April 27, 2014

Spring Skies, Showers, and Strawberries

"Teacher, should we be at home today?" 

A first grader grazes out the window at April's grey, cloudy morning. After weeks of unseasonably cold temperatures and a major April snowstorm or two, gentle rain falls hour after hour. 

"Why do think you should be at home?" the teacher asks. 

The little first grader explains, "Because it is dark outside like it is when I wake up in the morning." 

Adults listen to weather forecasts, check the internet or mobile phone app, and still are frequently surprised! Consider the world of a child. Most haven't seen rain for six months, practically a lifetime ago! Should we be surprised when they are puzzled? 

Lesson 1: to a child every day is a new adventure. 

* * * * 

Rain continues though the day. By late afternoon at the high school, boys and girls on the track team finish their workouts. Flushed faces and enthusiasm give away their excitement about running outside, as rain washes away the remaining ice and snow. 

On a muddy field, lacrosse is in session. With yells of encouragement and lots of slipping, mud transfers from field to every exposed surface, including uniforms and faces. 

A coach asks, "Who is the short player between the two tall ones? I can't tell one player from another with all this mud!" 

Lesson 2: for a teenager, it doesn't much matter what they are doing as long as they are with friends. 

* * * * 

Go to the front of the line in the elementary school cafeteria and watch the children's faces as they receive school lunch on plastic trays. Eyes widen when the boys and girls see plump strawberries, the first of the season. As three red, sweet, berries are placed on each tray, children smile and politely say "thank you!" 

Lesson 3: children love lunchtime, where they socialize and share. Anything new, especially the first fruit of the spring season, is pure joy. 

* * * * 

With six weeks of school left for the year, teachers and all school staff help children finish strong, negotiating state tests (MCAs), college end of class exams (Advanced Placement and other exams), and encourage all to give their best through the last day. 

But as the season changes, every week is fresh and new. For this week we saw spring skies, showers, and strawberries. What is new for the children in your world?

Michael J. Lovett, Ph.D
Superintendent, White Bear Lake Area Schools

In Pictures: Sam Okello speaks to middle school choir students

Student News - Past, present success

Students in White Bear Lake Area Schools show their dedication to studying history, excelling in their present endeavors. Here are just a few stories to exemplify that level of dedication.

Ten seventh grade American History students from Central Middle School wrote winning essays for the Ramsey County Bar Association Law Day Essay contest. The 2014 contest theme was "American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters." 

Students wrote 500 word essays and each winner will be recognized on May 8 in a ceremony at the Ramsey County Courthouse in St. Paul. Carrie Kearney Yee and Kari Janzen were the sponsoring teachers.

Another example of students who have used history to learn in multiple ways is Janel Toussaint's French class. Her College in the Schools classes were able to attend a lecture in French by Louise Dillery. 

Dillery was a teenager in Paris while the city was occupied by the Germans during WWII. She witnessed the arrest and deportation of her father (who never returned from Auschwitz) and managed to survive with no family members to help her. During a trip to France, other students found her father's name (Israel Gradzstein) on the wall of deportees.

Planning for future success

Beyond learning from history and enriching their present knowledge, White Bear Lake students also look to the future using the skills they have acquired in the classroom. Our seniors at WBLAHS are already planning out further education and career opportunities.

One example, Dan Kay, a senior at South Campus, won third place in the State Skills USA competition in the Diesel Technology division. Dan not only won a $5,000 scholarship to Universal Technical Institute (UTI) but also will receive his extended MSAT training with Cummins NPower in Phoenix, AZ at no cost.

Another example comes from our White Bear Lake ALC students who recently became state champions at the MAAP (Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs) Stars competition. They brought home gold, silver, and bronze ribbons for their achievements!

Some of the team events included: Team Management Decision Making, Team Parenting Decision Making, Team Advertising, and Community Service Project. The individual events were: Employment Interview, Workplace Relations, Career Portfolio, and Public Speaking.

These skills will undoubtedly prove to be very useful in their future career endeavors.

This forward-thinking mentality is not limited to their own lives - White Bear Lake students also put a lot of effort into bettering the futures of others.

For instance, our AVID classes have been implementing a service learning project to support, Solid Ground, a local shelter for women and children in abusive relations seeking safety. The students collected $1076 from their peers and our staff along with supplies for the shelter.

In the coming weeks, we will be honoring the accomplishments of many of our high school seniors as they graduate and look forward to a bright future!

Outstanding staff

Our students know how great their staff is at WBLAS, but it is a little extra special when we get to recognize them with a variety of different honors and activities.

Over the last two weeks, many of our teachers have been nominated and have won honors and awards. Cameron Mahlum was named "Best High School Teacher" at White Bear Lake Magazine's "Best of" event. Wendy Suoja and Shannon Anderson were runners up for the award.

Tony Walfoort, WBLAHS - North Campus teacher, was named the 2014 Teacher of the Year. Other finalists included Melissa Wenck (WBLAHS - North Campus), Ryan Brown (WBLAHS - North Campus), Kara Martinson (Sunrise and Central), Benjamin Kirkham (WBLAHS - North Campus) and Dan Gullick (Hugo, Oneka & Lakeaires).

In addition, last week, Sunrise Park Middle School teacher Huy Nguyen was one of two educators honored state-wide by the WEM Foundation and Synergy and Leadership Exchange with an Academic Challenge Coach Award. 

The award recognizes classroom teachers who are exemplary coaches of student teams that participate and compete in academic challenges endorsed by the Minnesota Academic League Council. This honor is accompanied by a $15,000 award.

This year, our staff members also have the opportunity to participate in a wellness challenge this spring. Three-hundred and fifty-eight district employees have made the commitment to "Move Towards Wellness" by joining the first district-wide wellness challenge.  

Expressing creativity

Three events this past week showcase our students expressing their creativity through publication, theater, and music. First, the WBLAHS Writing Center's Sips and Swallows event featured three MN authors (Kristy Abbott, Kate Hopper, and Nick Hupton) who were interviewed on stage by three students (Kaylee Anderson, Franny Eggan, and Franki Hanke).

They discussed their inspirations, motivations, and challenges surrounding writing and how it is an active part of their lives. The group also heard from ten students who read their writing, including poetry, short stories, flash fiction, and essays. The evening concluded with a slideshow presentation of all the photography and artwork that is featured in this year's Sensicality, a student publication celebrating its tenth year.

Next, high school students performed this year's spring play, The Odyssey, over the weekend. Click here to see another picture from White Bear Press!

Another great story of students expressing their creativity comes at the middle school level. Okello Sam, a guest speaker and musician from Uganda, came to middle school choir classes to teach about cultural instruments, songs, and dances.

Students had the opportunity to sing, drum, and dance to Ugandan music. Some students also had the chance to play a few different string instruments. See the above "In Pictures" section for some fun photos from his visit to Central Middle School.

62.4-second video update

Take a look at our 62.4-second update that highlights weekly activity throughout our schools!

Activities Updates

The White Bear Lake boys' track and field team took second place at the annual White Bear Lake Relays earlier this month.

White Bear Lake Area High School Athletics schedules can be found here.

Please contact the Communications Department (651-407-7695) to submit Student News for inclusion in future publications.

School Board News - School Board Meetings

School Board meeting agendas and minutes can be found here.

Date Type Time Location
April 28 Work-Study 5:30 p.m. District Center
May 12 Regular 7 p.m. District Center
May 19 Work-Study 5:30 p.m. District Center