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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Talented Kids, Family Literacy Night, and Budget Teaching Sessions-February 28, 2012


Dear Sexton Mt. Families:                                                                                                                                                         

We have a group of very talented students here at Sexton Mountain.  At our assembly Thursday our fifth graders performed several songs for us about writing.   From sharing ideas to revising and editing, they got our student body excited about the work that goes into writing!  Friday night we were treated to the amazing talents of many students. Additionally, we had student work displayed and a wide range of projects for students to do.   Thanks to Liesl Jeck-Buzan for organizing a great evening of learning for our students.  Thanks also to Tammy Molina for running the talent show!  Thanks to all who helped with set up and clean up as well!

In earlier newsletters, you were introduced to Karen Grant who will be filling in for Mrs. Hiatt later in the year and to Kathy Moore who will be filling in for Mrs. Loumena this spring.  The Special Education department let us know this week that SLP, Erik Nebel will be filling in for Katie Walker, our speech and language pathologist, when she is out on Family Leave this spring.  Eric will be joining us for meetings and doing work with Katie to make for a smooth transition.

Thursday, March 1 will be a very special day at Sexton Mountain Elementary School.  We will culminate our One School, One Book event with a very special author visit from Grace Lin.  That evening, our teachers have planned special activities for your family.  In the pink pod, students will do a special art project.  Stop by to make a MASK with your family.  In the library, the students from our own International Orchestra will perform on authentic Chinese instruments. Visit the green and red pods for puzzle activities.  Mrs. McConnell’s room will host games.  Mrs. Krueger’s room will have art and poetry activities and there will be relay races in the gym.  It is sure to be a fun night for ALL! 

At the beginning of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon Minli’s family was hungry and rice was carefully portioned.  Rice is on the most wanted items list for the Oregon Food Bank so we are inviting each family to bring in a bag of rice to donate to the Project Second Wind Food Drive.  I wonder how many pounds of rice will be donated?

On a different note, a Budget Teaching Session at Sexton Mountain Elementary School is scheduled for Tuesday, March 13 from 8:45-10:15am in our school cafeteria.  Additionally, I’ll be teaming with principals at Montclair Elementary School on Monday, March 12 from 6:30 to 8:00pm and at Hiteon on Wednesday, March 21 from 6:30-8:00pm for similar presentations. The purpose of each Budget Teaching Session is to provide up-to-date budget data, collect advisory data from participants and answer questions.  There will also be a hands-on activity for participants to use several budget areas to make the estimated $40 million in reductions.  The information presented will be the same at each school in Beaverton.

Thanks for sharing your children with us and for being involved in the work happening here!  Sexton Mountain School is a great place to learn.

Fondly,

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

Wish List--These are little things or jobs that will make a difference to our kids. Feel free to send them in.
  • Volunteers to help with Kindergarten Orientation on March 8 from 6:30-8:00pm (please contact Mrs. C.-B.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Food Drive, Grace Lin and Stranger Danger-February 21, 2012

Dear Sexton Mt. Families:

We kicked off Project Second Wind Food Drive today.  Our fifth graders will be collecting and counting items from each classroom this week and next.  There will be a little friendly competition between classrooms at each grade level to see which class can bring the most items by March 2.  Through the end of the month, we’ll also be collecting new socks for the Beaverton Clothes Closet.  Thanks in advance for your generosity.  You can drop off sock or food donations at Family Art Night this Friday from 6:30-8:00pm.

Over the weekend, I finished Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.  I just couldn’t put it down.  I know that kids have been reading it in the classroom and families are reading at home too.  The way Lin weaves different small tales within the larger story certainly makes it a good book to read, read and read again.  One mom wrote about her family’s reading time.

“What a fabulous book!  We are having so much fun reading this book; I think I look forward to our nightly readings as much as the kids do!  Even though they have already finished the book in their classroom, they still listen intently as I read each night.  Sometimes Chloe will say:  “I know what is going to happen, but I won’t tell you”.   And she doesn’t!  She makes ME guess…..but won’t tell me if I’m wrong or right!  Just thought I’d share!”---Cynthia N.
We look forward to having Grace Lin visit our school on Thursday, March 1 for four assemblies throughout the day.  I’ve heard she’s an amazing presenter as well as writer so I’m sure kids will learn many interesting things.  The evening of March 1, our Family Literacy Night will give families an opportunity to further explore the story.  It’s going to be an exciting day indeed!

If you are a parent of a fourth or fifth grader, you likely know that Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is one of the Battle of the Books selections.  Teams will begin competitions this week.  It’s exciting to see so many teams so enthusiastic about reading and showing what they know about selected titles.

Many of our students are involved in a variety of activities, inside and outside of school, like the Battle of the Books. Mr. Parker and a wonderful group of our students performed at the Chinese New Year Cultural Fair at the Convention Center earlier this month.  It seems that our group of Sexton kids were the only performers that represented a public school, and they did a fabulous job.  We also have students doing community service outside of school.  Nishanth’s Cub Scout group spent part of last weekend at the Oregon Food Bank preparing boxes for hungry families.  Our students are busy inside and outside of school!  

 Balancing schoolwork, special projects, sports, church and life can be tricky at best.  I found the article (linked below) to be a helpful guide for my house.


With so many things happening at school focused on teaching and learning, it’s hard to pull away from the engaged learning to think about the next round of budget cuts that will effect how we do things next year.  During the month of March, there will be budget teaching sessions so that YOU have an opportunity to learn about the amount that will be cut from the Beaverton School District budget and offer suggestions on your priorities.

A Budget Teaching Session at Sexton Mountain Elementary School is scheduled for Tuesday, March 13 from 8:45-10:15am in our school cafeteria.  Additionally, I’ll be teaming with the principal at Montclair Elementary School on Monday, March 12 from 6:30 to 8:00pm and at Hiteon on Wednesday, March 21 from 6:30-8:00pm for similar presentations. The purpose of each Budget Teaching Session is to provide up-to-date budget data, collect advisory data from participants, and answer questions.  There will also be a hands-on activity for participants to use several budget areas to make the estimated $40 million in reductions.  The information presented will be the same at each school in Beaverton.

On a different note, many of you may have heard or read about a student from Ridgewood Elementary School who recently reported that on the way to school he was approached by a man in a truck and asked if he wanted candy.  The student made the right decision and refused and the truck drove on.  Washington County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate this incident.  Although it is unfortunate that this incident even occurred, I think it also serves as a reminder for you to discuss stranger awareness with your child.  Here are some talking points for you:
  • Teach your children to always TAKE A FRIEND with them when walking or biking, and stay with a group while standing at the bus stop.
  • Make sure they know which bus to ride.
  • Walk the route to and from school with your child pointing out landmarks and safe places to go if they need help or are being followed.  Teach your children they should never take shortcuts and always stay in well-lit areas.
  • It is not safe for young children to walk to and from school, even in a group.  Parents should always provide supervision for young children to help ensure their safe arrival to and from school.
  • If your children wait for a bus, wait with them or make arrangements for supervision at the bus stop.
  • Teach your child that if anyone bothers them, makes them feel scared or uncomfortable; they should trust their feelings and immediately get away from that person.  Teach them it is okay not to be polite and it is okay to say no.

My daughter is a sophomore in college now and teaching her to listen to instincts and to be an advocate for herself when she was a little girl, certainly makes parenting from a distance much easier for me now.  As parents, we have so many lessons to teach in order to keep our kids healthy and safe.  From covering coughs and washing hands to prevent illness to watching what your head touches in order to prevent head lice or planning safe routes to and from class, these lessons are an essential part of childhood.  Teaching healthy habits to raise confident but cautious kids happens every day along with reading, mathematics, writing and science.  Thanks for partnering with us!

Fondly,

Dr. Teresa Clemens-Brower
A.k.a.  Mrs. C.-B.
Principal
Wish List--These are little things or jobs that will make a difference to our kids. Feel free to send them in.
  • Shredder for Computer Lab-Secure testing materials will need to be shredded after use.
  • Volunteers to help with Kindergarten Orientation on March 8 from 6:30-8:00pm

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.

Fondly,


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

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.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Community, Volunteers and More-February 7. 2012


Dear Sexton Mt. Families:                                                                                                  

Sexton Mountain School is a great place to learn!  Our kids are doing amazing things.  If you haven’t been in for a while to see first hand what is happening, let me tell you about some of the things that make our school special.  Our students are engaged learners.  Watching every child in the school read and discuss Where the Mountain Meets the Moon has been a powerful experience.  Having a common text for discussion brings us together. Teachers have been reading this in the classroom, so when you read it at home, your children will likely have interesting discussion points.  In addition to what is happening with One School, One Book, our teachers provide powerful integrated projects for learning. Recently, first graders were having a heated discussion about how to write about football.  I had no idea that favorite quarterbacks (including Tom Brady) would be such a topic of interest.  Fourth graders in Mr. Shotola’s class were researching owls and finding all sorts of interesting facts about them.  Mr. Pfaff brought a leaf blower to illustrate a weather related topic in his room.  Kindergarten students in Mrs. Loumena’s classroom were practicing interview skills and asking good questions.  We certainly have engaged learners!
One of the things I’ve observed about Sexton Mountain is that we also have a great sense of community.  Our adults model volunteering and service in such a positive way that our children also have a strong desire to serve.  In addition to our parent and family volunteers, our third, fourth and fifth graders will have opportunities to have big buddies from Canfield Place each Tuesday morning.   These volunteers are providing an intergenerational experience for our students as they practice math flashcards.  We are so lucky that local businesses are willing to partner with us.  Our students are working with one another within our building as well.  First grade and third graders enjoyed buddy time on Friday morning.  They were reading together and discussing texts.   In the gym, our fifth graders serve as mentors during Adaptive PE with students in Ms. Yokom’s and Ms. Burnett’s classes.  Great things are happening in our building!
At Sexton Mountain, we have amazing volunteers.  Art Literacy volunteer, Stephanie Amann was teaching students in Mrs. McConnell’s class about French sculptor Auguste Rodin on Friday.  As they analyzed a slide of “The Thinker” many students adopted the pose.  In addition to teaching our kids, volunteers also do support work outside the classroom.  Our students are doing incredible projects and others can learn so much by looking at the work displayed in our hallways.  Our hallways resemble museum displays thanks to the work of the many volunteers who put up the work.  Diane Scannell spent a chunk of her Friday morning paying close attention to detail and kids appreciate knowing that their work is valued.  Also on Friday morning, a team of parents was hard at work for popcorn Friday.  Students certainly look forward to this special day.  Our volunteers enrich recess time.  On Thursday afternoon the sun was shining and students were running around the track for Sparky’s Running Club. Zak, in Mrs. Stratton’s class, was pink cheeked and proud of the number of laps he ran during that time.  Our volunteers also work with individual students.  We now have over twenty parents who have been trained in the Read Naturally reading intervention program.  Thanks to all the volunteers who spent time learning how to use the reading program to improve reading fluency and comprehension one child at a time. 
            In addition to the exciting things that happen during the day, we also have evening events.  Family nights with business partners and special events like our upcoming Family Dance, Family Art Night and Ruby Tuesday’s Give Back program are just a few of the examples of how our PTC reaches out to the community for fundraising, fun and learning.
You have probably noticed that some of the teachers in our school are expecting exiting things in their lives away from school too.  Can you think back to the day when your child entered your life?  I bet it was full of excitement and you were filled with a range of emotions.  If you are like me, it seems like just the other day, my kids smelled like Baby Magic baby wash and I enjoyed nibbling their toes as they cooed. When teachers are out on leave, I believe that hiring the very best teacher is very important.  Whether a teacher spends thirty days in a classroom or thirty years, their time with kids makes a lasting difference.  Because of my passion for hiring the best, when our staff members will be on family leave, I take the job of finding replacement teachers very seriously. I have been busy contacting my colleagues for recommendations, pouring over resumes, checking references and interviewing to make sure that the teacher who fills in for our teacher will be awesome!
            Karen Grant will be replacing Mrs. Hiatt in May when she is on leave.  Karen started the school year filling in for a teacher on maternity leave in a first grade classroom at Scholls Heights School, so she knows first graders!  She served students as a teacher at West TV Elementary School for 6 years before taking a leave to stay home with her own children.  She is described as a caring, calm teacher with high expectations for children.  We are excited that she has agreed to join us this spring and hope to have her in the building when other teachers are sick between now and May.  She will join us for spring conferences so that families can get to know her.  Coincidentally, her twin sister was a guest teacher in Mrs. Hiatt’s classroom earlier in the year, so students may have a feeling that they know her already.  We are excited that she will be joining our team!  We are still working on interviewing teachers for Mrs. Loumena’s position.  The Special Education department will appoint a Speech and Language Pathologist during Katie Walker’s leave.
             We do indeed have a lot going on here at school!  Thank you for sharing your children with us and for supporting them in their learning away from school.  As I reflect back on the first half of my school year, I am so appreciative of the open lines of communication I see between home and school.  Thank you for helping me to feel so welcome and for providing me with an opportunity to learn about your children.  If we haven’t had a chance to meet yet, I’d love to spend 15 minutes with your family getting to know your hopes and dreams for your child.  Please check with Mrs. Z to set up a time for us to talk. 

Fondly,


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

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

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.