Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Center Elementary Students Share Their Love for School

According to the students, Center Elementary is a great place to go to school.  When asked why recently, here were some of their responses:

  • Teachers want to know what we are interested in and then make lessons around our interests. 
  • When I learn, it is like a big question every day. They keep asking us why. This makes us think more. It is impressive that we learn so much new stuff in one day. 
  • All of my teachers have been amazing and our principal is beyond amazing. They all want us to do our best every day.
  • The teachers challenge us to do our best every day. And they make us challenge ourselves.
  • Our PE teacher chooses fun games and we are expected to get stronger.
  • Everyone at school helps me achieve my goal to be successful at school.
  • Our principal is very nice. When you get into trouble, she isn’t real mad but helps you learn from your mistake. She is always very nice to everyone.
  • My teacher believes that you can do anything you put your mind to. She tells us every day and now I believe it.
  • When we make good choices, we get assemblies from people that we would never get to see. For example, we got a magic show and the Jesse White tumblers.
  • We do Fun Friday activities when we are good during the week. We do fun things like putting a cookie on our face and trying to get it into our mouth. When we couldn’t do it, we had to talk about it and figure out a better way.
  • Each quarter we get to celebrate good behavior.  Sometimes we take field trips, like to the park and pool and other times we get assemblies. We had a carnival at the beginning of the year to remind us to make good choices and this year we are going to have a giant water balloon fight at the end of the year for being good.
  • We get to do fun things in class like Break-Out-Boxes. We have to solve clues to open locks on a box and it is challenging and fun. It takes teamwork and hard thinking. They are so much fun to do.
  • I have done a lot of exciting lessons and activities this year. We even do lessons with 21st century skills. This means we have to collaborate, be creative, use our hands, and solve problems. Sometimes it is hard, but it always fun.
  • Our teachers give us choices on the things we want to do or how we like to learn. Sometimes I don’t like to write so my teacher lets me draw to explain. And I like sitting on the floor instead of my desk. She lets me do that too.
  • We have studied more than what is in a book, like Greek myths, mystery science, and holidays around the world.
  • School is very safe and bullying is not allowed.
  • We have great technology at school and that helps us learn in different ways. We get to use our computers every day in class.
  • The teachers encourage us to have good attendance. If our class comes to school 90% of 20 days, we get a popcorn party. It inspires me to come to school.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Marching Madness at Blackhawk Elementary

During the month of March Madness our thoughts normally turn to basketball, but not at Blackhawk Elementary School. March has become “marching madness” with a kickoff for an experimental "Student vs Adult" stepping competition.

Physical Education Teacher Jason Long, Family Resource Coordinator Gigi Ditzler, and School Nurse Cyndie Bouray decided to "step up" the physical fitness of their students after Mr. Long discovered 20 pedometers in storage. The group thought it would be fun for both the school's adults and students to compete for steps throughout the school day while getting fit in the process. This evolving program has gained mileage since its start during the first full week of March, with students and adults spontaneously requesting to join in the fun.

Students are randomly selected and are given a pedometer to use while at school. They are in direct competition with a volunteer staff to see how many steps they can get while at school. One motivated student, Lupita, picks up her pedometer as soon as she is allowed in the building. For her, getting an early start on the day is important and she said she “wants to get as many steps as possible." Dyvon, another student and a fierce competitor, exclaimed, "I am always excited to know how many steps I have and if I beat Ms. Kleindl."

Principle Stacey Kleindl laughed. "I can hear students marching in place trying to increase their steps," she said. Ms. Kleindl competes against students and they check in throughout the day to see who is winning steps. It has been enjoyable and beneficial for everyone at Blackhawk.

Second Grade ELL Teacher Holly Perry reports that her entire class has picked up on the get fit craze. “I had a student in my classroom participating in the pedometer challenge with me," she said. "The other students picked up on his excitement and started asking to do exercises in between our work throughout the day. That enthusiasm has carried through and we are still doing jumping jacks, sit-ups, push-ups, etc. every day.”

Cyndie Bouray
School Nurse, Blackhawk Elementary School

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Taylor Park Principal Shares The Importance of Family Involvement

I recently read an article that stated, “Ongoing research shows that family engagement in schools improves student achievement, reduces absenteeism, and restores parents' confidence in their children's education. Students with involved parents or other caregivers earn higher grades and test scores, have better social skills, and show improved behavior.”*

Parental involvement is an integral part of a child’s educational journey. Together, we are raising the next generation. This is not an easy task and at times it can be a bit overwhelming, especially if it is done in isolation. I firmly believe the school and household must work together in unison with one common goal in mind. The goal at Taylor Park Elementary is to raise Responsible, Organized Achievers who are Respectful. The first letter of each of those words form the acronym our students model when they follow the Taylor Park Rules to ROAR each and every day.

On March 8th, Taylor Park families got involved! That evening, Taylor Park Elementary hosted a Family Involvement Night at our school. We had over 120 people in attendance, with almost 50 of them being Taylor Park students. Attendees were treated to academic stations, an AVID Elementary station, the Scholastic Book fair, a storyteller, and a “build your own” hot dog bar. For two hours, our school modeled what a cohesive partnership looks like. All attendees came together for one common goal. Knowledge was gained, smiles were observed, and hearts were warmed.

How else can families get involved? The article “The Benefits of Parent Involvement: What Research Has to Say” lays out 3 simple ways parents can get involved in their child’s education.

  1. Create a home environment that encourages learning.
  2. Express high (but not unrealistic) expectations for your children's achievement and future careers.
  3. Become involved in your children's education at school and in the community.

Taylor Park always welcomes and greatly appreciates family support. Family members are welcome any time to read to a class, work on site words or math flash cards, sit down for lunch in the cafeteria, or stop in to play a game. Many of our most challenging students act out negatively because they are seeking adult attention. We can fulfill this need by giving our children positive attention on a daily basis. 15-30 minutes of positive attention can go a long way. Together, we can make a positive impact.

Brian Lamm
Principal, Taylor Park Elementary

*The two articles I referenced in this blog post may be found below:
- "The Enduring Importance of Parental Involvement"
- "The Benefits of Parent Involvement: What Research Has to Say"

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Jones-Farrar Magnet School Hosts Kindness Campaign

By: Mr. Ken Franchi, 4th grade teacher, & Ms. Brooke Cheser, 3rd grade teacher

kindness.jpgThe kindness campaign at Jones-Farrar was run in conjunction with “Kindness Month” with the hopes of spreading kindness throughout our community. The idea centralized on having Kindness Ambassadors, two third and fourth grade students per classroom, that would be taught about the kindness campaign here at Jones-Farrar and then become responsible for taking the idea down to the 2nd, 1st, and Kindergarten classrooms.

The campaign centered on identifying kind actions that every person could do; then having them look for people being kind in an attempt to “catch” acts of kindness. If a student wanted to recognize another person’s kindness, they would fill out a Kindness Card and deliver it to the person they caught being kind. The recipient of the Kindness Card could keep the card, bring it home to share it with their family, or give it to their teacher to be displayed on our “kindness” bulletin board.

The goal of the campaign was not only to spread kindness, but also to adjust the lense through which the students saw other people in the building. Rather than looking at what their classmates were doing wrong, they could now look to see what their classmates were doing correct. In this way, kindness served as a way to recognize many of the students and staff for positive reasons, instead of something negative.

Here are some thoughts from a few of the 4th-graders:

"When I got my Kindness Card I was happy. That was my first time ever getting one (I got it from a student, for having a kind conversation with a teacher). It made me want to give somebody one because I was excited." - Ja’Michael

"I think all schools should do this because it is a really nice thing to do for each other; giving compliments and positive affirmations to each other." - Aizlynn

"When you receive a compliment, it makes you feel really good, because if you are working hard to be kind, it is nice for someone to see that." - Kendall

"I like it because it gives kids a voice that wouldn’t normally choose to use it. They can express themselves on that little piece of paper where they wouldn’t normally say it." - Ms. Cece

"It is kind of nice because if you are too scared to tell someone that you saw them being nice, you can write it on a piece of paper and give it to them." - Dominik

"Sometimes students are 'up in each other’s business' and they are looking for negative things, but when you are trying to give a Kindness Card, you are not looking for the negative, you are looking for the good." - Bryce

kindness world.jpg

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

FHS Student Profiles Teacher Who Overcame Adversity

By: Katelynn McIlwain, Junior, Freeport High School
Pretzel News

Math teacher Derek Paulsen can overcome nearly any math problem you can imagine.

But believe it or not, the problems he faced prior to becoming a teacher were far more difficult than any math.

At the age of 16, Mr. Paulsen suffered from a stroke, one that left him unable to walk. Doctors said that he may not live to see his 20th birthday, as the chance of having another stroke was very high. With great determination, however, Paulsen was able to walk again, unassisted, one year later.

Now, he can teach and do what he enjoys most: making positive impacts and challenging students in difficult subjects.

“Every problem is conquerable,” he said. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Be your own advocate for greatness and success.”

Mr. Paulsen teaches AP Statistics, Trig Analytic Geometry, and Trigonometry. He’s been teaching for 13 years and has spent 12 of those years here at Freeport High School.

“I enjoy the diversity of the student population,” Paulsen said. “I like its commitment to different groups and organizations, like NJROTC, speech, and drama. It’s great for multitudes of students, and not all schools have that luxury.”

A former wrestling coach, Paulsen has continued to be very involved in student affairs; he has been a class advisor for all four classes at some point in his career. When he’s not at school, Mr. Paulsen enjoys learning unique things, playing disc golf, fishing, doing CrossFit, weightlifting, and taking his family on vacations.

His wife, Erin, is the technology facilitator for Eastland School District. He has two sons - Brock, 4, who is in preschool and Luke, 1, who just started walking. Like his father, Luke is larger than life; just 1, he’s already in clothing made for children twice his age.

Paulsen has several degrees and certifications, including a certification in administration, and has a master’s degree in mathematics with an emphasis on teaching. His dedication is apparent to his students.

“He keeps good pace, while still making sure everyone knows the topic,” said former student Dan Rials.

Whether he’s teaching math or being FHS’s resident viking, the school is lucky to have Paulsen and his courageous outlook on not only school, but life in general.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Freeport Community Public School Fund Helps Equip FSD Schools

They say it takes a whole village to raise a child.  If that is true, the Freeport community is doing its part to ensure that our students in Freeport School District #145 receive a great education!  The Freeport Community Public School Fund (FCPSF) gives a heartfelt THANK YOU to its generous donors—individuals, corporations, service groups, and alumni—for allowing it to provide $54,074 worth of valuable equipment and non-consumable materials for the classrooms and libraries in Freeport’s public schools.  Since 1983, FCPSF has purchased over one million dollars of vital teaching aids for which there is no other funding available, benefiting all students in Freeport public schools.
This year’s allocation meeting was held in mid November, and educators are now busy ordering needed items that they will be able to use this school year in grades K-12 and all subject areas.
Some examples of items granted to educators are: broadcasting software and camcorders for FHS, Dell projectors and document cameras that allow the whole class to view lessons and projects on a large screen, six microscopes for 7th grade science, several fiction and nonfiction books to enhance the reading program, ten new band instruments for the middle schools, books to teach English as a second language, sign language materials, math and reading skill-building resources, and heart monitor sensors for Physical Education classes.
FCPSF is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization which provides necessary materials for the classrooms of FSD while operating independently of Freeport School District. We are grateful for all donations, large or small. Donations are tax-deductible and are welcome year-round. As a community member, you can help to make a difference in the lives of our youth.
In this season of giving, why not consider a donation to FCPSF?  Your gift will impact the education of our students today and help prepare them to face whatever their future holds.
To make a tax-deductible contribution, please visit or send your donation to FCPSF, P.O. Box 778, Freeport, IL 61032.

Jeanne Mordick and Carrie Helm
FCPSF Allocation Co-Chairs

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Pupil Personnel Services Dept. Working to Expand Services

Jack Code
Director of Pupil Personnel Services
The Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Department has been active the first few months of school with several initiatives in place to improve services. PPS is focusing on four major areas: expanding preschool programming, expanding transition programming for our 18- to 21-year-old special education students, providing professional development opportunities for staff, and streamlining overall special education processes in the district.

Expansion of preschool programming is an area we have identified as needed in our community – early intervention is the best approach to giving all our students a boost in school. We currently are providing services for over 100 three- to five-year-olds in our elementary schools. The teachers go above and beyond to give students a great introduction to school. In addition, we work closely with the Regional Office of Education and Head Start to ensure we are finding and serving the neediest children in the Freeport School District. The Boys and Girls Club is also a great partner in this process as we use their facility for ongoing preschool screenings.

Further, the transition programming is also expanding for students in our PACC (Practical Applications Cross-Categorical) classrooms at the high school who choose to stay in school until their 22nd birthday. This program is designed to focus on lifelong skills that students will need to support themselves as much as possible once they leave high school. We are partnering with community business members to help students learn job skills, improve social skills, and become stronger members of the community.

Training staff is also a must-do in any school district and FSD145 is striving to improve our students’ education through staff professional development. Not only is the Curriculum Department heading up several curricula initiatives to increase student academic skills, but the PPS department is also providing professional development to staff on how they approach the social emotional needs of our students. We have provided sensory integration, stress relievers, and mindfulness workshops to support staff and students as they move through this school year.

Lastly, the PPS department is working to improve procedures in addressing the needs of students with an identified disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), more commonly referred to as a 504 Plan, and under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), more commonly referred to as an IEP. Part of this improvement in procedures includes the assurance we are identifying all students whose disability is impacting their functioning. Further, before a student is identified with a disability, (IEP) staff are expected to exhaust all interventions and resources per the State of Illinois through Multi-Tiered Systems of Support. We are encouraged by the hard work and dedication staff exhibit in meeting the needs of our students in each of the district’s buildings.

The Pupil Personnel Services staff is always available to students, parents, staff, and community when questions or concerns arise. Our office is located at 2037 W. Galena Avenue, where we coordinate special education and preschool services for the students in District #145.

Jack Code
Director of Pupil Personnel Services