Thanks Flocabulary!

This year in Hamilton, building students’ academic vocabulary has been a primary focus.

Thanks to everyone at for your fabulous videos that have made learning so much fun. Here is a little remix of Double Trouble to show you just how much fun kids at Blue Star Elementary had rocking out during lunchtime.

WOTV: A Unique Preschool – Taking learning out of the classroom

West Michigan ABC affiliate WOTV did a fantastic piece on Hamilton’s Little Hawks Preschool. This is just one aspect of why I am so lucky to teach where I do. These kids are getting a great start and getting to spend their days outside in a beautiful preserve. School really is about developing the whole child.

The Power of Community and a Little Creativity #HTownStrong

doodling on the iPad becomes a symbol for galvanizing a community
doodling on the iPad becomes a symbol for galvanizing a community

On an early December evening  of last year I plopped emotionally exhausted into the big leather chair I plop into on most evenings.  I fired up the Neu.Draw app on my iPad to unwind and within a few minutes I had crafted a Hamilton Community Schools version of the Boston Strong logo.

You see, it had been a rough few days around the little town in West Michigan where I teach. A few days earlier one of our very best teachers had been taken from us in an auto accident on his way to school. Josh Hoppe was all that is right with teaching and inspiring learners. Kids were hurting. Teachers were hurting. The whole town was hurting.  Josh’s funeral would be the next morning and for me personally the logo was just a way of digging for some extra strength to get beyond the sadness and hurt.

Like a lot of things, I posted it to social media and within a few minutes people were asking to borrow it as their avatars. I happily obliged and over the course of the next few days I started to see it more and more. Now, I literally see it everywhere in this community, especially on social media where countless people I know and don’t know are using it to represent their pride for a community that has time and time again come together to support each other. Just today I noticed that the parent volunteer office had added it to its letterhead and the Hamilton Baseball team was featuring it on its new shirts.

Pretty cool! I don’t care about intellectual royalties. I am just honored a great community finds something it likes in something I created, well borrowed from the Boston community. It has served the same purpose in Beantown.

I am a big fan of irony and here is the funny part. Shortly after I moved to Hamilton in 1997, the University of Iowa told Hamilton we could no longer use the school’s stenciled Hawkeye logo. There was a community-wide logo contest. I won $400…for second place. No, I didn’t have my design chosen as the community’s new rallying point over fifteen years ago. I am glad they like my second attempt.

Stay strong H-Town!

Five great Pinterest boards from five Hamilton educators

Since its inception, Fridays on Twitter have been full of tweets encouraging the following of others. Today, we’ll take #FollowFriday over to Pinterest as I share five great pinners who I get to work with each week here in Hamilton, Michigan.

Jill Sloothaak, Kindergarten – Literature Extensions Sloothaak

On this board Jill is collecting all kinds of activities to use with the books she and her kids are reading in her class. Some of my favorites are for the books featuring Pete the Cat.

Brooke Vruggink, First Grade – Math

VrugginkBrooke has close to 100 great ideas for making math come alive for her first graders. I love spending time in her and teaching partner Megan Reilly’s classrooms. The creativity they bring to teaching and the accountable talk they teach their students to use really build dynamic environments.

Kristi Zoerhof, First Grade – School Treasures

ZoerhofThis board really lives up to its name as it pushes nearer and nearer to 2100 pins. Kristi is a pretty amazing educator and was my partner on the Sony Xperia Case study I featured last Spring. Her stuff on Pinterest is great and so are the resources she shares via @KristiZoerhof. She also tweets with her kids at @MrsZFabFirsties.

Teisha Struik-Kothe, K-5 Principal – School Ideas


Here is one for the administrators, especially the elementary ones. Teisha brings a special flair to Blue Star and always has resources at her fingertips to share with the staff. If you are interested in developing academic vocabulary Teisha has lots of knowledge and her board features great activities.

Jodi Hansen, Fourth Grade – School

If you are an upper elementary teacher and need new ideas for language arts, this board has you covered with all kinds great techniques. Some of the neatest things I have found  that Jodi has pinned involves communicating with parents. She does a great job building that school-to-home connection.

I am a pretty lucky educator to work with these five people 2 1/2 days a week at two different schools. There are a lot of other great educators in Hamilton. These are just a handful.


Lead, follow, AND, get out of the way.

Screen Shot 2013-08-09 at 12.49.20 PMI just spent two days of the last month of summer fully immersed in school stuff. Am I nuts?


Having been lucky enough to have been invited to my school district’s first ever Admin/Staff Leadership retreat, I had the unique opportunity to see my Hamilton Community Schools admin team in a bit more human light. I had the unique opportunity to help create the professional development schedule and offerings for the coming year. I discovered the amazing talent we have teaching down the hall from me and in the other Hamilton buildings. I had my voice valued by colleagues and supervisors.

This was no sacrifice, this was a gift.

Not only did I leave the retreat feeling energized and excited that as a leadership team we had drawn great relevance around our staff meetings, grade level time, and PD days…all focused on school improvement and putting individual needs of kids first, I gained some insight on being a leader

My biggest take away was what I learned about leadership. We have heard many times that so-and-so needs to either lead, follow, or get out of the way. For me though, I want to do all three.

Lead: Set the example. Share your vision. Contribute insight. Be a helpful guy.
Follow: Understand that you don’t know everything and that a lot can be learned from those who have more experience, or are better at something than you are.
Get out of the way: Don’t let your ego get in the way of progress because you insist on putting your stamp on it or “showing them who’s in charge”. Know when to keep your mouth shut and when to support something great.

I hope the Hamilton retreat becomes a yearly event and I hope to see more colleagues invited to future gatherings…and accept the opportunity to learn and build together.

Let’s all lead, follow, and get out of the way during this upcoming school year.