As educators, we are continuously striving to enhance teaching and learning for our students. We work hard to stay current on 21st-century, research-based teaching strategies that will best prepare our kids for college, careers and life in a rapidly changing, technology-driven world. Our ultimate goal is to actively engage our kids in meaningful learning and that requires flexibility. As an independent school, we also have to maintain a viable business model that is able to withstand normal fluctuations in enrollment. We’re excited about the 5/6 and 7/8 team teaching model that we’ll be implementing next year alongside the school-wide work to integrate our design thinking model on a deeper level.
Design training for teachers
At the end of June, eight of our teachers will be participating in a week-long design thinking training program in partnership with Stanford University and The Nueva School in San Francisco. Our team will work with architects and other educators to understand key principles of designing innovative K–12 learning environments. They will be exploring the challenges of designing spaces that:
- enable personalized learning for students;
- support social and emotional development;
- serve as opportunities to learn about issues of sustainability; and
- include new media and information technology that supports learning.
The entire SPS team will also participate in design thinking training before school starts in the fall.
Why design thinking at SPS?
We believe that every child is uniquely designed with potential and purpose. In order to support them in reaching that potential, our role is to create opportunities for them to discover their immense talent and greatness. Design thinking, which goes beyond tinkering and making, will help us do this by integrating subjects in a way that helps kids see a deeper connection between what they’re learning and the world around them. We will be growing innovative thinkers who understand that their contributions matter globally.
Wrapping up the school year
As we wrap up the school year and plan for 2017/2018, we continue to finalized staff assignments and recruit a handful of new team members. Thanks to all for your ongoing support and involvement in our school.
Have a safe and happy Summer and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have questions.
Dear SPS Families,
It was great to see so many of you at the recent parent coffee meeting. I want to thank those of you who were able to attend for your thoughtful questions. Our team was excited to share the new model we’ve developed to better integrate design thinking and provide our students with deeper learning opportunities. If you haven’t had the chance to read about the new model or attend the coffee, the conversation is still going on. The 5/6 teaching team is hosting a parent meeting on Wednesday, May 17th from 11:30-12:00 in the 4th grade classroom to share their excitement, answer questions and hear from you.
Since the meeting, we’ve received some incredible emails from parents who have shared their excitement and enthusiasm as well as comments from their kids who can’t wait to be part of next year’s program. Read comments and thoughts of what parents and student are saying about SPS program improvements for the 2017/2018 school year. I have to say, that the kids’ comments were really powerful for us because student engagement is truly a guiding force for everything we do at our school.
Program enhancements for 2017/2018
Teacher Teams Grades 5 – 8
- Longer learning blocks (90 vs. 50 minutes) for core subjects to provide more time for deeper exploration, design thinking and hands-on learning;
- Deeper relationship building between students and teachers and within student peer groups;
- Opportunities for teachers to specialize in content areas;
- Opportunities for 5th grade students to participate in electives; and
- Greater academic continuity from one year to the next.
Acknowledging our teaching team
Alongside these improvements, I want to acknowledge the implications for some of our other valued team members. While we have been able to offer positions to all of our current staff, not all of these positions are full-time. As a result, some of our teachers are in the process of deciding if the positions offered will meet their personal and professional needs. To see the full structure for our 2017-2018 teaching team along with other staffing updates, we encourage you to visit our website which will stay updated with staffing announcements.
Because we are part of such a close-knit community, this has been the most challenging part of the process for all of us. As we strive to enhance instruction, I’ve been inspired by the team’s extraordinary commitment and professionalism. They have made student needs their first priority. I’d like to take a moment to thank our teaching team for their dedicated involvement in the process to enhance our instructional model, which is the result of the last few months working together with student success as the ultimate goal.
Staffing updates: farewell & welcome announcements
We are saying goodbye at the end of this year to four of our special faculty. Jenny Leogrande, who is currently our 1st grade teacher, Matt Gylling, our school 6th grade math/science teacher, Pilar Davami, our elementary Spanish teacher, and Hazel Chapple, our 3rd grade instructional assistant. Please take the time to read the personal messages from these staff members. It goes without saying that there is no doubt the lasting impact these teachers have made on the lives of our students and families will be deeply missed.
Jenny Leogrande, 1st Grade Teacher
It is with great sadness that I announce that I will be leaving Seven Peaks at the end of this school year. An incredible job opportunity opened up for my husband in Austin Texas and although I am sad to leave, I am excited for the adventure that awaits our family in Texas. I am excited about the direction that Seven Peaks is headed and I am disappointed to be missing out on the exciting year ahead but I know that I will always be back to visit. The Seven Peaks community is an amazing, unique community that I will miss. The last 5 years have quite honestly been the best in my career and I have loved getting to know the staff and families at Seven Peaks! Thanks for everything!
Matt Gylling, 6th Grade Math & Science Teacher
I would like to extend a huge thank you to the Seven Peaks School staff, families and students. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with you over the past three years. Middle school students are great and it has been a wonderful ride. It is hard to say goodbye but new adventures await me at Mt. View High School. I will be teaching math and will have opportunities to get back into coaching. I will continue my after school tutoring and summer math programs, so please do not hesitate to reach out. Thank you for sharing your children with me and I look forward to seeing you around Bend.
Hazel Chapple, 3rd Grade Instructional Assistant
Pilar Davami, PK – 5th Grade Spanish Teacher
Pilar in the process of considering some exciting future opportunities. Look for updates in the coming weeks as we are able to share more details.
Kayla Collins, Incoming 1st Grade Teacher
I leave work each day with a heart that is full, because I get to spend my day laughing, learning, and creating memories with my students. The community that is found within the classroom is my favorite part of being a teacher. It’s my passion to create a safe, loving environment where the students focus on individual growth and take ownership in their learning. When I sit down to plan and create lessons, it brings a smile to my face to envision the laughter and engagement that my student will have while learning. I have spent the last few years teaching 5th grade, and before that, I taught Kindergarten and 1st grade. I love aspects of both ends of the primary grades, and have developed curriculum and resources for grades K-6. I am so excited to be joining Seven Peaks School, and look forward to getting to know each one of my students and their passions, talents, and needs, as well as, collaborating with the parents and staff to see each child grow to their full potential.We’re proud to present our new model and excited about what these improvements will mean for our kids. We thank you for your support and invite you to get in touch with questions. We look forward to hearing from you.
Dear SPS Families,
As most of you know, our entire team has been engaged in planning to reshape our programing for next year to create more in-depth, 21st-century, hands-on learning environment. As an independent school, we are continuously seeking to enhance learning while balancing common fluctuations in enrollment.
As we implement changes for the 2017/2018 school year, many of our core philosophies and programming will remain the same. We will continue to provide all of the following independent school benefits with an enhanced focus on design thinking for all grade levels:
- Small class sizes
- A focus on social and emotional learning
- A rich offering of “specials” including art, music, language and science
- Rigorous academics to challenge and prepare our kids for the future
- An inquiry-based learning approach that allows students to discover, ask questions and seek answers
The biggest changes will take place at the middle school level. This is where we have done the most work to balance a more innovative learning approach with enrollment projections for next year. Enrollment for private and independent schools nationwide is particularly challenging as families often chose to explore larger, public school options for adolescents. Our goal at Seven Peaks School is enhance our unique middle school IB experience to harnesses the immense potential and curiosity of adolescents. Changes for next year will primarily focus on grades 5 through 8. These include:
- Including 5th grade students in the middle school model to provide a stronger sense of community and a smoother transition to the middle school years.
- Longer instructional blocks (90 vs. 60 minutes) to allow for greater depth of learning, a focus on design thinking, and to minimize transitions throughout the day.
- Blending “special” (elective) blocks including students in grades 5 through 8 grade to provide a larger peer group and more social options.
- Rotating “special” (elective) blocks (quarterly or in trimesters) to allow for more choices so students can explore more interests, and participate more intensely vs. having to chose between two offerings at the same time.
Meantime, the combination of these exciting program enhancements and enrollment fluctuations do come with some staffing changes. While we’ve created positions for each of our SPS team members, not all of the positions we are offering are full time because we are refining and streamline our model. We recognize that some of our teachers will chose to explore other options that meet their individual needs. It’s never easy for our team to make these shifts, but their participation in the process has been extremely professional and student focused. They have helped to design this model to enhance learning with the understanding that it may impact their individual positions. It has truly been an extraordinary process to be part of.
To see a detailed schedule for next year’s teaching teams, please visit our website in the coming week. Thank you all for your partnership in keeping SPS a strong, viable and innovative place for our kids to learn. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have questions about next year and I invite you to join me for the upcoming coffee on Wednesday, May 3rd at 8:30am to learn more.
Family partnership at its best!
We have all heard the phrase, “It Takes a Village” and how true it is. Our Family Partnership pinnacle embodies our belief that due to involvement of parents, and beyond, our students and our school as a whole thrive immensely. Last Friday we honored all Peaks’ Parents who continue to support SPS by sharing their knowledge and time. Thank you parents for volunteering this year. We all appreciate it and can see the benefits of having you involved in your kids everyday school life. A special thanks to Giselle Beucus and Carrie Huffman, Peaks’ Parents Co-chairs, for a fantastic job organizing our volunteers and events throughout the year.
If you where unable to attend the roundup, you were certainly missed. Please take a few moments to watch a special video from your kids honoring you for your involvement in their educational experience. Also, view this slideshow capturing just some of our Peaks’ Parents “in action”. Giddy up partners…are you ready to get involved in 2017-2018? Don’t miss out on many great opportunities. Please stop by the SPS lobby and see how you can get share your passion or go to volunteer sign ups for next year.
Kids with above average math skills, don’t always meet the national criteria for Talented and Gifted (TAG) programs, but general math classes are often not enough to unleash their learning potential. As educators, we need to find innovative ways to challenge and engage their math abilities.
One thing we’ve learned is that labeling young kids as “smart” in math can actually be harmful. This can be especially true for bright young girls because the label comes with expectations and vulnerabilities that can discourage kids from taking risks in order to hold on to their “smart” labels.
At Seven Peaks School, we have a unique approach to math that challenges all students at all levels, and especially allows high-ability math learners to soar. We encourage kids to explore mathematical concepts, persevere with complex problems, and let their curiosity guide them to interesting questions, discoveries, and connections. And, we celebrate and learn from mistakes, a concept that strays from traditional teaching models where assignments are returned to students with “wrong” or “incorrect” marks.
Based on current best teaching practices for math, we use a problem-solving model that invites students to work in teams to explore concepts through questions, problems and scenarios. This allows gifted students to work within a community of learners which nurtures their social-emotional needs, helps them make mathematical connections that they might otherwise miss, and demonstrates that there are many pathways to a solution. We believe that high-ability students need access to problem-based, open-ended math, which teaches them to be flexible, creative thinkers, and requires them to articulate their thinking to others.
Take a minute to read this great article published in The Atlantic about why it can actually be harmful to label kids as “smart” in math.
Design innovation & thinking grows at Seven Peaks School
It’s been exciting to see and feel the energy behind the design innovation initiative that’s filling the halls of our school. Thanks to our parents and friends, Seven Peaks School is among the first Central Oregon schools to begin planning for a Design & Innovation Lab. As you have probably heard, by fall of 2017, we will have transformed our SPS library into a space for students in all grade levels. Please take a few minutes to look at the renderings for our new space. We’re excited to have our students involved in a design process to help with the creation of the lab. Design thinking and innovation is not new to our school. In fact, our teachers have been thought leaders in bringing hands-on, inquiry based, creative thinking to our classrooms. The Design & Innovation Lab will give us the tools and equipment to take the Design Initiative to the next level.
Check out these articles for more information about how the Design Thinking is reshaping education:
Edutopia: What is Design Thinking?
Newsweek: Maker Movement Reinvents Education
Free community film screening: Most Likely to Succeed
On Thursday, April 13 at 6:30 pm, Seven Peaks School will host a FREE COMMUNITY SCREENING of the National award winning film Most Likely to Succeed. Please take a minute to watch the trailer. This film will inspire families with children of all ages to explore the future of education. We hope you can join us and encourage you to invite friends.
Changes for the 2017/2018 school year
As educators, we are continuously exploring opportunities to enhance programming and provide our students with a 21st century learning experience. In March, our SPS team began looking at ways to optimize classes and schedules so students get the most out of each school day. One thing we know for certain is that traditional teaching models in which subjects are taught in silos is less effective in providing real-world learning for our kids. Stay tuned for more information as our team works to modify our daily schedule to incorporate more progressive teaching practices.
We are excited to share that we are already starting to see results from our recently launched digital and public relations outreach efforts. In March, we hosted 20 new families at our SPS Information night. We’ve also been touring new families and fielding calls from interested parents from Central Oregon and out of the area. Current enrollment numbers are lower than anticipated for this time of year, but we are confident that we will grow our SPS family. If you have friends or family members that you think might be a good fit for our school, please send them our way.
Thank you all for your continued support. I hope you had a wonderful spring break!
Anniversary gala success
I’m still feeling renewed and inspired by the tremendous success of last weekend’s 20th anniversary celebration. Not only did we have an incredible turnout, we also exceeded our fundraising goal of $100,000 to support the design innovation movement we’re creating for our students. Most importantly, we shared an extraordinary sense of community centered on our belief in a school that challenges and inspires every child and creates a true sense of belonging. I want to thank our founders for being part of the celebration, our staff member Stephanie Erickson for her expertise and coordination, and also our fantastic parents, Anne Mastalir and Sarah Douglass for their leadership and passion in co-chairing this event. Take a minute to view the photos from the gala.
Let’s talk middle school
Recently, I was talking with a friend about her child’s middle school experience outside of SPS and it reminded me that middle school can be a challenging time for any student at any school. It’s a time when friendships mean more than almost everything else and those friendships can be volatile as adolescents explore their identities. As parents and educators, we work to maintain the delicate balance between encouraging independence and providing support and guidance. Our goal at SPS is to create a middle school learning environment that is safe and welcoming, but still provides a real world context. We feel fortunate to offer the only independent middle school IB program in Central Oregon to help us do that.
SPS plans for next year
We have some important work to do in growing our enrollment over the next several months, but I’m extremely confident that we can sustain and build our Seven Peaks School family. We are actively working with existing families to finalize re-enrollment for next year and reaching out to prospective families that have expressed interest in our school. We have also been enhancing our online presence with a new website and digital marketing campaign. In addition, we are engaged in public relations efforts to increase our visibility and reputation within the Central Oregon community. If you know families who might be a good fit for our school, please encourage them to get to know us. We have monthly tours, parent information nights and student visitation days and would appreciate your help in growing our unique K-8 school community. The application deadline is March 16.
Keeping our kids safe and focused
One of our goals at Seven Peaks School is to create a uniquely personal learning environment where kids feel challenged, nurtured, welcome and safe. We work to limit distractions and inspire exploration of the world around them and beyond. That’s one of the reasons we have a no cell phone policy at our school.
In a recent survey of nearly 1,300 parents and their children, parent advocacy group Common Sense Media found that 59 percent of parents think their teens are addicted to mobile devices. Meanwhile, 50 percent of teenagers feel the same way. By limiting cell phone access before and after school and providing careful supervision when phones might be used in class for special assignments, our hope is to give our kids a break from the constant distraction and pressure that comes with cell phone use. More important, it allows them to be present in the moment, focus on learning, and develop stronger listening and social skills.
Public & Permanent live presentation on digital safety
As part of our Seven Peaks School Social & Emotional Educational Series we will be hosting Public and Permanent, a live 90-minute program on Thursday, March 16. Presented by author and international speaker Richard Guerry, founder of the non-profit organization the Institute for Responsible Online and Cell-Phone Communication, this multi-award winning program will help us all take steps to prevent, sexting, cyberbullying and poor social media & app behaviors. We encourage you and your kids to be part of this important conversation and bring friends! Space is limited so buy your tickets as soon as possible.
Thank you Seven Peaks families and friends
We are looking forward to a great spring and our upcoming 20th Anniversary Fundraising Gala. Thanks to all for your on-going support of our exceptional Seven Peaks School community.