The Tiger Times

The Thomas Jefferson Elementary Parent Newsletter

November 22, 2019

Chalk Dust: Notes From The Principal's Desk

Now that the school year is well under way, TJ, along with the other FCCPS schools, has turned its attention to our school improvement plan. This year, Dr. Noonan asked schools to come up with three goals: one for improving our IB/PYP program, one to close gaps among achievement levels of students, and one to solidify our efforts to become a caring community.

For TJ, this process meant involving our team leaders to look carefully at our data and to assess how we can make a strong school even stronger. I want to publicly thank our team leaders for their work on this. One of the things I am most proud of is that the goals our school is undertaking are not dictates from me; rather, they are the compilation of thoughtful work and discussions of our staff and teams. I am proud of their work and am eager to harness our efforts to meet these goals.

In short, here are the three goals that TJ will be focusing on this year:

1. By the end of the 2019-2020 school year, each grade level will rewrite three unit planners and transfer them into "Toddle," a web-based program. This goals will not only help TJ staff members more easily edit and change plans, but it opens the door to an exciting and much-needed opportunity: to build digital portfolios for all of our students. "Toddle" has storage capabilities that will allow kids to save some of their work and projects. Imagine, then, the opportunities for reflection that can come from asking kids to look back on their work of earlier in the year -- or even from years ago -- and assess how they have grown and changed. In a PYP school that asks kids to be reflective, this capability is potent.

2. By the end of the 2019-2020 school year, TJ will reduce by 50% the gap between ESOL reading SOL pass rates and overall reading SOL pass rates. Last year, TJ made considerable progress in the area of improving ESOL math achievement. This year, we turn our attention to ESOL reading. Our ESOL reading SOL pass rate last year was 35%, which is right at state average. Our overall reading pass rate last year was 90%. Our goal is ambitious. It will take a massive effort for us to meet this goal, but we feel like it is worth the effort. Our work this year will involve trying to bring more dialogue, book discussions, reading talks, and other practices into our classrooms. One of the more interesting things we learned last year is that when we employ techniques designed to boost ESOL achievement, it helped all students. We think the same things can happen with reading.

3. By June 2020, TJ will support the development of the whole child by consistently supporting student growth in the areas of behavior and expectations at least once a month. Essentially, this goal recognizes that children are more than test scores and pass rates. Our efforts here will involve any number of strategies designed to enhance our social and emotional learning practices. For instance, it is possible that once a month, our counselors may visit every classroom in the school to provide instruction in areas such as bullying prevention, or acceptance/tolerance/inclusion, or what not. We will continue to use our highly successful "Tiger Stripes" program, but we will look carefully at our data and experiences and focus on reinforcing positive behavior in locations and subjects that our students can do better in.

As you can see, it will be a busy and robust year, as it always is. But we feel that this work is the right work, and that these efforts are the next steps toward making our school even better.

Staff Spotlight: Mr. Patrick DeShields

By: Joseph Downs, Carmen Ortiz, and Lily Young

Mr. Patrick Deshields, our math paraprofessional, chose this job at TJ. He loves helping out, just as he helped out in by being in the military. When Mr. Deshields was in the military he went to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Somalia, and Panama.

Mr. Deshields loves to travel, and also really loves libraries. Mr. Deshields loves libraries because you can travel anywhere in them. You can even go to different worlds and universes. You can go to the past, or the future, or a city on a cloud. Libraries also have the internet, and you can do anything on the internet. Libraries are full of infinite possibilities. And with infinite possibilities you start to notice that “we are all the same, just different.”

Mr. Deshields has 2 degrees in education, a masters of arts and teaching degree, and a degree in technology education, distance learning, and computer science. He even knows Java and HTML. Yes, HTML.

Mr. DeShields loves to learn, but said he “didn’t understand a lot of things” as a kid. So he kept learning, and working hard. “When you make mistakes, that is the best time to learn. It builds character, because you’re not going to get everything right the first time. When you don’t get things right the first time, you try again. If you say you’re not good at something, you’re not going to get better at it.”

Mr. DeShields loved school. He went to school right when schools were starting to get integrated. So one day he told his guidance counselor that he wanted to be an astronomer. His guidance counselor said, “well, there aren’t many African-American astronomers, why don’t you come back in two weeks with a more realistic goal.” Now, Mr. DeShields looks back and says “Don’t let anyone stop you from anything, EVER.”

Mr. DeShields loves photography, and takes photos whenever he can. “It usually takes 1 year to make 1 picture.” He goes to a certain spot and takes one picture of that spot every season. Then, he collages them together into one picture.

Stakeholder Survey About FCCPS School Calendar

As many of you are aware, FCCPS, in response to a recent change in Virginia state law, is exploring various options for calendars for the 20-21 school year, including possibly starting school before Labor Day. FCCPS is interested in hearing from all stakeholders about their perceptions and opinions regarding next year's calendar. You are invited to take a survey about this at the following link:

The deadline to complete this survey is November 29th at 6:00 p.m. EST.

No School: Thanksgiving Break

A reminder to the TJ family that all FCCPS schools will be closed Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, 11/27-29 for Thanksgiving break. Students will return to TJ on Monday 12/2.

From there, we have only a short hop, skip, and a jump to winter break. The last student day before winter break will be Friday, 12/20. Students will return to TJ on Monday, January 6.

TJ Yearbook Sales Continue

Early bird TJ yearbook sales have started! If your family would like to buy a yearbook at the $20 rate, you may order online at:

ID Code 11380120

The $20 early order discount ends in March. At that time, the cost of the yearbook will increase to $25. Should you have any questions about the yearbook, do not hesitate to contact Ms. Brooke Davis, TJ's librarian and yearbook sponsor, at

Lost And Found

As is often the case this time of year, TJ's lost and found collection is beginning to grow. If you are missing any sweatshirts, clothing, lunch boxes, or any other student item, feel free to swing by TJ and take a look at the lost and found collection. Items not collected by around January 1 may be donated to a charitable organization.

One of our staff members offered a good tip: for a frequently worn jacket sweatshirt, having the student's name on the jacket's label/size tab may make it easier to ensure lost clothing gets back to its rightful owner.

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.

Previous Issues Of The Tiger Times