February 7, 2016

Learning to Play One Measure at a Time

Earlier this week our high school top choir and band students performed superbly at an annual conference music festival. In the evening, honored members of our band and choir performed in an all-conference concert.

Listening to the precision, dynamics and emotion of these remarkable student performances, the audience of teachers and families especially appreciated the long days and nights of practice which inspired the performances.

In contrast, this week our district celebrated a first concert for our new strings program. If we think of our high school musicians as "seasoned performers," fifth graders are "beginners," learning one measure at a time. The concert was understandably brief - most of the children have been playing the violin, viola, cello or bass only since October!

But the orchestra audience appeared as moved and warmly enthusiastic as the audience for the accomplished high school artists.

Following the concert, the boys and girls were all smiles. Proud parents and grandparents offered bouquets of flowers and posed for photos.

In time, we will have a high school orchestra program that matches our outstanding choral and band programs. But as we were reminded this week, learning music comes just one measure at a time.

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

(Watch this orchestra video - which features testimonials from WBLAS fifth grade students in the program!)


In Photos: Chatting across the globe!

Student News

Friends from around the world

WBLAS students are continuously making new friends, whether it be on the school bus or in the classroom, but more recently our students have been making connections with students not so close by. Birch Lake kindergarten students recently stretched their friend circle some 3,200 miles to Barcelona, Spain. The eager students gathered in the Birch Lake Media Center to Skype with kindergartner students from a school in Spain. Why this particular school, you may ask? Their teacher is Silvia Sanz, a former student teacher who studied with Birch Lake Elementary teacher Kathleen Elletson two years ago here in White Bear. The two have remained in close contact ever since and were excited to start this connection with their schools. The students sang songs for each other, finding they have much in common. Though, one noticeable difference was that our students were wearing winter gear after the recent snowstorm, while the students in Barcelona were preparing to go to the beach!(Photos from this activity are featured in the "In Photos" section above. This activity was also featured in our most recent 62.4-second video update.)

Experiences like these are ones our teachers are seeking a lot of these days. In fact, last week a Birch fourth grade teacher hosted a class-wide Google Hangout experience with a school in Haiti - similar to what Otter Lake third graders did when they chatted with students from the ANA School in Port-au-Prince. (The Otter Lake experience is also featured in the "In Photos " section above and in this 62.4-second video update.)

One of our teachers has been awarded for her efforts to make her classroom a place of inclusion for our students who come from around the world. Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) teacher Ann Zettel at Normandy Park Early Childhood Education Center was awarded a Brosious Grant by the White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation (WBLAEF) this year to help fund children's books for each area of study in the home language of each student. The books they will use are: Good Night Moon, Polar Bear Polar Bear, Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Mitten and Chicka, Chicka Boom Boom. Each family received a copy of the same books in their home language and in English. Ann teaches 15 preschool children and their parents in the ECFE Literacy class, with the help of ELL teacher Amy Ottaviani. In the photo, Ms. Zettel, Ms. Ottaviani and ECFE Literacy class moms hold up the book Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom, which is one of five books written in Spanish/English for parents to keep and read with their children.

Willow Lane Elementary celebrated a long-time friendship at their most recent Summit. At the end of these events, the entire student body and Willow staff show gratitude toward someone who goes above and beyond to make the school a better place. This time, the school recognized Grandma Delores. This honor was extra special as Grandma Delores just recently celebrated her 75th birthday a few days prior, and it was also during the week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Grandma Delores, who is African American, embodies many of Dr. King's principles and she has done an excellent job serving the students at Willow Lane. She volunteers at Willow Lane for 15 hours every week and says she loves it because everyone is so friendly. Grandma Delores lived through some very prejudice times. She grew up in a small, divided town in North Carolina where black and white children could not go to school together. Even though she lived through those times, Grandma Delores always demonstrates perseverance and gratitude. Grandma Delores is a special lady and because she serves her community by serving Willow Lane, the school felt she deserved to be treated like a queen. So, Willow students and staff surprised Grandma Delores by naming her the "Queen for a Day" at the end of the Summit. Watch this cell phone video of her reaction to the surprise!

Meanwhile, Central Middle School student Julia Covert will soon be making friends from across the country, as she was chosen from thousands of girls across the United States and Canada to represent the state of Minnesota in Discovery Girls Magazine. Discovery Girls Magazine is for girls ages 8-12 and was created to inspire and help girls get through the tween years. Through extensive writing assignments, Julia was selected for her resilience, determination and positive attitude as she told stories of her many obstacles in life - many of them similar to other girls her age, and also some related only to her. Julia's issue of the magazine will come out sometime in 2016 or early 2017. Julia will be traveling to California on February 15th to spend three days attending workshops and photo shoots for the magazine. 

Middle school mentors

A new initiative between both Sunrise and Central Middle Schools is underway called the Eighth Grade Community Project. This project takes our district's dedication to the International Baccalaureate framework and ties it to our District Core Value of Service learning. In Advisory/Homebase, our eighth grade students will embark on a journey of researching, creating, implementing and reflecting on their own service learning projects with area mentors. They are currently inviting district staff, parents and community members to be part of this new initiative as a mentor to some of our eighth grade groups. Between the two schools, there are approximately 30 Advisory/Hombase classes which means they are reaching out to roughly like 30 mentors. Mentors will be given a packet that contains questions to guide students through the process. Students will document their work and progress using shared Google docs with their teacher. Interested in becoming a mentor? Click here.

A number of our Central students may be good mentors themselves when is comes to playing a band instrument. Recently, a number of Central seventh grade students participated in the NEMBDA 6-8 Honor Band. Students in this group were nominated by their band directors and come from school districts from White Bear all the way up to Canada (northeast region of the state). The students rehearsed for a good portion of the day, then performed a concert at Pine City High School. Izzi Perron is an 8th grade percussionist at Central who was invited to perform in the NEMBDA 9-10 Honor Band (which is usually for ninth and tenth graders only). Izzi has also been the first student ever from Central to be selected to participate in the MBDA 7-8 Honor Jazz Band. The group will be performing at the Minnesota Music Educator's Association (MMEA) Midwinter Clinic on Friday, February12 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. This group is an audition-based group open to seventh and eighth grade jazz band members throughout the state of Minnesota. 

High school stand-outs

When it comes to high school athletics, we have talented Bears across the board. Three WBLAHS students recently participated in the NCAA February 2016 Signing Day event, accepting scholarships to play sports at the collegiate level: Andrew Schmidt will play football for Northern State University, Anna Kaiser will play soccer at Sam Houston State University and Ethan Peterson will play lacrosse at Cleveland State University. Two additional WBLAHS students were acknowledged during this event for moving on to play Division 3 athletics. Those students are Matt LeMay and Kailey Peterson. During this event, coaches shared words on behalf of these talented athletes and their fellow teammates were there to support them as well. This activity was highlighted in the most recent 62.4-second video update.

The Boys' Hockey Team has shown they don't only stand out on the rink, but also when it comes to service. The team held their Senior Night and Food Drive recently, which included a player tour of the Food Shelf and a Kids Weekend Pack collection campaign. The players collected 295 pounds of food and $142 last Saturday at the hockey game against Eastridge. The Senior Night festivities were extra special for Captain Dylan Gast, as he was able to join the team back on the ice for the ceremony after a season long injury. Plus, there was more icing on the cake that night - a 6-0 victory over East Ridge!

Our Area Learning Center students are celebrating a milestone of academic accomplishments. On January 28, a graduation dinner was held at Donatelli's to celebrate Area Learning Center students from the class of 2015, or earlier, who completed their graduation requirements through either summer school or the independent study program. Fifteen students were recognized at the event.

I Love to Read Month

Walking from one classroom to the next, you'll likely see students occupied with some good page-turners. That's because February is "I Love to Read Month!" Across the district, there have been special reading activities and visits from guest readers.

Birch Lake Elementary hosted its Muffins with Moms event as a "kick-off " to the reading month, where mom's and guests came to the school for breakfast while the students dressed as their favorite storybook characters. The Muffins with Moms event was also featured in our most recent 62.4-second video update. Students at Vadnais Heights Elementary had a visitor drop by on the first of the month - author Michael Hall. He read his new book Frankencrayon to students, then had the audience help make a crayon. Students were given the opportunity to ask Mr. Hall questions and to meet Frankencrayon, too. Lakeaires Elementary is hosting an array of reading activities this month, while also having the entire student body contribute to writing two books of their own, or what they call "all school stories!" There will be a K-2 story and a 3-5 story. Each class will be part of this, building together the story from one classroom to the next. When they are finished with the two books, fifth grade teacher Stacy Brodt will publish it so it can be read on the school's news segment on Monday, February 28th. 

Every school in the district is finding fun and creative ways to celebrate reading this month and we will be covering these events in our upcoming newsletter and on the district's Facebook and Twitter pages - stay tuned!

62.4-second video updates

Take a look at our 62.4-second video updates that highlight weekly activity throughout our schools during the school year.

Activities updates

Three WBLAHS students participated in the NCAA February 2016 Signing Day event, accepting scholarships to play sports at the collegiate level: Andrew Schmidt will play football for Northern State University, Anna Kaiser will play soccer at Sam Houston State University and Ethan Petersonwill play lacrosse at Cleveland State University. Two additional WBLAHS students were acknowledged during this event for moving on to play Division 3. Those students are Matt LeMay and Kailey Peterson.

Click here for a schedule of all fall sports contests. Find a complete list of all WBLAHS Activities, Athletics and Fine Arts here.

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

School Board Meetings

School Board meeting agendas and minutes can be found here.

Date Type Time Location
February 8 Regular 7 p.m. District Center
February 22 Work-study 5:30 p.m.  District Center
March 14 Regular 7 p.m. District Center

For highlights from the most recent School Board meeting, click here.

Superintendent's Message

  • Learning to Play One Measure at a Time

Student News

  • In Photos: Chatting across the globe!
  • Friends from around the world
  • Middle school mentors
  • High school stand-outs
  • I Love to Read Month
  • 62.4-second video updates
  • Activities updates

School Board News

  • School Board Meetings

District News

  • General Information
  • Opportunities


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