The SBUSD Year of Learning Project

A community of learners sharing their stories

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Michelle Syverson, Academic Coach at Oneonta

Committed to Learning

ameliaThis summer I spent some time with my great-niece Amelia, she is an impressive little girl with many talents.  Amelia is bilingual; she is able to speak English & Spanish fluently and will translate if needed.   She loves to look at books and have them read to her, yet will correct you if you mispronounce a word or say a sentence incorrectly in Spanish.  What was truly amazing was watching this newly turned three year old, navigate herself through technology with ease.  She was able to sign-in to her Amazon account and read books, her YouTube account to watch her saved Nick Jr. & PBS videos and can exit each website correctly.  After our visit, it made me ponder, what technology skills will our Kindergarteners have in 2015-16 & will we be prepared for them?

I have to say, I’m truly proud of the staff at Oneonta.  Everyone on campus has made a commitment to a year of learning with Common Core.  Part of this commitment includes usage of technology, knowing correct terms, navigation of the internet and varied systems.  We currently have every class scheduled to use either chrome books, net books or our computer lab on a weekly basis while others use it daily.  We have some dipping their big toe in the pool of technology, others like our 5th & 6th grade team have dove in with keyboarding skills, using Google Docs to produce, publish & share  their work with their teacher and/or peers for editing or feedback.  I look forward to this year of change in Common Core and I’m excited to see what’s in our future for technology.

About the Author:  Michelle Syverson is the Academic Coach at Oneonta.  She’s a wife, mother of one, Aunt of five & Great Aunt of four.  She loves teaching especially math & technology.  She was initially introduced to computers in the late 70’s, while watching an IBM punch card system for accounting, then receiving a personal commodore 64 in the early 80’s.


Isabel Guerrero, Academic Coach at Bayside

Becoming a Connected Educator


I am finally getting myself updated on technology!  By this I mean I am using Twitter, Edmodo, and blogging.  I am learning all the exciting workings of Google as well.  
I have set a personal goal for myself. My goal is for these forums to become second nature to me so that information or information sharing is right at my fingertips. Wow, what a time saver! Once I memorize all my usernames and passwords I will be all set to conquer the world with my vast knowledge of every subject imaginable.
Even as I learn, I am able to stay in the know with my school site, learning about what’s working in SBUSD, and maybe even how my extended family is doing.
How many millions of subjects I could actually study or become expert at is just a question of time on task and my degree of passion. The great thing about staying connected is how easy it is to stay current on the topics I enjoy. Of course I am interested in developing my professional learning, but these tools will help me keep up on other topics I love like health, literature, new music, current world news and home improvement—pretty much subjects that are popular with the average middle-aged folks!
Professionally I’m excited about learning more and sharing ideas with teachers and students. I continue to learn about using technology as a creative tool, to create presentations with sounds, pictures, and words, to find creative reading and writing forums or blogs and discovering new ways to make writing fun for kids! 
Not only am I learning as part of work, but I’m having my teenagers at home tutor me.  This adds to my learning and adds to some well spent family time, too.
The bottom line is, all of that time I spent with dread and worry about having to become more tech-y, was not really warranted.
My new learning has proven to be a great asset to my career and personal life as well.
About the Author:  Isabel Guerrero @IGuerrero1 is an Academic Coach at Bayside.


Jil Palmer, Principal Emory School

This year Emory School began our second year of professional development around the subject of Writing.  Our first PD of the year encouraged each teacher to begin by building “a community of writers” in their classroom and our presenters even gave us a number of excellent writing exercises that would help to build a writing environment where students felt safe to take risks and to share their thoughts and writing with their peers.  I recall walking into classrooms where teachers were working on the “identity poem” activity with their students and I was brought to tears to read and hear what students were sharing about their personal lives.  I remember one day when I visited 3 different classrooms and in each classroom, when I looked at student work, I was struck with sadness and surprise to find out how similar parts of the poems were.  When students were asked to use the mentor text, “Mention that it makes me sad when……….”, it was basically the same for many of the students.  “Mention that I feel sad when my parents argue and fight”.  I recall thinking,  “If only the parents knew how much their fighting affects their children” and “Look how much we can learn about our students from this one simple activity” and “Wow, I wonder if these students realize how much they are alike in many ways”.

These questions and the idea of building empathy within our classrooms was recently brought back to  the forefront of my thinking when one of my amazing Kindergarten teachers asked me if I could help her in brainstorming some ideas to address the amount of  aggressive and negative behavior that she is noticing with her students this year.  We discussed a few ideas and landed on the idea of spending some time each week having “class meetings” in hopes of building an environment where students have empathy for one another and see themselves as a family.  We spoke about the time that might be taken away from other academic instruction but both felt it would be worth the investment if it ultimately diminished the amount of time dealing with these other time consuming negative behaviors.  I also explained to her that the discussion, if structured appropriately, would most assuredly address Common Core speaking and listening standards consequently “killing two birds with one stone”!!

Today, the teacher began her intro to this concept by speaking to the students about the word “empathy” and did a great job of defining this in “Kindergarten/5 –year-old language”.  We then quickly discussed what we do in our family to show that we care.  I also introduced the concept of “roses” and “thorns”.  (This is stolen from my daughter’s 5th grade teacher where each student has the opportunity to share one “rose”, something that has made them happy, excited, etc. and one “thorn”, something that has brought them sadness or frustration, during their class meetings)  and I modeled with my own “rose” (My son just got back from 6th grade camp and that made Mrs. Palmer very happy because I missed him when he was gone.)  I shared that my “thorn” was that shortly after returning from camp, he was already fighting with his sister and that frustrated me.   We explained that today we didn’t have a lot of time to share but allowed one little boy, who was clearly sad as tears were streaking down his face, to share.  He started by saying “My thorn is that no one wants to play with me at recess and this makes me sad.”  It was so special to see how many students immediately yelled out (we will still need to work on how to respond without multiple shout outs at the same time) “I will play with you next time”.  I even noticed the girl next to him was patting him on the back in hopes of helping him feel better.  (Tears in my eyes!!)  Every day I am reminded how much we can learn from our students when we give them time to share their thoughts, whether it be about Writing, Math, or “Roses and Thorns”.


This was just Day 1 in the class meeting “experiment” with Kindergarteners. The teacher and I discussed that she probably won’t have the time to allow each child to share daily (Imagine how long it would take for 25 Kindergarten students to share every day!!) so maybe she will draw sticks and explain to everyone that only 5 students will share every day but that everyone will get to share by the end of the week, if they want to.  I’m sure we will find that we need to make adjustments along the journey but just seeing the responses today was encouraging and inspiring. As I returned to my office to do more research on other ideas for the class meetings, I was further encouraged when I read the following Edutopia post from Anne Shaw in which she states,

“Without an excellent, intentionally designed, emotional environment (one which builds authentic community in the classroom), the standards and the technologies are of little value. As Steven Covey and many others have said, “First things first!”  There are three facets of a classroom and school environment: 1) the physical environment, 2) the emotional environment, and, 3) the academic environment.

I would argue that most every teacher would agree that the emotional environment of the classroom is critical.  How much time are we investing in this?  I challenge everyone to find the time because I am confident it will be well worth it! And I’ll keep you “post”ed on the Kindergarten experiment.

About the Author:  Jil Palmer is the principal at Emory School


Barbara Elliott-Sanders, SBUSD Trustee

“When I’m 64”

Yesterday I turned 64! When the Beatles’ song was released, the age of 64 seemed so far away and now here it is.


I was one of those screaming, crazy girls one sees in the footage of Beatles’ concerts. The thought of being 64 was so strange and my imaginings of how life would be is nothing like my life today. I guess I imagined myself “knitting by the fireside, grandchildren on my knee” as the song says. Those who know me and my lifestyle know that is not the case!

Recently Dr. Mc Namara and I began our “Masters in Governance” program for new School Board members and superintendents sponsored by the California School Board association. One of the modules we attended was on working with others and community relations. It included an activity which helped us all to better understand how we view ourselves, the world around us and others.

The facilitators had the participants go to a station in the room labeled with the decade in which we graduated from high school.  The participants covered the decades from the 50s to the early 2000s. The energy, laughter and enthusiasm grew as we recorded the major events of “our” decade. We then reported out to the group. The most powerful task of this experience was to determine how we view the world through the “lens” of these events and experiences. To hear others share created a discussion that was enlightening and thought provoking. We learned that our “lenses” do effect our interactions with others whether we realize it or not.

So as I continue to learn and grow, I will enjoy my decade of the 60s as I am now 64!

About the Author: Barbara describes herself as an original “Beatlemaniac” and a child of the 60s, flower power and all. She is completing her first year as a SBUSD Board member. She is a CASA(Court Appointed Special Advocate) working with foster children and is active in her church and community. She also keeps waiting for “those grandchildren on her knee”.


Veronica Reyes, Resource Teacher at Berry

Setting Goals


This year has been a challenging year for me, I found myself losing sight of what is important.  I was busy at work but not necessarily accomplishing what I wanted, I was gaining weight, and I was not working out regularly. Something had to change!  I had to stop and reflect. As I reflected, I realized I had forgotten to set goals for myself.  I work best when I have a goal in mind and I work towards reaching it. I had to set those goals up, at work I started setting monthly, weekly, and daily goals.  For my workouts I set a weekly schedule that included what type of exercise I was going to do and how long I was going to do it for.  And finally my meals, I set the goal of eating healthy Monday-Friday and one day during the weekend where I will allow myself to eat whatever I wanted.  I feel much better now that my goals are set, my life is running much more smoothly and I am actually reaching most of my goals.  (Except for the days I eat out during the coaches meetings.)

About the Author:  Veronica Reyes is a Resource Teacher at Berry, she loves to run, read, and obviously eat!

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Stephanie Cantos, Academic Coach at Nestor


download copy

I wanted to share this engaging strategy in ELD or content classes, WDYK ( What DYou Know). Its a game in partners, you will have a paper and a dice and a timer. You will be given a topic of interest and each player will have a chance in playing.
To play, partner A starts by writing something related to the topic in each box for each letter in the alphabet in the same time Partner B is rolling the dice until they get a six(6) once the get a 6 Partner A stops writing and switches roles.  Its very engaging with kiddos! Have fun!
Here is a link to a document to help you get started!


Melinda Wold, Academic Coach – Special Education


Transitioning from a classroom teacher into an Academic Coach role was a big adjustment for me.  After being in the classroom for many years, I wasn’t quite sure how it would feel to be in an office instead of a classroom.  I was so used to the excitement of getting my classroom ready for the new year; ready to see the nervous looks on students faces, and watching the tears roll down the cheeks of scared parents on the first day of school.  This changed  me watching those events happen to my colleagues and missing that feeling.

As we are into our 3rd month of school, we are all diving into the CCSS and I feel that all of us are, in some ways, missing the excitement of the “first day of school” because everything is so new!  We miss the comfort of what we have always done in our classrooms and are scared of the challenge of changing the way we educate our students.   But I have learned from being an Academic Coach that change is scary, awkward, confusing, and frustrating, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Success, however big or small, will happen but we have to be ready and open for the change.

About the Author:  Melinda Wold is an Academic Coach supporting Special Education Teachers.  She enjoys walking, painting, and finally being able to relax on her ranch!