Saturday, January 30, 2016

Once a Creeker, always a Creeker

This last week before retirement has been full of tears and laughter - and to think I just wanted a simple breakfast...  I guess I should have known that that just isn't Chets Creek's style!

Believe it or not, I don't actually look for the limelight, although I know that must be hard to believe after this week! For me the silver lining to this week is that through all the activities, other people outside of our school are able to see the school that I see.  There's such a great sense of family, of love and caring, of taking care of each other.  When teachers feel that kind of support on an adult level - when their cups are full -  it is easier for them to give to children, to get involved in their lives and to really understand the mission of making a difference.  If there is a larger message that I hope that people will get from this week of tears and laughter, it is that relationships have to be the foundation for quality instruction.  When you trust the people you work with and when you feel safe and honored for your efforts, when you are invested in the children and families that you teach, you are willing to take risks and with risks and relationships (and good on-going embedded professional development) amazing results are possible.  And we do know how to celebrate our results - triumphs and accomplishments!

Does that mean we don't have problems at Chets Creek.  Absolutely, we have problems.  Even with Julie's radiant sunshine as we enter every day and KK dancing through the halls sprinkling her fairy dust, we have devastating, difficult, heart wrenching problems, the same that every school in America faces.   But the difference is that when the problems come, and they inevitably do, we are able to see them as learning opportunities because we know there is always someone who has walked before us and now there will be someone to walk beside us and to stand behind us to pick us up if we need the support.  You are never alone and that makes the difference.

As for me, I will take the lessons I have learned at Chets Creek and the forever friendships that I have made into this next chapter.  I will smile often at the memories and I will remember my time here... with love, because I know...

Once a Creeker, always a Creeker!

Friday, January 29, 2016

It's always been about the children

When I look back on these last 40 years, it is the faces of the children that run through my mind.  From my first class of children that are now moms and dads (and possibly even grandparents! Ouch!) to this latest bunch,  I have worried and even cried over some of these children, but I have laughed so much more and have loved the joy of celebrating their accomplishments.  I once said that it was amazing to me that I could spend my days enjoying the company of children and someone actually paid me for it.  That's basically still how I feel. I have been the luckiest person ever to have been a teacher and to have learned from so many children over the years. For the love of children is the reason I started teaching and it is another group of children, my grandkids, that is the reason I am ending this chapter in my life and moving on to the next.  What an amazing journey this had been.  Little did I know that when God whispered in my ear that this was what I was suppose to do that He had designed a life of such joy for me that would bring meaning to my life and always be one of my happy places. I am so thankful for this incredible journey!

I tried to select pictures of students I have loved and adored for this blog, but there were just too many - hundreds really, so I decided to only choose pictures of special children if I was in the picture.  LOL!  I knew that would cut the selection down quickly as I'm not particularly a fan of having my picture made!  Enjoy some of the children I have adored through the years...
My very first class in Florence, SC, 1970.
 Our Florence County Public Schools had only been integrated
for five years when I began teaching, with the first black child
entering our all-white high school during my Sophomore year in 1964.
1970 was the first year teachers were allowed to wear pants
 to school and only if the top and bottom matched!





 Haley with the angel's voice...
"I have been changed for the better..."
For Asher's Sake

...and as one chapter closes, thus begins the next...

Thursday, January 28, 2016

My Walk Down Memory Lane

I could never capture my years at Chets in a single blog or even in a dozen blogs...  I have written about many of the people that have made life at Chets such an amazing place to teach but there are so many others.  I could never list them all... However, through the years Maria Mallon, Cheryl Dillard, Elizabeth Conte, Debbie Harbour and Tracy Ruark have been my on-going PLC.  Others have joined for a year or two, in and out, and have certainly made their mark on my life but that core group of K-1 "loopers" has always embraced new learning and been the place where I could
bounce my craziest ideas and newest thoughts. They have always shared my enthusiasm because they too are each lifelong learners and take the mission as seriously as I do. They are risk takers, hard workers and, oh, so much fun! They are full of joy!  Each has the ability to lead and they have each led at different times in different ways.  They are all "eagles" and just flying in their company makes me better. I am a better teacher - and a better person - because of the time I have spent with them... I am forever indebted.

My techy friends, KK and Melanie
One of my other longtime literacy learning partners has been our Reading Coach, Melanie Holtsman. She shares blogs, books and articles, and ideas on  a daily basis. She's a creative, out-of-the-box thinker and always takes a different twist to what "could" be done.  She has so willingly shared the knowledge and ideas she has brought back as a Google Certified Teacher and from Teachers College and is often my thinking partner. She taught me to blog (and how to use my iphone!)  Because of Melanie, there are people who think I am technologically savvy, but those people have no idea! I still can't work the document camera and projector! I always had to get my co-teacher to teach a kindergartner of first grader to use that basic equipment so when one of the teachers is absent, I can get through the day!  I could fill a book with what I can't do and will never understand, and if it weren't for Melanie answering my stupidest questions at all
It's always been about the children.
times of the day and night, I would get nothing done.  She has pushed and dragged me into this techy century, one careful step at a time.  I have always been her daily RtI group (she was a Special Education teacher so I benefit from her best strategies!), but honestly, she has made it possible for me to laugh through it all. I will be indebted to her always, for her immense knowledge and her forever friendship...  and will always have her on speed dial!

I have really only blogged about life from a K-1 teacher's perspective all these years, but just as much could have been written about what has been going on in our intermediate school at the Creek over these last 18 years, especially when it comes to results. Melanie  has led the charge in literacy K-5, standing on the shoulders of the work that has been done by Lucy Calkins and her colleagues at Teachers' College.  Melanie holds the banner high as both new and seasoned literacy teachers do the hard work of preparing our students for high stakes testing, but so much more than that, preparing them for life.  Suzanne Shall and Angela Phillips have led the charge in Math and in Suzanne's absence this year, Angela carries the banner using her own classroom as the Math lab without missing a beat.   Carolyn Swidorsky has led Science K-5 from inside her classroom too, making sure that the lower grades build a foundation that can hold the "skyscraper" that is built in fifth.

Of course, it hasn't always been just about risks and results because much of our time has been spent on relationships. The pictures that follow in no way represent all that has happened at Chets during my time here, but they do represent some of my fondest memories.  Here's a quick glimpse of this one teacher's incredible journey.


                                                                                                                      Your want me to be a what? a Barbie doll?!
The first "Dream Team!"

With Sharon Taberski

With Fountas and Pinnell

                                                            We're in Hollywood! I never did learn all the words to that apple bottom boots song!


Duval County Teacher of the Year 

Almost falling off the back!

The brothers Bush

With Kyleen Beers
With Lucy Calkins

Honoring Betsy

Praying for Rebecca                                                                           

                                                                                      The wack-a-doodles

Professional Development

Wild and wonderful - Greatest Journey on Earth!