This is an unfair question, because my list is comprised of more than just one person, and my gratitude overflows for each and every person who has helped shape our son's school experience. I want to thank his kindergarten teacher for her never ending patience as my son struggled through is first year, and her undying confidence in his burgeoning social abilities, as well as her insight into his need to be in Gifted and Talented. In Kindergarten that is almost unheard of, but she pushed and made it happen. I want to thank his first grade teacher for the way I still see her look at him when he goes down the hall, the way her eyes light up when she sees him, making me KNOW that this woman absolutely loves my son and is sure he'll be president one day. I want to thank his current teacher, in second grade, for her quiet, calm disposition and how it pushes my son to control his behavior and get to work. She is currently working with him one on one to research and write a report on Saturn, which he will present to the whole class before Winter Break. I want to thank the Spanish teacher for empathizing with me when I'm having a hard week raising a child who is "doubly gifted" as hers is, and for laughing and crying with me and talking about how alike our sons both are. I want to thank the principal for teaching my son the value of starting a "friendship" club to combat bullying instead of a "bully" club that would only highlight the problem. He still talks about solution-oriented versus problem-oriented after that conversation in her office. He's also made friends with the child he was having problems with due to that time spent discussing these ideas with her. I want to thank the counselor for spending hours working with my boy, creating scenarios and playing games with him to show him what being a good friend looks like. I want to thank his GT teacher for challenging him and for not putting up with his "lazy-genius" style of trying to get the least amount of work done. the list goes on and on, and there will never be enough words to describe my gratitude, but I live in that feeling, every day.
I have never before in my life seen a more hard working, positive group of people who are all dedicated to reaching and changing young people's lives. The teachers at Monroe are constantly striving to improve their own skills through formal education, self assessment and collaboration between one another.
Monroe is constantly reevaluating all its academic practices, and homework load for students is no exception. Just this year, changes to the way homework looks was changed based on the research done by a committee within the school over the summer. The data said that the only true facilitator of growth for students and homework is to make sure that they are reading (or for the very youngest, being read to) every night. So that's our mandatory homework. Supplementing that is a list of activities called Extended Learning Opportunities which every child receives every month. These activities vary based on grade level, but our son's list this month includes "ask a grownup for a handful of change, and find as many ways as you can to make a dollar", and "go to the grocery store with your grownup, find a food you've never eaten, and help your grownup make a new and different meal with this ingredient. Then write about what you did and how it tasted!" There are always 12-16 items on the list, and while they are not mandatory homework, at the end of the month the students bring in their completed ELOs and get recognized for the work they have done. So far, the word is that in every grade level, this kind of "homework" has been wildly successful.
Ha! With the demographics this school has, persistence and grit has to play a part in every lesson, every interaction and every goal set for these kids. Of course the teachers challenge their students to rise above adversity and obstacles... many the students in this school are living that life every day. Monroe is a place where every student can show up, know that they are being supported, and feel free to shine, all the while fully understanding that they will have a system of support that includes every grown up in the building.
The creed of the Mighty Mustangs is "I will be safe, respectful and responsible" and the students take it very seriously. It is said every day after the pledge of allegiance and is signed in American Sign Language by every student as well. It's small examples like the inclusion of the hearing impaired students in the school that show, rather than tell, what kind of school this is.
Here is the bottom line: The teachers and staff CARE about these kids! How else does a child learn about these most important skills but by being shown them? In the case of our son, who has trouble empathizing with others, he is given special instruction in small groups to help him understand exactly what these skills look like when put into practice. As I have said before, every child at Monroe is an individual, and no one is left in the shadows. If a child needs more help in the areas of compassion and empathy, he or she is given it. For the children who are shining examples of these skills, they are recognized by staff and students alike. They are set up as leaders of the classroom and their skills are utilized to help others see just what these words mean and how important they are. But first and foremost, it is the job of the grownups in any situation to teach kindness by acting in kindness, and you can't get more of that any other place than you can find at Monroe Elementary.
As I said before in my longer comment, Monroe Elementary treats every student as an individual... all the teachers and staff work tirelessly to make sure that Monroe is a place where every student should be able to shine. Inclusive, open minded attitudes are fostered on a daily basis with formal instruction via the school counselor, but also by way of hundreds of personal interactions. Staff smile and make small talk with the students in the hallways, kids who have gone on to a higher grade level come back to their old teachers to check in and help out with the little kids, etc. Honesty, Integrity and Fairness are not measured by a test; one can see those qualities in action by just watching the school operate, as I do on a very regular basis.
We live in a district with terrible schools, so we chose to drive our son over thirty minutes every day to Thompson District's Monroe Elementary School once he began Kindergarten. He is now a 2nd grader. In the past 2.5 years, this school has been such an amazing part of helping our son grow and thrive; I truly do NOT know what we would do if we weren't supported by the incredible teachers and staff at Monroe. Our son needs to be met on many levels: he is in Gifted and Talented for his excellence reading, on an IEP for speech, and is pulled out of class regularly into small groups with the school counselor to work on his social and emotional skills, which are lacking. He is all over the board with his needs, and at every step of the way, the staff at Monroe has been there to give him exactly what he needs. We could not be happier with our choice to place our son at this school, and I'm saddened to see what a low score this school has... If you have any doubts, please come and see these teachers in action. Come talk with our principal, Kathy, who has her sleeves rolled up and is constantly working to make the environment at Monroe as safe, inclusive, and enjoyable as possible in order to create the best learning environment for her students. This is a school that faces a lot of challenges demographically... they are not in a high income area, they do not have all the resources they would like, but I am telling you from first hand experience, this school makes miracles happen every day, mainly due to the tireless attention and love that every staff member gives to each and every student. Every child in the building is treated as an individual, with specific needs to be met and goals to be set. No one is left in the shadows. No one is forgotten here. The students are taught from day one that Monroe is a place where they can be safe and loved, while also being challenged to grow to their maximum potential. We will be forever indebted to this school for the love and devotion they have shown our son, and as an Early Education Professional, it warms my heart to know that this school will be around long after we have left it, making the lives of every child who attends better and more meaningful.
Ms. Fodness is awesome! She is very competent and works with the whole class to engage them in learning and listening. Getting a group of 19 5 years to pay attention for any length of time is a feat in itself!