Walnut Ridge Blog

News from the Little School with the Big Heart

Walnut Ridge Primary School Selects its NJ Governor's Educators of the Year

Congratulations to our NJ Governor’s Educator of the Year for Walnut Ridge Primary School Mrs. Denise Docherty and Mrs. Aimee Hamilton. Walnut Ridge is very fortunate to have so many talented teachers working with your children. These professionals are a mere example of the first-rate teachers in Walnut Ridge Primary School.

Mrs. Hamilton- Speech Language Specialist...

Mrs. Aimee Hamilton is one of three a speech and language therapist at WRPS. She works with the entire preschool population as well as some of our kindergarten and first grade students. Mrs. Hamilton gets to know each child as an individual and differentiates her lessons to meet all of the students’ needs. She takes the time to discuss the preschool theme being taught in the classroom with the teachers and designs her lessons to coordinate with the themes. Mrs. Hamilton conducts successful lessons and keep students engaged and on task. Her calm, gentle manner holds students’ attention and makes them want to do their very best. She maintains a positive relationship with the families and works closely with them to help her students succeed. Mrs. Hamilton consistently attends professional development classes that address her students’ needs and turnkeys the information with fellow colleagues. Mrs. Hamilton is a teacher-leader, conducting several in-services for teachers and classroom aides alike. For example, she has taught classes on the development of language of young children and the strategies school personnel can use to assist students struggling with language. She is a knowledgeable resource for teachers, aides, and parents and has a positive impact on all of the students that she comes in contact.

Mrs. Docherty- Art Teacher Extraordinaire...

Mrs. Docherty is WRPS’s art teacher. She has come to inspire countless students (thousands through the years) to love art at such an impressionable age. Mrs. Docherty is an instrumental member of our school community, sharing her wonderful positive energy, strong work ethic and deep devotion to her profession. Mrs. Docherty’s approach to teaching very sophisticated concepts such as the Principles of Design in a structured yet nurturing environment makes this subject and classroom come alive. Despite the fact that Mrs. Docherty teaches approximately 500 students, she has a special way of getting to know each and every student she interacts with and personalizes their art experience. Mrs. Docherty unlocks potential in students that they may not see nor have the confidence. Getting her students to use their imagination, the work she has her students produce is of star-quality. Although her students’ artwork is “child-like”, there is a level of sophistication to each and every artful piece created. Teaching such technical topics as The Principals of Design, she can translate the academia of this curriculum to one of Walnut Ridge Primary School’s favorite classes. In Mrs. Docherty’s room there are no barriers, there is no, “I can’t” even whispered.

Congratulations to Mrs. Kristina Krops a NJ Exemplary Elementary Educator

Walnut Ridge Honors our Reading Specialist

Mrs. Kristina Krops is WRPS’s Reading Specialist. The Exemplary Elementary Award honors teachers who meet a host of criteria including: exceptional educational talent as evidenced by effective instructional practices and student learning results in the classroom and school, outstanding educational accomplishments beyond the classroom, and contributions to education.

Mrs. Krops services the district in several important ways including offering pull-out, small group support to academically at-risk students and push-in support to work collaboratively with teachers to support the delivery of high quality instruction. Mrs. Krops has a special way of personalizing education, bringing out the best in all of her students. She is keenly aware of her student’s learning styles and reading needs, prescriptively identifying each student’s area requiring further development. She is sensitive to her students and knows that for many of them reading and writing is their biggest challenge. Like a physician who carefully examines her patients knowing just what they need, Mrs. Krops takes the same approach to her students. Mrs. Maureen Sweeney, a colleague of Mrs. Krops and a teacher who helped in the nomination process, said, “As the school reading specialist, working with children in kindergarten and grade one, Mrs. Krops works to support those students who are struggling with early literacy skills. She promotes literacy throughout the school, and provides parents with tools and assistance to be literacy partners. Mrs. Krops has worked tirelessly to emphasize the importance of daily reading at home, at levels that support independence and success for these young readers. Mrs. Krops has made presentations to our SCA, detailing the work that the children and teachers do, and most importantly, inviting them to be a part of the process.”

Academic Updates...

Our kindergarten and first graders are certainly growing readers at Walnut Ridge. Avid, excited, motivated readers to be exact…


In our Kindergarten classrooms, readers have been learning how to make text-to-self-connections and text-to-text connections as they read and listen to stories. This strategy of making connections helps readers to better understand how a character feels in a story and why they react or don’t react a certain way to situations that arise.


In our first grade classrooms, readers have been learning to notice their thoughts in a deeper way as they read. We use the mantra “Reading is Thinking” on a daily basis. We have focused on making connections, noticing when we learn something new and asking questions when something is confusing or not clear. We’ve talked about listening to our inner voice as it says things like “Wow, I never knew that fact!” or “This reminds me of when…” and “I wonder how…” Students have been taught the technique to visualization to help “see” a story in our mind. When readers use these strategies and notice their thinking, their comprehension deepens.


During the month of January, Kindergarten students will be administered the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA2) and will begin working in guided reading groups. Guided reading is an instructional method where students work in small groups as they read texts at their instructional reading level that review or enhance the skills and strategies taught during Reader’s Workshop.


Walnut Ridge Primary School art students will be engaged in creating art work with a winter theme. Kindergarten students are creating their own unique mittens. Learning a stitchery technique (the whip-stitch) on tag board mittens that the students designed and cut provides an introduction to fiber arts. Next, sampling another type of fiber art, kindergarten students will learn to weave with paper strips. They will learn to rule lines at even intervals as they make the warp into which the colored strips will be woven. First grade students will learn how to create “anatomically correct” (six-sided) paper snowflakes; each one will be as unique and special as the child who makes it. Next, first graders will learn about brushstrokes and painting techniques (including splatter painting) as they work with tempera paint to create real or imaginary snow creatures. Later in the winter, first grade students will use dry pastels to create a snowscape that is reminiscent of the mountain view from the front our school, learning about background, foreground, and perspective. Then they will learn about birds that are seen in our area in winter as they practice their representational drawing skills on the birds that they choose to be in the foreground of their scenes.

Below are some reminders for some upcoming events...

Our preschoolers will be having their Holiday Sing Along on Wednesday, December 10th at 10:30 and 2:30; the program is under the direction of Mr. Moschella.


Dinner with Santa: will be held on December 11th (from 6-7:30 pm) and December 12th (6:30-8:00)- you must have a ticket for this event, purchased through the SCA. If you have not purchased a ticket yet, please contact the main office who will put you in touch with our president, Mrs. Wagenhoffer.


Early Dismissal: Tuesday, December 23, 2014, at 1:30. Students may purchase a grab and go lunch that they will eat in their classrooms.


School Reopens: Monday, January 5, 2015


SCA Meeting: Monday, January 5, 2015 at 9:30 and 7:00 pm. Childcare is provided for all evening meetings. This month, Math Coaches Mrs. Gudenkauf and Mr. Gagliostro will be making a math presentation. We thank the SCA for all the wonderful programs they bring to the students of Walnut Ridge. We appreciate your dedication to our school and students; your countless hours of volunteer time do not go unnoticed!


Principal’s Forum: Tuesday, January 13, 2015, at 6:30 pm in the all-purpose room- come spend an evening with Mrs. Keane, School Counselor, and me to hear about all the programs at Walnut Ridge- information will be provided to assist you at home with reading, writing, and math (snow date- January 14)


Board of Education Public Meeting: Thursday, January 15, 2015, at 7:00 at Walnut Ridge Primary School. Mr. Piontkowski will be demonstrating some of the games that he plays with students on the Peaceful Playground on our brand new gym floor that is scheduled for installation at the end of December.


School Closed: on Monday, January 19, 2015, in observance of Martin Luther King Day


Family Math Night: Wednesday, January 28, 2015: Families that have signed up will receive information about games you can play and ways to assist your child at home to reinforce our Math in Focus program. Please see the sign up form under the School News link of the WR page (snow date January 29)


Outdoor Recess: As a reminder, our students will go outside for recess as long as the temperature stays about 23 degrees. Please make sure your child wears a warm coat, hat and gloves daily in preparation for playing outside. We try as often as possible in the winter months to have our students go outside for physical activity.


As we settle into the winter months, I would like to remind you to update your personal information on the School Messenger database. It is important for you to be informed of emergency school closings, early dismissals or delayed openings. You can also find our school closings, delayed openings, and early dismissals on the main page of the VTSD site as well as News Channel 12. If you need any assistance with School Messenger, please contact the main office at: 973-764-2801.


As always, let’s keep working together to make sure your child…our students… stay focused, achieve their very best, and stay on the path of excellence!


Yours in Education, it is an honor to work with your children...

Mrs. Gebhardt