Friday, December 16, 2011

Multi-Cultural Day 2011

Each year at the conclusion of the Holiday Musical, the second-graders at Chets Creek spend a day digging deeper into the actual celebrations that were discussed while preparing for their musical.  The Resource Team runs various centers throughout the day, each one covering one of the holiday traditions.

Yesterday, I spent the day in Israel teaching about Hanukkah.  Yes...the Arab in Israel, speaking Hebrew and sharing the story of the Maccabees and their miraculous victory in battle over King Antiochus and his Syrian army over 2000 years ago.  The people of Judah were outnumbered 100 to 1.  (Not a great ratio, unless your god is the God of Israel.)  Long story short, God worked several miracles on their behalf, one of which was multiplying the oil in their lamps when they returned home from the war.  They had enough oil for one night, but God miraculously re-filled the oil for the next eight days.  Hence, the "Festival of Lights" celebration we know as Hanukkah was born.

Take a peek into my center and see what transpired....

"Eight Days of Hanukkah" was playing while they entered the room.  They couldn't see my laptop screen, but could hear the story of the Maccabees re-told through the song.  Senator Orrin Hatch (Utah) wrote the song and had it recorded.

The story of Hanukkah


Playing the dreidel game

We concluded our time together with a
story entitled, "Light the Lights"

The other centers included the celebration of Kwanzaa, Parranda and the Christian Christmas story.

Until next time...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Once on a Housetop 2011

'Tis the Season for Holiday Musicals and Performances!!

Tonight at 6:00 p.m., we conclude our holiday programming with "Once on a Housetop" performed by the classes of Mrs. Walag, Mrs. VanAlstyne, Mrs. Morgan, Mrs. Tsengas and Miss Evanko.  They have worked very hard to provide you with a performance that is sure to delight!

This multi-cultural holiday musical written by Roger Emerson and John Jacobson takes place on several different housetops.  Various holiday traditions are being celebrated and viewed through the eyes of a group of chimney-sweeps who are up on the rooftops cleaning chimneys.  While they are taking care of business, they discover that not everyone celebrates the holidays in the same manner and it is an eye-popping experience for each of them.

"Once on a Housetop" 2011 on PhotoPeach

Last Thursday, the same musical was presented by the classes of Mrs. Metzger, Mrs. Morris, Miss Thomson and Mrs. McLeod. This Thursday, the entire grade level will celebrate "Multi-Cultural Day" as a culminating event for this unit of study.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation for all of the hard work that went into this production.  You guys never cease to amaze me!!

Mr. Brooks, it was absolutely fantastic having you back in the house!!  Thank you, Ms. Bailey for allowing him to come!!

Until next time...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

I'm sure there was music performed somewhere along the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade route in New York City today, but I thought it quite fitting that my sister took a picture of Spiderman and e-mailed it to me from the bleachers.  How thematic of her!!

Happy Thanksgiving, Superheroes!!

Until next time...

Monday, November 21, 2011

McKenzie's Run 2011

Let's see....this year, I've done the Wolfson Children's Hospital 5-miler, the Winter Beach Run (4-miler), I was a Running Buddy in the "Girls on the Run 5K" last spring, I ran to support the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in April, I did the GREEN (Eco-Friendly Builders) Run in June at the request of my cousin, the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Cancer Care run over Labor Day weekend, the Komen Race for the Cure in October and this past weekend, McKenzie's Run 2011.  As I was flipping through my calendar to chronicle the above, I realized that I had invested time, money and energy to support a cause at least ten times this year.  That's almost once a month! I had no idea!!

The McKenzie Noelle Wilson Foundation raises money to help children succeed in life, whether it is the orphanage they built in Africa or the McKenzie Academic Resource Center (MARC) at Portside in Jacksonville, Florida.  It is such a blessing to take part in something that ultimately blesses others. 

Chets Creek had a team of walkers and runners who participated in the event on Saturday.  My sister and I were proud to be a part of it.  If you would like to contribute to the ongoing work of this young lady's foundation, visit  Her life was cut short, but her family turned tragedy into triumph and their efforts are making a difference.

Paulette and Dee Dee
Everbank Field
November 19, 2011

Until next time...

Friday, November 18, 2011

WVU Armed Forces Salute 2011

The West Virginia University's Marching Band out-did themselves with their tribute to Veterans past and present.  Check out their half-time show honoring each branch of the Armed Forces.  If you can figure out what the formation is for the US Coast Guard, please leave me a comment at the end of the post.  It looks like an upside down ship to me.  I assume they were playing to the other side of the stands.

This is what I saw as I watched the program:

Army (a moving tank)
Coast Guard (an upside down ship)
Marines (an eagle)
Air Force (a fighter jet)
Navy (a submarine)
USA (Great Seal of the United States with flag)

What a great show!! I cannot begin to comprehend how many hours of rehearsal went into that program.  It was phenomenal!!

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Syncopation Lesson

Teaching the concept of syncopation is not an easy task.  One must start with the basics of steady beat and progress through the process with the students.  If you can help them understand that syncopation is nothing more than shifting the beat from the strong beat to a weak beat, they'll get it.  They may feel it in their bodies long before their brain figures out what's going on with the beat.

Today, I used a rhythmic piece by Bob DeFrece called, "Mouth Sound Piece."  I taught it by rote (on the syllable "choo") and we determined that lines 1, 2 and 4 were exactly the same.  Line 3 was complimentary, but was unlike the other three lines.  After labeling the syncopated portion with the syllables "syn-co-pa," I asked the students to work in groups to try to lay out the rhythmic pattern of the piece.  They never saw it written down.  They had to use their memory, auditory skills and rhythmic reading abilities to accomplish the task.

working in groups

tah, tah, ti-ti tah, syn-co-pa-tah (rest)
tah, tah, ti-ti tah, syn-co-pa-tah (rest)
syn-co-pa, syn-co-pa, syn-co-pa tah tah
tah, tah, ti-ti tah, syn-co-pa-tah (rest)

So proud of their finished product!!

Until next time...

Duct Tape Diva

This post has absolutely nothing to do with music and everything to do with my principal who will go to great lengths to get her students to read.  Last year, during our 25 Million Word Campaign, Mrs. Phillips agreed to be duct-taped to the wall while reading books.  She was unable to fulfill her obligation due to her being "in the family way."  Today, she made good on her promise.

For two hours, Mrs. Phillips was duct-taped to the wall in the lobby.  Scores of children paraded by her while she read books.  It was quite the sight.  Matter of fact, I've never seen anything like it.  I admire this woman greatly.  Her two hours on the wall had to be squeezed in between three different awards ceremonies celebrating our honor students and outstanding citizens from the first quarter.  I'm still not sure when she ate lunch (or if she even got to eat lunch today). 

She is such a good sport - all in the name of literacy.  I tried to capture her in photos, but they just don't do her justice.  I didn't realize duct tape came in so many different colors.  Our PE coach strapped her in with several strands of University of Florida-colored duct tape.  The problem is that she's a Clemson fan and I'm afraid our Coach is going to pay dearly for that decision.  Ah well....

Mrs. Phillips - The Duct Tape Diva

How will she ever top this one?
Until next time...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

All-State Elementary Chorus 2012

The results are in...

Veteran Katie G. was selected to participate in the 2012 All-State Elementary Chorus for the second year in a row!!

Katie represented Chets Creek Elementary last year and will be heading to Tampa, Florida to perform with the top elementary singers from across the state in a joint concert at the Tampa Convention Center on Friday, January 13, 2012.  Two-hundred fourteen students were chosen from six-hundred sixty-eight auditioned entries.  We are so proud of her!!

Katie has matured into quite the young singer over the past year. She is currently performing with the Jacksonville Children's Chorus and loving the experience. You may have seen her concert today with Grammy Award-winning performer, David Holt.  She's a great kid with a great talent.  I can't wait for her music to arrive so I can begin preparing her for the concert in January.  Congratulations, Katie!!

Until next time...

"Chart of Awesomeness"

You may think this is simply a pocket chart with twenty rhythmic reading flash cards hanging on it.  Maybe in another music teacher's classroom it is.  However, in Mrs. Tamburrino's general music classroom, it has affectionately been dubbed "The Chart of Awesomeness."  

Mrs. Tamburrino's "Chart of Awesomeness"

A former fifth grader decided that's what the rhythmic reading chart should be called and the name stuck.  It is nothing more than a pocket chart hanging on a garment rack with wheels, but my students think it is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Maybe it's the way I present the material...

I introduce rhythmic reading in third grade.  I re-introduce it in fifth grade to help review and solidify information that was previously taught because my fifth-graders are given an end-of-course exam by the district in art, music and PE.  The level of difficulty changes from the pre-reading cards (white ones) to the yellow ones.  I teach them to perform the cards in three ways - a) using speech syllables ("tah" for quarter notes and "ti-ti" for two eighth notes) b) "say and play" which is an aural, visual and kinesthetic experience and c) counting on the numbers (which is the way real musicians do it).

I recently had a class successfully perform all twenty cards without error and the enthusiasm in the room was off-the-charts!  They were the first third grade class to successfully complete the task this year.  They were jumping up and down, screaming and hollering with glee, asking me if they could do it again (so we did it in reverse just for the challenge) and I gave each of them a stamp on the back of their hand as a token of my appreciation for their hard work.  It was a day of rejoicing in the music room!  Matter of fact, their excitement over their success brought me to tears.  It's moments like these that make me show up for work every day. 

Congratulations to the third grade class of Mrs. Smith and Ms. Tillis!!
You were truly a bright spot in my day!!

You Rock!!!

Until next time...

All-State Elementary Chorus 2012

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra 2011

Yesterday, we loaded TEN school buses with 440 fourth/fifth graders, teachers and chaperones and headed downtown to the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts where we experienced a "live" orchestral concert by our very own Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.  The concert was underwritten by Target and Duval County Public Schools provided bus transportation for our students.  This concert is a gift; it costs us absolutely nothing.  This "live performance" experience aligns with their curriculum and addresses several of the elementary music standards I am required to teach.

The program was entitled, "American Salute" and included patriotic favorites as well as music written by American composers including Bernstein, Joplin, Sousa, Copland, Gould, Grofe and John Williams.  We celebrated our flag by singing "The Star Spangled Banner," joined the orchestra in a patriotic sing-along and ended the concert by listening to John Williams' "March from Superman."  It was an exciting, engaging and interactive concert for my students and the teachers enjoyed it too!!

To adequately prepare the students for the performance, I taught a lesson which included a guided listening experience, a review of appropriate audience behaviors, a discussion related to the jobs of the concertmaster, the conductor, the performer, etc. and a writing assignment that required each student to fill-in the correct instruments on the orchestra's seating diagram.  I delivered this instruction nineteen times in preparation for our field study.

  Away we go...

On the bus...

Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts

I am very grateful for this opportunity each time it rolls around.  It isn't every day that kids get to dress up, drive downtown and listen to quality music in an acoustic setting performed by outstanding professional musicians.  It is truly a gift.

Until next time...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Komen "Race for the Cure" 2011

As promised, I ran the Komen "Race for the Cure" 5K in honor of my friend Jayne today.  In August, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She's been in the hospital all week; her last chemo treatment was the worst yet.  She has three more to go and then radiation treatments will begin.  Today, I ran for Jayne.

My sister, Paulette, ran the race with me in honor of our mutual friend Ann.  Ann recently finished her chemo and is moving on to the next step in her course of treatment.

I've run this race 4 or 5 times, but I have never plastered someone's photo on my back and carried them with me during the race - until today.  This time, it hit much closer to home.  Five thousand people united for a cause.  It was pretty cool!!

My race bib

My timing chip

Soul Sisters - Dee Dee and Paulette

We love you Jayne and Ann!!!!

Until next time...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fifty Nifty United States

Today was flag-raising at Chets Creek Elementary.  This is the only time we can get the entire student body and our faculty all in the same place at the same time.  The ceremony usually includes our safety patrols, my principal and me.  I am in charge of running the sound and playing the pre-show and exit music.  Today, however, I thought it would be fun to include one of my classes performing a song.

At the beginning of the year, Mrs. Rossignol asked me to teach "Fifty Nifty United States" to all third grade students hoping that it would support their curriculum, help them learn the names of our 50 states and also provide us with a performance piece for their third grade musical in the spring.  Miss Lipsky's class embraced this song and ran with it!

Mrs. Tamburrino with Miss Lipsky's class

The song is listed in the fifth grade "Music Connection" textbook, but they didn't seem to mind that it was two grade levels ahead of them.  I divided the song into three sections because it's wordy and the tempo is rather upbeat.  Sometimes it takes four rehearsals to master it, but this class did it in three.  I saw no reason not to showcase their efforts, so I cleared the performance today with my principal and let them do their thing.  Enjoy!!

I heartily congratulate them on their efforts!!  My sister, Denise, would be very proud!!

Until next time...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

MENC is now NAfME

I always get a little nervous when organizations change their branding.  I don't like it when companies change their products' packaging any more than I like it when grocery stores move things around on the shelves so that it creates a new traffic pattern for their shoppers in the hopes that they will buy more than planned on this particular shopping trip.  It frustrates me; REALLY frustrates me.

As of this year, Music Educators National Conference has a new name.  We are now the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).  Our organization has been around for 104 years.  It seems that only recently, our former name has become a problem.  The association's original name, "Music Supervisors National Conference," became "Music Educators National Conference" (MENC) in 1998.  Since that time, as music educators have had to address policy-makers, they were "spend[ing] too much precious time explaining why our initials did not match our name."  Hence the reason for our organization's re-branding.

Michael Butera, NAfME executive director, said, "National Association for Music Education says exactly what the Association stands for -- an organization for music education for everyone, an association that supports music teachers and the profession of music education, a group that isn't inward-looking and static but outward-reaching and forward-thinking."  (Teaching Music: October 2011, Volume 19, Number 2; Page 13).

Because of the name change, the executive board felt it was necessary to lay out a Long-Term Strategic Plan that encompassed four overarching strategic directions:  1. Advocacy 2. Serving the profession and the music educator 3. Research 4. Organizational vitality.

"Music is a universal expression of the human spirit, a basic human need," the Preamble states.  "It allows us to communicate our deepest ideas and feelings, to explore and preserve our cultural heritages, and to celebrate the realms of emotion, imagination, and creativity that result in new knowledge, skills, and understanding.  Every individual should be guaranteed the opportunity to learn music and to share in musical experiences."  (Teaching Music:  October 2011, Volume 19, Number 2; Page 12).

With that position statement, I heartily agree.  No one should be denied the opportunity to make music, to listen to music, to enjoy music and to experience that 'stirring of the soul' that music provides for us.  It is part of our humanity.

Until next time...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Preparing for the Komen

4-mile training run completed
Saturday, October 1, 2011

It's that time of year again.  The month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  For the past several years, my sister has asked me to run the Susan G. Komen "Race for the Cure" with her.  This is a 5K run that takes place in downtown Jacksonville.  This year, the race will be held on Saturday, October 22nd at 9:00 a.m. at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds.

I've never run for anyone in particular. However, this year, I will don my pink wig and run in honor of one of my dearest friends on the planet.  Jayne was diagnosed with breast cancer back in August.  She just completed her 4th round of chemo last week.  I made her a promise and I intend to keep my word to her.

Today I completed a 4-mile training run.  The weather was brisk and I ran my best personal time yet.  I am hoping for cool weather on the 22nd.  (It's much easier to take the Acosta Bridge when the humidity levels are lower.)

Stay tuned for race photos...

Exit Tickets

The Exit Ticket

The Exit Ticket (sometimes called an exit slip) is being used in the music room this year to ensure that the students in my classroom are leaving with an understanding of the concept that was presented during the lesson.  I am currently implementing the Exit Ticket in grades 1-5.  My Exit Ticket was designed to accommodate answers to ten "Essential Questions" that will be asked throughout the course of the year in each of these grade levels.  The questions are content-specific for each grade level and are proving to be a very useful tracking tool as my students work towards mastery of the content.

Essential Question #1:  The photo above shows the seating diagram for the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.  My 4th and 5th graders are preparing for a field study to attend a "live" performance in November and will be well-acquainted with the seating plan for the orchestra by that time.  On the back of the yellow sheet, there is a blank seating diagram.

Their first assignment was to fill out the blank side by using the pictures of the instrument families on the front side of the paper.  I allotted 15 minutes for this "Essential Question" and most of them were able to complete the task in that amount of time.  They were allowed to use the "Instrument Family" posters in my classroom as a resource.  Some were able to complete the assigment from their chairs; others needed to use the posters on the wall to complete the assignment.  It was a good indicator of who knew their "instrument families" and was an excellent opportunity for review.

If all goes as planned, I will have a portfolio of student work for 1200 students at the conclusion of this school year.  Unprecedented? I'm not sure, but I will do my best to see that this method of accountability is met with perseverence and due diligence on my part.  I am hoping for 80% mastery across the board.  Please stay tuned.

Until next time...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Spirit of America

Last night, I witnessed one of THE most spectacular patriotic presentations I have ever seen in my life!!

My family attended the U.S. Army's "Spirit of America" program and we were blown away by the extravagant sets, costumes, live animals, extraordinary musicians and singers, drill teams, soldiers, multi-media presentations, etc.  I am at a loss for words to describe what we saw, heard and felt last night. 

The tickets were free.  The place was packed.   Our country's history was presented in living color.  The Department of the Army completely outdid themselves.  It was so moving it is still hard to describe.

In the first hour, we were taken back to the days of the Continental Congress and brought right up to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  There were hundreds of veterans in the audience and I hope they felt honored by what they saw and heard last night. We sang patriotic songs that brought all of us to our feet.  We were moved to tears.  We cheered and cheered.  We celebrated America and what it means to be an American in a grand way.  It was awesome!!


The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps
Official Escort to the President

U.S Army Drill Team

The U.S. Army Orchestra

The orchestra opened the show and in the second hour of the presentation, we enjoyed outstanding music from The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own), The U.S. Army Band Downrange (contemporary group) and The U.S. Army Concert Band.  I wonder if the Navy and the Air Force have a show like this? I'd love to get a glimpse of America's history through their eyes. 

Kudos to all the parents and teachers who brought their children to this program.  It was truly outstanding!

Until next time...

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Making of a Memory

My PE coach sent me an e-mail asking if she could "borrow" my 5th grade classes for several days last week.  I was told "it's a secret" and then she asked if she could use the music room for rehearsals. 

It seems that she was putting together a Flash Mob dance that was going to take place during our school-wide flag raising ceremony on September 16th and our principal was not to know about it.  She had asked two former students to choreograph the dance to "I've Got the Power!"  All fifth grade students that wanted to participate learned the dance via video presentation in my classroom.  They were told to bring a pair of sunglasses to flag-raising on Friday.  The sunglasses were to enhance the "cool factor" for the dance.

We are a collegial bunch of educators and wholly supported this effort.  The Art teacher and I helped with crowd control and technology support.  Coach Bailey told the kids, "Hey - it's either this or ballroom dancing! Take your pick!!"  They opted for the Flash Mob.

Coach Bailey giving instructions

Learning the dance

It was a Mob, alright!

Free Dance!!

They may not remember their FCAT scores a decade from now, but they will certainly remember the making of this memory.  Bravo, Coach Bailey for thinking outside the box!!

Until next time...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Laundau Eugene Murphy, Jr.

Over the last several months, children all over America have discovered a new music vocabulary word - CROONER.  A crooner is hard to define, unless you've actually heard one.  They are so "old school."  The likes of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Tony Bennett and Andy Williams have basically disappeared from the music scene.  It is a rare thing to hear a current singer "croon."  The only guy that comes to mind is Harry Connick, Jr. - and he doesn't get much airplay these days.

And then...there was Landau.

Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr., to be exact.  He stole the competition on "America's Got Talent" this season.  He was a humble man of humble means who is now a millionaire and will headline a show in Las Vegas next month.  What an incredible journey....

Until next time...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

All-State Auditions 2012

In order for any of my students to audition for the All-State Elementary Chorus, I must pay my dues.  They must be paid on time and I must attach myself to the elementary component of my professional organization.  Only then can the audition process begin.

The parent organization is the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).  The Florida Music Educators' Association along with its component affiliations (Florida Vocal Association, Florida Bandmasters Association, Florida Orchestra Association and the Florida Elementary Music Educators' Association) is the hosting organization that provides the All-State experience for our students.

Each January, thousands of music teachers from across the state of Florida converge in Tampa for professional development.  Development opportunities are targeted towards your area of expertise.  There are classes for string teachers, band teachers, chorus teachers and general music teachers.  While we are taking classes, our students are working with clinicians in large ensemble settings preparing for a performance with several hundred other students.  The performances occur at the conclusion of the conference.  The All-State experience is a life-changing experience for its many participants, myself included.

Thirty-five years ago, I auditioned for one of those coveted spots in the chorus.  I auditioned every year beginning in 8th grade and was selected to participate every year through my senior year in high school.  It was a distinction no other kid had in Duval County.  I truly believe I am doing what I do today because my music teachers believed in me and were willing to "pay their dues" and work with me.  I owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

Last year, I decided it was time to honor my former music teachers.  I selected one student.  I had heard her sing during third-grade musical rehearsals.  She had a bell-like quality to her voice and a good sense of pitch.  My gut told me she would make it.  I contacted her parents and they were very supportive.  We put together an audition CD for her and mailed it by the deadline and then waited six weeks for a response.  She was one of three Duval County Public School students selected for the chorus last year.  She is now singing with the Jacksonville Children's Chorus and is planning to audition for La Villa School of the Arts next year.

Last week, I auditioned three young ladies for the All-State Elementary Chorus.  I put their audition packet in the mail on Thursday.  Now we wait.

Until next time...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Intentional Teaching

We would all like to call ourselves "intentional teachers."  What I mean by that is that we teach with a certain outcome in mind.  Sometimes our students get it; sometimes they don't.  It is our job to figure out why they didn't get it and what I could have done differently to reach my intended outcome with my students.

In fifth grade, I am currently working on an Orff piece entitled, "Tideo."  The name doesn't ring any bells with me because it is a folk song from Texas (I grew up in Florida).  The lyric is a lovely rhymed text, but it doesn't make much sense.  The melody is quite catchy and singable for 11-12 year olds, but it won't win a Grammy.  Let's take a closer look...

Pass one window Tideo;
Pass two windows Tideo;
Pass three windows Tideo;
Jingle at the window, Tideo.

Tideo, Tideo
Jingle at the window, Tideo;
Tideo, Tideo
Jingle at the window, Tideo.

My intent in teaching this piece is to re-acquaint my students with several elements of music including Time Signature, AB Form, Mi-Re-Do in the A-section, Mi-Sol-Do in the B-section, a rhythmic motive on the words, "jingle at the window, Tideo" (tika tika ti-ti ti-ti tah) and finally the transferrance of that information to body percussion and then to the Orff instruments in the back of my classroom.

You might ask, "How did you pull all of that out of 8 lines of text and a half-dozen pitches? "  It is not easy, but this year in particular, I am having to teach the same content with much less student contact time.  I am learning to make every minute count.  There is no time to waste.  The expectation has not changed; only the amount of time I have been given to move my students forward.

This year, I will intentionally choose material that will present several concepts at the same time. This year, I will stick to the elements of music because that is what they are tested on in second and fifth grade by the district.  This year, I will use an "exit ticket" on which my students must respond to an "essential question" at the conclusion of their unit of study.  This year, I will produce two musicals in half the rehearsal time.  This year, I will teach recorder using a classroom set of instruments and teach three pitches instead of six.  This year, I will do everything in my power to help singers make it to the All-State Elementary Chorus.  This year, my students will learn because I will teach with the end in mind.

Until next time...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Empowering the Future

Chets Creek Elementary – Empowering the Future! from Melanie Holtsman on Vimeo.

When I was a kid, my teachers were my heroes.  Now I've been given the opportunity to empower the future with an extremely dedicated group of educators.

Join me as we begin our 2011-12 school year turning the ordinary, ho-hum of everyday school life into extraordinary opportunities to impart knowledge, teach new skills, create, participate, encourage, lift up and be there for kids.  What an incredible gift!  Our "Halls of Learning" are buzzing with excitement as teachers are due to report on Monday, August 15th.

With great anticipation...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

KIPP School Jacksonville

This morning, I was cruising through the Florida Times-Union with my morning cup of coffee and opened the opinion page to find a rather interesting article on one of Jacksonville's newest charter schools...the KIPP school on Jacksonville's northside.  If you've lived in Duval County for any length of time, you are aware of the numerous disparities among its citizens.  There are sections of town that are under-served in many areas; education, notwithstanding. 

KIPP stands for "Knowledge is Power Program."  If you "google" KIPP, you will find information regarding the program, its tenets, its structure, its mission, etc.  KIPP is a college preparatory school.  A normal school day for "KIPPers" begins at 7:20 a.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m.  Arts instruction is mandatory for every student.  The article states that "these students have about 700 more hours of instruction during the school year than their public school peers.  It's a hothouse of academic expectations."  This is a public school.  Neighborhood kids were recruited to attend this school.

My eye was drawn to the photograph that was included with the article.  It showed a group of students sitting upright in their chairs with music stands in front of them, an open score on each stand and an instrument in every student's hand.  Band is required at this KIPP school.  "Every student is expected to participate.  Principal Robert Hawke said it not only establishes a common theme for the students, but the process of learning a musical instrument produces the character traits of discipline, hard work and a beautiful outcome in the end."  Thank you, Mr. Hawke, for affirming the importance of Arts education in your students' lives.  You are to be commended.

With so much uncertainty swirling around those of us who have dedicated our lives to Arts education, it is  most gratifying to see the value placed on this particular area of study in this particular learning environment.  Kudos to the folks at KIPP!!

If you would like to enjoy the article for yourself, it can be found at  The title of the article is "KIPP School Offers Hope in Northwest."  Sunday, June 26, 2011.

Until next time...

Friday, June 24, 2011


As a kid, I spent three summers of my life swimming on the Ponte Vedra Swim Team.  I rode my bike to the pool every day (3 miles roundtrip), swam laps for 1.5 hours and then pedaled back home.  Practice started at 7:00 a.m. and this was a daily occurance throughout the course of the summer.  I learned to swim all four competitive strokes (front crawl, back crawl, breast stroke and butterfly) plus two recovery strokes (sidestroke and elementary backstroke) and I won numerous ribbons, medals and trophies along the way.

Fast-forward 38 years.....

I am now a certified Red Cross Water Safety Instructor and am spending my days in the pool teaching swimming lessons.  I currently have students ranging from 3 years of age to adult. 

Working on the "flutter kick"

Learning the "back float"

Swimming through a hula-hoop

The sound of water splashing and the smell of chlorine excite me. I'm sporting my new summer "do" (short and sassy) and enjoying the privilege of working with kids in a completely different way.

Living the dream...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Korea's Got Talent 2011

Meet Choi Sung-bong and listen with your heart.

"Beauty from ashes..."  Isaiah 61:3

Until next time...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Field Days 2011

You know it's getting close to the end of the year when folks start talking about "field days."  When you've got six grade levels to cover and 1352 students, it truly takes "days" to git-r-done!

This year's field day experience was by far, one of the best ever!  Coach Estrella Bailey and her team did a fantastic job of planning, organizing and delivering one of the most fun-filled events of the year.  We are extremely grateful for the folks from the Mayport Naval Base who came out every day to assist.  They were a huge help to us and we wouldn't have survived the experience without them.

On a personal note, I headed up the line-dancing station under the pavillion.  Over a three-day period  in 98-degree weather, we did the "Cha Cha Slide," the "Limbo," the "Macarena," the "Chicken Dance" and the "Hokey Pokey" forty-nine times!

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Flag Retirement 2011

Memorial Day is a day we honor those who have fallen in battle while protecting our freedom.  It is a day of sadness for many and a day of hope for many others.  I will never again be able to listen to the "Navy Hymn" without tearing up.  My father was a Navy veteran who served in WWII.  He passed away 11 years ago and his memory lives on in my mind and heart, especially while standing at attention and honoring our country's flag.

At Chets Creek, we retire the flags that have flown over our school in a ceremony prior to Memorial Day.  With 200 patrols, honored guests, our entire learning community and parents lining the bus loop, it is a sight to behold.  It is heart-warming and educational for our students.  It is handled with dignity and honor by my principal.  It provides us with a "moment of silence" in our hurried lives to reflect on the flag and the people it represents.

This year, I invited a trumpet player from the Fletcher High School Band to perform "TAPS" and one of my fourth graders to sing the "Star Spangled Banner."  Both students performed exceptionally well and it was an honor to have them take part in the ceremony.

Jacob playing "TAPS"

"TAPS" is a bugle call that beckons us to remember patriots who served our country with honor and valor.  Most people do not know that there is an actual lyric to this song, because it is always played by a brass player.
The lyrics are as follows:

"Day is done, gone the sun
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh"

Katie sang the "Star Spangled Banner"

Katie represented Chets Creek Elementary at the Florida Elementary Music Educators' Association conference in Tampa last January.  She was part of a 114-voice choir that performed during our clinic and it was a pleasure to welcome her back to the podium to perform for us.

May they never be forgotten...

Until next time...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Year of Discovery

In February, I turned fifty.  Something happens to you when you turn fifty.  You realize you've lived a half-century on the planet and you thank God for every breath He has allowed up to this point.  You also realize that there are things on your "bucket list" that need your attention.  This year, I decided to reinvent myself and do things I've wanted to do for many years but could never find the time, the money nor the energy to do. 

In March, I took a trip to Holland to see a friend I hadn't seen in 14 years.  She and I were missionaries in 1988 and 1989.  We traveled the globe together singing and sharing our faith.  Even though we currently live on separate continents, our hearts are and always will be knit together.  We are kindred spirits in the truest sense of the word.  My heart was to have my photo taken in a field of blooming tulips, but I was a little early this year.  She had a back-up plan and made certain I had my "tulip experience" while there.

Eleonora and I in Amsterdam
Holland - Land of Windmills and Wooden Shoes

Keukenhoff Flower Park

My "Field of Tulips" at the Keukenhoff Flower Park

In April, I bit the bullet and completed a Red Cross Water Safety Instructor's course at UNF.  This is something I have wanted to do for many years.  It was a nine-day intensive course that worked me both physically and mentally.  I am happy to report that I am now coaching six-year-olds and helping them get ready for their first swim meet on June 4th.  I will also be teaching swim lessons this summer at the Aquatics Center at the University of North Florida.

In May, my neice invited me to share her birthday celebration with her in Orlando.  She said she was going to "swim with the dolphins" and wanted me to join her.  Last weekend, I had the experience of a lifetime at Discovery Cove in Orlando.  As a kid, I wanted to be a marine scientist but I was so afraid I wouldn't be able to pass organic chemistry, I gave up the dream in high school. (Mathematics and Mrs. Tamburrino don't get along very well!)  The dolphin experience at Discovery Cove was the next best thing.

Wetsuit Babes

"Paradise Found" in Orlando

February....March....April....May....Can't wait for June!!

Until next time...