Academic Focus: Essential Questions

Asking the Four Essential Questions guides us to have an authentic focus on our students’ learning. At Hedges School this year, we are deliberately sharing our academic focus with our students. It seems so simple; however, many times we leave our students out of our planning. We follow manuals, pacing guides, or stick with what we have always taught. Focusing on the Four Essential Questions guides us to reflect and to plan more effectively.

For Teachers:

  1. What do students need to know, understand, and be able to do? (Learning Goals)
  2. How will we determine if the outcome has been accomplished? (Assessments – Formative and Summative)
  3. What strategies will we use to best influence learning?(Strategies, Activities)
  4. What will we do to support students who don’t learn or reach proficiency before expectation? (Intervention and Enrichment)

For Students:

  1. What do I need to know, understand, and be able to do? What is the Learning Goal?
  2. How am I going to show my learning? What is the assessment?
  3. What do I need to do as a learner to achieve the learning goal?
  4. Thinking about my learning…..
    • How am I doing?
    • Have I reached my learning goal?
    • What do I already know?
    • What do I need to work on?

As a team, we have worked diligently to truly understand the common core standards and what the student expectations are for learning. Each grade level has developed essential standards for students. These standards answer question number one and describe what our students need to know and be able to do.  These are not the only learning goals for our students; however, as our students meet proficiency with these standards, they are guaranteed to be well-prepared to succeed in the next trimester and/or the next school year.

Our essential standards are a living document that is revised and updated at the end of each trimester. This has been challenging and worthwhile work for our team! I am grateful for their efforts and dedication to student learning. I am also thankful to one of my favorite mentors, Mike Mattos, for his guidance as we began this endeavor. His passion for students consistently learning at high levels is contagious!

During the next few weeks, our team will increase our focus on question number two. Below is a video of a teacher guiding her students to clearly understand how to show their learning. Learning Goals & Scales. I look forward to sharing our progress toward creating success criteria.

A Great First Week…GRIT Tested

As I reflect on our first week of school, I cannot remember a time that I began the first week with students with five full days. Collectively, students’ and teachers’ GRIT was tested… and all achieved successfully! This year, Hedges School will focus on a GRIT trait each month.

I was first inspired to understand and motivate our students to become grittier after watching Angela Lee Duckworth’s Ted Talk and reading Paul Tough’s book How Children Succeed. Our Montana Behavioral Initiative (MBI) team was inspired during our summer MBI training to share these traits school wide. I am so proud of this team as they have worked tirelessly to increase positive behavioral interventions and support!

Thank you Hedges Team!

FullSizeRender 25As I reflect on this school year, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the Hedges Team! Thank you for your perseverance, commitment, and collaboration to support our students to achieve high levels of learning. My appreciation for our Hedges Community comes from three perspectives as I have had the opportunity to be a member of this team as a classroom teacher, a parent, and as the principal.

Today my heart is heavy to know my youngest child will spend her last school day at Hedges as an elementary student. While at the same time, I am confident that she is academically and socially prepared for the journey to middle school and beyond. As a teacher, a mom, and an administrator, I thank each of you for individualizing each student’s academic experience and for guiding all of our students to view a growth mindset to continue to achieve increased success! I am deeply grateful to be a member of a team who works together with a respect for each other’s educational knowledge and experience. Our students are incredibly prepared for the next school year because of the time each of you took to develop relationships to know and understand how each of our students learn.

Thank you for your laser like focus and relentless efforts to support our mission and vision:

Learning For ALL…No Excuses, No Limits!

Our vision is to foster and maintain contagiously positive, collaborative, and mission-focused relationships. Together, we guide, support, and encourage ALL students to reach high levels of learning and individualized success.

Enjoy a well deserved and rejuvenating summer! I am looking forward to beginning another successful 2015-2016 school year on August 31st. 🙂

IMG_0122 IMG_0249

Leadership and Collaboration #hedgeshappenings #hedgesfieldday #onefamily

FullSizeRender 24

Today we had another successful annual Hedges Field Day! Each year our PE teacher, Karen Dunfee, works tirelessly to celebrate fitness with our school community. She organizes fun activity stations for our four-hundred students throughout our campus. This year she and our Flathead Braves football coach, Kyle Samson, collaborated to support our students with his incredible group of leaders!


Our students were very excited about the opportunity to work with real football players! These young men supported our students way beyond our expectations and exemplified our Hedges Guidelines for Success: Be Respectful, Be Responsible, and Be Ready to Learn! They were role models, motivators, and incredibly fun! Thank you Karen, Kyle, Brooke (Mrs. Samson had this amazing idea!) and the Flathead Braves Football Team for leading our students and creating a day they will positively remember forever!


The Miracle of Our Minds

I am inspired by the powerful messages shared in the video below.  This was the first email I read this morning as a Top Story: Classroom Habitudes by Angela Maier.

As I reflect on what is shared, I am empowered by the opportunities we have to team together and collaborate to lead our students’ towards increased success.  At Hedges School, we think about the problems we have differently… an opportunity to learn. We are committed to finding positive solutions to the challenges we face.  It takes a team and I am grateful for ours!

Approaching A New Adventure… #SAVMP

Teachers arrive back to school tomorrow and our students will join us for a new school year on Wednesday. I love the beginning of a new year…everyone is excited!  My own children have their new school supplies separated, organized, and ready to be placed in their recently washed backpacks. They are eagerly awaiting for Wednesday!


As I enter my first year as principal, I reflect on the unforeseen changes that have occurred over the last two weeks. Our elementary schools have been overcrowded for the last few years; and the best way to provide space at this time was to add eight new classrooms (four at two separate schools).  Although the schools look beautiful and are ready for new students,  we had no idea that the additions would not provide enough space.

The administration team brainstormed many possible scenarios and the best situation for our students was to add a classroom at our school. However, our classrooms are also full… we had to get creative. Teachers, tutors, and Mental Health support staff had to move or share rooms.  We had to quickly post a new teaching position and hire a new teacher who would be ready for students in less than five days.

As I reflect on the last four days, I am truly grateful for my new team! They have been flexible, understanding, and supportive. Change is never easy, but this team consistently focuses on doing what is best for our students and they have rolled with it all! Thank you to the entire staff at Hedges Elementary!