Avoca West News

Week of February 21st

Structuring Newsletter Around Living B.R.A.V.E.ly

From the red painting on the wall alongside the viking ship to the golden tickets to notice students who are leading our B.R.A.V.E. values at Avoca West, we are working hard to tie all things back to the tenets of being bold, responsible, accountable, valuable, and empathetic. In order to make sure all who read and follow our story know those pillars are more than only paint on a wall, I'm restructuring our Avoca West News to capture stories and elements that fit into these characteristics of what it means to be a BRAVE Viking. Enjoy, and know that (like most things at Avoca West) it will continue to be a work in progress!

Living as BRAVE Vikings!


This year our Avoca West teachers have been feverishly working to implement a purely standards-based math experience for our students. What does this mean? It means a LOT of work and persistence in continually evaluating resources to make sure that they challenge our students within the classroom and are aligned to the Illinois (Common Core) State Standards. The path has not been an easy one, but it is one that I know that helps to build grit and resilience in our teachers and also keeps student learning at the center of all things. Our teachers have been spending time stepping outside of their classrooms to visit one another and to give kudos to each other about things they see that inspire them to try something new. Keep it up, Viking Staff!

Last week marked the 100th day of school this year, and we celebrated by taking the "100 Phone Call Challenge!" Staff members submitted names to me of those students who had to be the receivers of positive phone calls home. It was such a joy to make those phone calls home and hope that it spread the love to parents on the other end of the line! Staff members who jumped in to help me reach the 100 call mark shared how powerful the act of making a positive phone call was, and I've encouraged all to continue using this as a source for gaining that positive energy throughout the year.

Sometimes the best ideas come as spur of the moment "what if..." moments. This describes how the Best Buddies first ever Rose Sale came about. When we ordered 400 roses even before putting out one flier, we had fingers (and toes) crossed that we would not be staring at one another with buckets of roses at the end of it all. Who knew that we would actually be in a situation where on February 13th we'd be running out to the store to grab more flowers because we sold over 500 roses! WOW!! Thanks to our families and students who made it a rousing success and for Mrs. Hensen, Mrs. Madding, and Mrs. Anthony for rallying the troops and bringing Best Buddies to Avoca West. We look forward to using the profits from the sale for a springtime community event for all!

Respectful & Responsible

We are in the thick of cold and flu season and are seeing a number of students and staff members being effected by fevers, stomach issues, and oodles of other aches and pains! It is SO important that all of our parents exercise judgement for all of our families at Avoca West. As a working parent, I know how difficult it is to take a day off of school, but it's a responsibility that benefits us ALL! Here are some reminders for all of our families:

  • If you child has a fever, he/she MUST stay at home. Giving medication temporarily masks the fever, making it seem like he/she is able to head to school. When you send your child to school with a fever (or with a masked fever), you are not only exposing your child to anything else that might be out there, but you're also willingly sharing those germs with other students (and staff members).
  • If your child vomits or has other stomach "issues," he/she MUST stay at home.
  • Any fever, vomit, diarrhea must be gone (completely and without the help of medication) for 24 hours before returning to school.

Please (please! please!) follow these guidelines so that we can work together to make sure that we are all on a healthy, happy upswing as soon as possible!


January marks the midpoint of our school year and a specific time when teachers stop and take a formal snapshot of where students are at on their learning journey and share it with parents in the report card. It is also a time where many of our students start taking the computer-based MAP assessment for reading and math, and we begin planning for April's PARCC state-wide assessment.

We know that there is SO much more to your child than a number that pops up at the end of a test, particularly one where we are not able to see the specific successes or areas to target. In order to make sure that parents are as informed as possible about the "what" and "why" of both the MAP and PARCC assessments, you'll find a visual that explains many points below.

The winter MAP assessments have been completed just recently and our teams are looking at the data to consider possible areas to target instruction for students. The assessment is not intended to be a holistic picture of your child's learning over this school year -- rather a tool that helps us ask questions about what might be working or what might be worth adjusting. If you'd like a copy of your child's results, please reach out to his/her teacher.

Parent Teacher Conference sign up links were shared out earlier this week. Please click on your teacher's link and select a time to talk. Feel free to reach out at anytime to ask for feedback or to share your perspective on how things are going or how we might support your child!

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We are so proud of Nancy Magill for the work she does with our students and their love of learning a string instrument every day. Hers is one of my favorite spaces to visit -- to both watch and listen to the magic that comes out of her classroom! I'm even more proud that she was honored last month by the Illinois American String Teacher Association as the Outstanding Public School Teacher. Woot Woot!! Thank you, Nancy, for blessing our staff and students each day with your gift of music and of always shedding a positive light on things! We look forward to celebrating you as you end your career on a graceful note!

A huge thanks to our parent volunteers who helped with Art in Action! The gym at Avoca West was buzzing with creative energy on February 8th during the PTC-sponsored Art in Action Day! This year's art stations included hands-on experience with watercolors, abstract acrylic painting, still life, digital portraits, jewelry making, dance, glow stick photography, mask painting and collage scrapbooking.

Thank you to the Avoca administration, staff and PTC for supporting and accommodating this event. Thank you to the music, instrumental and PE departments for giving up their spaces for a day.

Who to YOU value? Take the time to reach out today and share your appreciation! The reward will be felt on both sides of the exchange!

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This past month our Student Ambassadors got together to pack lunches for the homeless. This is a natural extension of our work with Caleb White last year and our other endeavors to share our blessings with others who are less fortunate through the food pantry donations and other acts of kindness. Way to go!

Finally, one week out from the school shooting in Florida, I wanted to share something with our parent community about school safety and encouraging those conversations that may organically arise at home. During my time at Avoca West, there have been necessary changes to school sign in and visitor procedures -- those that happen every day and those that happen around parties and grade level events. While I know that signing into the office can be tedious and time consuming (not to mention frustrating when you believe your tag has been misplaced), it is times like this when I hope that you'll appreciate those extra moments we take to make sure you children are safe while at school. At Avoca West, not only are visitors buzzed into the office, but they also must be buzzed OUT of the office in order to be in the learning spaces with our children. These extra measures are by not means 100% safeguards agains anything ever happening...but the added time and steps are a deterrent and also allow us to make sure that when IN the building, your children are safe and sound.

Additionally, we practice what do do for all types of emergencies each and every year -- sometimes multiple times. During those drills, law enforcement take part and give feedback in the moment and we meet afterwards to debrief about anything that might be tweaked to strengthen our approach and student safety. Unfortunately, these drills are something that is commonplace to our students, but we're grateful that they've had less-than-scary moments where we've needed to stay in classrooms due to a critter that comes in through the courtyard space. Avoca West has achieved legendary status among the North Shore police and fire departments as they all know of the time that a skunk got into one of the hallways and we needed to keep things still and quiet while Mr. Cruz lured it back outside!

This is also a good time to remind staff and students to never open outside doors for anyone. Whether it be a staff member looking to get in, a parent who is trusted and seems "ok," or someone who is persistently knocking in the rain...it's never OK. We all depend on that solidarity of making sure that doors are not propped, unlocked, etc. so that we make sure we're doing the absolute best for our children and staff members.

Several parents have asked whether or not we formally discuss school violence with students - especially when it occurs and is in the news. We do not open the conversation, but our staff members are cognizant of those students who may ask questions, appear worried, and need the support and guidance of a school adult. For those of you who wish to have some guidance on how to talk with your child at home, you'll find something that was shared within my home district. There is no "perfect" way to respond, but please know that you are a part of our village and should feel free to lean on our school staff for any support you or your child may need in life's difficult situations.

Hug those you love, and may we raise children of our own who are as articulate and confident as those in Florida taking action to change their world for the better.

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Calling all Kindergarteners (for the 2018-2019 School Year!)

Do you have (or know!) a kiddo who will be 5 by September 1st? Come on by Avoca West on Wednesday, March 14th at 6:00pm to our annual Kindergarten Information Night. We are mixing things up a bit this year and will be hosting the information night in one of our kindergarten classrooms. This is a chance to hear all about kindergarten, to meet the teachers, and to see our classrooms.

Registration for kindergarten will NOT take place that evening, but you're welcome to start rounding up your birth certificate and proofs of residency. We will hold registration for kindergarten families on:

  • Wednesday, March 21st - 1:00-4:00pm &
  • Friday, March 23rd - 8:30-12:00pm OR
  • Anytime after Kindergarten Information Night!

We will talk more about the registration paperwork requirements at Kindergarten Information Night. See you then, and pass along the word to anyone else who might be joining us this August!

Mark Your Calendars!!

2/22 - Board of Ed Meeting at Marie Murphy

2/25 - 12:00-3:00pm - PTC's Fun Fair & Silent Auction at Avoca West

2/27 - 6:00-7:30pm - 2nd grade Folk Night

3/5 - 5:30pm - Committee of the Whole Meeting at Marie Murphy

3/7 - 7:00pm - PTC Meeting at Marie Murphy - All are welcome!

3/14 - 6:00-7:00pm - Kindergarten Information Night at Avoca West!

3/21 - Half Day Students - Parent-Teacher Conferences 3:00-7:00pm

Kindergarten Registration open from 1:00-4:00pm

3/22 - Half Day Students - Parent-Teacher Conferences 3:00-7:00pm

6:30pm - Board of Education Meeting at Marie Murphy

3/23 - No School Students - Teacher Institute Day

3/24 - Spring Break Begins!

4/2 - Student Attendance Resumes

Check out the Avoca PTC's Updated Website

Don't forget to stop by the Avoca PTC website for updated information and dates to put on your calendar as well. There are many exciting events going on -- including our Spirit Wear sales!!

Follow Us This School Year!

Questions? Comments?

Please feel free to reach out to ask any of our office staff for help!