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The Hornet Hive Podcast

The Hornet Hive is your one stop location to get up to date on everything that is happening within the Williamston Community Schools.


Navigating 5th Grade: Sonya Pake on Preparing Students for Middle School at Explorer Elementary
In a recent episode of the Hornet Hive podcast, host Dr. Christopher Lewis sat down with Sonya Pake, a 5th-grade teacher at Explorer Elementary School in the Williamston Community Schools district. The conversation provided a unique insight into the experiences and perspectives of a teacher working in a small, close-knit community. From discussing the transition from elementary to middle school to the support and pride of living and working in the same community, Sonya's insights shed light on the multifaceted role that teachers play in shaping students' lives and the community at large. The Importance of the Transition to Middle School As a 5th-grade teacher, Sonya highlighted the pivotal role she plays in preparing her students for the transition to middle school. She emphasized the significance of fostering independence and responsibility in her students. Sonya discussed the importance of organizational skills and preparing students for the shift from a single classroom setting to moving between different classes in middle school. Her dedication to ensuring a seamless transition for her students reflects the depth of care and commitment that educators bring to their roles beyond classroom learning. The Joy of Teaching 5th Graders Sonya's passion for teaching 5th graders shone through as she described the unique attributes of this age group. She emphasized their curiosity, inquisitiveness, and their enthusiasm for learning. She noted that 5th graders are at a stage where they still love school and are receptive to learning. Her joy in teaching this age group was evident as she shared anecdotes about the humor and thought-provoking questions that her students bring to the classroom. Sonya's dedication to fostering a love for learning in her students underlines the transformative impact that educators can have during a critical stage in a child’s educational journey. The Supportive Community  One of the standout aspects of Sonya's experience was the unwavering support she received from her colleagues and the broader community during challenging times. Her account of the overwhelming support she received from staff members and parents amidst health-related challenges reflects the strong sense of community within the Williamston district. By highlighting the support she received, Sonya showcased the invaluable network of support that educators receive and the impact it has on their well-being and their ability to continue positively impacting students' lives. The Pride of Living and Working in the Same Community  Sonya touched on the unique pride that comes with living and working in the same community where she teaches. She emphasized the difference in the sense of pride and connection when one is an integral part of the community they serve. This insight into the impact of teaching in one’s own community sheds light on the deeper personal investment and accountability that educators feel toward their students and the community at large. Sonya's experience highlights the profound impact of this dual role and the profound sense of community that it fosters. Conclusion Sonya Pake's conversation with Dr. Christopher Lewis provided a remarkable glimpse into the multifaceted experiences of educators in a close-knit community. From the pivotal role in guiding students through educational transitions to the unwavering support from colleagues and the pride of being an integral part of the community, Sonya's perspective showcased the depth of dedication and care that educators bring to their roles. Her insights shed light on the profound impact that teachers have in shaping students' lives and the community at large, underscoring the invaluable contributions of educators in creating supportive, nurturing learning environments. In essence, the conversation with Sonya Pake highlighted the countless ways in which educators go above and beyond to nurture and guide the next generation. It emphasized the pivotal role teachers play in fostering independence, academic growth, and a sense of community among their students. As we celebrate and appreciate educators like Sonya, we recognize the immeasurable impact they have on the lives of their students and the wider community. TRANSCRIPT Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:19]: Welcome back to the Hornet Hive. I'm your host doctor Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education. Really excited to have you back again this week. I love being able to sit down with you every week to talk about the amazing things that are happening in our schools, talk about the people And the opportunities that are available to our students because I know not all of you have kids in the district, and that's important. It's important for All of our community members to know more about our schools, know more about the people that are connecting with our students on a daily basis. That's why every week I love being able to talk to you because I know your experience is different than your neighbors', and it's important to be able to have that insider look. I also love being able to bring you different people, different staff, and different individuals that are impacting our schools in so many different ways. This week, we've got another great guest with us. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:14]: Sonya Paik is with us today. Sonya is a 5th grade teacher at Explorer Elementary School, And she's been with the district now for a little bit of time, and we're gonna be getting to know her a little bit better. I'm really excited to have her on and to introduce her to you. Sonya, thanks so much for being here today. Sonya Pake [00:01:29]: Yes. Thank you for having me. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:30]: It is my pleasure. Really appreciate you being here today. One of the things that I love To do, 1st and foremost, is turn the clock back in time. Talk to me about what brought you originally to Williamston. Sonya Pake [00:01:41]: I've lived in Williamston for 10 years. We moved here when my daughter was In 1st grade and I always was impressed with how everyone at the schools handled themselves, what came home and her Friday folders, things like that. And the district that I was in, I was content at the time. But as I got older and my daughter got older, I started to think more about some of those Great things that I used to see coming home and things that we experienced on the parent side. And so then when there were positions available I wanted to come. I feel like this is where I should be. This is where I live. This is where my daughter goes to school. Sonya Pake [00:02:17]: And so I feel like it was a natural fit for me to come here to teach. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:02:21]: Now I said that you are a 5th grade teacher, and you play a pivotal role in preparing those students to move from Elementary school to middle school, important time. You also get involved in that 5th grade camp, which your kids always love, and I I'm sure that it you're Excited when it's done because it's a very, taxing period for 5th grade teachers as well. Talk to me about 5th grade and what you love most about teaching in 5th grade and why 5th grade. Sonya Pake [00:02:49]: Prepaiders are great. They still like school. They still like their teachers. They still like learning. They're Very inquisitive little people. And so for them, it's easier for me, I feel like, to do my job because they are really happy to be here. 5th grade being pivotal in that transition, we work a lot to get them ready to be more independent and be more Responsible for themselves and for what they need to do. But we also still try to give them some of those things that they may not be getting in middle school next year. Sonya Pake [00:03:20]: So it's Kind of a balance of working on making sure they get both things. But I love 5th graders. They make me laugh every day. Their humor is amazing. The questions they come up with to ask during science and social studies blow my mind. They're just very curious And it's just wonderful. I don't know how many times I've had to consult Google or books to answer some of the inquisitiveness their questions. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:03:44]: Now as you think about that transition from 5th grade to middle school, you talk about that as a 5th grade teacher, You and the rest of the team are doing everything you can to prepare them for that next step. And not everyone has kids in the district and may not know what that means. So what does that mean for you as a 5th grade teacher? What are you doing as a teacher to help those kids to make that transition in a seamless fashion. Sonya Pake [00:04:10]: Well, obviously, 5th grade's different. They do everything in 1 classroom, and then when they go to middle school, they have Travel from class to class and so really working on organization of their things. They have a lot of things. So making sure that they know where things are. Trying to help them develop systems for how best to store their items, their work, their books, Things like that. But also responsibility is the big piece, is making sure that they know that they need to be responsible. It's not Mom's job or the teacher's job or dad's job. It's their job to make sure their work gets done and turned in. Sonya Pake [00:04:44]: And so they need to be the ones that are Responsible. Those are the 2 biggest ones, organization and responsibility. Socially, I think they're all ready, but those are the 2 big things that we really, really work on. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:04:57]: I appreciate you sharing that. Now you've been with the district now for a number of years. And every day, I know with teachers, there are things that Are positive. There's things that are negative. There's things that you look to that sustains you in the work that you do. What would you say has sustained you In your years in our district, and what makes Williamston a great place to work? Sonya Pake [00:05:18]: The biggest one for me is the people I get to work with. The rest of the 5th grade team is amazing. The building are amazing. The office people are amazing. So being able to come to work and know that you're fully supported by who you're with every day makes the day better just before it even starts. And then the other part is the students. I really truly work really hard to build Good, positive, strong relationships with my students. To know them not just as students, but as people outside the classroom, You know, about their home lives and what sports they play and giving your game schedule and things like that. Sonya Pake [00:05:53]: It's just really, really nice how involved a teacher can be In the community where they teach for sporting events and extracurriculars and things like that with the kids. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:06:03]: Yeah. I know you mentioned that one of reasons that you came to Williamston was the fact that you lived in the community, your daughter was in the community, and You made that transition. Talk to me about the difference that you found, whether it was right away or over time that you found in Living and working in the same community where you're teaching versus working outside and Coming back to a community. Sonya Pake [00:06:31]: It's different because before I worked in Williamston, I could go into town and nobody noticed me. And now I go into town and I always see somebody that I know. So there's that. But I think it's a different Kind of pride you wear when you work in the district where you live and you teach the kids that live in your neighborhood. So it's just a different kind of Pride that you have in what you do, but also in your home and, you know, your neighborhood and things like that. Because you are an integral part of that Community as a member, whether I think if you're working in a community and you live in the community, it doesn't matter if you're a teacher or anything else you do. I think you just carry a different pride about yourself when you kinda do both of those things in the same place versus Working somewhere and then you go home to somewhere else and you don't really have that community relationship as much. Because you just go to the building and then you come back. Sonya Pake [00:07:28]: Working and living is different. You have that different sense of pride and lack of privacy. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:07:34]: Definitely know what that's like In sitting on the school board, it's the same type of situation where you can be in anonymity, but then you can also be known by many that you may not know. So so definitely understand that. I've talked to many staff members that say the same where they walk into the D and Ws or they walk into other places, and then all the students come and talk to them and or the parents come and talk and so that anonymity goes away. So completely understand. Now Every teacher that I talk to, you're storytellers. You have stories. There are stories that sustain you as we just talked about on a daily basis. There's Stories that touch your hearts. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:08:14]: There's stories that are more challenging, and they are a part of who you are and become a part of who you are. Can you a story with me that for you epitomizes the experience that you've had as a Williamson staff member? Sonya Pake [00:08:27]: So I've had some challenges this year health related, and The support that I have received not just from staff members who know what's going on, But even just from parents, just by saying like, I have some health things going on. I need your support of your kids when they know I'm not going to be there. Things like that. I'm blown away By the support, the offerings of help or thoughts or, you know, things like that, I just It's something that I will always remember going through issues, but just to feel so supported, it's just amazing. It makes every day just a little bit easier to know that you have so many people in a community that you can lean on and turn to. And so for me, that will be a part of my story from here out, continuing in Williamston. You know, I won't forget How supported I felt and how loved and welcomed and appreciated I felt in a more difficult time. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:09:26]: And I think that's one of the things that is great about a small community that When I'll use the adage. When the going gets tough, people come together. Right? And and it's true that people do surround and Come out in droves to support people that really need it in our community. And I've seen that not only for you, but for Some of the other staff that are having some challenges this year, and it has been a positive experience in regards to Seeing that support and allowing for you as staff members to have that support that you need, and I'm glad that we've been able to have that support for you in this journey that you're on. Sonya Pake [00:10:07]: It's been wonderful. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:10:09]: Well, I truly appreciate everything that you do to help our kids to make that transition, to do all that you have To do to be able to be that advocate for our students. And I appreciate all that you've shared today, and I wish you all the best. Sonya Pake [00:10:23]: Thank you so much.
10:50 4/4/24
District Achievements and Future Plans: Academic Excellence, Bond Proposal, Sports and more
The Williamston Community Schools have been a hub of success and progress, and today in our podcast we bring back Superintendent Dr. Adam Spina. The episode delved into various topics, including academic achievements, recognition, and updates on district initiatives. Let's take a closer look at the highlights and key takeaways. Celebrating Academic Achievements: The episode began with a celebration of the remarkable academic achievements within the district. Dr. Spina highlighted the State Scorecard Index and the letter grading system, sharing the outstanding scores of Williamston High School, Middle School, and Explorer Elementary. The continuous high scores and consecutive recognitions underscore the dedicated efforts of the staff, students, and the support of the parents and the community. These achievements are a testament to the district's commitment to providing high-quality education and nurturing student growth. Transition in Accountability Metrics: A key topic of discussion was the upcoming changes in the accountability metrics for schools. Dr. Spina provided insights into the transition from the letter grading system to the State's accountability index as the primary metric. This shift reflects the need for a comprehensive and nuanced approach in assessing school performance, emphasizing the significance of student growth and overall progress. As the district aligns with these changes, the focus remains on ensuring a transparent and effective evaluation of educational standards. Empowering Female Students in STEAM: Another significant recognition highlighted in the podcast was the 2023 Advanced Placement Computer Science Female Diversity Award received by the district. This accolade reflects the success of the K-12 STEAM initiative and the emphasis on providing equitable representation for female students in STEAM-related classes. The district’s commitment to cultivating diverse participation in technology and scientific fields, as evident from the achievement, showcases a forward-thinking approach to education. Bond Proposal and Community Engagement: The discussion then shifted towards the collaborative efforts of a committee working on a bond proposal for the district. Dr. Spina detailed the comprehensive process that involved gathering community feedback to identify facility needs and prioritize essential developments within the given budget constraints. This transparent and inclusive approach demonstrates the district's commitment to involving the community in key decisions and ensuring that the proposed bond aligns with the collective vision for the future of Williamston schools. Athletic and Academic Achievements: The episode also highlighted the impressive accomplishments of various student groups and teams, including wrestlers, gymnasts, and the girls' basketball team. The district's strong emphasis on providing holistic support, not just for athletic programs, but also for academic and extracurricular activities, underscores the commitment to nurturing well-rounded student development. The podcast episode not only reflected the remarkable achievements and ongoing initiatives within the Williamston Community Schools but also highlighted the collaborative spirit and community engagement that are integral to the district's success. The commitment to academic excellence, equity, and holistic student development remains at the core of the district's mission. As the community continues to celebrate these accomplishments, the blog encourages ongoing engagement and support for the district's journey towards excellence and inclusivity. In conclusion, the podcast episode showcased the strong foundation, progressive initiatives, and unwavering dedication of the Williamston Community Schools, offering a glimpse into the vibrant educational landscape and the collective efforts shaping a promising future for students and the community at large. TRANSCRIPT Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:20]: Welcome back to the Hornet Hive. I'm your host, Doctor. Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education. Really excited to have you back again this week. I love being able to talk to you about the amazing things that are happening in our schools, and there are amazing things that are happening within our schools. And I have the opportunity to be able to talk with you about these things, to bring people out in front of you, to let you meet some of the amazing staff and learn about some of the activities and programs and things that we have available for our students. And every once in a while, I also get an opportunity to bring back Doctor. Adam Spina, our superintendent, to talk about what has been happening in our district, what is happening in our district, and it's always fun to have him here as well. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:05]: Doctor Spina, thanks so much for being here today. Dr. Adam Spina [00:01:07]: Thank you, Chris. As, you know, we were talking about before, we started recording, it's been awesome to see how the podcast has grown in popularity and the amount of folks, individual staff members, and also different programs associated with the district that wanna be featured on the podcast to tell their story. And I just, you know, I was kinda reflecting back when this used to just be you and I kinda chatting about this and how this initiative has really grown. So I appreciate your willingness to continue to lead this and get these, more nuanced perspectives of the things that are going on within the district out through this medium. So as always, appreciate your your your efforts and great to be a part of the, the production. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:46]: I appreciate you saying that. And it has been a lot of fun, not only for myself getting to know so many of our staff members, but also to allow for others in our community to be able to do the same because there are so many people and so many great things that are happening in our schools. And it's so important for everyone in our community to know that because I, for 1, definitely want to share this story and I want people to know what's happening because you all should be very proud of what is happening in our schools. And speaking of proud, I know that every year we end up getting some some accountability standards, the scorecard index that we get every year, the state accountability and letter grades, and we just got those back. Doctor. Spina, can you tell us a little bit more about this? And also I know there's been, there's going to be some changes happening with this in the future. And maybe you can talk on that too. Dr. Adam Spina [00:02:37]: Absolutely. So we look at these in a number of other metrics that give us indicators in terms of how we're doing as educators and and the progression that our students are making both academically and and from a social emotional standpoint as well. One of the key benchmarks that is published during the year are the, state accountability results, and there's 2 different systems, one of which will be going away after this year. But I'll start with the first one, which is the State Scorecard Index, or Accountability Index, depending on how you refer to it. And this is a metric that looks at a number of different factors across the district, including things like student proficiency on state assessments, graduation rates, participation in the assessment, overall school quality index, and there's a there's a whole system for how they devise what, makes up that component. And then probably the most important part, which is student growth. And, of course, that's always been the the main effort here in Williamston because we understand students are gonna be starting from different places. Our goal is to continue to educate them and maximize their success, regardless of where they start. Dr. Adam Spina [00:03:47]: And so while student proficiency or student achievement is is is always worth noting, For us, the most important aspect of that is is student growth. So in this index that is published annually, as folks might recall, we've we've done very well in recent years in terms of those results. And so I'm pleased to share this year that, Williamston High School received a 93.10 out of a 100 once all those different components are tabulated. That was the the highest score in Ingham County for high school, and it is the 5th consecutive year the high school has earned that designation. Williamston Middle School had a 91.79 out of 100, and that is also the highest score in the county for a middle school. And then Explorer Elementary had a 92.15 out of 100. We didn't go in to dig through all the, the many, many elementary schools within the county and the surrounding area, so I I don't know how that ranks comparatively. But, obviously, anything over 90 is a considerable achievement. Dr. Adam Spina [00:04:46]: And so, I just want to acknowledge and celebrate the successes of those schools who, all participate in this accountability index result. Bought our staff for their hard work, our students for, all their accomplishments, and obviously our parents and community for their ongoing support. The second system is the letter grading system that the, state started a number of years ago. So you have these 2 kind of concurrent accountability metrics that are published annually. Last year, a change in the law was made where the the letter grading system will be ended, but they're still publishing last year's results this year. So this is the last year we'll see those letter grades published. That said, again, this year, all of our schools that participate in the, state assessment program received a's for both student achievement or proficiency and student growth, which again are the the 2 main metrics with us particularly being interested in the student growth. So straight a's, so to speak, when looking at those two metrics of that accountability system. Dr. Adam Spina [00:05:46]: Again, though, this will be the last year that it's published and but, again, we do wanna recognize that success. And, again, congratulate our staff and our students, parents, and community on that accomplishment. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:05:56]: Now I know you just mentioned that the letter grade is going to be going away. Have you had any new insight into if something new is going to be developed or added on to be able to provide a similar type of assessment? Or will it only be the state accountability that will be the main standard for the state in looking at K12 education? Dr. Adam Spina [00:06:19]: Based on my current understanding, the state's accountability index or scorecard index, will remain as the primary accountability metric for schools within the state. There has been a debate for years on why there was a need to have 2 concurrent accountability systems at the same time in the state. That's not typical. I think there was some thought at one point that letter grades were more accessible, more understandable for folks that were trying to evaluate or assess schools. But as those of us that study grades, would would argue what that letter grade represents, it's an oversimplification. Right? So in in many cases to just say, you know, school has a b. Well, okay. What does that mean? Just like a oftentimes when we provide a grade for a student and we say, you know, you have a b plus or an a minus. Dr. Adam Spina [00:07:07]: Okay. Well, what does that consist of? What what does that grade actually represent? So after a lot of debate and political circles, it was finally determined last year that that was not needed and removed. And, again, as far as I know, the scorecard index will remain as the the primary accountability system for all schools in the state. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:07:24]: Appreciate you sharing that as well. Now I know there's been some other good news that had been coming down that we have gotten within the district that we got another award just recently that puts our students and our school in a very high light. Can you tell me more about that? Dr. Adam Spina [00:07:41]: Well, another recent res recognition was the, 2023 Advanced Placement Computer Science Female Diversity Award that is facilitated and issued by the College Board. And it's an award that recognizes high schools that have effectively engaged female students in computer science. In in our particular case, our computer science principles course that was started, I would say, about 6 years ago, maybe 7, at our high school. You might recall that, Williamson High School won this award also in 2019. The award is what it is, but I think the bigger piece for me at least is it's it's a reminder to kinda go back and see how far we've come with our k twelve steam initiative that was started, 2017 ish. And one of the goals was to create or to ensure that we had equitable representation amongst female students in STEAM related classes, in particular at the high school, after studying and understanding that the, the job market is gonna prioritize students who have a background in those fields of study, into the future. So this is a nice reminder that was one of the goals of that program. That notwithstanding, again, there's a lot of other things that we're trying to accomplish as a part of that, whether it's the expansion of our robotics programs and classes, or even just general engagement in terms of how do you apply the content you're learning in your core classes. Dr. Adam Spina [00:09:02]: So such as math. Right? We all remember, you know, probably from our own educational experiences, when am I ever gonna use this? Well, you do use it and providing the opportunity for students to apply what they're learning in those core content classes in a meaningful collaborative fashion through those Steam, related fields, answers that kind of inherently answers that question when you actually start to use those concepts, in a meaningful and collaborative way. So, again, they want is what it is. We're grateful to receive it and and, we appreciate the recognition. But I think more so, it's just a reminder that this is a major focus for the district and it shows, you know, the progress that's been made over the last, 7 6, 7, 8 years. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:09:41]: It's always positive to be able to see that incremental growth and continual movement in the right direction. So congratulations for all the hard work and for that achievement. Over the last few months, we've also been working with a committee, a committee of individuals from throughout our community to be able to talk about a bond proposal that we plan to have on the ballot for August. And through that work, we've been able to have some really good conversations about the needs of our district. And we are almost at a point where we have some ideas where we may be going. Doctor. Shpina, do you want to kind of give an idea of kind of the process that we've been following and people that have been involved and the direction that we're moving now? Dr. Adam Spina [00:10:27]: So 3 d members might recall a couple months ago, we sent out a survey to collect some initial feedback on identifying facilities within the district that are in need of either complete replacement or or repair. And I'll kinda cut to the chase. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive. In fact, you know, most surveys you send out, I mean, the feedback is invaluable. It helps you make course corrections and make adjustments, but it's rare that we've sent a survey out that has had that much positive response. So I think that the good piece here is that based on those survey responses, the community as a whole has recognized the areas within the district that are in need of, again, either replacement or at least a a refresh in some cases, and that, you know, that is a commonly understood piece, which, again, makes communicating a little bit easier when we share that common understanding. Those priorities were initially identified through a number of ways, including a comprehensive facilities assessment that was done, which quite frankly has identified much more need than what we anticipate is going to be proposed in the bond, which is to be a a 0 mil increase or no change to the current tax rate. So with that said, when you have that much identified need from a facilities and equipment standpoint and you have to live within your means, and the the district has always been, you know, clear that we're not seeking any type of tax rate increase. Dr. Adam Spina [00:11:51]: How do you prioritize those needs against that set budget? And so we've had a steering committee from across made up of representatives from across the community has put in a lot of time to prioritize those items. They had to make some difficult decisions. There are definitely some things that are important that are are not gonna make the cut in terms of what gets included into the proposal that the board will ultimately decide to to move forward. But really appreciate the input and the hard work, a lot of hours by that steering committee, that community committee to kinda coalesce around of all the priorities, what are the very top things that must be done? It's also worth noting that, you know, Michigan is one of the very few states that does not grant districts money for infrastructure improvements or or upgrades. So by design, by law, this is the process in Michigan in terms of how districts seek those large scale capital improvements to schools and corresponding equipment. And so this is the process. We will make sure over the months to follow, there's a lot of information presented and included in our website and other presentations that are made available to the community. And we wanna be very clear, very is a part of this potential initiative. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:13:11]: So I think the biggest thing here is just to say more info to come, more data to come, and we'll be sharing more as this moves forward be with you to make sure that you are aware and hopefully that you're excited about the changes that are going to be a part of this and that we will hopefully be able to bring to fruition in the future after the completion of the bond. Now one of the other things that I know that we always get to talk about as we end up different seasons of the year is sports, and we've are just about getting through our winter sports season as we get ready to move into our spring sports season. And some of our teams did quite well as well this season. Do you wanna give us a little bit of an update on that? Dr. Adam Spina [00:13:58]: Absolutely. Although as we've discussed before, this always makes me nervous because I know I'm gonna forget someone and which is not intentional, but the other piece too is that we have a lot of other groups that are not connected to athletics that are competing in various formats. So, you know, band festival, we have our quiz ball teams, robotics teams. So there there's a lot going on this time of year, and, we try to feature as many of those contests as we can on our website through the community update that's published every other week from the district. But just to get a get a couple highlights, we had several wrestlers qualify to compete when the individual state championships. We've had a gymnast who has gone on and won the regional competition. Our girls' basketball team completed an undefeated conference season and is, now ranked in the top 10 in the state heading into the MHSA tournament. And so across the board, our athletic teams, our coaches, and parents, and community members who support them have been outstanding. Dr. Adam Spina [00:14:55]: One of the things I've talked about with my own family and some other members, of the Williamston community is just the difference in how much it matters and how passionate people are and the level of support that I think our students, whether they're in those clubs or band or athletics receive. And I think it's it's very telling just in terms of the general environment, like, when we travel to other schools, other communities to watch our teams, participate and then kind of compare that to the environment that we see here in William Stanton. It's it's a remarkable difference and something that we're greatly appreciative for. I know our students recognize and they're appreciative of, and it's it's just a great thing here. So part of another reason of many why Williamston is a special place and an awesome community. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:15:38]: Well, Doctor. Spino, I just wanna say thank you. Thank you as always for sharing all of these amazing things that are happening within our schools. And thank you for listening today, for being here, for being a part of our community and being a part of our schools and being interested in what's happening in our schools. It's so important to have you as a part of this journey that we're all on in supporting our youth, in supporting our schools to be the best that they can be. I encourage you to stay engaged, stay active, and watch for more updates that are going to be shared throughout the coming months about amazing things that are happening in our schools because they will continue to be shared out. And if you've got questions along the way, do reach out as well. Make sure to reach out. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:16:26]: Doctor Spino would be happy to answer questions that you may have, and we are always willing to answer questions of individuals. So thank you for listening. Come back again next time as I introduce you to other people as well as activities and more that are happening within our district. Thanks so much for listening, and have a great day.
17:12 3/14/24
3rd Grade Adventures: A Conversation with Sarah Long & Libbey Merrell
Teaching is a noble and challenging profession, and those who choose to educate young minds carry the responsibility of sculpting the future generation. In a recent episode of the Hornet Hive podcast, Dr. Christopher Lewis, who also serves on the Williamson Community Schools Board of Education, engaged in an insightful conversation with third-grade teachers Sarah Long and Libby Merrell from Explorer Elementary. The discussion provided a window into the unique world of 3rd-grade education, offering valuable insights into the experiences, challenges, and joys of molding young learners during a time marked by both growth and adversity.   Embracing New Beginnings Sarah Long and Libby Merrell, both veteran educators in the Williamson district, share the paths that led them to teach 3rd grade. Sarah, a former resident of Williamston, found herself drawn back to her roots while Libby, influenced by a successful student-teaching experience, was inspired to join the district. Their stories reflect a commitment to fostering academic and personal growth in the community they serve. The dedication of these teachers emphasizes the profound influence that educators can have on their students' lives.   Navigating the Joys and Challenges of 3rd Grade The teachers highlight the unique nature of the 3rd-grade year, emphasizing the pivotal role it plays in the students' educational journey. As children transition from lower to upper elementary, they experience a metamorphosis, growing into role models and active participants in their learning environment. The teachers describe how this pivotal year fosters immense growth and development, bolstering students' ability to embrace new challenges, nurture resilience, and foster a sense of community within the classroom.   Adapting to Unforeseen Challenges The conversation delves into the unprecedented challenges faced by teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Long and Merrell candidly recount their experiences, having joined the district just before the pandemic's onset. Detailing the abrupt shift to virtual teaching and subsequent return to in-person instruction, they emphasize the critical role of collaboration and adaptability in navigating these turbulent times. The teachers underscore how their professional growth in technology integration and sustaining social-emotional learning have reshaped the teaching landscape, enriching the educational experience for students.   Sustaining Through Community and Support The educators highlight the pillars that sustain them through the years at Williamson Community Schools. Both Sarah and Libby emphasize the unwavering support and camaraderie among school staff, creating a nurturing environment that bolsters their resilience and fosters growth. Their experiences underscore the transformative power of a strong and supportive community in the educational ecosystem, from colleagues to students and families.   Epitomizing the Teaching Experience Sarah and Libby share heartwarming anecdotes that encapsulate their experiences as educators at Williamson Community Schools. From students returning to express their gratitude to witnessing the enthusiastic engagement of children during school assemblies, their stories embody the profound impact and fulfillment that comes with shaping young minds. Their accounts serve as a testament to the immense joy and reward embedded within the fabric of the teaching profession.   Conclusion The conversation with Sarah Long and Libby Merrell offers a captivating glimpse into the multifaceted world of 3rd-grade education at Williamson Community Schools. It stands as a testament to the resilience, adaptability, and unwavering dedication of educators in empowering the next generation. Their experiences serve as a poignant reminder of the transformational influence teachers have in shaping young learners, nurturing their growth, and instilling a love for learning that transcends classrooms. As we reflect on their journey, we're reminded of the remarkable impact that dedicated educators have on their students, their community, and the future at large.   TRANSCRIPT Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:19]: Welcome back to the Hornet Hive. I'm your host, doctor Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Williamson Community Schools Board of Education. Really excited to have you back again this week. Every week, I love being able to sit down with you to talk to you about the amazing things that are happening within our schools because there are so many things that are happening. And whether you have kids in the district or not, there are things that you need to know about and just stay on top of because of the fact that It's happening in our community and it's impacting many families, but it's also impacting all of the kids going through our schools. So I love being able to sit down and talk with you every week to be able to bring you up to speed, to allow you to enter our schools even if you don't have kids in the district or if you have kids in the district, but they might not be at the same education level that Of the guests that we're having on the show or about the topics that we're talking about. Because like I said, lots of things happening at all levels of education, and it's important to keep you in the know in that re regard. Every week, I also love being able to have opportunities to bring people on because there's so many people behind the scenes, people that you have met, people that you have not met, that you've never gotten to know or that you might know very well. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:33]: And it's important again To open the door and allow for you to get to know the staff that are working with our students on a daily basis. And today, we've got 2 great guests with us. I'm really excited to have 2 of our 3rd grade teachers from Explorer Elementary with us today. Sarah Long and Libby Merrill are with us, And really excited to have both of them here to talk about their experiences as 3rd grade teachers and to allow for you to get to know them a little bit better. Sarah, Libby, thanks so much for being here today. Sarah Long: [00:02:01]: Thanks for having us. Yeah. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:02:03]: It is my pleasure having both of you here today. I'm really excited to be able For people to get to know you better, and one of the first things that I love doing is turning the clock back. Both of you have been in the district for a little bit of time, and I want you to go back and tell us what initially brought you to Williamson. Libbey Merrell  [00:02:20]: So going back 6 years From this year, I was going into my student teaching and I went to Alma College and they kind of gave us the option to search around for a district that we, you know, would like to student teach in. I grew up down the road in Mason and so thinking of things that were close to home, but, you know, something new Brought me to find Williamston, so I reached out and I was super fortunate to land a student teaching position with Christina Foley, who was also teaching 3rd grade at the Time. So 3rd grade quickly captured my heart. I had such a great student teaching experience with her. And so when a couple of retirees Left the district the following year. I applied and I was super fortunate to land a job also in 3rd grade. So that's what brought me here, And I've loved it ever since. Sarah Long: [00:03:07]: And my story a little different, so I actually grew up in Williamston and so I went to Central did my student teaching closer to central and as, you know, I was just looking for job postings. Of course, I kept my eye on Williamston. I love growing up here. Would love To the possibility to have a job here and there was all sorts of openings back in 2019 when I was applying and same year as Libby, I Got one of those retirees who left from 3rd grade and got that position and have loved being here ever since. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:03:40]: So both of you are in 3rd grade. As, Libby said, you came to love 3rd grade. But talk to me about 3rd grade. What is it about 3rd grade that you both Love. Libbey Merrell  [00:03:50]: I would say, 3rd grade is when they come from discovery to the new building. It's a brand new routine for them, a new school for them, and I really think that it's a huge transition that the students go through in 3rd grade from those little kids to now they're in the upper elementary school. We kind of, You know, try to frame them as role models for the younger students when they get to 3rd grade and so I just think it's a huge transition year and you really see them kind of Blossom and develop into the students who they are. So that's what I love the most. Sarah Long: [00:04:24]: Yeah. I feel like very similar For me too, I feel like there is just huge growth. I bet, you know, from my student teaching, preschool teaching saw some other grade levels and just Where they started beginning of 3rd grade to the end, I just feel like it's such a huge year of growth for the students. And so just watching them and And but we still love like, they're still they're still kids at heart. Right? And so they get to bring that energy with them every day that Makes the job very rewarding. Libbey Merrell  [00:04:50]: Yeah. They still love to learn Yes. At this stage, which is so fun. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:04:53]: So both of you started right before COVID, And you survived the big transition going from being in person to going online, And then having that pretty much full year of online and then transitioning back. So really your 1st 3 years were very chaotic. Talk to me about that and now what teaching is like in 3rd grade after the COVID nineteen pandemic. Sarah Long: [00:05:24]: Well, I can definitely say that had it not been for, like, our 3rd grade team, I don't know how We would have all made it through those, like, pandemic years. Mhmm. I know actually, like, when that all started, like, towards the end of our very first Here, me and Libby decided to pursue a master's in learning design and technology, which also that we stayed on as the virtual teachers. So again, We really are thankful for that program because that also prepared us. But then as far as, like, returning back to normal. I know for me, it was so thankful to be back in person back to, like, what was, like, normal. And I felt like that was really when our Team, we still knew our team well, but that really felt like we got to know and want each other and kind of figuring out now that we're post pandemic, we gonna kinda maybe revamp things or integrate some of those learning we did during the pandemic to also continue our teaching moving forward? So that was, like, a nice piece coming back together and taken, hey. What did you do virtually? What did you do? Let's see how we can integrate that with our curriculum, what we're already doing. Sarah Long: [00:06:28]: And, overall, I feel like our team were We've got a system. We work together well, and I think that it's been really good. We have our normal curriculum and then that gave us that technology piece that we get to integrate still. Libbey Merrell  [00:06:41]: Yeah. It was an insane 1st couple years because 1st year was when the pandemic started. Our 2nd year, as Sarah said, Was all virtual until that 3rd year of teaching really felt like year 1 for us again because we that was the 1st full year in person that we finally got a full year in teaching and the students were just coming back from all different experiences that experiences that they had during the pandemic. So that year was kind of rocky and it took, You know, like Sarah said, our whole team coming together and really taking all of our experiences from virtual teaching to those in person cohorts and just Kind of having to work together to see like, okay, how can we meet our students where they're at? Obviously some are behind, they have different learning experiences than others. Some are bounds ahead because they had, you know, so much support at home or this or that and so It definitely took a year or 2 to get into the groove again, but I'd say, you know, now that this is our 3rd year back in person, yeah, Things are kind of in the groove now, which is really nice. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:07:41]: And how do you find that teaching and learning now is different than it was prior to the pandemic. Sarah Long: [00:07:48]: Well, this is always a tricky question as we only knew what school was like Pre pandemic for a very short period of time. I would just say the big thing that stands out to me is just the emphasis on technology. I feel wasn't Necessarily. Not that it wasn't there, but you can just tell, like, after virtual learning and the pandemic. I just feel like can tell that people are being a lot more intentional with, like, how they're using technology and the ways that they're using it within school, which That's, like, one thing that I would definitely say has changed from, like, when I started to now. Yeah. And I Libbey Merrell  [00:08:24]: would say the technology piece is big and then Social emotional learning has, I think, taken a big shift because I think that with those few years that some students weren't in a classroom, it took a while to get kids Back to remembering, oh, yeah. I'm not the only one in this room. There's not just me and 1 adult like there may have been at home. There are 25, 26 other students I need to share this space with, I need to share speaking time with, I need to be empathetic towards, like, So just that piece of, like, shifting from whatever your experience was at COVID, whether it was a smaller in person cohort in school or Just at home with a small group of learners to oh, yeah. This is back with a full classroom of students. How do we, like, navigate that and Create a community in the classroom that can flow. So that's been a a shift. But, again, I think now that we're in the groove of it, I think students are doing a great job. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:09:21]: Now both of you have been in the district for 6 years. As you think back to your experiences, And you've talked a little bit about this already, but there are different things that sustain you on a daily basis, on an an on a yearly basis, things that make you want to Continue in the work that you do from year to year. What would you say has sustained you over the years in the district, and what makes Williams in a great place to work. Sarah Long: [00:09:46]: Again, I definitely think the community is a great benefit of Williamson, like, not just, like, Of course, Williamson Community itself, but, like, within our building, I feel that I mean, not just in my 3rd grade team, but I feel like there are Colleagues and, like, staff all throughout the building that if I needed anything, they'd be there like that or, you know, those days where You're feeling a little defeated or it was just, like, one of those tough days. I know that there's about anybody in this building that I could reach out to and say, hey. I'm having a tough time or hey. I need help or Have you been through this? Like, what how did you do to handle this? So, I mean, definitely just the community and, like, the staff here, just knowing that I have a support system Definitely makes a huge difference in just the sustainability. Libbey Merrell  [00:10:33]: Yeah, I would say the same thing. I totally love this staff and like Sarah said, We all really have each other's backs. You know, there are gonna be days where you're more tired or you feel defeated like she said, where you just You need, you know, someone to be there for you. So I feel like just the staff here is amazing. Community is amazing. The students and the families That we work with year after year have just been phenomenal. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:10:58]: Now every teacher that I talk to, you're storytellers. You have many stories, Both positive and negative of things that happen in the classroom, things that happen in the school, things that you take home with you and you just leave at home, things that You talk amongst other colleagues and friends and things that you just hold internally that, again, sustains you in many different ways. Can both of you share with me a story that for you epitomizes the experience that you've had as a Williamston staff member? Libbey Merrell  [00:11:29]: I would Say something that just sustains me year after year and something that just will always continue to warm my heart is being able to See students as they grow, you know, I coach and I teach and so when I'm coaching middle school and I get those students that I've also had in class Come back and feel so excited to work with me on the team. It just it warms my heart. It makes me so happy to know that They remember me and now they want to be on the team or this or that. And the same thing, you know, seeing students just go out of their way to come back and family members go out of their way to come back and just Say hey, you know, thanks for everything after all these years. I can't think of one specific story or example but I know that has happened more than once and it really just, It means the world to hear that. Sarah Long: [00:12:14]: Yes, I would agree. And I feel like I hope this is answering the question you were asking, Chris, but like one thing that This sticks out. This is just like one memory from this year, but like I'm thinking when we had our assembly and they were calling students up and I mean, just watching the kids engagement and assembly, like some of my students, like former students, my current students, and just watching their energy and like The joy and I remember just watching some of the kids being absolute goofballs in the best way. And I remember, like, almost said to it was a Libby. I was like, I am, like, crying laughing and I just was and I said the words to her. I said this the is these are days where I'm like, ah, yes. This is why we do this job, like, look at the joy, look at the energy, like, look at how much fun we're having and it's just a normal Friday afternoon. So Again, that's just a more recent one, but those little days like that where you just watch the kids come together and you watch that community and just the joy and the love they have for each other in the school and That just makes my day. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:13:10]: Well, Sarah, well, Libby, I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for what you do to be able To not only welcome those 3rd graders up to Explore, but work with them, help them to move forward Through Explore into middle school and beyond, and to give them those tools that they need to be able to be successful as they Continue on with their education, and I wish you both all the best. Sarah Long: [00:13:34] Thank you so much, Chris. Yes. Thank you,
14:03 2/29/24
Diving Into 2nd Grade with Lisa Major: Finding Joy in Teaching and Learning
In this episode of the Hornet Hive podcast, we had the pleasure of speaking with Lisa Major, a dedicated 2nd-grade teacher at Discovery Elementary in Williamston. As a seasoned educator, Lisa walked us through her inspiring journey into education and her experiences within the Williamston school district. Throughout our conversation, Lisa shared valuable insights into her love for teaching, the impact of the Williamston community, and the challenges she has faced, particularly in the context of the ever-evolving landscape of education and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Joy of Teaching 2nd Grade One of the most striking aspects of Lisa's narrative was her infectious passion for teaching 2nd grade. While she initially favored 3rd grade, Lisa found a deep connection with the 2nd-grade students due to their unbridled enthusiasm for learning. She emphasized that these young learners, with their genuine appreciation for education and their unassuming eagerness, continue to bring her immense joy each day. Through her nurturing guidance, she fosters an environment where children can thrive, embracing the unique wonder and curiosity that defines this pivotal stage of their educational journey. Embracing Support and Unity among Staff Lisa spoke with great warmth about the supportive environment that characterizes the ethos of Williamston's educational community. She highlighted the importance of being able to seek and provide assistance without judgment, emphasizing the collective dedication to the well-being and growth of the students. This spirit of unity and cooperation among the staff members has been instrumental in fostering a nurturing and empowering environment, instilling a sense of purpose and camaraderie that transcends the traditional role of an educator. The Impact of COVID-19 on Education Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly reshaped the landscape of education. Lisa candidly shared her experiences, detailing the challenges brought forth by this unprecedented change. The increased reliance on electronic communication and the blurring boundaries between home and school presented a learning curve for both educators and students. Furthermore, the shift to remote learning and the subsequent return to traditional classroom routines posed unique challenges, underscoring the adaptability and resilience required of educators faced with such dynamic changes. Navigating Technological Advancements As education becomes increasingly intertwined with technology, Lisa emphasizes the importance of maintaining a balance between the benefits and limitations of digital tools in the classroom. While devices such as iPads and Chromebooks offer valuable learning opportunities, she elucidates the potential loss of personal interactions amidst the proliferation of screen time. Moreover, she conveyed the students' adeptness with technology, a testament to the evolving demands placed on educators to integrate digital literacy seamlessly into their pedagogical approach. Cultivating Community Engagement Within the context of the Williamston community, Lisa highlighted the heartwarming collective efforts that have resonated deeply with her. The annual 12 Days of Giving project stands as a tangible example of the community's generosity and its profound impact on the students. Through initiatives like this, the community's unwavering support and engagement serve to reinforce the school's role as a hub of interconnectedness and shared values, further enriching the educational experience for both students and educators. Conclusion In conclusion, Lisa Major's invaluable perspective offers crucial insights into the dynamic nature of education, the resiliency of educators, and the profound impact of community involvement. Amidst the evolving landscape of pedagogy and the enduring effects of the pandemic, her unwavering dedication to fostering growth and nurturing young minds stands as a testament to the essential role of educators in shaping the future. As we navigate the complexities of modern education, Lisa's experiences serve as a poignant reminder of the enduring spirit and collective endeavor that underpin the educational journey for both the educators and the students. In listening to Lisa's journey, it becomes evident that the pursuit of knowledge and growth extends far beyond the confines of the classroom. It transcends the conventional boundaries, weaving a rich tapestry of experiences that shape the intellectual, emotional, and communal growth of the individuals involved. With each interaction and anecdote shared, Lisa's narrative beautifully encapsulates the profound impact of educators and the collective dedication to fostering a future brimming with promise and possibility. TRANSCRIPT Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:03]: Welcome back to the Hornet Hive. I'm your host, doctor Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education. Really excited to have you back again this week. Every week I love being able to sit down and talk with you and be able to share Some of the amazing things that are happening in our district because there are amazing things that are happening within our district. There's amazing people that are working in our district. There are So many things that our kids do that are just so above and beyond what other districts offer, and I want to Take the time to be able to share with you all of these different things because I know that not all of you have kids in the district. And I also know that things change, and it's important for people to understand the people, the opportunities, the things that are happening in the district so that you are connected with What's Happening as well. This week, we've got another great guest with us today. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:56]: Lisa Majors is with us, and she's a 2nd grade teacher at Discovery Elementary. Street. And I love being able to bring you our teachers because they do such amazing things with our kids. And it's important it's important for you to know the people that are working with our kids. No matter if you have kids in 2nd grade or if you have kids in high school or if you don't have kids in the district at all anymore, and that's okay. So really excited to have Lisa with us today. Lisa, thanks so much for joining us today. Lisa Major [00:01:23]: Thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:26]: Well, I am excited to be able to get to know you a little bit more and let other people get to know you. So let's turn the clock back a little bit here, and tell me your story. Tell me what brought you originally to Williamston. Lisa Major [00:01:39]: Oh, we're gonna have to turn the clock back about 11 years. I started working in the district as a guest teacher back in, I I wanna say maybe 2012. I had moved back to the state. I was teaching in North Carolina. I taught 3rd grade there. And when I I returned to Michigan, I was seeking, you know, for a job here and subbing seemed to be a way to get into districts and to get to know the different districts in the area. And I remember subbing in Williamston a few times, and it was such a wonderful experience all the way around. Just the staff, you know, staff, the kids, the experience, School. Lisa Major [00:02:11]: Academic standards. I mean, I have been in a lot of districts. Let me just say that again. Many districts, and Williamson just sort of stood out amongst rest. And what I would do is try to get as many jobs here as I could, and then I would fill in with other districts. And once I was here enough, I would get to know staff members and they say, hey, you know, you'll be able to stay this day so I'd be here as much as I possibly could. And then one of the days I was subbing, I was approached. School. Lisa Major [00:02:35]: At the time, we called it a tier 2 peer professional position. Now we refer to it as when, like, what I need position. And, of course, I was like, wait, I can be here every day? Absolutely. So I accepted that position and so I did that for 3 years. I worked with kids reading and math interventions and then we would administer assessments and things like that. Ultimately, I wanted a teaching position, so I did leave for a year. I I taught in Stockbridge As a title one teacher, it was a long term subposition there as well. And then some positions opened up here in explorer and discovery. Lisa Major [00:03:04]: And I thought, oh, let me Let me throw my hat in the ring as it were, and I did. And, ultimately, I was hired as a 2nd grade teacher. So I've been doing that now for 6 years. So I'm very fortunate to be here. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:03:15]: So talk to me about 2nd grade, and what is it about 2nd grade that you love most? Lisa Major [00:03:19]: Well, I have to say that a 3rd grade used to be my favorite grade level. Now mind you, I have I have subbed or taught, quote unquote, pre k all the way to high school during my sub time. And I have to say that 3rd grade was always Special to me. But when I started teaching 2nd grade, I realized I liked it even more because the kids of course, they're always sweet, but They still appreciate learning and they they're not quite as savvy as 3rd grade and above can be as far as, like, knowledge of things going on around. They Still have that joy of learning and it's just been a really a a real joy to work here and to work with these kids because they're so great and, you know, they still they still They still enjoy school. They still enjoy learning. And I I just it's just a joy every day. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:04:04]: Now you've been working in and out of the district now for a number of years. And as you said, you've done a lot of different things from subbing to win positions to being in now in the classroom for many years. And as a teacher, I know that it can be a challenging role. It can be especially you went through COVID and all of the challenges that that put out there. But talk to me about what has sustained you over the years in our district and what makes Williamston a great place to work? Lisa Major [00:04:34]: Well, it's Sure words never were spoken as far as things having changed since COVID. That has truly been I think for all of us, I think no matter what position you have, no matter what Your job is I think that COVID really did change things. But truly, yeah, this is my 19th year in education. I know to look at me, you wouldn't think so, but it's true. I've been Teaching now where I've been in education for 19 years, and it's the kids truly. That's what keeps me going. And just being able to interact with them and seeing their growth From August to June, and just knowing that you make an impact and a positive impact on kids' lives. I mean, Williamston is special because Of everything. Lisa Major [00:05:11]: We were talking families, we're talking staff, we're talking kids. That's what has like, every day, I come here and think, gosh, I get to work here. I know it sounds cheesy and whatever it might be, but it's true. And as far as teaching, it it would be the kids. Many things have changed over the teen years. I I mean, I started teaching back in 2005. And so many many things have changed, but Kids are still kids and it's still a joy to work with them. And and Williamston just truly the community is just a special place. Lisa Major [00:05:40]: I don't live here. I live in Howell. I feel like I should mention that. School. I enjoy being here and just a a shameless plug of our 12 days of giving, we're on day 11 today and that is a 2nd great love Service Project and explore and discovery, but we collect donations, various donations for the different days. And just to see the community come together, I'm Pleasantly surprised every year by the generosity of the community and how much it impacts the kids, and they're so proud of this project. And we talk a lot about how it it will affect community in a positive way and the impacts it'll have. And it's just such a special just a special place to work. Lisa Major [00:06:15]: The community, the families, the kids, I could go on, but it's just a great place to be. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:06:21]: Now every teacher that I talk to, you're storytellers. You have definite stories that you SCAVE that you hold on to, that you take home with you, that you reflect back on for positive or negative. And that happens throughout every year, but it compounds throughout your career. As you think back to the experiences that you've had in Williamston, Simpson. Can you share a story with me that epitomizes to you the experience that you've had as a staff member here in Williamston? Lisa Major [00:06:50]: I guess I would say Just the fact that we just come together as a staff so beautifully and just knowing that when you need support, it's there. And when you you have a student that may or that might need extra what whatever that might entail, to know that people have your back And to be able to say, hey. You know, I'm having this is going on. How can I get what can I do? And just being able to talk together in an honest way And to know that people aren't judging you, that you're doing the best that you can, and your goal is always to be there for the kids and to do your best for the kids. And so that to me there are various stories, but, like, that's the biggest one for me is being able to say, hey, I need help. Because oftentimes we don't ask Enough for help. And so that's just been a big a big, gosh. She's just made such a positive impact on my teaching career and as a person and just knowing that, okay, I have the support here that I need. Lisa Major [00:07:44]: To me, that's such an important part of education. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:07:47]: Now I know you mentioned the fact that Teaching has changed since COVID and for parents that don't have or community members that don't have kids in the district. Talk to me about that. And how has teaching changed, and what have you had to do differently now versus prior to COVID. Lisa Major [00:08:08]: COVID, like, even I think just in our personal lives, it has affected us so much. Time, I feel like it's different now. I mean, it truly isn't, but when you think back, my gosh, is that only last year? It feels like 10. Or, you know, time things like that. I mean, it's just such a it has, I think, Truly done a number on us mentally and just professionally and and everything. Teaching has changed. I think we're competing a lot more with electronics and devices And what goes on at home as far as screen time and things like that. When I started teaching, email's a wonderful thing. Lisa Major [00:08:40]: But when I was teaching, it was usually phone calls or it was person and and now a lot of things are done electronically, which is great in a way, but you also lose some of that FaceTime. And sometimes the way things come across with just words is a text is different than when you're actually talking to somebody, and so I think that's kind of been a challenge. It's been great in many ways, but But it's also been a challenge. And for kids, that screen time is such a devices and things. Like, we have Ipads and Chromebooks and things in the classroom, of scores, and they're great devices for learning and learning tools and all of that. But, you know, I stumble on what's going on with them sometimes that they're not working out to say, hey, who thinks they could fix this? Oh, wonderful. And so they're they're really good with technology, which is great because we know that that is a part of society now and and it's important. But I do think we lose some of that Of of the interactions, and I I miss some of that with parents and with the kids sometimes. Lisa Major [00:09:33]: And I do feel like that's one of the biggest Challenges and I also feel like when kids were home for such a long time, it was just different and and they're used to learning in a different way. They're kinda like, we would have assignments and things for kids to work on, but they did it at their own time. You know, maybe that was after dinner or maybe that was earlier. They got everything done by lunch and then the afternoon was kind of theirs to do as they wished and And that's it's not like that here. You know, we have our schedule and routine, and so I think that's been a challenge as well. I think the kids, for the most part, appreciate the routine that we have here, School. But I do think that that's been a challenge. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:10:04]: Well, Lisa, I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for all that you do to be able to help our young ones to be able to thrive and and prepare them for 3rd grade and beyond, and I truly wish you all the best. Lisa Major [00:10:17]: Oh, thank you. I appreciate your time.
11:02 2/15/24
The Joy of Kindergarten: Sara Parsons' Passion for Teaching and Making Learning Fun
In this episode of the Hornet Hive, Dr. Christopher Lewis, welcomes Sara Parsons, a dedicated kindergarten teacher with over two decades of experience in the district.  Sara Parsons shares her journey, dating back to the early 2000s when she and her husband chose Williamston as their home. Drawn by the community's warmth and the unique balance of a small-town feel with ample opportunities, Sara has found fulfillment in teaching and raising her own children within the district. Reflecting on her 21 years in Williamston, Sara appreciates the district's commitment to innovation. She notes that the schools consistently embrace new ideas, emphasizing the importance of evolving teaching methods. This adaptability, she believes, has contributed to the district's success. As a kindergarten teacher, Sara sheds light on the joys and challenges of working with young learners. She describes the inherent enthusiasm kindergartners have for learning and the significant growth they experience during this foundational year. Sara emphasizes the importance of building relationships and witnessing the early literacy skills click for her students. Addressing common misconceptions about kindergarten, Sara dispels the notion that kindergarten teachers are merely entertainers with alphabet pins. Instead, she emphasizes the role of kindergarten teachers in teaching children how to navigate the school environment. For families preparing their children for kindergarten, Sara advises fostering independence in children by allowing them to perform tasks on their own. Whether it's putting on a coat or managing school supplies, these skills contribute to a smoother transition into the kindergarten experience. Additionally, she underscores the critical role of reading in fostering early literacy skills. Dr. Lewis concludes the episode by inviting Sara to share a poignant story from her teaching career. Sara recounts a heartwarming moment when a former student, now in her thirties, reached out to express gratitude and contribute to Sara's own children's service project. This touching anecdote illustrates the lasting impact teachers can have on their students, creating a sense of connection that spans decades. In closing, Dr. Lewis expresses gratitude to Sara for her dedication and contributions to the educational community. Sara's narrative not only highlights the unique aspects of teaching in Williamston but also underscores the profound connections formed between educators and their students over the years. TRANSCRIPT Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:19]: Welcome back to the Hornet Hive. I'm your host, doctor Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education. Really excited to Talk with you again this week, every week. I love talking about all of the great things that are happening within the Williamson Community Schools because there are so many great things happening within our Schools and and I definitely want you to know about all of them, but, also, I want you to know about the amazing people that are in our schools as well. Because Whether you have kids in the district or not, whether you have young kids or old kids that are in the district, you're not going to see and meet Every staff member that are in the schools, but every one of our staff members does amazing things with our kids, and it's important to share with you Who they are, what they do, and how they how they work with our students to make our schools the best they can be. Week, we got another great guest with us today. Sara Parsons is with us, and Sara is a teacher that's been in the district for quite some time and is a kindergarten teacher. And I am really excited to have her here and for her to share her story with you. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:24]: Sara, thanks so much for being here today. Sara Parsons [00:01:26]: Thank you for having me. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:27]: It is my pleasure having you here today. And 1st and foremost, one of the things I love doing is turning the clock back in time. So I'd like to go back, Well, a couple of years. Back to the beginning back to that beginning when you were just deciding about coming to our district. What initially brought you to Williams? Sara Parsons [00:01:45]: Gosh. I was actually teaching this is back in the very early 2000. I was a 6th grade English teacher up in Gratiot County and ended up moving here a year after that position in 2003 and we love the community actually. My husband and I were looking for a place To kind of settle and make our home base a place where I could kind of teach and work and Williamson kind of fit the bill for a place that I could Teach and live in and we could have a family one day in. So that's what brought me back here. It's 21 years ago, something like that. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:02:15]: Now 21 years, a long time long time to stay in one place and to enjoy what you're doing. And for every teacher, there are different reasons. There's different reasons for why someone stays, what and what sustains them in that role. So for you, what Sustains you in the work that you're doing within the district, and what has sustained you in our district, and what makes Williamston a great place to work? Sara Parsons [00:02:41]: Well, I love the size of Williamson. I think that teaching and also as a mom to kids who have gone almost finished going through the district here. I think our district size is very unique and that we offer a ton of opportunities For our size, you get that small community feel where you kind of get to know families really well, but you have a ton of opportunity given that size. So I love the community aspect of it and I love it. It's fun to look back. Some of my, you know, I'm waiting for my first 4th or 5th grader because that's where I started here in Williamston back in the early 2000, so I'm waiting to have a kindergartener of a former student. But think that's the beauty of it. The relationships that you get to form in a small district like this are, I think, really unique and make it a special place. Sara Parsons [00:03:27]: So I love that about Williamston, but I also love that Williamston since the very beginning. I remember this my very beginning 1st few years. We've always, I feel like been on Sort of the cutting edge in our county. We always, for the 21 years I've been here, have been very good at thinking outside of the box, Trying new things, really looking at how our craft, you know, how we need to change it and tweak it. And I think that's been a great part of teaching here. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:03:53]: Now you mentioned the fact that you were early on in 4th grade, but over many years now, you've been in kindergarten. What is it about Kindergartners that you love most, and why have you stayed at that level? Sara Parsons [00:04:07]: Well, what's cool about kindergarten, it's Harder in a lot of ways, but kindergartners inherently love school. They just really seem to enjoy it here And they thrive on relationships, which is always something that I've loved building. And a prime example, we had volleyball. I've got a few of my Families who came to my daughter's volleyball game and I thought what a cool moment where I can have my students, my school kids so to speak, be a part of my Home kids and kindergarten is just a fun time because they're excited to learn and a crazy incredible amount of growth takes place the kindergarten year. A lot of Foundational, really important growth and it's really it's cool to be a part of that. It's cool to see those early literacy skills sort of click with kids. I think that's the relationships and and being a part of that foundational work is really cool. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:04:57]: Being a kindergarten teacher, would you say are there any misnomers, things that people Think about kindergarten that you're like, that's not really true. Sara Parsons [00:05:05]: Back in the day, kindergarten teachers were jumpers with alphabet, You know, Apple Pins and I think I think honestly I think kindergarten teachers are just like other teachers. It's a different population of kids because you're really teaching them how to To do school, especially for those kids who haven't been in any kind of school setting, but, gosh, we're just like regular teachers just like everybody else. We just have a bit of a different student Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:05:29]: population. And for young families that are looking at, hey. My kid's going to be coming to school in the the next year, the next Couple years, and what can I do to best prepare my child for kindergarten? What would you say to them? Sara Parsons [00:05:42]: Oh, I would say as many opportunities that you can give your young ones to be independent, to do things independently, I think is really really important. That can be as simple as putting a coat on independently to, you know, being independent with opening and maintaining, you know, keeping track of their supplies and their materials and cleaning up after themselves, so kind of building those independent skills I think are really important, but the, You know, if you're looking at academics, read read with your family members, read with your kiddos, that is the most important thing that you can do for that early literacy success, in my opinion, is just engage them with books. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:06:23]: Every teacher that I talk to Our storytellers in many different ways, they have many stories that they have from over the years. Is there a story that you can share with me that For you, really epitomizes the experience that you've had as a teacher in Williamston. Sara Parsons [00:06:39]: I think a really cool moment I had a few years ago is A former student of mine, so she's now almost in her thirties, I would imagine. My daughters were doing some service projects and this former student of mine from I hadn't had contact with her in probably 15 years or so Found out about this this donation, this collection that my 2 daughters were doing and she found my address and drove over to my house and She donated to my kids but she gave me a really nice letter. I kept it right in my memory box talking about Very specific things that she did when she was 10 years old in my class back in the early 2000s and I've had moments like that where I've kind I've met up with former students in the community and just little things that they bring up and it's really cool to have those moments. But I remember it coming full circle to the student I had when they were 10 coming across something they saw online with my own family and and coming on over to my house to tell me how they were doing and just share how they've Done and what they've done with their life since then. It's it's a really cool when those kids grow up and kind of remember you from way back when. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:07:50]: Sara, I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for sharing your story today. Thank you for being here and for all of the years of helping those young Kids to prepare themselves to move on, and I wish you all the best. Sara Parsons [00:08:03]: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thanks for the opportunity.
08:32 2/1/24
Renee Heide: Nurturing Curiosity and Independence in 5th Grade Students
In this episode of "The Hornet Hive," Dr. Christopher Lewis, a member of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education, is joined by Renee Heide, a 5th-grade teacher at Explorer Elementary. The episode offers insights into Renee's experiences and highlights what makes Williamston a special place for both students and staff. Dr. Lewis begins by emphasizing the importance of showcasing the remarkable things happening within the school district and providing an opportunity for the community to get to know the dedicated staff. He introduces Renee Heide, welcoming her to the episode. Renee shares her journey to Williamston, explaining how she was drawn to the district due to its reputation and the positive experiences she heard from colleagues and friends. She describes her teaching experience in 5th grade and the unique qualities of working with children at this age, including their enthusiasm for learning and curiosity. Renee discusses the sustainability and motivation she finds in Williamston, highlighting the strong sense of community and collaboration among educators, parents, and students. She expresses gratitude for the support she has received during challenging times, including the pandemic, and the connections she has built with parents through regular parent-teacher conferences. The episode concludes with Renee sharing a heartwarming story about the enduring bonds she forms with her students, witnessing their successes even after they have moved on to different stages in life. She emphasizes the joy of receiving emails and updates from former students, showing the lasting impact teachers can have. Dr. Lewis commends Renee for her dedication and commitment to the students and wishes her continued success as a valued member of the Williamston school community.   TRANSCRIPT Christopher Lewis [00:00:19]: Welcome back to the Horned Hive. I'm your host, doctor Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education. Really excited to have you back Again, this week. As always, every week, I love being able to talk with you, to share some of the amazing Things that are happening within our schools because there are so many amazing things that are happening that are allowing our kids to learn, to grow, to Thrive in their educational experience. But also, I want you to get to know the staff that are working with our students as well because Whether you have met every staff member in our schools, which I doubt you have, or you have met only those that interact your own kids or if you don't have kids in the district, you haven't interacted with the schools in quite a while, this is an opportunity for you to be able to get to know some of those people as well. So every week, we we talk about issues. We talk about topics. We talk about things that are happening. Christopher Lewis [00:01:17]: But even better, I have an opportunity at times to bring you staff to allow for you to interact with them, allow you to get to know who they are, What brought them here and more. Today, we got another great guest with us today. Renee Heide is with us today, and Renee is a 5th grade teacher at Explorer Elementary. We're gonna be talking about her experiences and getting to know her a little bit more, so I'm really excited to have her here. Renee, thanks so much for joining us today. Renee Heide [00:01:47]: Thank you for having me. Christopher Lewis [00:01:48]: It is my pleasure. And I love to be able to, first and foremost, take a step back, And I'd love to turn the clock back in time, back to your 1st step into this district. What originally brought you to Williams? Renee Heide [00:02:02]: Well, I had taught in, Michigan for actually almost 20 years, moved to Illinois, moved back in 2019. Even when I was here prior, I had desire to be in Williamston. I went to Michigan State University for my undergrad and masters. Grew up In Portland, not too far away. And I had heard so many great things about Williamston while in college And while in other professions, one of my former principals and coworker had worked in Williston as well as one of my friends from college. So I had always heard great things about the community, the programs that were offered in Williamston. I love the Size of the town and of the school district and just really was hoping that I could come to Williamston when I returned back to Michigan. Christopher Lewis [00:02:52]: I mentioned that you teach 5th grade. And as a elementary teacher, you have a lot of flexibility. You ended up in 5th grade, And that may have been by choice, or it may have been by circumstance or other factor as well. Talk to me about what you love most about teaching 5th grade and how you ended up in 5th grade. Renee Heide [00:03:10]: Interesting story that my 1st year of teaching, I taught 1st grade, which was quite an adventure, my 1st year in teaching. Then after that, I taught And when I went to Illinois, I was offered a 5th grade position. So it's just interesting that I moved my way right up the ladder, which has really helped me understand Kids in developmental growth. So when I came to Williamston, there was a 5th grade position open. It just seemed the perfect spot for me. I love the Curriculum, challenging. It motivates me to learn more, and I love the kids. This age kids, It's just a wonderful age to teach. Christopher Lewis [00:03:56]: What is it about those 5th graders that makes them so wonderful to teach? What is it about the The way either that they think or the the things that they do that have made you decide to stay there and stay put In 5th grade. Renee Heide [00:04:10]: 5th grade is wonderful because they're still young enough to really Listen well, they're sponges, they love learning, they have a great sense of humor, And their ability to become really curious happens quickly. They may not be interested in certain things, or they may not like math, but it doesn't take a long time to really get them inspired and wondering about things. So I love being able to capture their interests and really work with them to become independent and confident and it's successful. Christopher Lewis [00:04:51]: There are definite things that sustain teachers in their roles and their as we talked about 5th grade, but but in being a teacher itself, And you've been with the district now for a handful years, including the pandemic years that were a challenge for all teachers, Let alone being a teacher that was in our district for not a ton of time. I mean, you were you were in a district for a year or so, but but but still Big transitions, big changes, things that you have to deal with. So talk to me about what has sustained you over the years in our district and what makes Williamston a great place to work? Renee Heide [00:05:27]: The one thing that struck me even in the interview that I had with, 10 to 12 people from, You know, parents to board members to teachers and administration. It was just the passion that I could feel even in my interview. I I just To feel that these people really care about the community, really care about children, really care about their experiences in the school. And then with that, and I've seen it even more and more every year is just the collaboration. You know, not only here at School, and it was my 1st year here when the pandemic hit. The support from, you know, not only my grade level, teachers that I work with, but People of all areas of the school, such as speech and language and the related arts teachers, administration, and And that kind of support, but also collaboration between student to student, I have seen more and more of. This is my 5th year in Williamston, but just the middle school students coming over to support our kids in in music And the high school students coming over to work with our our math kids or provide for school tutoring and parent support has been amazing. Every year I've been here, I've had a 100% of my parents come in for parent teacher conferences. Renee Heide [00:06:46]: So just the support and collaboration of Everyone involved in the school has been amazing. Christopher Lewis [00:06:53]: Now I mentioned the fact that there are things that sustain you, but I also know that Teachers are storytellers. There there are so many stories that you take home with you or that happen in school that you talk to other teachers about. And I guess as you think back to your experience here in Williamston, Can you share a story with me that really, for you, epitomizes the experience that you've had as a Williamston staff member? Renee Heide [00:07:23]: I think over the years To you know, this is my 34th year of teaching. I think the one thing I've really learned is Throughout it all and things that have already happened to me here in a short time is that it it's you create these unique bonds with all of your kids. They're all different based on a lot of different elements. But the greatest reward, really, is these visits back and these emails From former students and, you know, I've been to baby showers and weddings of students that I've had, but it's just creating these lifelong Friends, really. People that are been a part of my life for a long time and just getting those emails back. I just got one Friday actually From a middle school student that told me he's getting all a's and that he's got a good positive attitude and he's taking care of himself and that's What makes me proud and what makes me motivated and makes me want to work even harder than I do. Christopher Lewis [00:08:26]: I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for sharing your story, for everything that you do to engage our kids in so many different ways, prepare them for that next jump to move to Middle school, which is a whole different world and a whole different game. And definitely something that kids are excited about, but they're also Scared about. And I know my own kids in that transition. Their 5th grade teachers really did a great job of being able to help them in that transition as they prepare. And then I just wanna say thank you for the work that you do to be able to help our kids to do that and for being here today, and I wish you all the best. Renee Heide [00:09:03]: Thank you. Go Hornets.  
09:31 1/4/24
Kindergarten-Ready: Erin Chomas' Dedication to Preparing Students for Success
In this episode of The Hornet Hive, Dr. Christopher Lewis, a member of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education, sits down with Erin Chomas, a kindergarten teacher at Discovery Elementary. They discuss Erin's journey to Williamston, her experiences as a teacher, and her love for working with kindergarteners. Erin shares how she and her family moved to Williamston due to their desire for a different community and more space. She later transitioned from being a stay-at-home mom to working as a paraeducator before becoming a kindergarten teacher at Discovery Elementary. Erin speaks highly of the welcoming and close-knit community, her colleagues, and the students. Dr. Lewis asks Erin about her preference for teaching kindergarten over first grade and how she appreciates the unique challenges and joys that come with teaching the youngest students. Erin emphasizes the importance of working on students' independence, not only in academics but also in daily life skills like putting on coats, shoes, and asking for help. They also discuss the community involvement in the school district, such as the tradition of seniors and fifth-graders marching through the halls, building strong connections and positive role models for younger students. Erin offers advice to parents preparing their children for kindergarten, focusing on life skills, independence, and self-advocacy. Dr. Lewis highlights the importance of preparing children for a successful transition to first grade and how they grow and change during their kindergarten year. The episode highlights the supportive and nurturing environment within Williamston's schools, with dedicated teachers like Erin helping students develop essential skills and make meaningful progress. TRANSCRIPT Christopher Lewis [00:00:19]: Welcome back to the Horned Hive. I'm your host, doctor Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education. Really excited to have you back again this week. Every week, I love being able to sit down with you, talk to you about what is happening in our schools. It is always a great time to be a hornet, but it's Always a great time to be able to talk about the amazing things that are happening in our schools and the amazing people that are working with our kids. Whether you have kids in the district or not, it's so important as members of the Williamston community to be aware of all the things that are happening And be actively engaged in ways that you can be. And this podcast is here to be able to help you to do just that. So whether you have kids at Discovery Elementary or Williamson High School or your kids have graduated, grown, flown, And now you don't have kids in the district, we want you to know what's still happening in the district because there are some amazing things happening and some amazing people in our schools too. Christopher Lewis [00:01:17]: Every week, I love being able to sit down, talk to you, share different things, but also share people. This week, we've got another great guest with us. Erin Chammas is with us today, and Erin is a kindergarten teacher at Discovery Elementary. He's been with the district for a few years now, And I'm really excited to be able to get to know her a little bit better and for you to get to know her as well. Erin, thanks so much for being here today. Erin Chomas [00:01:38]: Thank you for having me. Christopher Lewis [00:01:39]: It is my pleasure having you here today. One of the first things that I always love doing is turn the clock back in time. I've got the power to do turn time back, and I'd love to be able to Understand what originally brought you to Williamson? Erin Chomas [00:01:53]: So my husband and I used to live in Lansing, so we live kinda by, like, where the new hospital is. And we meet we want we knew we wanted to have like more land, like more area to live on and we kinda wanted a different area. So Every time we'd drive out to Williamson, we just really liked the feel and like the community and like, we'd go to the D and W and like walk the downtown. And We liked how all the schools were, like, close together and I don't know. Just like the coziness of it. And so we've always just kind of as soon as we saw it, we liked it. We said this would be a good place to live. Christopher Lewis [00:02:26]: And what brought you to the schools? Erin Chomas [00:02:28]: So I have 3 kids. They all go to Williamston. My youngest isn't in school yet, but next year, he will. And I, before I had them, I was teaching 1st grade at a school in Lansing. And then when I had my daughter, I decided to be a stay at home mom. So I stayed at home for the last, for 6 years with them. And then I just missed it so much. I love being able to stay home with my kids and raise them, but I went from that fast pace of being a teacher and like doing stuff all the time to being at home. Erin Chomas [00:02:58]: And I just like felt that need to want to go back to the classroom. So I reached out to Cassie, our principal, and I started as a para just part time A few years ago. So I was able to, like, get into the school and it was nice because my daughter was in kindergarten, so I got See her, and I just really liked all the people, and I liked the environment. And I knew that I wanted to go back to teaching, and I'm really lucky and happy that I got to come here. Christopher Lewis [00:03:26]: So being a para after being a teacher, talk to me about that. What was that like being in that type of a role of being instead of being in the class room leading the classroom in in the way that you are now. Erin Chomas [00:03:37]: It was really hard actually, because like I said, I was so used to being in charge of my room and doing stuff, but like doing that, it was weird because it was like a change of pace. But I think it actually was really nice for me to, like, do both sides because When we have paras, it's like, you appreciate what they do for you so much and realize like how hard they work and That they're like a really big part of your classroom community and being able to see both sides was actually really cool. And I'm glad I was able to do it. Christopher Lewis [00:04:09]: Now as a teacher in our district, you have been here now for a few years. Just like you said, you started as para, you moved into this role And you stayed. You you've continued on in working with our our youngest students in in discovery. Well, maybe not the youngest because we got DK as well, but They are youngins down at the elementary level. So for every teacher, there are things that sustain you. So what for you has sustained you over the years in our district. And what makes Williamston a great place to work? Erin Chomas [00:04:37]: Although definitely the people I get to work with every day and, like, the, our leadership at school, like we've got a really good group of people and other than like when I wake up and I feel a little under the weather or just tired, I've never not wanted to come here because being here with my colleagues and the people I get to work with really make it A really special place. And then of course the kids too. I mean, that's a really good community and good group of kids to work with, but I'm really lucky in the fact that I've built a lot of friendships with the people I work with, and it's really good to be able to see them every day. Christopher Lewis [00:05:14]: So kindergarten, you said you were in 1st grade In another district, and now you're teaching kindergarten. So what is it about kindergarten that you love the most? Erin Chomas [00:05:23]: It's funny because when Cassie called me when this opportunity opened up and said it was kindergarten. I was kind of hesitant at first, like, Oh, my gosh, I'm used to 1st grade. Don't know if I want to do kindergarten. Like that's going to be really hard. But it's funny, and it actually shows that you can't judge something until you've done it, Because I love it so much more than I did when I did 1st grade. And I just love that they come in, like, Knowing they don't know how to do school. They, you really have to like simplify every aspect of your day and everything you do with these guys and repeat yourself a 1000000 times, but It doesn't bother me, and I love it. And I like to see their growth from the beginning of the year to when they're when we're done with the school year. Erin Chomas [00:06:09]: It's like they're different people. Christopher Lewis [00:06:10]: They definitely are different people. And and I think for you, I mean, I would guess that it's it's actually a good opportunity for you because you You've taught them in 1st grade, so you know what they're going to be seeing next. And you can prepare them very well for that as well. So So that's that's a lot of fun as as well. Now every teacher that I've ever met is a storyteller. They've got stories. There are good stories. There's stories that make you probably pull your hair out some days too. Christopher Lewis [00:06:37]: But for you, so far in our district, in the years that you've been here, Can you share a story for us that epitomizes the experience that you've had as a Williamston staff member? Erin Chomas [00:06:49]: Like I said, with the community involvement and just How everyone's involved here and how everyone's like such a close knit community. I love it with, at the end of the year when they get to do like the 5th grade. When the 5th graders I had an off to 6th grade, and we all get to go down and get to watch them march through the halls. And then they do it with the seniors. And then The year that the basketball team won the championship, like, that was really cool to be a part of all that and get to see it and just to see the excitement with the kids and Get to see, like, just the youngest ones, like, how much they, like, idolize those older kids and get to see, like, wow, like, I could do that someday too. So I don't know. Just like that big involvement with the community and everyone is really nice. Christopher Lewis [00:07:33]: Now for someone that is looking at Our district that have really young ones and maybe are thinking, okay, what do I need to do? This might be their 1st kid going to school, And it's been a long time since they were in kindergarten. So what are some hints or tips that you might share with a new parent that's preparing their own kids or starting school for what what their child should expect, what they should expect, and how best they can support their child. Erin Chomas [00:08:02]: Yeah. No. That's a really good question because a lot of People, like, ask that and they're like, well, what do they need to know? Like, with their letters, with their sounds, with math, all that stuff. And that stuff's all good too. And we always hit on that. But the biggest thing that we're working on a lot in kindergarten is independence. So being able to put on coats, being able to put your shoes on, Being able to ask for help if you need help. So it's like those daily life skills that you wouldn't necessarily think that you'd have to work on a lot, but even just like opening up snacks, learning how to, where does trash go? Just listening and following basic directions. Erin Chomas [00:08:40]: So it's like a lot of people think of the academic side, but then that's the side that I feel like they need the most help with, especially at the very beginning. Especially being able to advocate for yourself if you need help or if something is wrong, like being able to know that you can trust your teacher and the adults at the school and Ask anyone for help. Christopher Lewis [00:09:00]: Well, I appreciate you sharing that. And as the kids are getting ready for moving on to 1st grade, are there certain things that you look for For knowing that a child is going to be successful in that transition to the next level? Erin Chomas [00:09:13]: Yeah. Mostly like Kind of same thing. Like the independence aspect is a big thing. And then it's funny that you say that because I'm thinking of some of my Students that I see now, like who came back from last year and like how much more mature, even though they're just like went to 1st grade, like for me. And then Like when they come down to see me in the morning and say hi, and I see him in the hallways, it's like, wow. I remember them when they first started in kindergarten and I'm like, They're like, like I said, totally different kid and it's amazing how much they changed and what they've done. So, and even like the summer, They get, they grow and like they mature over just like a few months. And so I know that all of them are gonna be great because all the 1st grade teachers are amazing too, but It's just like that process being able to watch them is really cool. Christopher Lewis [00:10:03]: I really appreciate you sharing that. I appreciate all that you're doing with our kids in kindergarten because They definitely need the support and especially coming out of a pandemic. It's definitely a different world and knowing that the kids Have to really learn a lot about social skills and there's a lot more there that that we don't always think about, I think as parents or that we don't always think about as we enter a new school year, we're getting kids that may never have had that Because they were very young when the pandemic hit. So I know that that's definitely a challenge point, but it's definitely something that I know that you work That all of you on the kindergarten team worked really hard with to get them ready to move them forward. And I just wanna say thank you for that, and thank you for all that you do. And I wish you all the best. Erin Chomas [00:10:51]: Thank you. I appreciate it.
11:19 12/14/23
Facility Upgrades and Overall Excellence: A Recap of Fall 2023 with Dr. Adam Spina
In this episode of the Hornet Hive podcast, Dr. Christopher Lewis, engages in a conversation with Dr. Adam Spina, the superintendent, to discuss various updates and achievements within the school district. Dr. Spina highlights recent facility upgrades aimed at enhancing safety and security, including the addition of egress windows at the high school. The discussion touches on improvements in the performance gym, such as new scoreboards, graphics, and a sound system, contributing to a better overall experience for students and attendees. The episode delves into the academic excellence achieved by Williamston schools, with notable recognitions such as ranking among the best in the United States and the top in Michigan for the fifth consecutive year. Dr. Spina also shares the high school's recognition on the College Board's Advanced Placement Honor Roll, celebrating students' success in AP exams. A significant development in education at Williamston is the concurrent enrollment program with Ferris State University, allowing qualified high school faculty to teach Ferris State courses for college credit within the regular school day. Dr. Spina expresses enthusiasm about the program's success and future expansion. The conversation extends to the achievements of Williamston's fall sports teams, emphasizing the strong showing in various sports and recognizing the student-athletes for their accomplishments both on and off the field. Dr. Lewis and Dr. Spina acknowledge the community's support and the coaches' dedication to instilling values alongside athletic excellence. Dr. Spina updates the audience on the progress of the robotics teams, including the reintroduction of a middle school team and the expansion of the upper elementary team. The superintendent encourages parents to consider robotics as an engaging co-curricular activity for their children. As the episode concludes, Dr. Spina invites the community to attend the upcoming high school winter musical, "Elf," scheduled for December 8th-10th. The podcast hosts express gratitude for the successful first half of the school year and extend warm holiday wishes to the Williamston community, encouraging everyone to stay safe. Dr. Lewis thanks Dr. Spina for his leadership and invites parents to stay connected through emails, calls, and various communication channels to ensure an informed and engaged community. TRANSCRIPT Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:20]: Welcome back to the Horned Hive. I'm your host, doctor Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Weebston Community Schools Board of Education. Really excited to have you back again this week. This week, we're talking again to doctors Adam Spina, our superintendent, about some of the amazing things that are happening within our goals. It's I'm always excited to be able to sit down with you every week and be able to talk about the amazing Schools that we have, the amazing things that are happening in our schools. And as you know, we have an opportunity to sit down with doctor Spina A number of times during the year to be able to talk about all these great things as well as offering you some opportunities to get to know the people that are doing these things too. So I'm really excited to have doctor Spina back with us again this week. Doctor Spina, thanks for being here. Dr. Adam Spina [00:01:05]: Hi, Chris. Good to be back with you and share some updates Things going on around the district. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:09]: Really excited to have you back. I know that it's been a busy fall, and we're now getting close to the The end of the fall into winter, but we've had some facility changes, some facility upgrades that have been happening, are happening. Tell me more about that. Dr. Adam Spina [00:01:26]: So a few changes that have taken place, since we last spoke, and, I just wanna make sure everyone's updated on some things that are happening. So The focus on safety and physical security continues to be our utmost priority, physical security being just one component of The overall school safety plan. Some significant progress was made on kind of a long awaited project just due to supply chain shortages Over the past several weeks, and that included being able to add, egress windows and select locations at the high school that allow, if Need be, a much faster and safer exit from the building in certain classrooms, and we were able to facilitate previously. That work Has been accomplished way due to, again, supply chain shortages, but, fortunately, we were able to get that in for, the winner. Some less serious but perhaps more fun updates as well. We have purchased a new scoring system for our swim and dive teams, Again, being delayed by supply chain issues, but, we're hoping that will arrive here in the very near future. With something that was done over the summer, We didn't get it in on time for the girl's season, but we're hoping that we can have it, here installed in time. If not in time for the beginning of Boys season, hopefully sometime during their winter season. Dr. Adam Spina [00:02:45]: And then lastly, some notable upgrades to our performance gym at the high school, including new scoreboards, Some new graphics and a new sound system. We've already had a lot of positive feedback, during the second portion of Volleyball, that you can actually hear what the announcers are saying now and, much more clear when we're making announcements. And this will be important for other things, including special presentations that might occur, be nice presentations, things like that that also occur at the performance gym. And last year, if you went to some of the games, you noticed Time to time, there were some issues with the scoreboards, so all that has been replaced and updated and should be all ready to go for basketball and wrestling this winter, and we were able to get it for the inclusion of the volleyball season this past fall as well. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:03:29]: Really appreciate you sharing that. And on top of that, just some news that just came out recently. We, Again, at our high school are being recognized for some of the academic excellence that is happening within our schools. Spill the beans. Let's hear more about the awards that we've gotten this time. Dr. Adam Spina [00:03:47]: There's a a variety of different recognitions that are published by different organizations throughout the state and throughout the country, and we try to stay on top of those to the best we can to see how we stack up. Of course, they all have different metrics, different ways of prioritizing What they constitute to be a successful school or a successful school district. Over the last 5 years, we've had some significant, success And earning a place at the top of the US News and World Report best high schools list, so this year again, we ranked in, well, amongst best in the United States and the best in Michigan, and so that is now for the 5th straight year, but the high school has earned that distinction. We continue to look at all those awards as a pre k Twelve achievement because we know that our students at the high school receive outstanding instruction at the high school and have an awesome team there, but they also receive that Support from the time they started, in many cases, preschool year year of their high school experience. So congratulations to our students, staff, and Parents for that continued success, and we look forward to keeping that momentum going into the future. The high school also earned the College Board's Advanced Placement Honor roll recognition. This is the first time since before the pandemic that we have earned that distinction. We had a pretty nice run of success Prior to COVID, but last year, students did exceptionally well both in terms of participation and achievement on advanced placement exams. Dr. Adam Spina [00:05:11]: And as a result of that, The school again earned the Advanced Placement Honor Roll Award. So again, congratulations and thank you to our students, Parents and staff for, that accomplishment. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:05:23]: The other things that has been new this fall, and I'd be remiss if we didn't talk a little bit about it, is the fact that we launched, at that time, a beta test. We're working with Ferris State University. And thus far, this fall, we have launched that and we've had a number of students that have been a part of it. How's that how's that experience been going up at the high Dr. Adam Spina [00:05:47]: Last year, the board approved a pilot program for concurrent enrollment with Ferris State University. And essentially what this does It allows qualifying faculty members from our high school to serve as pending certification and approval of their credentials, To serve as adjunct faculty from Ferris State. And so what happens is we're allowed to teach Ferris State courses for college credit, But the unique aspect of it is that they're taught by Williamston teachers, so we know that our students are getting outstanding instruction. And it's also taking place inside the high school as part of that student's regular 6 hour day. So there's no need to get online, which we know can be problematic for Certain learners with that environment, and there's no need to travel. There's also, of course, no cost to the family or students. So it's been a good start. We had 2 different math classes This year, 2 different sections that'll run the fall semester and spring semester. Dr. Adam Spina [00:06:45]: That was the pilot and we're working with the school board to hopefully have that For next year to start to branch into, some of the humanities courses as well. So, the pilot was, has been very So far, strong student interest, and we look forward to potentially expanding that at the high school in future years. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:07:03]: We talked academic recognition, but we also had a really strong fall as it comes to sports. And we're getting close to the end of some of the sports season, beginning of other sports seasons as we get into the winter months. Tell me more about how our teams did this fall. Dr. Adam Spina [00:07:23]: We had a real strong showing across the board in all of our Fall sports, as is a tradition here at Williamston, making deep playoff runs in many cases. I think the highlight of the fall was Most likely our girls' golf team placing 2nd overall in the state as part of their tournament at the end of the season. But just in general, performances both on the playing field and in the classroom by all of our student athletes, and, just really appreciate the support of the community, The outstanding job our coaches do in terms of focusing on athletic excellence, but also making sure that our students do things the right way, And that they're also successful in the classroom. So we appreciate all the efforts of all our student athletes this past fall and congratulations on your many achievements. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:08:08]: It's always exciting to be able to see students being successful in the things that they're passionate about. And sports is one way that we do that, but we also see that in in other ways, in other extracurriculars as well. One of which is our robotics team, and we launched the robotics team a few years back. And every year, it seems like these teams are getting stronger and stronger, and we're doing better and better. How did our teams do this fall? Dr. Adam Spina [00:08:35]: So this year, we've been able to expand robotics, and that's really been exciting. So after, several years of not having a middle school Team, that team is back in place and has been practicing throughout the fall. It is a unique intensive learning experience that involves a lot of different facets of STEAM education and of course applying those to a tangible outcome in a competition type environment. So it's really I went over to watch Middle school team practice recently, really excellent participation, strong coaching, and it's their 1st competition for the 1st time in a couple years, will be in early December, so we're looking forward to those students having that opportunity. This year, the upper elementary team actually expanded, so there's now 2 teams based on, again, strong Student interest, and they will be in their 2nd year competition also in early December, and wish both of those teams success in that endeavor. And then our high school team, probably the most established. I believe they're in their 5th year now, and their season is longer. And, obviously, as you might expect For a high school coach regular, more intensive and and more complex, but they have 2 meets scheduled for after the winter break. Dr. Adam Spina [00:09:42]: And if you haven't had a chance to see a robotics competition at any level, elementary, middle, or high school, I do encourage you to take a look at it, especially Your child is interested in STEAM related fields. It is a unique experience and rivals any athletic competition that you might attend in terms of environment, numbers of fans, and just the overall quality of the experience for all participants. So Again, looking forward to seeing what our robotics teams do here over the next couple weeks and then into the next couple months at the high school level. And then again, if it is something that your child is interested in and having kind of this additional experience in a co curricular format, please contact your school and we'll start recruiting students for the next year's team here in the very near Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:10:25]: Beyond academics, beyond the extracurricular that also tie into the educational experience that students have, we also have a lot of opportunities for students to be able to Zelle in the arts, and we have another musical coming up this fall with our brand new Drama and choir teacher that was hired this past year, and that's coming up here in in just a few weeks. Dr. Adam Spina [00:10:49]: The high school winter musical, at least for me personally, is always one of the highlights of the year, always exceptional productions. And I'm sure this year will be no different. The production this year will be Elf, the musical, and the, students And staff have been hard at work already with rehearsals and building the set and all the other publicity and campaign to get the word out about the performance Over the last several weeks. So this year, the musical Elf will be on December 8th, 9th, 10th. We have more information up on the school website and the digital messaging board downtown, but we look forward to having a full house for those productions. And again, I would expect great things as always from that effort. So Elf the musical this December. Make sure to check it out. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:11:33]: I know I'm looking forward to that. It sounds like a great musical coming up. I've heard of other people that have done the show in the past or people that have seen it when it first came out on Broadway, and everybody raved about it. So I'm really looking forward to seeing what our students can do with it to be able to really bring the holidays alive. And speaking of the holidays, we are moving into the holidays. Doctor Spina, anything you wanna say to everyone about the holidays as we get ready to, You know, move into this new time of year and as we get prepared for the end of the year and moving into 2024. Dr. Adam Spina [00:12:11]: I'd like to thank the community for a great beginning of the school year. I guess we're roughly not quite through halfway, but it's been a very Successful first half of the school year throughout the district, and I appreciate the ongoing efforts of our staff and the support of our parents and community, and of course, all the hard work and successes of our students. So as we approach the holiday season, like, let's say, happy holidays to our entire Williamston community, and stay safe, and we look forward to seeing you back in 2024. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:12:38]: Doctor Speedy, I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for all that you do to be able to lead our district and help our schools to be the best that they can be. And thank you for listening today. Thank you for joining us in the Hornet Hive. Highly encourage you that if you have any questions About anything that you've heard today or if you need anything, reach out. Doctor Spina is more than willing to Get your emails and get your your calls, and I encourage you just to stay connected. Stay connected with the podcast. Stay connected with The newsletters and do what you can to be able to reach out when you have those questions because we wanna make sure that you do get the answers that you need when you need them to be able to be informed. Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:13:22]: Happy holidays, and we'll talk to you again soon.
13:51 11/30/23
5th Grade Adventures: Discovering the Benefits of Teaching and Learning with Annah Brummitt
In this episode of The Hornet Hive, Dr. Christopher Lewis, a member of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education, sits down with Annah Brummitt, a 5th-grade teacher at Explorer Elementary. They discuss Anna's journey as an educator and her experiences in Williamston. Annah shares that she initially taught in a nearby district but chose to work in Williamston to be closer to home after having her first daughter. She expresses her love for teaching 5th grade, citing her passion for the subject matter and the depth of content that can be explored at this grade level. She also enjoys the students' increasing independence and the opportunity to engage in deeper conversations with them. They delve into the topic of 5th-grade camp, an exciting five-day experience that challenges both students and teachers. Annah discusses the importance of community support for funding and encourages community members to contribute their talents to enrich the camp experience. The conversation also touches on how Annah prepares her students for the transition to middle school, emphasizing organization, problem-solving, and responsible time management. Reflecting on her experience in Williamston, Annah finds her motivation in the students' growth, relationships, and the progress they make in their learning journeys. She shares her student shout-outs and describes the joy of witnessing her students' accomplishments and perseverance. In summary, this episode highlights the vital role of educators like Annah Brummitt in shaping the lives of young learners, preparing them for new challenges, and fostering their academic and personal growth.   TRANSCRIPT Christopher Lewis [00:00:19]: Welcome back to the Hornet Hive. I'm your host, doctor Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education. Really excited to Talk with you again this week. Every week, I love being able to sit down with you, to talk with you, to have a conversation about the amazing School district that we have right in our community, but also the amazing things that are happening right here in our community. And some weeks, we talk about specific programs or activities or things that are happening that are engaging kids in different ways. But, also, I love being able to introduce you to the staff that are working with our students every day because some of you have kids in the district And there are others that don't, and that's okay. It's important for everyone in our community to know the amazing people that we have in our schools, Whether you have kids in the district, whether you don't have kids in the district, it is so important to just know about the amazing resources that we have within our schools. This week, we have another great guest with us. Christopher Lewis [00:01:25]: Anna Brummet is with us today. Anna's a 5th grade teacher At Explorer Elementary, we're gonna be talking about her own journey and her own experiences here at Explorer Elementary. I'm really excited to have her here and to introduce her to you. Anna, thanks so much for being here today. Annah Brummitt [00:01:40]: Yeah. Of course. Thanks for having me. Christopher Lewis [00:01:42]: My pleasure. One of the things that I love doing is Turning the clock back. So I'm gonna go back in time just a little bit. I'm gonna go back to that to that beginning point for yourself of Of you coming to our school district, what initially brought you to Williamston? Annah Brummitt [00:01:56]: I had been teaching for a few years. And At the time, we'd been living in Williamston, but I was teaching in a nearby district. And then I had just had my first daughter, and I was kinda looking for something a bit Closer to home, and we knew that we wanted to stay in the area. So we really enjoyed the community and being here. So I thought it'd be nice to be able to get a job where I lived, and it just kind of all fell into place to be able to Moved from the 1st district I worked at to here. Christopher Lewis [00:02:27]: I know that you are teaching in 5th grade, and teachers sometimes Get to select their grades. Sometimes not. But for you, what do you love most about 5th grade? And what brought you into teaching in 5th grade? Annah Brummitt [00:02:42]: So I have taught grades 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th. So I've kind of taught a range, And I do really enjoy 5th grade. I feel like I could be kind of talked into any grade, really. I kind of enjoy moving around and, like, the challenge of learning The different ages and things that you teach. But I really do love 5th grade because I love the content that we teach. I love the math that we do. I love our new bookworms program and the books We read now in the ELA is just so amazing. I love being able to teach just kind of that deeper content. Annah Brummitt [00:03:13]: I know we always kind of say In early l, you're learning to read where it kinda switches in 4th 5th that you're reading to learn. And so I kind of enjoy that side of it. And then I also like that they're A little bit older of these mini humans where you can have some deeper conversations with them. And As much as they are still kids at heart, they also are a little bit more independent. We can do a little bit more as far as technology like today. I ended up changing my lesson a little bit, and we got out Chromebooks. And they're working as partners editing the same Google Doc together and just little things like that that you can do that you can't. You could do it with younger kids, but it just gets a little harder and takes more time. Annah Brummitt [00:03:53]: So I do enjoy that about 5th grade. Christopher Lewis [00:03:55]: One of the other things about 5th grade, couple things. You get to go to 5th grade camp, and you just got done doing that and having that experience. So that's one big thing. But, 2, as a teacher, you have an opportunity To prepare them for the change of schools and moving up in the world into that big scary middle school. And so for you as a teacher, talk to me first. Let's talk about for 5th grade camp because, you know, we have to talk about 5th Camp and what that experience is like for you as a teacher versus the them as students. So let's start there. Annah Brummitt [00:04:29]: Okay. 5th grade camp. It is Back to back 5 days of running a field trip, pretty much. It's exhausting, but it is very fun. I know by the end of the week, I am just ready to take a nap. I'm not sure who's more tired, the kids or the teachers. It is a lot of work putting it in because we do plan it all ourselves and getting all the supplies together and organizing Just the daily schedule, the volunteers, everything. But just seeing the excitement with the kids and just kinda getting to do something a little out of the routine something different for them, I think, is just fun, especially after these kids. Annah Brummitt [00:05:01]: A lot of them have been in the district since kindergarten. I think just kind of Mixing it up a little bit is helpful for them. Just getting outside and introducing them to different ideas. Like, they do archery and they go canoeing and just the different Crafts you might do, or I ran a forensics activity this year, just different topics that we don't necessarily get to in school that we're able to do. I know a lot of times though, they're like, this is school. Why or it's not school anymore. We're why are we writing? Because we do do some writing still, and they have to journal and they come back, and I have them write about all the different They're like, wait a second. It's camp. Annah Brummitt [00:05:33]: It's a you know, they want it to just all be a little bit more fun for them. But, you know, we talk about writing and Documenting it is important too so they can remember it and have something to look back on and but it is a fun time. And I know one of the biggest Highlights is always the bonfire at the end of the week. So we have our bonfire lunch and make hot dogs and s'mores, and that's always a really fun time. And it's always really fun watching who can roast hot Dogs and who needs help or s'mores, and it's really fun. Christopher Lewis [00:06:04]: I know that 5th grade camp is, As you said, it's completely organized and run by the 5th grade teachers. And I know that The district does fund it, but I know that the costs have been going up. If someone's listening and they say, how can I get involved in some way, whether it be For future camps, to support the camp, to to happen, are there ways in which people in the community can come together to support the camp And what it's doing to help our kids? Annah Brummitt [00:06:35]: Yeah. We have thankfully always had a lot of support from our PTSA. So our parent club Has usually helped donate. And then I know this year, I think it was Rotary in the Kiwanis. Kean Roberts, another one of our 5th grade teachers, she really helped get some funding for us This year, but I would say between just donations, but even, like, donation of time, we're always looking for people that maybe have a talent or something that they'd wanna share with the kids to come and donate time whether, you know, it's archery or some other activity that they think the kids would enjoy to learn or it'd be helpful or just a talent that they have to share. I know this year, Pam Ostrander came and did some reading with the kids, which, She's our author that has written a few books. So that was fun for the kids to be able to interact with her. And then Liz Wailagala is another, Adult who comes and volunteers a lot of her time, she is a very talented artist, and she's always working with the kids doing some different art. Annah Brummitt [00:07:32]: So that's always awesome. So I think really that would be a cool thing is to have sometimes community members coming in and donating a new talent that they have to share with the kids. Christopher Lewis [00:07:41]: I also mentioned with 5th grade, you are preparing kids to move up to that middle school. So as teachers, what are you doing? What are some of the Skills are some of the things that you're doing to prepare these kids to move up into a brand new school, into a brand new way of learning, And moving classes and all those different things. I Annah Brummitt [00:08:02]: think one big thing we really focus on is being organized. And we often remind them, you know, you have 6 teachers next year, I think it's 6, Moving around from hour to hour, and so some of them really, you know, working on keeping track of things and bringing stuff back from home. We also talk A lot about problem solving. I think that's a really just good life skill for kids to have. But, you know, especially going up into middle school, just Working on that, whether it's you don't know where to turn something in or needing help on a problem, what are your steps for that? So I'd say those are 2 really big things that we focus on. That and then also that transition time of like, at the beginning of the day, we've really been talking about, You know, you start coming in at 8:40, but when that bell rings at 8:45, you really need to be in your seat and working. And we kind of talk about how it's your passing time at middle school. You get that amount of time, and then You need to be in class ready to go. Annah Brummitt [00:08:56]: And they're like, what? What? We only get you know, they were shocked by the amount of time. And I was like, yep. And, you know, that's tiny little bathroom, filling up water bottles. So I think also just helping them focus on when it's a emergency leaving during lessons versus Not. Because I think sometimes a lot, you know, get up and walk around. And I do wonder when they get to the middle school, when they get to move that every hour, knowing it's coming, if that helps a little bit. But just kind of Talking about being responsible, what are things that you need, what can you take care of now? With that transition between that and organizing, I think those are 2 big things that are important. Christopher Lewis [00:09:29]: Appreciate you sharing that. Now you've been in the district now for a few years. You have, You worked in in the upper elementary. You're working with many different kids, and you're having a lot of different experiences where you're working with lots of different kids, things that are probably positive, negative. You know, there's things that sustain you and and definitely fill your bucket as you say to the kids or drain your bucket as sometimes you might have as well. So as you think about your experiences that you've had thus far in the district, What has sustained you over the years in our district, and what makes Williamston a great place to work? Annah Brummitt [00:10:04]: You know, I really love working. Just the kids that come every day. I have actually in front of me right now some shout outs. This year, my class has been so awesome about Complimenting each other. I usually do these student shout outs, and they fill them out and their name and who they notice doing something positive. We talk about our buzzwords a lot and Just helpful things that we see around the classroom. And I think just seeing them growing those relationships with each other and then also seeing them accomplish some new things that Learning wise, that might have felt really hard or when kids are really struggling just seeing that progress they made and helping them with that perseverance and problem solving. I think that's Been really helpful in keeping me teaching. Annah Brummitt [00:10:45]: It's working with the kids. Christopher Lewis [00:10:47]: Definitely can. And and reading those shout outs and And hearing the students' voices as they share things with you either during the day or at the end of the year. And I've talked to other teachers that have kind of their file that they keep things in and sometimes go back to to be able to review and put that smile on their face. There's definitely lots of different things that teachers do to be able to maintain I'm gonna say their sanity at times, but also to maintain that positive Look in that optimism that they have as they move forward because, you know, it's a challenging profession, but definitely something that is so rewarding When it comes to working with the kids and seeing them thrive and survive as they move forward. Annah Brummitt [00:11:30]: For sure. I have a little envelope that well, it's a little bigger envelope that I Keep some stuff in there sometimes. And then I've been coaching cross country now a couple years for middle school, and it's been fun. I don't have anyone in this district yet that's old enough that I've seen. But when we've been at meets, I've actually ran into previous kids that are now in high school that were juniors and seniors last year getting ready to graduate. And they ran up to me and said, hi. And it's So fun to see the things that they're accomplishing and how tall they are now, and it's just really great to have those connections still years later. Christopher Lewis [00:12:02]: Probably soon, they might be taller than you, so you never know. Annah Brummitt [00:12:04]: Most of them are usually by the end of 5th grade. Christopher Lewis [00:12:07]: Now teachers are storytellers as we were talking about. They keep things from those kids. They reflect on those things, whether it's memories, you know, whether it's other things that they just They they go back to over the years. For you, can you share a story with me that, for you, epitomizes The experience that you've had thus far as a Williamston staff member? Annah Brummitt [00:12:30]: So I started coaching middle school cross country last year at Libby Merrill, which has been Super fun. And I think I'm really enjoying seeing the students outside of class. So now that I've coached a couple years, I'm seeing my students that were in class with me or that I knew that were in other classes. And I'm getting to watch them grow, not just academically, but also just as people. And I think that's been really Awesome. And this year, we had a really awesome team. Successfully, they all did really well, but also it was just awesome to see how much They've matured and how they're developing as such kind and thoughtful kids. And that's just something I think that I really hold onto and really enjoy being around. Annah Brummitt [00:13:15]: And I think it's just a nice it's a change, you know, out of the day. And I really enjoy working with Them on that side of things too, and not always just in the classroom. Christopher Lewis [00:13:26]: Well, Anna, I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for all that you do To engage our kids, to work with our kids as they're going through that 5th grade year, as they're getting ready to move on and move out of Explorer into Williamston Middle School. It's such a pivotal time for their education and for their transition. And It's so important to have teachers like you in those roles to be able to help them to manage that. But I truly appreciate your Your time today for being here, for sharing your story, and I wish you all the best. Annah Brummitt [00:13:59]: Thanks,  
14:26 11/16/23
Building Relationships and Finding Purpose: Laura Hill's Journey as a Middle School Math Teacher
In this episode of the Hornet Hive podcast, Dr. Christopher Lewis, a member of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education, welcomes Laura Hill, a middle school math teacher, to the show. Dr. Lewis expresses his excitement about the opportunity to discuss the incredible work happening within the district and the dedicated staff members who contribute to its success. Laura Hill shares her journey to becoming a teacher in Williamston. She initially graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in chemistry and mathematics and was actively seeking a high school science teaching position. However, she decided to broaden her search and eventually found an opening for a math teaching position at Williamston Middle School. Laura recounts her positive first impression of the district, the warm reception she received during her interview, and the welcoming atmosphere at the school. As the conversation progresses, Dr. Lewis delves into what has sustained Laura during her years at Williamston Middle School and what makes the district a great place to work. Laura emphasizes two significant factors: the impact she has on students and the support of her colleagues. She refers to her "victory log," a collection of letters, emails, and notes from students expressing gratitude and showcasing the positive influence she has had on their learning journeys. Laura also highlights the collaborative and student-focused environment among the staff, emphasizing their dedication to doing what's best for the students. The discussion shifts to Laura's passion for teaching middle school math. She initially aspired to be a high school science teacher but found her calling when she started teaching math at the middle school level. She appreciates the energy and enthusiasm middle school students bring to the classroom, their willingness to learn, and their potential to develop a love for math. Laura shares her experience of helping students overcome their fear of math and building their confidence, making math a more enjoyable subject. The episode concludes with Laura sharing a heartfelt story about the memorable 7th-grade camp experience the district used to offer. She reflects on the impact of this program, which allowed teachers to connect with students outside the classroom, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and teaching the whole child. Dr. Lewis expresses his appreciation for Laura's dedication to making math engaging for students and her commitment to helping them succeed. In closing, Dr. Lewis thanks Laura for sharing her story and insights, highlighting the significance of the podcast in showcasing the experiences and stories of the district's educators.   TRANSCRIPT Christopher Lewis [00:00:20]: Welcome back to the Hornet Hive. I'm your host, doctor Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education. Really excited To have you back again this week. As always, every week, I love being able to sit down and talk to you about the amazing things that are happening within our schools. And that's not just amazing activities or programs that we offer, but it really also is about the people And the teachers and the staff that are interacting with our students on a daily basis. And it's important for you to know people Within the schools, even if your kids have graduated long before or maybe you have young kids and they're not in high school yet, but we're We're talking to a high school teacher or or it may be a teacher you may never meet or a staff member you may never meet or your kids may never meet. But that's okay Because every person in our district is doing amazing work to be able to help our kids define success, make our schools safe, And make our schools a even better place. So I love being able to sit down and talk with people every week And introduce you to them. Christopher Lewis [00:01:29]: This week, we got another great guest. Laura Hill is with us this week, and she is a Middle school math teacher. We're gonna be talking about her experience as a math teacher, her experience in the district, and get to know her a little bit more. Laura, thanks so much for being here today. Laura Hill [00:01:45]: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. Christopher Lewis [00:01:47]: It is my pleasure having you here today. And first and foremost, one of the first things I always love doing is I love I love to be able to have the power to turn the clock back in time. And I would love to go back to that To that the very beginning, what initially brought you to Laura Hill [00:02:03]: Williamston? Initially, what brought me to Williamston is I had graduated from Michigan State University. I was looking for a teaching job. And at the time, I graduated with a bachelor's in chemistry and mathematics, but I was really Looking for a chemistry job. I really wanna be in high school. I wanna be a science teacher. And I started looking at schools, And I started interviewing. Most of the jobs at the time that I were finding were down in Detroit area, like Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham. And when I would go down there and interview, I could tell it was not gonna be a good fit for me to be down in that area. Laura Hill [00:02:42]: And so I started broadening Where I wanted to look, opening up to think about teaching math actually. And I found an opening at Williamson Middle School. So I came out to apply and drop off my packet and my cover letter and my resume. And it was interesting because just driving out to the school, I loved just the country roads I was driving on. And then when I pulled up to the school, it was very welcoming. There was a garden that was out front That had been established by one of the science teachers at the time. I remember walking into the middle school. The secretary was very welcoming, and I thought, wow, I could just Tell, I got a good feeling. Laura Hill [00:03:19]: I thought this could be a good place to work. And then I did a little, research and kinda looking at schools. And when I started looking online, I thought, oh, wow. This really could be a great place to work. And so I remember interviewing. And at the time when I interviewed, the principal at the time kinda said, I'm surprised you've been applied for this job because you're not even qualified or meeting what we need. Because one of their the things they said they needed was Someone that could teach 2 different classes at the middle school because at the time, they were doing teaming. And since I had a chemistry Certification and not as general science. Laura Hill [00:03:55]: I was not certified to teach science at the time at the middle school. So the principal said, you really can only teach math. That's not gonna be what we need necessarily. But at the same time, I guess it ended up all working out because after interviewing, they decided to hire me. I was part of a 4 person team instead of a 2 or a 3 person team, so I was able to teach just the math within the middle school. And, you know, that's kinda how it started. Christopher Lewis [00:04:18]: Now you've been in the district for a number of years. And as we were talking before we started our interview today, You talked about the fact that there are things that sustain you over the years. And one of the things I is your victory log That you kind of delve into and and pull things out of every once in a while when you want to have an opportunity to kind of get reinforced for what you're doing and seeing the impact that you're having. But I guess as you look at your years in the district, what has sustained you over the years in the district. And what makes Williamson a great place to work? Laura Hill [00:04:53]: I think there would be 2 things. The first thing, when thinking about what I talked to to you about beforehand, that victory log, I can't remember Who said it? I might have been a mentor teacher of mine a long time ago or might have been just PD I went to, but that is something to help rejuvenate me. And when I looked in there, most of that was just Letters from students, emails, handwritten letters, notes they sent me, things they wrote and then put on my desk. And I think one of the things that sustains me is the students And knowing that I'm making an impact and making a difference and that's visible when they write those letters and I read back and think of Things and how I connected and those relationships with my students. The 2nd piece is really the teachers and the staff And my collaborators around me, I love being at the middle school. I love the people that I work with. And Even from day 1, like, my mentor teacher way back when I first started had a amazing impact on me and helped me grow, become the teacher I am today. Even my colleagues, The team so we were team teaching then. Laura Hill [00:05:55]: The team of my teachers, both the team I was with and the entire 7th grade that I was a part of, really helped support me and helped me grow. And I've never wanted to leave Williamston because I feel that we're continuously growing as a Staff and together and working together to become better, and it's very student focused, always trying to do what's best for kids, and I think that's really important. So I think it's The students. I think it's the staff. And then even the community that is around us is a really big and important part of what makes this school and this Town's so awesome. Christopher Lewis [00:06:28]: You you talked about the fact that you love the middle school, and middle school is not always where people wanna be. Working with middle school students is not always the group of students that people wanna work with. What is it about not only middle school, but middle school math that Drew you in and made you want to not only work in the area, but stay in the area. Laura Hill [00:06:49]: So it's funny you said that because at the beginning, I told you I thought always thought I was gonna be a high school science teacher. And I feel like that was my goal initially, and I probably would have loved that too. But I think it might have been more focused on content than students, Possibly not because I think, at the same time, you're helping prepare them for the next steps and what's to come. But I got a job first in the middle school, And I'll tell you, that 1st year was tough. I thought, what in the world have I gotten myself into? I had never been in a middle school other than going in and kind of tutoring and doing some After school programming, but my internship, my student teaching was all at the high school. And middle schoolers are very different than high schoolers. They have a lot more energy. They're going through adolescence figuring out who they are and learning how to manage in their behaviors. Laura Hill [00:07:33]: And and so that 1st year was tough, but then what I realized, especially being a math teacher is that I could make a difference because a lot of students would come in, and I feel like they'd say, oh, I'm not good at math or I can't do math This has always been tricky, and even sometimes parents would say, oh, they struggle with this, but I struggle with this. It's kind of that math fear in a sense or phobia. But I feel that The middle school is easier to make that impact because when they're excited about it still, they're excited about learning, you can help shift those attitudes. You just have to Figure out a way to reach them and help it make sense, and then they start to build that confidence. They start to grow. And by the end of the year, sometimes it's like a whole different child and they're like, wow. Actually like math. Math isn't so bad. Laura Hill [00:08:16]: Oh, it's kinda cool. This works in this way, and and I feel like being in math and being in middle school, that's the The best place for me to really make that difference, and I really like the students as well because they bring a certain energy. They're not as afraid of being silly and having fun and still playing games to learn, and so I enjoy that. Christopher Lewis [00:08:36]: Now every teacher is a storyteller. Every teacher has their stories. There's Students that walk into the classroom and leave that indelible mark. But there are other stories as well that really sustain you as we talked about Things that you reflect back on, the impact that you make. As you think about your time at Williamston Middle School, Can you share a story with me that for you really epitomizes the experience that you've had as a Williamston staff member? Laura Hill [00:09:04]: That's a tough question. I think one of the things that just Happened early on in my career that we don't do anymore is we used to take our kids to 7th grade camp. And we used to go for an entire week, Leave on a Monday, come back on a Friday overnight, and that was a really special time. It was special to learn about our students. It was special to show them and expose them to other things in the world and things that maybe are different, that you learn about outside of the classroom as opposed to in the classroom. And it was also a special time for us as colleagues to connect and connect with each other and with our students. And I remember just one of the things that we would do is we had a a teacher that played the guitar and was an amazing singer. And I remember At night, we would if the kids were quiet and in their beds, we would go around and we would sing the students lullabies. Laura Hill [00:09:55]: And I am not a singer. I remember something stuck in my head as my mom said to me once, Laura, you can do anything you want, but you can't sing. Right? Really? So I've never ever do anything because once my mom said that, I'm, like, I'm gonna be a singer, although I'm not great. But I was not afraid to go with my colleagues and sing lullabies to the Kids. And I think even though we don't do that now, I still try to find ways to connect with kids out of the classroom, To see them in other lights because that going to 7th grade camp and doing that really made an impact about recognizing and Teaching and learning and building a relationship with the whole child, not just what they're like in your math classroom, right, but what they're like in all these different ways in their life. Christopher Lewis [00:10:37]: Appreciate you sharing that. I did not realize that we used to have a 7th grade camp because it was before that was not here when my kids went through the district, but that's really fun. And it sounds like an amazing experience for the kids that were going through. Laura Hill [00:10:49]: There was a day that was called survival day where they would go out. You'd learn how to build shelter in the woods. You cook on the fire. You would learn about with a compass and how to navigate and find your way. There were evening programs. There was, like, underground railroad we did and just even a square dance, just eating dinner with them, learning how to use their manners to clean up after yourself. I mean, it was an Amazing experience. Christopher Lewis [00:11:13]: Oh, Laura, I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for sharing your own journey, your own story, and for all that you do to Make math fun for the kids and connect with the kids to help the kids to be able to get through a subject that isn't always Their favorite. I can't say it isn't the favorite of all students because some students really do connect with it. But but I do know that for some others, like you said, there's that fear that goes along with it. And I know firsthand that you do a great job in working with our kids To be able to be able to alleviate that stress and that fear, and I just wanna say thank you for that, for helping kids through that or being with our district for so many years, and I wish you all the best. Laura Hill [00:12:00]: Well, thank you, and thank you for having me and doing the podcast. Because even as a A teacher in the district, it's fun to learn about other teachers and hear their stories, especially the ones that I don't know down at the elementary school or the newer teachers I haven't met, so I do appreciate this as well.
12:42 10/26/23
Supporting Academic Success: Anne Feldpausch's Role as a Resource Teacher at Williamston High
Welcome back to the Hornet Hive podcast! I'm your host, Dr. Christopher Lewis, and today we have a special guest joining us, Anne Feldpausch. Anne is a special education resource teacher at Williamston High School and has been teaching for 19 years.  In this episode of the "Hornet Hive" podcast, host Dr. Christopher Lewis welcomes Anne Feldpausch, a special education resource teacher at Williamston High School. Dr. Lewis begins by emphasizing the importance of introducing the school's staff members to the community, highlighting the many individuals working alongside students. He expresses his excitement about getting to know Anne and shares that Anne has been teaching for 19 years, with the last two years at Williamston High School. Anne Feldpausch discusses her journey to Williamston, explaining that she and her husband moved to the area in 2011, attracted by the sense of community and the school system. Her children attend Williamston Public Schools, and she was motivated to work in a district where she could be more involved with her own kids. Anne emphasizes the strong sense of community in Williamston and how this supportive environment has positively impacted her work as a teacher. As Dr. Lewis delves into Anne's role as a resource teacher, Anne explains that her primary responsibility is to work with students who have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). She helps these students with their academic goals, provides tutorial support, and assists with developing executive functioning skills. Anne also shares that she collaborates with general education teachers to support students' needs within the classroom. The conversation continues with Anne describing her transition to Williamston High School, the close-knit environment she found, and how her role has evolved to include co-teaching in math and English classes. She expresses her appreciation for the school's supportive staff and the positive impact her move to Williamston has had on her career and family life. Dr. Lewis asks Anne about her journey into special education. Anne reveals that her initial career path was in finance and marketing, but her experiences working with children in various capacities, including as a nanny for a child with Down syndrome and autism, led her to pursue a career in education, specifically in special education. Her desire to advocate for students who need extra support and guidance drove her to become a resource teacher. To conclude the episode, Anne shares a heartwarming story about her experiences with her freshman students last year. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, she witnessed their growth and maturation as they transitioned to sophomore year. Anne expresses her pride in her students' progress and looks forward to supporting her senior students in their journey toward college and beyond. In the final moments, Dr. Lewis extends his gratitude to Anne for her dedication to supporting students with special needs and wishes her continued success in her role at Williamston High School.   Transcript Christopher Lewis: Welcome back to the Hornet Hive. I'm your host, Dr. Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education. Really excited to have you back again this week. every week, I love being able to talk to you about the amazing things that are happening within our schools. Some weeks, we're talking about things that are happening, services that are being offered, but a lot of our other weeks, we're talking to the amazing staff that we have. because it's important. It's important for you to get to know the people that are working with all of our students and and having an opportunity to be able to meet people that you might never have met before because there are so many people that are walking side by side by your student. and it's important for you to get to know who they are as well. This week, we've got another great guest with us and felt posh is with us today. And Anne is a special education resource teacher at our high school. And I am really excited to get to know her and for you to get to know her as well. And thanks so much for joining us today. Anne Feldpausch: Thank you for having me. Christopher Lewis: It is my pleasure having you here today. Really excited to be able to get to know you a little bit more. 1st and foremost, I love being able to turn the clock back in time. Would love for you to tell me what originally brought you to Williamson? Anne Feldpausch: This is my 2nd year at William in high school, but it's my 19th year teaching. I previously taught in a neighboring district for 17 years before that, I did a fellowship placement in with Chicago Public Schools for a year as well, but my husband and I moved to Williamston in 2011. So we've been here for almost 12 years. And both of our children attend Williamston Public Schools. I have a 5th grade son and a 3rd grade daughter and really, like, have enjoyed the school. My son started in the young 5 program. My daughter started here, in the public school system in 1st grade. So we've been involved, you know, since, like, 2018. I think, within the schools and just have really enjoyed it, enjoy the community, and what kind of triggered, last year to kind of have my lateral move over was I was just kind of like I was missing out on being with my kids and seeing what they're up to and just being more of a part of this community. Feel like Williamston is a very close knit community and has a good sense of community, and it was really starting to lack in my other district So I made the jump over, and I'm very happy to be here. It was a it was a great decision for both my family and for me personally, I feel very Rejuvenated here as a teacher, very supportive staff at the high school. It's awesome. The students are amazing. so it's been a very a really good move for me. Christopher Lewis: That kind of just answered my next question, but really it go it goes into the fact that, you know, you talked about that you this is your 2nd year here. You had been working for so many years in in another neighboring district. As you look at your experience thus far in Williamson, what sustains you in the work, but also what makes Williamson a great place to work? Anne Feldpausch: think what makes Williams done such a great place to work and especially the high school. I have experience in a very large building with up to, like, 1600 students and a staff of 85 to 90 teachers. And so a lot of the teachers I never even saw. Like, I had students with them, but I didn't ever physically see them on most days. Usually not even every week, maybe once a month at staff meetings. Coming to Williams to high school with 600 students. Like, I see the kids every day. Like, I see even the kids I don't work with, I I pass them in the hallway. You see the same kids. You see the teachers out in the hallway communicating and talking with the kids between between classes and just kinda checking in and just that that close knit feel. And again, that sense of community is very, very strong here, and that really has helped me to feel rejuvenated in my position and working with students. I feel like I get to know them better, and I have a a better sense of, like, what's going on in their lives, which then is a big help within the classroom, especially working with my students who might struggle a little bit academically who need that extra support. So when I can really build those relationships with them, it helps have a better outcome. as well as, again, going tying back to the teachers where I'm able to check-in with their teachers more and see their teachers more, which helps in my position as a resource teacher. Christopher Lewis: So for people that don't know, what is the role of a resource teacher? And what do you do on a daily basis? Anne Feldpausch: A resource teacher works with students with individualized education plans with the IEPs. So they have been identified with either having specific learning disability, different, maybe academic struggles, other diagnoses can impact their performance at school. So as they're resource teacher and responsible for their IDP goals and accommodations, tutorial academic support, organization, one of the executive functioning skills we work on, kind of preparing them as in their academic classes as well as the transition for when they graduate either moving on to college, going to trade school, we're entering the workforce right away, joining the military, but my position as the resource teacher is to assist with the needs that they have that might impact their academic performance. When I came over last year from my previous dive in distribution for about 8 years. And I was excited to hopefully retain that when I came to Williamson and Doctor. Spina was born. Doctor. Kirk was born. And last year, we started with 1 push in math class where I, was with Sarah Conklin. And she had never done, have never had a co teacher in there. And, you know, I've been doing that, so we were kind of throwing to get thrown together. It went really positively for the students who were in the class who are both caseload and non caseload. There's some other struggling learners, so I was able to support them as well. And then this year it expanded. I in two hours of push and nap, one with, Mrs. Conklin again, an hour with Mister Hampton, and then we also have to push in English classes with additional resource teacher support. So I'm really excited that the administration as a whole and within the building and as upper administrations can see the benefit of that, and it's a great offering to our students. Christopher Lewis: You've been a teacher now for quite a few years in working in special education for all of those years. Talk to me about what was it about special education that made you decide that that was the focal area that you wanted to study when you went school and that what you wanted to do when you became a teacher. Anne Feldpausch: When I went to Michigan State after I graduated high school, I actually was in the business college and I had a major in finance and marketing, and I that's what I was gonna do. And I interned in a insurance office one summer. And I came out and I was like, this is not for me. I'm like, this is, this is not me. And that was right before my junior year college when I'd already been accepted into the business school had all these prereqs done, and I'm just like, no, I can't, but not I'm gonna have to all growing up or, like, from high school on through college. I babysat a lot. I worked at the math. I worked in, like, the day care. I did lessons with kids. I coached sports. So I'd always been around like, children and students, like, you know, from LA K to kindergarten up to maybe late middle school. I was a camp counselor. So I it was kinda weird that, teaching wasn't my major that I thought it was gonna be finance and marketing. So it just kinda everything kind of pulled me back to education. And specifically with special education, I was a nanny or a family, that had 4 children and their 3rd child had down syndrome as well as was on the autism spectrum. So this is mostly in the night late nineties early 2000s where we don't we didn't know as much about it and everything. And the kind of services we're just becoming stronger as to what they are right now. But I worked very closely with this family and the student, and I had a great relationship with them, and it kinda, like, showed me like, hey. Like, special education is where I wanna go. Like, working more with the students who really need the extra support and need that voice within the classroom and might not be ready or able to provide it themselves, but they need an advocate and someone to be able to support them. Christopher Lewis: I know this is only your 2nd year, but Every teacher I talk to is definitely a storyteller. There are many stories. Every day you walk through the halls, and there are things that resonate and stick with you. Can you share a story with me that for you has epitomized the experience that you've had as a Williams and staff member thus far in the district? Anne Feldpausch: Well, I got only coming into my second year. I started my caseload of 22 students last year. I mostly a lot of freshmen. So it was kind of a trend year. Like, freshmen are always a new wave coming in and always have already, you know, the you're preparing them for a high school and how they what is expected, especially with the group of fresh men from last year, you know, they didn't have the typical middle school experience due to COVID and then having hybrid and then just how different school was for about 3 years And so coming in with them, it felt almost like middle school a little bit at times that we worked hard, like, you know, give them all kudos and escalates that they persevered and made it through their freshman year. And I will say, like, this week with them coming in, I was like, oh, man, how is this gonna go? Are we gonna be still freshmen? Are we gonna be on the sophomore, you know, behavior? And they have matured and come in with a new way of looking at high school and I'm really proud to be a part of that and work with them again, kind of see that growth. And a couple of them have said, like, wow, of what I did last year just wasn't okay. And it's like, wow, okay. Like, is there recognizing that? And, a couple students were like, I didn't really listen to some of the pointers you gave me last year, but I can see how that would be really beneficial. So just seeing that growth and being able to be part of their growth I didn't have any seniors last year, which it's always kind of fun to have seniors and to see their progress and what they're gonna do in their following high school, but this year, I do have a couple of seniors, so I'm excited to work with them. And they seem really excited for senior year and to work with me to help to prepare her moving on to college after the share. Christopher Lewis: So if someone in the community is listening to this and they feel that their child needs support, What's the steps that they need to go through to be able to get support and potentially work with you? Anne Feldpausch: The first step is to, you know, contact the general education teacher expressed concerns of what you're seeing either at home or if you have concerns with their classroom performance, and then they can be referred for testing with one of our school psychologists. There's also some outside information that the parents provide. Sometimes there's outside testing that needs to be done for different diagnoses. It has to be a medical documentation. The school cannot diagnose to give services, but as far as specific learning disabilities, the school can test for those. So you need to reach out to your student's teacher, who then would begin to read and undergo testing to see if your student would qualify for special education services. And if they qualify, then the opportunity is there for the additional support of the resource teacher, speech, social work, the services that are all embedded under that umbrella of special education. I just Christopher Lewis: wanna say thank you. Thank you for all that you do to be able to support the kids in their district that really need that port to be able to find success in their classrooms, and I wish you all the best. Anne Feldpausch: Well, thank you, and thank you for having me.
12:28 10/12/23
Second Grade Adventures: Exploring Teaching and Building Connections with Claire Grisdela
  In this episode of The Hornet Hive, hosted by Dr. Christopher Lewis, a member of the Williamson Community Schools Board of Education, the focus is on celebrating the dedicated educators within the Williamson school district. Dr. Lewis expresses his excitement about discussing both the positive news and the remarkable people who contribute to the district's educational excellence. The featured guest for this episode is Claire Grisdela, a second-grade teacher at Discovery Elementary in Williamson. Claire shares her journey to Williamson, revealing that she grew up in Okemos, Michigan, and graduated from Okemos High School. After completing her education at Michigan State University, she desired to return to her hometown area and was delighted to join the Williamson school district. Claire discusses her five-year tenure as a second-grade teacher at Discovery Elementary. She highlights the importance of the supportive and welcoming atmosphere provided by her colleagues and mentors during her early years as an educator. Claire acknowledges that her own experience with mentorship has now evolved into a role where she assists newer teachers, creating a supportive community within the district. Dr. Lewis and Claire delve into the unique aspects of teaching second grade. Claire describes it as the "sweet spot" where students are confident in their reading abilities, and second graders are often considered leaders in their school, serving as role models for younger students. The conversation then turns to the collaborative environment within Williamson's small district. Claire explains that grade-level meetings occur every other week, allowing teachers to align their curriculum and support one another. She also emphasizes the close-knit nature of the district, where everyone knows each other, fostering a sense of community and familiarity among staff members. Claire shares her perspective on the rewarding aspect of teaching in a district with sibling connections. Seeing siblings grow up, graduate, and continue their education within the district creates meaningful and lasting connections with families. Dr. Lewis expresses his gratitude to Claire for her dedication to educating young students and preparing them for their future educational journey. Claire's passion for teaching and commitment to building strong connections with students and families exemplifies the values of Williamson Community Schools. The episode concludes with an expression of appreciation for educators like Claire who contribute to the success and positive culture of the Williamson school district.     Transcript Christopher Lewis: Welcome back to the Hornet Hive. I'm your host, Dr. Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Williamson Community Schools Board of Education. Really excited to have you back again this week. This week, as always, I love being able to talk to you about the amazing things that are happening in our district, but also the amazing people that are within our district because it takes so many people to be able to provide our kids with an amazing education. And many times you get to meet some of them, but you don't always get to meet all of them. So it is always my pleasure when I get an opportunity to be able to talk with you and share some of the good news, some of the positive news and things that are happening within our district, in our district that you may or may not know about. But also, I love being able to introduce you to staff members that you may have met, but also ones that you may not have met. And that's what we're doing here this week. I'm going to be introducing you to another great staff member here in our district. Claire Grisdella is with us today, and Claire is a second grade teacher at Discovery elementary, and I'm really excited to be able to have her here and for her to share some of her own journey with us. Claire, thanks so much for being here today. Claire Grisdela: Thanks for having me. Christopher Lewis: It is my pleasure. I would love to turn the clock back a couple of years here, and I want to have you tell us what originally brought you to Williamston. Claire Grisdela: So I originally grew up in Okamas and graduated from Okamas High School, so just down the street from Williamston. And after graduating from Michigan State, I kind of wanted to come back to an area near my hometown, and I always said how I loved Williamston and the small town and the atmosphere. So when I applied for jobs, I was really hoping to get the call back from Williamston and happy that's where I landed. Christopher Lewis: So you've been in the district now for a couple of years. Talk to me about your experience so far, what's it been like to be a newer teacher and to make that transition into a classroom of your own with kids of your own, because I know that it is a transition and definitely something that you have to kind of work into. But tell us about what it's been like for you. Claire Grisdela: This is my fifth year, and right from college I went and came right to Williamson, and I've been in the same classroom second grade for my whole career so far. But definitely what helped are the people that are in the building and my colleagues definitely make it more enjoyable. And my first few years, I had a mentor teacher, so just a teacher in my grade level that I could go to and could support me in areas that I needed help with, so I just think that my colleagues and the people in the building definitely help you to feel welcomed. And now we have new teachers, so now I'm kind of in a different role in helping the newer teachers kind of get set up and support them. Christopher Lewis: What's it like being a mentor for new teachers now? Claire Grisdela: It's nice because we've all been in their shoes, so you're able to kind of find ways to support them and make them feel how you felt when you were in their spot. And then it just continues to evolve. And then you get the new teachers, and some teachers come in with prior teaching experience, some right out of college. So it's just fun to kind of learn everyone's teaching strategies and work together to build a good community. Christopher Lewis: You just said that you've been with the district now for five years, and you stayed in second grade for those five years. What is it about second grade that you love the most? Claire Grisdela: I like to call it the sweet spot. So students are pretty confident in reading and especially in discovery. To our students, they're the big kids in the school because it's a K two school. So I always tell them to be role models because they have the young fives kindergarten and first graders, so they're kind of the leaders of the school, and I think that's fun. It's kind of a challenge for them and they get to say the pledge in the morning and then you send them off to explore. And I like the transition and the curriculum and academics that I'm teaching every. Christopher Lewis: Now, you also said you wanted to be in a small district like this, and you've been in the same position you've been here now, like I said, for five years. What would you say has been the biggest part of sustaining you? What sustains you in your time here in the district and what makes Williamson a great place to work? Claire Grisdela: So, yeah, I think the small district really makes it enjoyable because when we're meeting for grade level or when we're meeting within the district, I mean, everyone's there, so it's not like there's another school with other second grade teachers. There are six second grade teachers and we're all there every day together, so I enjoy that as well as when we have our kickoff in the beginning of the year. Everyone is familiar with each other because there are only certain amount of rooms and space in our district, so it's kind of tight knit and everyone's familiar faces in the district. And I think that really makes it. Christopher Lewis: Special with the fact that you have all your second grade teachers, you could really get to know each other, I'm sure that there is some ability to be able to work closely together and collaboration, I would guess, inevitably occurs. Talk to me about that type of collaboration and how that plays out, where you get to work with other second grade teachers on collaborative goals. Claire Grisdela: Yeah. So every other week we have a grade level meeting, so we all meet together and sit down and kind of make sure we're on the right pace for our curriculum and just make sure that we're supporting each other the best that we can. Then we kind of just roll with our curriculum and continue to check in with each other. And obviously we're outside on the playground with each other several times a day, so that's a great way for us to be able to communicate and support each other, too. As busy as it is, half the time, I feel like we're all just in our rooms all day, but we definitely make an effort to see each other and to be there for one another. Christopher Lewis: Every teacher I've ever met is a storyteller, and there are stories that sustain you. There are kids that you reflect on and remind you of why you are a teacher. Is there a story for you that really epitomizes the experience that you've had as a Williamson staff member? Claire Grisdela: Yes. So I have always wanted to be a teacher. I was one of those kids that said I wanted to be a teacher, and here I am. My mom and my grandma were both elementary teachers, so I just feel like it was in my blood. I think one thing that I enjoy about Williamson is that you have these sibling connections. So you'll have one sibling and then a few years later have another. So you're building these connections with these families, and you're seeing these parents year after year, and I just think that's special. And being able to see that connection of even as they're in fifth grade and explore, you still see them in the hallways. And I just think building that connection and seeing these kids grow up is what makes it all worth it. Christopher Lewis: Oh, Claire, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for everything that you're doing to help our young second graders to prepare themselves for Explorer elementary and getting them ready to move onward and upward and in their educational goals. And I wish you all the best. Claire Grisdela: Thank you.
07:55 9/28/23
Diamond Harvesters: Carrie Hartges and the Transformational Role of Teaching Spanish
Welcome back to another episode of the Hornet Hive! I'm your host, Dr. Christopher Lewis, and today we have a special guest joining us. Get ready to be inspired as we introduce you to Carrie Hartges, an incredible teacher who has been making a difference in the Williamson Community School District for the past 14 years. Carrie's passion for teaching elementary Spanish has not only opened doors for her students but has also left a lasting impact on their lives. Join us as we dive into Carrie's journey, learn about her love for the Spanish language, and hear firsthand accounts of the incredible experiences she has created for her students. Stay tuned for an insightful conversation that will warm your heart and inspire you to make a difference in the lives of young learners.    Transcript Christopher Lewis: Welcome back to the Hornet Hive. I'm your host, Dr. Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Williamson Community School Board of Education. Really excited to have you back again this week. Every week, I love being able to talk about the amazing things that are happening within our school district because there are amazing things happening in our school district. We have amazing schools, amazing staff, and I love being able to not only represent our community on the school board, but also be able to introduce you to the amazing people and the amazing things that are happening within our schools, that are making our schools that amazing place for our students. Today we've got another great guest. Over the last year, I've been introducing you to staff and we have another great staff member with us today, another great teacher with us today. Senorta Hartis is with us today. And Carrie's been with the district for quite a few years. She is teaching elementary Spanish to our kids and working with all of our kids at the elementary level, but we'll be talking more about that. But I'm really excited to have her here. Carrie, thanks so much for being here today. Carrie Hartges: Well, Dr. Lewis, thank you so much for inviting me to come on the show today and to introduce myself to the parents. The children know who I am, but what a privilege to be here today. Thank you. Christopher Lewis: It is my pleasure having you here today. Love being able to let people get to know who you are. What I'd love to do is turn the clock back in time because you've been with the district for a number of years now. What initially brought you to Williamston? Carrie Hartges: Well, I have been this is the start of my 14th year with Williamson Community Schools. And what happened was in 2008 nine, I was asked to teach in Dansville and I taught Spanish, and I was an interim Spanish teacher in elementary, and I loved it. And so I thought I would like to do that. And then I noticed that Williamston was hiring a position for elementary Spanish, and I got very excited, and so I applied for the job. And as they say, the rest is history. Here I am now. It's the start of my 14th year for Williamston Community Schools. Christopher Lewis: So tell me about your interest in Spanish. What was it about Spanish? What was it about the teaching of Spanish that drew you in and made you want to teach elementary Spanish? Carrie Hartges: I started taking Spanish when I was in 8th grade, and then I took Spanish all through high school. And then my minor was in Spanish, but my major was elementary education. And I first started out to teach secondary and went away to a camp with third and fourth graders. And I loved the kids, and I thought, well, I guess I'll be an elementary teacher. And so I taught elementary for five years. I taught fourth grade and then ended up being home, being a stay at home mom for a while. And then I always taught Spanish, even while I was at home, because I would teach to people that had an interest for their children to acquire a second language. And it just fell into my lap when it came to the Dansville position. One of my former students that I taught fourth grade knew that there was an opening, and she contacted me, and so I ended up teaching there. And I thought, no, I really love teaching elementary Spanish. So that's what ended up happening where I got the job teaching for Williamston. And I love doing what I do. I love opening up the door for children with a foreign language and giving them the opportunity to meet people or do things that they have never done before by doing Spanish. Christopher Lewis: Now, you said you've been with the district now for 14 years. That's a long time. And as you look back at those 14 years, there's things that are positives, there's things that are negatives, there's the ups, the downs, and in betweens. When you're a teacher, what would you say has sustained you over the years in the district? And what makes Williamson a great place to work? Carrie Hartges: Seven years ago, we implemented steam into our program, and Spanish was put on hold so that we could bring in science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics, and get children ready for the 21st century. And it was during that time that I moved into a different position, which I loved. I love those kids now that they're in fourth and fifth grade. I had them when they were in young fives. But when it comes to Spanish, it is such my passion with the children and what makes it a great place. I had the opportunity at that time when I was changing positions, do I really want to teach Spanish? Or I stayed in the community because it had gotten to the point where I love our staff and I love our children. And so I thought, okay, I will teach Young fives. And it ended up where Spanish was brought back, and I am thrilled. And I love who we teach with those little people all day long. I love that. And I remember once somebody said, in no field of activity can a man or a woman leave such a lasting monument as when he or she seeks to impress on the mind of a child. And I feel like we as teachers are diamond harvesters. We see these little people that come in and you look for where their gifts and their talents are. And I tell them, I said, if all things are equal, they have great grades, wonderful personality, but they get out into the real world and somebody speaks Spanish and somebody does not. That person that has Spanish, they have a leg up. And I have seen it. I've seen it in the field of nursing. One of my students, she's now a nurse, and she uses her Spanish to communicate with those little people that she has to deal with. I've seen it with another one of my students where she worked for a father's company, but she just happened to be out at a garage sale and a man wanted something. And her father said to her, Sweetheart, you know what he's saying? Find out what he wants. And it was something that he wanted at the garage sale, but he had forgotten his wallet at home. And so as a result, she was able to understand and communicate for him. And he told his daughter you were doing more Spanish. So it opens up doors that otherwise would have remained shut. So I like that. I like being that diamond harvester and looking at our children's gifts and talents and encouraging them towards their future. Vocations now, I know over the last. Christopher Lewis: Year or so you started a Spanish club as well to engage kids at a little bit different level. Tell us about the Spanish club that you started. Carrie Hartges: Well, there would be times when I would be teaching my students, and I'd think, oh, we're working on food and how to order food in a restaurant. And I thought, that's what I want. I want to be able to have these kids go out and give them a real life experience and order food in a restaurant. So that's what we did. I had one of my kids come back. He had gone to the Dominican Republic over spring break, and he was so excited. He stopped me and he said, Senora, I got down there to the Dominican Republic and I had to order all my food in Spanish. They didn't speak English. And he said, at one point, my mom turned to me and she said, you know that much Spanish, but that's exactly what we had been working on for real life experience. And it was so sweet because the little sister, she came and she said the same thing. She said, I ordered my food in Spanish. And I said, how did you order? And she said, Eggusta RIA, which means I would like and I said, who taught you that? She said, my big brother And I said, well, who taught him that? And she said you did. So it was just neat for them to have that real life experience where they transferred it over into the real world. And I asked him, I said, what was it like? He said, Senora, he said, It was like being in that restaurant and having my training wheels on. And I took those training wheels off and I was riding all around that restaurant and I just thought that that was so sweet that it gave him a real life experience. And so that's what I wanted for our students with doing Spanish club. And it was very sweet watching our kids go to the restaurant and order in Spanish. And one of the waiters asked a mom, would you like flour or would you like corn for your tortilla arena omais? And the kids knew exactly what that waiter was asking. And the little fella turned to his mom and he said, you want corn flour for your tortilla? And it was just so sweet to see them know what they were doing and be able to apply it and get themselves fed. So it was real life, practical experience. Christopher Lewis: Love that and love the practicality of it. That's part of the as we've seen in this whole steam curriculum, it's taking that learning, making it real, allowing for kids to be able to really take their learning to the next level. And our specials at the elementary level definitely get students doing that. The clubs beyond that allow students to delve even deeper. So students that are in our elementaries do have that opportunity to look at clubs like the Spanish club or the art club or the music club that are at the elementary level because there are some great opportunities there. To be able to delve a little bit deeper and have a little bit more time with our teachers like Senora Harchis that they don't get on a regular weekly basis. So it's a great opportunity to be able to do that. Now, Senora, you just talked about a great story, and teachers are storytellers. There's lots of stories, lots of things that take you from day to day and allow for you to be able to really sustain you. We talked about being sustained in your career. Can you share a story with me that, for you really epitomizes the experience that you've had as a Williamson staff member? Carrie Hartges: Our foundation that we say with our students is kind, safe, cooperative, and respectful. And yes, I teach Spanish, but we are teaching children to be responsible people, to be kind people as they leave us in their future vocation. And sometimes I see some of the stuff that goes on with our kids, and I'll give you one story. We'll play a game in my class, and when they do something awesome, kind, safe, cooperative, respectful, they get what's called a free pass. A passe libre. So when we're playing a game, it's like a free card that gives them an extra lifeline in the game. You know what I love about our kids? I've had this happen several times where somebody will find a pass that somebody else has dropped, and they'll come to me and they'll say, I found this. So they're being little people of integrity. And I love that, that we get the opportunity to pour into them not only steam or music or art or math, but we get to have our fingerprints to encourage them to be awesome little people. So that person of integrity. I have called parents home and I said, I just want to let you know that your son, your daughter was a person of integrity today. And I love our kids at our school, we have some kind kids with the way that they treat one another. And I like to foster that atmosphere in my classroom where we're encouraging them in the future on what types of people that we want to see later on in life. Those kind people. Christopher Lewis: Well Senora Hartges, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for all that you're doing. To be able to engage our kids, to be able to push them to see the world beyond our small hamlet of Williamston, to be able to start to think about the world beyond Williamston and be able to speak to others beyond Williamston and to start that journey in language that starts early but can definitely push them so far into the future. And I wish you all the best. Carrie Hartges: I appreciate you know, someone once said, when you're choosing your vocation in life, it's where the greatest joy meets the world's greatest need. And when you find that, you'll never work a day in your life. And I love doing what I do. The district has invested in me with arts integration, and it's wonderful integrating the arts into the classroom and reaching those students that learn in different ways and engaging them. And it is such a privilege for me to be a teacher within our district. I love our district. I love our staff, and our kids are great people to be around. So thank you for inviting me to come on today. 
12:53 9/7/23
The Joy of Teaching Science and Embracing Middle School: Deana Dutcher
Welcome back to an exciting new episode of the Hornet Hive Podcast. In today's episode, titled "The Joy of Teaching Science and Embracing Middle School: Deana Dutcher," we have a compelling conversation lined up for you. Our host, Christopher Lewis, sits down with Deana Dutcher, a dedicated science teacher at Williamston Middle School. They dive into her journey of how she ended up teaching in the Williamston district and what drew her to the field of science. Deana also shares her love for teaching middle schoolers and the unique challenges and joys that come with it. Stay tuned as she reflects on her years in the district and the incredible stories that have sustained her passion for education. Get ready for an inspiring of the Hornet Hive Podcast! Transcript Christopher Lewis: Welcome back to the Hornet Hive. I'm your host, Dr. Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Williamston Communities School's Board of Education. Really excited to have you back again this week. Every week, I love being able to sit down with you to talk to you about the amazing things that are happening within our schools because our schools rock. and there are so many amazing things that are happening. But for those things to happen, we have to have amazing people behind the scenes working with our kids in so many different ways. And every week, I love being able to share with you not only exciting things that are happening, happening, but also introducing you to the people that make these things happen as well. And if you've been listening for any amount of time over the last Year or so, we've been introducing you to different staff members, people that are working, whether you've met them or not. they're there. They're working day in, day out with the kids and working to make our schools safe and helping our kids to be successful. This week, you've got another great guest with us today. Dina Dutcher is with us. Dina is a science teacher at our middle school and she's working with our 7th graders. So we're gonna be talking about that, but I'm really just really excited to have her on and to have her share some of her own experiences. Dina, thanks so much for being here today. Deana Dutcher: Thank you for having me. Christopher Lewis: It is my pleasure having you here today and One of the things I love to do is turn the clock back in time. So let's crank the clock back just a few years. I would love to learn a bit more about what brought you initially to Williamson? Deana Dutcher: Well, my husband was transferred from the Saginaw area to the Novae area. and we were we grew up in Gaylord up north and we just couldn't go any farther south So one a family member, uncle Ed, told us that Williamson was the place to go because we had 3 small children at time. So in 1999, with a one year old, a three year old, and a five year old, we moved to Williamston for their school specifically. So that's why we're here. Christopher Lewis: And tell me the story because I I I think I heard someone tell me that there's a little bit of a story to how you got your teaching job. Deana Dutcher: I stayed home for 12 years with my kids. And then when our youngest one was 6 and going to school all day long, I kinda put my foot in the door there and started subbing for a couple of years. And then I did a couple of long term subs, and they said, Hey, why don't you come on in and do some literacy work with our enrichment kids, as well as our kids who need a little bit of a boost. And I moved from room to room to room to room and did that for 5 years. And then finally, after kinda getting into the coaching realm of coaching volleyball and track, there was an opening at the middle school, and I jumped on it. I love middle school. Middle school was great for me. I think I'm one of the few people on earth that actually enjoyed their middle school career. Christopher Lewis: So talk to me about that. Talk to me about what is it about middle school that you just love, but also what's it what's about science that drew you in and made you want to be a science teacher. Deana Dutcher: Okay. Well, when I was growing up, I moved in 5th grade to Gaylord, Michigan. And I went from an elementary school that had spelling bees every Friday. I am a horrible speller. I was always one of the first people to sit, and you had to do the walk of shame and go back and sit down when you got your word wrong. So I knew I was going to be an idiot for the rest of my life and not be successful in school. And then when we moved, Mr. Sisco was my 5th grade science teacher and he was amazing. And we had science fairs, and I won them all. 5th, 6th, 7th, and, well, e j beat me out. I got 2nd place in 8th grade, but I realized that I was not destined to be an idiot and that this science thing was kinda cool. And it wasn't until mid middle school that I really realized that my parents had really fostered this figure it out. Let's experiment. If it doesn't work, let's try this. If it doesn't that doesn't work, let's try this. So I love puzzles, and my parents were always very, very supportive. And so that's part of the reason why I love science is because there isn't just one right answer. Like, there isn't spelling thank goodness. Thank goodness their spell check. And I also met my husband when we moved to Gaylord. So we've been buddies since 5th grade. my middle school is 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th. So extra perk. Christopher Lewis: So that tells me about science. Now what is it about middle schoolers that draw you in because not every teacher is enamored by the idea of teaching middle schoolers. Deana Dutcher: Well, behavior is contagious. and you walk through this middle school, and everybody is either oblivious to their behavior or super, super confident. So there are always happy people, and they're always eager to share what they're doing. They do crazy things They come up and they talk to you. They're just very welcoming. They haven't learned to be kind of off putting yet, and they're sense of humor is developing, and you kinda get a free pass on behavior in middle school. You do crazy things. And I I love it when high schoolers come back to talk to me, and they usually start their conversation with, I am so sorry. because of some silly things that they did in middle school, but the fact that they come back to talk to me and remember middle school in a positive way and talk about the the mistakes they made. It's a very humbling experience to to have a safe enough place for them to, 1st of all, kind of spread their wings and try things and then to still feel feel like they can come back and approach me and talk to me. So I like being a safe place. Christopher Lewis: Now you've been with the district now for a number of years. As you said, you kinda moved up and you kinda went through a number of different positions. And then you've been teaching over a number of years now as well. what would you say has sustained you over the years in our district? And what makes Williams then a great place to work? Deana Dutcher: First of all, my children went through before I kinda got really situated in the school as a teacher. And the people throughout their journeys from the bus driver I don't think my five year old would have, continued her academic career. Had it not been for Mrs. Swagger, the bus driver. and people all along the way who have led them with kindness and pushed them a little bit from behind when they didn't want to. So I love being part of those of that group. There are so many people. My colleagues are like you said in the beginning, pretty much amazing. And I sincerely mean that the good, the bad, the, you know, we had tears coming home and my kids, like, I'm gonna I'm gonna throw Mitch Luteski out there. Mitch Luteski, track coach, and high school teacher, He really challenged my kids, and there were tears, but they all still call him up and talk to him. So it's just kind of humbling, like I said, to be part of a group that can lead and push. And I'm a success junkie. I I want people to be success full. So and I laugh every day. Christopher Lewis: I love that. And I definitely know that Mr. Lutsky did challenge kids. He challenged my own daughter many times. Deana Dutcher: Oh, yeah. Christopher Lewis: And she loved it, and she would push him as much as she would get from him, I think, as well. and that friendly ribbing that I think they both gave each other pushed them on, especially pushed my daughter on and challenged her in many different ways. Now you just shared some amazing stories right there, but there are stories that definitely sustain you. and things that you reflect on as you move in your career and continue in your career. Can you share a story with me that for you epitomizes the experience that you've had as a Williamson staff member? Deana Dutcher: Yes. I can. when I was due working in the elementary school, there was a mom that came in to help out with picture day, and I was, for some reason, the teacher had stepped out and I, as a literacy, para, was taking the kids down to get their pictures taken, and she came up and I know her. She just didn't know my name. And she's like, oh my gosh. I heard that Missus Dutcher was going to be here today, and I just have to meet her. And she just went on and she was talking about stories that her children had brought home about me. And I was turning red and, you know, and when she was done, I just stuck my head out or my hand out and said, hello, I'm Missus Dutcher. It's nice to meet you. So the thing that I like about that is when I go out into the community, like, they're we were going to a volleyball game and I coach volleyball. And I got on the bus. And she's like, are you Missus Dutcher? And I said, yes, I am. And Grandma started telling me things that her children had shared at the dinner table about my class. So I consider that a big win. I go to the grocery store, I can go target. I can go wherever and run into people. And they know a little bit about me because of what their children have brought home. and one very highly educated gentleman was sitting during COVID on a Zoom conference And the first thing he said was, thank you for making my child think during this mess. So that was pretty cool to me. Christopher Lewis: That's very cool. Now you talked about the fact that you have coach along the way, and you're coaching in your classroom, but you you are coaching outside of the classroom as well. Talk to me about what It is about coaching that draws you in and keeps you engaged. Deana Dutcher: I love coaching middle school because it's the beginning of a lifetime of staying active. Missus Leonard was my middle school track coach and my middle school volleyball coach. And she gave me a whistle when I graduated from high school and said influence people. So I love like I said, I'm a success junkie. There's 17 events to choose from in track. So there's something for everyone. You don't have to be a marathon runner. and it's not about winning and and some people will take that the wrong way. I'm sure not everyone has to be the best it's about improving and making yourself better. You jump long or farther or run faster or be more efficient And I think that's great. And again, a safe place, and that's a hard thing to that's a hard thing to drive home. sometimes they, you know, they come to practice. They have a good time. They learn proper running form. They learn how to pole vault. And sometimes they go home to dinner table and their parents are like, I don't understand why your coach is doing this. Well, come on and ask me because I have a reason. I am from a very active family generations of athletes. So it's just a good thing. Christopher Lewis: I love that. And definitely, you know, I love the analogy there because I think that What you're saying about sports also works in the classroom as well. It does. And if you are willing to put in the time and effort, even if you don't get the we'll say the proverbial a, you know, but you're learning and you understand the concept That's what it's all about. And it's going from that that learning from one piece to the next piece and as long as you're standing it and growing and learning, that's what's most important. Deana Dutcher: That is. And I I sometimes I don't know off the top of my head who has the a and who has the not so great, not a, but I just want everyone engaged It needs to be a positive experience. I love to teach kids to love to learn. Christopher Lewis: I think that's a great place to end today, but I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for helping our kids. to love to learn and to pushing them to learn in different ways. Both in class and out of class, Thank you for being that teacher that the kids want to yell and run to when they see you at the store and to thank you for all that you do within our schools to make them a great place. Deana Dutcher: It is my pleasure.
13:30 8/31/23
Building Confidence and Skills: Steve Chamberlain's Journey as a Math Teacher in Williamston Schools
Today on the Hornet Hive Podcast we are continuing to introduce you to some of the amazing staff that makes our district as amazing as it is. Today we bring you Steve Chamberlain, a math teacher at Williamston High School.     Transcript Christopher Lewis: Welcome back to the Hornet Hive. I'm your host, Doctor Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Williamston Community School's board of education. Really excited to have you back again this week. And we're back in a brand new year and really excited to be able to introduce you to some of the amazing people that make our district strong and make our district move in the way that it does. And every week I try to share with you someone new or share with you some new things that are happening in the district. And this week, we've got another great guest with us today. Steve Chamberlain is with us and Steve's a math teacher at Williamson High School and has been there for quite a few years. And I'm really excited to be able to have him on and to have him share some of his own journey and his own story. About being a part of the Williamson Schools. Steve, thanks so much for being here today. Steve Chamberlain: No problem. Thanks for having me. Christopher Lewis: Really excited to have you here today. And I always start off these conversations with your origin story. I love being able to hear a little bit about what brought you originally to Williamston. Steve Chamberlain: Well, it actually is a pretty good story there. I, obviously doing interviews starting out as a pretty new teacher. I'd only done a half-year subbing job before I came to Williamston. So I was new to the interview process for the most part too, and just was taking any interview I could get at the time. And Williamson got a hold of me. I believe it was Matt Carey at the time. It was Matt Carey at the time. And he just gave me a call and said, would you like to come interview? And I said, sure. No problem. We set up a time. And since I got off the phone, I had to look up where Williamson was at. So literally went right to whatever it wasn't back in the day. I'm sure it wasn't but, you know, look at where it's at and, just had a fantastic interview. Had a chance to tour the facilities, and it was just it was fantastic at the time. It just felt like a really good fit. Christopher Lewis: So talk to me a little bit about that because like you said, you had never even heard of Williamston, and you've stayed in Williamston. For your career and it's have been in the district now for quite a few years. So talk to me about what has sustained you over the years in the district? What makes Williamston a great place to work? Steve Chamberlain: Well, it starts with the people, obviously. I mean, just from top down, I mean, just, you know, Nardo's fantastic. Superintend. Every superintendent had has been supportive, Adam is supportive, and just, you know, always involved and engaged and he allowed us to have some freedom to do some things, but also at the same time had some good leadership about some good things going on or things that they wanted to have happen as well. And right on down to teachers and principals and just everybody's been a real good fit, good, great colleagues, Whether it had changed over or not, it's always been great people to work with every single time. Christopher Lewis: Now I mentioned you teach math and math is not always something that every kid loves when teachers have to have a love of it as well. What made you decide you wanted to be a math teacher? Steve Chamberlain: It wasn't something immediate, and we had that question of the day in one of our team activities in the high school. And it wasn't the first thought. I was gonna get into probably the Spanish field at some point. Maybe even call, which I still have that that certification, but I was gonna be some translator for the UN, something like that. I hadn't really thought about education until got self my year of college and then really started to be able to help people, whether it was just friends or I actually got into the tutoring program at Eastern Michigan and the math department there. and just started to click with me that, hey. This is probably something I could be pretty good at, and here we are 23 years later. Christopher Lewis: I mentioned that not every kid loves math. And I know both my kids have had you for math, and they've come out of your class, always just really feeling like they understood it. in that I think you teach you speak the students language, but talk to me about how you work with kids, especially those kids that come into your class saying, I don't do math. I don't like math. You're not gonna get me to like math. Steve Chamberlain: One of the things I really like to do is work with students that have a hard time with math. I've done math labs in the middle school. I've done the geometry support now. This would be a 10th year doing geometry support to go along with that for students that really do have a hard time with math, and I think it just comes down to figuring out where they're at. Is it a student that lacks the skills, or is it a student that has skills? It just doesn't have the motivation so I see all kinds of students come through that maybe aren't successful for a variety of reasons. So the first part is just figuring out what kind of student they are and and then kind of addressing it from there. If it's a motivation thing, then work with them on that first, because if they're not motivated to do it, then you can teach them anything you want. It's not gonna work. Christopher Lewis: Now what are the things that I think is always interesting? And you kinda talked about the fact that you work with all these students and and I'm sure there's a lot of stories there that help you to be able to sustain you and to keep you motivated in the work that you do. Can you share a story with me that to you really epitomizes the experience that you've had as a teacher in Williamson? Steve Chamberlain: Oh, that's a good question. There are a lot of stories. every year. I always tell the kids I've seen it all, and then they show me something I haven't seen. So there's always a surprise factor with things, but I think the motivation for me is just the fact that students are so different that you may think you have them nailed down and you wanna put them in a certain box and say, okay. This is the student that they are, and then they come around and and surprise you. I can't think of any particular stories, but just that kind of general student that comes in with low to motivation or low skills my favorite thing is, unfortunately, when students come in with low skills, I mean, you feel kinda like, what am I gonna do here? But that's the greatest reward when they walk out and they've gained those skills and the confidence more than anything. And a lot of times their low confidence is what prevents them from doing well. more than anything else. And so building that motivation and confidence and then skills along the way, I think is it's the most fulfilling part of Christopher Lewis: Especially at the high school as kids get further on and further advanced in math, I can say as a parent that sometimes you completely forget how to do math if you're not using it on a regular basis. It's like, It's like Spanish. You talk about Spanish, but it's like that you have to stretch your brain a little bit and keep practicing and keep doing things to keep up on those skills skill basis as well. As you work with not only the kids, but also the parents, what are things that parents can do especially at the high school to support with their kids as they're learning these things that maybe they've forgotten a little bit along the way as well. Steve Chamberlain: There's a situation if it's just something where, you know, I can help out directly you know, parents will contact me and we could meet like we are right now and just have a quick conference about something. If it's just a quick skill they wanted to know, I could a set of resources, some videos that I've made. I mean, there's tons of videos that I have from our COVID area where I can just send them and say, hey. Watch this for a minute and see if that helps out. If it's a little bit more intensive, then I think it's more communication with me. Like, tell me what's going on with your kid. How can I help them? A lot of cases. We've got a lot but in some cases, the parents might be, hey. This is beyond where I'm at, having trouble communicating that, just having the parent talk to their to their child and say, hey. Let's set up some times to meet with him. Could be getting a tutor, could be going to homework lab, could be going to Saturday school, and there's lots of resources we have. even all the way down to maybe joining the support class. If if it gets down to where the skills are every other day or every day, they're just having so much trouble that it's not worth the communication time. It's better just to to change the schedule. Christopher Lewis: Well, I really appreciate you sharing that because I know that sometimes math as well as other subjects can be challenging and can be something that can stress students out and having that support for students and parents is so important to be able to help them to support their kids, but also to hopefully help their kid to advocate for themselves and to help them to be able to know what resources are available to them as well. But, Steve, I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for all of the years of service to the Williams and community schools for doing everything that you do to engage our kids and support our kids and push our kids to help them to be able to think about math in a little bit different way. And I truly wish you all the best. Yeah. Steve Chamberlain: Thank you very much for having me
08:57 8/24/23
Summer Projects, New Staff, The Beginning of the Year and More!
Today on the Hornet Hive Podcast join Dr. Christopher Lewis and Dr. Adam Spina as they talk about the summer projects, new staff, the beginning of the year and more.
17:18 8/10/23
Hornet Hive - Debra LaFleur
Today on the Hornet Hive Podcast we are continuing to introduce you to some of the amazing staff that makes our district as amazing as it is. Today we bring you Principal of Williamston Middle School, Debra LaFleur. Mrs. Debra LaFleur currently serves as Principal at Williamston Middle School. Since 1995, Mrs. LaFleur worked at Williamston Community Schools in a variety of roles that included Assistant Principal at Williamston High School, MTSS coach at the secondary and district level, and English Language Arts and literacy intervention teacher at Williamston Middle School. Her leadership and commitment to serving students, teachers, and families are aspects that inspire her role as Principal. Mrs. LaFleur earned a master’s degree in literacy instruction from Michigan State University and a bachelor’s degree in education from Western Michigan University.   In addition, Mrs. LaFleur enjoys community service and traveling with her husband Andy and two daughters.    
11:24 6/29/23
Hornet Hive - Erynn Merchant
Today on the Hornet Hive Podcast we are continuing to introduce you to some of the amazing staff that makes our district as amazing as it is. Today we bring you Erynn Merchant, a long-term permanent sub within our elementary schools.  
13:12 6/22/23
Hornet Hive - Serenity Even
Today on the Hornet Hive Podcast we are continuing to introduce you to some of the amazing staff that makes our district as amazing as it is. Today we bring you Serenity Even who has been with the district since earlier this year working with her dual-purpose service dog, Gemini as they serve all of the schools in our district.
13:29 6/15/23
Hornet Hive - Abigail Black
Today on the Hornet Hive Podcast we are continuing to introduce you to some of the amazing staff that makes our district as amazing as it is. Today we bring you Abigail Black, a second-grade teacher at Discovery Elementary.  
10:11 6/8/23
Hornet Hive - Haley Rooney
Today on the Hornet Hive Podcast we are continuing to introduce you to some of the amazing staff that makes our district as amazing as it is. Today we bring you Haley Rooney, a Spanish teacher at Williamston Middle School.  
10:03 6/1/23
End of the year, summer projects and celebrating grads and staff
Today on the Hornet Hive Podcast join Dr. Christopher Lewis and Dr. Adam Spina as they talk about the end of the year, summer projects and celebrating grads and staff.
10:32 5/25/23
Hornet Hive - Caitlin Griffes
Today on the Hornet Hive Podcast we are continuing to introduce you to some of the amazing staff that makes our district as amazing as it is. Today we bring you Caitlin Griffes, a Speech Language Pathologist for the Williamston Community Schools.  
08:38 5/18/23
Hornet Hive - Megan Allen
Today on the Hornet Hive Podcast we are continuing to introduce you to some of the amazing staff that makes our district as amazing as it is. Today we bring you Megan Allen, teacher at Williamston Middle School.  
10:04 5/11/23
Hornet Hive - Chris Armour
Today on the Hornet Hive Podcast we are continuing to introduce you to some of the amazing staff that makes our district as amazing as it is. Today we bring you Chris Armour, Assistant Principal at Williamston High School. Mr. Chris Armour currently serves as the Assistant Principal of Williamston High School. Mr. Armour was hired in 2010 and has taught a variety of math and science classes at both the Middle and High Schools. Outside of teaching, Mr. Armour has served in various roles in the district including coaching football and wrestling, science department chair, as well as the President of the Williamston Educational Association.   Mr. Armour holds a Master of Arts in Educational Technology and Bachelor of Science in Physics degrees from Michigan State University.     In his free time, Mr. Armour enjoys watching sports and spending time at the family cottage with his wife Jayme and their three future hornets.
11:24 5/4/23
Hornet Hive - Rebecca Olsen
Today on the Hornet Hive Podcast we are continuing to introduce you to some of the amazing staff that makes our district as amazing as it is. Today we bring you Rebecca Olsen, Director of Preschool and Child Care for the Williamston Community Schools. Mrs. Olsen has been employed with the Williamston Community School District since 2000. Through her years at Williamston, she has been a teacher to the district’s youngest learners in the Little Hornet Preschool programs. Concurrently with her teaching position, Mrs. Olsen has also served in the capacities of Early Years MTSS Coach and Early Childhood Specialist focusing on program and teacher professional development. Prior to Williamston, Mrs. Olsen worked as an Early Childhood Specialist at Lansing Community College Early LCC and Oakland University Lowry Center.  Mrs. Olsen earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Child Development from Michigan State University with post-graduate work in Curriculum and Instruction from Oakland University. Mrs. Olsen is married to Brad Olsen and together have one daughter.
10:47 4/27/23
Hornet Hive - Adam Supianoski
Today on the Hornet Hive Podcast we are continuing to introduce you to some of the amazing staff that makes our district as amazing as it is. Today we bring you Adam Supianoski, Assistant Principal at Williamston Middle School. Prior to his employment in 2022 at Williamston Middle School, he was employed by Coldwater Community Schools for seventeen years, where he served as the middle school Assistant Principal.  Before moving into administration, he taught social studies, math, and physical education at the middle school level as well as taught at the elementary level.  In addition to teaching, he also coached football, basketball, and track at the middle and high school levels. Mr. Supianoski earned a bachelor of science in education from Central Michigan University, a master’s degree in education from Indiana Wesleyan University, and an educational administrative certificate from Concordia University.  Mr. Supianoski and his wife Kate have two children and enjoy spending time together traveling and attending sporting events. 
10:35 4/6/23
Hornet Hive - Sarah Tynan
Today on the Hornet Hive Podcast we are continuing to introduce you to some of the amazing staff that makes our district as amazing as it is. Today we bring you Sarah Tynan, Director of Finance for the Williamston Community Schools. Prior to accepting this role, she had worked for over two years in public accounting, specializing in tax for both construction and manufacturing & distribution clients, as well as two and a half years in the private sector of accounting. Sarah earned her Master of Accounting from Walsh College in 2019, as well as her Bachelors of Science from Michigan State University in 2014. She has obtained her license as a Certified Public Accountant in the State of Michigan and has held her license since February of 2020. When she is not working, Sarah enjoys spending time with her family and pets, competing with her horses, and renovating her 1950s farmhouse.
09:00 3/30/23
Hornet Hive - Anne Wade
Today on the Hornet Hive Podcast we are continuing to introduce you to some of the amazing staff that makes our district as amazing as it is. Today we bring you Anne Wade, Social Sciences teacher at Williamston High School.
11:46 3/23/23
Hornet Hive - Kelly Campbell
Today on the Hornet Hive Podcast we are continuing to introduce you to some of the amazing staff that makes our district as amazing as it is. Today we bring you Kelly Campbell, Deputy Superintendent and Principal of Explorer Elementary for the Williamston Community Schools. Mrs. Kelly Campbell began her career with Williamston Community Schools in 1991. She spent seventeen years as fourth and fifth grade teacher before joining the faculty of the middle school where she taught English Language Arts as well as literacy interventions. In addition, Mrs. Campbell has worked as an MTSS coordinator at both the building and district level. All of these experiences fueled her interest in supporting students, teachers and families in an expanded leadership capacity. She was delighted to return to Explorer in 2015 to serve as Principal. Mrs. Campbell was appointed Deputy Superintendent by the Board of Education in 2020. In addition to completing the Professional Preparation Program for School Leadership and Administration through Lamar University, Mrs. Campbell holds a master’s degree in Literacy and a bachelor’s degree in education, both from Michigan State University. Mrs. Campbell has a daughter named Grace.
12:34 3/16/23