during our Powerwalks.  Our powerwalk team will specifically look at the rigor and relevance during classroom walkthroughs to help us continue to provide the very best learning opportunities for our students.  Ensuring that the rigor of the lesson is where it needs to be along with relevance for students will help to ensure that students continue to achieve academically. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Staff Development..... Time to "Do" it Differently

I have been thinking about how to make a positive impact as an instructional leader at my school. I am an administrator, but my role has not changed all that much.  I am still a teacher. Only now, my students are adults.  With the help of my awesome librarian, Shawna Ford, I have also tried to "Bring It" to my students.  Shawna has helped me to "do"  staff development differently, and she is leading the way for our teachers to "do" school differently.

Instead of making 70 staff members at my school sit and suffer through the titillating details of the staff handbook, I created a Padlet.  My teachers loved it! (At least they told me that they loved it...) Teachers were able to participate in this type of staff development on their time.  Padlet allows you to upload documents and link videos.  It is one of many alternative presentation styles for sharing information whether it be for professional development or just to share information!

I recently created a professional development screen cast using Screencast-O-Matic.  This was really easy to do.  However, it was a little scary for me.  Those of you that know me just love me for who I am, but in case you don't know me,  I can be a bit of a hick talking goof ball.  Once I got over the high pitched twang of my own voice, I had a lot of fun creating a screen cast for the  TAAS (Texas Alternative Appraisal System) training for my teachers. Teachers liked being able to open the document when it was convenient for them, which also gave them the ability to go back to it at anytime to any part of the training session for review.   After having a weekend to watch the screen cast, teachers came to the Monday faculty meeting prepared to ask questions.

Searching for innovative and creative ways to lead  teachers will have a positive impact on Curtis teachers and students.    Racheal Rife, the Curtis Principal, and I are committed to always moving forward to provide the best experiences and education for our students.  We also like to also have some fun.   Several years ago, Racheal and I decided to start "Cart Service."   We choose one day each month to stop by teachers' classrooms to brighten their day with a little treat. It is our way of thanking teachers and celebrating them.  They work so hard.   About three years ago, Lindsay Fuller and I were planning our year of "Cart Service" themes.  The September date we chose happened to be the opening day of the State Fair of Texas.  That is when I decided that every year we would celebrate the opening day of the Texas State Fair.  We serve lemonade, State Fair Corn Dog Bites, and caramel apples to our teachers. The fun part is we dress like Big Tex.   Here is a picture from yesterday.

 We are not afraid to have fun at Curtis Elementary.  We want both our teachers and students to love coming to school every day.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Bully Busters; No Room for Bullying!

Now that school is full swing, it is time to make sure that school is a safe place for everyone!  I  hope that students read this blog post to learn how they can help make Curtis a "World - Class!"   Students are making good choices and following the most important rule of all which is showing respect.  I would like for Curtis to continue to be a place that has a positive learning environment for all students and staff members.  It is important to keep Curtis bully free.  We have great kids at Curtis Elementary that are importnat in helping to eliminate bullying.  Curtis Roos can be Curtis Bully Busters! 

What is Bullying?

 It is defined Policy FDB(Legal) as written or oral expression or physical misconduct that a school district's Board of Trustees or the Board's designee determines: 1) to have the effect of physically harming a student, damaging a student' s property or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to the student's person or damage to the student's property; or 2) to be sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive  to create an intimidating or threatening or abusive educational environment for the student.

Who Can Stop Bullying?

Students have the power to put an end to bullying.  Students are on the  playgrounds, in the bathrooms, in the halls, and in the classroom.  Bullies do not bully in front of adults so it is often difficult for teachers or staff members to be everywhere all at once.  If students see somone bullying another person, or a student is being bullied,  it is important that students report it!   Each teacher has a Bully Report form at Curtis.  Students can report bullying activity to any adult in order to report this behavior. That is what Bully Busters do!

It is my goal to help make Curtis a Bully free school so that Curtis is a safe learning environment for all, and I need every one's help.  Students can unite and be Bully Busters!  At Curtis, we have lots of room for kids, but we have no room for bullying.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Charting Our Course for the New Year

Curtis Elementary is getting a make-over, and it is extreme!  Our building is looking fabulous.  I can't wait for the upcoming school year.  Students, parents, and staff members will walk into our building to see this exciting transformation.  It looks brand new!  I can't help but get excited about the journey we are about to begin.

We kicked off our year with a great retreat:  Curtis Make-Over, Pirate Pageant.  We had some fun filled activities centered around Dave Burgess' , Teach Like a Pirate book. We literally transformed some teachers into pirates as you can see from this picture. 
(Left) Lindsay (Right) Lorie

 In preparing for staff development, with the "Extreme Make-Over" theme, the building is obviously not all that will be transformed.  We have already embarked on this tranformation, and it is about to get real!   Racheal Rife, Curtis Elementary principal, Lindsay Fuller, Counselor, Amy Wallace, Instructional Coach, Shawna Ford, Librarian, and I are leading our staff in a study of the book, Teach Like a Pirate written by Dave Burgess.  During staff development week, we will unveil the pirates within all of our teachers.  I am excited about the power that educators have to chart their course.  Teachers can discover what they would like to accomplish during the school year and set the tone in the first week of school.  Dave Burgess explains how important the first three days of school are in setting the tone for the rest of the year.  We will challenge our teachers to excite students and ignite a passion for learning in the first five days!  In the first five days of school, teachers can "hook" students and stir an excitement in them where learning is fun. It will not end after the first five days, but will hoist our teachers and students up to set sail and navigate into the vast, open waters of learning.   As Dave Burgess states, teachers have the power to set their GPS for the year in order to provide students with experiences that will make their year memorable and remarkable. 

Racheal Rife has led our campus and has challenged all of us.  She says,  "We have created an environment that fosters innovation and risk taking." I am excited to see our teachers lead our students through an incredible journey  by daring to be creative, innovative, and to transform their craft in order to capture the attention of students taking them on a voyage that explores leagues and leagues beyond what any of us could imagine.  The first five days of school is all it will take to spark engagement in students. In Edutopia, ,  I read how self assessment inspires learning.  This might be one of the many ways teachers can help inspire learning in their classrooms.

At Curtis Elementary we are passionate about teaching and learning, and anyone that walks into our building can feel it.  Curtis is a great place to work and learn.   My challenge to teachers everywhere is to tap into what excites students and dare to inspire them.  Curtis Elementary teachers are charting their course for a successful year.  They are going to set their coordinates the first week of school and continue to navigate students with engaging lessons that ignite passion and spark curiosity!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What Helps to Drive Improvement

A new school year will be beginning in just a few weeks!  I am really excited about the great things students will achieve at Curtis Elementary.  In thinking about achievement, I have been really focused on what will help students and teachers to improve. I have been reflecting on how I can be a more effective leader to teachers.   What most significantly impacts learning?  Is it setting SMART goals?  Is it tracking data?  Setting goals and tracking data are both important parts of improvement, but the momentum begins with the teacher and the feedback teachers give to students.  I feel that we can continually improve how we offer feedback to students.  Sean Cain's book, The Fundamental Five, offers powerful instructional practices that can positively impact learning in the classroom.  One of those strategies is providing recognition and reinforcement, which is giving students feedback.

If I were to choose one thing that drives improvement in my life, it would be feedback.  I need feedback from others to improve my leadership at school.  I also need to receive feedback to improve my one of my weakest skills, which is cooking.  I receive a lot of feedback from my husband and children.  Just last night, my husband gave me some feedback on the asparagus I prepared.  He thinks I overcooked it a bit.  He actually thinks I overcook many of my dishes.  I guess the point that I am trying to make is that the feedback we receive from our supervisors, collegues, family, and friends is valuable and helps us to focus on improvement.  It helps us to improve everything like exercise, improving our golf game, sticking to a budget, or even cooking. 

In the classroom, feedback should be a constant flow between teachers and students.  Ensuring that students know how they are progressing throughout lessons is important.  If we expect students to make progress and achieve, they not only need to know if they are doing well or not, but they also need to know specifically what is working and what is not working.  Students need to be led through a variety of sources of feedback.  Recognizing and reinforcing students academically and behaviorally increases achievement.  Formatively assessing students throughout the lesson cycle allows teachers to recognize and assess students' abilities and provide feedback so that that they can adjust their learning. Conferencing with students, discussing strengths and weaknesses, helps students to stay focused on learning.  This empowers students to be in charge of their own learning.

Giving feedback is also an important part of parent communication. Frequent communication with parents is important.  Giving feedback to parents before progress reports or report cards are issued is vital in creating partnerships among students, parents, and teachers. 

During this school year, my goal is to remain focused on the importance of offering constant feedback to teachers to help them improve their instruction which will positively impact student achievement.  Reminding teachers to also focus on giving students appropriate feedback will impact student achievment as well.  Isn't that why we (educators) go to work (school) every day?

Here is a link to read about how meaningful feedback helps students deepen learning.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Embarking on a New Journey

I have been an Assistant Principal at Curtis Elementary in the Weatherford Independent School District for five years.  Prior to my career as an administrator, I was an Instructional Facilitator and a teacher on my campus. With over 22 years of experience in education, I have seen a lot of change and the most significant change has come in the last five to ten years.  Adopting the Continuous Improvement philosophy in my classroom transformed me as a teacher.  It changed the way I approached teaching and learning.  Creating and refining processes, using Continuous Improvement tools with my students allowed me to facilitate their learning.  It empowered them to be in charge of their own learning.  When that happens, kids get excited about learning and start seeing results.  I am passionate about improvement and as an administrator I have the opportunity to guide teachers in their journey to continually improve.

In the true spirit of continually improving, I am about to step onto the digital grid in an effort to refine my craft, connect, and collaborate with other educational leaders.    I realize that many people have embarked on the Twitter trail years ago.  I also created a Twitter account several years ago, but my Twitter endeavors were limited to something like the all too familiar  "Old McDonald  Had a Farm" song.  I have trudged along with "A Tweet Tweet here and a Retweet there!"  I have decided to be globally connected and join a PLN through the use of Twitter.  (Please, forgive any misuse of any technological jargon. I am new at this!)  Hopefully, I will meet some great leaders on this trek while learning how to improve the educational experience for students,
With the gentle persuasion of my wonderful librarian, Shawna Ford, I am becoming connected!  The thing you need to know about Shawna is that she is passionate about technology.  She is passionate about putting technology is students' and teachers' hands as a tool for learning.  She is passionate about books!  Her passion is anything but gentle, but a blast of fresh air, and she has blown me away with her enthusiasm for 21st Century learning.  Shawna has also ignited an excitement in me for joining a PLN.   So, here I am!

I also have the privilege of working with an amazing, visionary principal, Racheal Rife.  Racheal continues to lead Curtis Elementary with the 21st century learner in mind.  She is leading our campus by transforming the way we do school so that our students are prepared for the future.  She is not afraid to take the path less traveled and is determined to take the path that is best for our kids. 

In the last two days, I have made some connections, learned about hashtags, learned how to send direct messages, and learned the proper way to retweet a message that I have edited a bit.  My hope is that through traveling down this path, I improve my leadership skills and add value to Curtis Elementary.  My goal is facilitate teachers in improving their instructional practices and refining their approach and presentation of their lessons with students in order bridge learning gaps and increase achievement for each and every student.  I want Curtis Elementary to be the "World-Class School of Choice! Our students deserve that.

Embarking on a New Journey

I realize that many people have embarked on the Twitter trail years ago.  I also created a Twitter account several years ago, but my Twitter endeavors were limited to something like the all too familiar  "Old McDonald's  Had a Farm" song.  I have trudged along with "A Tweet Tweet here and a Retweet there!"  I have decided to be globally connected and join a PLN through the use of Twitter.  (Please, forgive any misuse of any technological jargon. I am new at this!)