Saturday, May 31, 2014

Enter Like a Child

It's amazing to think that another school year has come and gone. Yesterday was our last day, and everyone seemed to be in high spirits. It didn't hurt that there was an awesome water-slide in the school yard to reward the children for making Lighthouse School! In my classroom, we also watched the movie Charlotte's Web, since my students and I had taken turns reading the book aloud.

I have some things to finish up in my classroom this week, but it's great to have a break from lesson planning and record keeping. I am reminiscing on the good times that I had with my students this year and all that they have taught me.
A rare picture of all of my students. We were at the Lodge (restaurant) in Kōkeʻe State Park.

This is probably my favorite photo of my students. Here they are joyfully running to what they called "Heaven." There is an awesome cloud formation on the top of Kōkeʻe (the mountain/volcano), and you get to be in the midst of it up there. I especially loved it because I had just read to them in religion class from Matthew 18:3: "Truly I tell you unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (NRSV). One of them had raised her hand and said, "Sister, I know what that means. It means to go to Heaven you have to be amazed by God. We children are amazed by everything. If I went to Heaven and saw God, I don't know what I'd do, I'd just be amazed!" I had never heard that interpretation of this verse before, but I believe that she was spot on! This picture proves it! I heard some tourists grumble about not being able to look down and see the Waimea Canyon and there were my students, rejoicing about being in "Heaven" with the angels! May we all become childlike.

A week from now, I will be beginning my annual five day silent retreat. This time, I will be spending it at St. Francis Convent's House of Prayer. I look forward to retreat all year. It's a great gift! If you have any special intentions, please add them to the comments section. Our House of Prayer is not open to the public but if you desire to go on retreat, there are other options for you. If you are a young woman, you can come to our Motherhouse for a discernment retreat. Anyone can find retreats elsewhere.

God bless you all.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Time to Celebrate

I am proud to say that Saint Theresa School is the first school on Hawaii and the fifth school in the nation to become a Renaissance Lighthouse School of Excellence! Let me tell you: this was not easy by any means! It required diligence, grit, and optimism. As teachers we would spend hours pouring ourselves over pages of data, adjusting our teaching methods, finding incentives, and turning ourselves into motivational speakers and cheerleaders. For our students it meant pushing themselves beyond what they ever dreamed of accomplishing! Yes, it really did take their blood (paper cuts), sweat (it is Hawaii), and tears (lots of them)!  I felt like I was leading them on a major wilderness expedition as they went through a roller coaster of emotions striving to meet their individual goals. I watched in admiration as they became each other's biggest fans. They are the true winners of this award!

My students (one missing, one camera shy) showing off their hard-earned banners of Model Classroom for Accelerated Math, Model and Master Classroom for Math Facts in a Flash, and Model and Master Classroom for Accelerated Reading.
Everyone was jubilant at the ceremony on May 14th! After the ceremony, the staff and other special guests went to the home of one of our families to share an ocean-side meal under the stars. It was such a delightful, upbeat evening!

I am so appreciative of all the people in this photo! Our Principal, Mary Jean Buza-Sims is in the front, holding the trophy. She's very supportive and helpful! The next person on the right is Terri, our school's Renaissance Representative. We couldn't have done it without her. For me personally, she spent a lot of time consulting with me about my students' data and how we could help them reach their goals. On the far right is one of our city council members who showed her support and pride for our school. On the top level, starting on the left is Val Parker who helped connect our school with the Renaissance Program and wrote the grant. To her right is the Vice President from Renaissance who made the trip down here, and last but not least is Mayor Carvalho, who continues to be a major supporter of the Saint Theresa School and Community.
In my excitement, I may have left you with a few unanswered questions!

What is Renaissance Learning?

Renaissance Learning is a company that performs assessments on students and makes it easier for teachers to provided individualized instruction. Through Renaissance Learning, all students are able to be challenged in reading and math, no matter how they well they perform in relation to their peers. Since the goals for each of the students are individualized, through hard work and discipline, all students are able to meet and exceed them! My favorite part about this program is the confidence that it gives children. I will never forget hearing a student say, "I believe in myself now!"

Renaissance Learning also makes classroom and school-wide goals possible. For instance, we have eighty-eight children enrolled at our school, so we created a goal that our students would read and pass Accelerated Reading comprehension quizzes on 2,500 books.  Our students have read and passed quizzes on over 5,000 books this year!

Renaissance Learning is used in more than a third of the schools in the United States and more than sixty countries worldwide.

What kinds of programs does Renaissance Learning offer?

It's always expanding, but here are some of them:

  • STAR Assessments (Early Literacy, Reading, Math, Reading Spanish)
  • Accelerated Reader
  • Accelerated Math
  • Math Facts in a Flash
  • Keywords (keyboarding/typing skills)
What is the role of a Lighthouse School?

As a Lighthouse School, we can guide other schools to success just like actual lighthouses guide ships. As a staff we have learned so much from this process, and we are here to help others.