Holiday Greetings from Avoca West – 12/15


Our students have been busy this month of December showing the Grinch how much we care for ourselves and for others. Kudos to our kiddos for having such heart for learning and caring! The week before a long break is always filled with exciting events and the hum of energy, so before things get away from us, please plan ahead with the following dates and events here at Avoca West:

  • Winter Parties are all set for this Friday. Beginning at 2:00, our doors will open for those parents who are helping out with or celebrating along side our students. If you’re planning on attending, please reach out to your room parent so that we can have a name tag made for you. Other visitors are certainly welcome, but will need to stop in the office to present ID and to get a guest badge. I’m looking forward to seeing you all during this “most wonderful time of the year!”
  • When we return from Winter Break, our 2nd-5th graders will be taking our winter MAP tests for both reading and math. This is a wonderful opportunity for teachers to get a quick snapshot of each child’s learning at a midpoint time in the year. Based on the information gathered, teachers can adjust instruction to maximize the growth for the rest of the school year.
    • Our 3rd & 5th graders will take their tests during the week of January 6th-9th (in their regularly scheduled math and reading block times).
    • Our 2nd & 4th graders will take their tests the following week on January 12th-15th.
    • Teachers have the flexibility to determine the specific date of each test, so feel free to reach out to your child’s teacher for specific scheduling questions.
  • January 16th will be the end of your child’s first semester here at Avoca West. This year we have aligned our grading periods and many of our practices (now online report card) with Marie Murphy. Our parent portal will be open starting on January 26th for parents to view their child’s progress towards mastering grade level standards. I will send out a letter/email to parents that morning letting parents know how to access the online report card system and how to print out a hard copy if you chose to do so.
  • Gearing up for KINDERGARTEN 2015-2016! Although official kindergarten registration does not occur until March, we are gathering preliminary information about incoming students to get a sense of our enrollment numbers for next year. Please add information about your own children and/or the names of any additional children you think may be attending Avoca West in the fall. FOLLOW THE LINK HERE TO FILL IN OUR GOOGLE FORM. Thank you!

What a gift you all have been to me in my inaugural year here at Avoca West. I hope this holiday season treats you all well, and look forward to hearing your stories and seeing those smiles in the new year!

“Mindset” Matters

Our fall Parent-Principal Book Club met for the second time last evening in the Avoca West ITC. In case you were unable to make it for the discussion, I’m attaching the work of the group for all to enjoy. The book offers several fabulous take-aways, the largest one being the acceptance that we are all a work in progress and constantly growing in our practices. This is a great reminder for me as an individual, as a leader, and as a parent! In case you’d like to practice “growth mindset mantras,” feel free to print out the information and to tape it somewhere for future reference.

I’m also attaching some questions to ponder for those of you who would like to dive in more deeply to the sports, leadership, and relationships chapters.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.42.57 PMScreen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.43.24 PMScreen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.43.51 PM   Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.44.34 PMScreen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.44.44 PMScreen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.44.58 PM Our book for this springtime will be Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. The cornerstone of our school wide efforts here at Avoca West is The Leader in Me, where we guide students through a habit a month so that they can grow in their effectiveness and success now and into the future! We will meet in March, April, and again in May (dates and times TBD), but I hope to see you all there learning about how to support our families at home!


Weekly Updates from Avoca West — 12/10

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What a bummer it was to miss out on last week’s Spirit Assembly where Avoca West recognized a whole new batch of Avoca West All Stars! Additionally, we’ll be focusing this month on the habit of Putting First Things First. As students work throughout the month of December and into January, they should focus on prioritizing what’s most important in their lives. Consider the clip below to help guide your child in developing this critical habit that will take them well into their future.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 6.43.06 PMIt will be particularly helpful as they begin to think about goals they have for the new year…and a great reminder for all of us adults as well!

I hope you’ll join me this Wednesday, December 10th (7:00 in the ITC), to discuss Carol Dweck’s chapter on parenting with a growth mindset (chapter 7). For a preview on the types of discussion you’ll hear at our Wednesday night meeting, stop by the Mindset website here. The discussion is bound to be provocative and beneficial for helping us all to reprogram our responses to our children!

I know many of you will join me this Thursday night for our Orchestra concert. I am always amazed at how talented our students and strings staff are at Avoca West and look forward to watching their talents synergize on stage.

Lastly, we have had a HUGE influx in student (and staff) illness over the last week. Our teachers and Nurse Theer are stressing the importance of hand washing using soap and water (preferred over anti-bacterial pumps) and covering of coughs and sneezes. I also can’t stress the importance of keeping your child at home if he/she has a fever. Unfortunately, the symptoms going around Avoca are of a wide variety (from fever to no fever, cough to vomiting), so please use you parent “Spidey Sense” and trust when your child appears to be acting different than typical. I realize the toll it takes on your personal or sick days as a working parent, but we need to take on an all-hands-in approach in shaking this bug from our Avoca West family! Please know that our evening cleaning crew have been putting in extra hours to deep clean our school in the evenings and especially over the weekend. It truly takes a village!

Thank you for your continued support and collaborative spirit, and be well!

Welcome Back! Updates from Avoca West – 12/1

It’s hard to believe that December is upon us! Where has this school year gone?! I hope you and had a fabulous little stretch of days with friends and family to pause and think about the many blessings in your life. Mrs. Gurwin and her husband spent their Thanksgiving delivering the donated food to those in need in the city of Chicago. As an added (albeit surprising) piece, they knocked on doors and were able to see their recipients in person. How lovely to have the ability to see the impact we at Avoca West had on the families and individuals! Thank you, Mrs. Gurwin, Helping Hands, and our Avoca West students and community members for putting smiles on so many faces.

As we look to keep our positive momentum going this December, we will be recognizing students this month by putting names on hearts of those students who go out of their way to push themselves or others to be their best selves.

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You’ll see our very own Grinch in the office whose heart we’re trying to grow this winter. I encourage you to have a conversation with your child about how they can help show their caring for themselves (by doing their best) or for others. If the months so far are any indication of our fabulous spirit, I’m sure the Grinch’s heart will be bursting in no time!

And finally, a winter weather (and dressing) reminder. Although winter doesn’t officially hit the calendar until December 21st, we have already had quite a few indoor recesses this year. I urge you, however, to be sure that your child is dressed to go outside in case the “feels like” temperature at 11:00 hits that 10 degree mark or higher. The outside air does wonders to refresh us all, and I want to be sure that all of our friends can enjoy their time!

Enjoy the week ahead, and thank you for all you do to make Avoca West such a great place to learn, love, and grow each and every day.

A Very Thankful Update from Avoca West – 11/24


There is SO much to be thankful for during this week of reflection and gratitude. Hopefully you and your family are able to pause and consider all that we have to be thankful for. Additionally, I am so impressed with the outpouring of generosity our students, staff, and parents have shown for others this holiday season. Our office was overflowing this morning with donations for our Helping Hands project of gathering food for families and individuals who need some assistance during Thanksgiving. I hope you’ll consider ways to incorporate this spirit of giving to others — be it of material goods, your time, or simply sharing a kind gesture — as we move on to the month of December.

Please mark your calendars for December 10th at 7:00 to join me in the Avoca West ITC for our second meeting on Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. You’re welcome to dive into any of the Mindset chapters that dig into applying the growth mindset philosophy to the realms of sports, business, or relationships (chapters 4-6), but we will spend the majority of our time on Chapter 7 — “Parents, Teachers, and Coaches: Where Do Mindsets Come From?” I will have some real life applications for all participants to dig into that you can turn and use with your children at home. I hope you’ll consider carving out some time to connect with fellow parents seeking to grow as learners!

Finally, there will be NO SCHOOL on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday of this week. To celebrate this long stretch of relaxing with friends and families, Avoca West will have a special spirit day tomorrow (Tuesday). Students and staff are encouraged to wear their coziest and comfiest clothes (PJs are just fine!) to school. I look forward to seeing some snuggly smiles at school tomorrow.

Have a Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving holiday, and I’ll see you all in December!


American Education Week at Avoca West – 11/17



Welcome to American Education Week at Avoca West! This week we celebrate public education and recognize those individuals who have made a difference in our lives and in the lives of our children. What does it mean for us here? There are several opportunities this week for parents and community members to come on over to Avoca West to see what life looks like!

  • Mindset Parent-Principal book study will meet TONIGHT from 7:00-8:00 in the ITC. We’ll be looking at the first three chapters of Carol Dweck’s book. Whether you’ve read through the text or simply want to come and be a part of the discussion, I hope you’ll join us!
  • 4th grade music performance will be this Wednesday at 6:30pm. Come and see what our students have been up to as they share their voices and sounds with the audience.
  • Friday morning we’ll be “open” for parents and visitors to come and see the classrooms in action. Please know that all visitors will need to follow the usual guidelines for signing into the office (provide ID and wear appropriate lanyard).
  • Personal invites were sent out by several classrooms and grade levels inviting those parents to join them for a specific activity or event. Hopefully your schedule will allow you to pop in and learn about what learning looks like here!


Our weather has certainly slipped significantly the past week or so! Please be sure that your child is dressed appropriately to be outside for recess. As a reminder, it is our practice at Avoca West that students will go outside for recess as long as the “feels like” temperature is 10 degrees or above. This allows us to accommodate for the wind chill factor. We will make the call at 11:15 for all recesses using the posted temperatures at for Glenview. Students who wish to play in the snow will need to have snow pants and boots – otherwise they will be asked to remain on the blacktop only.

If you were unable to make it out to our Report Card Information Night this past Wednesday, please scroll down to review the slides that were shared with our attendees.

Thank you for your continued partnerships, and I look forward to seeing many of you this week!

Parent Report Card Information Night

In case you missed our parent information this evening, feel free to browse through the presentation slides. In all things, please keep in mind that we are a work in progressAfter January’s launch of our online report card, a survey will go out to parents to elicit feedback about what works, what might be confusing, and whether or not it meets your needs as a parent. If questions arise between now and January, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll be happy to clarify!

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Thank you, and enjoy your evening!

Updates from Avoca West – 11/11/14

What an incredible sense of pride this day has given to me — how fortunate I am to lead such a fabulous group of learners and leaders at Avoca West! Many thanks to all those who were able to make it out to Avoca West this morning for our annual Veteran’s Day breakfast — where our student leaders serve those who served our country. What a wonderful way to spend the day honoring our veterans. Throughout the day and in the week leading up to Veteran’s Day, our students have been learning about this important holiday. Our 4th and 5th graders also had a chance to participate in a fabulous service project through The Kindness Connection, where they made things for veterans to be donated. Looking through the slideshow & pictures of today’s events and last week’s service project is sure to plaster a smile across your face!

Thanks to all those who made our Movie Night a huge hit. If you were there to take in the magic of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, I’m sure you’ll agree that the new venue made for a more relaxing and enjoyable time for all. I look forward to many more years of fun family time at Marie Murphy. A special thanks to Mr. Matt Palcer for opening his doors and working to make sure the event was a successful one!

I hope you’re able to join us in the ITC tomorrow evening for information about Avoca West’s new online report card. We will begin at 6:30 with the regularly schedule PTC meeting to follow.

As the weather changes, please be sure your child is dressed accordingly. As the mom of two kiddos, I know how difficult this morning battle can be — please wage it with conviction and know that our staff at school will support you! Our Lost & Found is also growing by the day, so please be sure that your child’s belongings are labeled!

Be well, enjoy the week ahead, and stay bundled up!


November News from Avoca West – 11/3

It’s difficult to believe that we are now officially moving into the holiday season, starting with a month of thanks and gratitude. Let me kick off this month with a huge note of thanks to:

  • Our PTC volunteers and parents for making this past Friday’s Halloween parties a huge hit for our kiddos. They loved the creative ideas, thoughtful snacks, and exuberant cheers of our parents and parade watchers! I know there were a couple of new changes to our Avoca West procedures this year, and I really appreciate your patience as we continue to refine a system that will work to make sure Avoca is a safe place to learn, grow, and play.
  • Our PTC leadership this year. Communication from and collaboration with our leaders has been such a welcome treat for me here at Avoca. You have all done so much to bring fresh ideas and to open your arms to those new staff members and families each and every chance you get! Thank you!
  • Our student leaders who are getting ready for our second Spirit Assembly of the school year. I am amazed at the commitment by so many students and staff members to make sure that the Avoca West name is synonymous with caring leadership. Keep it up, all!
  • Our 4th & 5th grade teachers and students for opening their doors to The Kindness Connection tomorrow. The non-profit group will work with our students to create and distribute gifts to local veterans. As we look to build the academics as well as the character of our students, this is a great extension of our student leadership and SEL goals. Thank you, Mrs. Straussman for bringing this worthwhile event to our children and our community.

As we look to grow as a true community of learners, I hope you’ll consider joining us for a couple of opportunities during the weeks to come:

  • Wednesday, November 12th several members of our Report Card Committee will share information with parents about this year’s new pilot, online report card. We will begin in the ITC at 6:30pm, followed by the regularly scheduled PTC meeting.
  • Monday, November 17th we will kick off American Education Week throughout the country. At Avoca West, all parents are welcome to join me in the ITC to discuss the first three chapters of Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. I hope you can join us in talking about how we can stretch and grow our minds as learners in all aspects of our lives!

Thank you for all you do, and I encourage you to being a thankful list at home this month — a chance to pause as a family to consider the bounty of things that life has given each of us!

Be well,