Monday, January 6, 2014

Roaring News!

Happy New Year Baldwin Community!

I hope everyone enjoyed the winter break and that you were able to get some well deserved rest and relaxation. As we begin 2014 and the Spring Semester for this school year, I wanted to share some highlights from our 2013-2014 fall semester. All of our children from PreK through 5th grade worked extremely hard during the school day to meet their daily goals and so many of our children continued this learning in our after school clubs and programs that also showed great success in the first semester.

Every day that I walked through classrooms, I would observe students, teachers and volunteers working collaboratively and learning together. The enthusiasm for teaching and learning was seen in all of the faces that I saw in classrooms and in the hallways. No matter how difficult the new concept, the new skill, the topic and/or the subject area, the students were always finding ways to make connections and master the new learning.

Each month our hallways, classrooms and portable buildings were decorated with top notch student class work and art work. Each of these pieces of student work demonstrated the learning that was happening in our classrooms every day. I was amazed and so proud of the work that our children produced every day during the first semester at Baldwin. All of the hard work that our teachers put into planning their daily lessons was seen in the children's work products.

Throughout the first semester, we had many school events that brought our community together to share their time, talents and treasure. I would like to share a few of these events that you, the Baldwin Community, made so special for all of us.

The week before classes started this year, we had a team of volunteers that came together to help distribute the pre-ordered school supplies. This huge task could not have been accomplished without the help of Kelsey F. and Rami H. and the others that came out to organize and distribute these items. Getting the students' school supplies to their classrooms prior to our "meet the teacher" event is very important to our children and these volunteers made this happen. Thank you for your help!

Immediately with the start of the school year, our office and classroom volunteers began working with us to help us get the day to day work completed. I want to thank all of the office and classroom volunteers that helped throughout the first semester. Your daily support helped us immensely. At the end of September into the first week of October, our PTA sponsored "Staff Appreciation" week and with the help of many of our parents, the Baldwin Administrators and Classified Employees received some very generous gifts from the Baldwin Families. On behalf of all of these staff members, I thank you for your generosity and kindness during this designated week of appreciation.

On October 18, the PTA held the Baldwin Annual Fall Carnival and once again, it was a HUGE success. Erica M. was the lead coordinator for this event and she did an excellent job of organizing so many opportunities for all of our Bobcats, young and not so young, to have a great time. I was challenged again this year by one of our students, Robert W. to ride the mechanical bull. I am proud to say that this year, I stayed on the bull for 32 seconds; not bad considering the year before I only lasted 6 seconds. Ms. Butschek, one of our third grade teachers also rode the bull and was a great sport through it all! Despite the weather and the rainy days that led up to the night of the carnival, our Fall Carnival was a lot of fun for all of us especially the children. Thank you Erica M. and the PTA for putting on such a great family event!

Also in October, our fifth graders went to Camp Champions and stayed overnight. The students and teachers had a wonderful time learning more about nature, astronomy, team work, collaboration, self-determination and perseverance. I want to thank our PTA for sponsoring some of our students so that all of our fifth graders could attend this overnight camping trip. The students came back with many stories and some experiences that they will never forget. Thanks for your support with this field trip!

During this same week, our PTA also sponsored the "science museum" and all of our students Prek-5th grade were able to visit this traveling museum in our very own gymnasium. The students, teachers and volunteers all had great things to say about this traveling museum. Again, thank you PTA for providing this opportunity for our students and teachers.

We then ended October with our 2nd Annual Vocabulary Parade and what an awesome way to show how much we love learning at Baldwin! Despite the rain, the parade was a huge success! The majority of our students and staff members participated in the vocabulary parade in costumes that represented their chosen word. I was an apiculturist (a beekeeper). One of the highlights of our parade was the Bowie Drumline! These group of students were amazing and gave our parade the special touch it needed to make it even more exciting than what we already had planned with all of our costumes. Thank you to all of our parents that helped their children with their costumes so that they could participate and thank you to all that came out to cheer us on! I already have my word picked out for next year and I can't wait for next October!

Our Accelerated Reader program has continued and we have celebrated top readers several times already this year! I am very proud of all of our students that continuously participate in this program and all of the reading they are doing to earn points and prizes. Keep up the great reading!!!

The "Great Leaps" Reading program was started again this year with reading volunteers for every first grade classroom. Our Great Leaps Coordinator Dawn B. secured reading volunteers for every classroom for every day of the week. We are very grateful to Mrs. Bowes and all of the volunteers that come out every day to help our first graders become stronger readers and to be college ready readers!

Mrs. Stevens, our music teacher, once again this year formed an amazing Baldwin Choir that serenaded us at different times throughout the first semester. The students learned not just songs but movements to go with the songs and they were great performers. I am looking forward to the spring semester and what they may have planned for us in the next coming months. Mrs. Stevens and the other music teachers also worked with our third graders in the first semester to put on a third grade performance that was absolutely amazing. The third graders were very poised and their singing, dancing and dramatic performances were outstanding. Thank you to all of the parents that helped with the props and getting the students dressed for their performances.

Our second graders held their annual market days in December. These second graders were so excited with the opportunity to create and sell their products. When I visited the market, I observed young, proud entrepreneurs that were thrilled to be selling their products. This was an experience that they will never forget. Thank you to all of our parents for supporting our students and teachers with this endeavor. Our second graders learned so many lessons during these market day experiences.

In December, the Baldwin Community once again showed their appreciation to all of the Baldwin Staff by sending us different cookies and treats during the PTA sponsored Cookie Exchange. Every staff member was able to enjoy some very special treats on that day and for many days afterwards. Thank you for showing your kindness in this way. During the month of December, the PTA also sponsored "Santa Night" with pizza for dinner and the movie, "The Polar Express." This was a very special evening for our children and families and I thank you for participating in this family event. During this same week, we also held our fall book fair in the library. We were able to generate extra funds for new library books and other library items that are important to our children, because you, the Baldwin Community, came out to show your support by purchasing items from the book fair. Thank you so much for your support with this event! Our PTA also sponsored the Care and Share program again this year and it was a HUGE success. I want to personally thank Tara S. for leading this effort and I want to thank all of our caring Baldwin Families that donated presents and gift cards to our families that were in great need this Holiday Season. Thank you for caring and sharing your "gifts"!!

During the fall semester, we had many after school programs and clubs that our Bobcats participated in every day of the week. I would like to thank Michelle G. for coordinating our Math Pentathlon Program and finding coaches and volunteers for every grade level. This program is now under her direction and has teachers and parents as the coaches. The program is going strong and I am looking forward to a great spring semester of fun and learning for all of our pentathletes. Thank you to everyone that helped out with our Math Pentathlon program during the fall semester.

We also had some very strong and innovative Robotics Teams this year. Three of the Baldwin Bots teams competed in two different qualifiers in early December. The "Hurricanes" blew everyone away with a strong project presentation and one of the their best robot runs ever! The "Highlighters" were as bright as ever taking the first place in the research project presentations and earning an invitation to the Central Texas FLL regional tournament in March. The "Cobras" wrapped up the competition and slithered home with the Championship Award for all around excellence and have also advanced to the Regional Tournament. The other two teams, the "Robo Serpents" and the "Robo Warriors" competed later in December and we will have their results after the winter break. I am very proud of the 5 teams and their hard work. They worked long hours after school and on the weekends to get ready for this year's competitions. Congratulations to the Baldwin Bots and their coaches.

I have two more highlights that I would like to share with all of you. During the past couple of years, two of our teachers, Mrs. Reaves (4th grade teacher) and Mrs. Lengle (2nd grade teacher), have been working on completing National Board Certification. This certification requires hours and hours of self- reflection and documentation of teaching practices. The mission of the National Board is to advance student learning and achievement by establishing the definitive standards and systems for certifying accomplished educations, providing programs and advocating policies that support excellence in teaching and learning and engaging National Board Certified Teachers and leaders in that process. The National Board seeks to elevate the status, voice and role of accomplished teachers in shaping a true profession. This includes: 1) raising public awareness with respect to the cognitively complex, collaborative, and expertise-driven nature of teachers' work; 2) setting higher standards for entry and advancement into the profession; and 3) recognizing accomplished teaching through a rigorous professional certification process comparable to those found in other premier professions, such as medicine, engineering and law. In December, both teachers were informed that they had completed all of the requirements and have received the recognition as National Board Certified Teachers! Congratulations to Mrs. Reaves and Mrs. Lengle on this huge accomplishment. I am very proud of both of these teachers!

As you can see with everything that I shared (and these were just a few highlights), we were a busy learning community at Baldwin Elementary during the fall semester and I suspect that our spring semester will be no different. I appreciate all that you give to our children and our school! I look forward to seeing you at Baldwin this new calendar year!

Roaring with Pride,
Dr. Peña