TJ Today

Thomas Jefferson Middle School

APril 2017

April - June

April 5 - Academic Super Bowl

April 6 - G.R.E.A.T. fundraiser Tip-a-Cop at Kelsey's

Steakhouse 4-9

April 11 - 5th grade Parent Night - cafeteria 6:30

April 17 - NO SCHOOL - (or weather make-up day)

April 19 - 21- ISTEP TESTING

April 25 - 8th grade trip to Ivy Tech (Valparaiso)

April 28 - Wizards at VHS

May 2 - 8th grade trip to Notre Dame (South Bend)

May 30 - Incentive Day Trip

May 31 - 8th Grade Picnic

June 1 - Awards Day

June 2 - Field Day/Last Day of School


The Valparaiso Police Officers will once again be waiting tables at Kelsey’s Steak House on Thursday, April 6th, to raise money for the Gang Resistance Education and Training Program, (G.R.E.A.T.). The GREAT program is taught to all 7th students by Officer Terry Cox (School Resource Officer). It is designed to teach life skills. Topics taught include the dangers of drugs, gangs and violence, the importance of setting goals in life, how bullying affects students, anger management tools and how to be a good citizen in our community. This year officers will again be waiting tables to raise money. All proceeds raised will go directly to the G.R.E.A.T. program. Everybody is encouraged to come out and support the G.R.E.A.T. program: 4 pm to 9 pm on April 6th!The Valparaiso Police would like to thank Kelsey’s Steak House for hosting this event and for their continuing support. Thank you!

TJ Science Olympiad STATE Champions!

Congratulations to the Thomas Jefferson Middle School Science Olympiad Team!

On March 18th, our Science Olympiad team did it again, taking the state championship at Indiana University in Bloomington. This is the team's 25th State title.

For the 28th consecutive year, the Thomas Jefferson team is headed to the National competition on May 19th and 20th. The team will compete at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

The team couldn’t achieve this level of success without their dedication, coaches, and parent volunteers who pitch in tirelessly as they experiment, study, and learn their way through their many events.

Congratulations to team members Zach Hatseras, Calvin McMurtrey, Teresa Nelson, Zach Heskett, Lauren Skadberg, Ari Kessler, Caden Hamscher, Max Trowbridge, Lily Rengstorf,

Amol Verma, Xander Green, Joel Teeple, Isaac Utesch, Micah Nathan, Ethan Hutton, and Ian Smith. Coaches: Richard Bender and Carol Haller

Good Luck in May!

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Report Card E-Signature

The 3rd quarter report cards will be available through Skyward on Friday, April 7th. In an effort to increase parent~teacher communications, we are striving to ensure that all parents view their child's online report card. To help with this effort, we have developed an e-signature option for parents when viewing your child's report card. To encourage parent participation and reward students, a TJMS Pride Card will be given to all students whose parents complete this process. Please use link for instructions on signing the e-Signature.

8th Grade Envision the Future

“I have to pay taxes?” “Wow, kids are expensive.” These are some comments made by 8th grade students after attending an event sponsored by the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce called Envision the Future. This is a real-life simulation that teaches students about the real “cost” of life. Before heading out to the Porter County Expo Center for the event, students are given a salary based on their career interest. In addition, students predict whether or not they will have a spouse and children at age 28. Next, students have to deduct taxes from their paycheck. Once students arrive at the event, they travel from station to station to determine the costs of their life decisions. They move through the line to secure housing, transportation, insurance, pay utilities, etc. Additionally, students who have a family, learn the costs of providing for that family in the forms of childcare and food. All students receive an unexpected event to simulate the surprises in life that we don’t always anticipate. Students may encounter “real-life” events such as losing a job, a move to another city, illness, or inheriting money from a relative. At the end of this journey, students begin to realize how much real-life actually costs. Some 8th graders end their trek very well-off; some have to declare bankruptcy. However, all the students learn life skills and begin to think about their future more seriously. Ask your student about his or her experience at Envision the Future.

Upcoming 8th grade field trips:

Tuesday, April 25: Ivy Tech (Valparaiso)

Tuesday, May 2: Notre Dame (South Bend)

Thursday, May 11: Porter County Career Center (Valparaiso)


A lot is happening for our Seventh Graders in this month of April. Third quarter report cards are available in Skyward, and the 2nd phase of ISTEP is quickly approaching during the third week of April.

At the end of March, our 7th graders participated or enjoyed watching the Spring Variety Show, led by Ms. Ellenson and Mrs. Wagner. The last day before Spring Break, the entire class worked in advisories, creating and sharing posters as the culmination of studying The Giver in our language arts classes, ending with viewing the movie together on the big screen in the auditorium.

In Language Arts and Math classes, students will continue studying the regular curriculum as well as doing some fine tuning to get ready for ISTEP. Math students will be finishing surface area and beginning probability. Science students will be learning about rocks and minerals. Social studies classes are working on our island project. This gives students an opportunity to be creative while learning about Oceania island nations, governments, religions, and cultures. The project brings in aspects of language arts and science.

Some of our students will be preparing for academic competitions, including Academic Super Bowl, the Lake-Porter Math Contest, and the National Science Olympiad. Open to all of our students are the Boys and Girls Track teams where athletes are able to enjoy the brand new track!! Remember that morning and afternoon help sessions are available almost every day for students who need that little extra to reach their achievement goals.

The 7th grade team would like to thank all of our families for their great support this school year and hope everyone has a great Spring. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any of your questions.

6th Grade - keeping busy!


Mrs. Strayer's Literature classes will be immersed in the classic The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Language classes will be honing parts of speech.

Ms. Coberg and Mrs. Janowiak’s Literature classes will be reading Becoming Naomi Leon ending with a Cinco De Mayo fiesta.

All 6th grade students will be participating in the annual TJMS Poetry Contest this month. Every student will select a poem for memorization and present it to his or her class. Classroom winners will then compete in the all-grade contest on May 5.


In the month of March, students enjoyed celebrating pi Day on March 14th. Congratulations to Connor McCall. Connor memorized 202 digits of pi and was crowned our pi champion. Mr. Keller and Mrs. Amones were very impressed with all of the students who participated. Sixth grade math students just finished studying proportional reasoning. In the next few weeks, students will be studying Data Analysis. This includes different ways to represent, collect, and display data. At the end of this unit, students will also complete a project using spreadsheets.


We are almost done with our science book! Yeah!! We are completing work on Ecosystems and Biomes.

Our science teachers have promised we will get back working more with the scientific processes and experimentation. Good luck on the final science ISTEP!

Social Studies:

Aztecs, Incas, Mayans, conquistadores, rainforests, and gauchos are just a few of the things we will be discussing in our last nine weeks on Latin America! We will be studying Mexico down to the Straits of Magellan and much, much more. Please continue to check Skyward for your child's progress. We want a strong finish as we race across the Atlantic to Latin America!

TJM Academic Super Bowl Champs!!

Congratulations to the TJMS Academic Super Bowl team on a fine showing at last evening’s Invitational here at TJ.

This year’s topic is The French Revolution.

Mathematicians Keaton Olson, Ally Bonnell, and captain Devishi Jha started the evening off on a blue note, garnering the first place ribbons and plaque by solving equations, figuring probability, and answering questions about French mathematicians. This squad is coached by Mrs. Kemper.

The English team, captained by Sydney Vorrier, continued the blue ribbon tradition by correctly choosing more answers about French drama, poetry, and Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days than the competition to earn the first place plaque. Assisting in the English squad’s blue ribbon performance were Shannon McCall, Audrey Barriball, and Henna Patheja. Mrs. Strayer directs the English team.

The Science team waded through temperature conversions, lives of French scientists, and fossils. Team members Tobias Fredrick, Natalie Miller, David Stralnic, and Patrick Brogan aided captain Joel Teeple to a tie-breaking first place finish. Mad scientist Mr. Wassilak leads the TJ team.

Lucia Otten, team captain, and teammates Amol Verma, Macey Schmetzer, Ari Kessler, and Trevor Foster battled their way through the French Revolution and its aftermath, including the government post- Napoleon, missing first place by one question. The team’s red second place ribbons were indeed hard-earned. Mrs. Joll is the commander-in-chief of the Social Studies competitors.

The competition concluded with the Interdisciplinary team, captained by Sydney Vorrier, conferring with Amol Verma, Joel Teeple, and Devishi Jha, on questions from all subjects. Once again the TJ academicians came up one short and brought home another set of red second place ribbons.

However, based on combined scores from all subject areas, TJMS garnered the Overall Champion plaque.

Congratulations again and best of luck to all subject area teams as they now prepare for the Area meet at LaPorte on April 29. The Area competition will determine state placement.

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Congratulations to Ian Smith, the winner of the Barnes and Noble bookstore's "My Favorite Teacher" essay contest. Ian's essay about Mrs. Strayer will now advance to the Chicago Regional competition. Ian and Mrs. Strayer were honored at a reception at the local store on April 3.

Have you bought your YEARBOOK yet?

Yearbooks are still available! A limited number of yearbooks will be sold after distribution in June on a first come, first served basis. Avoid disappointment and reserve a copy today! is the site to visit. Be sure to click on Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Valparaiso, as there are several of us out there!

Questions? Email Mrs. Strayer or call: 531-3140

Technology and Student Open Communication Form

As we continue our 1:1 Chromebook initiative at TJMS, we celebrate the successes that we have experienced in providing 21st century technology to help students achieve. While the initiative has been very positive, there are opportunities to learn for all of us. Our goal is to promote good digital citizenship and teach our students to be safe users of technology. Sometimes students may wander to online sites or play games at inappropriate times. To help students honor the pledges that they made when they signed the VCS Acceptable Use Policy, TJMS has implemented a form for open communication between students and staff. The form, available on our website, is anonymous. We want to provide a place where students can report incidents or give suggestions anonymously, so that the school can make informed decisions about technology. The Student Open Communication Form can be found on the TJMS website front page and can be submitted by students or parents anonymously.

Student Council Update

  • Thank you to all the students who donated to the Breakfast Food Drive! We were able to collect more than 300 items that were donated to a local food pantry. The week ended with a Pajama Day and free breakfast samples in the cafeteria. The winning classrooms with the most donations were Ms. Coberg's first hour, Miss Laurencell's advisory, and Ms. Ellenson's advisory.
  • Our Super 70's Party was a HUGE success! Students enjoyed dancing, a groovy photo booth, basketball, volleyball, the game room, and concessions. Thank you to all the staff members and parents who helped to make this event possible.
  • In April, members will be celebrating Earth Day by beautifying the school grounds and brainstorming ways we can help our environment.

Builders Club News

The students involved in Builders Club have some great opportunities to get involved in both the school and community coming up.

Beginning next week, TJM Builders Club will be helping out at both TJM and TJE. Members will be assisting in the food pantries at both schools, and in the office at the elementary school. This will be an ongoing project until the end of the school year. Members can sign up to lend a helping hand one time or every week, whatever works into their schedules.

Builders Club members have come up with some creative and fun ways to raise money for the Porter County Animal Shelter. Monday, May 1, through Friday, May 5, Builders Club will be collecting monetary donations. For each dollar donated, students will receive a paw print to hang on their advisory door. At the end of the week, the homeroom from each grade with the most prints will win a “puppy chow” party! At the end of the week, students may also bring in a stuffed animal from home, and for $1, the animal may hang out with them all day! There may be one more surprise, so be listening to the announcements!

Our next meeting is after school on Wednesday, April 19.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Orchestra Making Music

The Strolling Strings will perform during dinner for the residents at Rittenhouse Senior Living on Friday, April 2,1 at 5:15 pm.

This week, the TJMS 8th grade orchestra members performed in the annual 4th grade recruitment concert along with the VHS Concert Orchestra. If you know of any current 4th graders who would like to learn to play the violin, viola, cello, or bass, please have them contact Mr. Marolf -, to learn about our summer program.

Science and music have a lot in common. Later this month, Paul Nord, from the Valparaiso University Physics Department, will be presenting an acoustics program to the performance music classes.

Media Center Happenings

Upcoming: The Book Fair!!

TJM’s second book fair is scheduled for Monday, May 19, thru Monday, May 22. What a great opportunity to talk with your child about choosing a summer reading book or two (or three or four!). Stay tuned for more details about various events and giveaways that will reward our young readers and hopefully draw in some of our reluctant readers. Access the digital flyer for book titles that you can drop hints about; wouldn't it be nice for your child to ask to purchase a book that you want them to read anyway?

TJM & Digital Citizenship

Dealing with Digital Drama

"To adults, digital drama and cyberbullying may seem one and the same. To teens, there is a difference. Unlike cyberbullying, which involves repeated harassment towards someone, digital drama describes the everyday tiffs and disputes that occur between friends or acquaintances online or via text." (Source: Common Sense Education)

Conflicts happen -- and sometimes the opportunity for positive interaction helps to naturally solve those conflicts. Encourage your child to participate in an extracurricular or to attend a school event as a way to extend the positive face-to-face interactions that they have with their peers. Click here to access the Common Sense Family Tip Sheet for more information and ideas about dealing with digital drama!


If a student forgets to charge his or her Chromebook or leaves it at home, there are netbook computers in every classroom for student to use. Parents are encouraged to not bring their child's Chromebook to school, and all chargers should stay at home.

Homework and Study Table Procedures

Here is a link to the Homework and Study Table information that was shared by all Advisory teachers at this year's Open House. As a reminder, all grades are posted on Skyward and homework is posted in the following ways:

  • 6th Grade - Skyward
  • 7th Grade - Canvas
  • 8th Grade - Canvas
  • AA - Canvas

All parents are encouraged to create a parent Canvas Observer account. For more information on this, please follow this link on our website.


During the 2016-2017 school year, the Social Services Team for Valparaiso Community Schools is able to provide food for students in need on the weekends!