Sunday, January 29, 2017

Cultivating Kindness!

We are working hard spreading the VBE VIBE
Value Respect
Inspire Others
Be Responsible
Exercise Safety

I had a parent stop me after the awards ceremony and wanted to know what we are doing different this year to get such incredible results in academics and the 92% drop in discipline.  To begin with, I believe it is because we have built up our relationships with our families and the community. We have encouraged all stakeholders to have a voice and participate in the education process with us. Second, I think it has to do with our focus on the VIBE and kindness.

Here's a great video with pointers on what we can all do to encourage this outside of school.  The video is from Harvard Education.  It definitely made me think about my own boys so I wanted to share with our VBE families.

Very interesting!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

#eduwin Friday!

We are ALL growing at Vero Beach Elementary!

Friday was a day filled with #eduwin situations!

As a Principal and lead learner, I have become obsessed with learning and improving.  Being a part of two very strong Voxer groups gives me an opportunity to learn, seek advice, steal strategies, and vet programs that can benefit our school.  One of the main things I have taken away from these amazing leaders is the importance of being visible.  Being in the moment and immersed in the learning!

This week we were challenged to spend an entire day with kidddos!
Thank you #principalsinaction and #momsasprincipals for always encouraging me to grow!

What I was able to take away from Friday was priceless!  At least 7 different #eduwins!

1.  Our grade chair morning meeting (before kiddos arrive) allowed us to really dive into our data and recognize who and what our assets are in each grade level.  Our amazing leaders then had a chance to create a grade level action plan to support areas of opportunity.  #eduwin

2. To celebrate our 100th day of school our kids dressed up, created projects, proved thier ability to do 100 tasks aligned to grade level standards, and had a chance to show their creative side.  I love how one of our students used 100 legos to write "100!"  He was so proud of his creativity!
Students taking ownership of their learning #eduwin

3. As lead learners we used the 100 day to promote literacy.  We created scarfs filled with 100 golden wampum,  a very coveted PBS incentive.  It took me only 20 minutes to find 100 students that could show me the book they are currently reading in their backpack!  I was so impressed! Students loving Literacy #eduwin

4.  Our day continued with awards for 4th and 5th grade.  I can't believe how much our ceremonies have transformed, from students earning awards for clean desks... to now students being celebrated over and over again for 50+ point gains on their ELA and math diagnostics.   Every single little Indian EARNED an award!  Every. Single. One.  A parent stopped me after and told me that the ceremony made her so proud because she felt every child was celebrated and she's never seen that before.  That's what I call an #eduwin!

5. Ms. Moree and I spent time visiting every single class and taking pictures of our Little Indians engaged in learning.  We ordered over 100 11x14 pictures that we can not wait to put on canvas and hang in our hallways. The kids LOVE seeing their faces on our walls.  We hope to have this completed by next week!  #eduwin

6.  Our community partnerships contribute to grow and expand.  Thanks to our Literacy coach, Sarah Van Brimmer, and one of our school board members, Tiffany Justice; we have a huge kick off event planned for VBE on Monday!  Our students are going to love the guests who have committed to help us prove that #leadersarereaders #eduwin

7. Techie learning!  I was able to witness the power of technology to enhance differentiated learning in a 1st grade classroom.  Thanks to the learning alliance and the share fair nation grant- we will be adding 50 iPads to VBE!  In addition, our school is ordering another 25!  This means we will have 5 iPads in each of our Kinder- 2nd grade classes for our students to utilize to fill the technology and achievement gap!  #onourwaytoanA. #vbevibe #techieeduwin

We couldn't do any of this alone.  Thank you to every single person who has contributed to the growth and transformation taking place at VBE!


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Too important to do alone.

I'm approaching a milestone in my career... it's almost my one year "work"iversary as a Principal and Lead Learner.

For those of you that have been following our blog, you know that this wasn't a typical experience of a new Principal, but I wouldn't change this for the world!

From the moment I got into education I realized that I really wanted to have a global impact on student learning and social emotional wellbeing.  I was addicted to helping students see the potential I saw in them, and that desire grew when I was able to do the same for the passionate and sometimes disheartened teachers as well.

However, what I quickly learned is that  being a Principal is humbling.

It's Incredibly humbling because it's something that can't be done alone and for some of us that have control issues (cough cough... me) it can be difficult to pass control and delegate important tasks on to others.

In this one year I have learned that it starts with taking time to understand our personal leadership mission and purpose.  What I have always known is that my core foundation is serving kiddos.  Every decision that I make stems from, "what's best for kids," and, "what research and data supports this decision."  Knowing the students are my essence helps everyone who I interact with.  They know to frame their requests with how it will benefit our students and increase student achievement or student emotional well being. It doesn't hurt that I have the most incredible Assistant Principal (the yin to my yang) and administrative assistant.  They both lead with thier hearts in helping others, exuding this sentiment in every capacity.

Next I learned not to make assumptions.  I came into a school mid-year and it truly took time to watch what was taking place and really decifer what could be tweaked to maximize results.  Building up the leadership team that serves our students and teachers is a necessity.  Shifting roles from a hierarchy of perceived power to a level playing field, where we all serve as instructional coaches, has helped us align to meet the needs of all stakeholders.  We are in this together.  The importance of our tribal council at VBE can not be devalued.  I'm so lucky to have the strongest team with a common mission and vision paving the way for student and teacher success every single day.  It wasn't easy and I think that helps all of us not take for granted the strong VIBE we now have together. Together is key.

Next is our TRIBE!  We must insist that every single member of our staff stay inspired by change and be held accountable to driving improvement forward.  I am a firm believer that there isn't a school in this country with harder working teachers.  We push each other, we question each other, and we share our #failforward moments together.  My role in this is to continuously shine light on those who go above and beyond and feverishly push all boundaries towards innovation.

Next is that we could not possibly do this without our community. The learning alliance, district personnel, and parents HAD to be invested for us to do the hard work.  Repairing our reputation and replenishing lost relationships were vital in our transformation over the past year.  Recognizing the value of all our stakeholders and requesting support and acknowledging their efforts is something I feel our school excels in.  We needed them and they came out in full force!  We couldn't do this without the full support and help of all involved!

Beyond what is required from our local community and within the walls of the school, this past seven months I feel I have grown tremendously by focusing on my own pedagogy and insisting on personal self improvement. This can not be done alone either. It's too important to be fixed in a leadership mindset, we must evolve and be open to opportunities to grow.  Luckily, my educational partner in crime and the other lead learner at VBE, Rachel Moree; has the same perspective.  We love learning.  We love dorking out on new books, podcasts, and projects.

What I have also realized in this year is that being an admin is no different than being a teacher in so many ways.  One of the greatest philosophies that I learned as an educator is that you," steal from the best and make it your own."  This transfers to the role of a leader too.  By growing my personal Learning Network (PLN) through twitter and my incredible Voxer groups; Moms as Principals & Principals in Action, I have been able to cultivate a high performing positive environment through vetted programs, strategies, and reflection. I love that we are constantly challenging each other and using our tribe as a sounding board for ideas and strategies.

In growing as a leader, one thing that has helped push me forward personally is having an incredible, unforeseen mentor to help me really hone in my intent and purpose.   In a chance encounter, I met someone who truly helped me prioritize my goals, manage my time, and frame my thoughts towards high-yield leadership strategies. Dr. Bobby Moore has guided me to a personal commitment of blended data-driven decisions, social emotional focus, and balance in my life.  He works with Batelle for Kids, and I can't imagine being in the position I am this year without his support and pushing over the last 7 months.  He has urged me to catapult out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to take risks, most importantly to be reflective and willing to tell the story of transformation.  Thanks to him, Rachel Moree and I submitted a proposal and will be facilitating a break out session on data and transformational leadership at FASA this year. I also will be working on moderating an international chat on twitter soon.  So many risks, but it's important for us to continue to tell our story so everyone knows that this work is too important to do on our own.

What I love most about education is that there is always room to grow.  Having this first year under my belt is completely gratifying.  Knowing where the school was... and where it is now... I can't help but jump up and down and want to scream about the progress our tribe has made!!!   My true hope is that in twenty years I still crave feedback and I understand the fact that this work is much too important to do on our own and that I welcome every single opportunity to grow and reflect.

Ultimately, it's too important to do alone.  Everyone working with children should feel a burning urgency to help every single one reach their true potential!

Saturday, January 7, 2017


At our grade chair meeting I shared a story about a situation that happened a day earlier. That day was our students first day back from winter break and I was excited to see them.  I really missed them, and to be honest, I didnt sleep much thinking about some of their situations at home over the break. Some I knew didnt have a pleasant holiday break.  Some endured tummy pains from not enough food, heart ache from Santa not bringing them a toy for Christmas despite them being so good this year, and I knew some wouldn't be ready to come back to a structured school day.

I waited for our Little Indians in the car loop along within Deputy May, with a sign that said, "YOU matter at VBE."

I wanted the families to see it, but more importantly I wanted our Little Indians to see it.

Being greeted by so many kiddos with smiles, high-fives, and hugs was such an amazing feeling.

However, as I made it the courtyard for more hugs and smiles, I came up on a kindergartner.  He saw me and immediately ran up and hugged me through his tears.  He began sobbing.  He was hysterical.  I began to think about every situation that could have possibly caused this.  (My mind always jumps to the worst possible scenario.)

When I finally got him to calm down, he shared with me why he was so upset.

You see he got in an argument with a first grader on the bus.

Oh no, here we go.

He told me with tears still streaming down his face that his friend said this:
"I couldn't wait to come back to school, I really like it."

He began sobbing again.  I was trying to figure out what about that was so bad.

I began prying, "Why does that make you so sad?"

He stopped and stared at me with his big brown eyes.

"It makes me mad because I LOVE school,  and he only LIKES school!"

I giggled.

I grabbed him by his little hand and walked my friend to class.

Welcome back Little Indians, welcome back.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2016 year in review at Vero Beach Elementary.

I spent all day trying to verbalize what has taken place over the course of just one year.   Sometimes... words don't do justice.

Vero Beach Elementary Year in Review 2016

Monday, January 2, 2017

INSIGHT in 2017

One word challenge for 2017: INSIGHT! 

This year has been an incredible journey!  Having the opportunity to work as the lead learner and principal at Vero Beach Elementary has been an extraordinary adventure.  It's been filled with anxiety, fear, excitement, stress, and perseverance.  I couldn't be more proud of our Tribe and what we have accomplished in just one year.  Discipline down, learning gains up, and most importantly- happy thriving students!  I must say, with my heart poured into the walls of the school there have been far too many moments this year that I haven't been present with my loved ones.  The reality is far too often I was reactive and hyper focused on change at school.  This left very little energy to be present in my home life.  2017 will be different.   I'm finding that, while I will always be learning and growing, I have to have balance.   This will be the year of insight, inspired by my four year old, Aiden.  As my family ventured on our yearly road trip from Florida to the mountains;  I was deeply inspired by my youngest.   He listened intently to his older brother who explained the basics of snowboarding to him.  He asked questions and this helped him alleviate his fears.   As we snapped on the snowboard he said, "this is going to be awesome."  While he wasn't perfect, he persevered.  In fact, his favorite moment wasn't when he mastered the slope, it was when he fell.  He used those "mistakes" to enjoy the snow and create snow angels.

There is something about having the moxie to try new things and accomplish goals that we set that invigorates me.  The moments with my family have refreshed me and erased so many of the thoughts and fears that I had about the upcoming year. I'm not perfect, but I believe we have the tenacity to devour any obstacles that stand in the way!

2017 will be about insight.

Having the ability to understand that my career will flourish when I take care of my needs as well. Exercise, healthy habits, and taking care of my family have to be valued and prioritized

 Using insight to make decisions to continue moving our school from reactive to proactive student-centered decisions. 

 Recognizing that innovation will be the key to creating equity in our school.  The students deserve opportunities that level the playing field and inspire them to achieve their potential.  I will continue to advocate for them every single chance I get 

My staff deserves every decision to stem from insight, research, and passion.  We all need to keep our focus on what is best for the kiddos! 

I've been blessed with an amazing amount of insight from my professional learning networks through twitter, the principals in action Voxer group, and the moms as principals Voxer group.  This is something I treasure.  Having a "always growing and inspiring" mindset is what has got me through some of the darkness that this year has had.  

2017 is going to be incredible because my home tribe, work tribe, and learning tribe  have given me incredible insight to appreciate the madness and beauty that life is all about. 

Who else Is pumped for an amazing year?!