Building a strong school community to support student success

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Students in John Glas’ sixth-grade class at Edward Neill Elementary School work together on math problems.

My goal as a leader is to build the strongest school community in the state of Minnesota. Our community is our greatest strength, and the manner in which we work together will determine our success.

As a community, everything we do must be focused on universal high expectations for all students. Values, beliefs, assumptions and core values must be aligned to success for every child as the backbone of what drives us.

I want every student to feel like Nicollet Junior High student Sundus. She awed everyone when she spoke at the recent State of the District event.

“We’re not homogenous — we have different backgrounds, stories and lifestyles, and that in itself is empowering,” Sundus said about her school community. Continue reading

A sundress and a Dora the Explorer backpack

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Gabi.First.DayIn September of 2002, a favorite sundress and a Dora the Explorer backpack were the two most important things to my soon-to-be kindergarten daughter. I remember my feelings of her leaving each day for her grandmother’s house and then walking to school knowing she was going to have a great day. After school our house was filled with stories about her friends, teachers and the discovery of new knowledge. Checking out her first book from the school library, attending her first field trip and the unforgettable first music performance are now distant memories. And, how could I forget the daily inspection of that Dora backpack? One peak inside the backpack revealed artwork with colorful pipe cleaners, stories about friends, math problems with elaborate explanations…and a half-eaten apple or unopened bag of chips. I also soon realized that school was a place of socialization. I learned the names of my daughter’s friends, where they lived, what their pet’s names were and who could kick a ball the farthest. While attending my first parent-teacher conferences, I learned things about my daughter that caused me to reflect as a parent and an educator, and I got to know some amazing teachers throughout the years.

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Youth Service Thrives in One91

During a trip to Ethiopia, Egeziharya Yilma noticed that schools and students lacked supplies. So the Burnsville High School 10th grader created the Project Pencil with a goal of collecting enough school supplies to fill a suitcase. So far, donations have filled six!

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Egeziharya Yilma, Burnsville High School grade 10

Husni Hussein has made volunteering his extracurricular activity. The Burnsville High School 10th grader volunteers in an after-school elementary program, in the theater program at the high school and in a program that supplies weekend food for elementary children in need.

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Slowing down to speed up: The importance of mindfulness

How important is it to be mindful about our thoughts and actions? Rash decisions are usually bad decisions, and the mistakes we make could usually be avoided by simply pausing so we can be aware of what’s going on with our minds and our bodies. That’s why catchy advice like “go slow to go fast” and “measure twice, cut once” resonates with us.

Instinctively, I think, we know these things. But knowing it and being good at it are two different things. The truth is that being mindful takes practice. It’s a skill we learn and one that we can start learning from a very young age.

A study in Madison, Wis., schools recently showed that young students who practiced mindfulness with help from their teachers experienced some tremendous benefits. By taking part in activities like focusing on breathing, calming exercises and others, students showed more positive social and emotional traits than their peers who didn’t participate. The mindful students even had better academic results.

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Senior Elissa Kapusinki goes practices yoga during “Yoga, Pilates and Fitness” class at Burnsville High School.

In schools today, there is often a feeling of being rushed to cram in all of the state standards and practice tests we can so that students are ready for the next standardized test. But what lesson is that teaching our students? We must also take time to think, to be mindful of ourselves and those around us, and then pass those skills on to our students, too. That way, when they’re facing a stressful situation, they’ll have the knowledge and the skills they need to succeed in the real-world as adults. Continue reading

Students seeing brighter futures though AVID

AVID is a game-changer. I saw that in my previous district and I’m seeing it here too in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191.

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AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a national program that opens up possibilities for students to accomplish more than they ever imagined by increasing academic skills, raising expectations and building confidence.

This was especially clear to me last spring at a ceremony for our first AVID seniors to graduate from Burnsville High School. Each shared how AVID changed them by simply stating how they were before participating in AVID and how they were after. Continue reading

Thank You to the One91 Community

The results from the Vision One91 vote show that the people in our community care about our schools and about our kids.

I am thankful that so many of us had the chance to get out and share stories about our hopes and dreams for the future of our school district and the opportunities for our students.

The next 18 months will be busy with construction design, building projects and moving students, staff and programs.  We will continue to work hard building off the positive momentum from the results of this vote.  We also have a lot of outstanding work happening now. I’m proud of our staff and students for making the best of real-world ready opportunities each and every day.

Vision One91 is OUR vision and it’s time for us to do some great work together. I’m thrilled with these results and I’m even more excited to implement our plans alongside our staff, students and community.

Thank you to the One91 community!

DiscoverBHS Night provides a taste of what Burnsville High School offers

discover_bhs_night_2015_facebookI am lucky to see first-hand the work our students and staff are doing on a daily basis. Through this blog, my goal is to share an insider’s view of our schools and give you a glimpse of the teaching and learning taking place around our district. That’s exactly what Burnsville High School accomplished February 3 with its first DiscoverBHS Night.

Principal Dave Helke and his staff members invited parents, younger students, alumni and community members to spend an evening getting to know Burnsville High School and the people that make it go. Dozens of student groups and teams were on hand to share their work and passion with attendees. This included our Youth Service Program that encourages stewardship and helps students find volunteer opportunities that match their interests. Last year, through this program, 760 students volunteered 11,189 hours at 163 different community locations. So many student groups were represented, including robotics, cross country, DECA, Step Club, the Theatre Guild and many more. I was even humbled by participating in a mock competition with our Quiz Bowl team.

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