Friday, April 1, 2016

Terese Jurgensen ~ Director of Student Services ~ April 1, 2016

          Cross-Cultural Experiences
In previous posts I have mentioned that I have had the opportunity to live in other countries and cultures as a missionary. I always loved my experiences and indeed they are some of my fondest memories of my adult life. One thing I never mentioned, is that the greatest struggles I faced when in lived in Poland and later, Montreal, Quebec is that I was terrible at learning the languages and really struggled.  Learning a new language is very difficult because it is frustrating, exhausting and extremely challenging. When a person is learning a language they are often pulled between wanting to communicate, feeling foolish when trying to do so and more importantly it is scary.  Questions like, "Will I every be able to do this?" "Are the people I am trying to talk to laughing at me?" roam through your head. Another factor that was difficult for me was the issue of culture. What are the expected and unexpected behaviors in a cross-cultural situation? 

During the course of this week, we have received a total of 7 new students at Crestwood which is super exciting! Even more exciting is that four of these new students are ESL (English as a Second Language) students and are from Guatamala. As the Director of Student Services, one of the "hats" I wear is to coordinate our English Language Learner program along with Alicia Martin, our ELL teacher. A challenge that this incredible opportunity presents is that the parents of our students do not speak English and in some cases speak less English than their children. This Tuesday one of our new families came to register their children, and our secretary didn't know what to do! Fortunately, as I have mentioned in previous posts, Howard-Winn has been blessed with Blanca Compos, our Migrant Education Specialist who previously worked at Postville and now works for the State of Iowa. We have become fast friends and not only is she a native Spanish speaker, she also knows the families who are becoming a part of our Howard-Winn family. She has been pivotal in supporting our school district in breaking down the language and cultural barriers, and we are so grateful! To support our secretaries, Blanca and I made a "Welcome Video" if a family arrives and does not speak English. I have shared it here:

The purpose of the video is to support our secretaries and families in breaking down the language barriers. If a family arrives and does not speak English, our secretarial staff will invite the families to a nearby office and start the video for them. As you can see, the video is approximately 7 minutes long. If the families arrive during the first period or the last period of the school day, this will give our secretaries time to contact me, the building principal(s) as well as free up one of our interpreters. We will then take our families on tours of the school, answer their questions and help them feel more comfortable. The students will then start school the next day.

Our interpreters for Howard-Winn are Kris Ward (High School Spanish), Libby Schwade (High School and Middle School Spanish) and Al Lopez (Bus Driver).  Blanca Campos has also been visiting the families in their homes, supporting them and helping them fill out the school enrollment forms and communicating with me about their various needs and questions.  This support has been amazing, and I words cannot express how much I appreciate all of our interpreters. Finally, I also want to give a SHOUT OUT to our bi-lingual high school students who are reaching out and supporting our cross-cultural students who go through so many emotional highs and lows as they learn to adjust to our school and to American culture. 

As a missionary, I remember reading a book called, "Taking our cities for God." This is a great book, and one thing I remember so clearly it that it compared churches to supermarkets. "Go into your local supermarket and look around. You will see fast-convenient foods for busy families, a gluten-free section, Italian foods, health foods, Mexican foods, organic foods and so on. The supermarkets understand that the world has become cross-cultural and yet look at our Schools (my words here) and they have not changed at all...standing on the phrase...We have never done it this way before....."
At Howard-Winneshiek, the world has come to our school and it is our hope that it will continue to do so. We will adapt, change and care for our new students and families becoming globally and culturally richer. 

 Cadet High School Leadership
Twelve high school students who are a part of the high school leadership group attended the Ed Thomas Leadership Academy this Tuesday in Des Moines. Happily, one of the students was my daughter, Emily who is a junior.  She told me it was a wonderful experience and stated, "I learned so much about taking ownership for my decisions and that it is so important to positively impact others not only by what I say, but what I do." Luis, a ninth grade student reported, "I learned that 90% of what happens to me is because of the choices I make and how I believe/think about the situation." 

Many of you may remember Ed Thomas whose life ended unexpectedly, but whose legacy of positive leadership remains alive through his son, Aaron Thomas, and the Ed Thomas Family Foundation. Coach Thomas was a leader whose main objective was teaching young people to “Do What’s Right”. He was a great role model who lived his life true to the values that he taught to all. The Ed Thomas Family Foundation will provide an opportunity for high school students to strengthen their positive leadership skills and character by sponsoring the Ed Thomas Legacy Leadership Academy. This summer I interviewed Aaron Thomas during Ragbrai, and Aaron shares what leadership meant to his father and is carried through the foundation.


Social Thinking  
Social & Emotional learning supports are evidenced throughout our school district. The pictures above and below show our 5th grade team working together on supporting student reading comprehension through Social Thinking Strategies. It was super fun for me to listen to their discussions and discoveries of learning supports that can support students in the 5th grade who struggle socially and academically. We have Social Minds and to reach many of our students we must understand the details that surround this complex issue. To the right, is the sign that is outside Mrs. Headington's door who is our School Social Worker/Family & Student Case Manager. Mrs. Headington is running countless groups of elementary students and teaching them how to flexible thinkers, problem solvers and strategies to help control emotional and social behaviors that stand in the way of them being successful academically as well as socially. At the end of the day, we are all created for strong, trusting, emotionally bonding relationships. For some students, that is easier said than done, but with the help of Social Thinking, and incredible, committed staff members, these social gaps are being closed. 

                   GRIT...Pass it On!

        Have a great week!

Please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions, 
or comments!

Terese Jurgensen
              (563) 929-6344

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