Friday, September 8, 2017

9/8/17 Highlands Mission Continues To Ground Our Work

September 8, 2017
Highlands Mission Continues To Ground Our Work

Highlands has grounded its work in our 20 year mission: to educate children in a safe, cooperative, and innovative environment while building long-term, collaborative relationships with families.  We value everyone's right to learn, to have fun and to belong. Students, staff and parents all work together to create strong relationships based on open communication and respect for ourselves, each other and our environment. Each of us strives to be the best person that we can be. This is proudly displayed on the wall as you enter the building and on the website.
As I have mentioned, Highlands is an Ashoka Changemaker School. We are part of a global community of innovative public, private, and charter institutions that are reimagining how young people grow up. These schools come in many shades, shapes and sizes, and have different philosophical and pedagogical approaches. All Changemaker schools prioritize experiences that educate students to be empathetic, entrepreneurial, creative, and community-oriented leaders. Through innovations in school curricula, culture, and systems, Changemaker teachers and students are pioneering how education can cultivate an ecosystem of changemakers.

All of our work with students, staff and families focuses on one or more of these guiding principles and beliefs. As I organize the blog for this year, I am going to be sharing professional learning that we are focusing on here at Highlands. The four areas of ongoing professional learning this year are personalized learning, equity, math and Restitution/ Restorative Justice. Staff will be participating in learning every other week on one of these focus areas. I am committing to also share that learning through the Wonder Blog with the Highlands community. This will be a wonderful way for us all to understand and share knowledge around the important priority work here at Highlands.

Highlands has weathered its share of challenges over the years, whether in the design of our classroom learning spaces, engaging in multi-age learning, facing change to our outdoor learning spaces, considering what books teach students about families, and now, how to embrace ancestry, genetic code and melanin, as well as how to challenge kids to be changemakers. Through all of this, the staff and students here at Highlands come to school each day believing they are ready to make the world a better place.  This will hold steady and true no matter what. We are grounded in our mission and our commitment as a changemaker school.

I look forward to another powerful year of learning and growing for us all!
Be well,


Friday, September 1, 2017

Welcome Back- 9/1

Drone Pic taken By Will O'Conell So Cool!
HELLO Highlands!

Words of amazing wisdom from Kid president: TIME TO GET OUR LEARN ON! Don’t even be a bully to the bullies that just makes more bullies! Time to be more awesome.

 Please watch The Parent Pick Up Video (Linked)) and remind and/or learn how the parent pick up procedures here at Highlands. It is the same as last year. Please remember our end of the day bell does not ring until 4pm. If you like to get here early think about ways you might be able to come into school and help out or volunteer vs sitting in the carpool line for 45min. Thanks!

We are so excited for a great year! It was wonderful to see so many of you last night at open house. We have spent the week learning, laughing and preparing for an exciting rigorous year at Highlands. Thanks for all you do to support us and learn along side us. We couldn’t do our great work without you ALL as partners. Thank You! See you on Tuesday.
Be well!

Remember to log onto the portal and sign onto Schoology:
Access Code: PF7BV-JGK94

We will have Tech Support at the Curriculum nights and New family Breakfast- Also come into the office and we will always try to help. We will keep communicating with the Highlands weekly through MEA weekend but then we will be primarily through Schoology, Facebook, Twitter and the Wonder Blog! THANKS!

Laura Gilmore, Emily Waage and Ally Dardis (not in photo) Tenured!

Teachers of Sparks and Passions! 

Friday, July 28, 2017

July 28- Updates

Hello Highlands!

I hope you have all had a wonderful and relaxing July. I had a great time traveling with my family in ME, NH and MA. Loved visiting the ocean and the Mountains, definitely my happy place.

 Amazing NF reads this summer! 

Staff Update:

There have been some staff adjustments that have occurred in the last week I want to update you all on. Krista Mack has resigned from Highlands. This is sad for us but exciting for her as she takes on new challenges in education with curriculum. She had not decided on the exact path but she had a few options when we spoke and I know she will do great things. Hopefully keep in touch with us here. She will be missed.

Lisa Hopkins, with much consideration has decided to move to team with Julie Baker in 3rd grade Discovery. Due to class size we were able to hire a .6 teacher to also join the 3rd grade discovery team. We hired Ashley Mohr. Ashley has taught for 2.5 year in Prior Lake at WestWood Elementary School in the SAGE Academy. She taught in a 3-4 multi-age Gifted and talented classroom. She also was a co-teacher in the Johansen/Baker family 3 years ago. She is very excited to return to Highlands. The three teachers will be working and teaming to meet the needs of all kids. We will be working out how that will look exactly but we are excited to have a true team teaching experience for third grade discovery.

I posted the CP 345 position and have had a lot of interest. Michael and I will be gathering a team and interviewing in the week with a decision very soon.

Lastly (I hope…) Meriah Chamberlain has taken the full time music opening at Cornelia. We all are very happy for her and Cornelia but sad for Highlands. I have posted this position and will work closely with Katie Widen and Creek Valley folks to hire also within the next two weeks.

Construction Update!
Highlands Leadership Team and I met with the architects for HL construction plan for this year. I will be posting updates on the blog as I have them so everyone can say in the know. Everything will launch next year around spring break. All the outside work will begin then. There have been a few shifts to spaces but everything has remained the same since the planning team decisions spring 2016. We will be losing about 2/3 of the husky woods due to the new building and the construction happening during the build. We have already begun to plan moving plants and thinking about the husky woods 2.0 This will be a shock for us all! So if you are willing to be a part of the planning and solution seeking please reach out to Leslie Stageberg or me. Thanks!
Feel free to ask Jamie, Leslie, Kendal, Angie or me questions if you have them.
It has been a very busy last week of July.Miss seeing you all around the building! Getting excited...

Be well.

Friday, June 30, 2017


I hope everyone is having a happy summer! Here are the JUNE UPDATES:

Assessment and Grading district learning. Really amazing discussion. We have a lot of work to do!
Grading Inside Out - District -wide must read!

SIP (Site Improvement Plan) DAY! 6/13
Great work by HLT (Highlands leadership Team)! Here is our ideal school!


IMG_2492.JPGEdina Personalized Learning Team In CA for the PL summit! (Lisa Hawthorne not in photos)  Great info and collaboration. We have amazing things happening here in Edina! Can’t wait to see how this moves. It is our work.




Trisha Pettis- SV 9th grade LA teacher and now PL coach @ SV has been blogging with her sister on their journey with PL. So great! I can’t wait to bring her to HL. Check out the BLOG

Interesting Ted's from the Conference.
How to raise Successful Kids without Over Parenting

The Myth of Average- TED TALK

TED TALK - Cultural Context and Self Identity into Education

A sad update from Karen Bergman (CS Principal) on CS student (but used to be a HL Family)  
Ayub Ali, gr. 5 – was hospitalized in May with a very serious medical situation.  A group of our CS PTO parents have been in contact with the family and they have set up a Go Fund Me page to support Ayub and his family during this difficult time.  Thanks for keeping Ayub and his family (including his sister, Amira– another CS student) in your thoughts.

I will be in ME for two weeks in July! YAY can't wait. I hope everyone is enjoying family, friends and fun!

Be Well!

Thursday, June 1, 2017


Happy SUMMER! It feels like we wait for the last day of school for so long and then it is here! Thank you for an amazing year here at Highlands. I have truly enjoyed being back and working with all the staff, students and families. The community of Highlands is a gift. Everyone, and I mean everyone always gives their very best to make this school and community so special and I feel very fortunate to come to work here every day. Thank you!

There is always work to keep doing and learning to be had. Our work never ends. We are off on a  small break to recharge, build memories with our families and enjoy some summer adventures. I can't wait to hear all about it in a few months. Enjoy!, read, laugh, relax and play! We all deserve it.

A special good bye to a few outstanding members of the Highlands family; Amy Aunan will be on a family leave next year. She is choosing to spend the year being a mom. Maggie Butler will be finding work closer to her home and working on her education! Rick LaVercombe, Rose Hilbrand and Alex Tish we hope to see around the Edina Schools or even back at Highlands if we have any openings. We are sad to see you all leave and wish you well. Thank you for all of your hard work with kids! Please stay in touch.

Happy Summer Highlands! Happy Trails...
Be well!

Summer reading suggestions for interested staff (and families if interested)

Next year, if board approved Highlands will be in a building-wide Math pilot. The two math books on the list Minds on Math and Why before the How focus on how our math instruction will be shifting. It is exciting stuff.

Friday, May 26, 2017

2017 Peace Projects

 HUSKY DAY, Discovery Day, Lake Rebecca, second grade camp, Peace Projects, Orchestra Concert, 4th grade Regions fair, EOY Pot lucks, 
OH MY! There is/has been A LOT going on. Thanks for all your hard work and help. HL Is a great place to be!

MAY 2017 - Around HL
2017 Peace Projects

The Peace Project last week was a wonderful experience and I am so thankful for all the support from teachers, students, families and the Ed fund. Thank you for your help to make it all come together. Here are the videos of all the performances for you to see if you were not able to make it or you would just like to share the experience again with your child.  THANKS!

4th Grade -YELLOW

4th Grade -RED

4th Grade Orange

5th grade- Green

5th grade- BLUE

5th Grade Purple

Friday, May 19, 2017

5-19-17 HIGHLANDS WEEKLY- The Topic of Class Size

Hello Highlands,

We have had a busy week around here with The Peace Project, PTO, the third grade Biography Tea (or Potluck) and field trip and so much more. The end of the year is busy but fun!
I wanted to address class size here in Edina and at Highlands because I realize this is a topic right now that is making parents feel worried and unsupported. I would like to help. First I would like to tell the Highlands community, to be in a class size conversations for the upcoming school year in May is not the reality in any other district I have worked. Usually administrators are asked to “count heads” for the first week to ten days before the district will even consider adding another section or a support plan for a classroom. I had kindergartens beginning the year with numbers at 28-30 with no support. I share this so that you can get a picture for the support Edina’s school board and district leadership is offering elementary schools, in particular Highlands is pleasantly unique.

About a month ago, I was asked to think of creative solutions to support instruction in our grade levels that are nearing or over the set guidelines. The district leadership heard my recommendations and have offer solutions. Highlands has been approved to add a half time first grade teacher for next year. The team and I, consisting of first grade teachers as well as the reading and math interventionists, will plan the instructional schedule to maximize the learning time for kids with all three teachers. I know this is not a clean third section, which is easier to understand but this is an amazing opportunity to collaborate, team and truly meet kids needs. We feel excited.

Lastly, research around this topic has been inconclusive to the effect of student achievement and small class size. The major contribution to student success is the high quality instructor. The teacher's role is crucial. John Hattie, educational researcher states on the topic
"Certainly reducing class size has a small increase on achievement -- but the problem that has been found is that when class size is reduced teachers rarely change their practice so it is thus not surprising that there are small differences.  Imagine if teachers were re trained to optimize all the (obvious) advantages -- but without major re training the effects are likely to remain as they have when reducing class size." Does Class Size Matter- Ed Week

As I stated above I feel very supported here at Highlands and will continue to partner with district leadership to provide the best learning experience for all kids. I will continue to work hard to attract and retain amazing teachers and we will continue to engage fully in our own continuous professional learning. Please let me know if you have any questions around this topic I am happy to discuss further. The two articles I included are just a start. There is an unbelievable amount of work/research that has been done on this topic for decades.

Thank you and be well!