By Noelle H. Lowery
Tommie Barfield Elementary was a hive of activity Monday, as parents, teachers and students welcomed a new school year. The car loop hummed with car engines and muffled radios. The hallways bustled with children and adults looking for classrooms. Hugs were given. Tears were shed. Smiles and excitement shared.
“I am so excited,” says Danielle Webb Baldwin, mother of first-grader Matthew Webb. “Matthew is ready for first grade.”
TBE Principal Dr. Jory Westberry is definitely thrilled about the new year. “Each school year holds exciting challenges and this year is no exception,” she says. “We have great new teachers joining our staff, a new reading series, new math materials and we will be having lots of training so we can be a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) school starting in January.”
To be sure, the new school year brings new faces to the hallowed halls of TBE. In fact, the school is welcoming five new teachers and two new administrative staff members for the 2013-2014 academic year.
From Manatee County, Debbie Lenehan joins the fifth grade team this year. She has a BA in Elementary Education and is presently working on her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Also joining the fifth grade team is Lori Pinson from Miami-Dade where she taught for 12 years in intermediate grades. She is certified in Elementary Education and has a BS in Science.
Kim Schulter is new to TBE’s fourth grade team this year. She attended the University of Pittsburgh and is certified in K-6 Elementary Education. Emilia Roman, who is also certified in Elementary Education and recently taught in Broward County, is new to the third grade team. The fifth new teacher is Lauren Bergin, a former TBE student who is thrilled to be giving back to her community. Bergin taught at Manatee Elementary last year and graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a BA in Elementary Education.
New administrative staff members include: Office Secretary Monica Novotny and Assistant Charlotte Rhine.
Along with the new faculty and staff, brings new programs to TBE. “We have two new computer-based programs, one for writing and one that focuses on reading and math that will really benefit our students, plus (Bring Your Own Device),” Westberry notes.
According to Collier County Public Schools web site, Bring Your Own Device will allow students at all grade levels to bring their own mobile devices — smartphones, touch devices and tablets — to school for use in the classroom. Students will be able to connect to the school’s wireless internet access to use their mobile devices for projects, research, as a response device for assessments, collaboration, presentations, and other instructional and school related purposes. The list of approved mobile devices, as well as more information about the program, can be found at www.collierschools.com/byod.
Still, Westberry admits, “The biggest challenge will be moving forward into Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which are more rigorous than the Sunshine State Standards, and getting the necessary CCSS training along with technology expertise to create powerful strategies to reach all our students.”
Voluntarily adopted by Florida’s State Board of Education in 2010, CCSS are the new K-12 education standards. The standards will phase out the FCAT, which will be replaced with another yet-to-be-determined standardized testing system. Common Core is slated to be fully implemented by the 2014-2015 academic year. These same standards have been adopted by 45 other states and in Washington, D.C.
At the heart of CCSS are specific and rigorous standards and expectations for each grade level, and it is believed these will help students learn not just by rote memorization but also the why and the how of their lessons. There will be an emphasis on comprehension, explanation, writing and class discussion — analyze, explain and discover. There will be more projects and more group work.
While all of these changes will challenge faculty and students at TBE, Westberry strongly believes they also will help them grow and excel. “Our School Improvement goal will be to exceed our progress as measured this year by the State of Florida,” she says. “It’s an honor to be designated as an A School, but we can always improve and we are committed to making our school the best.”
There is the bell. Class is now session.