Archive for Wednesday, May 22, 2002

TES students learn in safe environment

May 22, 2002

At a time when our nation has experienced terrorism like never before, and our country has lost the every day feeling of peace and security, we must provide our young children with an environment of understanding, yet complete safety. An elementary school needs to be a place that children are eager to attend, and it also needs to be a place where they feel safe. Our children don't possess the perspective of adults, yet they are exposed to events of the world. Too much of this type of knowledge without the maturity to deal with it can lead to fear and insecurity. Too little of this knowledge leads to unawareness and a lack of understanding. With students from age 5 to 12, we need to know how to deliver the right amount of information in the most beneficial way. Our teachers have done just that and have also carried on with delivering a wealth of knowledge.

This school year has seen an increase in our enrollment by around 40 students, bringing us to an average of 740 students. Although we are the sixth-largest elementary school in the state, we haven't lost our small town flavor in our classrooms. Your child is not a number but a person with their own unique personality. Teachers are able to know their students well enough to be able to identify and meet their individual needs. Our parents are very involved in their child's education. Around 98 percent of our parents attend their child's conference. We have many parents who volunteer their time to help in classrooms.

One of the most exciting and encouraging programs that we have had in a long time is the Reading Recovery Program. This program allows a teacher to work one-on-one with our first-graders and help them to be able to read at grade level and maintain the ability to read at their grade level as they progress through school. An off shoot of Reading Recovery is Guided Reading. We have used Guided Reading in kindergarten through third grade since the beginning of the year and are thrilled with the results. Guided Reading is used with a classroom of students parallel to how Reading Recovery is used with an individual student. It allows the teacher to work with his or her students in small groups and have each student read successfully at their own reading level. The students grow more rapidly in their ability to read and their confidence level increases at the same rate.

Last year we purchased a data-base management software program called Power School. This school year we have been able to allow parents to utilize Power School. Our teachers record their student's grades on their computers. We gave each parent a password that allows them to access Power School over the internet from home or elsewhere. At any time, a parent can log on to Power School and review all of the grades that their child has received. They not only are able to look at the overall grade in a subject area, but they can look at the grade on every assignment and test that their child has in that subject area. Parents can even request to have a progress report e-mailed to them on a periodic basis. Grades aren't the only thing that parents can access. They can review absences and tardies as well as check the balance on their child's lunch account.

One of the biggest assets a school can have is parental involvement. The backbone of our parental support comes through our PTA. In my 11 years here, I have never seen a PTA do more for students than our present PTA. They are responsible for initiating an all-school Knowledge Bowl. We had two Knowledge Bowls this year with more than 100 students participating in each bowl. PTA organized the practice sections as well as Knowledge Bowl Night. This year we invited students at Genesis Christian Academy to participate. The PTA has also sponsored several Family Reading Nights, a book give-away and a school carnival.

A great addition at the Elementary School this year has been a mentoring program. We have one master teacher who is mentoring two first-year teachers.

If you were to walk in to our school any morning right after the bell rang to start the school day, you would hear two students speaking to everyone over the intercom. This is a part of our Character Education Program. Each month we have a different theme dealing with positive aspects of good character. The students on the intercom share a motivating statement regarding the character trait for that month. Then, they ask students and staff to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance. It is very encouraging and inspiring. Once a quarter we have a celebration lunch and invite parents. Our last celebration lunch was in April and was called, "A Step in the Right Direction."

A real tribute to a school is having your teachers nominated for award programs. We have many outstanding teachers at the elementary school.

This year, two of those teachers were nominated for educational awards.

Sara Saunders, third grade teacher, has been nominated for Kansas State Department of Education Teacher of the Year. Andrea Carden, sixth grade teacher, has been nominated for USD 464 Outstanding First Year Teacher.

There's no doubt about it, 2001-2002 has been an awesome school year an Tonganoxie Elementary School!

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