Students are in the Spotlight at Timberview!
The month of May is an interesting time of the typical school year. In May, numerous important decisions are made regarding the way we will conclude the current school year and what things look like as we go into next year.
I would like for our learning community (students, staff, families, community members) to consider some crucial attributes of student-centered decision making and behavior. I hope you agree with me that we want to be a school that puts students first.
Student-centered engagement in the school is a genuine interest in fully participating in the work we do for kids. It is a positive, enthusiastic willingness to go above and beyond to make sure kids are successful. It is the realization that education is not just an 8 to 4 job; it is a calling and way of life.
Student-centered scheduling is a collaborative understanding among campus administrators, teaching staff, and families that class scheduling, teaching assignments, team assignments, and learning space designations are made in the best interests of students and not always the convenience or preference of adults. This is not to say a campus can be set up to the preference of one student; rather, the logistics must be worked out to provide the greatest possible benefit to the student body--in our case a group of some 1100 unique and precious children.
Student-centered learning experiences place the student as the owner of the learning, engage the student in the learning process, and value the student as a person capable of thinking and growing. In student-centered learning experiences teachers release the idea that the adult and/or any other single resource (like a textbook) is the holder of all knowledge/understanding and must pour information into the head of the learner. Rather, in student-centered learning, the teacher takes on the role of architect, designing an experience through which the student discovers, creates, shares, and connects.
Student-centered communication places the student at the heart of all conversation. Concerns are addressed in the interest of the child rather than the adult(s). Celebrations and events are focused on kids and how kids feel about them. The opinions and ideas of the students are sought, heard, valued, and integrated with the work of the learning community.
We have not mastered the art of being a student-centered learning community yet, but we are working on it. It is helpful for adults to step back and reflect on our practices. Is what we are doing best for kids? Are students at the heart of the things we say and do? Are the needs and thoughts of are kids driving our decisions?
Give it some honest thought. :-)
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the culture that has come about from the habit of gross over-emphasis on a single year-end standardized assessment. An outgrowth of this culture is the unfortunate belief that the remaining weeks of teaching and learning following the assessment lack meaning and importance. This idea is simply untrue. The following are myths I would like to debunk regarding the final weeks of school.
Myth #1: The assessment is over, so teachers have already covered everything kids need to learn. False! This idea sickens me, and I hope it makes you indignant as well. We have five weeks left in the school year, and there are many great things left for kids to learn, and in greater depth and complexity.
Myth #2: Teachers are tired and don't feel like doing anything meaningful with kids. They must not be Timberview teachers. While our teachers get fatigued just like anyone else, they persevere because they are passionate about helping kids learn. That's what great teachers do.
Myth #3: Kids have spring fever and can't handle anything creative. Yes they can. In fact, one reason kids sometimes misbehave in school is a lack of engagement in something meaningful and interesting. Do the kiddos in the photos below (taken today) look like they can't handle creative work?
Myth #4: Student attendance in the last few weeks of school is not important. Of course it's important for kids to be at school. Valuable learning experiences are going on, and kids will miss out if they are not present.
Myth #5: Staff attendance in the last few weeks of school is not important. Actually it is critical for educators to be present during the last few weeks of school. While we have excellent substitutes, they do not provide the same experience the teacher does. Kids need us this time of year, and throughout the year. Life does happen, and sometimes educators have to be away; but when we can be there, our kids need us.
Myth #6: Administrators are too busy to be in classes during the last few weeks of school. That's an excuse. We all are busy. We need to prioritize and make time to be visible during student learning experiences. Research shows higher quality instruction occurs and fewer student behavior incidents happen when administrators are present in classes.
We have a very brief few weeks remaining in the 2013-2014 school year. Let's all work together to make them the very best they can be!
If you've paid attention to our marquee or our TMS Twitter account, you likely are aware that this week has been National Assistant Principal Appreciation Week. I'm glad this observation has been put in place because it gives us the opportunity to celebrate outstanding people in a role that often gets little appreciation.
Assistant principals have one of the most challenging jobs in education. Generally considered principals in training, assistant principals take on a wide variety of leadership roles and many weighty tasks in preparation for future opportunities as campus principals. However, there is much, much more to their work than training for the next step.
Assistant principals often are charged with some of the least enjoyable jobs in the building like textbook accounting, disciplinary consequences, corrective conversations, duty schedules, and building schedules. These are time-consuming tasks that often are subject to heavy criticism and little positive recognition.
Fortunately, our Timberview assistant principals--Ashlee Ely and David Wright--make a daily habit of showing us the positive side of being an assistant principal. They are visible around the building and at school events, they interact with students, staff, and families, and they take great pride in their roles as leaders in our campus community. Ask either of them what their favorite part of the job is, and they'll be quick to tell you it's being around the kids. They mean that, and I love that about them.
Ashlee Ely has a smile that will light up a room and a sense of humor that brings laughter and joy to everyone around her. I appreciate her great intelligence, attention to detail, and impeccable dependability. When Ashlee tells me she is going to get something done, I can count on it. Her work ethic is tremendous, and her contributions to Timberview have been enormous. What I like most about Ashlee is she has a heart of gold. When someone is sick or having trouble, she is the first one there with a plate of food and ready to help in any way.
David Wright has fit in perfectly with the Timberview Family. A technology enthusiast, David hit the ground running in providing tech support to teachers and kids. David relates so well to people and devotes great attention to developing positive relationships. It is quite common to see David at events that are not assigned as his "duty," simply because he likes to be there and loves his job. What I like most about David is his constant positive energy. He approaches everything with a can-do attitude, and he is willing to listen, learn, and support.
So on this National Assistant Principal Appreciation Week I'm honored to share how grateful I am to work with these two wonderful people. I enjoy being around them, and I'm glad I get to learn with them and from them each day.
Thank you, Ashlee and David! I appreciate you!!
As I made my rounds in the halls early Thursday morning, a TMS 8th grade student stopped me and asked me if he could show me an article on his phone. He pointed me to a post from a local news station that attempted to summarize House Bill 5, a bill that just passed the House this week...and this student knew it. I very quickly saw how well attuned to current legislative efforts this kiddo was, and I found it impressive. He began to ask me about some of the points the news post made, whether or not they were true, and how quickly they might apply. As we talked, I learned that one of his major interests was whether or not the passing of HB5 might impact his requirement to pass his upcoming State assessments in order to be promoted to high school.
Rewind about a week. Two other TMS students approached me with concerns about whether or not they were adequately prepared to pass their tests in the coming weeks. I reassured them that if they would just focus and do the best they can, they would be fine. I pleaded with them not to worry about it.
Let's go back a full year. As I greeted kids on the front porch of the school as they arrived for the day (a State assessment day), a TMS mom approached me. She was frantic, and said she needed to talk with me immediately. We went inside and sat down. She was highly concerned that her daughter was not feeling well and might not perform as well as she could on the assessment. She wanted to know if she should keep her out of school that day. What would be the ramifications? What if she didn't take it at all? What if she did stay but got sick during the timed test? She said she and the daughter were up all night because they couldn't sleep for being so anxious.
The irony of these three stories is TMS is a school in which the expectation is we do not talk about the test. I believe that our teachers and staff agree with and hold to this expectation and culture I have attempted to establish as our campus leader. I don't think these great folks would continue to work at Timberview if they didn't buy into it; they're too talented and could easily find another place to be. So then how is it our kids and families (and sometimes staff too, despite their knowing better) get that feeling in the pit of their collective stomach when State assessment season approaches??
State assessment/accountability emphasis has taken on a life of its own in our culture. To be blunt, this sickens me as a school leader, a mother, and a taxpayer. A single-word rating used to attempt to describe the efficacy of schools and school districts has become so pervasive that it has impacted communities, property values, attitudes, and pedagogy.
What is scary right now is many schools all over the State still believe that the test-prep mentality that has been in place for some twenty years will help kids ready themselves for the newer and theoretically more in-depth assessment administered to students today. I am more than confident that the has-been test-prep-style drill and kill of the past 15 to 20 years will not prepare our kids for success on today's assessment. So the interesting plot twist here is that in a school where we insist on avoiding review packets, drills, and assessment week rallies, our folks who are accustomed to that naturally fear the results. It is difficult to let go of something so deeply ingrained.
Let me be clear that I believe those who developed our State assessment and accountability system meant well; nobody designed it with the intent of harming kids, schools, and communities. I'll take the idea a step further and say the assessments themselves are not the problem. I firmly believe in assessment of various sorts. We must be able to measure student learning, and in some cases a norm-referenced assessment can be a valuable tool. Accountability is important too. Of course we want our kids and our education systems to achieve to a high standard. We as educators must hold ourselves accountable to student learning.
What has made things such a mess is our over-attentiveness (intentional or not) to test scores, comparisons, and ratings. Our system has pitted schools and districts against one another in a contest of sorts to see which schools are "best" according to a uniform set of criteria. Ironically, in a sense we all did this to ourselves.
There is no time like the present to break free from assessment/accountability obsession and the unintended consequences that come with it. How do we do this?
- Understand that taking the State assessment is required, and we will do it because we must. We will follow the rules, take the assessments, and then return to our everyday business of engaging kids in exceptional learning experiences.
- Report the scores when they arrive because we are required to do so, and continue the business of engaging kids in exceptional learning experiences.
- Use assessment data to inform us about individual student learning, NOT to measure teacher proficiency (as we should be well aware of that through frequent observations and interactions), or to compare students, staff, and schools against one another. Stop making it a contest.
- Never, ever hold a State assessment over a child's head. Statements like, "Well, you know you have to pass this test to move on to the next grade," or "Hey, if you want to avoid losing an elective next year you'd better do your best" should never, ever come out of an educator's...or a parent's...mouth. If you are doing that, please stop.
- Adults and kids alike: Stop imposing stress upon yourselves. Your academic, professional, and parenting careers are not in jeopardy based on this assessment. Seriously, what is the very worst thing that could happen if the results are poor?
- Realize that this is one test on one day, and it is only one measure, not "the" measure of student learning. Success must be considered based on a body of work, not one data point.
- Adults, focus on loving and supporting kids. Feed them (physically and emotionally), make sure they are well-rested, and get them the things they need to be successful. Offer them help. Avoid pressuring them. They are kids; let them be kids.
What will our school's results look like when the data comes back? I don't know...nor does any other principal in the great State of Texas. How will our schools results on the State assessments compare to other schools? Frankly, I don't care.
I care about having a healthy, positive, encouraging learning environment for students, staff, and families alike. When we engage kids deeply in exceptional learning experiences, the assessments will take care of themselves.
Now please go enjoy a wonderful weekend, and stop talking about the test! I can assure you I will not be talking about it.
As I've had the opportunity to visit with people over the past year and share our Timberview story in conversations and presentations, I have reflected often about how the environment of our school community and our home/school relationships have improved since TMS opened in 2010. I think the key to this evolution has been the development of trust within our staff, our students, and our community. The more we build upon this foundation of trust, the stronger and better we all become.
With new people moving into our community, new students enrolling in our school, and new staff members hired every year, just how do we continue to build upon a foundation of shared trust?
Be transparent and sincere in our interactions with one another. We must avoid being vague in our processes and instead explain the intent behind the things we do. Honesty and keeping to our word are imperatives in trusting relationships.
Be responsive and not reactive in our interactions with one another. We should be able to voice ideas, opinions, and even concerns without creating a feeling of attack or defense. While education is a calling that is people-centered, decisions are not always personal. We have to balance our emotions with the understanding that a positive response is not necessarily the same thing as having things our way.
Speak kindly and supportively of one another and our shared community, even when we individually disagree. Every person brings a valuable perspective and philosophy. We do not always have the same opinion about processes and decisions, but we can assume positive intentions and reflect that in our words to and about one another. Negative assumptions tear down others and destroy reputations. Positive assumptions bring about good spirits and very seldom bring harm to anyone.
Model an attitude of service regardless of your role. Anyone can serve others, and everyone needs help from time to time. Seek out ways to do good things for people in our own community and beyond. When we live out an attitude of service, we give gifts to others, we model positive and supportive behavior, and we boost our own spirits as well.
If we all start with just these four simple steps, imagine the impact we can have on our community and on our world. Give it a try.
Trust is an essential element to a positive and effective school and community.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that my fullest intent is to post a weekly Friday Focus, a post dedicated to reinforcing our shared mission and values as a community...an effort to keep us focused on who we are and what we are trying to do.
I had every intention of posting this very early Friday morning from my hotel room in National Harbor, Maryland, and I did work on selecting some photos and drafting some ideas, but before I knew it the time had come to start my very busy (and incredibly awesome) full slate of activities as an ambassador for my national professional association, National Association for Secondary School Principals (NASSP). In a way I'm glad I held off on the post because as I sit on the plane on the way home I've had even more time to reflect on the immense power there is for all of us in being connected learners.
For me personally and professionally, this week has been the epitome of connectedness, not just digitally but personally as well. Being a connected learner has afforded me opportunities to learn and interact with people I never would have otherwise approached. I met in person colleagues I already knew pretty well from talking shop and sharing with them on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. It was remarkable to sit and talk with people I already counted as friends.
Through my connected learning on social media, I got to represent our school and district on a National stage and show school leaders all over the world the great things our community does for/with kids. I even got to share a meal and conversation with my very favorite educational author...someone I likely would never had met had it not been for Twitter. Remarkable indeed!
But this post is not all about me. (Thank goodness, right?) I saw Timberview Middle School parents and students featured on a national level when they simply responded to a tweet and a Facebook post in support of our school.
I watched Timberview Teacher James Rowland's question (via Twitter) to our United States Secretary of Education get asked aloud by an outstanding princpal from Ohio, and I watched Arne Duncan answer Mr. Rowland's question live. (And FYI, I did not influence the selection of that question; the principal chose it on his own.)
I saw student work from kids all over our country get featured on a national stage this week...although that is no longer an unusual thing. Through social media, kids have a global stage for their work anytime they want it.
Through the power of connected learning, our students, staff,and families joined together and submitted countless pieces of student-created video content for the Keller ISD Film Festival. I saw individuals and groups recognized for their outstanding work, and I saw our community recognized with the Keller ISD Campus Flim Maker of the Year Award...I knew about it as quickly as anybody, and I was halfway across the country. That's how powerful it is to be connected.
Each of us has something to learn, and each of us has something to teach. Each of us has a unique idea, way of thinking, or perspective. When we keep these things to ourselves we do very little good. When we share we make one another stronger.
As my colleague from New Jersey, Eric Sheninger, says of social media connections, "Together we are better."
I'm so grateful to work with and live among a ton of smart people who make me better.
Join us tonight (Sunday) at 8 for #Kellerisdchat on Twitter where we'll talk about the key elements of 21st Century Learning. I'll bet connections and relationships will enter the conversation (easy bet since I'll be present). Join us Tuesday night for #TMSHawkChat on Twitter. We'll discuss the power of being a connected learner in greater detail.
Still not comfortable with social networking? Want to learn? Join me for our next Learning Lunch or just call me and let's set up a time to visit. I can get you started in minutes. You'll be amazed at the transformation it brings.
Thank you all for making me better!
I had the opportunity to visit Ms. Thomas' science class today, and of course anytime I get to hang out with a class I tend to stay longer than planned. Today was no exception.
While I could devote today's post to the impressive way Ms. Thomas integrated formative assessment and mastery learning with what her kiddos did today, I'll save that for a future post and instead share what I observed today in terms of the 7th grade community at Timberview. Folks, this is something to be celebrated.
Our 7th grade community (grade level/team/teams) has evolved during the time Timberview has been open. That's not to say the environment was ever "bad." It has just been impresive to watch the culture grow.
Student expectations for conduct are clear and respectfully articulated verbally and in writing. Students know what the common processes and prompts are, from passing between classes to getting quiet for announcements during lunches...and the students respond very well.
Teacher collaboration is abundant and apparent. Look at the English Language Arts lesson plans, and you'll see that they readily share their plans with one another. That may not mean they execute the plans in exactly the same way, but the collaborative planning is happening. I've been told that our Coach Robeson and Ms. Thomas spend most of their Sunday afternoons together planning, and I very regularly see the science classes from both teams combined for engaging learning experiences. It is also quite common to see Mrs. Shropshire and Mrs. Morrison combine their classes to facilitate unique student experiences.
Use of learning spaces is fluid in the 7th grade team areas. Teachers talk with one another to share spaces, and kids transition from one place to another seamlessly. The environment is both comfortable and efficient, and learning is happening throughout the 7th grade floor.
A sense of family is clearly evident on the 7th grade floor. Students interact courteously with one another and with teachers. Laughter, conversation, and smiles are present and make the setting very pleasant. The teachers have a strong sense of family as well, and they often spend time with one another outside of work in addition to at work...and we are pretty sure it's because they really like one another!
Teachers are visible during class transitions. They interact with kids in the hall and collaboration spaces. They greet kids at classroom doors. They are mobile and present for kids, and student behavior is orderly and appropriate as a result.
Please know that the characteristics I've described are present on our other grade levels as well. Each of our teams has a unique culture that brings about a positive school climate for kids. However, the time I spent in 7th grade today impacted and inspired me.
I'm proud of the conditions our 7th grade community has created for student learning.
One of the most impressive strategies I've seen Timberview teachers employ this year is affording a time for students to address what's going on in their own world before jumping into the world of school and learning each morning. This is not something I thought to do when I taught, but I wish I had.
Kids bring things from their personal lives that occupy their minds and can sometimes get in the way of learning. I'm not suggesting a few minutes of acknowledging those things completely gets them out of the way, but I think it might help. What I like even more is seeing that our kids' teachers care, are attentive to students' personal lives and make time for kids to express themselves. I'll share a few examples I've personally witnessed.
Art Teacher Miss Vahrenkamp has a journal for each student in her first period Portfolio class to use for an eight-minute warm-up time. Pages in the journal are divided into sections, and students draw about anything they want...whatever is on their mind. Music plays softly in the background, and Miss Vahrenkamp walks around the room and converses casually with students about their drawings.
Fifth Grade Teachers Mrs. Mills and Mrs. Smith hold class meetings each morning with their students. Students gather around in a circle and have the opportunity to talk about anything they want. It's a great time of sharing and connecting.
Sixth Grade Teacher Mr. Simpson also makes use of the class meeting. In a very open and comfortable classroom setting, he offers students time to engage in dialogue about things that interest them and cool things happening in their worlds. He shares as well, which does a lot to strengthen their bond as a small community.
These are just a few of the examples I've noticed recently; I'm sure there are others. Positive relationships are critical to student learning. Kids do more, care more, and learn best for the teachers they love most. Kids are most successful in a setting in which they know adults genuinely care about them.
True caring for kids cannot be contrived; kids are too smart for that and see right through it. I'm grateful that we have teachers at Timberview who truly care about our kids and take time to show it.
If you've been part of the Timberview Family for long, you know that we have a building full of teachers of the year. Thus it is quite the challenge to narrow the field and honor just one every spring. This year we had an impressive 16 teachers nominated by their colleagues for Timberview Teacher of the Year, and each one is deserving of the honor and fully equipped to be an excellent ambassador for our campus, our community, our District, and our State.
In this week's post I would like to take just a moment to celebrate each of these 16 nominees and identify for you the five who were named finalists for Timberview Teacher of the Year. Obviously the small paragraphs I write here cannot begin to cover the incredible range of things these teachers do for kids every day--and in reality I am not capable of knowing everything they do--but I hope I can offer just a little insight for our readers about what I think makes each of these teachers special.
Jennifer Bass - 8th Grade Social Studies Teacher, PALs, Yearbook, 8th Grade Level Lead, Keller ISD Leadership Development Academy
As you can see in her titles above, Mrs. Bass takes on lots of things at Timberview. You will regularly see her with students taking photos at TMS events and in the concession stands raising funds for the ongoing work of PALs (Peer Assistance & Leadership). What makes Mrs. Bass special to me is her creative, calm, and positive energy with students and peers. I love the environment in her classes because she treats her students as grown people worthy of her trust, her time, and her care.
Sydney Bramer - Academic Associate (TMS TOY Finalist)
Mrs. Bramer does a very wide variety of things to keep Timberview running, not the least of which is coordinating State Assessment administration and training. Additionally she works with student grade reporting, new teacher orientation and mentoring, and she does a ton of administrative tasks that go well beyond her job description and serve to provide needed support to our administrative team and school. What makes Mrs. Bramer special to me is her ability to "hammer" out challenging tasks with such a kind and supportive spirit. She is the kind of person you cannot help but love because she is personable, helpful, and just good to everyone no matter what.
Molly Brown - Pre-AP Spanish I & Conversational Spanish Teacher
Mrs. Brown is a talented young teacher with whom I've had the pleasure of working at two different campuses. She has an outstanding rapport with students and parents alike, and she does not hesitate to utilize a variety of available tools to communicate with families and support kids. What makes Mrs. Brown extra-special to me of late is her strength in adversity. Most of you are aware of Mrs. Brown's battle with lymphoma this year. She has faced this situation head-on with an impressive display of character, positivity, faith, and strength. What an amazing woman and example for us all.
Marisa Galt - Theatre Teacher/Director, Speech Communications Teacher (TMS TOY Finalist)
In her first year of eligibility, Ms. Galt was not only nominated for TOY, but was named one of our five finalists; impressive indeed! Ms. Galt takes on an enormous number of preps (courses for which a teacher must prepare) for us due to our four-year campus electives staffing pattern. Not only is she our campus theatre director, but she teaches 6th grade drama, Theatre I, Theatre II, Production, and Speech Communications. What makes Ms. Galt special to me is her passion for quality theatre. She will not put forth a partial effort; everything is full-on and excellent quality. I also have to mention her remarkable sense of humor...something a four-year middle level school theatre teacher must have in order to survive!
Patti Gawronski - 7th/8th Inclusion/Resource Teacher, Special Education Vertical Lead
Mrs. Gawronski serves our students through inclusion, meaning she goes into the general education setting and assists students with disabilities so that they may learn with their peers. She also teaches resource classes for students who need more intensive help. All the while she serves as the lead teacher for all our special education staff as they attempt to serve a growing population of learners with a significantly reduced number of staff. Mrs. Gawronski is special to me because of her perseverance. She works tirelessly and without complaining to support new teachers and do more for students with fewer people and fewer resources.
Melissa Gresham - 7th Grade ELA Teacher, Student Council Sponsor, ELA Vertical Lead
I've had the pleasure of working with Mrs. Gresham for seven years now, and she does not cease to amaze me. She is a creative teacher with a fabulous rapport with kids, and she gets kids heavily involved in service and leadership in our school and community. She inspires other teachers by encouraging them to seek out professional learning opportunities, and she engages students and families with the latest available tools and strategies. What is most special about Mrs. Gresham to me is her willingness to share. She devotes unthinkable amounts of time writing detailed learning plans so she can share them with her colleagues, and she networks with other teachers so she can continue to learn and grow.
Delaina McBride - Head Band Director
I've shared this story often. When our building was designed, it was created with a smaller band hall under the assumption we would have half as many kids in the band because we would have half as many 7th/8th graders as the other campuses. I knew when we hired Mrs. McBride we would quickly outgrow our facilities, and we certainly have. Timberview's band program is as large as (if not larger than) schools with twice as our enrollment per grade level, and beyond that our bands are garnering impressive accolades. What I appreciate most about Mrs. McBride is her passion for our kids' success, and her drive to ensure their love for music both in high school and well beyond.
Jodi Mills - 5th Grade Math & Science Teacher, Keller ISD Leadership Development Academy (TMS TOY Finalist)
Brilliantly creative and innovative in her approach, Mrs. Mills is a model teacher and great fit for our school. Having served as a technology pilot teacher prior to coming to Timberview, Mrs. Mills has combined her love for kids with a fearlessness for being on the cutting edge of teaching practice. What makes Mrs. Mills special to me is her passion for seeing things through. You will never see her do anything halfway; rather, she does her work in a way that is bigger and better than most of us would ever expect or imagine.
Natalie Nash - 7th Grade ELA Teacher, Keller ISD Leadership Development Academy
When staffing cuts were made District-wide two years ago, Central High School regretfully sent us Natalie Nash...and we very quickly found out why CHS was so sad to lose her. Mrs. Nash came to us with a very positive spirit, an attitude of teamwork, a willingness to learn, and a love for kids. A visit to Mrs. Nash's classes will find kids engaged in learning and happy to be there. What makes Mrs. Nash special to me is the way she so quickly and readily made herself not just part of the Timberview Family, but an MVP on our team. Mrs. Nash, I still think purple looks way better on you than crimson anyway! :-)
Sheryl Schickedanz - 8th Grade Science Teacher, Keller ISD Leadership Development Academy, Timberview TOY 2011
You may recall that Mrs. Schickedanz was Timberview's very first Teacher of the Year in 2010-2011. She overcame tremendous professional and personal adversity in that year, and she continues to do so with a positive spirit, a loving heart, and an unmatchable sense of humor to this day. Mrs.Schickedanz is known for her unconventional (and incredibly cool) ways of helping kids understand science...most recently enlisting the help of some eight live chicks who are not just class pets but living applications of life and earth science. Mrs. Schickedanz is special to me because she fears absolutely nothing and she knows exactly who she is. What a great role model for kids and adults alike!
Shelly Shaw - Gateway to Technology, 6th Grade Technology Teacher, Electives Team Lead, My Big Campus Trainer, Video Production Club, Keller ISD Leadership Development Academy
As you see from the description above, Mrs. Shaw wears many hats at Timberview and in Keller ISD. One half of "The Tech Divas," Mrs. Shaw of her own will provides abundant technology support for her colleagues. When our teachers want to try a new strategy, they often consult with Mrs. Shaw, who is always willing to help. A visit to her classes gives one a picture of the direction education should go in order to prepare students for jobs that do not yet exist. Mrs. Shaw is special to me because she has an uncanny ability to synthesize all things educational: student relationships, classroom settings/procedures, challenging curriculum, and innovative practice.
Katie Shropshire - 7th Grade Social Studies Teacher, Team Lead, SS Vertical Lead, Student Council Sponsor
I've had the good fortune to know Mrs. Shropshire since she was Miss Evans, a very young student teacher looking for her first job. Her bubbly energy and enthusiasm for working with kids caught my attention very quickly. It has been awesome to watch her learn and grow over the years into a strong teacher leader and great support for our kids. Mrs. Shropshire was the inspiration for a recent Friday Focus about the importance of taking risks. She's special to me because of her boundless enthusiasm and great spirit of teamwork that has fostered a sense of family on our 7th grade teams.
Ashlee Smith - 5th Grade ELA/Social Studies Teacher, 5th Grade Level Lead, Video Production Club, Keller ISD Leadership Development Academy (TMS TOY Finalist)
When Mrs. Smith helped to open Timberview in 2010, some of the things that immediately made her special to me were her quiet confidence, sweet spirit, and kind treatment of everyone she encountered. I believe those qualities have made her a favorite among our staff, students, and families as well. Beyond her personal qualities, a new dimension of innovation has surfaced in Mrs. Smith's work with kids. One half of the increasingly popular "Tech Divas," Mrs. Smith has become well-known on campus and across the state for leveraging the latest tools to engage kids in meaningful learning. In addition, she has emerged as a campus leader and mentor in her work as 5th grade level lead.
Lori Smith, 8th Grade Pre-Algebra and Algebra I Teacher (TMS TOY Finalist)
Mrs. Smith came to us well into the school year last year and took on the unenviable challenge of righting a ship that had been steered well off course. Her attention to individual students, unwavering commitment to student success, positive relationships with kids/families, and her ability to devise a plan and see it through helped kids to bring a positive finish to a school year in which kids had been subject to uncertainty well out of their control. I will never forget how she turned that year around for those kids. Another reason I value Mrs. Smith so much is her collaborative spirit, not just with her 8B team, but also with her math colleague on the 8A team.
Jacqueline Vahrenkamp - Art I, Art II, and Art Portfolio Teacher
In her first year of TOY eligibility, Ms. Vahrenkamp's peers nominated her. It has been a joy to watch her grow from a first-year teacher to the creative, innovative, and loving teacher she is today. The work her kids produce speaks volumes to her ability to reach them. A visit to Ms. Vahrenkamp's classes will find kids working in a comfortable, respectful, enjoyable, and productive environment. Kids love to be in her classes. What makes Ms. Vahrenkamp special to me is her brilliantly cheerful spirit and her obvious love for working with kids. A smile from her can make anyone's day.
Shirlee Ward - 5th Grade Science/Math Teacher
Mrs. Ward is one of the most lovely people I've ever met. Positive and kind, with a charming sense of humor, it is easy to admire Mrs. Ward. Many of you may be aware that Mrs. Ward's teaching partner departed for another opportunity in the middle of this school year. What makes Mrs. Ward even more special to me than she already was is the way she has embraced her new teaching partner and supported him in the challenging task of starting his first teaching job in the middle of a school year. She has welcomed and supported a bright new teacher and helped the entire team to facilitate the mid-year transition without missing a beat. I could not be more grateful for her help.
As you can see, I'm incredibly proud of each of these teachers. Beyond that, I am so proud of our staff for selecting these teachers to represent our school. What excellent choices!
The five finalists (indicated above in purple) will submit answers to an essay question we will share with the staff prior to voting to select our teacher of the year. We put a lot into this process because we take the representation of our school seriously...and we think any of these finalists could easily be in the running for Keller ISD Teacher of the Year, Texas Teacher of the Year, and National Teacher of the Year!
Congratulations to all for this honor. We will keep everyone posted!
Next Wednesday, February 6 is a unique opportunity for our community to showcase the opportunities we are able to offer our kids with familiar and accessible digital tools. Timberview has registered to be part of the second annual National celebration of Digital Learning Day!
Digital Learning Day is a designated time for schools, school districts, and supporting education entities to share ideas and strategies with one another and to increase public awareness of the benefits of digital learning.
The official Digital Learning Day web site defines digital learning in this way:
Digital learning is any instructional practice that effectively uses technology to strengthen a student's learning experience. Much more than "online learning," digital learning encompasses a wide spectrum of tools and practice, digital learning emphasizes high-quality instruction and provides access to challenging content, feedback through formative assessment, opportunities for learning anytime and anywhere, and individualized instruction to ensure all students reach their full potential to succeed in college and a career.
The Timberview Family will celebrate Digital Learning Day by sharing via social media the many things our students and staff are doing with digital tools. Everyone on campus has been asked to participate in a school-wide "tweet-along" in which we share photos of digital learning via Twitter and Instagram using the hash tags #TMSHawkChat and #DLDay.
Coincidentally, the State-wide education technology conference hosted by Texas Computer Educators Association takes place from February 6-8. Mrs. Shaw, Mrs. Smith (aka the Tech Divas), and I will be in Austin for the conference on Digital Learning Day. Ideally I would spend the entire day with classes tweeting out all the greatness, but on Digital Learning Day I will have to depend on my colleagues to do the sharing. I know we have plenty of Timberview Staff Tweeps who can make that happen!
Access to the latest digital tools has been such a valuable resource to our kids, our staff, and our families. Through social media we are able to connect with content, people, and one another in ways we never thought possible before. Digital content provides relevant information and resources to support student learning and understanding. Most importantly, with digital tools, students are able to create content and be contributors to learning rather than just consumers of information.
Creativity, communication, and collaboration are the most sought-after skills in today's job market and quite possibly that of the future as well. Digital learning helps us to prepare our kids for the future.
Join us as we celebrate the very best in the transformation of teaching and learning at Timberview!!!