Monday, July 27, 2015

Saluting a Stellar Staff

Summer school is over but the thoughts and feelings are still buzzing through my brain. As I see it, there were eleven reasons I enjoyed the experience so much this year - not my eleven students (although they played a HUGE part), but the eleven staff members I worked with in July. I was pretty surprised when I realized how many of these incredible educators were LTOs - they are so talented that it's a shame they aren't permanently in a classroom. I didn't have time to write thank you cards, so this is my way of showing my appreciation. To my beloved summer school staff: take these words and use them on your Teacher Performance Appraisal forms or Annual Learning Plans or on your resumes. Know you are all admired and appreciated. Although I could use an entire dictionary's worth of words to describe every one of them, I thought I'd challenge myself by selecting two  significant adjectives to summarize their awesomeness. (I tried to do just one but it was too hard.)

Kristen Matus is enthusiastic and organized.

Mrs. Matus taught Grade 1 at #lmmss and threw herself into the Lucy Maud STEM program with relish. She uses Pinterest like a pro and has promised to tutor me on the untold delights this site has for educators. Her room was outstanding - how clever is it to make your learning station signs and laminate them *together* so you don't have to spend time searching for all the letters to spell things out? She had her Grade 1s doing some pretty complex things, like cars, egg drops, and solar ovens. Despite her accomplishments, she's modest and doesn't like a big fuss made over her (which got severely tested when we got her a cake for her birthday).

The matching outfit trend begins with these folks!
(Photo taken by another on June 30)
Getting her birthday cheesecake (blame the photographer for the unflattering shot)
(Photo taken Day 11) 
Kwame Djan is approachable and positive.

Mr. Djan usually teaches at another local school but this July was Mrs. Matus' grade team partner in Grade 1. I originally thought that Mr. Djan taught at Lucy Maud, based on all the waves and high-fives he received from students as they lined up at the beginning of the day, but that's just him. Kwame provided the entire staff with the Engineering Design Process visuals that we all used in our hall and class displays, and stressed to us that we were free to alter it in whatever ways we wished. Another modest soul, when I complimented Mr. Djan on his great hand-made balances and charts outside his room, he gave full credit to his teaching buddy across the hall, Mrs. Matus. One of the parents of my students works as a lunchroom supervisor at Mr. Djan's regular school and she made sure to visit his class during our STEM Walk Share Fair - that's the kind of rapport he generates with others. 
Mr. Djan grew hair on the last day!
(Photo taken Day 18)
Mr. Djan, marking my students as they taught his class 3 Ball Pass
(Photo from Day 7)
Donielle Norville is creative and cheerful.

Ms. Norville ran an "Angry Bird" themed classroom for summer school and it was a big success. I really wish I had more time to spend in her classroom. Thankfully, I had her website and her tweets to give me a glimpse of the events, and she even invited me to participate in her class' adults vs students IRL Angry Birds challenge. It was a brilliant combination of STEM fundamentals (Science and Engineering with creating stable structures that would be hard to knock down, with an extra Math component of calculating points attached to blocks to determine winners). It was clear that she was having just as much fun as her students. Even on the last day, Ms. Norville decorated her classroom with Angry Birds balloons as part of their pizza party they earned by having the highest percentage of parent visitors during our STEM Walk Share Fair. I can totally understand why so many parents would want to visit her class in person!

Ms. Norville, (far right) watches us take aim
(Photo taken Day 14)
All together under the bower on "Green Day"
(Photo taken by another, July 16 )

Gary Fitzpatrick is flexible and calm.

I have been lucky enough to work with Mr. Fitzpatrick for every single year I've been doing summer school, but this year I was able to work in closer proximity, and it improved my practice. The Grade 3 team gathered in his room on our planning day to wrap the Webkinz presents and the synergy was flowing as we brainstormed all sorts of math connections to the initial task. I'd sneak into Gary's room so I could admire his daily agenda printed on the white board and his comprehensive success criteria he developed with his students. I'm sure he probably got sick and tired of my students interrupting his class to ask for the scale or more supplies, but he didn't let it faze him. I had a chance to surreptitiously watch Mr. Fitzpatrick teach and I liked the soft-spoken way he interacted with his students, supporting and guiding them. When plans changed unexpectedly, and when we were in danger of being amalgamated, Mr. Fitzpatrick never lost his cool.  

Grabbing yet ANOTHER balloon from the ceiling
(Photo taken Day 16)
Mr. Fitzpatrick helps the students use the hot glue guns
(Photo taken Day 16)
Kiefer James is collaborative and personable.

When students buy you presents after just having them for four weeks, you can bet you've made an impression on them. Mr. James was just that sort of teacher. He was the most recent to join our summer school team and he was a great addition. He shared his ideas and resources willingly, even making it easier on us by doing the photocopying in advance for us - how considerate is that? We enjoyed working together so much that on a couple of days, we combined our classes. He was the brains behind our "Operation Webkinz Submerge" multi-class bulletin board and it turned out magnificently. He had to take public transit to get to our school and would often stay as late as 6:00 p.m. working - no slacking off during summer school for that teacher! Mr. James is also one of the most polite individuals I've ever met, and was extremely good-natured when I began to respond to his "Excuse me Miss"s with "Yes Sir"s.

Teaching kids at the carpet
(Photo taken Day 11)

Filling up balloons for eager students
(Photo taken Day 16)
Rob Reyes is patient and eager.

Still waters run deep. Mr. Reyes may seem very quiet but he's bursting with good ideas and zany plans. He was the teacher that suggested our final outfit for summer school (Halloween costumes). He can handle tedious jobs that drive mere mortal men insane - I saw him sorting wires and cords to ensure everything was back in place from his Grade 4-5 robotics adventures and I worked alongside him as he repaired the computer lab. I am really excited that he will be teaching at my regular school in the fall. As a Digital Lead Leader, he will be a breath of fresh air, with new ideas to try with our students. 
On "Purple Day" (Photo taken Day 14)
Teresa Allan is connected and innovative.

Ms. Allan is another "summer school regular" that continues to amaze me. Teresa is constantly examining her program to make it more engaging, more hands-on, and more chock-full-of-learning. This year's innovation was her brilliant idea to invite guest teachers, colleagues that she knows from various endeavors, to come into her class to help with instruction. That kept the content fresh and exciting. In addition, Teresa single-handedly arranged an optional presentation for interested teachers about the Jade Robots from Mimetics Canada. I went from "I don't have the brains or understanding to do this at my school" to "Hey, this is fun ... and possible!" That's what good teachers do, and Teresa is definitely a good teacher. I thought she had been teaching for ages, but her expertise outweighs the amount of years she's been teaching. She's reflective about all sorts of things and widens my perspectives when we are able to squeeze time together to talk.

With David Hann (& co.) after a day of soldering
(Photo taken Day 14)
Go Canada Go!
(Photo taken Day 9) 
Jamile Garraway is thoughtful and giving.

I owe Mr. Garraway a lot. There was a student in my class that could not go out for recess because she had a cast and needed to avoid the stairs. I had recess duty twice a week and Mr. Garraway willingly gave up his free time at recess to supervise her. Mr. Garraway is also wise and never talks down to students, regardless of age or ability. When my class toured his during the STEM Walk Share Fair, he prompted the creation of probing questions. He had them consider the "big idea" as part of all the coding video games - that we should not be passive consumers, but active creators. As he said, "If Flappy Birds frustrated you, make your own game. You can do it." His thoughtfulness extended to his teaching practices - I regret not taking a photo of one of the charts in his room articulating what it truly meant to be engaged and on-task. It took a relatively abstract idea and grounded it in the visible and audible. He was good at giving compliments, in person and online through his website and newly created Twitter account. Lucy Maud is lucky that they get to keep him at the school in the fall. 

Explaining to my students before they enter for a visit
(Photo taken Day 17)
Wearing the "STEM @ Lucy Maud Rocks" shirts
(Photo taken Day 17)

Francis Ngo is energetic and encouraging.

Much has been written about the amazing (yet humble) Mr. Ngo. Although he does not seek the limelight, the spotlight inevitably falls on him because of his effervescent personality. His mind goes a kilometer a minute, with suggestions and possibilities. He is a natural leader that people automatically turn to when we need to take action. He had a long wish list of items to make his summer school program one to remember, and the students certainly got a lot out of their time with him. They adored him so much that I heard them complain bitterly when he took ill one day and had to have a supply teacher replace him. Always smiling, never condescending, Mr. Ngo made our coordinated outfits an inclusive activity that bonded the staff together. He also answered all our tech questions without making people feel dumb and sought creative solutions to irritating problems. He definitely turns "lemons into lemonade".

"Stripe Day" was a thing
(Photo taken Day 10)
Real men wear pink
(Photo taken by another, July 2)
Mythili Thedchanamoorthy is helpful and understanding.

Mrs. Thedchanamoorthy was our site coach but so much more. Need supplies? She was there with resources you didn't even realize you required. Cheerleader? She noticed all the neat things happening in different classes and tried her best to accommodate so that other teachers could share in the discoveries. Advocate? She would go out of her way to ensure teachers felt appreciated and comfortable. Ever reassuring, Mrs. Thedchanamoorthy was a frequent and welcome visitor to our class. She showed her appreciation of the work conducted in classes often, through words and actions. The "Helium Tank Affair" was a perfect example of how much of her time and treasure Mythili invested in #lmmss. She researched the most affordable rental place, used her own money to obtain a tank, and was even willing to swallow a trumped-up damage charge. (I'm glad she didn't have to do so!) Although she herself is a Robotics / STEM expert, she always told us that she learned so much from all of us on staff. 

Mythili takes a photo of one of my students mid-build.
(Photo from Day 4)
Ms. T provides acetate upon request & my student measures it
(Photo from Day 7)

Liz Holder is supportive and honest. 

Ms. Holder was our principal and I've always felt that she was truly interested in what was going on from day to day in my classroom. When one of my students asked if the current students could keep the extra Webkinz we had (due to enrollment shortages), I had him write up a proposal and see the principal. She turned down his request but took the time to write a detailed explanation that indicated that she took his suggestion seriously. Ms. Holder's serious demeanor belies a good heart and keen mind. 

Ms. Holder takes aim at the box wall
(Photo taken Day 14)
Not in the picture, but behind the camera, capturing the LMMSS staff
(Photo taken July 9) 
I should also mention our great Office Administrator, Triune and our fabulous and patient caretakers, Steve and Mark. They were also part of the great team. One of my students went on Twitter to see the posts about summer school, and he told me "I saw all the pictures. It looks like you and the teachers are having a lot of fun." We did. Check the four tweet samples below (that featured the other "clothing themes") or check the #lmmss or #lmmss3 hashtag to get multiple perspectives of all the learning we shared. 

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