Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Why Teachers are My Heroes



Superintendent News & Views
Why Teachers are My Heroes
By David Hill, Gladbrook-Reinbeck Superintendent

I am honored to be superintendent of Gladbrook-Reinbeck Community Schools, and I feel privileged to work with and support the work of such dedicated and talented educational professionals.  Next week is National Teacher Appreciation Week, and I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you why Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s teachers – and teachers in general – are deserving of our respect and our appreciation.  
Think back to when you were a child. Try to remember Kindergarten or another lower elementary grade.  Do you recall what you wanted to be when you grew up?  When you ask this question of our district’s youngest students, some of the more common responses you will hear include jobs such as firefighter, police officer, scientist, doctor or nurse, teacher, and various military roles. Kids will also often tell you that they want to grow up to do the same job that their mom or dad does.  Why do we so commonly hear these responses?  It’s because these are examples of the people that our students look up to. These people are our kids’ HEROES, and I think it’s awesome that so many students aspire to one day be a hero to others. 
As for me, I first remember wanting to be a teacher in the 4th grade. Over the years, I probably changed my mind two dozen times as to the grade level or subject matter that I wanted to teach, but I never wavered in my desire to become a teacher.  One of the best days of my life was when I fulfilled my dream by joining the teaching staff at Benton Community Middle/High School. 
Perhaps the reason I wanted to teach is because I was influenced by so many wonderful teachers during my formative years. In addition to the teachers in my school, my grandmother was one of my greatest teachers. Grandma, a retired teacher, had so many stories about her years in the classroom.  Nearly every one of her stories reflected the LOVE that she had of her job and for her students. One of Grandma’s greatest rewards in life came from visiting with her former students and learning about how they have positively influenced their workplaces, their families, and the world around them.    
The relationships teachers build each day with our young people are helping to shape their future. The efforts of Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s teachers today are inspiring and preparing the next generation of innovators, community influencers, and world leaders.
Teachers are role models for our young people. They truly are HEROES. They help students to understand that school is about so much more than learning information. Teachers help our young people learn how to apply the knowledge they’re gaining to reach their goals, fulfill their dreams, and change the world.
 Our teachers are part of a larger team that works together to make a difference for our students.  The bus drivers, coaches, cooks, secretaries, custodians, teacher associates, nurses, speech-language pathologists, counselors, principals and others who work in our schools are part of this team, and all of them deserve acknowledgment for the great services they provide to our students each day!
I am very proud to play a role in supporting the work that G-R’s teachers and staff do each day. Thank you, teachers and staff, for your hard work and dedication – you help our students achieve success in school, in their activities, and in their communities; and, the work you do will pay dividends for MANY YEARS TO COME!!! 
I encourage your feedback on this column, along with any questions you may have. You are welcome to visit my blog at http://rebelsupt.blogspot.com/ where you can read all of my columns and leave comments if you wish. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter, where my handle is @DavidRobertHill


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Gladbrook-Reinbeck Announces Makeup Days



Superintendent News & Views
Gladbrook-Reinbeck Announces Makeup Days
By David Hill, Gladbrook-Reinbeck Superintendent

This has been an unprecedented year of extreme weather, with twelve canceled days of school and a total of 86.62 hours of school missed as of my submission of this article to the newspapers on February 25. 
Most adults that grew up in Iowa can probably remember one or two especially bad years from when they were kids.  I don’t recall the year, but I do remember attending school on a Saturday once back in elementary school in order to make up missed days.  I also recall missing thirteen days of school due to weather during my early years as a principal.  But all of those memories were under the “old” system when instructional days were counted differently. 
A few years back, Governor Branstad signed a new law that allowed schools to count instructional HOURS (instead of days) with a minimum of 1080 hours required for students in first grade through eleventh grade.  Ever since that time, the Gladbrook-Reinbeck district’s calendars have included approximately 1135 hours of instruction, allowing for about 55 hours of “cushion” to account for hours missed due to late starts, early dismissals, and for other reasons. 
I mentioned above that we’ve missed 12 days and a total of 86.62 hours of school so far this year.  You may be wondering how this year compares to recent school years, since the law changed to allow for the counting of hours:  In 2017-2018, Gladbrook-Reinbeck had FOUR canceled days and ended the year on June 1 with 28.92 hours of cushion. In 2016-2017, we had FIVE canceled days and ended the year on June 6 with 45.5 hours of cushion. In 2015-2016, G-R had SEVEN canceled days and ended the year on June 3 with 25.34 hours of cushion. 
We understand that people want to know when the last day of school will be.  Families have travel plans, students have summer jobs and summer activities, and even teachers and staff need to be able to make plans for the conclusion of the year.  Because this has been such an extreme year, the date of the last day of school has been a moving target – a lingering uncertainty.  At the February school board meeting, the board approved a plan to remove that uncertainty. 
The last day of school for the 2018-2019 school year will be Friday, June 7.  There will NOT be an early dismissal on May 31 or on the last day of school. 
School will now be in session on March 11 and April 22 (which were originally scheduled to be teacher professional development days), and on May 31 and June 3-7.
The adjusted calendar will restore a cushion of extra hours that will enable the district to conclude the school year without going into the second full week of June. In other words, if we have another snow day between now and then, we will NOT plan to make it up unless the cushion is completely exhausted again. This plan gives us a cushion of 25.52 hours as of this writing, so hopefully that will be sufficient.
You should note that under this plan, we will not be making up every day that has been missed to this point. As explained above, additional days that may be canceled after this writing will also not be made up unless the cushion of hours is completely exhausted.  Teachers will report to work June 10, 11, and 12 and may work additional hours during the months of March, April, and May to make up missed teaching hours if additional cancellations occur. Our adjusted calendar will meet the instructional hours required by law and the number of work days in the teacher contract.

As always, I encourage your feedback on this column, along with any questions you may have. You are welcome to visit my blog at http://rebelsupt.blogspot.com/ where you can read all of my columns and leave comments if you wish. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter, where my handle is @DavidRobertHill



Monday, January 14, 2019

I'm PROUD of our G-R Students & Teachers!



Superintendent News & Views
I'm PROUD of our G-R Students & Teachers!
By David Hill, Gladbrook-Reinbeck Superintendent

In December, the Iowa Department of Education released reports showing how public schools performed in a new accountability system that meets the requirements of the federal government’s Every Student Succeeds Act.  ESSA, as it is called, is a replacement for the No Child Left Behind Act. 
The Iowa School Performance Profiles include each school building's scores on a set of accountability measures and includes the overall rating plus the performance of “subgroups” of students. These subgroups include students of various ethnicities, special education students, students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals, and non-native English speakers.  
Besides the performance measures (which rely on the Iowa Assessment, a test that is being replaced by a new state assessment in 2019), there is an indicator of school climate that is based on student surveys of engagement. Other measures include student participation in state assessments, academic achievement in reading and math, student growth in reading and math and graduation rate (at the high school level). Each category generates points for a building and then the categories are each weighted. 
Based on the school building ratings, the Iowa Department of Education has identified some schools that need “Comprehensive Assistance.” There are 34 such schools across the state. There are 307 other buildings that qualify for “Targeted Support” based on having one or more subgroups that did not attain at the same level as all students.
On last year’s state tests and the other accountability measures, G-R’s students did better than the state averages on nearly every measure. We have no building that needs "Comprehensive Assistance." Looking at our subgroups, students at the elementary level who qualify for free or reduced-price meals through the Federal School Lunch Program did not attain at the same level as all students.  Since this single subgroup of students fell just forty-four hundredths of a percentage point below the expected performance level, the elementary will receive "Targeted Support." This targeted support will include additional federal funding along with the opportunity to complete a self-assessment of our instructional practices to determine whether adjustments should be made in terms of how we meet the needs of this subgroup of students.  
Our district ratings and the overall student achievement at G-R continue to be something that we can take great pride in.  These ratings reflect the efforts of our teachers, associates, and administrators over the last few years to increase our students' growth and proficiency rates in reading and math. 
As well as we did, I am cautious in making sweeping judgments based on these performance profiles. This is the state's first attempt with the rankings; the system relies heavily on the Iowa Assessment, an outdated test that is being replaced in 2019 and is certainly not a comprehensive reflection of the high-quality teaching and learning that occurs each day within our classrooms. Furthermore, each year we have a different group of students whose achievement is measured in this system.  
I’m proud of the students at G-R and their outstanding academic achievements.  I’m also proud of G-R’s teachers, teacher leaders, associates, and principals who work tirelessly to help each student achieve his or her full potential.   I encourage your feedback on this column, along with any questions you may have. You are welcome to visit my blog at http://rebelsupt.blogspot.com/ where you can read all of my columns and leave comments if you wish. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter, where my handle is @DavidRobertHill. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

FREE Literacy Resources for Parents



Superintendent News & Views
FREE Literacy Resources for Parents
By David Hill, Gladbrook-Reinbeck Superintendent

Imagine if there was a “one-stop shop” where families could access free literacy resources for PreK-6th Grade children.  Now, imagine if parents and caregivers could use a search and filter tool to select specific types of resources, targeted literacy skills to work on, and an appropriate age range.  You don’t need to use your imagination any longer, as these resources exist and are just a click away. 
The Iowa Reading Research Center (IRRC) has developed a wonderful website to provide these types of targeted resources. The website continues to be expanded regularly to meet the needs of children of all ages. This high-quality collection of over 200 learning activities, videos, articles, and parent guides is a great resource that families can use to practice and build critical reading skills.
IRRC is collaborating with educators and parents across Iowa to make a multitude of resources available for families on their website at http://www.iowareadingresearch.org/.  IRRC has worked extensively with trained educators and parents who have reviewed hundreds of resources for content, quality, and accessibility. Only those resources receiving the highest ratings are hosted on the IRRC website. The resources are free and no log-in is required. Visitors can search the collection by literacy skill, age/grade, and resource type, or search by keyword to find learning tools that are just right for each and every child.
Whether your child is a struggling reader or is one of the most skilled readers in his or her class, he or she will benefit from the resources provided on this website and the time spent with parents or other adults while using these tools.  I encourage parents to visit the IRRC website regularly for current information and additional resources.
Parents and others who support children in their reading may also want to subscribe to the IRRC’s weekly blog at http://www.iowareadingresearch.org/blog/ Blog readers will learn more about the individual resources in the IRRC Family Resources Collection, get specific information how to best utilize the IRC family resources, and have the opportunity read about parents’ real-life experiences with using the tools from the collection.
You can also follow the Iowa Reading Research Center’s Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/IAReading or their Facebook posts at https://www.facebook.com/iowareadingresearchcenter
Whether you are a parent, grandparent, older sibling, daycare provider, or anyone else who supports young readers, I hope you will take advantage of these free, high-quality tools.
I encourage your feedback on this column, along with any questions you may have. These SUPERINTENDENT NEWS & VIEWS columns, in addition to my blog and Twitter postings, are part of my plan for open communication with the community. If you’ve missed any of my columns or would like to re-read or share them with your friends and family, you are welcome to visit my blog at http://rebelsupt.blogspot.com/ where they are all posted. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter (@DavidRobertHill) where I occasionally post updates or other information not found on the blog.

Monday, September 10, 2018

G-R Welcomes New Teachers


Superintendent News & Views
G-R Welcomes New Teachers
By David Hill, Gladbrook-Reinbeck Superintendent

The 2018-2019 school year started on August 23, and the first few weeks of school have been GReat!  We welcomed six new teachers to the Gladbrook-Reinbeck Rebel family for the 2018—2019 school year. I’m pleased to introduce each of our new teachers in the paragraphs below.

Mrs. Emily Biederman, Teacher-Librarian:  Mrs. Emily Biederman is the district’s new K-12 Teacher-Librarian. A native of Tama County, she grew up in Dysart and graduated from Union High School in La Porte City.  She holds a bachelor's degree from UNI in English Education with a 5-12 reading endorsement and a minor in creative writing. She is also currently attending UNI working on a Master's degree in School Library Science. This is Mrs. Biederman’s first full-time teaching position, having previously worked in the private sector. G-R is sharing her time with the Grundy Center Schools, where she is also serving as a Teacher-Librarian.
Commenting on the positive, welcoming environment at G-R, Mrs. Biederman said, “From the minute I stepped into the door on my first day of new teacher orientation, I was greeted by a member of the maintenance staff, who said she is there if I have any questions. As I am meeting each new teacher and member of staff, everyone has let me know they are there for support with any questions I may have, no matter how ‘silly’ my question is. G-R is not just a group of people dedicated to the education of students, but also a family who treat each other with respect and are constantly helping each other be the best educator they can be. I look forward to being in an environment which facilitates personal educational growth, but also enjoys each other's company.

Mr. Ryan Smiley, Jr. High Special Education:  Mr. Ryan Smiley joins the Rebel Nation this year as the new Jr. High Special Education teacher at Gladbrook-Reinbeck Jr./Sr. High School.  Coach Smiley has also joined the football program staff.  He’s a 2015 graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, with a major in PE/Health and a minor in coaching. He has experience as a teacher in the Valley Lutheran School System in Cedar Falls, where he taught K-12 Physical Education, high school health, and served as the athletic director.
Having attended the Northern University High School and taught at Valley Lutheran School, Coach Smiley appreciates and feels right at home in G-R’s small-school environment.  Asked why he is excited about becoming part of the G-R Rebel family, he said, “I’m excited to be part of a small school that offers a ton of opportunities for kids. I am also excited to be coaching football again.”  Mr. Smiley and his wife Alicia have two children that are attending Gladbrook-Reinbeck schools: daughter Ellie is in 9th grade and son Nathan is a 5th grader.

Mrs. Lacey Degener, Kindergarten:  Mrs. Lacey Degener recently relocated to our area to join us as a new Kindergarten teacher at Gladbrook-Reinbeck Elementary School. She is a native of Minden, Iowa and a graduate of Tri-Center High School as well as Iowa State University, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education.
At Audubon, she taught 5th grade for the last five years and 6th grade English for one year prior to that. She coached 8th grade volleyball for 4 years, 9th grade volleyball for 1 year, 7th grade basketball for 2 years, and varsity tennis for 5 years. When asked about her initial impressions of Gladbrook-Reinbeck, Mrs. Degener stated, “Everyone has been very welcoming and I'm excited to start a new adventure with G-R!”

Mrs Mackensie Sauerbrei, Secondary Spanish:  Miss Mackensie Sauerbrei is the new Spanish teacher at Gladbrook-Reinbeck Jr./Sr. High School. Miss Sauerbrei taught high school Spanish and coached middle school volleyball at Tipton for one year before joining the G-R staff. She has also coached high school volleyball at Waverly Shell-Rock. She is a graduate of Iowa Valley High School in her hometown, Marengo. 
Miss Sauerbrei attended Wartburg College in Waverly, where she majored in Secondary Education and Spanish. Her educational preparation also included a period of studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain which deepened her understanding of other cultures and the importance of learning a second language.  She hopes to provide one or more international learning opportunities for G-R students.  Miss Saurbrei is pleased to have the opportunity to become a G-R Rebel, explaining, “I’m excited to be a part of such a welcoming school district and community.” 

Mrs. Laura Sabotta, 5-12 Band & 4-6 Music:  Mrs. Laura Sabotta is the new band director for grades 5-12.  She is also teaching music to students in grades 4 & 6. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree and a Master of Music Degree from the University of Northern Iowa in Music Education, as well as an Artist Diploma in Bassoon Performance. She’s a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota and a graduate of Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School. 
While this is Mrs. Sabotta’s first year as a teacher, she did previously serve as a graduate assistant in the music program at UNI and teach lessons while working on her master’s degree at UNI. She explained that she’s excited to be at G-R because, “The staff and students are kind and easy to work with. I feel appreciated and supported in what I do.” 

Mrs. Sydney Kauten, 5th Grade:  Mrs. Sydney Kauten joins G-R this year as a 5th Grade Teacher at Gladbrook-Reinbeck Elementary School. A native of Iowa City, she graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with degrees in Early Childhood and Elementary Education with minors in Mathematics and Literacy. Prior to teaching at G-R, she taught for six years in the Waterloo Community School District.
When asked about her initial impression of the school after her first few days at Gladbrook-Reinbeck Elementary, Mrs. Kauten replied, “It’s been phenomenal.  The students are respectful and come to school excited to learn.  The staff has been extremely welcoming and act as a team so that students receive the best education possible.”  She went on to add, “When I interviewed for the fifth grade position last spring, I told Principal Bradi Johnson that I was looking for a home -- and I think I have found that in Gladbrook-Reinbeck Elementary.” 

More Fun & Interesting Facts About Our New Teachers:  Which of these new teachers didn’t like the subject they are currently teaching when they were a student in school?  Which one enjoys reading comic books and playing strategy games?  Which one can be found on YouTube lip syncing badly?  What are our new teachers’ favorite books of all time?  Why did these teachers decide to pursue a career in education?  Find the answers to these questions and more in the “Get to Know…” series of blog posts, which includes a separate, more detailed article focusing on each of the new teachers:

I’ve always believed TEACHERS are a school’s greatest resource, and G-R employs some of the very best in the business! These new additions to the Gladbrook-Reinbeck teaching staff have been carefully selected for the skills, abilities, and aptitudes that they will bring to our educational community. We’re excited to have these new Rebels on board, and I encourage everyone in our educational community to help them to feel welcome and supported in the important work they do. Welcome, new Rebels!
You are welcome to visit my blog at http://rebelsupt.blogspot.com/ where this column and all columns I submit to the Northern Sun Print and Reinbeck Courier are posted. I also welcome you to follow me on Twitter, where my handle is @DavidRobertHill.


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Get to Know…Mr. Smiley!


Mr. Ryan Smiley joins Gladbrook-Reinbeck this year as the new Jr. High Special Education teacher.  He feels right at home in G-R’s small-school environment, having graduated from Northern University High School and taught at Valley Lutheran School in Cedar Falls prior to joining the G-R staff. He’s a 2015 graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, with a major in PE/Health and a minor in coaching. At Valley Lutheran, he taught grades K-12 Physical Education, high school health, and served as the athletic director.  Here are a few interesting facts about Mr. Smiley:
Why did you become a teacher?  To help teach young people to become men and women of empathy and integrity who will lead, be responsible and change the world for good.
Your favorite teacher:  Jann Miller, Neil Phipps, Bob Lee, Tracy Johns. All of them played a very important role in my education but also in what kind of person I wanted to be. They were able to fill gaps when I was struggling with things at home/Life
Hobbies:  Hunting, Fishing, Camping, Kayaking, Golf, Disk Golf, Watching football
Favorite subject when you were a studentPE/Anatomy
Favorite activity while in high school:  Football-Track
Favorite Superhero:  Superman 1978
Favorite sport/team:  Notre Dame
Last book you readSacred Acre: The Ed Thomas Story by Mark Tabb‎
All-time favorite book:  InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives by Joe Ehrmann. In his book, he talks about how impactful coaches can be IF they are coaching for the right reasons, and how to examine yourself before and during your coaching/teaching to help ensure that the kids are getting the best out of you and you are getting the best out of the kids.
Initial impressions of G-R:  I am excited to be part of a small school that offers a ton of opportunities for kids. I am also excited to be coaching football again.
What did I forget to ask?  Wife- Alicia; Daughter-Ellie 9th Grade at G-R Jr./Sr. H.S; Son Nathan (Nate)- 5th Grade at G-R Elementary.

The #RebelNation welcomes Mr. Smiley and his family to Gladbrook-Reinbeck Community Schools!  

Friday, September 7, 2018

Get to Know…Mrs. Degener!



Get to Know…Mrs. Degener!
We welcome Mrs. Lacey Degener to the district as a new Kindergarten teacher at Gladbrook-Reinbeck Elementary School. She recently relocated to the area after teaching and coaching in Audubon, Iowa for the past six years. She is a native of Minden, Iowa and a graduate of Tri-Center High School as well as Iowa State University, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education. Here are a few interesting facts about Mrs. Degener:
Initial impressions of G-R:   Everyone has been very welcoming and I'm excited to start a new adventure with G-R!
Prior Teaching Experience:  I taught 5th grade for the last five years in Audubon as well as 6th grade English for one year. I coached 8th grade volleyball (4 years), 9th grade volleyball (1 year), 7th grade basketball (2 years), and varsity tennis (5 years).
Favorite subject when you were a studentHistory
Activities while in high school:  Volleyball, Basketball, and FFA
Favorite sport/team:  Kansas City Chiefs, Iowa State Cyclones
Your favorite teacher:  My high school biology teacher, Miss Keogh. I wasn’t a fan of Science, but she helped me understand it and she is part of the reason I became a teacher as well.
Last book you read: Just starting Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
All-time favorite book:  Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  I read this book with my 5th graders every year and the conversations we had while reading, after reading, and referring back were amazing. The book made such an impression on me both personally as well as seeing my kids sympathize and empathize with Auggie and grow as individuals as well.

We’re excited to welcome Mrs. Degener to Gladbrook-Reinbeck Elementary and to the Rebel family!