Our two year old's favorite adverb is "really," and just one will not do; she believes that it must be used in threes to be understood. Last night, for example, my wife and I were telling her that she had gymnastics class and swimming lessons today. She said that would be "really, really, really cool." Then I was outside fixing some landscaping lights that our four year old kicked over while pretending he is a ninja -- I was really, really, really unhappy about that -- and Makayla said that the lights are "really, really, really hot." We obviously have some work to do in our house in expanding our adverb vocabulary . . . .
Makayla does not understand my day job, but if she did I know that she'd join me in saying that our school district community should be really, really, really proud of the work being done by many of our students and staff. Here are a few examples from the last several weeks:
-- David Edinger, our new principal at Thornton Elementary, spent time during the first few days of school connecting with students to learn what they liked most about school and what most needed improvement. I met him in a hallway after he'd interviewed 5th graders in the school, and he was wired. Students talked about the safe school environment and the engaging learning opportunities they are provided, but what struck Dave most -- and me too -- was the genuine empathy and concern that these students demonstrated for their younger siblings in the school. They wanted their younger brothers and sisters to have classrooms that weren't crowded, that had stimulating materials and technology, and that were fun and safe. Those fifth graders are much further down the maturity path than when I was that age . . . .
-- Dave also shared with me some of the dialogue he had with parents as he introduced himself to the school community. Dave came to Thornton Elementary after 14 years of service as the principal at Tarver Elementary, a school with more affluent families than his new school. One of the parents asked Dave a question about how he would lead in a school with fewer community resources; they wanted to see if his heart was really invested in the work. His answer reflected the values shared by staff throughout the District: "Each of our students give us their best everyday. It is our job to take what they have, whether rich or poor, and make them better." I'm confident that the students at Thornton Elementary will end this school year much better than they started because of the work of the TES team.
-- Father Greg, pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary church, wrote in the weekly bulletin about the Thornton High School cross country team that was completing a long run and drawn to a sign advertising free food at the church. The team pitched in and helped the church volunteers in moving things around, ate -- I'm sure a lot! -- and have since been in touch with Father Greg to see if they can help in other ways. We often hear about self-centered kids and teens, but these students are cut from the same cloth as the Thornton Elementary fifth graders.
-- Our Crossroads Middle School and ASTAR program for students with disabilities moved into the Vantage Point building and have much cleaner, brighter, and functional environments than in their prior buildings. Our facilities team did a fantastic job in renovating the space over the summer. The entire building is spotless, reflecting the pride of students and staff in their learning environment, and the staff and students brought great energy to the instruction I observed when I was there. Alan Hollenbeck, the new Vantage Point principal, talked about the work the staff at Vantage Point/Crossroads have undertaken this fall to set high expectations for students and themselves. I am really, really, really confident that those high expectations will be translated into outstanding outcomes.
-- Our Hulstrom Options School and its staff are receiving well-deserved recognition at the state level. Hulstrom was selected by 5280 Magazine as one of the best public elementary schools in the Denver area, and the Colorado Association of Libraries selected the school's power library as the Colorado Library of the Year. Great schools require great staff, engaged students, and supportive parents -- and Hulstrom has all three elements in place. On the staff side, teacher-librarian Laura Israelsen has worked with her colleagues throughout the school to infuse technology throughout the curriculum, and Tara Howard has been her supportive right-hand assistant in making Hulstrom's library worthy of state recognition. This fall's honors follow last year's recognition of Hulstrom's Michelle Pearson as one of three finalists for Colorado Teacher of the Year.
There's lots more to share, but I'll save it for another time. I hope all of you have a really, really, really good week!