BY DR. MARTHA DUBUQUE

Greetings! Welcome to the beginning of Catamount Corner. Every two weeks I will bring you news about teaching and learning at the St. Johnsbury School. It is Tuesday evening as I write this first account, and today was our first student day. What a spectacular day! I was so impressed with students' respect, kindness and courtesy. Throughout the building the climate was upbeat, energized, and enthusiastic.

Teachers were working to establish academic and behavioral expectations. When you visit our school, you will see catamount paw prints throughout the building with expectations posted that promote a sense of belonging and cooperation. Teachers were sending the message that they believe students can do high quality work, and that is what they will expect. Students were selecting books for independent reading and starting some writing entries. One science class was focused on the difference between observations and inferences. In math classes students were exploring different strategies for math operations and explaining their thinking. Teachers were establishing routines for morning meeting, advisories, audience etiquette in the auditorium, and good listening.

As a new principal coming on board, I spent the summer talking with staff members to gain a sense of history and an understanding of strengths and needs at St. Johnsbury School. Throughout the conversations was a common thread -- a spirit and passion for the school and the students. One staff member said, "I really love this school," and another expressed, "I work with a great group of people." Yet another person acknowledged, "We have great students," and one of their colleagues felt strongly that "we really want to do the best for kids here." A teacher explained, "We have a lot of really, really good things happening." I feel very privileged to be part of a school community with this dedication.

As the leader of St. Johnsbury School, I am committed to providing an education of excellence for our students. There are key areas we will be focusing on over time toward this goal. We will implement research-based teaching strategies to maximize effectiveness of instruction. We will develop intervention strategies to meet the needs of struggling students and extension opportunities for those students ready for enrichment. We will continually use student data to differentiate instruction. An important component in promoting students' critical thinking is work with informational text so we will be increasing nonfiction reading and writing. Teachers have already started on this first day an emphasis on positive school climate. We will continue to seek ways to make connections with families and with the community. Successful schools create and sustain a culture of professional collaboration, and during in service teachers started important work as teams to plan instruction and monitor student progress. I am committed to facilitating inquiry, curiosity and ongoing learning for adults and students at the St. Johnsbury School.

So as I reflect on this first day of school, I am inspired, excited, and proud. We have a year of powerful promise and potential ahead!

Dr. Martha Dubuque is the principal of instruction at The St. Johnsbury School.

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