It's Elementary - DES Newsletter

December 2020

Dates to Remember

January 4 - Classes Resume

January 18 - No School/Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

January 28 - End of the Second Quarter

February 5 - Honor Roll

Dr. Heidi's Happenings


As we approach the end of 2020, I am taking time to reflect on the many reasons to be grateful. I am so thankful for our families and the trust they put in us in educating their children. Thank you! We take that trust very seriously. I am also grateful for health, and the fidelity with which our students follow our health and safety measures. We ask the children to wear masks, even when playing outside in the hot Florida weather, and they do so without complaint! We have been very fortunate to have a low number of cases of COVID in Deaf Elementary School, in large part because of the health and safety measures our students and staff implement every day. It is clear that families are discussing the importance of these measures, and we thank you for that as it makes our job much easier! Finally, as I was writing this, I had a teacher enter my office and share a story with me. He shared about a student, the successes he has been seeing with that student, and how happy he was to be able to share those stories with the student's family. As this teacher stood in my doorway, sharing his joy with me, I was reminded of how thankful I am to have such a kind, empathetic, and student-centered staff. Our staff members go above and beyond each and every day, and are genuinely committed to student success. I couldn't ask for a better team.

I hope you are able to take some time during the vacation from school to reflect on what you are are grateful for. Research shows that people who practice gratitude are happier and healthier than those who do not, and I have found that when I practice gratitude, I find more reasons to be grateful! Please enjoy your holidays, stay safe and healthy, and find reasons to give thanks.

A Note From Deaf Department Principal Angela Saunders

The holidays are here, and students and staff alike are ready to recoup and refresh over the next two weeks. We have four more weeks left of the first semester. When we come back in January, our character theme will be Fairness, which aligns nicely with the MLK holiday that occurs mid-January. As you celebrate the holidays over the next two weeks, please keep yourselves and your family safe. From our FSDB home to yours- May your holidays be safe and full of joy, and may your new year get off to a great start. We are all happy to get 2020 behind us and are looking forward to a brighter 2021.

Holiday Message from FSDB President Tracie C. Snow

View in ASL
Holiday Message from the President in ASL
View in Spoken English
Holiday Message from the President in Spoken English


Hello FSDB students, staff, families, alumni and community members.

Every morning I wake up thankful for the blessing I have to serve as the President for the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. This is an amazing school with incredible students, staff, families, alumni and stakeholders.

The holiday season is a time to be with family and friends and to be thankful for the gifts we have in our lives. I am thankful to be part of an extraordinary community that promotes a caring and giving environment. It is my hope, especially this year, that you will take the time to relax and reflect on your gifts.

The first half of the 2020-2021 school year has been unprecedented. I want to thank you for the dedication and hard work that has made our many successes possible. Every member of the FSDB team should be proud of what we have accomplished. I know we will face challenges in 2021, however, I also know that with everyone working together, we will also have triumphs.

I want to wish you all a happy, healthy, peaceful and rejuvenating holiday season. Please take care of yourselves, your family and friends.

From my family to yours, all my best for the New Year.


Tracie C. Snow


Updates from Vaill Hall

The kids are very excited that it is Christmas time. Our kids in Vaill Hall are so excited, they have been busy putting up their Christmas trees, decorations, and lights in their areas. We used this activity part of their curriculum “Share Activities with friends.” On Dec. 15th we had a pizza party after the kids went to see Santa. They had a blast, got to visit with Santa and Mrs. Clause. We also had a snow machine going, they also saw the dance troupe perform. For our community service this month was for the Technology Department, goodies were given to them and thanking them for keeping all our electronics running smoothly. Our Christmas party was held on Thursday Dec. 17th each pod had a separate party. We kept things small. Our kids are doing great with Social distancing and wearing the masks. We have a garden going and it is flourishing. It's about time to harvest the broccoli, soon the cauliflower. Enjoy the photos from the event. Parents, enjoy the holidays with your kids, be safe and healthy.

Spotted in Each Grade Level

Every month we ask grade level teams to tell us something special they spotted in Gore Hall. Here are their responses!

Kindergarten: All of the beautifully decorated Christmas classroom doors!!

First Grade: First grade has seen students working hard to improve their reading levels and getting to paint flowers on our reading growth wall.

Second Grade: Students have been busy learning about the states of matter, adding and subtracting 2-digit numbers and comparing and contrasting!

Third Grade: An unlikely pairing playing together at recess. They were running around doing different exercises and investigating how the clovers smell...they didn't like it! But they did agree the bees like it though!

Fourth Grade: Students becoming confident using various strategies to solve division problems.

Fifth Grade: One student helped another student clean out her desk - cooperation and kindness!!!

Learning Lab: Students willingly give up bikes during recess so that other students can have a turn.

Favorite Moments From Each Grade Level

Every month we ask grade level teams to share a favorite moment. Here are their responses!

Kindergarten: All of my students reaching their goal of reading 100 books!

First Grade: First grade made their annual winter ASL story. Look out for the video to be shared on Facebook!

Second Grade: Learning about how Christmas is celebrated in different countries, so much fun!

Third Grade: One of our 3rd graders was in the hospital recently, but was able to send a video to the class to explain what was going on and reassure everyone that she was ok. Then we all made cards to help her feel better. ❤️

Fourth Grade: Students learning about and observing different types of rocks and minerals.

Fifth Grade: A student found out her class won a Reading Contest from Achieve 3000 and will be getting a pre-paid $25 Visa gift card. The class was told to be thinking about what to get to celebrate. One of the students suggested getting food for homeless people.

Learning Lab: Students using their resources/books to answer assessment questions.

Big picture
Did you know that we have a new DES Facebook group? In order to enhance digital security for our students and their families, we are transitioning our school Facebook page to a private group, which affords us better screening and monitoring measures. If you would like to join the group, please click this link: Our goal is to post pictures and/or updates daily.

Title I Information

You should have received your Title One Handbook last month. Please take some time to review the Handbook and then sign and return the last page. We are so thankful for our Title I funding. Look out for materials to support learning at home coming your way soon!

Title I, Part A is a component of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that provides supplemental funds to approved schools to meet educational goals, support professional development of staff and support parent engagement programs.

Big picture

Problem of the Week and Fluency Challenge

Thirteen Deaf Elementary School (DES) Students have submitted 17 Problem of the Week solutions to date! Check it out here:

After 5 solutions are submitted, students will be awarded a game!

Questions? please email DES Math Specialist, BJ Mayo at

Things to Say to Your Child

Here are a few things you can say to your child to encourage discussion. Source:

  1. I believe you.
  2. You are worth it.
  3. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.
  4. It’s good to be curious.
  5. We all make mistakes, it’s OK.
Big picture

Opt-in for Skyward Text Alerts

FSDB encourages parents/legal guardians of enrolled students to regularly log onto the Skyward Family/Student Access portal to keep their contact information up-to-date.

Skylert (School Messenger) is the system that FSDB uses to send out automated phone calls, text messages and email notifications families for general purposes ann case of emergencies.

Opting in for automated Skylert text notifications makes it possible for FSDB to quickly inform families about situations that may impact their child/family (e.g., weather, safety and bus alerts) as well as other school-related information. To opt-in, text "Y" to 67587.

Cutie Patootie Picture of the Month!

Big picture
Want to contribute a Cutie Patootie Picture of the Month submission? Join, like, and share our FSDB Deaf Elementary School Facebook Group and let us know! But also know the competition is pretty tough because DES is FULL of Cutie Patooties!

Parent Engagement Workshop

The third Parent Engagement Workshop (PEW) for the 2020-21 school year will be held on Jan. 15 at 10 a.m. via Zoom.

  • "President Pop In" with Tracie C. Snow, FSDB President
  • "Standards and Assessments" by Scott Trejbal, Administrator of Instructional Services
  • "Love and Logic: Choices" by Rhonda McCahill, FSDB School Counselor

    To join the meeting, visit:

    Future workshops will be held on Feb. 12 and April 23. Be sure to add these dates to your calendar!

    ASL Classes in January

    FSDB Parent University is hosting two virtual sign language classes for FSDB families starting in January and continuing weekly through March. Beginner (ASL I) and intermediate (ASL II) classes are available via Zoom. Please contact the teacher if you are interested in attending.

    Beginner Class (ASL I)

    Day: Thursday, 4:00-5:00 p.m.

    Dates: Jan. 7, 14, 21, 28 | Feb. 4, 11, 18, 25 | Mar. 4, 11


    For more information, contact Janelle Berry via email at

    Intermediate Class (ASL II)

    Day: Monday, 4:30-5:30 p.m.

    Dates: Jan. 4, 11, 25 | Feb. 1, 8, 22 | Mar. 1, 8


    For more information, contact Sonia Garcia-DeKnight via email at

    Ways to Keep Things Festive and Fun at Home

    The holiday season is a time when families gather to celebrate. Many families may feel a disruption to traditions due to continued safety precautions and social distancing. More than ever it is important to have family chats. Talking with your children will help them better understand their emotions and will give you an opportunity to model a positive response.

    Here are some ways to keep things festive and fun at home!

    • Have a cookie decorating contest and gather votes through social media.
    • Take turns with family or friends hosting mini virtual celebrations: caroling, storytelling, and holiday movie watch parties.
    • Go crazy with decorations both inside and out.
    • Act out favorite movie scenes.

    Check out these recommendations on staying healthy this holiday.

    Dr. Heidi's Virtual Office



    FSDB Welcome Back 2020

    Contact Us

    DES Office

    PH: 904-827-2520

    VP: 904-201-4505

    Health Care Center

    PH: 904-827-2410

    VP: 904-201-3910


    PH: 800-992-8747

    Vaill Hall (Dorm)

    PH: 904-827-2806

    VP: 904-201-4461

    Parent Services

    PH: 904-827-2212

    VP: 904-201-4527

    Campus Police

    PH: 904-827-2315