Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Vision for Mighty Girls!

Mighty Girls Proposal Power Point

Educators wears many hats – no longer is our role just about teaching the curriculum. As the student population continues to grow more diverse everyday so does the role of the educator. Yes, curriculum is still important but there isn’t an educator out there who isn’t also playing some other influence role in a student’s life – counselor, care taker, coach, confident, provider, nurse, etc. Being a first grade teacher, I expected to have students who needed my support with life difficulties such as divorce or poverty, but one thing I wasn’t expecting was to have six year olds who struggled with body image.
Assessing the Current Reality
I was frankly shocked to find out I had a first grade who had stopped eating lunch as a form of “dieting”.  How could such a young person already be so dissatisfied with their body that they were participating in such dangerously unhealthy behaviors? It was this event that opened my eyes to the harsh realities of the world we are currently living in. According to a report put out by CNN, “more than half of girls and one-third of boys as young as 6 to 8 think their ideal weight is thinner than their current size. By age 7, one in four kids has engaged in some kind of dieting behavior” (Wallace, 2015).  Once a second first grader expressed her turmoil over the fact that “no one likes me because I’m fat” I knew something had to be put into place to address this growing epidemic in the young girls at our school. “Fat is the new ugly on the school playground. Children as young as 3 worry about being fat. Four- and 5-year-olds know "skinny" is good and "fat" is bad. Children in elementary school are calling each other fat as a put-down” (Hetter, 2012). Yes, the research is horrifying –
·         “Between 1999 and 2006, hospitalizations for eating disorders among children below the age of 12 spiked 119% .
·         It is estimated that almost 1.3 million adolescent girls in the United States have anorexia.
·         Twenty-six percent of 5-year-olds recommend dieting behavior (not eating junk food, eating less) as a solution for a person who has gained weight” (Pai & Schryver, 2015).
But what was worst to me than even the research, was looking into the teared up faces of my beautiful six-year-old students knowing that they were less than satisfied with how they looked and were willing to take on unhealthy habits to change that.
            Looking for ways to support my students in embracing their perfect little selves while still promoting healthy habits, I started to research different programs that already existed to promote children’s healthy body image/self-esteem as well as combat childhood obesity. There were a lot of good ideas, but nothing that targeted the age group I was going for and had all the components I wanted. I have recruited two other educators and together we have developed an all-girls after school program, The PES Mighty Girls Club. The goal of this club is to create a space where girls in grades first through fourth can come together to celebrate their differences while empowering them to be smart, confident, courageous, and healthy. We plan to reach out to different community partners to help with both the funding of the program and the education planning. Primarily the program will be funded through the 21st Century Grant, if the program continues after the grant expires, other forms of funding will need to be secured. 
Our society paints girls as the damsel in distress or in the role of sidekick. The PES Mighty Girls Club believes that girls are so much more than this! They can be the leaders, the champions, the heroes; they can be the ones that go on the adventure, who find the cure, and who save the day! We want every girl to learn to embrace who she is, define who she wants to be, and rise to any challenge she faces, pursuing her dreams! At PES Mighty Girls we empower girls to be smart, confident, and courageous by recognizing and celebrating all that makes her MIGHTY and to build the skills and strategies to nourish our minds and bodies so that they can achieve all that they dream of. We want girls to learn that they CAN.
Our Core Values
We strive to:
1.       Recognize and honor our self-worth
2.       Embrace our differences and find strength in our connectedness
3.       Use our words, thoughts, and actions to spread love and optimism
4.       Nurture our physical and emotional health
5.       Stand up for ourselves and others
Our principles:
·         Mighty Girls use kind words.
·         Mighty Girls have positive thoughts.
·         Mighty Girls help others.
·         Mighty Girls love themselves and others.
·         Mighty Girls stand up for themselves and others.
·         Mighty Girls take care of their bodies. 


1.      By the end of the Mighty Girls Club, there will be a 50% improvement in the girls’ self-esteem and body image.
2.      By the end of the Mighty Girls Club, attends will be able to identify at least three ways they can take care of their bodies in a healthy way.
3.      Because of the implementation of The Mighty Girls Club, teachers will see a positive increase in attendees’ attitudes, perceptions, and treatment of others.
Action Steps
1.      Propose program to principal and grant coordinator.
2.      Acquire funding, hopefully through the 21st Century Grant, under youth development.
3.      Determine transportation options.
4.      Create and release informational fliers about the program to all 1st – 4th grade female students and families.
5.      Set up an informational table at Open House to answer questions and promote the program.
6.      Create social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) to promote the program and share our mission, vision, and values.
7.      Begin enrollment.
8.      Run program.
9.      Evaluate success of program. Determine eligibility for continuing the program in the future.
            The PES Mighty Girls Club will rely heavily on funding from the 21st Century Grant. These funds will pay the three facilitators, provide the snacks for students, and any educational supplies. Donations will also be requested and used to supplement these funds. Members of the club will have the opportunity to purchase shirts, the proceeds from this will go towards funding celebrations and possible off campus field trips. The club will also partner with the Community Fitness Center to utilize their athletic facilities for fitness programs such as dance, yoga, aerobics, and swimming. All curriculum will be created and designed by the three facilitators and turned in the Grant Coordinator for approval.
Strategies and Activities
Because PES Mighty Girls Club is being created to meet the needs of our students, it is expected to be flexible and fluid in its activities and lessons. Each week’s focus will be specifically chosen to match one of our principles and the needs of the girls in the club. It is anticipated that each 8-week term will have an overarching theme or framework, but this will change with start of each new term.
For the first term, the structure of the club will be set up in three station rotations, each ran by one of facilitators. Each station will tie to the week’s principle, one will focus on a healthy snack and the feature of a real life Mighty Girl that embodies that week’s principle, another on a fitness activity, and the last will be the lesson on the week principle.
By our second term, the girls will be familiar with our principles so we will no longer focus on them as independent entities, but rather how Mighty Girls encompass all the principles. Our lessons and activities will be more whole group and resemble more of a club mentality where we start with a healthy snack and then we do an activity together that enriches our growth as mighty girls.
Finally, the third term, will focus on being a critical thinker and challenging society’s perception of girls. We will analyze different Disney princesses to see beyond the dress and find the traits that make them Mighty Girls. We will redefine what it means to be a “princess” keeping our core values at the center of our lessons and conversations.
Conclusion: Evidence Base
As mentioned at the beginning of this proposal, the research is disturbing: “nearly half of the nation’s girls are unhappy with their bodies. According to the Center for Disease Control and National Association of Eating Disorders, by age 6 girls start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. Additionally, around half of elementary school girls are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat” (PBS, 2013). Through programs like PES Mighty Girls, we can “help girls develop positive body images, healthy eating and exercise habits — and to help them not succumb to images promoted by the culture and adopted by their best friends” (PBS, 2013).  Research on a similar program in Arizona, Go Girls, found that participation in the program improved students’ self-esteem and self-confidence (SEDL, 2008). Youth development programs like PES Mighty Girls, doesn’t just lead to more positive thinking kids, it also effects student achievement. “A decade of research and evaluation studies, as well as large-scale, rigorously conducted syntheses looking across many research and evaluation studies, confirms that children and youth who participate in after school programs can reap a host of positive benefits in a number of interrelated outcome areas—academic, social/emotional, prevention, and health and wellness” (SEDL, 2008). When students are not bogged down with concerns about how they look and feel, the have better attitudes about school, can focus better, and can allocate their energies to building on their talents, rather than tearing themselves down. It helps build the confidence students need to take risks in the classroom, teaches goal setting, and how to constructively handle setbacks, in and out of the classroom.

Hetter, K. (2012, March 16). Fat is the new ugly on the playground. CNN. Retrieved from
Pai, S., & Schryver, K. (2015). Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image : A Common Sense Media Research Brief (Issue brief). Retrieved Wallace, K. (2015, February 13). Kids as young as 5 concerned about body image. CNN. Retrieved from
PBS. (2013, October 11). Raising a Girl with a Positive Body Image. Body Image & Identity. Raising Girls. Parenting. Retrieved from
SEDL. (2008, August). Afterschool, Family, and Community. SEDL Letter, XX(2), 6-9.
Wallace, K. (2015, February 13). Kids as young as 5 concerned about body image. CNN. Retrieved from

A look at Diversity

One of my recent MA assignments asked me to look at diversity. As part of the assignment, I had to be self reflective about my own diversity and then the diversities that make up my current school. Below is what I found:

Being an educator, we wear many hats: teacher, nurse, counselor, assessor, sometimes even parent, in all of the roles we play there is one thing that stays constant, the need to understand where our student come from. Students’ cultural backgrounds, learning styles, and home life definitely effect how they learn, how they interact with others, and how they approach different challenges. “The concept of diversity presents both extraordinary promise and daunting challenges for education employees” (NEA, n.d). The diversities in our rooms enrich it with different strengths and perspectives, but it also brings social and academic challenges. As an educator, being aware of what makes our students different, will better equip us to make sure they are successful within the educational setting.
Part I: Diversity Self Knowledge

Diversity is what makes us unique. It’s the puzzle pieces that when put together create us. Each piece holding a different characteristic – our race, our heritage, our learning style, our personal strengths and weaknesses, our experiences – both positive and negative, our upbringing, our religion, language, gender, etc. As an elementary teacher, perhaps it isn’t surprising that when I think about diversity I think of Pixar’s 2015 film Inside Out. A story that takes place in the mind of child – showing how her experiences and emotions affect her personal relationships and how she deals with complications and change. In the movie, Riley’s memories are stored in colored orbs. These orbs make me think of the puzzle pieces that make up us. When you think about the millions of things that essentially produce who we are – it is almost overwhelming to imagine having 20 – 25 different students in front of you each with their unique puzzles to help construct. But, this is, in essence, what education is about - helping to put all the pieces together to assist in producing the most successful versions of our students.

            When thinking about how I am diverse, I can’t help but think about the poem by George Ella Lyon (1999), Where I’m From. Where am I from? I am from steel mills, church festivals, and annual family garage sales.  I am from a traditional neighborhood complete with block parties and bike parades. I am from Italian Christmas Eves of seven fishes and Polish New Year’s Days of sauerkraut and pork. I am from Lenten nights of reciting the Stations of the Cross and Christmas Day masses often held in our own living room. I am from a family of singers who cannot carry a tune but sing anyway. I am from “miles and miles of beautiful smiles” up and down the New Jersey boardwalk, Carolina moons, and Florida fishing trips. I am from “call me when you get there” and “Buenos noches”. I am from a broken home, that isn’t broken at all, from a single working mother, who taught me what it means how to work hard and sacrifice and a father, a professional clown, who taught me how to let loose and laugh. I am from a sibling rivalry and knock down drag out fights with a sister who has always been my best friend. I am from 4H ribbons, YMCA Indian Princess camp outs, and evenings at the Playhouse. I am from too many warnings to stop talking and not waiting my turn. I am from leading groups to successful endings. I am from so many places, people, and events.
Where I am from is what makes me unique. It is what has led me to believe the things I do and pursue the paths I have. It is what has made me a leader and a teacher, an explorer and challenger. It is also what has made me sometimes too trustworthy and easily persuaded. It has made me appreciate language and choose to learn through collaboration and experiences.
As an educator, I reflect on my diversities – the strengths is gives me in the classroom, but also the challenges it presents to me. While my love for language and the arts creates a classroom that celebrates those things, it also steers me away from embracing all the intricacies of math and sciences. I’m a social learner, so it is easy for me to stray towards more collaborative projects for my students rather than a lot of independent work. I also was blessed with a childhood that was rich with experiences, that at times I may forget that many of my students haven’t had those same experiences. Some may have never left their hometown and do not have schema for beaches and boardwalks. It is easy to bring our experiences into the classroom, what is challenging is remember that our students’ experiences are very different and will at times contradict ours, and that needs to be considered when planning for how we construct their learning experiences. Not appreciating students’ diversities can lead to students’ feeling as though they don’t belong. This can lead to “decreased participation, feelings of inadequacy, and other distractions” (Yale Center for Teaching and Learning, 1970).
Part II: Personal SWOT Analysis
-          Understanding of Multiple Intelligences
-          Integration of different learning styles and modes of representation in lessons and assignments
-          Appreciation and tolerance of student diversities
-          Understanding how to support different diversities, especially language learners and specific learning disabilities

-          Learn more about different cultures through connections with families
-          Misunderstanding and closed mindedness of both myself and other students that could lead to discrimination and/or bullying
 Part III: Demographic Diversity Profile
Total Student Population
Male:  51%
Female: 49%
African American: 3.5%
Hispanic: 11%
White: 84.6%
Asian: .45%
Other: 0.45%
Socioeconomic Status
Free/Reduced Lunch: 29%
English: 88.9%
Spanish: 10.1%
Other: 1%
Regular Education: 86.3 %
Special Education: 9%
Gifted/Talented Education: 4.7%
When considering the diversities represented at Perry Elementary school, educators and school leaders need to give specific consideration to three particular subgroups: gender, socioeconomic status, and language learners. The data shows that those are our largest subgroups from the 604 students currently enrolled. These subgroups have impacted our decision making when it comes to curriculum, teaching methods, and supplemental before and after school programming. Our community outreach is also tailored to support our Hispanic and low income families.
            Catherine Pulsifer said, “We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity life would be very boring.” I couldn’t agree more, the diversities within our classroom makes for a beautiful tapestry of strengths in which we can all benefit from. These diversities should and need to be celebrated. Not only should we look for and appreciate the diversities of others, but we also need to look inward to find what it is that makes us unique and reflect on how that influences our daily lives, both the strengths and the weaknesses that come from it. This is even truer of those of us in education, who are blessed with the opportunity to add to the puzzle pieces that make up our students.

Docter, P. (Director). (2015). Inside Out [Motion picture on DVD]. United States: Walt Disney Pictures Pixar Animation Studios.
Lyon, G. E. (1999). Where I'm From . Spring, TX: Absey & Company.
NEA. (n.d.). Diversity Toolkit Introduction. Retrieved February 20, 2017, from
Yale Center for Teaching and Learning. (1970, January 05). Diversity in the Classroom. Retrieved February 25, 2017, from

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Video Book Reviews

Our most recent writing unit had my students doing some serious review writing. Following along with Calkins’ Units of Study, we began by judging our collections, then moved into becoming review writers of all things, and ended with writing book reviews. Last year I only made it through the first two bends, so I was exceptionally excited to dive into this third bend. When I read that celebration should be in the style of Reading Rainbow – I took it very seriously and used the week before Spring Break to bring some technology into the classroom and create our on Reading Rainbow Styled Reviews. 

At first, I thought this would be a fairly easy task:  

Students read a book. 
Students write a review. 
Students read their review in front of a green screen. 
Teacher adds cool background.  
Audience whoos and ahhs. 

Well, I should have known better – whenever bringing technology  in, always leave time and room for lots of trail and error. 😊 That’s exactly what we went through! But after quite a bit of work on my end, I think we’ve ended up with some pretty cool (though novice looking) green screen reviews. 

Here’s what ended working for me: 

I used the app green screen by DoInk.

I taped each student in front of green butcher paper reading their review using a school Ipad. Before recording I had a good idea of the background I would be using. I wanted something that resembled a newsroom. So when I taped I kept students towards the right of the screen, leaving room for the newsroom tv on the left.

Then I just surfed the internet for a background. I could have stopped there and just merged the image and video together using the app, but I had a vision that I was persistent on seeing through. I wanted the book that was being reviewed to be pictured on the newsroom tv screen, while the student reviewed it to the right.  

This is where things got complicated. First, I had merge the image of the book and the newsroom background into one image. My school Ipad did not have a program or app to support this, so I found that the easiest way was to use Pow-toon on my computer to create the blended image. Then I did a screen shot and saved it as a jpg. At this point, I had to transfer those images to my Ipad to use as the background on green screen ap. 

Quite a bit of work – but I’m very happy with the end result. Hopefully next year, after more trial and error, I will be able to give you a more streamlined way to create these very fun reading rainbow inspired reviews.

 So here is a sample of the before and after:

Here's the link to Luke's finished review:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fancy New Desktop

I spent my frigid President's Day cleaning up my computer. This meant organizing my documents, clearing up all the random icons/docs on my desktop, archiving old emails, and just basically do a technological spring cleaning.

My crazy cluttered desktop was one of the biggest problems. Here is the before: 

When I take away the background you can really see all the junk I had on it:

Files! Files! Everywhere! I couldn't stand it anymore - not only was it lacking a serious cute factor but it was completely unorganized. If  I needed to access something quickly - aka my Spring Conference schedule, I was hunting . . . where is it in the rows of unidentifiable icons? 

After probably spending - more time the I probably should have - voila! a cute organized desktop - where everything is easy to find! 

Yes - this is my desktop now! Blow it up and you will see it is screenshot I just took. Don't you just LOVE it ?!? Everything organized and pretty and neat. Don't worry if you don't want to organize by blogs, programs, documents, to-dos and notes - you don't have too. I added those titles. So here's how I did it.

Getting the cute desktop organizer: 
First I picked up the super cute background from Inspired VA Services. She has several different designs to choose from and even offers to customize one for you if you contact her! Super nice right?!

After choosing the design I added the text using PicMonkey and fonts I had from DJ Inkers. Next I set it as my background and started arranging icons.

Creating Custom Icons:
But that ended up bothering me too - this adorable background and ugly little file folders and chrome icons all over. So I decided to learn how to create my own icons and it's unbelievably easy.

First drag the shortcut to the webpage (in my case blogs) or files you want on your desktop. Then find an image you'd like to use for the icon - save it to your pictures. Then go to Free Online Icon Generator and use the generator to create an icon. I used the 48 x 48 size. Finally right click on the old icon, then properties, and change icon. Browse to find the one you created online. Easy shemeasy lemon peasy.  Soon you will be creating icons for everything! See my heart box - I even created them for my different network folders.

Now the trick is locking the icons in place. I read that you need to:
- right click on the desktop
- go to view
- uncheck autoarrange and align to grid
- place your icons
- go back to view and click refresh

I'm worried though that when I reboot or link to my projector they will move. I will most likely cry if that happens.

But until that I'm happens it calms my soul to look at such and organized desktop - not if only my real desk looked this nice. :-)

Update: I have rebooted my computer, connected it to a projector, and used extend screen option and my icons have stayed nicely in place. :-) Yay! 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Toolkit Training

I was asked by my reading coach and principal to provide a training to our staff on The Primary Comprehension Toolkit after break. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity - thrilled that we were going to beginning the implementation of these amazing resources which I have been raving about since my interview. So over break I've been rereading the teacher's guides, going through my supplemental resources, and even picked up a copy of Staff Development with Comprehension Toolkits: Implementing and Sustaining Comprehension Instruction Across the Curriculum. So needless to say - by desk has been covered with these bounteous texts.

After many hours of reading, highlighting tabbing, digesting, quoting, typing, revising, and editing I've ended up with a pretty good presentation. Because I used some of the slides from the Staff Development book I can't publish it here.

But to sum it up my presentation included:
- An Introduction to Comprehension Strategy Instruction
- An overview of each strategy, with a activity to launch it that teachers could take back to their classrooms (most came from Comprehension Connections), and an opportunity to look at and discuss student work with the strategy
- A walk through of the Toolkit components
- A modeled lesson
- and  time for PLCs to dive into the materials

This will be my first formal training at my new school and I am so excited to be sharing a resource that I love! Here it goes .  . .


So . . . the training went great even though I was dragging from being up all night with the flu. But I feel like the teachers walked away with some ideas to use when students get back next week as well a better idea of why and how we can teach comprehension strategies.

Thank you to my literacy coach, Christy Patriarca, staff developer Angela Butler, and authors Stephanie Harvey and Tanny McGregor for your help in putting this together! 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Reflection and Resolutions

"Reflection allows us to improve, revamp, and revise. Reflection is essential."  
- Harvey, Goudvis, Schroden

As the year comes to a close and we embark on 2015 - I find myself reflecting on all the successes and setbacks of 2014 as I begin writing my resolutions for the new year. So lets start with some reflection.

2014 was a whirlwind, both professionally and personally for me. It was my first full year back in Ohio and I feel like I really began settling in to both my home and my position at Perry Schools. Along with the "settling" came some amazing opportunities as well as some painstaking hurdles. So here are my Cheers and Jeers of 2014. Professional to Personal.

  • Traveling to NYC for Teachers College
  • Participating in the Planning and Training of PES Staff in Reading and Writing 
  • Hosting Mentor Schools for Staff Development in Writers Workshop
  • Participating in Instructional Rounds
  • Introducing Primary Comprehension Toolkit to my school
  • Reforming ELA curriculum for 1st Grade
  • Having a best friend, +Alexa Farmerie  join my team
  • Buying a home in Ohio
  • Making it "my own"
  • Being a Playhouse Ticket Holder
  • The "Cleveland Independents Deck" 
  • Electric Run
  • Road Trip with my sister +Kristina Ambrosia-Conn and good friend Holly
  • Visiting a childhood favorite vacation spot - Ocean City, NJ
  • The marriage of one of my besties, Jenna

  •  Having to drive home from NYC on the 4th of July because flights were cancelled
  • Extensive, tiring, sometimes under appreciated hours of work of new math and reading curriculum
  • Renovating my new home and finding that their is still a ton to do
  • Replacing the furnace that blew
  • Time Warner - enough said
  • Family Illness 
  • The lost of my beautifully inspiring Aunt Margie

The table is a nice graphic, forcing me to remember that they year had more highs than lows and to be grateful for all the amazing opportunities and people in my life. 

So moving into the new year. I have decided to follow my sister's lead and do 15 for '15. 

1. Complete the 2015 Reading Challenge
2. Run in the Color Run - which means I better start conditioning now! 
3. Complain less, encourage more - which also might mean biting my tongue 
4. Begin Weight Watchers, hit my goal weight, and love my body - LESS McDonalds!
5. Start pursuing my Masters - so I better decide if I want to go into Ed leadership or Curriculum . . . can't I do both?!?
6. Rally my favorite couples ( +Linda Teese+Alexa Farmerie +Ashley Mingoy +Derrick Braden +Michael Licata , +Sarah Rhoades) together and go on our own version of a "Couples Retreat".
7, Blog More - I promise to try! Starting small with once a month, but hope to up that especially come summer time
8. Less Social Media - More Developed Personal Relationships. This means I'm vowing to put down my phone when in the presence of others
9. Be a more gracious daughter - calling regularly, showing my appreciation, returning the favors
10. Be a more attentive wife
11. Be a more playful pet owner
12. Work towards achieving/doing something from my vision board
13. Do something entirely for myself, by myself
14. Be a better listener - putting the phone down should help
15. Avoid a midlife crisis in Feb - when I turn the big 3 - 0

So there it is. Hoping that at the year of this year I can also have a longer list of Cheers than of Jeers. Happy 2015 and good luck on your resolutions! See you next month - or sooner! ;-)