Friday, December 16, 2016

Terese Jurgensen ~ Director of Student Services ~ December 16th, 2016

Peace on Earth ~ Good Will Toward Men!

My daughter Emily dressed up at Madrigal 
I turned on the news this morning to see what the weather may bring us this weekend, and instead of news regarding the impending snow coming upon us I was greeted instead by concerning world news. It was sobering for me to be confronted with the global realities during this time of year when we are reminded to bring Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men. I would like to take a moment and thank those who read the weekly update from last week and the comments that it reminded them of what the Christmas Season is all about. It is about reaching out to others and reminding ourselves of what truly matters in our day to day lives. At Howard-Winneshiek, our staff continues to reach out to students and families during this festive time of year and in spite of struggle and hardship, there is joy in our halls and classrooms because of our wonderful staff who not only are educating students for their futures, but are reaching into their hearts every day through kind words and helping hands. It is super fun to see the children's faces as they make Christmas ornaments or singing holiday songs. 

Using Christmas Decorations to teach prepositions!

Colonial Log Cabins in 5th Grade!

Bee-Bot Robots as Gingerbread Men!

The week started with the Madrigal Performance that has been performed by the high school choir for the past 38 years. It was an amazing performance, and a very special one for my husband and myself as our youngest daughter, Emily, is a senior and had the privilege of sitting at the head table in full Madrigal attire. To put the experience of Madrigal into words is not an easy thing to do. It is beautiful, timeless, and allows the diner to experience what it would be like to sit in the halls with Henry VIII, eating a Christmas meal and being entertained with humor and song. A huge Thank You to Karen LeFebvre and Kim Lehmkuhl who work tirelessly for many weeks preparing our students and community for a once in a lifetime event. Here is a song captured during the end of the performance. 

When I talked with various students that were involved in the Madrigal, I asked them what the best part of being in this performance was for them. I received many responses such as, "It was hard work, lots of hours, but it was super fun!"  Other responses were, "I loved dressing up in the costumes," or "It was awesome!"  For all of the responses I received, the underlying theme was that there was a lot of self-satisfaction that came from the hard work with an amazing finished product. As I listened to these young people describe their experience, I had to throw in the word GRIT to each and every one of them. They agreed. My daughter Emily stated when she got home after the third performance Sunday evening, "I am exhausted! It was a lot of work the last several weeks, but I am really happy! I loved it!" 

Grit has been a key focus for our district as we continue to drive this critical skill into our students in order for them to be successful in a global society. To support GRIT and our Social and Emotional Learning for our district; we have just purchased, through our Drop Out Prevention Dollars, a program from Panorama Education that originated from Harvard University. 


Social-emotional learning (SEL) describes the mindsets, skills, attitudes, and feelings that help students succeed in school, career, and life, such as as growth mindset, grit, and sense of belonging at school. Educators use many names for these skills, such as “non-cognitive skills”, “soft skills”, “21st century skills”, “character strengths,” and “whole child.”

Social-emotional learning is an important part of a well-rounded education. Research shows that SEL is an important lever for boosting academic achievement. Positive social-emotional skills are also correlated with improved attendance and reduced disciplinary incidents.

When looking at SEL in a school setting, we encourage schools to focus measurement and improvement efforts on three general areas: student competencies (or skills), student supports and environment, and teacher skills and perspectives:

  1. Student competencies involves the social, emotional, and motivational skills that help students succeed at school, in their careers, and in life. Examples of student competencies include Grit and Growth Mindset.
  2. Student supports and environment involves the environment in which students are learning, which in influences their academic success, their social-emotional development, and their growth as human beings. Measures of student supports and the school environment include Teacher-Student Relationships, Sense of Belonging (at school), and School Safety.
  3. Teacher skills and perspectives captures teachers’ readiness and preparation to support SEL on campus. is area looks at whether teachers feel that they have the skills, knowledge, and resources to support students’ social-emotional outcomes. Examples of these measures include: Professional Learning About SEL and School Climate.
Within each of the three broad areas, Panorama offers a set of measures, each focused on a particular sub-topic. Schools can choose to use the measures that are most appropriate for their community, and match their school or district SEL framework, while retaining the validity of each measure.

Howard-Winneshiek & Social Emotional Learning

Because of our focus on teaching the whole child and knowing that Social Emotional Learning is so critical, we have purchased the Panorama Software to create surveys to create baseline measures and data regarding each of our students Social Emotional well-being and abilities. Panorama enables our entire teaching staff to:
  • Invites teachers to participate in providing feedback (SEL) to students
  • Actively engage students in their personal development of SEL skills.
  • Establish a structured way to understand SEL skills in school. 
  • Create surveys for our families and community to help us measure our school climate and culture and our effectiveness in partnering with our stake holders. 
When used together, teacher and student perception surveys offer meaningful comparisons of data, highlighting areas of similarity and difference. These measures can create pathways for educators to promote productive conversations with students and families to give students agency and ownership of the development of their social-emotional learning skills in school. 

Please be watching for more information on Panorama as we roll it out in the New Year. It will provide us with exciting data and educational supports for our students!


 Welcome Back!
Rebecca Ortner, art teacher,  will be returning next week after having her healthy baby boy, Titus! 

Merry Christmas!
Mrs. J. & Blake 

If you need to reach me, Terese Jurgensen, please do so!
(563) 929-6344 

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