Last Week

May 17, 2020

Dear St. Michael’s Lower School Families,

As our school year comes to a close this week, I can’t help but feel an enormous sense of pride in our students, teachers, parents, and in our St. Michael’s community. We have experienced amazing achievements together while demonstrating kindness, resiliency, dedication, and grit. Having remained in constant contact with educators across the country during this time, it is clear that St. Michael’s has continued to advance with exquisite skill and integrity, while remaining committed to our mission. Congratulations on a job well done!

Art Expo
Congratulations to all our Eagles on their amazing artwork! Thanks to Ms. Allen and Mrs. Faltico for making this all possible. The artwork is beautiful, creative, and fun. You can access it here, or via the school website. Special thanks to Mr. Zach Rebert for putting together such an organized digital display.

End of Year Celebrations
For those grades participating in the drive thru celebrations (K,1,2,4) please know that we will be implementing safety protocols for social distancing. Teachers will be wearing masks, and we kindly ask that families remain inside their cars at all times. Please enter from the light at Wilmot and 5th, and drive around to the front of the school where we will have teachers and staff ready to guide you through the process. Please make sure your child has their digital device (iPad or Chromebook) and school materials/belongings ready to hand to the teacher. In return, students will be receiving their art portfolios, summer packets, reading lists, and additional items from their classroom teacher. Here is the schedule for the upcoming week:

Monday 5.18
Kindergarten 9:00-10:00
Fourth Grade 10:00-11:00
4A 10:00
4B 10:30
First Grade 11:00-12:00

Tuesday 5.19
Second Grade
9:00-10:00

Wednesday (5.20) & Thursday (5.21)
Third Grade – you must schedule your appointment with Mr. Gould or Ms. Stalkfleet via Sign Up Genius. Please see their class blogs for further details.

Reminders
The last official day of school is Thursday, May 21st. No late work will be accepted after this day.

The K-8 Soar with the Eagles Award Ceremony will be presented online this Wednesday, after 11:00 a.m., via Google Classrooms. I am so proud of our students, and am excited to see this video montage.

2020-2021 School Year
Please see the most recent letter from our Head of School (Brendan Sullivan) here.
The letter includes a parent survey, which you can also access here.

Second Grade
As Mr. Sullivan mentioned in his letter, we will be moving to one second grade this fall. Enrollment, and financial constraints due to COVID-19, were the driving factors in this decision. Our school, like all independent schools, will be facing a year of recovery for the upcoming 20-21 school year. Knowing this, we had to look at making sound, fiscally responsible decisions in order to keep these changes temporary and not permanent. We are committed to building enrollment in our second grade, and will hire another teacher to work with Mrs. O’Meara for the 21-22 school year. In the meantime, I look for this to be a rewarding, and exciting year for our second grade students.

A special thanks to Mrs. Julie O’Shell for her great work this year in 2A! She has been an amazing teacher and an excellent colleague. Thankfully, we aren’t saying goodbye to Mrs. O’Shell, as she has elected to remain on the substitute teacher list. Thank you Mrs. O’Shell!! You will hold a special place in the hearts of this 2A class.

Kindergarten
We will be saying goodbye to Ms. Tracy Walrath this year, who has been the teaching assistant in Mrs. Sanders’ KA class for the past two years. We wish her the very best as she transitions into overseeing her massage therapy business full time. Mrs. Julia Rebert will act as the sole teaching assistant for both kindergarten classes this fall.

Spanish
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, we are thrilled to welcome Mrs. Maria Elena Iturralde as the K-4 Spanish teacher this fall. She comes to us with a wealth of experience and knowledge, as well as some new and innovative ideas. At the same time, we will be saying goodbye to Mrs. Mary Redhouse, who has been at St. Michael’s for seven years. Thank you for your service Mrs. Redhouse!

Thank you
St. Michaels is a strong, compassionate, and tight-knit community. Our school thrived during this unprecedented time because we continued to support one another, and remained determined to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of our students through excellence and innovation. We have shown strength and resolve, and our school has become stronger and more tenacious than ever. Thank you for your partnership and for your support of St. Michael’s.

As we move into the summer months, and begin to fine tune the upcoming school year, I will continue to keep you apprised of any new information and guidance we receive. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with questions or concerns. I am always happy to talk with you, and am here to support you in any way I can.

Thank you, once again, for a wonderful school year! I hope to see you this week at the drive thru celebrations, or the third grade classroom check outs.

Warm Regards,
Mandy Hart
K-4 Lower School Division Director

Happy Mother’s Day!

May 10, 2020

Happy Mother’s Day to all our wonderful moms! My siblings and I made Belgian Waffles for our mom this morning, complete with bananas, blueberries, maple syrup, pecans, chocolate chips, and last but not least – whipped cream! It’s a family tradition, and one of my absolute favorite days of the year. I hope each of you felt loved and appreciated today. You certainly deserve it!

Believe it or not, we’ve made it to the final week of remote learning. Bravo! Cheers! Way to Go! I am so proud of our school. The success we’ve achieved during distance learning is reflective of our amazing parent-teacher-student relationships, and our ability to stay the course and continue to advance academically, regardless of COVID-19 setbacks. We have continued to learn new subject matter, evaluate achievement, and connect with classmates and teachers every single day. Although there is always room for improvement, I think it’s safe to say – well done St. Michael’s!

This Friday (5.15) will be the last day of class Zoom meetings and assignments. Your child will have until next Thursday (5.21) to tie up any loose ends and submit lingering assignments. Final grades will be mailed to you in early June.

Soar with the Eagle Awards will be announced by the end of this week via your child’s classroom teacher. We will be posting a more formal awards ceremony (albeit digital) next week. Students will receive their award at the end of year check out, or drive thru celebration.

Speaking of end of year check outs (or drive thru celebrations), all digital devices and borrowed learning materials will need to be returned the last week of school. Please follow guidelines from your child’s classroom teacher. Students will also receive summer work packets, reading lists, and art portfolios during check out.

Have a wonderful week. Let’s finish strong!

Warm regards,
Ms. Hart
Division Director – K-4 Lower School

Teacher Appreciation Week

May 3, 2020

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” – Forest E. Witcraft (teacher/scholar)

I hope this post finds all of you healthy, and feeling motivated to finish strong as we enter the last two weeks of remote learning. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I’d like to dedicate this post to our amazing classroom teachers.

As the lower school head, I have the good fortune to witness great teaching in action every day. It’s an exclusive look into the hard work and dedication that goes into designing challenging lessons and implementing effective instruction on a daily basis. There is no denying the high expectations and academic strength our teachers bring, but what impresses me the most, day in and day out, is the emphasis our teachers place on building and maintaining positive relationships with students. Trust, integrity, responsibility, cooperation, collaboration, compassion, empathy, commitment – these are the hallmarks of the teacher/student relationship at St. Michael’s. These relationships are powerful, and are the key to student success, tenacity, fortitude, and ability to persevere. I am so grateful to be part of such a dedicated, caring, and positive team. Cheers to our teachers!

Lastly, on behalf of all lower school staff, I’d like to thank you, our parents, for your support during this transition to distance learning. You have helped make this a meaningful and successful experience for our students. We can’t thank you enough!

Have a wonderful week.

Warm Regards,
Ms. Hart
Division Director – Lower School K-4

April 27, 2020

April 27, 2020

St. Michael’s is excited to announce Mrs. Maria Elena Iturralde as the new K-4 Spanish teacher, beginning fall of 2020. Mrs. Iturralde graduated from the University of Arizona with a B.A. in Elementary Education (Bilingual), and is a veteran teacher with over twenty years of experience. She previously taught PreK-5th grade Spanish at Castle Hill, and brings a diverse skill set, having worked as an early literacy coach, and an interpreter for the City of Tucson Municipal Courts. We are delighted to have her expertise on staff, and look forward to welcoming her to our community in the fall.

As we say hello to Mrs. Iturralde, we will be saying goodbye to Mrs. Redhouse, who has been teaching at St. Michael’s for the last seven years. For those of you who do not know, Mrs. Redhouse is a Grammy Nominated Native American jazz vocalist and musician, and performs regularly around town and throughout the southwest. We thank her for her good work, and wish her the best in her next adventures.

We are heading into the homestretch! As we move into these last three weeks of remote learning, there are some exciting things to look forward to:

  • Art Expo Online – Ms. Allen and Mrs. Faltico have finished scanning student work and are preparing for the online show, tentatively scheduled for May 15th.
  • Soar with the Eagles Award – we are gathering teacher videos and putting a montage together to celebrate our K-8 Eagle Award winners, to be presented the last week of school (May 18th-21st).
  • Teacher Appreciation Week – May 4th-8th
  • End of Year Class Parties – be on the look out for more information from your child’s classroom teacher regarding end of year celebrations.

Reminders:

  • There will not be any additional assignments or projects given after May 15th
  • Students may continue to submit work through Thursday, May 21st.
  • Summer work packets and reading lists will be provided digitally the last week of school
  • School devices must be returned to the classroom teacher the week of May 18th

I couldn’t resist sharing the following video with you. For those of you who are having to participate in work meetings via Zoom or conference calls, this should all look very familiar!

 

You are doing an amazing job! Thank you for helping us make this a positive, successful experience for our kids.

Warm Regards,
Ms. Hart
Division Director – Lower School K-4

3rd Trimester Grades

April 17, 2020

Believe it or not, it’s half time! We have officially completed the first four weeks of distance learning, and only have four more weeks to go. As we move into these last few weeks together, I want to share some important information with you regarding end of year grades, and provide you with a more accurate timeline.

Teachers will not be assigning additional online work beyond May 15th. Students will be given the following week (18th-21st) to continue to submit assignments, turn in projects, and tie up any loose ends. The final day for students to submit work will be May 21st.

End of year class parties will take place between May 18th-21st. Be on the lookout for additional information from your child’s classroom teacher. We’ve got a lot of great things in store to celebrate and honor our amazing students, and all they have accomplished this year.

We will be grading with leniency this 3rd trimester. Students will not receive a grade lower than their 2nd trimester scores, however, they have every opportunity to raise their grades! We know how hard our students are working, and we recognize the demands that our families have been facing during this COVID-19 era. Therefore, we hope that this more lenient grading system will reduce anxiety and stress, and help our students remain focused on learning, performing their best, and finishing strong.

We have some fun school spirit days planned! The following dates will be posted on google classroom pages:

Wednesday April 22 – Crazy Hat Day
Wednesday April 29 – Pajama Day
Wednesday May 6 – St. Michael’s Uniform Day
Wednesday May 13 – Share Your Favorite Book Day

I’m excited to announce that our fabulous art teachers, Ms. Allen (K-4) and Mrs. Faltico (5-8), will be putting together a virtual Art Expo! We just couldn’t resist showing off the amazing work our kids have done this year. We hope to have the virtual show available for everyone to see by May 15th.

The Presidio is hoping to offer a camp in June (as long as they don’t have to cancel). Check out their flyer for more information.

Thank you again for your partnership and your support. We greatly appreciate everything you are doing to make remote learning a positive, successful experience.

Warm Regards,
Mandy Hart
Division Director – Lower School K-4

Happy Easter! No School 9-13

April 8, 2020

On behalf of the Lower School faculty and staff, we wish you and your family a wonderful Easter! Please note, there is no school tomorrow, (Thursday 4.9), through Monday (4.13). Classes will resume Tuesday, April 14th. I think all of us are looking forward to stepping away from devices for a bit, and spending quality time with family. I look forward to hearing from the kids via Zoom on Tuesday about their adventures over break.

Thank you for sending in so many joyous pictures of our kids spreading love and cheer throughout the community. The Kindness Rock challenge was a huge success! Thanks for encouraging your child to participate.

Warm Regards,
Mandy Hart
Division Director – Lower School K-4

 

Holy Week

April 5, 2020

There were a lot of things I wanted to accomplish during this Lenten season; engage in daily scripture readings and purposeful prayer, develop a consistent exercise routine, and take time each day to be grateful for the gifts in my life. I must admit, COVID-19 has been quite a distraction, and I’ve found myself thinking more about social distancing and making runs to the grocery store than I have about the meaning of Lent. As we begin Holy Week, I encourage you to take time every day to give thanks for the wonderful talents, gifts, and blessings in your life. Despite what social media would have us believe, there is so much to be thankful for. St. Michael’s is definitely on my list!

This week will be a short week due to Easter Break. There will be no school Thursday – Monday (4.9-4.13). On behalf of the lower school faculty and staff, we wish you and your family a wonderful Easter.

Challenge Success (CS), a non-profit organization at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, has provided guidance to schools across the nation regarding student well being and engagement with learning. I had the privilege of speaking with the founders of CS at the National Association of Independent Schools conferences in 2018/2019 and 2019/2020. CS recently posted an interesting article that encourages families to use this unprecedented time to “make strong family relationships” a priority and “broaden your definition of learning.” To access the article, click here.

Keep sending in those kindness rock pictures! They are really looking beautiful, and so creative!

Warm regards,
Mandy Hart
Division Director – Lower School

Kindness Rock Challenge!

April 1, 2020

Lower School is sending good vibes, hugs, and love your way today! Check out the great encouragement posters our teachers made with you in mind.

Kindess Rock Challenge!
I’d like to challenge your family to participate in an activity that’s completely fun, therapeutic, and will leave our neighborhoods and the Tucson community feeling loved and cared for. From April 1 – April 12 (Easter), pick out a plain old rock from your yard, paint it, write an encouraging word or phrase on it (or just paint a picture) and place it in your neighborhood where someone will be able to see it. Everyone could use a random act of kindness right about now! Maybe there is an elderly neighbor who lives down the street that could use some cheer, or maybe you’ll find the perfect spot to leave your rock for someone else to find while walking with your family. There is no wrong way to go about it! Here are some simple instructions to participate:

1. Pick a rock from your yard, preferably one that fits in your hand and isn’t too heavy
2. Paint your rock using acrylic paint and include an inspirational message/word/picture
3. Write “Keep it, share it, or leave it for another” on the back (sharpies work great!)
4. Seal it (if possible) with Mod Podge or nail polish (clear coat)
5. Take a picture of your rock and email me at mhart@stmichael.net
6. Find the perfect spot for your rock in your neighborhood!

I hope you will participate! We will be posting rock pictures on our FB page over the next two weeks. Here are the two rocks my mom and I painted today. Can’t wait to see your rock creations. Happy painting!

Warm Regards,
Mandy Hart
Division Director – Lower School (K-4)

Distance Learning Week 2

March 28, 2020

The first week of distance learning is in the books. I hope that you were able to use this last week to become familiar with the online platforms (Google Classroom/Zoom), and identify routines, procedures, and schedules that worked, as well as ones that didn’t. Routines and schedules take time to develop. It may take you another full week (or maybe two) before you find exactly what works best for your family. Please know that we have compassion and understanding for what you are managing at home. You have had a lot thrown at you, and none of this is easy. Between establishing new at-home work schedules, taking care of the house, providing academic support to your children during the day, and managing anxiety and fear within the family about COVID-19 makes any frustration you may have had completely understandable and expected. Know that this week will be better than the last. If you are struggling to create an effective distance learning schedule at home, please reach out to me or your child’s classroom teacher. Together we can identify some strategies that may create more efficient and manageable day to day routines that lighten the load and reduce stress.

Google Classroom Guidelines
The kids have really impressed us with their use of the online platforms, especially Google Classroom. We value the student questions and comments made, and have found it to be a great way for kids to stay connected and see the good work that is being done by their peers. We would ask that the students not use Google Classroom as a means to chat and have personal conversations. They could certainly Zoom each other for that, but Google Classroom is meant only for accessing/uploading assignments and having discussions about school related activities. If you could pass this friendly reminder on to your child, it would be greatly appreciated. Teachers can certainly delete student comments that refer to things outside of school, but we really want the kids to get the hang of all aspects of Google Classroom, including its purpose and how to utilize it for academic advancement.

St. Michael’s Facebook
We would love to receive pictures of your child working from home, including any special family projects that you might be doing. Please feel free to email a picture to your child’s classroom teacher so that we can begin posting pics to our FB page. We want to continue sharing the great work being done at our school with the community.

Grades & Assessments
As we move forward, our faculty and administration will be discussing distance learning grades and assessments. Remote learning is different and difficult, but it still holds great value and seriousness. We believe in every single one of our students, and expect them to be good stewards of the honor system. As schools across the country are taking COVID-19 into consideration when looking at grades and achievements for this year, so will St. Michael’s. There is much to discuss, but for now, please know that we are working to develop a policy specifically for distance learning grades and assessments.

I am looking forward to joining class Zoom meetings next week. Trust me when I say, we miss the kids just as much as they miss us.

Week two here we come!

Warm regards,
Mandy Hart
Division Director – Lower School

Great First Day!

March 23, 2020

Great First Day!
Bravo on completing your first day of distance learning! Everybody did a wonderful job of checking in with their classroom teacher, accessing assignments on Google Classroom, participating in Zoom meetings, and embracing (bravely) an entirely new world of communicating and learning. As expected, there were a few glitches here and there. The most problematic issue across K-8 was the ability for students to upload completed assignments within Google Classroom easily. After a bit of trouble shooting, we believe the main issue to be the restricted access we previously placed on student devices. In an effort to bypass future issues, and improve student ability to upload work more easily, we are going to remove the restrictions placed on student devices related to camera and YouTube functionality. We will also provide open access to email communication so that parents and students can email one another. This should all help tremendously!! With the removal of these restrictions comes the need for diligent parental monitoring. Student Chromebooks and iPads will continue to filter for spam, but please remind students that their devices are to be used for schoolwork only. We appreciate your support at home!

For Students with School iPads
There has been an issue with the IOS Google Classroom app working properly on iPads. This issue is directly related to the app itself, and our school network technician is working to resolve the problem. In the meantime, if you are experiencing trouble uploading assignments through an iPad, please upload student work through a laptop or desktop at home (if possible).

This has really been an impressive first day! I’m honored to be part of this amazing school. We are facing one of the greatest challenges of our lives as a family united, not divided. Together, we are creating a safe space for our kids to learn, persevere, and overcome the isolation that social distancing incurs.

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns. I’m always available and happy to help in any way I can.

Onward we go! Forward is our pace!

Warm regards,
Mandy Hart
Lower School Division Director