Sunday, November 28, 2010

Alaska State Teacher of the Year for 2011

Physical education teacher Susie Denton, left, and librarian Susan Sielbach hold up a quilt Wednesday made for Alaska Teacher of the Year Lorrie Heagy during an assembly. (photo: Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
For those readers who check my blog regularly, you may have noticed that I've been delinquent in posting these past few months.  It took a reader from Germany who e-mailed me to ask if everything was okay to realize that I need to explain the reason behind my negligence, as well as get caught up on my postings pronto!   

On November 14th in Anchorage, I was awarded the Alaska State Teacher of the Year for 2011.  It has been and continues to be an incredible honor to represent Alaska's teachers, especially those from the Juneau School District whom I have benefited from working alongside these past thirteen years. 

With this honor comes incredible responsibility, and even though I continue to teach full-time, I've also been given the opportunity to attend and speak at conferences, as well as lead teacher workshops.  They have all been positive experiences, but my blog has suffered as a result.  So, I have some catching up to do. 

I'd like to start with this gift from Glacier Valley: 

Right before Thanksgiving break, the Glacier Valley staff and community surprised me with an assembly to celebrate the award. I was greeted in song and invited to sit on a stool, which was  surrounded by the entire school population.  All of the students had written letters with representatives from each grade level standing and reading their letter aloud before presenting them in beautifully bound class books. 

The photo above captures a quilt sewn by my teaching partners, Susie Denton and Susan Sielbach.  I don't know how they did it, but they managed to have every child cut and sign their name on a heart to create this beautiful gift during the school day without me noticing!  Thank you!

The Juneau Empire wrote a wonderful account of the event for their Thanksgiving issue:  Glacier Valley Cheers Heagy.  

I'd like to dedicate to Glacier Valley and the Juneau community this short iMovie that I made for our Digital Storytelling club several years ago.  It sums up how I feel about living and working in such an incredible community.  The little girl sitting between her father and older brother is me ...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Violins Are Here!

Thirty-five violins arrive from Chengdu, China ready for JAMM kindergartners
The closing of the curtain on last week's Paper Violin concert marked the beginning of JAMM lessons using the real violin!  The kindergartners can't wait to hold these beautiful violins, which arrived from Chengdu, China.   Mr. Xia, our violin instructor, personally played on these violins while visiting China last summer and was able to describe our program to the owners of the Seven Colors Wind String Shop who sold the violins to JAMM at a generous discount.  Thank you,  Seven Colors Wind String Shop and Mr. Xia, as well as Holland America and the Douglas-Dornan Foundation who funded violins to outfit an entire classroom of kindergartners. 

Our hope is to be able to quickly transition the violins from the hands of one kindergarten class into the next.   Fortunately, I had the opportunity to visit ORCHKids in Baltimore last year as part of the Abreu Fellowship.  While there, Dan Trahey, the director of the program, shared with the fellows a classroom violin storage unit on wheels that they had custom-made to help cut down on transition time, as well as avoid opportunities for violins to break when children take them in and out of their cases.  Here is it:

Violin storage unit from ORCHKids in Baltimore
JAMM heeded Dan's advice and built something similar with storage donated by Glacier Valley's art room.  With the help and ingenuity of the Juneau School District Maintenance Department, our storage unit became a sturdy violin storage unit with maximum capacity of thirty-five violins and room to store bows and other supplies.  We color-coded each cubby with tape:  white for 1/10 size, yellow for 1/8, red for 1/4 and green for 1/2.  Here's the final product with one of our master craftsmen standing proudly beside it.   Thank you, Juneau School District Maintenance Department for your time, energy and creative problem-solving!  Now we're ready for next week!

JAMM's new violin storage unit built by the Juneau School District Maintenance Department

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Week 10: Paper Violin Concert

Sixty Glacier Valley School kindergartners demonstrate the steps to holding the violin
Playing to a packed audience, our kindergartners had their first taste of what it means to be performers!  These little musicians were poised and prepared.  They welcomed the audience of proud family members, supportive community members and curious 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade classes with a Nigerian welcome song, Funga Alafia, accompanied on the drums by students from Mrs. Phillips 3/4 grade class.   Then we moved right into the Paper Violin portion of the concert.

Here is a short video clip highlighting their performance:

We are all very proud of our young violinists who demonstrated focus, discipline, teamwork and the joy of music-making as part of an ensemble.  After photos were taken of parent and child holding paper violin, these beautifully hand-crafted instruments made their way home, a rite of passage symbolizing that each child will be playing the real violin in the next JAMM class!

Thank you, Association of Alaska School Boards, Douglas-Dornan Foundation and Holland America for making this next step a reality for our kindergartners.  They can't wait!!!  I'd also like to thank the Juneau Empire for covering our event.  I'm proud to be part of a community who cares so much about our youth and makes things extraordinary happen for them.

Click here to read the Juneau Empire article: