Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 year in review

As is always the case, Lindsy Stumpenhorst of our #principalsinaction Voxer group has challenged the group again.  This time it's not a photo going down a slide or a tricycle ride in the hallway or a dance party welcoming the students to school.  It's a reflection on our year that includes questions like "What would you change?" and "What did you learn?" and "What was crazy amazing?"  The are all great questions, each worthy of their own blog, so I'm going to focus on the crazy amazing.

  • January allowed me to coach basketball again.  The relationships that I was able to foster with some of our 8th grade boys helped me to get to know them better and helped them to get to know me differently.  The honor of having them call me coach is something I will always cherish.  We also had a visit from Mr. Mark Flynn, our former superintendent, as he discussed the work he is doing with students in the South Sudan.  The students organized a penny war and it was great seeing the reach our students and families have by supporting the work that Mr. Flynn and his wife are doing with these students and their families.  Here's a picture of our Student Senate and their advisers showing their support.
  • February saw Dave Burgess joining our district for a professional development day.  Do I need to say anything else?
  • March provided me with the opportunity to be a student for the day.  It was great traveling around with two different students to see what a day can be like in the eyes of a student.  Other than lunch and recess duty, I was a student all day.  Here is a link to my blog post for my shadow day.
  • April brought Google Expedition to our school.  It was a great experience for our staff and students, so much so that our district is buying a set for our school to be used by most students to extend our Social Studies and Science curriculums.  The learning that was seen in just one day will certainly be extended even further when we have this opportunity for all of our students every day.
  • May found some students stepping of for others.  Avery and Lucy, two of our 7th graders, decided that it would be a great idea to make blankets for kids at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.  What started out as something small just continued to grow.  Project Linus grew and grew and involved way more than just Avery and Lucy.  By the end of may, well over 100 blankets were created and delivered to Children's Hospital.
  • June ended the school year, but the biggest deal for me was my daughter getting her license.  In fact, she got her license on my birthday.  We also got to travel as a family to Niagara Falls.  It was a tremendous experience, shared by just the three of us.  One thing I hope I learned about this time together is to not take it for granted.  I look forward to finding many more vacations with just our family as our daughter continues to become more independent.  For those of you who have young families, don't let your time at school get in the way of your time with your family.
  • July saw our Community garden really taking shape.  I was lucky to have students help with the weeding and upkeep throughout the summer.  The harvested food was given to the Hartland Food Pantry with our final donation given in October.
  • JEDI (Journeys in Educational Design and Instruction) training got many of our staff off and running in August.  Mary Iwanski put together a 3 day training for staff to better understand technology as well as to find ways to infuse technology into our lessons and classrooms.  Learning together with teachers from many grade levels and subject areas was enlightening and provided opportunities to build relationships.
  • September was the start of the 2016-2017 school year.  Some of our 8th grade National Junior Honor Society helped our 5th graders feel welcome by becoming their mentors.  This relationship has continued throughout the school year and has really made the transition from the Primary School to the Intermediate School a smooth one for our 5th graders.  The student leadership of our National Junior Honor Society has been a highlight of the school year so far.  And there was also the honor flight trip with my dad to Washington, DC, too.
  • Our new playground was installed in October thanks to the generosity of our PTO and district.  The students are really enjoying it.  I also got to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC.  I was able to spend the weekend with my family and family friends, touring the city, the White House, the Pentagon, and the Capital.  I ran the marathon with Sarah Johnson, an awesome principal from Spooner, WI.  (Apparently I like to be on the left side of pictures when I'm in Washington, DC.)
  • November was our second annual Veterans Day celebration, all organized by our National Junior Honor Society.  One of our students, Joey, put together this incredible video to document the day.  The incredible respect our students showed our veterans and their guests is something I will always remember.
  • December turned into DeSTEMber for our students and staff on the 11th.  There were awesome speakers and activities for the entire day.  Mary Iwanski, our technology and STEM integrator, organized the entire day and it became something that I think will happen every year.  We also had one more example of the giving nature of our students, staff, and family- our Giving Tree.  Presents were provided for needy families in our community thanks to the efforts of Darlene Hafermann.  The Giving Tree is one more thing that makes me proud to be the principal of our school.

These are just the highlights, my highlights, of 2016.  I have much to be thankful for- family, friends, colleagues, students, our students' families- and much to look forward to in 2017.  As I think about these highlights, I realize that I'm leaving out many of the great things that happen every day in our school- reading, writing, math, Science, Social Studies, music, art, Spanish, PE, and most of all, relationships.  On Fridays when I send out our staff nuts and bolts, I always start with "Good morning, Merton family!", and I mean it.  My Merton family is important to me, but not as important as my own family.  As I look forward to 2017, I realize that I need to do more with and for my family.  That's my resolution and one that I know my wife and daughter will hold me to.