Principal's Corner

Report Cards

The purpose of report cards is to try to paint a picture of a student's school life.  However, painting any kind of picture and the final product is wide open to many different interpretations.  At PCIS, teachers work for a solid week twice a year, painting the most accurate pictures possible of their subjects, their students.  They gather all the information they have documented throughout the term and compile it into a single document that serves as a communication to parents and a record of the year.  

Quality educators have moved away from simply giving grades to a more objective comparison of the student's work to the established standards for that grade level.  Standards-based report cards, like the ones used at PCIS, list a series of grade-level standards and evaluate to what degree the child has reached each standard.

At PCIS, we realize that reporting on the achievement of standards is not enough.  We must also report on whether students are realizing their maximum potential.  With our goal that each student strive to be great, we need to measure whether that is happening.  So we provide effort grades that stand independent of achievement grades.  Putting both grades side by side, helps paint the best picture of each student. 

We also understand that there are skills that are not directly linked to subject matter, but that greatly influence the success of students in a school setting.  These include the emotional, social and organizational skills required in all lessons at all grade levels.  This is an important part of the report card at PCIS.

We understand and respect that every parent will interpret and act upon their child’s report card differently.  We encourage all parents to discuss their results privately with each child and set goals for improvement.  We do recommend that when viewing report card, parents follow these guidelines (from http://ccetompkins.org/family/parent-pages/reducing-report-card-over-reaction):

Stay calm.
When parents are disappointed by children's school performance, they may become frustrated, even angry. Children, too, may have strong feelings of shame and defensiveness.  If report cards arouse these strong feelings in your family, it's important to set aside a cooling off period. Allow time after the arrival of the report card for everyone to get a grip on strong emotions.  School struggles require a problem-solving approach that depends on everyone remaining calm and rational.

Understand what the grades mean.
It's important for a parent to understand the teacher's grading system in order to determine her child's strengths and shortcomings and the most effective course of action.  Most teachers take into account attendance, participation, school assignments, homework and test results when setting a grade.  In some cases, grades may reflect conduct.  On the whole, however, grades usually evaluate the child's ability to master subjects based on a number of criteria.

If the child's effort and performance is satisfactory during class, but he consistently fails tests, he may be experiencing test anxiety or have difficulty interpreting tests.  While all school children need to conform to testing standards, there may be alternative ways to evaluate your child's performance.

Likewise, if your child's participation in class is inadequate, she may need encouragement and opportunity to be more involved.  If his homework is unsatisfactory, he may need guidance in establishing effective after school routines or help in acquiring study skills.

Focus on solutions, not excuses.
It's easy for both parents and students to rationalize an unsatisfactory report card.  Both may blame the teacher, the school system or tough new standards. There may, in fact, be legitimate reasons for a child's performance.  Family situations like relocation, unemployment and divorce are significant stressors that can adversely affect a child's ability to concentrate and follow-through. However, parents need to look past these circumstances to potential solutions.  Being single-minded about finding solutions is the best path to success.

Talk with your child.
When children struggle with school, resulting in a disappointing report card, it's time for a face-to-face, heart-to-heart talk. Don't lecture or preach, and avoid blaming, criticizing and excessive advice-giving. School performance is ultimately the child's responsibility and any problems are primarily his to solve. So what does a parent do?  Ask the right questions and be a good listener.

Let your child explain his school performance. How does he feel about his grades?  In what areas is he doing well?  Where does he need to improve?  Ask him how he can and will do better.  Ask him how you can help him do better.

When parents remain non-critical and practice respectful listening, children may reveal feelings and ideas that point toward potential solutions.  For example, a child may talk about how other children tease her so she's afraid to speak up in class. Another child may disclose that he doesn't have enough time to complete his tests.  In either case, some solutions are suggested. The shy child can practice speaking up while another child can learn time management or test-taking skills.

Talk with your child's teacher.
When children fail or get poor grades, it's imperative that parents arrange parent-teacher conference. These conferences should be cooperative, not confrontational.  Blaming the child, the teacher or the school system for your child's performance misses the main point, which is to help your child learn and succeed.

Your child's teacher can help you understand what the grades mean and what your child needs to do to improve. She may be able to offer some insight about your child's learning style, level of motivation or peer relationships that impact on achievement.  Parents can contribute information about the home environment and family situation that may be influencing learning. Parents and teachers can often work together to develop a mutually satisfying strategy for helping a student.

Make an action plan.

  1. Discuss the teacher's ideas with the child.  Remember, your child has already shared some of her own ideas for improvement. Using everyone's ideas, develop an action plan.
  2. Set realistic goals.  It's realistic to expect students to maintain or improve acceptable grades and to improve poor grades by one letter during the next marking period.  It's unrealistic to expect a student to suddenly get all A's.
  3. Establish a timetable. It's not unreasonable to expect students to show some improvement week by week or test by test.  On the other hand, it is unreasonable to expect a complete about face in a short period of time. A realistic timetable helps the student evaluate whether or not he's on track.
  4. Develop study skills and habits.  Help your child get organized and learn how to manage her time.  Be consistent in enforcing after school routines.
  5. Provide incentives and consequences if necessary. Rewards do not help children develop intrinsic motivation or pride in their work. But some children may need some incentives to acquire skills and helpful habits. Other children may need to lose privileges to reinforce the importance of schoolwork. In any case, avoid punishing children about their school performance. This tends only to de-motivate them.
  6. Stick to it.  Give your child time to develop new attitudes and skills.  Don't be easily discouraged.  Solving problems and learning new skills takes time.

Get help if needed.
Some students require tutoring or other assistance. You may have to arrange for diagnostic testing or specialized services for your child. You may need support and cooperation from other family members as you and your child adapt to new routines and rules.  Finally, you may need support as you deal with your own feelings in the situation.  Practice good coping skills and seek out the empathetic ear of a good friend.

If your child gets good grades.

Even when children get good grades, parents can over-react. Too much praise or unnecessary rewards send the message that children are only important when they get good grades.  Children may even think, "They only love me because I get good grades."

It's more important to focus on how the child feels about his achievements.  In order for children to develop pride in their work, they must be able to reflect on and evaluate their own efforts.  A thoughtful parent helps children arrive at their own conclusions about their success.  When children say, "I'm proud of my grades. I like school.  I want to do even better next time," parents do not have say anything.  A smile and a hug can say it all.

 

Asking Your Children About Their Artwork

You are proud of what your children produced in the amazing art program at PCIS, but you don't know what to say about it!  You know better than to ask, "What is it?" and you learned not to judge it.  But you want to respond when they proudly show it to you.  I found these great questions online: 

1. What can you tell me about your piece?

2. What materials did you use?

3. Where did you get your idea?

4. What is your favorite part of the piece?

5. What title would you give this piece?

6. If you were doing this picture again what you change or do differently?

7. Why did you use the color… (insert color)?

8. What if…. (you had used the color red instead of blue or paint instead of pencil)?

9.  How did you….(make these lines, decide on these colors, or create that shape)?

10. If you had more time would you add to your artwork?

You could even write down their responses and attach them to the back/bottom of the piece.  

Kids love to see their artwork displayed anywhere: the refrigerator, the livingroom, the internet!  We try to photograph as many of the pieces at school.  Why not make it your summer project to make a movie or PowerPoint of the photos/scans of their artwork and comments?  Even better, put your children on the task!  Starting in High School, PCIS students are required to document their achievements on a website so the photos are a must!

Strive to Be Great

The PCIS motto is "Strive to Be Great!" Students in all grade levels hear it from teachers and peers regularly, but what exactly does that mean?  It means that each of us tries to be better... to be a better worker, a better student, a better friend, a better person.

We developed the motto in our early years as a school when we wanted students to reflect inwardly on their individual level of effort in schoolwork and eventually in all aspects of their lives.  We wanted students to understand the difference between meeting minimum expectations and surpassing them. We wanted them to want to find their own unique ways to surpass expectations and to make it a habit to stretch themselves beyond average.  It has never been about academic abilities nor grades, but rather about effort.  It is about attacking a task, regardless of its size, with vigor.  It is about completing each task with enthusiasm to create a product that is cleaner, neater, more accurate, more extensive, more creative, more attractive, deeper, broader, better than the assignment.  It is not about external reward for those efforts, but about self recognition.  It does not create competition between students, but only motivates students to compete with themselves to be great.

The motto has given us a way to discuss with students what their personal best is and what it can become.  It gives us a name to call the effort we see in others and in ourselves.  It is a catalyst for valuing and implementing effort and taking pride in that.  It is when striving to be great that students find passions and talents they did not know they had.  It is in striving to be great that they overcome their weaknesses and build self esteem.  

I see students that have been at PCIS for several years that have made striving to be great a habit.  I see new students that never used to do any more than the minimum suddenly begin to try harder.  I see students that take "extra-credit assignments" as required.  I see students smile when I recognize them striving and beam when they discuss their own efforts. 

Last week, after discussing what it means to strive to be great, one student suggested that we change the motto to "Strive to Be Greater!" When I asked him to explain, he told me that greatness is not something we can reach and be finished, but something to which we can always aspire.  We cannot ever be greatest, only greater today than yesterday.




Yoga for Kids

At PCIS, we appreciate the need for children to be active and fit.  Toward this end, we offer physical education classes every week.  During the month of September all PCIS students will attend yoga classes with Ms. Kara.  The benefits of yoga for children are many; it...

  • builds both strength and agility
  • develops increased focus and concentration
  • increases self esteem
  • teaches relaxation and stress management
  • sparks creativity
  • creates body awareness
  • demonstrates discipline

United Nations

 A School-wide Look at the United Nations

For the first months of the 2013-14 school year, the entire school will participate in an in-depth look at the United Nations.  Each grade level will learn about the UN's purpose and history and each level will have a unique focus beyond these basics. Lower-elementary students will learn about the UN's Rights of the Child, upper-elementary and middle-school will investigate issues related to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and high-school students will develop a solid understanding of how the UN is structured and functions (culminating in the attendance of select students to the Model United Nations conference in Panama City).

WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED

  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

Reading the above preamble to the UN charter you can see how these ideals match what we strive to do here at PCIS.  We teach students to have compassion, empathy and tolerance which we believe will lead to greater world peace.  Students and teachers not only learn to respect the rights of all those who pass through our front door, but also learn to respect others beyond our school. We practice effective intercultural communications.  We participate in activities that promote social progress for all.  PCIS is, in essence, a miniature United Nations and we are proud to reinforce the goals of the United Nations!


The Zone of Proximal Development

The Zone of Proximal Developement (ZPD) is an educational theory to which we ascribe at PCIS.  The premise is that there are certain skills and knowledge that a student currently has and can implement entirely independently (too easy).  There are also skills that a student is not currently capable of acquiring even with help (too hard). Between these two lies a set of skills and knowledge that a student can learn with help (just right). Those just-right skills lie in what is called the Zone of Proximal Development and our teachers ensure that students are working in this zone, on these skills, all the time.

   

At PCIS, we are constantly assessing student abilities in all subjects.  This helps us determine what each student can already do or already knows.  We do not spend time teaching these things, but rather move beyond them into the ZPD and create lessons for students for which they need help, but can succeed.  We are also careful not to push students beyond the ZPD by giving them activities that they cannot accomplish.

The support that students need to succeed in the ZPD is called scaffolding and scaffolding takes many forms including: modeling, asking guiding questions, providing additional materials, allowing more time, pre-teaching and connecting to prior knowledge. These are the core of lessons in every PCIS classroom in every subject.

Internet Pros and Cons

At PCIS, we use the internet every day as a resource for educating young minds; all schools today do.  Living overseas without access to English libraries and other offline resources makes the internet even more critical for PCIS staff and students. We need the kind of access to information and programs that the internet provides and we value it greatly.

But there are some serious downsides to the use of the internet. As parents and educators we are doing our best to ensure that our children are not exposed to websites with inappropriate messages and images. Some of us install software, some of us review histories, and some rely on teaching their kids good judgement.  But it is not just a matter of what they see on the web, but also with whom they communicate.  The internet is used by so many students tor social networking and they can become victims of identity theft, cyber bullying, and other inappropriate communications.  Please take a look at the links with information about internet protection on the links page.

And while none of these issues may effect our kids, I cannot emphasize enough that what goes on the internet can be viewed by many others regardless of how private we think it is.  Children (and many adults) lack a clear understanding that nothing on the internet is truly private and that clicking delete does not actually make it go away entirely.  I read in the news how people have been condemned for things they thought were being posted privately or things they thought they had erased!  We do not want our kids to have to lose an opportunity in the future for something silly they are posting now.  In my review of college-application advice, I found this advice and think it applies not only to applying to college, but also to many other future activities:

As technology plays an increasingly important role in the application process, there are some issues that you need to be aware of and that could negatively impact you. Almost every college requires a student’s e-mail address and sometimes the parents’ e-mail address. Some students have old addresses from when they were in middle school that are no longer appropriate. Take an objective look at your e-mail address; if it says sexymama@aol.com, ihateschool@aol.com, or something like partyanimal@aol.com, I would strongly suggest that you change your e-mail address to something neutral. Students also don’t realize that colleges can and sometimes do access Facebook and MySpace profiles.

If you would be embarrassed by anything posted on these Web sites, be very careful what you post during the college application process. For that matter, high schools and employers can also look at postings, so be very mindful of what’s on your profile. Photos of drinking binges, risqué photos, rumors about others, and other inappropriate behavior can be the kiss of death for some colleges and honors programs. Also, be vigilant about passwords and giving people you hardly know access to your accounts, as some students hack into other people’s profiles and try to sabotage their college acceptances by posting harmful photos. Do you really have 600 close friends on Facebook? Take a look at your profile and delete anyone you’re not 100 percent sure about. In the beginning of your senior year, take a look at your e-mail address and your online postings. You should change the security access to your account and delete any inappropriate material.

On the positive side, technology has made applying to college somewhat easier and more accessible. The Common Application and the Universal College Application are two of the most popular ways to apply to college. An emerging trend is to develop electronic or e-portfolios, which colleges can review to provide them with even more information about your talents, skills, and abilities. These portfolios can contain creative works, images, links, research papers, and other documents highlighting your various accomplishments. If you’re careful, technology can be very useful during the college admissions process. If you’re not careful, you may inadvertently give negative information to colleges, which can be used to reject your application.  from http://www.education.com/reference/article/college-admission-officer-applications/?page=2

So let's work together to ensure that PCIS kids reap all the benefits of the internet and do not fall prey to its disadvantages.


School Uniforms and Dress Code

When PCIS began with only four students, concerns about dress code and uniforms did not even come up, but the school has grown and the topic has come up a few times.  I have read research about the effects of school uniforms on academic achievement and learning. None cite any academic advantages to uniforms and I would argue that comfort will more likely lead to more efficient learning than discomfort.  There are some that argue that school uniforms offer social benefits by eliminating gang affiliation, violence, and bullying but those are not issues we face at PCIS.  Some claim that uniforms instill a sense of community, but we are already overflowing with a sense of community! I agree with the experts that argue that the value of student self expression and self determination outweighs the need for conformity and that later in life they will not likely have uniforms in their job and will need to learn how to dress appropriately.

Dressing appropriately, is a life skills that must be developed.  Most employers offer dress codes, some very specific and others more vague.  The PCIS dress code must reflect the cultures represented in the school as well as the wide age range.  Toward this end, the PCIS dress code is currently:

  • No clothing with words or images that promote inappropriate activities including profanity, sex, violence or drugs 
  • No clothing with words or images that promote discrimination of any kind
  • No hats with brims over the face in class
  • No clothing that can pose a distraction in class
  • No clothing that is unsafe

Teachers are very busy teaching, so we ask parents to enforce these guidelines so that we do not have to interrupt instructions to deal with infractions. 

For more, see the links about uniforms/dress code on our links page.

Rock 'n Roll

By now you are likely to see a pattern in the content of my blog posts. A lot of thought and research has gone into the design of the PCIS curriculum and methodologies. But some of the wonderful aspects of PCIS arrived as unexpected gifts.  One of these amazing gifts is Mr. Daniel's music program.

Music is a subject I feel ill-equipped to teach yet one that I value greatly.  Just as I was becoming concerned about how to approach music instruction, I received an email from a former music teacher that had recently retired to the area wondering if I might have a position for him. Of course, the answer was yes! 

My experience in schools with music programs included a lot of listening to music, singing, learning to read musical notation and playing percussion instruments. But, that was not what Daniel had in mind.  He proposed buying electronic keyboards, guitars and drum sets and having students play classic rock-and-roll tunes.  I was not sure that fit into my idea of what an educational music program should be, but agreed to give it a try.

After implementing his program at PCIS over the past several years, I can see the wonderful benefits to this performance approach.  All PCIS students feel confident that they are real musicians.  Students that would have never chosen to participate in "band class" (which is optional in most US schools after Grade 3), have found that they enjoy making music.  Some students found talents that they did not know they had.  Playing in a band builds a sense of community and commitment not found in some other school activities.  Being a member of a band requires students to understand how their music fits into the whole which is a skill that private music lessons cannot develop.  And students feel successful!

The program has incorporated other elements of music instruction like learning to read and write music, musical concepts, and appreciating different genres.  But when you sit in the audience at any of our concerts, it is the performance that amazes you.  As the school principal and as the parent of a real musician, I am so proud of the PCIS music program. Take a look at our video page to see for yourself!

I am grateful for the unexpected gifts; Thank you, Daniel!



Project-Based Learning

At PCIS, we focus instruction around the creation of projects.  This is known in education as project-based learning (PBL).  In this approach, students create projects based on problems or questions posed by the teacher or by the student.  Just like in the everyday world of work and living, students go through a process to answer or solve the issue and then present their work in a wide variety of ways to various audiences. The benefits of this approach are numerous.

Project-based learning allows students to work at their own learning level which is crucial in our differentiated classrooms. It also allows students to work in different learning styles and express their learning in creative ways. Choice is a critical part of the PBL process and learning to make thoughtful choices is a life skill we help develop at PCIS.

 

PBL better reflects the processes students need to use outside of school and will need in any job.  It requires students to be hands-on learners and to study a concept more in depth and in a much more meaningful way than rote learning does. Projects require a higher level of thinking than tests.

 

Students, rather than teachers, should be the focus of all instructions and PBL centers on the student.  It also provides students the opportunity to see and assess their own learning thus making them more active in the entire learning process. The sense of ownership that is developed through the creation of a project instills the high-level of self-confidence for which we strive at PCIS. Because PBL assessment is based on the process as well as the product, students are better able to analyze their learning habits and learn to improve their own learning with each project.


Projects are designed for an audience and feedback is more constructive and varied when it comes from many sources.  At PCIS, we offer some projects to classmates, students from other classes, various teachers and even from parents and community members. This provides a more realistic picture of student achievement than a written test does.

 

Learning never exists within a single subject area and project-based learning reflects the cross-curricular approach that innovative schools are taking. Projects encompass the five language skills of listening, speaking, reading, writing and thinking. They also require an understanding of the research method and the scientific method.  Math skills are also usually required. Projects also incorporate valuable skills that are not often taught in school like planning, setting long- and short-term goals, presentation, use of multimedia, aesthetics, self assessment and often cooperation and collaboration skills.

 

For all of these reasons, we have chosen to incorporate project-based learning into every class at PCIS!


For more, see the links about the project-based learning on our links page.

Four-Day Week

Choosing a four-day school week was not a rash decision at PCIS, but rather a calculated one based on educational research and the unique environment that is our school.  We selected the four-day week for several reasons.


Students and teachers are much less likely to be absent during a four-day week as they are better rested and can accomplish personal tasks on Fridays.  At PCIS teachers and student attendance is higher than the average in local and foreign schools! This is especially important where we have no substitute teachers.


Research has show that the level of academic acheivement in the many US schools that implement the four-day week is at least equal to five-day-week schools, and is sometimes greater.

Teacher planning and training are more effective when they take place on Fridays in a continuous session rather than broken up into smaller sessions. 


Students can take advantage of non-school learning opportunities like sports, language and cultural experiences with a more flexible weekend.


Dropout rates are lower in schools with four-day weeks.


While I do not like to allow budget concerns to weigh in on educational decisions, it has always been important to offer all families in the area an affordable education for their children.  The overhead costs of running the school only four days each week are 20% lower which means that we can keep tuition low.


At PCIS, we are committed to a four-day school week as long as all of these factors hold true. 


For more, see the links about the four-day week on our links page.

The Benefits of Small Classes

At PCIS, we are committed to keeping class sizes very small.  

Research shows that all students in smaller classes receive more individualized attention and, therefore, learn more efficiently.  Teachers can more easily assess the level of each student and determine which level of instruction is best.  Teachers are also better able to create lessons that meet those distinct levels. Teachers find it easier to identify students that need to be challenged and students that are struggling. Group activities are more effective as they can be better monitored by teachers. The high-school dropout rate is much lower in schools where classes are small.

There are other nonacademic benefits to smaller classes as well.  When students feel personally acknowledged, their self-esteem is greater. Socially, students are better able to develop positive relationships with their peers in a more intimate setting.  There is less bullying in smaller classes. There are fewer incidents of poor behavior in smaller classes and so discipline rarely becomes a disruption to learning. Students-teacher relationships are also deeper in small classes. There is even research that shows that students from small classes earn higher wages.

So, regardless of how much PCIS grows, classes will remain small and students will continue to thrive!

For more, see the links about class size on our links page.

Multiple Intelligences

Many years ago, I was funded to do some in-depth research into the practical application of Howard Gardner’s then-new theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI).  As a veteran classroom teacher, I already understood that children have all kids of “smarts,” not just “book smarts.” I knew that every student had inclinations towards (or away from) certain types of classroom activities and had begun to design units of study that incorporated music, art, language, movement, and mathematics.  Howard Gardner’s work gave me the vocabulary and understanding to discuss various intelligences with other teachers, students, and parents. I was excited to have a framework to design better lessons and to train other teachers to recognize and utilize MI theory. 

Gardner originally identified seven types of intelligence:

 Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence -- well-developed verbal skills and sensitivity to the sounds, meanings and rhythms of words

 Mathematical-Logical Intelligence -- ability to think conceptually and abstractly, and capacity to discern logical or numerical patterns

 Musical Intelligence -- ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch and timber

 Visual-Spatial Intelligence -- capacity to think in images and pictures, to visualize accurately and abstractly

 Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence -- ability to control one's body movements and to handle objects skillfully

 Interpersonal Intelligence -- capacity to detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations and desires of others.

 Intrapersonal Intelligence -- capacity to be self-aware and in tune with inner feelings, values, beliefs and thinking processes

 Then he added two more intelligences:

 Naturalist Intelligence -- ability to recognize and categorize plants, animals and other objects in nature

 Existential Intelligence -- sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why do we die, and how did we get here.

There is ongoing discussion about potentially identifying two more intelligences:

Spiritual Intelligence -- sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about faith.

Moral Intelligence -- sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about morality.

Good teachers were implementing lessons with an MI focus. They were including a wide variety of ways for students to learn the required material.  Innovative teachers began to use Gardner’s list as a checklist for lesson planning.  Instruction was becoming more diverse and involving students more actively.  Great teachers were not only identifying the strengths and weakness of students, but encouraging students to know themselves as learners.  They encouraged students to develop more strength in their areas of weakness and challenging themselves to learn in new ways. 

But we continued to go back to paper-and-pencils tests to assess whether the material had been mastered.  These tests were great for the students that were linguistically strong, but the rest of the kids were not being assessed fairly.  Thus began the movement to make assessment also reflect MI Theory.  Teachers learned to allow students to show their mastery of the material in a variety of ways.  This led to the development of project-based learning (for a later blog) approaches and the use of rubrics (also to be discussed later) for assessments.

At PCIS, we proudly implement the MI approach to lesson planning and assessment. We teach material in multiple ways and allow students to express mastery using various intelligences. This year we will begin the discussion of multiple intelligences with students and parents to enhance learning for all.

For more, see the links about the multiple intelligences on our links page.

 

My First Blog

Welcome to my first blog!  Those of you that know me know that I have a lot to say about education in general and about PCIS specifically, but often not enough time to say it!  Those of you that do not know me, let me introduce myself...

I am the founder of the Panama Coast International School (PCIS) and currently act as the director/principal, teacher, bookkeeper and janitor! The school recently completed its fifth successful year.

I was born and raised in California and graduated from UCLA with a BA degree in Latin American History and another in Education. I hold teaching credentials with bilingual endorsements from three US states and after earning my Masters Degree in the Supervision and Administration of Overseas and International Schools, I received an administrative credential. But these degrees and credentials do not define me as a teacher; they simply acknowledge my studies.  It is my immense desire to make each classroom an amazing place to learn that drives me and defines me.

I have been a teacher for nearly thirty years and have taught everything from preschool through graduate-level university.  I have taught in inner-city LA, Oregon, rural Colorado, Spain, Japan, China and now Panama.  After each school year I reflect back upon the year and each year have determined that it was by far my favorite year of teaching!  How can every year be my favorite? I believe it is because every year I learn something new that I can implement in the classroom and throughout the school to improve the educational lives of my students. The exciting thing is that there are still more years to come which will, following this pattern, be even better! 

So far I have learned a lot about how people learn and how educators should optimize that process.  The purpose of this blog is to express those ideas, one at a time, to you: my students, fellow educators, parents and community.  At the end, if there is an end, you will be able to see how all these ideas are combined in one amazing learning place called Panama Coast International School!




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