Thursday, July 31, 2008

Advice about Orientation

Orientation happens before the first day of school, so your target is to have your room ready (at least neat and clean) by Orientation when you will first see parents and your new students. The schedule for Friday, August 15 is as follows:

8:00-9:00 Kindergarten and 2nd grade
11:00-12:00 1st and 4th
2:00-3:00 3rd and 5th

From 1st grade teacher, Haley Alvarado to 1st grade teachers: Below is a example of the Orientation info Meredy and I going to use for our class. We'll have to put the small details in later. You can easily put it into a PowerPoint format if you prefer that method. Other things you will want, maybe, are a sign up sheet for possible volunteers (in/out of the class), Fun Friday (parents sign up to bring in a snack or treat for the whole class on Fridays) sign up.

ABC’s of First Grade

A Absence: If your child is absent, please make sure to send in an official doctor’s note to be an excused absence. If your child will be leaving early for an appointment, please let us know in the planner what time he/she will be checked out.
Arrival and Dismissal: Students should arrive after 8:30 a.m. They will report to the hallway outside of the classroom each morning. School begins promptly at 9:00. Dismissal will begin at 3:15 p.m. from the car loop circle. All students should be picked up no later than 3:40. If your child is a car rider, you will need to be in the lane closest to the school. The outermost lane is reserved for Kindergarten only!

B Behavior Expectations: See the attached sheet.
Birthdays: If you wish to bring in a treat for the class for your child’s birthday, please let us know in advance. Birthday treats will be handed out during recess or on a day that you volunteered for Fun Friday.
Breakfast: A school breakfast is served every morning from 8:30 – 9:00 a.m. The cost of breakfast is $.70.

C Communication: A weekly newsletter from us goes home every Monday. Parent/teacher communication will be done through “blue home-school folders.” Please read monthly calendar for events in the classroom and resource schedule.
Conferences: Parent/teacher conferences are held before and after school at a scheduled time. Both Mrs. Mack and Mrs. Alvarado will be present for each scheduled conference. We will hold a conference with each parent in the start of the 3rd nine-week period.

D Daily Schedule: Look at the schedule posted outside of the classroom.

E Emergency information: If for any reason your emergency numbers change during the year, please inform the office and us ASAP so you can be located quickly if an emergency occurs.
Early Dismissal: Early release days are every other Wednesday. Students will be dismissed at 2:00. Due to professional development on these days, we will be unavailable for conferencing.

F Field trips: If you would like to chaperons, please remember that younger children will not be allowed to attend and that you must drive your own car. Please send permission slips back ASAP. Field trips must be paid with CASH. All chaperons must attend the volunteer orientation.

G Grading: Students in First Grade will receive grades of E, S+, S, S-, and U. They earn grades in Communications (Reading/Writing), Mathematics, and Social Growth and Development (Behavior).

H Homework: Homework will be sent home on Monday. Your child is asked to complete this work by him/herself, under your supervision, and return it on Friday. Homework is counted as a percentage of your child’s academic grade. Homework that is turned in a day late will have points taken off.

I Information folder: Please make sure you fill out all items in the folder and return them to school as quickly as possible.
Illness: If your child is sick, please keep him/her home. If your child becomes ill at school, you will be contacted and expected to pick him/her up promptly from the clinic.

J Junk: Sometimes your household “junk” can be used in the classroom. We collect toys and treats for our “treasure box.” Occasionally we will need extra household items such as toilet paper rolls, baby food jars, soda bottles, or other items for projects and experiments.

K Keeping in touch: Communication is very important. You can contact us through notes in the daily folder or leave a message on our voicemail: 992-6390 Ext. 109. We check home-school folders each morning, therefore this is the best way for us to get your message before our day begins.
Keeping up: First Grade is going to be a year of lots of new learning, projects, and fun! We highly recommend making it a priority to review our monthly calendar of events on the front of the home-school folder. Also, take time to review your child’s homework assignments and graded assessments, so that you are always aware of your child’s progress.

L Lunch: Your child may bring a lunch or buy a school lunch. Lunch is $1.30. Milk may be purchased separately for $.40. Please send any money in a baggie marked with name, lunch number, and amount. Send checks on Monday if you are planning to deposit money into your child’s account. Your child’s lunch number must be on the check (these numbers will be given to you). Our class will go to lunch each day from _____________.

M Math: The First Grade mathematics curriculum, Math Investigations, provides students with mathematical experiences that help them develop number sense and a positive attitude towards mathematics that will continue through their school career and their lives. We employ a hands-on problem solving approach.
Medicine: All medicine must be kept and administered in the main office. Children are not allowed to carry medication with them.

N Necessary School Supplies: Please make sure your child has the school supplies they need as indicated on the school supply list. Please be reminded not to label your child’s school supplies.

O Outside: Our class will have 30 minutes of playground time each day. Please make sure your child is dressed appropriately for play and weather.

P Parental Involvement: Your support of school activities makes your child feel important and sends the message that you value school. We are always happy to have your help in/out of the classroom and for special activities.
PTA: Please join our PTA! Our PTA supports many events, buys books, and provides money for miscellaneous items throughout the year. You do not need to join for each child. If you would like to sponsor a family for our class, please let me know. The cost of PTA is only $5!
Parties: There will be special events throughout the school year. The room parents usually organize these events and coordinate volunteers and donations. All are welcome to participate in the festivities.

Q Questions?

R Resources: Students will participate in resources Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from _____________. Students are fortunate enough to participate in Art, Music, Media, Science, Character Education, P.E., and Technology.
Report cards: Report cards are issued every nine weeks. These reports reflect the progress your child has made towards our First Grade academic objectives and uses a grading system that reflects the developmental nature of First Grade learning.

S Scholastic: Scholastic book orders are a great way to build your home library with quality children’s books at reduced prices. For every dollar you spend, our class receives points towards the purchase of books for our classroom library. All scholastic orders need to be made out to Scholastic in the form of a check or money order.

T Transportation: We must know how your child is getting home on the first day of school! Please make sure you fill out this important information about how they will get home each day. If your child is a bus rider, we need to know the bus number and the stop number. Please notify us in writing if your child is going home a different way than he/she normally does. This is a MUST! Do not leave a phone message; we cannot ensure that we will receive it in time!

U Uniforms: Uniforms are white or navy shirts and khaki or navy bottoms. Opt out forms are available in the Office.

V Volunteers: Volunteers are greatly appreciated both in and out of the classroom. If you are interested in volunteering, please look over the various volunteer roles that are available and sign up on the “Volunteer Sheet”.

W Wish List: There are extra items that we could use in the classroom. These are items that the class will be using throughout the year. Our wish list of desired classroom items is on the sign-in table. Thank you for your support!

X X-Etc: Fun Friday is a weekly celebration. Parents are asked to sign up to provide a small snack and drink for the class on the day they volunteered for. This is also a great time to celebrate your child’s birthday. Look for the sign up sheet.

Please label all of your child’s personal belongings with his/her first and last name. Lunch boxes, jackets, sweaters tend to be very difficult to find if lost.

Y Your role as a partner in education: Help your child become responsible. Ask questions. Look in your child’s daily planner for important papers and sign the home-school folder daily. Look over your child’s homework. Read the newsletter and the Chets Creek Connection. Read to your child and listen as they read to you.

Z ZZZZ’s: Make sure that your child gets plenty of rest. Setting and keeping a bedtime is a wonderful gift you can give to your child. It will help them to be alert and ready to learn each day.

We look forward to another great year with your participation and support!

From 1st grade teacher, Debbie Harbour: Plan well for Orientation and it will go smooth. I always wear a dress and try to look extremely put together. One of the most important things I learned was to put a basket and sticky notes at a table. Tell the parents if they have any questions when you are done to put their name, child’s name, and the question on a note and stick it in the basket. You will get back to them as soon as possible. Blame it all on time! That way if you don’t know the answer, they won’t know you don't know. Also, make sure you have sign up sheets. Anyone who needs them can e-mail me for samples. Add in a sheet about yourself. Parents like to know a bit about you. I like to have cookies for the kids to eat because it keeps them busy, out of my stuff that is all set up, and quiet!

From 1st grade teacher, Maria Mallon:

  • I suggest wearing professional attire for Orientation (it's an hour) and you can change after. You want to make a good first impression!
  • Have a script ready on all the points you want make clear. Most of it will be about the first week of school, homework expectations, time to be at school, etc. Parents will be as glazed over as you are - so don't worry about getting up in front of people. I like to have an ABC's of the 1st Grade program run off for each parent. I briefly touch on A-attendance, B-birthdays, C- communication, etc. This keeps me on track - and can be done on PowerPoint.
  • A wish list is nice to have for those "extras" - Sharpies, binders, printer cartridges, gift cards (to Walmart, Office Max, Target, Michaels - $5.00 are always nice). I put what I would like on an index card for the parent to take with him/her at Orientation. On it I write the item I would like and have them return the card with their name on it so I know who to thank when the wish list items come in.
  • On the tables I put the ABC program, any sheets from the office, a welcome letter, a gift bag for each student, and candy.
  • Remember it's not an Open House, so you don't have to get super detailed. Keep it upbeat, fast-paced, and fun. Have sticky notes for questions. If they have questions just ask them to put the sticky note on the board with their name/phone # and then call with the answer before the first day or write up a question/answer sheet to send home on the first day.
  • Make sure you tell parents where they will be dropping their child off on the first day and not to linger. School is starting.
  • You will be saved by Mrs. Phillips ending the Orientation in one hour. She'll come over the loud speaker and thank parents for coming and then ask the teachers to come to the Office for a meeting.
  • If parents want a mini-conference, remind them about the question/answer sticky notes and you'll get back to them. (Make sure you get back to them.)

From 1st grade teacher, Vicky Groves: The most important thing to do at Orientation? Find out how each child will get home on the the first day of school? I usually have this on a chart with the student names listed and before the parents leave Orientation I am sure to ask if they filled it out. If they didn't come to orientation...these are the children that I call over the weekend or I target the first day of school..."How will you be going home today?"

From 2nd grade ELA teacher (first year teacher last year) Denise Evanko:

  • For Orientation, the basics you need to go over: the planner, discipline/behavior management, grades, the daily schedule, a introduction of yourself. Give the parents a basic run down of your day and what you will be doing with their children.

  • Make sure to have a "wishing well" posted in the room of things you will need/want for your room. You can write them on post-it notes so parents can grab them as they leave. Some things I asked for were double sided tape, magnet strips, labels, sandwich bags....

  • Have a sign up sheet for parent volunteers throughout the year posted.

  • Make sure you have contact information for each child. At Orientation have a sign-in sheet that has: name, phone numbers, and how child is going home on the first day.

Tips from a 3rd grade co-teacher, Jenny Nash: Last year, Joe and I team taught, but we decided to combine our Orientation, since parents want to meet us both anyway. We had the room set with sign-in sheets at tables around the room (divided alphabetically and labeled for easy navigation). On the respective tables, we had pens and the required information forms/permission slip for first day of school WOW activity. As parents arrived, we circulated, asking parents to work on those and leave them in bins on a designated table in the room (separate bins for each homeroom -- clearly labeled). We had previously personalized a shared power point. After the room appeared to be "full", we introduced ourselves and co-presented the slide show. Items mentioned included our backgrounds/experience, teaching arrangement, daily schedule, administration, how to pay lunch money (and cost of meals), dismissal times, resources, communication plans (including my class blog address), etc. We had our first edition of our classroom newsletter available for them to take home (included classroom policies, rules, behavior plan, contact info for us along with preferred method of contact -- email, rewards plans, etc.). After the formal presentation we had a sort of "cocktail hour" and mingled to meet students and parents. No, we did not have refreshments. I am a big believer in mingling. I think that is what parents come to these events looking for -- a chance to speak with the teacher privately for a moment and get a smile, introduce their child, etc. I try to soak up names as much as possible. This year, I think it would be fun to get a picture with children. It would be helpful for learning names/faces/stories, but also just neat to have at the end of the year.

Advice from 4th grade teacher, Christy Constande:

  • Orientation is a perfect time to make a first impression. I used to try and present too much information at Orientation. As I have matured, I have simplified things. There is usually a powerpoint that is created and is shared that you can use to guide your orientation if you want. This year's will probably be outstanding!

  • Something we started a few years back was a "family photo op." We find a place in our room, something that will provide a good back drop, and we have a dry erase board and we write for example, "Michael and family." We then develop the pictures, study them over the weekend, and then post them in the room. The children love seeing the pictures, and during the year if we have a parent conference, and can't remember what the parent looks like, we have a cheat sheet!!

  • We have something on each child's seat for them to do related to our theme while we are taking pictures. We also instruct the parents to fill out the one form that states how their child is getting home the first day. This MUST be collected before the family leaves so you know how each child is getting home. You can put baskets in the middle of the tables, or collect them by the door.

  • After the pictures are taken, we introduce ourselves, utilize the powerpoint, and tell every parent the truth - that we love what we do each and every day, and that we are going to love and take care of their child academically, socially, and emotionally. That is really what they want to hear the first time they meet you.

  • We always give the students something- a goody bag with candy, fruit chews, pencils etc. If you can find something related to the theme, that would be great.

  • Also at Orientation you are invited to post a "Wish List." You can change the name of it to relate to the theme. It is an opportunity to use cut outs or stickies and write the name of supplies that you could use in the classroom. Shoot for the stars. You can ask for gift cards, the specific names of paperback books that you would like, film, items you need for an upcoming craft, decorative computer paper, wrapped candy, etc.

Advise from 5th grade ELA teacher, Terri Lehane:

  • Ask around to see what your grade level teachers are doing. Everyone is willing to share. Work smarter not harder. Ask them to e-mail their agenda or power point. Use those ideas and tweak for your class.

  • Before Orientation, get to know your class. Doing a "welcome board" helps you to know the kids. Try to match faces to names. It always impresses parents when you know their child's name, or something about them at Orientation.

  • Last, but not least, ask for help if you feel overwhelmed. We have all been there, and everyone is willing to help.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Advice about Pre-planning

This is some advice for you as you get ready for Pre-planning - so you don't look like the picture to the left!

From Kindergarten teacher Deb Cothern: Be prepared to be a little overwhelmed and know that you are not the only one. Throughout the building there are sooooo many creative ideas that it is easy to find yourself wandering around and feeling lost. Don't panic!! As long as your room is clean, organized and inviting you will make a "good" impression. Keep in mind the every square inch of your walls should NOT be covered. In fact if your walls are too busy it can make the students feel overwhelmed. Your walls will eventually be filled with the artifacts from mini-lessons that you create together with your students.

From 1st grade teacher Maria Mallon: Any time you can put into your classroom before the start of Pre-planning is worth its weight in gold. Try to get as much cleaned, set up, and organized (files, binders, office, etc.) before Pre-planning begins. In this way, when you are called into meetings or pulled away from your classroom, you won't be stressed thinking of all you have to do. Plan on spending full days plus before Pre-planning begins...

From 1st grade teacher, Debbie Harbour: For brand new teachers this is such an overwhelming time. Even for seasoned teachers, we still wonder how we will get everything done, and even now, don’t know where to start. Start with your furniture. Once you decide the layout of your classroom then all other things can fall into place. Each part of the day, prioritize what to do and try to finish the project before moving on (sometimes this is easier said than done). If you stay later in the evening there aren’t as many people there and you tend to get a lot done. Do as much computer work from home like getting papers for Orientation and stuff ready. More important ~ go by everyone’s room often to get ideas and look for things you may not know you need. Ask anyone ~ we share very well. When it comes to buying stuff, spend what you can, but don't overspend. Remember you can make a lot. Also, there will be lots of teacher kids around (especially teenagers who need service hours) and they will help you move, cut, or hang. Take advantage of them.

From 2nd grade teacher (new last year), Denise Evanko:

  • Check the Sunday ads for coupons for AC Moore and Michaels to buy decorations and random items.
  • Don't underestimate the Elision machine in the library for decorating your room. You can create decorations for free!
  • Finally, put up a bulletin board titled "Getting to Know You" or something along those lines. On the yellow promotion cards, you will find a statement that last year's teacher made about each student. You can use these statements for your bulletin board. This should be up for Orientation.

From Cheryl Chascin: One tip I have for handling supplies as they come in is to print address labels during Pre-planning. I create labels for Reader's Journal, Writer's Journal, Dialogue Journal, Homework Folder, etc. (you can even use cute fonts that go with the theme). I also create a sheet of labels for each student with their name. Using these labels, students can easily identify their own supplies. We collect notebook paper and pencils (with student name labels attached) and store them in the cabinets, distributing them several times during the school year so that students always have a ready supply. Leftover labels can be saved for new students. Leftover name labels can be used as name tags for that first week or on field trips during the year.

From 5th Grade ELA teacher, Terri Lehane:
  • Work on getting your room ready first.

  • Don't make yourself crazy. Borrow ideas- Walk around the school and write down what you would like to add to your classroom- you will get other ideas just by looking at what other teachers have done.
  • Once your room is complete, prepare for Orientation. Ask around to see what your grade level teachers are doing. Everyone is willing to share. Work smarter not harder. Ask them to e-mail their agenda or power point. Use those ideas and tweak to your class.

  • Before Orientation, get to know your class. Doing your "Getting to Know You/ Welcome" board helps you to know the kids. Try to match faces to names. It always impresses parents when you know their child's name, or something about them at Orientation.

  • Last, but not least, ask for help if you feel overwhelmed. We have all been there, and everyone is willing to help.

From Music teacher, Dee Dee Tamburrino: Get an early start each day of Pre-planning. The sheer numbers standing in line at the Ellison and laminating machines are overwhelming. Don't worry - we'll recognize that "deer in the headlights look" and will be there to help!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Theme-related Decorations!

by Melanie Holtsman Since I spend much of my summer tracking down theme related decorations for the office and common areas... here's what I have learned about finding "stuff" for this year's theme:
  • There is a map and country flag border at Schools Aids on St. Johns Bluff as well as some great continent posters.

  • World Market has a great "old world" map poster and some neat knickknacks (it might be fun to buy some of their candy from your country if you like having that kind of thing for Orientation or Open House).

  • When searching for clip art images I usually go to Google images and find something there.

  • The easiest way to make a unique decoration for your classroom is to find an image that doesn't have a lot of detail and project it (using your laptop hooked up to your projector) and trace it on bulletin board paper to be colored in with watercolor, marker or tempera paint.

When you're stumped for an idea of what to do for a decoration - go ask someone who has a style you admire. I bug Christina Walag all the time when I need a fresh eye or new idea. That girl knows how to put heart in her details!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

About Math for K and 1st...

From one of our Primary Math coaches, Michelle Ellis, comes with this advice about Math:
As you begin to plan for your classroom this year, your Math Workshop set up will be very important. You will need to have a place where you have your math mini-lesson. Debby and I have found it helpful to have a different meeting area for Math than the ELA meeting area. We use opposite sides of the room. In the math meeting area we have all of our math manipulatives, calendar math, number line, and math vocabulary wall. We usually bring the students to the floor for our mini- lesson unless we are using the document camera. We have our 10 minute lesson, then send students to either their tables or floor if they are playing a game for the work time. For the closing we either keep the students where they are if they need their work to share or bring them back to the floor for the discussion.

This coming year the math standards and learning schedules have changed. You will notice starting with week one you will be required to have a "Math Choice Time". This does not mean it is your choice whether to teach the games, but it is just another name for "math centers". Every week you should have Choice Time at least twice a week. That means you will need to set up an efficient way to keep these games. Many of the games you will revisit often through the year. Some of the games will change and become harder as the year progresses. It will make your life easier if you have a permanent area set up, the students will need to be able to easily and quickly get out the games each week. You should not have to pass out each game, each time you play. You will need to plan for a place to keep extra game sheets so the students can get their own when needed. When you teach the students how to play a new game, you will also teach them where the game will be stored, where to get the game sheet if needed, and how to clean up the game at the end of the work time.

Since this game time is called "Choice Time", you will need to think through the way you will tell each student what game they will play each time. Think about the students you would like to have a math conference with, you may choose their first game for them, then they can pick their next one. The students who you are not meeting with that day for a formal conference may just pick their game from the beginning.

I have started a discussion on the "ning" for new ideas on how to store math manipulatives, so if you are wanting new ideas or have some to share, please check it out. As always, if you have any questions concerning the new standards or learning schedules, my door is always open! :)Michelle

Monday, July 21, 2008

Blog Reader

One of the first things that new teachers can do during the summer to get to know their team and what goes on at their grade level is to read the blogs and web pages of other teachers at the school. To do this you will want to add an Blog Reader to your computer. The following short video from Common Craft will show you what a Blog Reader is and how it works.

To add a Blog Reader to your computer:

1. Go to and set up a free account.

2. Next go to the Chets blog sites to find blogs you want to read.

3. Paste in each url address to the reader service.

Adding all the bog sites might be an interesting start because the Reader will give you notice when each has been updated. Going through an entire blog of a teacher on your grade level last year will give you an overview of the year or looking back to August and September of last year will give you an idea of what to expect as the new year starts.

There are a few other blogs that you might find interesting:

The Principal's blog: Dream Leader

Chets Creek's blog of professional development: Live from the Creek

A Year of Questions and Answers to and from the staff: Pixie Pointers

Now if all this seems just a little too overwhelming and complicated, don't worry. Melanie Holtsman will be offering workshops on setting up Blog Readers and setting up your own Blog. Most of us had to attend the workshops to figure it out, so don't worry, you'll be up and running in no time!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Advice from Last Year

Nobody knows better what it's like to be a new teacher at Chets Creek than those teachers who have actually walked in your shoes. Here's some advice from last year's "new to Chets" teachers.
Advice from first year teachers
Advice from last year's "new to Chets" 2nd Grade teachers-
Denise Evanko (pictured 2nd from left on the top, who came straight from an Ohio college) says: Soak in and visit your team members' classrooms. You will be amazed by how much you can learn to help your class! Take mental pictures, or even real pictures, to help you remember.

Lourdes Santiago (pictured on the bottom far right, a Special Education major who took the General Education test last year to co-teach) says: Ask for help when you need it. I have not been turned down and have learned so much from members of my fellow CCE family.

Advice from 1st grade teacher Tenean Allyne (on the right) pictured with teammate, JJ Ossi -
Tenean (who interned at Chets with Debbie Harbour) says: For those teachers who will walk in my footsteps, I would tell you to continue to learn. Know that you are never done learning. Not just from fellow staff and teachers but also from your students. Learn from your mistakes, and master what you're good at.

Advice from Rachel Happ (on the left) who joined the existing dynamite Kindergarten team of Randi Timmons and Elizabeth Conte -
Rachael (who joined Chets when she graduated mid-year from UNF) says: If you have questions about the curriculum or you need help coming up with fun/ creative/ exciting/ meaningful lesson plans... go to dayle who is the high-priestess of pretty much everything!

Advice from teachers who transferred from other schools
Katie Symons on the far right is shown with friends Lindsay Hoffman and Lynn Patterson - Katie (who landed in 5th grade Math after being surplussed to Chets from Finnegan Elementary) says: Chets Creek truly is an amazing place. All of the teachers go above and beyond for their students. The teachers really become invested in the kids' lives and love them. Just come in with an open mind and open heart. Smile and have fun!

Cheryl Dillard shown on the left with her fantastic paraprofessional Nancy Phillips - Cheryl (who taught Kindergarten last year followed her best friend, Maria Mallon, to Chets even though she had been the Teacher of the Year at her the previous school) says: Always read the Memo -tons of great information to help keep you on track and organized.

Shea Boudreau on the right, is pictured with Jennifer Scarola. Shea has to be one of the most flexible "new to Chets" teachers as she began the year in regular education and then moved to Special Education when Jennifer left for maternity leave - Shea (a National Board Certified Teacher who transferred from St. John's county) says: The keys to being successful at Chets Creek are - Be flexible. Manage your time and stay organized. Communication is vital. Learn from a mentor (or two!). Read, read, read and research some more. Surround yourself with professionals. Avoid isolation.

Advice from those returning from the "mommy track"
Julie Johnson, on the right, is pictured with super paraprofessional Barbara Ellis. Although Julie was an experienced teacher, she returned to teaching last year after being at home with her 4 children!! She has two school age children at Chets and twins at home! Julie (who spent last year as a kindergarten safety net teacher out of Maria Mallon's room) says: Soak up all the knowledge you can!! There are so many people willing to help and lend a hand. If they don't know the answer, they will find someone who does. Visit as many different classrooms as you can!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Welcome Nina Thomas!

Nina Thomas is joining the Kindergarten Team at Chets Creek, coming to us from Pine Estates Elementary. Nina actually graduated mid-year on a Friday from the University of North Florida and started teaching the following Monday - that was three years ago and she has been teaching kindergarten ever since!

Nina says that she was drawn to Chets Creek because of the excellent work ethic. She describes herself as an over-achiever and a go-getter and says she wanted to be surrounded by other teachers who are as totally dedicated to this profession as she is!

Nina has been happily married to her best friend for 2 years and still feels like a newlywed. Her husband Randy is a technician who does work on commercial kitchen equipment. Nina's parents have been married for 25 years and have been excellent role models. Nina did not grow up in Jacksonville. Her Dad worked for USAirways during her childhood, so she lived in several different places along the east coast. She tells people that she grew up in Pittsburgh because she spent the most time there. Her husband comes from generations of fisherman who came to Mayport from Minorca. Almost all of his extended family live here and are also fisherman, so they now call Jacksonville their home.

Some of our Chets Creek family may know Nina from her dancing at Nancy Dance Studio. She still teaches dance part-time. Besides dancing and spending time with her husband, Nina loves the beach. She also likes scrapbooking and has 2 cats to keep her busy and entertained!

Nina is currently reading A Blueprint For Literacy Success and is waiting for her friend Cristina to pass along a comedy called Notes From the Underbelly, a story about a teacher who gets pregnant that didn’t want children. The book chronicles thoughts during pregnancy and Nina says the word is that it is hilarious!

Nina would love to travel more. She loves the culture of Paris and wants to go back to Italy and would love to go to Australia! For the longest time when she was young Australia was the only place she wanted to visit and still looks forward to the day when she can get there! Maybe she'll visit Australia virtually as she joins us for our trip around the world in 180 days!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Meet Heather Correia

Heather Correia is an Elementary Education major from the University of North Florida. She is not a new face at CCE because she was interning in first grade last year with Debby Cothern and Michelle Ellis. About her experience at Chets, Heather says, “I interned at Chets and immediately was enamored with the level of professionalism and skill that surrounded me. Everyone was so friendly and it felt like a big family. I learned more during internship than I did all through college. Debby and Michelle were such an inspiration and took so much time talking with me but also giving me creative freedom.”

We were so impressed with Heather as an intern that we quickly hired her to continue work in first grade this year. Heather is part of the Chao family, who are natives of Jacksonville Beach. Her father is a disc jockey and production manager for some local radio stations. Her mother has recently retired from the transportation business. She and her grandmother are especially close. Heather says her grandmother is definitely the center of the family. She probably spends more time with her grandmother than with anyone else. Heather also has a half-brother who is 15 and goes to Providence High School. He is a talented trumpet and piano player and also loves anything to do with computers.

Many Chets families might recognize Heather from Tae Kwon Do. When she was sixteen she started her own non-profit Tae Kwon Do school in Jacksonville Beach. Ninteen years later, she has taught many children and adults around Jacksonville. She says that when she walks down the halls of Chets, she often gets hugs from children who are very surprised to see her walking down the hall!

Heather has two dogs that she says are very spoiled. They love going to the dog park and walking on the beach! Heather plays the guitar and loves to sing…especially karaoke!

Heather has visited her extended family in Cuba several times, the most recent being five years ago. She says it was truly a life-changing experience because it made her appreciate what she has but also reminded her that happiness doesn’t come from material possessions.

We are thrilled to have Heather joining our first grade team. Welcome, Heather!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Welcome Back, Lauren Skipper

Lauren Skipper is rejoining our Chets family after being on the mommy track. She will be returning part-time and will be working in our gifted program. How lucky are those kids?!

Lauren started her teaching career at Rutledge Pearson Elementary after majoring in Early Childhood at Florida State. She spent 3 years teaching kindergarten there as well as serving as the “Magnet Lead Teacher.” Maria Mallon was one of her Pearson teaching buddies! Lauren left, what she calls, "her little pond as a BiG Fish" and came to Chet’s Creek (thanks to family friend, Lori Metzger) as "a little fish in a VERY BIG POND." She says she was more than overwhelmed during her first year at Chet’s teaching 1st grade! Then after only a year her husband’s job led them to Tampa where she taught kindergarten again at a good school with a VERY unsupportive principal and a faculty NOTHING like Chets'! During that time she kept in touch with her colleagues at Chets and read everything that her Chets' friends were reading. When she and husband were led back to Jacksonville after that one year, she says she went running back to Chets - this time really ready to embrace the fast paced learning and be part of a REAL COLLEGIAL LEARNING COMMUNITY again. She spent the next four years looping K-1, learning and growing along with her colleagues. She also became Nationally Board Certified, following in her sister's footsteps. She left Chets three years ago to stay at home with her little boy, Chase and has not regretted a minute of her time with him. During that mommy break, she was blessed with a baby girl, Caroline Faith. Now, believe it or not, baby Chase is not a baby anymore. He will be starting Kindergarten this year!

Even while she has been away, Lauren has remained on the grade level e-mail, just to keep up. She says Chets Creek is her second family, her home away from home. She can't imagine teaching anywhere else. While she has loved being at home and “just being a mom (ha-ha)” she says she has missed the personal relationships and the professional conversations that come with being a part of such a wonderful learning community. She says she is extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity this year to job share (I think we're the lucky ones!) and “have my cake and eat it too.”

Lauren has two absolutely beautiful and spirited children, Chase(5 ½ ) and Caroline(18 months). There is never a dull moment at the Skipper house. Allen, Lauren's husband, is wonderfully supportive and Lauren says, the best dad in the world. Lauren is also blessed to have her parents in town who are the BEST grandparents and her biggest cheerleaders.

Lauren says her family loves to read- especially at the beach and they spend as much time as they can there. She is currently reading Being a Great Mom Raising Great Kids by Sharon Jaynes which she would recommend to ANY mom. She loves reading fiction and has read a lot by Jodi Picoult lately (seems to be a Chets Creek favorite author!) She even says she's a little bit addicted! The last Picoult book she finished was Picture Perfect.

Lauren will be job sharing with Jen Zawis as they teach our gifted children - two mom that have figured out how to have the best of both worlds! Welcome back, Lauren!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Welcome Back, Rachel Bridges!

Rachel Bridges is returning to Kindergarten after leaving to stay home with her second little boy. She has a long history with Chets, having been originally hired for Extended Day by KK Cherney. She says when she met KK, she thought, “ I want to be like her when I grow up” - wouldn't we all?! She says she never felt so respected for wanting to take care of children. She was hooked! Rachel went on to graduate from the University of North Florida and did her internship with our own Lauren Skipper. We were so impressed with Rachel as an intern that we offered her a Kindergarten job when she graduated mid-year. She looped that kinder class to first grade and then spent a year co-teaching kindergarten with Julia Kolanda-Lewis.

Rachel says, "I absolutely love everything that Chets Creek stands for. I love foremost that the children are cared for and taught as individuals. Their dreams are respected and they are told they can be or do anything they can imagine. I also am grateful for the collegiality I found at Chets. I learned more by teaching at Chets Creek than I ever did in college preparing to be a teacher. You might say that experience is the best teacher, but truly I learned by watching and listening to my colleagues. I loved that even when I was just starting, I felt apart of the team and was respected for what I could give to it. It is an honor to teach at Chets. It is a place where learning is cherished and teachers truly are the leaders of tomorrow. "

The year that Rachel started teaching was also the year she married her best friend, Zach Bridges. They have two precious boys, Josiah ( 22 mo.) and Josh ( 7 mo.) seen with Rachel in the photograph above. Surprisingly, Zach's parents are actually long time friends with some of the teachers at Chets. Small world! Rachel also has three siblings that attended Chets Creek. Her sister Melody, now almost 17, attended Chets for Fourth and Fifth Grade. She also has twin sisters, Hosanna and Jubalee, who attended Kindergarten through Fifth grade at Chets. They always say how much they love the teachers at Chets and wish they taught middle and high school!

Rachel loves to read, especially fiction, and says she's doing more reading now that she's not spending her nights feeding her little ones. Her summer reads for this year have ranged from fiction to professional such as Little Lady and the Prince by Hester Browne, Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, How Writers Work by Ralph Fletcher, and Notebook-Know-How-Strategies by Aimee Buckner and Ralph Fletcher.

With a theme such as "Around the World," Rachel's travel experiences will come in handy. She
has traveled with her youth group, mainly doing mission work in Brazil. She and her husband actually met through that work. She has also been to Australia, Central America, and Scotland.

Welcome back, Rachel. We are thrilled to have you back!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Meet Meli Launey

Meli (Melissa) Launey will be teaching 4th grade ELA this year at Chets Creek.

Meli has lived in Jacksonville almost her whole life..since 2nd grade. Her parents also live here and her younger sister works at an advertising agency in Tampa. She enjoys reading, watching reality TV, and spending time with her boyfriend, friends and family.

Meli graduated from the University of North Florida with a degree in psychology, but says we don't have to worry, because she doesn't psychoanalyze people. Throughout college Meli worked with children in extended day programs and summer camps and went back and forth, changing her major to journalism, nursing, and education. Ultimately she chose the psychology degree with financial stability weighing heavy on her mind. In her last semester she did an internship in Human Resources with Johnson and Johnson (VISTAKON). That's when she realized that she couldn't work in an office everyday..and that she missed the kids tremendously. So she got certified to teach and landed a job at Lake Lucina Elementary where she has been for the past 5 years. She taught 1st grade, 3rd grade, and 4th the last two years.

Meli says that she has discovered many things about herself in the past five years. One, she has an incredible passion for literature and is obsessed with finding out as much as she can about teaching ELA. Two, she doesn't want to ever be a teacher that gets stuck in a rut and burns out, so... in order to stay excited, she constantly learns more and more. She has spent the last 5 year attending conferences, workshops, and learning as much as she can. She has even been the ELA model classroom. And the last thing she learned is that teaching is what she was meant to do. Meli says she was always an average student, until she started teaching! Amazing how passion about something can make all the difference!

Meli says she stalked Chets Creek's website, blogs, and the amazing NING and knew she NEEDED to be a part of our school. She says, "I had never seen a faculty so full of people just as passionate (...some might call it crazy:) as I am. While I don't have very much traveling experience outside the country, I am excited to travel around the world in 180 days and learn as much as I can this year. I am so glad that I ended up going with my gut and choosing to pursue my teaching pockets may be lighter, but my heart and spirit are full!"

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Welcome to Chets Creek! Each year we hold meetings after school, especially early in the year, for all of our "new" teachers to Chets Creek to make it easier for them to navigate through the year - sort of letting them in on "inside" information. We meet to give the newbies background information, to tell them what to expect, to help them prepare for upcoming events, and simply to give them a safety zone where they can get any of their questions answered. This year, however, "new" teachers has a different meaning since all of our new teachers to Chets Creek are either experienced teachers or already have a relationship with the school, so... we are going to try something new. Instead of taking time to meet so often, we are going to try to share and answer questions through this blog. Who are the "new to Chets" teachers? Lauren Skipper and Rachel Bridges are returning to us after being on the "mommy track." Nina Thomson and Meli Launey are transferring from other Duval schools and Heather Correia did her internship at Chets Creek. Get to know each of these "new to Chets" teachers in the following posts!