Virtues Anchor our Learning

Julia Olmedo (AP), Kelley Horvath (Inclusion Teacher), Jennifer Connolly (Math Resource), Nicole Wagner (Reading Specialist), Bridgett Palmer (STAT Teacher) – Chapel Hill Elementary

Virtues Anchor our Learning at Chapel Hill Elementary Watching students stick with a complex non-fiction passage utilizing the Notice and Note Nonfiction Signposts, shows their determination to focus their energy and efforts on a task.  Through our integration of Notice and Note Nonfiction by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst within the larger BCPS curriculum framework, students are more fully engaged and questioning the text they are reading. Across curriculum areas, students are adopting a questioning stance discussing what changed, challenged, or confirmed their thinking with one another.  When students utilize the Notice and Note Nonfiction signposts and strategies their engagement with the text deepens leading to greater rigor.  Students are steadfast and persistent as they construct meaning from nonfiction making connections from one topic to another and from one content area to another.   Students and teachers at Chapel Hill Elementary participate in their daily mathematics lessons with determination and perseverance.  As a school, students and staff are dedicated to high-level application and problem solving as we focus on the foundations of mathematical discourse. Teachers and students are mindful to incorporate rich mathematical vocabulary into their conversations and journal writing and make a deliberate effort to incorporate mathematical conversations and connections to the real world on a daily basis. During shared learning, collaborative small groups and in their written work, students challenge not only themselves, but their classmates, using Math Talk stems to spark dialogue and engage in meaningful problem solving applications.  At Chapel Hill, teachers have taken pride in creating supportive classroom environments that encourage risk-taking and provide safe learning zones for students to meet the high expectations that are placed upon them each and every day, and we are so proud of their commitment to successful learning and academic growth.

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“We want kids as readers of nonfiction to be active, to challenge the text, and to invite the text to challenge and change them. When students recognize that nonfiction ought to challenge us, slow us down, and make us think, they’re more likely to become close readers.” – Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst


#BeTheChange. The driving force behind teaching and learning at Glyndon Elementary!

Alaleh Sadri- 3rd Grade Teacher

“Be the Change you wish to see in the world.”
Change in Mindset:

Last year, we began our journey with restorative practices. This meant a change in mindset for both staff and students. Not only did we need to learn a new approach to character education and discipline, but we also needed to learn a new language- the virtue language. We started small by implementing community meetings in every class, including special areas, to help build relationships. We then continued to enhance our work by teaching students how to use the virtue language and how to problem solve through “I messages” and justice circles. You can now walk into any classroom and hear students talking about perseverance, commitment, unity, and the meaning behind demonstrating those virtues throughout their lives. Instead of hearing teachers say “great job”, you will hear statements such as “I am proud of your diligence and purposefulness during that assignment”, or “thank you for your helpfulness and orderliness as we cleaned up the classroom at dismissal.”

Change in the Building:
As we focus on making all of our school wide initiatives cohesive, we are continuing to enhance our work with literacy and restorative practices on a daily basis throughout the building. You can now find a classroom library in our gymnasium for additional information on the sport of focus, and if you enter Mr. Allard’s art class, you are welcomed with an interactive timeline of art through the years.  Mr. Allard dives deep into vocabulary while promoting questioning using artwork during community meetings, and Mrs. Keller connects digital citizenship to the virtues so students are able to demonstrate their understanding of the virtues throughout their day. When you walk into any classroom during math instruction, you can hear students using math discourse and explaining their reasoning while questioning others using mathematics vocabulary. Our essential questions for reading come to life during community meetings when teachers have additional time to enhance the understanding of the questions using connections to the text using additional literature they are reading.  Literacy is everywhere!

Change in Our Community:
As we work to expand the Glyndon community outside of the walls of our building, we have been taking our academic celebrations into the community. Last year, we began the school year by riding a bus around our surrounding neighborhoods, giving out supplies to our families, and letting them know how excited we were for a great school year together. In October, we had our second annual “Fall Fest” outside of the apartments surrounding our school. Families joined us for a night of food, literacy and math games, the Book Fair, as well as a visit from Oregon Ridge Nature Center and the BCPL library.

Students enter into the building knowing that they are a part of a strong community of learners. We strive daily to ensure our students reach their maximum potential in learning. Using their knowledge, self-discipline, and self-awareness, they can #bethechange they want to see in the world.


The Power of a Strong Learning Community

By: Emily Caster, Principal Sparrows Point High School, Jennifer Gounaris Principal, Sparrows Point Middle School

At Sparrows Point Middle School and Sparrows Point High School, one of the things we collectively take great pride in is creating a family environment for our students. We have a saying at The Point, “Once a Pointer, Always a Pointer,” that represents the family feeling and warm, caring environment in our school building, that houses students in grades 6 thru 12. We are proud to have a fiercely loyal group of teachers, support staff, students, parents, families and alumni, all working towards a common goal of ensuring that every student has the best possible experience and leaves prepared for a bright and rewarding future.

We are a community of learners. This year, our school community has sharpened our instructional focus around literacy. We know that literacy can either be a barrier, or an opportunity for our students. One of the strategies we are using this year is called “Reengaging Readers,” through our English Language Arts Department.  Through Reengaging Readers, each student will self-select a full text that they will read throughout the school year. We are excited to see the results of having every student having selected and read a novel or biography of his or her choice from our library.

We are a community of leaders. At our school, we look for creative ways to grow student leaders. This year, we are growing student leadership through our Pointer Sisters mentoring program, which is a collaboration between our middle and high schools. We are also promoting student voice and leadership through our male mentoring program and our student led peer mediation program, Pointers for Peace. High school students support the middle school by serving as student helpers in middle school classrooms, and by serving as recreation leaders in the high school physical education department.

We are a community of change agents. At Sparrows Point Middle and High Schools, we embrace change, we encourage change and we are change agents! We pride ourselves on honoring the storied past of our school community, while planning for the ever changing landscape within our immediate community, county, state, nation and world. One way we equip our students with 21st century skills is through refining their P21 skills both in and outside of the classroom.  Through a study of 21st Century themes and subjects, we foster our students’ development of key learning skills including creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.  These skillsets are nurtured through a blended model of instruction where technology and media literacy are modeled and paired with face-to-face instruction in responsive methodologies. Additionally, our students are imparted with the life and career skills needed to be both college and career ready upon leaving The Point. This balance of content and process prepares our students for various post-secondary pathways.

Enhance Your Wonder

Kristi Enriquez, Principal

As educators, we are constantly seeking ways to bring learning to life for our students; making the content meaningful for each individual in their own way.  Often times, students verbalize their inability to relate to the text or bridge connections to their learning by virtue of inexperience.  At Battle Grove, we made it a priority to deliver experiences through opportunities to connect to the world in which they live.

Nestled in the heart of a small community, Battle Grove is not only a safe place for students to learn during school hours; but it is the place our scholars come before and after school hours to participate in clubs and activities where they can let their talents and creativity shine.  During these moments we see the excitement and curiosity take place within our young students.  It is through these experiences, we are able to build connections and foster 21st century skills within our students.

Before the school day begins, many of our fourth and fifth grade students plunge into their day with the arts; studying a variety of musical content through the artistry of singing in our morning chorus.  As you walk down our hall, you will observe our young entrepreneurs working at the school store, counting coins and preparing change for their customers.  Prior to the day beginning, scholars are experiencing responsibility, time management, offered a unique opportunity to start the day in a positive manner.

Afterschool, you will find many of our female students running in preparation to participate in the “Girls on the Run” 5k.  Through this program, the girls build connections with their teammates and coaches, encouraging one another to strive for success.  Our Boys club, meets weekly afterschool, affording a safe space for our young men to speak openly, build bonds, and feel a sense of pride within our school to become young leaders and role models.  For those who would like to give back, “Helping Hands” aims to promote empathy, serving the community in which we live.  Our students feel “at home” participating in all of these activities, in which they are awarded opportunities to connect to and interact with the world around them.

Whether students are attending a show for the arts, observing in a museum, or exploring at a farm; Battle Grove strives to enhance inquisitiveness in our students through experience and building connections in and around our community.  Through these moments, we are engaging the minds of our scholars, providing the students with a community where they feel safe to take risks and explore their “sense of wonder”.

Utilizing Morning Circles to Help Strengthen Classroom Communities

By: Jeff Hogan, Principal

I have always considered myself a very passionate and enthusiastic educator. However, one facet of this amazing profession I have grown more passionately to pursue is the need to address the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of school communities. You certainly do not have to look far to recognize the “instabilities” in our global society. It is without hesitation I choose to view these “instabilities” as an opportunity on campus to reclaim civility hoping the learning experiences of our youth transfer into broader communities. I am so proud that the Elmwood school community stands united in this expressive endeavor and has warmly embraced the opportunity to build our restorative practices capacity.

One very advantageous first step was the implementation of classroom morning circles on a daily basis. A circle where each day the entire class says “good morning” to every child within the circle. A circle where all opinions count, tears are embraced, and empathy and sympathy are nurtured through the rich experience. A circle where discussions among children consist of deep and profound topics such as, but not limited to, bullying, role-models, forces of nature and its devastation, race, and even equity. A morning circle where virtues are discussed at length, and grit and growth mindsets are cultivated. A circle where some children arrive on-time simply to ensure they will be a part of the morning discourse.

Through this novel experience I determined expeditiously that children exhibit almost an innate ability to share their truth with more ease than most adults. This simple morning circle, when done with purpose and daily, can serve as a game-changer in and out of the classroom. This morning circle can help ensure the classroom experience feels more like an opportunity to the school staff to address the needs of every child’s social, emotional, behavioral, and academic well-being. Acknowledging as a staff our students’ basic needs and social-emotional welfare must be addressed first or simultaneously with academic rigor and standards is paramount.

Why…because life is better when surrounded by those who choose to support you, embrace you and love you because of your imperfections. Knowing that perfection comes with time and communities are strengthened as members are more thoroughly known and celebrated for their individualism.

So, no, I never believed my space in education would look like this 19 years in. Where character education is more vital now more than ever before and could be the remedy for “instabilities” in society. Without the consideration of educating the whole child it is obvious that communities will remain, at best, mediocre.

The invaluable truth to this restorative journey is that the children are making me more mindful of my emotions, my actions, my thoughts, and my true propose. Undeniably, it’s a journey worth continuing to travel.


Supporting the Whole Child

By: Jennifer Pilarski, STAT Teacher

Weekly Experiences

Restorative Practices are a way of life at Norwood Elementary and this year we are expanding our practices to include mindfulness and social-emotional support; even our School Progress Plan includes Mindfulness. Our Behavior Interventionist, Mike Gorecki, has taken a more proactive role in becoming a weekly “special” for our students in what we call SMILE. Each week the students engage in lessons about Social thinking, Mindfulness, Imagination, Leadership, and Emotions and they are able to practice those skills in our brand new sensory room. The room is also available for any student, or teacher, who needs a sensory break or mindful moment. This week the students were developing their skills around whole body listening and then were able to visit the sensory room to practice breathing and calming strategies.

Daily Experiences

Norwood’s classroom teachers are also supporting and developing our student’ social-emotional learning through mindfulness areas, journal entries, and lessons. Mindfulness folded in seamlessly with our existing program of Restorative Practices. The daily community circles, problem solving circles, and consistent use of virtues language that we have always done has been enhanced by our new focus on mindfulness. In mindfulness, we have found a new way to support our students’ social-emotional health. Each day our students begin with a community circle where they can share their successes and challenges, both academic and personal, in a safe and secure environment. At least once a week the students also write in their journals to express their feelings, demonstrate understanding of virtues, and share mindfulness strategies. Norwood teachers come from a place of support, so we are trying to ensure that our students have the skills they need to deal with their emotions, make positive choices, and build empathy towards others.

Factories of Learning

We also completed our first round of Problem Solving Factories at each grade level and we are proud to share that we were honored at Stevenson University’s Center for Character Education for this initiative. Each grade level comes to the gym and participates in four stations; two role plays, one team building, and one focused on exploring virtues. The classes come to the gym and sit in circles to go through prompts with their homeroom teachers. This provides the class a special opportunity to get to know each other and work through potential problems when the emotions are not running high. One of my favorite prompts was about touching things that belong to others; the kindergartners talk about asking permission and the rules of sharing, but our third graders really got into a discussion about stealing. We believe that if the students have worked through some of these problems when they were not emotionally invested that when they are faced with the real situation and they are feeling intense anger, frustration, and/or sadness, they will have the language and skills developed in the role play to fall back on. The highlight of this particular round of Factories, was the compliment circle. A student was put in the center of the circle and his or her classmates took turns giving virtues based compliments; for instance, I like the way you showed perseverance on the math tests or I like the way you showed kindness when you shared materials with me. The smiles could not have been bigger on their little faces!


Pikesville High School Reads Together

Jennifer Meltzer, Library Media Specialist

This past spring our school seized an opportunity to embark on a new journey pertaining to summer reading at Pikesville High School.  With the collaborative efforts of our English Department Chair, Erin Haroth and our Principal, Mrs. Sandra Reid we decided to implement a school-wide read.  We had approached this idea in the past, but this time, we took deliberate steps to have a deep and meaningful impact for our students.  We decided to select the One Maryland, One Book title, which is a book identified by Maryland Humanities for exceptional literary quality.  Additionally, the title must be one that connects with high school students as well as adults and be one that can sustain long term discussions.  This year’s theme of “home and belonging” led their selection committee to the novel, Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie.
In order to have a large number of copies of this book readily available for our students we applied to participate in the One Maryland, One Book program which provides 30 free copies of the book along with educational resources.  This provided us with a jumpstart, so to speak, to get us moving in the right direction.  Our principal provided additional school funds to purchase 50 more copies of the book.  Almost all of our local copies of this novel went into circulation.  Over 50 percent of our staff read the novel, spanning content areas and positions.  From secretaries to science teachers, our staff was involved!  We are unable to count the number of students who read the novel by acquiring it by their own means, but we know from completed summer reading assignments, that they are numerous.
In order to draw our students into this school wide read, we coupled the mass quantity of books on hand with a marketing campaign.  I personally delivered numerous televised morning announcements showcasing the book.  We sought out the expertise of our incredibly gifted interactive media production students to help us design posters and assignment papers that would advertise the novel and the program we were offering.  The program consisted of five suggested assignments to be completed such a student created playlist to go along with the novel or a character interview.  We also offered a summer reading celebration for all students who participated.  This event took place last Thursday, the 28th of September.  I reached out to Dominos Pizza of Pikesville and Wegmans of Owing Mills and both businesses donated enough food for our entire luncheon.  During the celebration, students shared their projects, engaged in “dice discussions” and listened to staff member’s reactions to the book.  I shared my personal family story (which paralleled the book in so many remarkable ways) using the Pecha Kucha story-telling strategy coupled with Voice Thread, one of the digital tools offered in BCPSOne.
What our school experienced as a result of this school-wide read was a one-ness that was palpable.  Our STAT teacher, Mrs. Theresa Bates, commented on how wonderful it was to visit classrooms and hear students refer to the book in multiple class discussions and activities.  The novel became a reference for many in providing examples of various themes, such abuse, political power and religious fanaticism.
For me personally, this experience was life changing, both personally and professionally.  I have reconnected with the foundational pedagogical practice of making connections with students and finding ways to connect students’ learning to their personal lives continues to stay at the forefront of my practice.  When I asked one of my students what she saw as the benefits of a school wide read she responded, “It allows students to perceive different views of other cultures and traditions and see that people are more than what people see them as.  It unifies different groups of people together and doing a school wide read encourages people to express and understand, or interpret a piece of literature to broaden their mindset.”  What I witnessed at our summer reading celebration, where students of all different groups and grade levels came together, was evidence that students did just that.