Kinder Korner…

We’ve all heard that everything we ever needed to know we really learned in Kindergarten.  There’s a group of gentle souls who believe it everyday!  Pictured left to right are Candace Ramirez, Karyn Story, Lauren Bergvall, and Roanna Nanney.  Each of these talented teachers gives her heart, mind, and soul to our Kinder friends everyday!

Beyond the basic academics of everyday curriculum, they focus on the “how” and “why” aspects of everything from building relationships with peers and adults to sharing ideas with big hearts to having fun while learning challenging material.  Great strides are made during the Kinder year and these ladies will attest to the overwhelming growth (physically, mentally, and emotionally) each learner makes throughout the course of a school year.

Visiting classrooms and interacting with our new Kinder friends is a warm, fuzzy experience for me.  Children love to share their work, their ideas, and even their most amazing stories.  As I tell Kinder parents in particular, “I’ll believe about 50% of what they tell me about you if you’ll believe about 50% of what they say about me.”  Sharing just comes naturally!

Whether you are a first-time Kinder parent or a veteran by now, we welcome you to join us throughout the year for many school “firsts” in our Kinder classes.  Take lots of pictures and capture those magical moments; (they grow up fast).  Be brave and volunteer to read or assist on a project in the classroom so you experience the “real” feel for Kindergarten.  After all, if it were really that easy, wouldn’t everyone want to be Kinder teacher?!

Yes, even princiPALs have to go to school!

It’s true; even princiPALs have to go back to school to learn new laws, strategies, and ways to meet learning community needs.  Today was such an experience. I enjoyed the day working with other principals and administrators on legal updates under the direction of Jim Walsh, PC.  While the new Texas legislative material is quite daunting and overwhelming, his presentations are always warm, engaging, and rivoting . . . Law Dawg rules!

Anyway, a young Miller learner stopped me as I walked back into the building this afternoon to ask where I’d been (she missed me at lunch and at dismissal, you see).  She proceeds to share with me all the things that occurred in my absence:  Mrs. Bass doing the morning announcements, Mrs. Stanley (the counselor lady) talking with her class (more about her in an upcoming blog), Nurse Sullivan helping someone from the playground, and the library lady sharing a story.  In summary, I missed a great deal today.  She asked to see my note from my mom about my absence.  I smiled and shared that my mom would most definitely have my note ready tomorrow for Mrs. Gossett, but would she like to see the work I did today instead.  I showed her my notebook of legal terms, new laws, court cases, new standards, etc.  “Where are the pictures?”  🙂  “Pictures would make this much better?”  🙂  “There are too many words on each page.”  🙂  “WHEW, I’m so glad I don’t go to THIS school you go to, Mrs. Van!”  🙂  “I’ll just draw you a picture tonight to add to your work tomorrow.”  (I look forward to it!)

Yes, pictures do make the materials better and yes, we all do trainings to improve on our professional and personal goals.  It’s a powerful lesson for our young learners to see us still learning and growing in our work everyday. I hope you will always take a moment to share your work and lessons with your child as well; you are the first teacher after all . . . .

A Special Team…

There’s a SPECIAL group of classroom leaders who daily meet with the entire school population in some form or fashion at Miller Elementary–the Specials Team.  That’s right; “specials time” gives all learners the opportunity to explore art, music, PE, and the library media center in style.  We are grateful for the leadership of Melissa Bolgiano (Library Media Specialist and lead teacher), Scott Fiorenza (art specialist), Coach Blane Rogers (PE), Asst. Coach Amber Martin, and our newest Miller addition, Amber Grant (Music).  I know–two Ambers on one team–what were we thinking?!

These leaders share a common vision for providing enriching, engaging, and meaningful work through various visual, auditory, and tactile means.  Their creative spirits, can-do attitudes, and strong belief in all learners sharing unique gifts and talents are seen daily through the connections they make with each student.  They use state-of-the-art approaches, showcase technology in their lessons, and integrate ideas in clever ways to ensure student success.  Everything they do in their classrooms in turn supports and enriches the regular academic setting at Miller Elementary.  After all, research shows that students who participate on a regular basis in the fine arts and sports perform better in their daily academics.  We are grateful for the opportunity to provide these valuable classes to all learners in our learning community; thanks MISD for supporting these special programs in all our elementary schools.

On top of all this, it is interesting to note this specials team writes, directs, and produces six outstanding team performances each school year.  They truly live by the belief that all learners will be given the opportunity to perform on stage at least once each school year at Miller . . . now you know what really makes them “special!”

Just who signed me up for this anyway?

True story:  A young learner visits my office the first day of the new school year and every day for the first week so I can explain the child’s “job” here at school.  Each day gets a little better but the child just wants to “check in” with me anyway to see if anything’s changed (not counting the times I venture to the classroom to “spy”).  By Friday, a reward is expected because after all, ” I made it all week.”  There are high-fives, praise, a reward, and personal conversation time.  As we walk back to the classroom to complete the day, the child looks up and comments:  “Okay, Mrs. Van; I get it now.  I have to listen to morning ‘nnouncements.  (Yes)  I have to listen to my teacher and follow ‘structions. (Yes)  I have to eat lunch at school and use the loud hand machines. (Yes)  I have to rest and be quiet. (Yes)  I have to be kind, make friends, and walk in the long hall. (Yes)  Well (with hands on hips), just who signed me up for this anyway?

The first week is always a huge challenge; new faces, rules, procedures, HOT weather, little recess time (because of HOT weather), routines, and the onset of reality.  As parents and adults, we understand the necessity of establishing all these important factors at the beginning; young learners just become overwhelmed with the reality.

It is my sincere hope you and your learner experience the most extraordinary adventure at LaRue Miller Elementary this year.  Please let us know what we can do to serve you both!

Living Legend

Often people attempt to live their lives backwards:  they want more things, more education, more money, more order in an attempt to do more of what makes them happy.  The way it actually works is the reverse.  This is the lesson LaRue Miller taught learners daily in her classroom.

Our school namesake reflects:  “You must first be who you really are and then do what you need to do in order to have what you need and want in life.”  It is interesting to note how Mrs. Miller’s philosophy rings true in the generations of lives she has touched through her teaching legacy in Midlothian ISD.  While she would never admit it, she remains a critical part of something profoundly extraordinary because she was the catalyst.

Mrs. Miller will also tell you she is humbled and honored to have her legacy carried forth in the school bearing her name.  We strive everyday to make decisions and choices with her in mind.  When you visit our campus, you will find telltale signs of her blessing:  a picture or book here, a quote there–all little reminders of her majestic influence and inspiration.  She deeply loves our learning community, prays for us, and devotes great time and energy into cheerleading our work.  I am personally grateful for her wisdom, enthusiasm, and hugs; she is so generous with those hugs!  She knows her story, she communicates her story, and she continues to lead with her story everyday!

Thanks, Mrs. Miller, for honoring us with your legacy; thanks for being our personal living legend in MISD.  After all:  “The goal is simple . . . to help you achieve yours!” 

May I help you?

As the saying goes, “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little something extra.”  There are special ladies in the front office who make our daily work at LaRue Miller Elementary so extraordinarily easy!  They truly believe that nothing you do for children (or our entire learning community) is ever wasted.  Pictured on the top row (left to right) are Shannon Gossett, Robin Bass, and Nurse Joanne Sullivan.  Seated, you will see Kim Huff and Vanya Worley.  I could easily write novels about each lady (and oh, the stories I could tell), but we’ll just introduce them to you briefly for now.

Mrs. Gossett is our friendly PEIMS registrar; she assists with attendance, registration, and ensuring PowerSchool is updated for staff and parent access.  Mrs. Bass, our assistant princiPAL, does pretty much “any duty as assigned” throughout the day; she’s my right hand and an expert in investigation (she should have a doctorate in “inner-DISCIPLINary” studies by now).  Nurse Sullivan is the newest addition to our office team (bottom line: we stole her from another campus); we are very grateful for her medical expertise and fun-loving spirit.  Mrs. Huff is usually the first face you see in our office; she smiles all the time and her list of duties is never-ending.  Mrs. Worley is my left hand; she’s the nurturer, chief fixer-upper of any problem, and keeps me well-managed (no easy feat as those who know me will attest).

We are blessed to have extraordinary team members who go above and beyond to serve our learning community.  In future posts, I will take a moment to introduce you to our LaRue Miller family in person.  In the meantime, we invite you to stop by for a visit and get to know these extraordinary front office ladies.  Now, here’s your test:  Who do you think has to make one of her famous dishes for not wearing the correct Miller shirt for this picture?  Hhmmmm . . . .

Monster Trucks

Day Two:  Reality begins to set in; routines are established and practiced; expectations are in place.  Little things like conquering the pesky ketchup packets, opening milk cartons, and covering textbooks become easier.  Bigger things like homework assignments on certain days, checking out library books, forming guided reading groups, or creating passwords for software programs start to occur.  Morning arrival and afternoon dismissal procedures begin to gel . . . we even have fewer morning tardies and shave 15 minutes off the afternoon car line from the previous day!  These small yet highly significant celebrations make our day, but what do they have to do with a monster truck, you ask?

One of my favorite times of the school day is my “walk-about.”  Doctors call them “rounds” but as my office staff will tell you, I’m usually walking-all-about the campus (lucky for them my walkie-talkie is always with me, huh?!).  What is significant about this special time are the casual opportunities I have to interact with learners and their classroom leaders.  For example, in one classroom today, a child was meticulously drawing large shapes on a section of paper to begin a brief writing assignment.  This learner begins to tell me about the picture (monster trucks were involved) and how the family works on these trucks between races.  I will have always have a healthy respect for the power of knowledge involved in building and racing monster trucks as well as an instant connection now with this child as we begin to build a learning relationship this year.

These first few days are critical times in which your child’s teacher builds connections and nurtures a unique relationship with each learner.  This is the foundation for the year ahead.  When you take time to build the relationship, trust soon follows.  It is then easier to provide relevance and increase the rigor throughout the school year so the desired results and outcome occur.  I encourage you to nurture this relationship process from home.  Reach out and make a connection yourself.   Parents are the first teachers; you are our learning partners and participating members on this educational journey.  We need you!

We look forward to seeing you soon at parent meetings, volunteering in the classroom, or coming by to eat lunch with your child.  In the meantime, think about those monster trucks, but don’t let them roll over you this year!

First Day of School!

first day helpersThere are those persons in our daily school life who make all the difference on an opening day . . . the children, parents, staff members, friends, and community helpers.  Then there are those whose very presence simply nurtures us.  The three ladies pictured here, Brenda Folsom, LaRue Miller (our school namesake), and Dolores McClatchey,  have been at every Miller opening since our first day in 2008.  These icons are all Midlothian ISD retirees and teaching legends.  Honestly, we couldn’t open the doors Day #1 without them.  While they like to brag “you’re helping us,” we know, in fact, they are the shoulders we stand upon as we educate the future generation.  Their gentle guidance with new parents, brilliant smiles, kind words, and calm presence set the tone for an amazing first day.  Yes, blessings continue to abound at Miller . . . the first day is always proof.  We look forward to an extraordinary year ahead!

Blessings abound!

Yes, we are blessed at LaRue Miller Elementary!  While I cannot begin to adequately pen each individual blessing in this short missive, you need to trust me on this personal observation.  The annual “blessing of the school” (thanks to all who attended) always reminds me of the daunting task ahead for the coming 177 instructional days . . . tasks for our learners, their classroom leaders, families, and our learning community.  On the night before the first day of school, there is great excitement, expectation, anticipation, anxiety, fear, wonderful smiles, and maybe some tears when thinking about the tasks ahead (and that’s just our Miller staff members).  I challenge us this year to focus more on each day; to capture the majestic moments of each task.  Look at it this way:  the only way to eat the six-tiered cake is one piece at a time.

In his serene wisdom, Ralph Waldo Emerson noted:  “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”  What lies within each learner, each leader, and each member of our LaRue Miller family are extraordinary possibilities; now is the time to experience them!  As we embark together this school year through our educational journey, may you and your learner be showered in profound blessings and majestic moments.  Count your blessings; we’ll see you on Monday!  🙂

Hello world!

Self-Portrait of me!Salutations!  My name is Beth Van Amburgh and I am honored to serve as princiPAL of LaRue Miller Elementary in Midlothian ISD, Midlothian, Texas.  For a twist this year, I accepted a challenge to blog about daily school life here at LME, thus this venue will be the fruits of my writing labor.  I endeavor to:

  1. tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth;
  2. share wit and wisdom from the learners and leaders of our learning community;
  3. offer research-based thoughts on hot topics (well, if I’m telling the truth, then personal interjections may occasionally be somewhat biased); and
  4. give hope during waves of educational change.

Please enJOY the attached portrait of me compliments of a learner sharing her artistic talents.

It’s time to ring the golden bell, LaRue Miller Elementary, on our 2011-2012 school year!  Welcome!