Greetings! As I write this week's column, we have finished up a very successful round of parent-teacher conferences and I am reminded once again of the powerful dedication of the St. Johnsbury School staff, the amazing potential of St. Johnsbury School students, and the strong commitment of St. Johnsbury School parents. In order to create a climate of inquiry and learning, teachers have to be continual learners themselves, and this week's column will highlight some of the learning that teachers are involved in.

Kindergarten, first-grade and second-grade teachers spent September and October learning about the Daily Five and Café approach to reading. The Daily Five structure is designed to fully engage students in reading and writing through five activities: reading to themselves; reading to someone else; listening to reading; working on writing, and doing word work (vocabulary and spelling). The Café system is the framework that ensures students are learning comprehension skills, increasing their reading accuracy and fluency, and expanding their vocabulary.

Math teachers across the grade levels have worked with the Standards of Mathematical Practice in our transition to the Common Core Math Standards.

Each Tuesday from 3:15-4:30 teachers engage in professional development. In addition, there are periodic early release days when students leave at noon and teachers spend the afternoon strengthening their professional learning, as well as a few in service days giving extended time for professional development. Teachers in grades 3-8 spent September and October studying questioning strategies in both literacy and math to promote students' critical thinking and increase students' engagement and persistence. Currently, teachers are engaged in small study groups to gain strategies for differentiating instruction. Our focus question is, "What does each student need at this moment in order to progress, and what do teachers need to do to make that happen?" So teachers will be increasing their knowledge of how to address the range in students' readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles. In addition, Special Educators are learning a variety of ways to use technology to meet students' needs.

Upper level teachers in grades 5-8 have been studying ways to strengthen our science curriculum and embed writing across the curriculum. Middle school teachers and Unified Arts teachers have teamed to implement what they learned from a summer course called Developmental Design to guide the advisory program. Guidance and health teachers have been examining curriculum in those two areas, checking for alignment with state and national standards and developing clear focus objectives. Music, art and physical education teachers have been meeting in teams to share best practices in their content areas and ensure consistency of instruction for all students. Paraeducators have spent early release afternoons studying ways to support students with special learning needs. Preschool teachers are learning to use a new, complex assessment system to plan instruction for their students and have joined the training for Daily Five and Café in order to lay a strong literacy foundation in pre school.

As educators, we have to continually expand our own learning in order to support students as continual learners. I would like to close by quoting a middle school student's speech for the recent student government elections, for her speech reminds us that our goal is helping each student reach his/her full potential. The student referenced a famous quote, "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." She then continued with, "This year as a seventh- and eighth-grade house, I hope we make our own trail. We need to show the rest of the school, the wonderful staff of this school, and our town, that we are not just any other middle school. I know you guys. We are strong individuals, and an even stronger group of amazing kids. Every person in this room has a wonderful potential, and together we can be incredible. I would love to help lead our team to new heights." Wow! That's where we are headed as a school community -- to new heights. As Helen Keller once said, "Together we can do so much!"

On behalf of the Johnsbury School staff, I extend our warmest wishes to everyone for a joyous December season!


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