Celebrating the Final Weeks at Avoca West

This week’s weather is certainly doing its part to remind us all that the summer is nearly upon us. In order to keep our spirits up and the really celebrate a fabulous year, I hope our staff and students will join together in our “Avoca West” countdown. Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 9.27.36 AM

Kudos to our 4th and 5th grade Olympians who just took part in our 2015-2016 Olympics. They come as a culmination of the hard work and practice in PE — and could not have come on a more beautiful day! I look forward to watching our younger students at next week’s Field Day.

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Enjoy the long weekend ahead!

Updates and “Parent Ed” on Grit – 5/19

Viking Walk

We were fortunate to squeeze in our Spring Viking Walk this past Monday. Many thanks to Don Cornelius, our PE team, and the support of our staff, parent, and community for making this a fun filled event for our Avoca West students. If you haven’t turned in your pledge forms or money, please do so by next Monday. We’re looking forward to updating our aging sound system in the gym as well as providing indoor recess kits to keep our students actively engaged when the weather outside doesn’t cooperate.

Chamber Orchestra

Full OrchestraSpeaking of sound systems, kudos to our orchestras for putting on a fabulous show this past Tuesday for our students and parents. I continue to be amazed by the collective brilliance our our staff and students who work so hard to hone this craft. Thanks to our parents who continue to fight that ongoing battle to make sure your students are practicing. It truly pays off!!

Parent Ed Opportunity!!


I’ve quickly discovered in my “old age” (insert preteen daughter’s scowl and judgement about her old mom here) that I love listening to and learning from podcasts — on the way to school, on a walk with the dog, or anytime life provides me a pause of sorts. Two of my favorites podcasts to listen to are the Freakonomics and This American Life. I highly recommend them to anyone looking for some brain food, and will do my best to pass along any that seem pertinent to parents and educators alike.

One of the latest and greatest ideas that has come to light in recent years is the notion that “grit” and perseverance define a person’s success far more than raw talent. Carol Dweck has been talking about having a growth mindset for a decade, allowing many other researchers to get behind finding empirical evidence to support it. We were lucky to have FAN (the local Family Action Network) bring Angela Duckworth, author of Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance, to the area last week. For those of you who have a tough time getting out and about in this busy spring season, I wanted to pass along a podcast that I listened to featuring her ideas. It is one of a series of podcasts about self-improvement, so feel free to dive in and listen to them all. Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 9.48.22 AM

This is a wonderful way to model a mindset of lifelong learning for our students as well, so be sure you share your thinking and learning with your child along the way.

Enjoy, and thank you for your continued support and collaboration.


Avoca West Viking Walk Postponed

Parents planning to participate in the Avoca West Viking Walk: due to flood-like conditions AW Viking Walk will now be held on our scheduled rain date of Monday, May 16th.  Parents are welcome to join students or just come cheer ’em on.  Below is the schedule. 

Grade 5  8:30 – 9:10 AM (Marinacci, Paynter, Cross, Wieszcholek)
Grade 1  9:30 – 10:10 AM (Zebro, Stump, Hargedon, Nienhaus)
Grade 2  10:30 – 11:10 AM (Lara, Greenberg, Crispen, Bader)
Kindergarten:  Byrd/Rosic 12:00 – 12:30;  Kelly/Edgren 12:30 – 1:00
Grade 3  1:00 – 1:40 PM (Rick, Wilson, Erf, Stefan)
Grade 4  2:00 – 2:40 PM (Michael, Anshell, Howe, Nanus)

Yeah for May!! 5/5

What a lovely week it’s been drinking in this spring sunshine! Let’s hope that our weather continues to stay this way (knocking on wood as I type this) so that we can make the most of our final weeks at Avoca West.

You should have all received an email from InfoSnap, our new online registration system, letting you know that registration is now open. If you have not received it, or are having a difficult time with registration, please CLICK THIS LINK to send an email to Beth Haugeberg. Families of our new kindergarteners for the 2016-2017 school year should have also received an email from me this morning with a link to register our newest Vikings.

Finally, many thanks to our parents and students who have made this another memorable Teacher Appreciation Week. It’s certainly easy to have an appreciation for those who spend their days pouring their hearts into your children, but taking the time to thank teachers and staff members is what makes this week so special. There’s still time to jot a quick email to your child’s teacher or to have your child make a quick card of thanks!

Many thanks, in advance, to Michelle Rowe and Donald Cornelius for spearheading two upcoming HUGE events at Avoca West — our Art In Action day and the Viking Walk. Both are favorites among our staff and students we couldn’t do it without their volunteer hours for charing these exciting events. Thank you!!


Updates from Avoca West – April 18th


Mrs. Lara’s students dug in to our sand river in the courtyard last Friday as they investigated erosion and engineered a system to get the hose water from one end to another. Now that the weather is cooperating a bit more, I look forward to seeing our outdoor courtyard spaces filled with students reading, writing, and collaborating with one another!


Mark Your Calendars!!

So much of what we do in Avoca District 37 is dependent on our many parent and community volunteers. For anyone and everyone who has volunteered in any capacity this year, please join us at Avoca West on Friday, May 27th for our Volunteer Breakfast. The doors open and breakfast will be served at 9:00 and we welcome all guests to stick around until approximately 10:15. This invitation is open for both Avoca West and Marie Murphy volunteers. You can RSVP by following THIS LINK to fill out a quick form. Thank you for all you do!

We are in the swing of PARCC testing this week and next at Avoca West. If you need a refresher on our dates and times for 3rd-5th grade testing, please see previous blog posts.

images Wondering how the district Strategic Plan is going? After spending two full sessions with the Consortium for Educational Change and roughly 36 volunteers (from the staff, leadership, parent, and community), there will be an opportunity to get updated on the progress so far. Please join us on Tuesday, April 19th at 6:00 in the Avoca West ITC for a Parent and Community Feedback Meeting. There you will learn about the data sources that were shared with the committee and some key take-aways. You are also welcome to stay for the 7:00 PTC meeting following in the ITC. See you there!

Soak in some much needed Vitamin D, my friends! Thank you, Mother Nature!images-1

Parent Coffee and PARCC Assessment Reminders


You’re invited to join us on Wednesday, April 13th at 9:00am in the ITC for our final Parent Coffee of the year. Our focus will be on looking ahead to next year. The agenda is LINKED HERE in case you’d like a preview!

Parents of 3rd-5th graders are encouraged to to read the parent letter from the Illinois State Board of Education regarding PARCC year 2. I will send out an additional email to those families next week some time with additional information you may wish to have. The schedule for PARCC testing is as follows:

3rd-5th grade students the week of April 18th through the week of April 29th.

  • 3rd grade – 8:30-10:00
  • 4th grade – 1:00-3:00
  • 5th grade – 9:30-11:00

I hope you’re able to get out to the PTC’s Parents’ Night Out this evening at Pinstripes. Enjoy the time with friends and family this weekend, and we’ll see you next week!

Welcome Spring!


Mother Nature may finally be getting it right!

As we welcome spring and (hopefully) warmer temps, we are also beginning the process of looking ahead to next school year. Please carefully read through the following important points for parents.

  • As as we look to plan for a positive 2016-2017 school year, I wanted to extend an invitation for those parents who would like to provide parent input for sectioning. Please do NOT rely on your child’s teacher to communicate your wishes for next year — they are asked to stay focused on making matches they think are positive and that will provide balanced classes. Our sectioning process includes the classroom teachers, special area teachers, next year’s teachers, and all of the many support staff we have at Avoca West. The hope is that with careful planning, we can design heterogeneous classroom groups to make sure that all of our children are successful! The staff considers and balances many factors including:
    • Individual learning style
    • Student Combination
    • Support service needs
    • Social/Emotional needs
    • Gender balance
    • Teacher’s teaching style
    • Pupil service needs
    • Class size
    • Academic characteristics
    • Chronological age

    If you would like to share information or specific needs that may help us in the sectioning process, you may do so in writing. Please keep your reasons tied to the factors above and refrain from making special requests for placement into a specific classroom for your child. If there is a teacher or student(s) with whom you have had a less than positive experience with in the past, you may share that in your communication as well. Parent input must be received in the office by April 29th.

  • Many of you may be scheduling doctors’ and dentists’ appointments prior to the start of the 2016-2017 school year. Great news! You’ll have a chance to complete a:
    • A Dental exam must be on file in the office for all students who will be in kindergarten, second grade, and sixth grade next year. If you have a spring appointment, you can send in your form anytime and Nurse Theer will enthusiastically check you off of her list! You may reach out to Nurse Theer with any questions you have.
  • We will also be looking to verify proof of residency for all students who will be entering kindergarten, third, and sixth grade next year. While I know that many families are very familiar faces, Avoca West has become a very popular place to move. Checking residency helps us to make sure that we are servicing those students who live within our boundaries. Feel free to reach out to Mrs. Beneda with any questions about timelines or specific documentation needed.

We will begin PARCC testing with our 3rd-5th grade students the week of April 18th through the week of April 29th. The general schedule will be as follows:

  • 3rd grade – 8:30-10:00
  • 4th grade – 1:00-3:00
  • 5th grade – 9:30-11:00

Please arrange make every effort to schedule any outside appointments or early dismissal/late arrivals with this time frame in mind. Students will NOT be able to enter a testing session if they are late, nor will they be able to leave with it unfinished.

I hope you’re able to late in some time for yourselves next Friday, the 8th, for the PTC’s Parent’s Night Out at Pinstripes in Northbrook. It is sure to be a great time to sociaize with friends and to meet new members of our Avoca community! RSVPs are due by Friday – don’t miss out. Sadly, they cannot accommodate any sales at the door — line up those babysitters and have some fun!


A Week of P’s: Parent-Teacher Conferences, PARCC, & Phrases… (3/8)

As we collectively exhale on a beautiful spring-like evening, I thought I’d get a head start on sending out a weekly update from school. Though it is certainly a blessing, the weather is a physical reminder for our kiddos that spring break is just around the corner. Hang in there!!

For those of you who are heading out early for a vacation, please let Nurse Theer know of your plans. You can email her or call the school at (847)510-6300. Please help to avoid the necessary line of phone numbers that need to be called in order to make sure that each child is safe and accounted for.

Parent-Teacher Conferences are set for next week! There will be only morning attendance for students on Wednesday and Thursday so that our teachers can ready themselves to spend time with our parents. There will also be no school on Friday, March 18th, due to a Teacher Institute. Have a happy, healthy, and safe Spring Break!


PARCC Updates: For those of you who are new to Illinois, Avoca West, or have 3rd graders this year, students at Avoca West take the PARCC test each spring (replacing the old ISAT tests). The online format gauges each child’s proficiency with the Common Core State Standards. These standards are what guides instruction throughout the year within your child’s classroom and are reflected on our standards-based report card for Reading and Math. The State Superintendent just shared a letter for our parents today which you can find linked HERE. The state of Illinois has set PARCC testing window from March 7th until June 10th, and given districts the option of choosing a time that works best for their students. We will be taking the PARCC test at Avoca West on the following dates:

  • Week of April 18th — 4 Math Assessments given (60 min. each)
    • Monday-Thursday (Friday Make Ups)
      • 3rd grade – 8:30 start
      • 4th grade – 1:00 start
      • 5th grade – 9:30 start
  • Week of April 25st — 3 English Language Arts Assessments given (~90 min. each)
    • Monday-Wednesday (Thursday & Friday Make Ups)
      • 3rd grade – 8:30 start
      • 4th grade – 1:00 start
      • 5th grade – 9:30 start

Please make sure you schedule doctor’s appointments and any other events that are within your control OUTSIDE of these times. As always, know that while we do our best to use the data from PARCC to get a sense of our instruction and student growth, it is but one measurement of each child’s capabilities. I hope to make sure that there is as little anxiety as possible!


Speaking of Anxiety in Our Kids… For those of you who don’t know already, I am the proud mom of two very tricky kiddos. Though both grapple with taming their ADHD in a structured school environment, my 5th grader really battles with anxiety and managing her emotions. The stress of school, friends, sports, an undoubtedly whether or not she’s making her parents proud can drive up the emotional tension in the house. I often turn to my peers for guidance in how to do “the right thing” for my daughter, son, and all of the many students today that seem to teeter over that line between healthy and unhealthy worries. Mrs. Nehring, our 3rd-5th grade Intervention Specialist, passed along the following article for me — knowing that I’m always looking for a parenting tune up! I hope you’ll find it to be useful in guiding conversations with your child when you notice he/she needs to be calmed. No one phrase will fit every child…but it certainly helps to know that there are folks who put together resources like this for those of us who could use some guidance!

49 Phrases to Calm an Anxious Child

Be well, enjoy the weather, and thank you for your support and collaboration!images

Welcome March! 3/3


It appears that March is coming in like a lion, dumping snow on us all! I am encouraged that it is another month closer to warmer temps though, so we’ll keep our eyes focus on the forecast for next week’s mild weather.

On my office door I have a sign that says, “Today I am grateful for ______.” It serves to remind me that there is so much value in the daily treats that sometimes gets lost in the craze of all that life throws at us. I can honestly say this week that mine has been, “Today I am grateful for volunteers.” We are coming off of an amazing Fun Fair weekend, looking ahead to Girls & Boys Nights, and know there are SO many who put their efforts behind these events in the planning, volunteering, and attending. Thank you for making Avoca West so strong!

I have completed the Erin’s Law lessons with kindergarten through fourth graders, and will make it to 5th grade next week. If your child was unable to attend because of lessons, illness, etc., I am happy to lend the materials to any parent who would like to teach the lesson to their child. Unfortunately, due the the huge time commitment, I am unable to personally reach every child in the school who may have missed. I’m sure you’ll find the overall message to be worthy of your time though, if you should choose to do it. Erin’s Law requires that the lessons are taught each year, so rest assured that the message will be reaffirmed and built upon in the 2016-2017 school year!

Our buses are overcrowded after school, particularly towards the end of the week. While we love helping to facilitate play dates that span across our four communities that feed into Avoca West, it is not always possible to accommodate every guest on the bus. In order to be mindful of our parents and students who are making plans for after school, please know that buses home from school are only for paying bus riders who count on that as their transportation. Please count on either picking your child up if he/she wants to go home with a friend who doesn’t ride the bus. Thanks for understanding and for making sure that our bus drivers can focus on getting our children home safely, rather than trouble-shooting any issues that arise from overcrowding.

Enjoy the weekend ahead, and let’s hope this is our final snow!imgres-2