Friday, January 20, 2012

Football Friday!

It is said that baseball is America’s favorite past time. Well, that may not be true here at Van Derveer School. Mr. Diaz, literally, is the 49’ers biggest fan, and his enthusiasm is contagious! Our school community has caught the football fever and today everyone is dressed to support their favorite team. Football seems to have taken over.

Each day at recess, groups of student bound up the hill, girls and boys alike, to play some football! While Mr. Diaz has the privilege of quarterbacking these games, I have had the pleasure of observing them. The students are learning so much more than making a first down, catching and throwing…..
They are learning that their classmates have different abilities;
They are learning the importance of good sportsmanship and being a good sport;
They are learning the feel of an adrenaline rush after running around exercising,
They are learning that friends can be on opposite teams, and still be friends,
They are learning to try, try and try some more,
They are learning that some days you win, and some days you lose.

During recess, our students have the opportunity to practice the character education skills that we are teaching them in the classroom. The playground has become its own outdoor classroom. So no matter who wins on Sunday, we are teaching our students that there is more to a game than the scoreboard may show.

Are you ready for some football?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Leading with Heart

As we start a new year, it is a wonderful time to reflect on the past and anticipate the future.  I find the start of a new year to be an exciting opportunity to celebrate and contemplate, to recognize and reorganize, to acknowledge where I have been and plan for where I want to be.

Nicholas Diaz, assistant principal, and I have taken time to reflect on ourselves as school leaders at Van Derveer School.  Through our conversations and reflections, our collegial dialogues and musings, we realize that each day we endeavor to lead our school with passion and heart.  As such, the podcast, Leading With Heart, was created. 

We hope you enjoy this glimpse into Van Derveer School: a place to learn, a place to grow, where children come first!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Getting Into the Swing....

Van Derveer School is proud to be the recipient of a grant from The First Tee National School Program sponsored by The Barclays through The First Tee of Raritan Valley.  Our students are learning the skills and concepts of golf while exhibiting character education traits!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

McVDV Night

I’m lovin’ it!

Last Wednesday night, November 30th, a group of Van Derveer teachers, along with Mr. Diaz and me, served the families of Somerville with a smile at our second McVDV Night.  Working alongside the McDonald’s employees, the Van Derveer staff waited on the hundreds of people who arrived between 5:00-7:00 pm.  The line snaked through the restaurant while the stream of cars stopped traffic on Route 22 as people waited patiently for dinner.
McVDV Night is wonderful fun and it serves so many purposes!  The high school students who work at the Somerville McDonald’s taught us how to strategically fill an order in less than a minute, the best technique to fill the French Fry containers (my job all night), take the drive-thru orders on the computerized screen (Mr. Diaz’s task) and do it all with a smile (the teachers were in fast mode all night).  Needless to say, there were many laughs behind the counter as we learned our new jobs!  And many apologies, too, as we banged into each other and ‘stole’ each other’s food for the orders. Our students were able to witness us learning new things, and not being perfect with each attempt, but still trying!   
Families had an opportunity to sit and have dinner together with one another.  The children eat lunches with their classes so how perfect that they could eat dinner with their neighbors and friends.  It was so fun to see groups of students giggling over Happy Meals while the parents had a chance to chat with each other!  One parent sent me an email and said that McVDV Night was ‘clearly the place to be on Wednesday night!’   A ‘regular’ customer (a non-VDV customer,  that is) said he couldn’t believe the amazing energy, enthusiasm and fun in the restaurant: THAT is our community spirit at its finest!
Our hard work and efforts raised $230.00 for Van Derveer; the money will be used to supplement the Staff Angel Tree where families in need are provided with gifts for the holidays.  This hard earned money could not be put to better use!
The founder of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, said, “None of us is as good as all of us.”  I feel like that quote captures the spirit of the Van Derveer community. Maybe that is another reason it was such a spectacular night!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

VDV's Walking School Bus Program

We even walk in the rain!
 I had the honor of presenting at the Central Jersey Regional Best Practices Sustainability Conference at Duke Farms on Saturday, November 5, 2011 the Van Derveer School Walking School Bus program.  As the expert presenter in a Transportation Learning Circle, I proudly shared our successful walking program!
In 2004, the Van Derveer School launched a walking school bus program through a partnership with RideWise TMA of Somerset County.  The five safest routes to Van Derveer School were delineated for the students and families to use following an analysis of the Borough crosswalks, posts of crossing guards, and quality of sidewalks.   This has been a success due in large part to the strong partnerships between Van Derveer School and the Somerville community, especially the Somerville Police Department!
The walking school bus has been in full swing ever since the 2004 launch.  Walking Wednesday and Foot-It Friday (added two years into the walking program) continue to be high points of the week for the students.  The students are provided with a ticket for walking and entered into a raffle to win a prize while the ticket tally provides data to the number of walkers and analysis of the program.  Over the years, many organizations have joined in the walk including McGruff (Somerset County Crime Stoppers), the Somerville Fire Department whose trucks led the bus, Somerset Patriots Sparkee and many more!  Ms. Frevert, second grade teacher, walks every Wednesday with the students!
In addition to arriving at school invigorated by their walk, the students have learned about making healthy decisions, pedestrian safety, and ‘stranger danger’.  The students’ learning also extends into the neighborhoods as they are reminded to be respectful citizens.  In 2006, all Van Derveer students and staff received pedometers, through a grant from United Way, to raise the awareness of how many steps are taken each day.
The Somerville Borough received a 2007 Safe Routes to School grant in the amount of $250,000. Data from the Van Derveer School walking program was utilized in the successful grant application.
The Van Derveer School walking program has been highlighted over the years.  Al Roker Productions on The Food Network showcased our commitment to healthy decision making in the Spring of 2006.  Newsweek magazine wrote an article in September 2007 outlining the benefits of our program.  Raheema Ellis, NBC Nightly News correspondent, joined the walking school bus and highlighted our program on NBC Nightly News on October 5, 2008. 
All students, families and friends are invited to walk to school each and every day!  On Wednesdays, a group leaves from the Cornell Skate Park at 8:00am; join in on the fun when the group passes your neighborhood.  Copies of the safe routes from your neighborhood can be found in the Van Derveer Main Office.  The walking school bus is just one example of success in Van Derveer School community. 
Arriving to school with smiles~

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Celebrating Reading

A key component of the mission of the Van Derveer School is to challenge every child’s development of personal literacy.  The teachers provide students with skills and strategies in an integrated literacy block.  The support of parents and families is integral in improving literacy skills.  Below are some ideas for families to promote and foster reading:

Partner read: take turns reading pages or reading paragraphs, one person can read the dialogue and the other can read the text

Play word games: rhyme, change letters to change words

Re-read the same books and poems

Visit the Somerville Public Library

Borrow books from the Van Derveer Book Nook (the library in the Main Lobby)

Retell the story in your own words….and change the ending or part of the story

Encourage your child to look at the picture or to break up a word into sounds if a word is difficult

Dig deeper: ask questions while you are reading “Why do you think the character did that?”, “What do you think is going to happen next?”, “What would you do?”

Model thinking while reading: “That reminds me about a time when I….”, “I wonder why…”, “This story makes me think about another story because…”

Talk, talk, talk: share family stories, discuss the day’s activities, comment on TV shows you are watching together

Read different types of books: fairy tales, mysteries, non-fiction

Discover books your child enjoys: ask friends for recommendations, visit different websites including two great resources for book choices,  and, ask the librarian

Enjoy reading!

The Van Derveer School community will continue to promote the joys of reading. Among just a few of the activities planned are Mr. Diaz and I  partner reading stories to the students (ask your child about the two we have read:  Llama Llama Red Pajama and Have You Filled A Bucket Today?), school-wide reading  activities and programs held throughout the school year, Somerville High School students and community members reading to our students, and book fairs.   Together, as partners,  we can instill in all of the students a life-long appreciation and love for reading.

Share your family’s reading celebrations!