Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Norman Elementary's New *STARs* Are...

Building Administration

Tonya Harrison, Principal

Years in Education/Background:
                I taught  middle school Language Arts and Social Studies in Bellevue, Michigan for a year before coming to Reed City High School in 1997 to teach History and English for nine years.  I became the principal at R.C. Alternative Ed for a year, and then moved into the assistant principal position for four years.  I am currently finishing up my 2nd year as the Norman principal.

Working in Education:
                 I love working in the field of education.  Teaching history was so exciting, because I enjoyed learning with the students, as they made connections to current life situations.  I know there were days I learned more from the kids than they did from me.  When I crossed over to "the dark side", as they say about administration, I feared I would lose the interaction with the students, but it wasn't true.  I just learned a new way to connect with the lives of students.  I was definitely scared about coming to the elementary school.  Runny noses, tying shoes....I didn't think I had spent money on grad school for that.
I was wrong!  Being an elementary school principal, although exhausting and challenging, brings so much light to the educator's soul.  Academic growth is seen each day!  Kids learn to read and multiply, with the help of teachers, who give their entire being, to the kids in their classrooms.  The learning is so visible, and kids treat you like a super star when they see you outside of school.  I can say I haven't grown accustomed to the runny noses or the fact that "no biting" has to be in our handbook, but watching kids learn skills that last a life time and the "I love you, Mrs. Harrison" before a student boards a bus makes it worth it. 

New to Education?
                I don't consider myself a veteran to education and I learn new things every single day, but I have taken away a few things from my years up to this point.  Educators give themselves completely to their classrooms and students or maybe to their curriculum work and data.  A mentor taught me to prioritize...Health, Family, Work.  I still need to be reminded of this regularly.  Keep your priorities straight.
                Be visionary...look ahead.  Where can you take yourself and your students?  Set a goal to continue learning and set goals for yourself and your students.  The best teachers are really the best learners.  Be a learning teacher!
                Remember why we are is easy to be negative and frustrated with students, parents, and our colleagues.  However, we wouldn't have jobs without our kids and who better to work with every day, than other adults, who love learning and teaching.

The Things Kids Say:
                Last year a student said to me, "Mrs. Harrison, I think you have something weird in your teeth.  You are much prettier without it.".  At first I was embarrassed, but then I thought, "who wants to go all day with something in your teeth, and she just said I was pretty."

Elementary kids, even though they can be what feels like brutal honesty, love you on your worst day, even with food in your teeth.  Who wouldn't want to be here every day?  

Tonya's Family

Reading Month
Tonya rode a horse around the school because students reached their reading goal.
 Reading Assembly

Kris Griffin
Assistant Principal

I have been in education for almost 17 years, all at Reed City schools.  I have had an office in every building with the exception of the high school.  I started at Reed City as a social worker and worked with many students and families.  When I first started working in the schools, I spent a great deal of time working with families and did lots of home visits.  When I think back on some of those home visits that I made years ago, I am not so sure I would feel as safe as I did back then.  I may have been a bit naïve when I first started, but I also think that times have changed and I would not likely go to the same homes I did before. I worry about many of our students and the environments that they are in.   My first job in administration in the school was as the interim principal at the upper elementary followed by the Alternative Education principal.  Consolidating Norman, Hersey and upper elementary staff and students together was probably the biggest challenge.  I have been the assistant principal at Norman for four years. I have worked with all ages in the school, and can’t really say I have a favorite although I truly enjoy my time with the younger students.  I also supervise the special education and our homeless students for the entire district. 

Some of our most difficult moments at RCAPS have also been times when we have come together.  We have had suicides, deaths of staff members and tragic events happen to our students.  I have seen countless times our staff be there for one another to provide support in any way they can.  I am very thankful to be a part of that. 

I continue to be concerned about funding for public schools.  I have watched over the years all the cuts that have happened to our school and schools around us.  It really makes you wonder what our future brings.  I love my job as the assistant principal and enjoy the staff that I work with.  GT Norman Elementary is the largest elementary in our ISD, and often size brings challenges.  However, it is rewarding to watch our students from kindergarten through 5th grade.  One of my greatest strengths is my involvement in the community and the schools.  I love to go watch our students in athletic events and activities that they are involved in.  I am a Coyote by birth and always will be!  Some of my best memories are at sporting events.  I look forward to our current students growing up and watching them play in high school. 

My husband Dave also works at Reed City Schools and I have a son that graduated from RCHS and a daughter that is a freshman.  Working at RCAPS is not just a job, it is a huge part of our life at home as well.  We have amazing friends that also work at the school.  We are truly blessed to have as many people care about all of our students and want to do the right thing.  Times are tough, but many of our staff go the extra mile and want to do the right thing for our kids!

Thank you both for sharing a little bit about yourself and the role that you play at Norman Elementary.
I appreciate your support of this "STAR" project. It has been been fun learning a little bit about each of our teachers, secretaries and administrators.
Can't wait until next year's project! :-)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Connecting Common Core with "Morning Meeting"

"Morning Meeting" connected to CCSS: Speaking & Listening
 (ELA.SL.5.1b, ELA.SL.5.1c)

Below is a link to a 4 minute video that is on the Teaching Channel. This video shows a 5th grade class meeting their learning targets by participating in self-reflection during "Morning Meeting".


Thursday, May 23, 2013


Norman Elementary's New *STARs* are...

Our AMAZING Secretaries who are the brightest shining STARs in the school!

Angie Cornell

I started as a sub for the district and did that for 5 years.
I was hired as a full time employee with the district in 1998 as a parapro for a special needs student starting kindergarten. I worked with Mariah for two school years. I then started as a secretary with the district when Mrs. Bronson retired.
I have really enjoyed both positions.
A lot of the funny stories I have to tell you probably can’t publish. J
However I do have a very funny story that I can tell.
A student that had worked on the mosaic coyote that hangs in our office, would come in everyday to see if it was done and hung up.
I told him that I would call him as soon as it arrived and was hung up so he could admire his work.
The day it arrived I called the boy down to the office so he could look at the coyote.
I said to him “Someday you are going to come in here with your wife and kids and show them what you made.”
He looked at me with horror and said, “Oh my gosh Mrs. Cornell you're still going to be here!”, I laughed so hard.
He was not the least bit concerned that he now had a wife and kids…he couldn’t believe that I would still be here J

Cathy Eichenberg

I was hired in 1994 and began at the High School in Attendance and Athletics.  I then went to Community Ed. /Alternative Ed. for a few years. Then I came to Norman Elementary and Community Ed.  I will be finishing my 19th year working for the school. 

Laurie Meyer

I started working for RCAPS in 1997 as a substitute para-professional.  In 1999 I was hired as a secretary and worked for 4 years at the Upper Elementary School, until that building was demolished.  From there I worked as a secretary at the Middle School for 8 years, and have been here at G.T. Norman this school year...funny how I've come "full circle" in this career.
The most memorable time would be when the "OLD" Upper Elementary school came down.  It was a little bitter-sweet, as that was my middle school back in the day.  Correct, I never left Reed City... hard to see all of those old memories I had come down.
The funniest memory is participating in the middle school winter Olympics...I was "trying" to push Mrs. Decker on a large skate board into bowling pins, she was the human bowling ball, and we laughed SO HARD, I could hardly push her...good times had by all.

Angie-Cathy & Laurie,

Thank you for all you do--the school definitely would not run smoothly if it weren't for your hard work.
You are appreciated by all--administration, students and teachers.

Thank you!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Common Core: What is it?

Are you still confused or maybe frightened of the Common Core?
Below are some  videos from the Teaching Channel that might help you to understand the Common Core State Standards and maybe put you more at ease.

"How To Read The Common Core State Standards"
Let's Chat Core:
In this series, Sarah Brown Wessling explains the Common Core State Standards and offers insights on how to implement the Core in classrooms across America.


14 min

Questions to Consider

  • What does Sarah mean when she says that "Common isn't the same?"
  • What is the difference between ELA standards and literacy standards? Why are both important?
  • Sarah says, "The Core will require us to integrate." How will you do this in your classroom?

"Common Core State Standards--ELA " 

Lesson Objective
Learn about the key features and differences of the new standards
14 min
Questions to Consider
What is the purpose of the college and career readiness standards?
What are the benefits and challenges of the shift to reading and writing non-fiction texts?
What are the benefits and challenges of having standards for Science, Social Studies and technical subjects?

"Common Core State Standards--Math "

Lesson Objective
Learn about the key features and differences of the new standards
14 min
Questions to Consider
What is the purpose of the standards for mathematical practice? How should these be integrated with the content?
How will teaching fewer "topics" in each grade change your planning?
What does Dr. Daro say is the solution to closing the achievement gap? How will the standards help?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

*STAR* Teacher--Robbie Svegel

Norman Elementary's new *STAR* Teacher is...

Robbie Svegal
Resource Room

How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching for 21 years; 3 at Morley-Stanwood Junior/Senior High School and 18 here at Norman Elementary.  I started out as a school psychologist with the MOISD for 6 years, but my heart was in teaching.

Favorite Memory
A couple of years ago my class teamed up with professional filmmakers to inspire writing for a reason.  Together we made a movie about bullying. The whole experience was amazing in so many ways.  I will never forget our “premiere” in the cafeteria. Over 70 friends and family members filled the room to watch the movie and celebrate the accomplishment.  The looks of pure joy and pride were priceless.

Funny Memory
Thinking about funny memories brought back many laughs, but one in particular.  Out of nowhere, one student innocently asked, “Ms Svegel, do you ever have dreams where you come to school naked?”

Math Strategy
A very effective strategy that I have used is Singapore Math’s bar modeling approach to solving story problems.  It is a structured way of teaching students to think through the steps using bar models—an intermediate step between concrete and abstract thinking.  

Reading Strategy
Special education for students with learning disabilities is a lot like physical therapy for reading—many interventions focus on repeated, small skills.   This is intensive, hard work and can only be done for so long during a reading period.  Another strategy to build word recognition is enhancing teacher-read novels through combining 3 best practices: retelling, rereading, and guided oral feedback.
After I read a chapter from a high interest novel, students retell it while I type their words.  We reread together to edit for content.  Then students reread with guided oral feedback from a “talking computer”.  Words are highlighted as they hear them.  This way they have guided oral reading—on demand.  I dubbed this the Hybrid Language Experience (HLE) method, and have been using it for the last 5 years.  Data from running reading records show that most upper elementary students accurately read retellings that are 1-2 years above reading level.  They are engaged as they get guided oral feedback and also improve fluency.  Student success was so impressive that I wrote this up for the Michigan Reading Journal, where it appeared as a featured article in the Summer, 2012 volume.  
Hopefully other teachers and students will find this to be a useful tool as well.

Guided oral reading with Word Talk, which our technology director has installed on many computers
There’s always more than one reading strategy to share, so… students improve fluency through repeated readings.  We reread phonics stories in an activity called Beat the Clock.  Below is a link telling how it is done and a photo of students using this strategy.

(Beat the Clock Video by Robbie & her students)

Advice for New Teachers
·         Listen to your students and take cues from them.  Build on their interests.  Doing this will both inspire and force you to be creative and think outside the box to meet their needs. 
·         Find the positive and build on it. 
·         What looks like “lazy” may in fact be hiding feelings of discouragement, confusion or being overwhelmed.  Be a careful observer to uncover what is driving that behavior in order to find the best way to help a child.
·         A wise social worker once told me, “When you like them the least, they need you the most.”  This has helped me many times when I am reaching my limit in handling a difficult child.

Congratulations on being published in the Michigan Reading Journal- VERY impressive and quite an honor!
Another thing to be VERY proud of is your Bullying video-that video was awesome. Your students did such a great job and obviously they had a great teacher guiding them. 
One more thing that I need to make note of...Your funniest memory--I would have loved to see your face!
Thanks for sharing your students, memories and advice.

Monday, May 13, 2013

*STAR* Teacher- Brian Hammond

Norman Elementary's New *STAR* Teacher is...

Brian Hammond
Physical Education

How many years have you been teaching?
This is my 9th year at Reed City, my 7th year teaching. My first two years I held the position of Community Education Director/Athletic Director. Then I went into the classroom at the Middle School as an 8th grade Social Studies teacher/AD. I have been at GT Norman for the last six years as a 3-4-5 PE teacher.

What is your best memory?
I have a lot of great memories. My best memories are when I have former students come back to visit me. To see how they have grown from children to young men and women really helps to reinforce that as a teacher, I had a small part in guiding them to where they are and to where they are going in the future.

What is the funniest memory?
Unfortunately this memory is at the expense of my colleague and mentor, Doug Emington. The second and only year that we used Ferris State University’s pool for our swimming curriculum. We had spent the weeks leading up to our swim days and the actual day that we went, pounding into the kids heads that safety is of utmost importance when dealing with water/pools. Doug was putting equipment away and made a gesture jokingly to mess with the kids. When he did, he slipped on the wet pool deck, fell, and broke his nose. Nobody really saw what happened because it happened that quick. We still say that is the only real injury we have had in the 5 years we have taken our students for swim safety.

Can you share a PE best practice?
The thing that I think is important to make sure PE is a safe and productive environment are classroom rules and procedures. The gymnasium is really just a big classroom. I spend the first two weeks of every year on making sure the students know what my rules and procedures are. I stress the importance of keeping the gym a safe place to learn and what my expectations are of them as students in my classroom. It is much easier to teach in a large area when everyone knows what they are to be doing at all times. Then I can focus on teaching skills to the students and it is safe for all involved.

Share why you like being a PE teacher?
What I like the most about being a PE teacher is that my class is the one class where almost all the students like to go. My students all see me in the hall or outside of school and always want to know what we are going to do next in class. Its nice to have that kind of excitement everyday about my class. The students definitely bring great energy every single day and makes my job one of the best to have. I have many friends who are jealous of what I do.

What advice do you have for teachers just coming into the field?
My advice isn’t just for PE teachers, but for teachers in general. Make sure you have a strong classroom management plan. Students are smarter than we give them credit for. If the students know they can do or get away with something, they will. Have a plan and stick to it. Be flexible enough to adjust it as needed, all students are different, so one plan will not work for everyone.
Also, have fun, we forget this sometimes because we get caught up in the daily grind. Teaching is demanding and rewarding. Enjoy what you do, if you are having fun, it makes all the actual work you do to be a good teacher not really seem like work. 

Pictures from Brian's "Classroom"

Thanks for sharing your students, advice and memories!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Formative Assessment-Math: Kylene Nix

Norman Elementary 1st Grade Teacher, Kylene Nix shares Formative Assessment in a Math Lesson.

*First Part of the Formative Assessment Process...  (Watch the video)

"The most effective teaching and the most meaningful student learning happen when teachers design the right learning target for today's lesson and use it along with their students  to aim for and assess understanding."

"Learning Targets use wordspicturesactions, or some combination of the three to express to students, in terms the students understand, the content and performance they are aiming for."

-Learning Targets:Help Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson
     By Connie M. Moss & Susan M. Brookhart

*Second Part of the Formative Assessment Process:

Kylene shared with her students what a #1 paper would look like, then a #2 and #3. Kylene's students knew that they needed to work very hard to try and have a #1 paper.


Once their assignment was complete, Kylene gathered her students back at the carpet for
Peer & Self Assessment of their completed paper.

`Student's Work

Friday, May 3, 2013

New *STAR* Teacher...Pam Bloom

Norman Elementary's New *STAR* Teacher is...

Pam Bloom
Resource Room

How many years have you been teaching?
I have been a student, graduate, secretary, and teacher for Reed City Area Public Schools. I have been teaching in this district for 15 years. Presently, I teach in a Resource Room.

What is your best memory?
I have many special memories, such as the look of awe on my students' faces when they meet the service men and women who receive Care Packages and letters from us. Another warm memory are the tears of gratitude on the faces of our veterans as our students honor them for their service to our country. The excitement in the air when chicks hatch in my classroom each spring is another special memory, and of course, the pride my students have when they are able to use their math skills to sell suckers and then use that money tos send Care Packages to our service people and to donate money to community projects such as the Reed City Public Library, Osceola County Animal Shelter, Cancer Fund, etc. It is during these times that I know that the important lessons I have taught my students have reached outside the classroom walls and into the very heart of our community.

What is your funniest memory?
On my second day of teaching third grade, I was greeting my students in the hallway, when one of my young students said, "Good Morning, Ms. Blossom". "Bloom", I gently corrected her with a smile. She shrugged her shoulders and replied, "I knew it had something to do with a flower!"

Can you share a Best Practice for Reading?
I strongly believe it is important to celebrate each child's success. Each month my students decide on a monthly reading goal. They encourage each other and recommend books to read. At the end of each month, we have a celebration in honor of each one's effort and success. At the end of the school year, I also award medals and certificates recognizing students for their learning achievements and with the hope that it will encourage them to try their best the next year.

Can you share a Best Practice for Math?
I believe in daily reviews while teaching new concepts. For example, I use Math Minutes to quickly review 10 different math concepts each day. My students pretend to be detectives as they look for clues to help them solve complex problems. I also include games and activities to help them review concepts they have learned while still differentiating according to their learning abilities. I always point out situations when they will use their new skills in real life. They use all of these important math skills when they purchase and buy cartons of suckers to sell at our school.

Do you have any advice for new teachers?
It is important to build a trusting relationship with each child. Try to make learning fun, yet meaningful. For example, explain to your students why they need to know the concepts you are teaching and how they will use this information later on,. Knowing why they need to learn something, can help a student's motivation. Use real-life situations so that students can use their knowledge. Learn from and trade ideas with other teachers. 
Do your best to "Bloom Where You Are Planted"

Pictures from Pam's classroom:

I have to be honest, I have tears of my own while I'm typing this Post. The reason is that the two servicemen in the picture above are my sons, Wade & Cody who are both in the Navy--one in England and the other in Italy.
 They have both been into your classroom to visit with your students and listen to them sing patriotic songs-and yes, both of them have had tears in their eyes before the songs were finished.
Your "Care Package" program has meant so much to so many men and women across our nation and in many other countries. I remember one year, your class sent Wade a package for his birthday when he was in the middle east. One of your students wrote him a letter and drew a picture. Wade and his whole Unit got a kick out of it and no matter what country he travels to, that picture is with him and goes on the wall. 
I also remember a few years ago when Cody was stationed in California, 18 years old and it was his first Christmas away from home. Your students sent him a box of goodies, gifts and letters. That meant so much to him. He took that package into work and shared it with his whole crew. They were so thankful not only for the food and gifts but that someone remembered them.
Did my boys need boxes of goodies? No, they have family and friends that support them. But to know that others back home were thinking about them and that are thankful for what they are doing...well, you have no idea how special that is.  There are many young men and women that have no one that send letters or boxes of gifts--How sad is that?
You have made a difference in many lives. Your "Care Package" program is a wonderful thing and my family along with many others, hope that you know that you are a special person and are appreciated.
Thanks for sharing your memories, students and advice.