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Monday, February 13, 2012

Connecting with Families-February 14, 2012

Dear Sexton Mt. Families:                                                                                                   

My cousin is visiting Italy right now and my weekend was spent taking a virtual tour of Florence with her through her Facebook posts.  Staying connected today seems easier than ever before but coming together face-to-face beats other types of communication hands-down.  That said, I would really like to hop on a plane and join her adventure but I won’t because such EXCITING and IMPORTANT things are happening at Sexton Mountain Elementary School. 

I enjoyed seeing many of you Friday at the Family Dance.  While in the gym, I realized that all the big-hair band music of the 80’s likely damaged my hearing just enough that coupled with that night’s rockin’ Katie Perry tunes and many enthusiastic kids, I may have smiled and nodded while talking to parents in a way that indicated I could hear what was being said even though I could not. My apologies if I agreed to something I couldn’t hear.  Indeed, kids and families came together with boundless energy Friday night for the Family Dance.  Thanks to Maritza Repolgle and her team for throwing such a fun party for our community.  Thanks to Mr. Hayhurst for serving as Master of Ceremonies.

On February 24, the Sexton Mountain Art Fair will provide another opportunity for us to gather together for learning and fun.  It’s my understanding that the talents of students will be displayed and performed in an Art Museum and talent show type of event.  I can’t wait to see what our volunteers have in store.  I know that the event coordinator is looking for volunteers so please contact her if you can lend a hand.

As I visit classrooms, I’ve been able to hear the read-aloud and discussion of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. I’ve heard from families that kids are talking about the story at home too and connecting their school experiences to the book as YOU read together.  Students will get to hear the author when she visits our school on Thursday, March 1. Thanks to our PTC for generously supporting this school-wide literacy event.  In addition to the author visit during the day, teachers have a number of exciting activities planned for the evening of March 1 as well.  We hope to see you at Family Literacy Night from 6:30-8:00pm to further explore aspects of this novel.

Our Kindergarten Orientation this year is going to be March 8 from 6:30-8:00pm.  One of the things we are going to do differently this year is introduce incoming families to our school by having current parents give tours and answer questions during the evening.  Volunteers will be provided with a script and self-guided tour booklet so it will be an easy job and a great opportunity to welcome new families.  If you would like to donate 90 minutes that evening, please let me know.

In addition to all our evening activities, kids are doing great things in the classroom as well.  All of our students will be writing about a favorite place this month.  One of our second graders recently shared that her favorite place in the world is Pet Smart.  I was surprised by this information because I know she’s a traveler but her list of reasons and specific experiences and examples related to the pet store convinced me that it was indeed her favorite place.  My favorite place is a meadow along Martin Creek in an isolated spot between Ukiah and Granite, Oregon.  We camp in the meadow and my kids fish the creek and practice catch and release so the same trout are caught countless times during our weeklong stay.  Cut off from cell service and in such a remote place we don’t see another car for a whole week, I read sacks of books and feel relaxed just thinking about my favorite place. I would like to invite families to send pictures of your family in your favorite spot.

Our fourth graders are completing an important writing assessment this week.  While only fourth grade writing scores are published in the newspaper, we know that the hard work at every grade level prepares students for success in grade four and beyond.  Our teams met last week to set writing goals for the upcoming six-week period.   Teachers will be hard at work helping students develop the skills needed in order to communicate clearly in the written form.  They will work on including descriptive words, varying sentence length and having a clearly developed beginning, middle and end.     At our staff meeting Tuesday, we talked about strategies for building robust vocabulary and helping students expand ideas.

When I was shopping at Winco Saturday morning, a mom was pushing her toddler through the aisles.  She was just a step or two ahead of me throughout the produce section.  With each item she put in her cart, she told her wide-eyed little girl what she was getting.   She described the items with vivid descriptors and told the little girl why she needed each item.  The little girl certainly got the important words and repeated them after her mom.  Based on the language used during the produce department alone, I would guess the child was exposed to 1000 words or more.  I was struck by how a simple trip to the store on a Saturday morning was a rich language experience.  Often in our day-to-day interactions with our kids, we utter more commands than anything else.  I know this was certainly true of me Friday night when I seemed to utter, “Walk!” or “Be safe” more than I did engaged in rich vocabulary building conversation with kids.  When kids have a great spoken vocabulary and can orally describe their ideas, it is much easier to move to writing.  The thing I love most about Winco is that I often hear great conversation in many different languages.  I hear families building vocabulary in the child’s home language so that when our emerging bilingual students come to school, they already have a strong understanding of rich vocabulary in one of the 92 languages spoken in the Beaverton School District.

Speaking of grocery shopping, I know that for many families in Beaverton, a simple trip to the store can be impossible due to hard economic times.  Our students and families will have an opportunity to help fill cupboards by participating in Project Second Wind food drive beginning February 20.  Families are invited to bring non-perishable items for the Oregon Food Bank.

Thank you for all the work you do at home to prepare kids for learning.  Thank you for partnering with us to do the very important work of preparing the future of our nation.


Dr. Teresa Clemens-Brower
A.k.a.  Mrs. C.-B.

Wish List--These are little things or jobs that will make a difference to our kids.  If you have things you'd like to share, feel free to send them in.
  • Prizes for Sparky’s Running Club
  • Wide-ruled notebook paper
  • Pencils and Pencil topper erasers
  • Legos and Board Games (on really rainy days we are trying to find alternatives for recess)
  • Playground balls
  • Basketballs
  • Sidewalk Chalk
  • Volunteers to help on March 8 from 6:30-8:00pm

Thank You Business Partners!
Pizzacato, Subway, Canfield Place, McDonald’s, Ruby Tuesday, Johns Incredible Pizza, and Portland Bagel Company are just a few of the local businesses who’ve supported our school this year.  If you happen to visit one of these places, please let them know how much we appreciate their support.

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