Weekly Updates from Avoca West – 4/13

It appears that we’re lucky enough to have landed squarely in spring — yahoo!! I hope you’re finding time to soak in the sunshine and play outside as a treat for making it through a long, cold winter.

A huge thanks goes out to the Art in Action team. As someone who had not ever seen the day come alive, it was TRULY spectacular! I am so impressed with the time and efforts of our volunteers to make so many kiddos smile and be immersed in the fine arts for the day!

Speaking of volunteers, Avoca West will host the district’s annual Volunteer Breakfast on Friday, May 22nd. You will receive an additional email invitation from Kim Meier in the near future, but you can find it below as well. Rather than mail out invitations to specific volunteers, we open up the morning to any and all who give of their time to make Avoca District 37 the thriving community it is! I hope many of you are able to make it for the morning event so that we can give back to you!

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Finally, if you have a current 2nd grader you may receive a friendly call from Nurse Theer or from one of our office secretaries. In order to be compliant with state and district policies, all students must have an updated dental exam and proof of residency before moving into 3rd grade. I realize this will likely mean digging through paperwork at home, but appreciate your help in making the task easier for our office friends!

Enjoy the week ahead!

Welcome back, Avoca Friends! (4/6)

I hope you all had a lovely break from school and had some time to relax a bit with your family and friends. Thanks to so many of you who were able to make it out for our spring Parent-Teacher conferences before break. As we head into the springtime slide through the end of the school year, I know your lives are about to get quite busy. Please keep in mind the following things:

  • Parents are welcome on Wednesday morning (9:00-10:00) or Wednesday evening (6:00-7:00) to the Avoca West ITC to talk and brainstorm more about our first online report card. The regularly scheduled PTC meeting will take place in the ITC following our meeting in the evening. Rest assured that if you are unable to attend, your input was heard in the parent survey from earlier this winter.
  • We are unsure of the specific timing of our End of Year (EOY) PARCC testing for our 3rd-5th graders, but I anticipate that it will take place during the week of May 11th. Know that I’ll be happy to share specifics when I have them to share with you.
  • Parent Letters need to be sent in to me (via backpack mail, snail mail, or email) by this Friday, April 10th. You should have received an email from me on March 17th with specifics about what things to think about when sharing about your child’s needs for the coming year. Thank you for your input!
  • I’m looking forward to an exciting Art in Action day this coming Thursday — my first to witness! I know that so many of you have put time and energy into making it the noteworthy day in your child’s school year and hope you hear oodles of thanks from your children for the energy well spent! Thank you!

Enjoy the week ahead!

Weekly Updates from Avoca West – 3/24

I hope to see many of you at school this week for our spring Parent-Teacher conferences. This is a wonderful time to talk about your child’s progress made so far this school year and to set some goals for the remaining time with his/her teacher.


While you’re here, please stop by our Lost and Found to see if there’s anything belonging to your child. Oftentimes our parents (and students!) are surprised to find a long, lost article of clothing. All items not picked up by the end of the week will be donated.

As a quick reminder, Wednesday and Thursday will be half days for students as our teachers prepare for conferences. There will be no school for students on Friday, though our office will be open in the morning while our staff is spending time on professional development with their peers.

A big thanks to those parents who filled out our report card feedback form earlier in January (or early February). On Wednesday, April 8th parents will have another opportunity to share feedback and ideas with me regarding the online report card. I will have a Parent Coffee in he Avoca West ITC at 9:00am and will also welcome parents who wish to come to the ITC that evening at 6:00pm before the PTC meeting. Please put your thinking caps on and come ready to share constructive feedback that we can use to improve the tool for communicating progress about your child.

I wish you a happy, healthy, and rejuvenating break with your family. With any luck, the weather will work out in our favor as well!



I look forward to hearing all about your adventures when we return on April 6th.

Springtime — a Time to Renew!

After being treated to some incredible weather last week, it’s great to finally feel like spring is well on its way again! Some of our students discovered some flowers beginning to show their faces to the world at dismissal yesterday. Yahoo!

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A big thanks to Rachel Goodman and our PTC for gathering a group of parents and educators together last week to discuss how to support our students in these changing times. While the focus of the group was initially on transitions, we spent much time talking about how to help foster emotional wellbeing in our children — at school and at home — so they feel comfortable and confident with handling all that life throws them. Always on the lookout for how to best arm myself as a parent, I was curious to dive into the book that Rachel (also a practicing pediatrician in the area) had just ordered called, Raising Kids to Thrive: Balancing Love with Expectations and Protection with Trust. Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 3.35.31 PM For those of you who don’t know, I am the lucky mother of a fiery redheaded fourth grader (who is 10 going on 15) and a charming trouble-maker of a first grader. I certainly can use all of the tips to help build my patience and toolkit! I was struck almost immediately last night when I began reading, and wanted to quickly get the word out to those parents who might also be curious to read. Pardon the on-the-spot photo taken from the couch last night, but this particular quotation struck me — and instantly drew me into the text. Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 3.32.32 PM

While I am not planning on doing a formal parent-principal book group, I hope you’ll consider joining me in reading this at home.

One way to begin building some independence in a way where our kiddos can thrive is to re-envision your child’s homework time each night. At this year’s Open House, my daughter’s teacher gave us the most unnerving “advice” — and appeal of sorts.
Provide a quiet, structured place to work at home, an encouraging smile when things get tough, but DON’T (don’t!) reteach or “help” if he/she doesn’t understand. Rather, send a quick email or note in the assignment notebook that something is difficult, but encourage him/her to seek help the following day.
I’m sure you can imagine how counterintuitive this was for me — an educator who wasn’t supposed to teach at home?! The process has been wholeheartedly liberating for us all! My daughter’s teacher has a solid grasp of her understanding, I am building her independence, and the evening climate in our house is much less tumultuous (without me having to urge her that “I know what I’m doing!”). Know that there will be hiccups and missed homework slips that come along with this learning but, like mathematics and reading,these are valuable life lessons as well. 
In the hopes of sharing more homework help for parents, feel free to stop by this helpful website from PBS for more guidance on how to support while still building independence and perseverance at home. 
Be well, best of luck, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!



Welcome Spring! 3/9 Update

As difficult as it was to rally the kiddos this morning, it will be lovely to soak in the extra hour of daylight this evening! Undoubtedly this transition will be difficult for some students, but we have plenty going on at school to keep them active and learning.

A quick (and heartfelt) kudos to our fifth graders who spent Friday morning at the Holocaust Museum. I had the pleasure of joining them and cannot tell you how many strangers stopped me to let me know how polite and mature our fifth graders were, and what a treat it was to have them at the museum. I know how much of an effort this is as a parent to raise mindful children, and thank you for your hard work!

Wednesday will be our KINDERGARTEN ORIENTATION for our incoming kindergarten friends. We will open our doors at 5:00pm for those families who would like to begin the formal registration process (birth certificate and two proofs of residency needed), but our information program will begin at 6:00pm.

Avoca West will welcome author Dav Pilkey (of Captain Underpants and Ricky Ricotta fame) this afternoon. I will post pictures of the visit to the website as soon as I have them available. Many thanks to Mrs. Geidner for seeking him out and for bringing him in for our primary students!

As a reminder, our 3rd-5th graders will be PARCC testing tomorrow. I have previously posted our assessment schedule that includes the times and dates of the tests. Our theme here is no stress test! Please know that the state’s testing is a necessary process, but we want to make sure our students are happy and emotionally healthy during their learning (and assessment time) at Avoca West! You can help by making sure your child is well rested and has a good breakfast and lunch during our testing days.

Hat’s off to Avoca West’s Chess Club! Several of our students went to the state tournament and brought home some hefty trophies — both as grade level teams and as individuals. As Bruce always says, “Hard Work Pays Off…” – and we are so proud of all of their hard work and perseverance.

And finally, if you have not yet had an opportunity to take the very brief 5Essentials Survey as a parent, please pop by THIS WEBSITE to share your feedback about Avoca West. Many thanks for your continued partnership and support!

Welcome March!


As we roll over to another month of the year, I want to say how lovely all of our Avoca West kiddos show they are each and every day.

Please following the LINK HERE TO THE 5Essentials Survey. You’ll need to locate our school and district, but I can promise you that it will take only a couple of minutes to complete the survey. As Dr. Jauch mentioned previously, your feedback will be used to determine school and district goals for the future. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

In preparation for our March 25th & 26th Parent-Teacher conferences, all parents should receive an email tomorrow, Tuesday the 3rd at 3:30pm, with a link to sign up for their conferences. This is the same process that was used earlier this school year, so hopefully there is some familiarity with the online sign up system.

Finally, please note last week’s post for our Avoca West schedule for the upcoming PARCC test. All of our 3rd-5th graders will be taking the test using the school laptops, but will need headphones to take the test. Please know that headphones are a part of many grade level supply lists already, but you may choose to check in with your child to be sure his/hers still work and are at school.

Thank you for your support, and may this be the start of a very lucky March for you all!


Weekly Updates from Avoca West – 2/24

I’m optimistic that the extra hours of daylight we saw today means that this cold weather is on its way out as well! Hang in there, my friends, and know that we’ll be griping about the air conditioning in no time, amazed at how quickly the school year has gone by.

A big thanks to all those who made this weekend’s Fun Fair possible and for those who were able to make it out to join in the festivities. I’m constantly amazed by the community you all have created in Avoca and feel so lucky to be a part of it!

As we prepare for our spring parent-teacher conferences, all of our parents and guardians will receive an email next week from your child’s classroom teacher. Like the fall conference sign up, we will sign up using an online link. We look forward to discussing your child’s progress with you!

Next week the PARCC window will open for our statewide testing. We will NOT, however, be taking the test until the following week. As we’ve shared previously, we are cautiously optimistic about the test and about its possibilities to inform our instruction in the future. Please look for an email from Dr. Jauch early next week with some more detailed information about the process at Avoca. If you’d like to plan ahead, our schedule for Avoca West is shown below. While we want to put as little stress on the newly-formed assessment, please be sure you child has eaten a healthy breakfast (and lunch) and had plenty of sleep the night before. Thank you for your support!

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 5.47.12 PMFinally, thanks to those parents who were able to complete our parent surveys for our master schedule committee. Our group is currently going through the data to look for trends and ideas for how we can improve our already wonderful master schedule to maximize student learning. You can mark your calendar for a Parent Master Schedule Focus Group. We will have two chances to come in to our ITC and share your thoughts about the schedule on Wednesday, April 8th. For those parents who are available during the day, we will have a coffee at 9:00am, but we will also meet at 6:00pm for parents who need an evening time to meet (prior to the PTC meeting at Avoca West). I look forward to puzzling through this process with you all!

Enjoy the week ahead and the prospect of an outdoor recess one of these days!!


Gallery of Happenings at Avoca West

Greetings, friends! I hope you all enjoyed a long weekend and are managing to stay warm during this week ahead. Our Avoca team spent a fabulous professional development day yesterday learning more about supporting our English Learners within the classroom. The time to hear from an expert and to meet with grade level and content teams was invaluable! Our diversity is certainly something that makes Avoca West a gem on the North Shore, and we look forward to implementing some new ideas and strategies.

Below you’ll find some pictures from two celebrations from the past week. On Thursday evening our 2nd grade friends filled the south gym with music. They looked and sounded beautiful and brought smiles to so many faces!

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Our 4th grade students welcomed parents and special guests to Avoca West on Friday for a writing celebration. Students wrote about someone in their lives who impacts them on a positive note. For those of you who had the chance to come in and hear our students share, I’m sure you fought back a tear or two!! What a lovely and heartwarming event to kick of the Valentine’s Day weekend!

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I wish you all a lovely week ahead, and please be sure your kiddos are bundled up as we bear with this winter weather!


Sharing the Love at Avoca West

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A special thanks to Colleen Rosenthal and her son Jack for helping our students share their well wishes with the children at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital. In exchange for sharing warm wishes with other children, our students were given a “warm fuzzy” in return. This is a wonderful reminder of our school-wide goal to increase mindfulness in our students! Keep those great ideas coming!

Thanks to those parents who completed our report card survey following our initial online report card launch. Our committee will look over the survey data to determine areas for improvement in making sure our online report card serves as an effective tool to communicate progress with parents.

Finally, please scroll down to see my post from last week following our PARCC Parent Information Night. For those of you where weren’t able to attend, you’ll find the slides from the presentation and a link to the PARCC Pearson website in case you’d like to peruse on your own.

Enjoy the week ahead!

PARCC Parent Information — Recap

Thanks to all those who were able to make it out this past Thursday evening (or Tuesday at Marie Murphy) for our PARCC Parent Information Night. In case you weren’t able to attend, you’ll find the slides from our presentation below. I also encourage you to stop by the PARCC website to browse through the “Sample Items” and “Practice Tests” that can be found under their “Test Preparation” link at the top of the page.

Additionally, we were lucky to have a reporter from the Daily North Shore at Marie Murphy’s PARCC Parent Information Night. She was able to capture the “cautiously optimistic” mindset we’re taking here in Avoca. You can read through the article HERE.

As always, feel free to reach out to me at hutchisonj@avoca37.org to talk more about the assessment or to ask any additional questions about how we’re getting our students and staff ready for the March assessment.

Avoca West PARCC Night Presentation

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