A message from Assistant Superintendent Kevin Sederholm:
What a great time of year, the season of giving. One of the benefits of working in the District Office is to hear all of the marvelous acts of kindness and giving that go on throughout our educational community. Here are a couple of examples that have brightened my holiday season so far:
There are many other examples of goodness in our community going on at this time. It’s what makes the holiday season so special. May you all have a wonderful Christmas Season.
A message from Superintendent Jeff Stephens:
This fall marks a rather momentous time in our district's history. Four of our schools (Wahlquist, Orion, North Ogden Elementary and Lakeview Elementary) now have the technology to provide personalized instruction and learning for every student! Some school districts refer to this as a "one-to-one" computer initiative in schools. Each student in these four schools was issued a chromebook computer of their own. Just a few short years ago, a personalized instruction and learning model through technology in our district seemed out of reach. In fact, we were encouraging students to bring their own device in order to increase access to technology. However, due to investments from the legislature, as well as increased funding from School Trust Lands and community councils willing to dedicate some of that funding toward technology, achieving our goal of utilizing technology to personalize instruction and learning in our schools has become attainable.
The excitement is not that every student has their own computer. Rather, it is the enriched teaching and learning that occurs with this infusion of technology. For example, at Orion Junior High, language arts teacher Ashley Marks described a virtual field trip that her students experienced touring a plantation home and the Creole lifestyle around New Orleans prior to reading Lois Duncan's Locked in Time. "It has completely transformed my classroom from a two-dimensional to a three-dimensional learning space," Ashley explained. LeAnn Jensen's 8th grade U.S. History class was in the hall where she had set up QR codes for her students to scan. Each QR code would link to a website, document or brief video on a Revolutionary War topic. Students worked in teams and were highly engaged as they learned of the Battle at Breed's Hill, the siege of Boston, and significant events at Lexington and Concord. LeAnn said, "I love that my classes are so interactive now."
At North Ogden Elementary, 5th grade teacher Jake Burnett explained his initial concern was the potential for decreased interaction with students due to increased computer time. He has witnessed just the opposite. Using Nearpod, Jake and his students explored Delicate Arch, observing first-hand the erosion of these monuments. In my visit to Jake's class, students were working in teams using the online review tool Quizlit. Students were highly engaged in what otherwise could have been a routine activity. Amy Filiaga's 4th grade class was augmenting language arts with ReadWorks. Amy had seen some bullying behavior and was counteracting with an on-line auxiliary text called, "Cool to Be Kind."
Wahlquist Ed Tech Coach Matt Winters described outstanding applications of technology by teachers including a virtual archeology dig in Jackie Acosta's history class, as well as the design of slope ramps in Brent Bourgeous' math class using Spheros. I loved hearing Melissa Judkins tell me about how students in her FACS class used Google Sites to create podcasts, video commercials or websites applying their knowledge of child development theory and essential elements of school readiness.
Mrs. Oliva's 4th grade class at Lakeview Elementary enthusiastically shared how they are using Zearn Math to build procedural fluency and accuracy. Then, I met a young boy who had just moved into our country several weeks earlier as a non-English speaker. He was rapidly acquiring vocabulary and language skills using Imagine Learning on his chrome book. When I asked how he was enjoying school, a bright smile lit up his face!
This model of utilizing technology to provide personalized instruction and learning is happening right now in Weber School District. Four additional schools will come on board in January, with even more schools in the near future. The potential for technology to revolutionize teaching and learning is only limited by the boundaries we establish. I applaud innovative, courageous teachers who are willing to think creatively as they discover ways to enhance learning for students. It truly is an historic time!
A message from Assistant Superintendent Lori Jo Rasmussen:
I love this time of year! We are fortunate to live in Utah with its four distinct seasons. Fall brings with it colorful landscapes, crisp weather, football, and of course the harvest season. I love all fall has to offer, but the harvest season is dear to my heart because it has given me valuable insights in my life.
My grandpa and grandma were master gardeners. They came by this naturally. With a lot of hard work and determination, they achieved great success! Friends, family, and neighbors all benefitted from my grandpa and grandma’s garden. It was a simple garden by today’s standards, just a plot of fertile ground with immaculate dirt rows, but the harvest was incredible. I would watch amazed at how a little seed could produce the amazing fruits and vegetables we would enjoy!
I came to understand that a whole garden isn’t created overnight, and neither is any lofty goal or change you want to achieve or make in your life. When a seed is cared for with sunlight and water it starts to grow and develop into the magnificent wonder it was meant to be. It is much the same with any new endeavor or journey. When one pays attention to their dreams and aspirations, to the “seeds” planted in their lives, a beautiful transformation can take place. Each seed is the start of something new, something bigger than one can imagine.
Parents and educators plant seeds of hope and beginnings each and every day in their children’s and student’s lives. They nurture and care for them daily. Many times, the true fruits of their labor and the beautiful transformation take some time. It can be years later, when a child has reached adulthood or when a student has graduated, that the transformation has truly taken place. What a wonderful harvest!
There is no better time than the present to work towards the life you dream of for yourself, your students, or your family! There is a quote that speaks to this; “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is today.” Time to grab a shovel and get to work!
We thank our parents, educators, and families for the fine work, true dedication, and unwavering commitment to help our students grow!
Don’t judge each day by the harvest that you reap, but by the seeds that you plant!
~Robert Louis Stevenson
School has officially begun in the Weber School District. It's always fun to see the students, staff and parents again as we start a new year. There's always a lot of enthusiasm and excitement on the faces of those who enter our buildings.
Every year a group of district administrators accompanies the Superintendent to all of our elementary schools where we have the opportunity to share a book and read with each grade. This is a fun time for the administrators to get into schools and interact with the children and school staff.
Two thoughts always come to my mind each year as we do this:
Reading is a fundamental process to our childrens' educational success. Spending time reading with a child is very rewarding not only for the child but also to the reader. Here's to great and productive year. Thanks to everyone for your support.
A message from Superintendent Jeff Stephens:
We begin each school year by welcoming dozens of new teachers to our district and into this great profession. This year, for example, more than 100 new teachers will begin their career in the Weber School District. We welcome these outstanding young educators and recognize the enthusiasm and innovation that they bring with them. As a principal, I was always eager when we hired new teachers because I knew that their excitement was contagious among students and staff alike.
New teachers help us remember why we entered the profession in the first place. Several of our new teachers recently shared their thoughts with me as they prepare for their first year in the classroom. Matt Brown, who will teach biology at Roy High School, talked about a former high school teacher and coach who spent time, effort and even money helping him to be the best that he could be on and off the field. Matt said, "He taught me lessons that I took with me into life that still impact me now nearly ten years later. He exemplified what it meant to be a role model and a teacher. He is the reason I became a teacher. "Matt then expressed that it is his goal to have the same influence for good on students in his school. He stated, "I feel teaching and coaching is the one way to impact and truly change lives and the trajectory of lives in a meaningful way."
Katie Arave, who will teach 4th grade at Farr West Elementary School, talked about the many reasons that she selected teaching as her chosen profession. "But the core reason," Katie articulated beautifully, "really comes down to the fact that I want to be a champion for children." Katie told me that what she most anticipates as she enters her first year as a teacher is building strong relationships with her students. "I am excited to make the connections that will gain the students' trust and respect," Katie expressed, "which in turn will lead to deep and amazing learning opportunities."
Kelsie Garrard has been hired to teach 3rd grade at Roosevelt Elementary. Kelsie reflected, "Looking back in my life, the people that had the biggest positive impact on me were my dearest teachers. They taught me major life skills like hard work, optimism, integrity and how to build and keep healthy friendships." Kelsie is determined "to be the role model that my teachers were to me and pay it forward."
Matt, Katie and Kelsie remind each of us why we work in Weber School District! Regardless of our role or position, we have the opportunity to touch lives for good. This will be an exceptional year because Weber School District has devoted, caring adults who are persistent in their efforts to help children. On behalf of the Weber School District Board of Education, we wish each of you an exceptional and successful school year.
A message from Superintendent Jeff Stephens:
Nearly 15 years ago, former Weber School District teacher and current school board member, Mitzi Kawaguchi, gave me a children’s book entitled, I’m In Charge of Celebrations, by Byrd Baylor. Byrd’s book captures unique experiences that produced private celebrations. I love the book! These quiet, personal celebrations are simple, yet profound. This spring, I have enjoyed similar notable celebrations while visiting classrooms. For instance, Mrs. Salcido invited me to meet with the entire 6th grade at Burch Creek Elementary School and talk about leadership. I was captivated by these exceptional young people! We discussed powerful leadership lessons as taught by great men and women in our nation’s past and the students shared their insights while making modern-day connections. I celebrated inside as these marvelous 6th grade students demonstrated their tremendous potential to lead in our world—a vital need.
Mr. Fendrick asked if I would spend 90 minutes in his A.P. Literature class at Weber Innovation High School and teach a poetry lesson. Using a strategy known as “Expanded Reading,” we delved deeply into Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses.” Although written nearly 200 years ago, these impressive students not only discovered relevant insights but were inspired by Tennyson’s thirst for adventure – “I cannot rest from travel: I will drink life to the lees.” I stood in awe and silently celebrated as they revealed their dreams and contemplated the contribution each wished to make in their future. Tennyson captured these extraordinary students perfectly—“How dull it is to pause, to make an end; To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use! As tho’ to breathe were life!”
A visit to H. Guy Child to celebrate 5-year-old Enashele Campbell’s winning submission for the National PTA Reflections theme of “Look Within,” will never be forgotten. Enashele’s submission was selected above every other one in the country and will become the 2019-20 theme for the entire United States! Enashele received a cash award and will be recognized at the upcoming National PTA Convention.
Mr. Hadley invited me to speak with the Bonneville faculty as they celebrated their school year, as well as their annual theme, “Be Someone’s Miracle.” The teachers’ focus has been on establishing meaningful relationships with students in ways that would inspire them to achieve their dreams and ambitions. I sat with these outstanding teachers as they shared story after story of young people who had fought through personal adversity with the reassurance of a trusted teacher at their side. No doubt, lives were changed in ways that reach far beyond grades or test scores. I was so appreciative of each teacher and celebrated their influence on students’ lives.
I celebrate with Mrs. Olson from West Haven Elementary who sent a personalized, encouraging note to every student prior to SAGE testing. The note communicated to each child that while the SAGE tests will measure something about the child, it could not measure everything. Lovingly, Mrs. Olson wrote, “The people who create and score these tests do not know each of you the way I do.” Then, she described what makes each child unique. One mother wrote to me, “It brought tears to my eyes. She goes above and beyond to make sure her students know how amazing they are. I can’t put into words how much I appreciate her dedication and love for her students.”
These celebrations just skim the surface. I know that every member of our Weber School District family has enjoyed similar celebrations. I invite you to quietly reflect on these singular experiences and know of the powerful influence for good that you are in the lives of children. For that, and on behalf of the board of education, I acknowledge and celebrate each of you!
A message from Assistant Superintendent Jane Ann Kammeyer:
It always amazes me how all of a sudden it is the last quarter of school. As this school year end quickly comes upon us, I wanted to take a minute to thank the many wonderful parents, tea
chers, principals and support staff that touch the lives of children every day. We live in a wonderful community of caring people and our children are precious to us. I love the saying that hangs on the wall of my office, it says, "Children are always the only future the human race has; teach them well."
We know that parents are the first teachers in a child’s life and that continues throughout a lifetime. I have always appreciated the partnership we are fortunate to have with parents in the process of educating their children.
Teachers, counselors, administrators, and support staff you have a profound impact on students every day. Albert Einstein said, "It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." Thank you for making each day a treasure for your students as you "awaken the joy" of discovery and learning.
Over the last 34 years, I have held many titles teacher, principal, director, and assistant superintendent. When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I am an educator. It has been a privilege to associate over the years with so many wonderful educators and be in the business of educating children. In the world of education there are truly amazing caring people. I want to thank you again for what you do for students every day and I know that you will continue to "teach them well."
A message from Assistant Superintendent Kevin Sederholm:
Last year at this time, I wrote a Superintendency Message about recruiting new teachers. One year later, here we are again looking to bring new teachers to our district that will positively impact our students. We will always try and find the best candidates possible to be with our students.
Recently I was at a job fair recruiting when a young teacher approached me and said, “I want to teach in your district.” I found out that this teacher was from out of state but would be moving into our area. Out of curiosity I asked her why she wanted to teach for us. Her response was that she had researched all of the districts in our surrounding area and had talked to many people who live in the vicinity. She went on to say that although what she read about our district was impressive, it was the fact that with all the many people she had talked to about our district, no one said anything negative. This was a proud moment and I have to admit this has happened on many other occasions with myself as well as others that have helped me recruit.
I attribute this experience to the many dedicated employees and parents that we have in our district. People who go about their day knowing their most important job is to take care of children.
Weber School District has been and will always be dedicated to teaching and developing the whole child. We will continue to look for those future employees that will meet these expectations. Many thanks go out to everyone that helps with this process.
Some years ago, I had the privilege of listening to the renowned historian, David McCullough, speak in Salt Lake City. The title of his lecture instantly grabbed my attention—“The Importance of Teachers.” McCullough discussed the influence teachers had had on key figures in American history. I was especially impressed by one of McCullough’s stories—The Incident of the Fish:
Louis Agassiz, a well-known American scientist of his day, was also a master teacher with a rather unconventional teaching style. Agassiz was a professor at Harvard University. He prepared no syllabus for his courses, nor did he require an entrance exam for students to enroll in his classes. They were accepted simply on whether or not he liked them, which meant that he took just about everyone.
Agassiz believed that the way to all learning, “the backbone of education,” as he frequently reminded his students, was to know something thoroughly. “A smattering of everything is worth little,” he asserted. His goal was to teach students “to see deeply” in order to develop genuine understanding. This objective was illustrated by “the incident of the fish,” as told by one of his former students, Samuel Scudder.
After Professor Agassiz interviewed and accepted Samuel Scudder into his class, he asked Samuel when he would like to begin. Scudder responded, “Right now.” Agassiz excused himself momentarily. When he re-entered the classroom, he was carrying a dead fish! This was a stinking, putrid and foul-smelling fish personally selected by Agassiz from among countless jars lining the shelves. Professor Agassiz placed the dead fish on a dish in front of Samuel Scudder. He then provided this simple instruction, “Look at the fish.” At this point, Agassiz left the room. Scudder described what happened next:
In ten minutes I had seen all that could be seen of that fish. Half an hour passed—an hour—another hour; the fish began to look loathsome. I turned it over and around; looked it in the face—ghastly! I was in despair. I was forbidden to use a magnifying glass. Instruments of all kinds were forbidden. My two hands, my two eyes, and the fish! It seemed a most limited field. I pushed my finger down its throat to feel how sharp the teeth were. I began to count the scales in the different rows, until I was convinced that that was nonsense. At last a happy thought struck me—I would draw the fish, and now with surprise I began to discover new features in the creature.
Hours later, Agassiz returned and listened as Scudder attempted to describe his observations and asked his teacher what he should do next. The astute professor repeated his original directive, “Look at the fish!” Scudder continued:
I was irritated; I was mortified. Still more of that wretched fish! But now I set myself to my task with a renewed will, and discovered one new thing after another. The afternoon passed quickly; and when, toward its close, the professor inquired, “Do you see it?” I replied, “No, I am certain I do not, but I see how little I saw before.
The following day, having thought of the fish throughout the night, Samuel Scudder had a brainstorm. “The fish,” he explained to Professor Agassiz, “had symmetrical sides with paired organs.”
“Of course! Of course!” Agassiz said, obviously delighted, when his new student shared his newfound insight. Once again, Scudder asked what he should do next, and Agassiz enthusiastically replied, “Oh, look at your fish!” This lesson went on for three full days. “Look, look, look!” was the repeated charge. Years later, Scudder, who became widely known for his work on the importance of first-hand, careful observation in the natural sciences, frequently recalled the legacy of his beloved teacher.
In an era that places too great an emphasis on testing, it is vital that we continue to teach for deep understanding, just as Louis Agassiz did so many years ago. We should always consider the following question, “What does it mean to truly understand something?” Understanding fundamental, core ideas and developing the capacity to transfer and apply should be the primary goals of all teaching and learning. Thank you to the hundreds of dedicated teachers in Weber School District who teach for deep understanding, application and transfer every day. This remains “the backbone” of a child’s educational experience.