The Tiger Times

The Thomas Jefferson Elementary Parent Newsletter

January 23, 2020

Chalk Dust: Notes From The Principal's Desk

Occasionally, there are national events that should shape our thinking surrounding what kinds of students and people our schools should be helping to create.

I suspect that in recent weeks, many TJ families have watched with some interest the political happenings on Capitol Hill. Some perhaps have watched with excitement, others frustrations, others sadness, others anger, and many of us bits and pieces of all of these emotions. While there is indisputably much to learn from this chapter in American history, it seems inarguable that the debates we are witnessing are one loud testimony:

Our politics are broken.

So ossified are the factions within American politics that to even make the slightest compromise can generate charges of a lack of party purity (think "Democrat/Republican in name only"), or perhaps a primary election challenger, making some congressional districts even more right or left wing out of simple fear that being a political moderate is a short road to ending a political career.

To some degree, mean-spiritedness in American politics is nothing new. Even the Founders were prone to write scathing editorials -- usually under a pseudonym -- tearing down their political opponents. A visit to the Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois will expose us to newspaper headlines -- many abjectly and appallingly racist in nature -- denouncing Lincoln as everything from a traitor to an animal.

But our 21st century political acrimony, it seems to me, genuinely strains our future. We occasionally joke about tense family holidays, but how many American families have to tread carefully in discussing national events with family members on unlike minds? Our current reality erodes basic American institutions and gives rise to a feeling that nothing can be trusted. Journalism, science, and even long-established fact-checking web sites have now come to be slandered as "fake." One wonders if we can do anything "big" anymore without angering 50% of the American population.

The center, Yeats warns us, cannot hold. One way or another, there has to be a way out of this acrimonious freeze.

While it is still some time away, it is actually getting to be SOL season. Across Virginia, schools -- including TJ -- will be zeroing in on SOL-related skills, reteaching important content, analyzing data closely, and implementing any number of strategies to boost student achievement. None of this is trivial. But in a larger purpose, the events of recent weeks point to a monumentally critical need for us to develops young citizens and leaders who will eventually be able to repair our national dialogue.

This should mean something to all of us. Surely we have an obligation to teach our kids skills that will not only ease their life and make them more successful, but also better citizens and leaders. Empathy, flexible thinking, respectful disagreement, the ability to forge unity, and the art of compromise are the order of the day.

How, for instance, should we respond to students who have deep disagreements with one another? What is the relationship between being principled -- a PYP trait -- and being a flexible thinker? How much time should we be spending teaching speaking skills compared to the amount of time we should be spending teaching listening skills? How can we capture the essence of Stephen Covey's maxim, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood?" How do we teach the nature of citizenship in a way that gives hope for a healthier, less divisive national conversation?

Doubtless these are lofty goals beyond the reach of any one school. But I think there is value in all of us -- those who work in classrooms and those whose children learn in them -- thinking about these questions and doing our part to actualize them.

Staff Spotlight: Mrs. Miriam Schimmoller

By: Rayne Hammerschmidt, Molly Hughes, Nathan Landers, and James Pounds

This week we will be learning about a well loved teacher named Mrs. Schimmoller. Mrs. Schimmoller got her start in Pennsylvania and attended college to learn about psychology. She then went back for graduate school to get a degree in teaching. After this, she moved to Germany with her husband, then to Texas, where she lived for 25 years.

Her favorite part of being a teacher is seeing how the students are learning and helping them find their interests. One student says, “She is a really kind and caring teacher.”

In her free time, she likes to read, watch movies, knit, travel and go to fancy restaurants. Her favorite movie is "The Sound of Music" and her favorite book to read to kids is "Ms. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH."

She has two children, including her daughter (25) who’s an artist and her son (27) and who works at the United Nations Foundation.She has two sisters and her older sister is an author who wrote the book “Just Like Ruby Goldberg.”

Her favorite quote is “Lost time is never found,” by Benjamin Franklin. She says that this quote was something that inspired her to be a teacher. We are grateful to have her in our school!

Health And Wellness Committee Presents "Finding Kind"

The FCCPS School Board Health and Wellness Advisory Committee invites you to view Finding Kind on Saturday, January 25 at 4 pm in the GMHS Cafeteria or Sunday, January 26 at 4:30 pm at the GMHS auditorium. This film is recommended for grade 5 and up (10 years old and up). The film is about the "mean girl" phenomenon. To read more about the plot, click here. To see a trailer, here. The run time is 1 hour and 17 minutes.

Deadline For Yearbook Early Bird Pricing Extended

The deadline to buy a yearbook at the early bird price of $20 has been extended to February 14, 2020. New order forms were sent home last week.Families can purchase yearbooks at and using ID Code 11380120. If you choose to order online, please use your child's name as it appears on their school records.

Should you have any questions about the yearbook, do not hesitate to contact Ms. Brooke Davis, TJ's librarian and yearbook sponsor, at

Reminder About Parking And Fire Lanes

A friendly reminder to the TJ family to use designated parking spaces at school and to avoid parking in fire lanes. As the dismissal area at Seaton Lane can be very busy, following the pick up procedures will make dismissal both easier and safer. We appreciate your help with this.

Reports Cards Approaching

Report cards for the 2nd nine weeks will be sent home in Friday folders on January 31. As always, should you have questions about your student's report card, do not hesitate to contact the student's teacher.

Learn About The Falls Church Elementary PTA

FCCPS elementary schools are incredibly lucky to have a great partner in the Falls Church Elementary PTA (FCEPTA). To learn more about the FCEPTA, please visit

National Online Safety Parent Resources

National Online Safety has put together some fantastic resources for parents and carers about social media apps, online games and trending issues so they can have informed discussions with their children. All resources, plus much more can be accessed from the National Online Safety website:

Lost And Found Items Being Donated

TJ's Lost and Found, which often swells over the course of the Fall, will be donated to local charities on January 31. If your student is missing any clothing, please feel free to take a look at the lost and found before January 31.

Check Out the FCCPS App!


It's everything FCCPS, in your pocket.


This is a primary form of communication to staff and families - ESPECIALLY - during emergencies including SNOW CLOSINGS!


Falls Church City Public Schools is launching a new mobile app that helps students, parents, and community members know what is happening on campus, right from their phones. We know that families are using smartphones as a primary means to communicate. That’s why we’ve created an app that is custom-built for mobile. On the app, you can find alert notifications, cafeteria menus, contact information for staff, and event information. You can download the app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play.


1) Know what’s going on at school.
Ex: Find real-time updates from the website’s live feed about stories happening inside the classroom, on the football field, or in the art studio.

2) Connect with teachers and administrators.
Ex: Learn about parent-teacher conferences, access staff contact information, and quickly find out about district news.

3) Stay up-to-date with school information.
Ex: Receive updates about events occurring on campus, the daily cafeteria menu, and of course emergency notifications.


The App - Android: or iPhone:

Or just search "Falls Church City Public Schools"

YouTube Walkthrough of the FCCPS App

About TJ

Thomas Jefferson Elementary School is a grade 3-5 school in Falls Church. Like all Falls Church City Public Schools, TJ is an IB school. Our students are the beneficiaries of the Primary Years Program, which focuses on thematic instruction, international mindedness, and the development of the whole child.

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