Marie Murphy School and Avoca West Elementary School Winter Choral Concert

The Avoca Choirs consisting of the Marie Murphy Boys Choir, Marie Murphy Girls Choir and the Avoca West Elementary School Choir will be performing the Winter Choral on Thursday, January 12, 2012.  The evening performance will be held at 7:00 p.m. in the Marie Murphy Gymnasium, 2921 Illinois Road in Wilmette. 

The performance is a culmination to the Fall/Winter choral season.  “In the Voices of our Children”, music from different Countries, Irving Berlin favorites, Leon Dubinsky, Charles Tindley and Don Besig will be amongst the program for the evening.

The Public is invited and admission is free.

District to Celebrate American Education Week

American Education Week will be observed in the Avoca schools during the week of November 14-18.  All classrooms will be open to parents and community members to visit and observe the teachers and students in action!  Following is the schedule of classroom visitations: Tuesday, November 15, Marie Murphy School, 2921 Illinois Road, Wilmette, classroom visitation 9:00 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.; and Wednesday, November 16, Avoca West Elementary School, 235 Beech Drive, Glenview, classroom visitation 9:45 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

District to Celebrate Veterans Day

Avoca School District 37 is celebrating Veterans Day on Friday, November 11, by hosting a pancake breakfast for all veterans and their families residing in the school district.  The breakfast is sponsored by the Student Council and takes place from 8:30-9:30 a.m. in the cafeteria at Avoca West Elementary School, 235 Beech Drive, Glenview.  This is an opportunity for the students to meet the veterans and thank them for their service to our country.  Please R.S.V.P. by Monday, November 7, to Cecilia Beneda at 847-724-6800.

Avoca West/Marie Murphy Collaborative Writing Project

During the month of April, Avoca West Elementary School third-grade teacher Jennifer Stefan and Marie Murphy School sixth-grade teacher Andrea Bialk collaborated on a special writing assignment for their students that focused on social/emotional learning and service learning projects.  Vicki Specks, the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) teacher at Avoca West, concentrated her lessons on helping the students identify similarities and differences and develop an understanding of empathy through learning about the country of Ghana.  The students also attended a presentation by Kim Zimmer, a technology teacher at Avoca West, who shared her personal teaching experiences from the summer she spent in Ghana.

All third-grade teachers, including Jennifer Stefan, Kelly Lee, Tom Erf, Stephanie Rick and Sarah Hannus partnered their students with sixth-grade buddies at Marie Murphy School to write a creative narrative story.  The third-grade students created an outline for the sixth-grade students to use as they developed their stories.  The students at both schools used google docs to write their stories, which enabled the partners to collaborate easily with each other.

When the students finished editing and revising their stories, the third-graders created the illustrations.  The final touches were made when the third-grade students took a field trip to Marie Murphy School to meet face-to-face with their writing buddies to create a title page and put their books together.

After the student-created books were finished, the students sent them along with donated supplies to students in Ghana through Kids to Kids International (KTKI); a non-profit organization that provides a program for children to send Friendship Boxes of educational supplies and student-created books to children around the world since 1991.  Ms. Stefan said, “This writing project proved to be a valuable lesson focused on collaboration among the students and also provided them with an opportunity to share with children who are less fortunate.”

Avoca West 5th Grader Wins Writing Contest

Avoca West Elementary School fifth grader Ben Kolot, of Wilmette, recently won the Storyworks  “Zodiac” Contest for a paragraph he wrote about his Chinese zodiac sign, the dragon.  Ben’s teacher, Gabriel Paynter, said, “As part of our study of China for social studies, we read a play in Storyworks about Chinese zodiacs, and I had my students research their zodiac sign and write a paragraph to enter in this contest.”  An excerpt from a letter Ben received from the publisher stated, “You wrote a well-structured paragraph on your zodiac animal and did a great job explaining how your zodiac character relates to you.”  As a winner of the contest, the publisher awarded Ben a copy of Grace Lin’s book entitled “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.”  Storyworks is published by Scholastic magazine and contains stories and exercises that supplement schools’ language arts curriculums.

Avoca West Students to Participate in Tech Demonstration in Springfield

Avoca West Elementary School in Glenview is among approximately 80 schools statewide that will have student representatives participating in the annual TECH 2011 Students for the Information Age event on Thursday, May 5, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at the Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield. 

TECH 2011 is a non-profit initiative presented by Illinois Computing Educators (ICE) and is supported by a broad range of education and business organizations.  The purpose of TECH 2011 is to show how Illinois is preparing students to succeed in the Information Age.  The importance of this event lies in making the public aware of the central role technology has come to play in our schools and generating support for its adequate funding.  Without the understanding and support of the public and the legislature, adequate public funding for education technology is hard to come by, and, without it, Illinois cannot remain competitive in the global economy. 

Students from the participating schools will be on hand to show the public and elected members of the Illinois State Senate and the House of Representatives how technology is being used in classrooms to improve achievement.  Computer workstations will be set up in the Capitol Building Rotunda, where the students will demonstrate how technology has helped them with their schoolwork. 

Taking part in the demonstrations are Avoca West Elementary School fourth graders Keara Bellino, of Glenview, and Cameron Rowe, of Wilmette.  They will be accompanied to Springfield by Avoca West Elementary School technology facilitators Kim Zimmer and Beth Haugeberg.  Keara and Cameron will be demonstrating how they use blogs in school to learn editing skills, publish their work to a larger audience, reflect on their schoolwork and use commenting to share ideas and feedback with the other students.

Avoca West Wax Museum

As a part of their study of the Industrial Revolution, each fifth-grader at Avoca West Elementary School selected a person from that era to “become” during the annual Wax Museum event on December 10.  In preparation, the students read biographies and researched famous people, like Henry Ford, W.K. Kellogg, Eli Whitney, John D. Rockefeller and Jane Addams and then wrote an essay about why their person was influential.  For the actual museum, students dressed in character, brought an artifact that represented what their person did to become successful and prepared a button box.  Visitors to the museum would push the button for the famous people to come alive.  Teacher Diane Bilcer said, “This experience allowed the students to develop and strengthen many skills, including reading non-fiction materials, writing essays, creative thinking and public speaking.”  She adds, “They also learned that many of these important people overcame adversity in their early lives and showed great perseverance.”

Avoca West Teacher Recognized as a Technology Leader

Each year, the National School Boards Association’s Technology Leadership Network (TLN) recognizes 20 emerging leaders in education technology.  These individuals are singled out for championing technology initiatives that make a difference for students, teachers, school districts, and the greater education technology community.  An annual national search identifies individuals who show the creativity and collaboration that embraces technology to enhance learning for students, inspire colleagues, transform operations and engage communities. 

This year, Avoca West Elementary School third grade teacher Stephanie Rick was selected to be recognized as one of “20 to Watch” educators for 2010 at the annual National School Boards Association (NSBA) T+L Conference scheduled to be held in Phoenix, AZ, October 19 through 21.  Mrs. Rick was nominated for this recognition by Avoca District Technology Coordinator Gail Soriano, who said, “Stephanie is the third grade team leader at her school, is passionate about technology in education and has championed many technology initiatives in our district.“  Mrs. Soriano adds, “She takes on new ideas and constantly looks for ways of connecting her students with things and people outside the walls of her classroom.”  Some highlights of Mrs. Rick’s technology successes include: Having her students communicating with a class in England through Epals; helping plan a student blogging initiative called “Blog Wild” that ties into the curriculum; and having her students create movies and podcasts to help improve classroom and school-wide behavior.  Superintendent Dr. Joseph M. Porto said, “It is quite an accomplishment for a classroom teacher to receive this particular recognition, since most individuals who are recognized tend to be technology specialists who work in the education field.”

In recognition of Mrs. Rick’s accomplishments, she will be presented with a certificate during the NSBA T+L Conference Networking Reception on Tuesday evening, October 19, at the Phoenix Convention Center.  For the first time, each of the “20 to Watch” individuals will also receive an exciting gift of $3,000 in software products from a major vendor.

Over the past several years, two other Avoca faculty members were recognized by the NSBA as “20 to Watch” leaders in technology.  Former Avoca District Technology Coordinator Christopher Brown was presented the award in 2007, and current District Technology Coordinator Gail Soriano received the recognition in 2008 when she worked as a technology specialist at Avoca West Elementary School.  The District is proud to add Stephanie Rick to this nationally-recognized group of technology leaders.

“Chicago Magazine” Error Acknowledged: Avoca Schools Actually Rank 4th & 7th in County

Recently, Chicago Magazine published an article about the “Best Elementary Schools in Chicago and the Suburbs.”  The article included the criteria the magazine used to create its rankings and then listed the top schools in each collar county.  When Avoca did not appear on the list, the District’s first reaction was that some sort of error must have occurred.  Knowing that Avoca’s overall district ISAT scores for 2009 were top in the township and 4th in the state, and also knowing that Avoca ranked favorably in the township on the other criteria used in the rankings, an error on the part of the magazine was the only possible explanation.  The administration contacted the editor of the magazine to express its concern and to demand that he look into the matter.  After checking with his data specialist, the editor revealed that Avoca’s data was somehow “lost” during the analysis process due to a technological glitch, and Avoca’s two schools were completely left off of the rankings.  The editor apologized profusely for the error and understood how this kind of mistake could lead to misconceptions among the school community about the quality of Avoca schools.  The editor then readily agreed to rectify the error in the following manner: 

> The magazine would rerun all the data, with Avoca included this time, and determine where Avoca’s two schools rankings should be.  

> The rankings chart that is featured in the online version of the article would be revised to include the two Avoca schools. 

> In the December print edition of the magazine, a correction would be printed.  The correction will explain that Avoca was accidentally left off the original list and share what the schools’ rankings really were.  It will also encourage readers to view the corrected online rankings chart. 

When the data was rerun to include the two Avoca schools, Avoca West ranked 4th in Cook County and Marie Murphy was 7th in the county.  These rankings were much more in line with other data the District has been gathering over the past several years. 

It was important that Avoca followed up with the magazine to make these corrections.  Not only is the District proud of its two schools, but these kinds of lists can affect people’s perceptions of school quality.  Avoca has worked very diligently to make its schools beacons of excellence in the area, and it would have been very unfair to have a magazine’s error negate this effort by the Avoca school community.  While this article does not reach the entire readership of Chicago Magazine, it is a start.  Please feel free to spread the word to friends, neighbors and relatives in the area.