Saturday, October 19, 2013

Become a Connected Educator

October is Connected Educators Month.  Sponsored by the U.S. Education Department this opportunity is designed to encourage educators across the country to connect online and share resources and best practices.  Although the month of October is more than halfway through, it's not too late to sign up and begin participating!  Use the link above to learn more about activities and resources that are available.  There is even a great Getting Started Kit!  There are many contests, giveaways, events and activities still to come, so sign up and participate!

 We need to be better connected to other teachers, administrators, and schools across the county and across the world.  Connecting with other educators today means more than participating in department meetings, or grade level meetings, or attending an inservice or workshop during a professional development day.  Connecting, today, means using social networks and online communities to connect virtually with teachers in other schools, states and countries, not just our colleague in the classroom next door.  The tools you need to do this are right in front of you, everyday.

There are so many fantastic opportunities to connect with others, share and reflect on our work as educators.  We need to take advantage of all the resources at our fingertips and we need to open our teaching practice to others - sharing what we know and what we do and reflecting on what works well for our students.  Social networks such as Twitter (connect with me @tncollins97), resources such as the Google in Education site, free webinars and online conferences such as the FUN-damentals of Learning webinar scheduled for 7:00 pm on October 21, sponsored by Intel Education.  There are even all sorts of online book clubs such as the Invent to Learn book club.  There is an almost endless list of opportunities and resources, too many each week for me to try to list for you.  Spend some time searching and exploring!

Does this take some time?  Yes.  Does this require a real desire to be a lifelong learner?  Yes.  Does it take some courage?  Yes.  Will connecting online with other educators improve our practice and have a positive impact on our work with students?  Yes, I think so.

Our students already live in a connected world.  It will be difficult for our students to learn with us if we aren't working in the same kind of connected world.  Our students' worlds shrink when they walk into our schools every morning.  Is this acceptable to us?  We, as educators, need to be comfortable navigating in a connected world so that we can open our classrooms to all the resources and experiences that are available to us.

If you wait for someone to convene a workshop to teach you how to connect, how to engage, or how to collaborate online, you'll get left behind.  I can assure you that I've never had a Twitter class, or a workshop about blogging, or an inservice about Google apps.  I've learned by doing, through trial and error and through persistence when something doesn't work as intended.  I've also had to be willing to acknowledge that I'm not always the expert - that I need to ask others when I don't know how to do something, and I've had to be willing to take some risks in order to learn.  Don't we want our students to do all of these things?  Shouldn't we be willing to do these things, ourselves?

We, as educators, are fond of saying that we want our students to become life-long learners.  We need to model what life-long learning really is all about!  I encourage each of you to take a step this month toward become a more connected educator - you will find not only resources and ideas but support and professional validation. Want to get started?  Take a look at the video below for some ideas, and  take the step!!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

NKES Art on Display at Capital One in Richmond

Megan Countiss, art teacher at both NKES and GWES recently shared some pictures of NKES student art work on display at Capital One in Richmond:

This is a great opportunity for our young students to see their work in a public gallery - I know our kids are thrilled to know their art is on display!  Thanks for making this happen, Megan!

This student art gallery has me thinking about the ways we display and publish our students' learning products.  Not too long ago, the only avenues available to us for displays of student work were bulletin boards in our classrooms or hallways, student presentations in classes or student assemblies, galleries at school events or, perhaps, in displays sponsored by a community organization or business.

We now have so many more tools available to us to display and publish student work virtually, in addition opportunities such as the Capital One student gallery.  We all know that when students know that their products are going to be shared with others, they are often more motivated and develop higher-quality, more complex products.  Sharing student work can also help students connect to their community and to the larger world and can give students the opportunity to have valuable feedback on their work.

Think about the opportunities you give students to share, display and publish their work.  Take advantage of tools such as Google webpages, blogs, and "live" displays and presentations to allow your students to share what they have learned, develop important presentation and communication skills, and connect their work to the "real world."

Don't forget, student privacy is important - if you have questions about acceptable methods of publication or display of student learning products, ask an administrator!

New Kent Teacher Google Sites

As we continue to implement Google Apps for Education in New Kent County Public Schools, more teachers are taking advantage of some of these powerful tools for teaching and learning.  One of the most important of these tools us Google Sites, an easy-to-use website authoring tool.  Google Sites can be used to provide information on the web for students and parents, to make class resources easily available on the web, to publish student learning products...the list of ways teachers and students can use Google Sites is long!  Google Sites are flexible and offer a variety of templates and customizable themes.  Remember, Google sites can be made public, can be shared with selected people, or can be kept private, depending on their purpose.

Teacher webpages have become the go-to source for information for many students and parents.  It is important for all of us to have a strong professional presence on the web!  Like it or not, our students, parents, and the public often make judgments about us based on the information we provide (or don't provide) on our webpages.  Think about the professional image of yourself you want to present on the web, as well as the content you want to share.

If you haven't already, begin making improvements to your teacher and class webpages, whether in School Center or on a new Google Site.  If you need help, our ITRT's, Beth Kappus and Nick Cammarano are always happy to lend their expertise.  Likewise, Ross Miller or yours truly are always happy to help, as well.  When you're ready, Ross can also link to your Google site from your school's main web page.  A great website is of no use if no one can find it!

A number of NKCPS teachers have begun to develop teacher pages using Google Sites.  Here are some links and screen shots of some of our teachers' sites:

Melissa Dalton, NKES Title I Reading

Angie Estis, K-3 ACE Resource

Debbie Fox-Valdez, 4-8 ACE Resource

Rechele Gregory, 4-8 ACE Resource

Beth Kappus, Elementary ITRT

Christen Henninger, GWES Special Education

Lindsay Horne, NKMS 6th Grade Social Studies

Rebekah McClung, NKMS 8th Grade Social Studies

Jennifer Jenkins, NKHS English

Judy Sargent, NKHS English

Sue McIninch, NKHS Science

Great job all, and, thanks for being leaders in implementing Google Sites!!!!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

English Students Develop 21st Century Skills for Summer Reading and Discussion!

Several of the advanced and AP English classes at New Kent High School will take advantage of Google Groups and WikiSpaces to provide opportunities for students and teachers to discuss summer reading during the, uh, summer!  Students in Mrs. Pushie's advanced 10th grade classes, Mrs. Jenkins' 11th grade AP language classes, and Mrs. Sargent's 12th grade AP literature classes will be joining private online groups to discuss their ideas about the summer readings before their return to school in September. 

Students in Mrs. Sargent's 2011 and 2012 AP Language classes started using the group discussions and found that they helped not only with reading and understanding the works before coming to school but also in beginning to know each other and become more comfortable with topics before the rigorous classes began.  Another advantage to the online discussion is that every student must participate in the discussion.  In some classes, a few students might be very vocal, and shyer students might not feel as comfortable jumping into the discussion.  In the online setting, many students who are hesitant to speak up in class come alive in the online conversation.  Everyone has an equal opportunity and expectation for the work. On the "sneaky teacher side,"  students practice their reading and writing when posting to the online discussion, giving students summer practice in both essential English skills.

The interactive online setting is private for the students and teachers in the class. For the past several summers, Mrs. Jones, Mr. Valdrighi, and Mrs. James, NKHS administrators, have also been invited and have been "silent" observers of the summer discussion to see how involved and dynamic the summer work has become.  After participating in the summer chats, many students talk about their comfort in using online media discussions and finding them helpful in understanding what they were reading, in asking questions of other students as well as the teacher, and in gaining more immediate feedback which allows for stronger and better discussion of the essential ideas in the readings. Teachers welcome the ability to interact early to prevent misconceptions or misreading and to begin knowing their incoming students prior to the first day of class.  The online classroom discussion becomes a win for all involved!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

NKES Odyssey of the Mind Team Places 5th at World Competition!

Over the past weekend, May 22-25, the New Kent Elementary School Division I Pet Project Team participated in the World Finals competition at Michigan State University. The team from NKES performed splendidly and took 5th place in the world competition! What a fantastic result for a very deserving group of creative students, along with their coaches and parents!

 The Odyssey of the Mind World Finals featured more than 800 teams from schools around the world. The NKES team placed 5th out of 55 teams in their division! More information about the OotM World Finals is available here and the link to the team scores page is available here .

Great job by all team members and coaches! Special thanks go to NKCPS Gifted Resource Teacher Mrs. Angie Estis who accompanied the team to Michigan!

NKES Division I Pet Projects Team

NKHS Teacher to Conduct Research with NASA

New Kent High School science teacher Sue McIninch was recently accepted as a teacher-researcher in the NASA Long-Term Engagement in Authentic Research with NASA (LEARN) program. Mrs. McIninch was selected from over 500 applicants from across the United States to participate in this research program. As a NASA LEARN researcher, she will have the opportunity to engage in two weeks of research alongside NASA scientists this summer and will continue her research throughout the 2013-2014 school year. Sue will also be able to integrate her research into her instruction at New Kent High School. The partnership culminates in a presentation of research in June, 2014. More information about the NASA LEARN program is available here.

Congratulations, Mrs. McIninch and best of luck with your research!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

GWES Students Use Blabberize to Learn About History

Courtney Brown's first grade students at George Watkins Elementary School have been learning about famous Americans, and Ms. Brown found a wonderful technology resource for her students to use.  Ms. Brown used Blabberize, a web-based video creation tool that allowed her students to create a video with simple animations.  Even better, students were able to create voice-overs for the animations to share what they have learned.  Check out the students video below, or on the web:

Inquiry Learning in Biology

Monica Schnautz and Shelia Morris, science teachers at NKHS, have incorporated authentic scientific inquiry opportunities for students in their classes.  Ms. Schnautz recently shared the strawberry DNA extraction lab that her students performed, with outstanding results.  Below is an image capture of one of Ms. Schnautz's students' DNA samples.  The student was able to capture the image using a smartphone - a great application of mobile technology.  Better yet, this is a fantastic DNA sample, with the double helix clearly visible in the slide!  Great work!

Mrs. Morris' biology students recently complete a field work exercise on local waterways.  Students learned to make field observations and collected samples for water quality testing.  This was a fantastic opportunity for our students - thanks Mrs. Morris!

NKHS Teacher Published!

Congratulations to NKHS math teacher Dr. Candice Barkley, who was recently published!  Dr. Barkley's essay Connected Principals: In Pursuit of Social Capital via Social Media was published in the volume Principal 2.0:  Technology and Educational Leadership, published by Infoage Publishing.  Information about the book is available here.

Great job, Dr. Barkley!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

NKHS Future Business Leaders of America Excel!

Congratulations to the NKHS Future Business Leaders of America participants and winners in the 2013 FBLA Spring Competition.  Our students competed against students from many other schools across our FBLA region and excelled in the competition! Our students' results were fantastic, and the following NKHS students placed in the FBLA online competition events:

1st Place - Introduction to Business Communications, Haley Dunnavant
1st Place - Technology Concepts, Hunter Rudolph
2nd Place - Spreadsheet Applications, Conner Barney 
3rd Place - Management Decision Making, John Burt
3rd Place - Network Concepts, Amber Morris
3rd Place - Business Communications, Amanda Ramon
3rd Place - Computer Problem Solving, Sean Sullivan

First Place winners received plaques, and second and third place winners were presented with a medallion and ribbon.  Again, congratulations to each of you for a job very well done!  Thanks also to NKHS FBLA sponsor, Mrs. Melinda Weaver!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Great Day with Odyssey of the Mind

On Saturday March 2 New Kent County Public Schools hosted the Rappahannock Region Odyssey of the Mind competition.  New Kent County Public Schools was well represented with eleven teams and more than 70 students participating in a variety of problems that challenge students to think creatively, to problem solve, to collaborate, and to communicate their solutions through drama, music, and art to panels of judges.

One of our New Kent parents wrote about her experience with Odyssey on the Richmond Mom website and blog.  Take a look!

All of our New Kent teams met these challenges, and seven teams from NKCPS earned first place honors in their respective divisions!  These seven teams will be advancing to the Virginia State Odyssey of the Mind competition in April.  First place teams are as follows:

New Kent Elementary School:

Division 1, ARTchitecture: the Musical
Coaches: Yvette Leeds-Bowman and Donna Mathis
Mykaella Bowman, Elena Guiterrez, Julia Hathaway, Kayla Helt, Abby Mathis, Andy Miller, Grant Stanley

Division 1, Pet Project
Coach: Linda Robinson
Billy Bull, Kiersten Fuller, Justin Jones, Courtney Kerst, Leah Robinson, Sam Robinson, Madison Kidd

Division 1, It’s How You Look at It
Coaches: Laura Beach and Holli Perez
Indy Bennett,, Sarah Cook, Isis Cutler, Campbell Gowdy, Megan Smith, Tylar Strickland, Emma West

George Watkins Elementary School:

Division I The Email Must Go Through
Coach: Dorothy Hager
Abbigail Reece, Morgan Setzer, Colin Pierce, Mea Picone, Nathaniel Hager, Eathan King and Russell Hager

New Kent Middle School/New Kent High School

Division II Pet Project
Coach: Peg Noctor
Justin Mitchell, John Richart, Jake Ferris, Jack Daniels, Abigail Bushhouse, Chloe Picone and Maggie Jarvis

Division 3 Tumblewood
Coach: Lori Eckert
Celie Collins, Josh Eckert, Tanner Dail, Amber Thomas, Brian Stevenson, Savannah Setzer, Isabelle Addison

Division 3  ARTchitecture
Coach: Mary Fyfe
Jacob Dilandro, Hailey Richart, Eve Stump, Matt Howard, Nick Parker, Rachael Phelps

Saturday, February 23, 2013

NKHS Academic Challenge Team Wins State Championship!

The New Kent High School Academic Challenge won the 2013 VHSL Group AA State Championship, held today at the College of William and Mary.  NKHS defeated Western Albemarle for the championship.  In addition to claiming the state championship, the team was a perfect 30-0 during the VHSL season!

Congratulations to all team members and to team coach Matt Duckworth for a sensational performance!  We're all proud of you for bringing the state championship back to New Kent - way to go!

NKHS Academic Challenge team members and coach Matt Duckworth receive the state championship trophy.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Future Business Leaders of America—Middle Level Promotes AMERICA SAVES WEEK

FBLA-ML club at New Kent Middle School is helping to promote America Saves Week from February 25 – March 1.  The club is listed as 1 of about 750 organizations nationwide coming together to promote good savings behavior and motivating students to join as a Young America Saver On-line. The theme this year for America Saves Week is “Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically.”  Announcements are being read daily to the entire student body, posters are displayed throughout the building, and all of Mrs. Hogge’s Computer Applications, Keyboarding Applications, and Computer Solutions students will be educated about why saving for your future is important and encouraged to make the pledge to save money for their future.  Everyone is encouraged to make a commitment to start saving money today. Start Small…Think Big!

Thanks to NKMS teacher and club sponsor Shelly Hogge for supporting this initiative!

NKMS and NKHS Students Named to Area Band!

Congratulations to the following 23 students who made the Northern Neck Area Band!  All the students will be performing at a clinic/concert March 22 and 23rd in Mathews, Va.  Way to go Band!!
Hailey Richart-1st chair flute
Tiffany Tolley-2nd chair flute
Savannah Setzer-3rd chair flute
Jessica Wills-12th chair flute
Madelyn Kruger-6th chair clarinet
Sarah Wimmer-10th chair clarinet
Ky Freeman-11th chair clarinet
Rachel Phelps-12th chair clarinet
Garrett Hall-15th chair clarinet
Annabelle Riccio-18th chair clarinet
Jeremiah Green-23rd chair clarinet
Gabriel Bollhorst-6th chair trumpet
Christian Lange-10th chair trumpet
Eve Stump-2nd chair french horn
Mason Bollhorst-5th chair trombone
Briana Ward-2nd chair euphonium
Ashby Holsapple-3rd chair euphonium
Allen Jones-4th chair euphonium
Nick Parker-3rd chair tuba
Kyle Coles-4th chair tuba
Blake Forsythe-6th chair tuba
Chandler Anderson-1st chair snare
Patrick Minor-6th chair snare

Congratulations to the following students from NKHS that successfully auditioned for the area band!  New Kent will be well represented this year!

Naudia Whitacre- 9th chair clarinet
Taylor Newman- 5th chair saxophone
Andrew Toppin- 10th chair trumpet
Brian Miller- 3rd chair euphonium
Nicholas Pace- 2nd chair tuba
Jake Benson- 1st chair timpani, 2nd chair mallets, 6th chair snare
Taviston Lewis- 5th chair snare

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

District I Chorus Members from NKHS and NKMS

A hearty congratulations to those students who participated as members of the District 1 Chorus on February 8th and 9th!  The District 1 concert was fantastic and our students performed wonderfully!  Thanks also to our Chorus Director, Mrs. Michelle Edwards - a great job by all!

District 1 Chorus members from New Kent are:


Diamond Chapman- Alto I
Celie Collins- Soprano I
Grace Daniel- Soprano I
Matthew Howard- Baritone
Jaylin McInerney- Soprano I
James Taylor- Tenor I
Kerri Williams- Soprano I


Sarah Day- Soprano I
Victoria Vasquez- Alto II

GWES SCA Sponsors Hats for Haley

On January 25th, the George Watkins Elementary School SCA sponsored "Hats for Haley" in honor of Haley Moore.  Haley Moore was a student at George Watkins Elementary School who passed away in June, 2012 from an asthma attack.  Students and faculty were able to donate $1.00 or more to wear a hat of their choice for the day.  Over $475 was raised with the help from students and faculty.  Thanks to the generosity of many, the SCA will be able to make a donation to the American Asthma Foundation of $500 on behalf of George Watkins Elementary School in memory of Haley. 

Pictured:  (From Left to Right)  SCA Officers:  Gavin Richardson (Secretary), Brayden Hohman (Vice President), Zach Carl (Historian), Grace Hylton (Treasurer), & Ginna Simmons (President)

Pictured:  Faculty & Staff at George Watkins Elementary who wore their "Hats for Haley" on Friday, January 25th. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

NKHS Culinary Arts Students Ace the Culinary Decathlon

Recently two NKHS Culinary Arts students competed in the Culinary Decathlon competition, sponsored by the Culinary Institute of Virginia.  Shawnee Smith placed 6th in the competition and earned a $3000 scholarship.  Amber Sealey placed 2nd in the competition and earned a $12000 scholarship!

The competition included a Culinary Knowledge Written Assessment, a Culinary Skills Demonstration, and a Meal Presentation.  The competition was also timed - students had only two hours to complete the the Skills Demonstration and to prepare and present an entree.  Wow! Complete information about the competition is available here.

Congratulations to our very own "Top Chefs", Shawnee and Amber!  Also many thanks to NKHS Culinary Arts teacher Ann Campbell for her work with our students.

NKMS All-District Band Members

Congratulations to those members of the New Kent Middle School band who were recently named to the All-District 1 Band!

District 1 Middle School Band Auditions were held on Saturday, January 12th.  The rigorous audition required each student to prepare 7 Major Scales and the Chromatic Scale, to perform a prepared piece of music, and to sight-read an additional piece.  Of the 74 flute players who auditioned, Savannah Setzer placed 10th chair and Tiffany Tolley placed 11th chair.  Out of 26 snare drum players, Chandler Anderson placed 1st chair.

An outstanding performance by terrific musicians!

Pictured: Tiffany Tolley, Chandler Anderson, Savannah Setzer

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) Program was established in 1983 by the White House and is administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology.  The program identifies outstanding science and mathematics teachers, kindergarten through grade 12, in each state and the four United States jurisdictions.  These teachers will serve as models for their colleagues and will be leaders in the improvement of science and mathematics education.

Recognition is given to teachers of kindergarten through grade 12 in four award groups:  elementary mathematics (K-6), elementary science (K-6), secondary mathematics (7-12), and secondary science (7-12).  In 2013, up to six state finalists at the secondary level will be selected from Virginia (three in each secondary group).  From these 2013 state finalists, a national committee will choose up to two national-level awardees (one in each award group) from Virginia.  Each national awardee will receive a $10,000 personal award and an all-expense paid trip to recognition events and other activities in Washington, D.C.

Both the nomination form and the application packet must be submitted electronically.  The nomination form and the application packet as well as complete directions are available on the NSF Web site at  A completed nomination form must be submitted electronically with each application.  All applications are due May 1, 2013.

Monday, January 14, 2013

NKHS Scholastic Bowl Team Undefeated - Again!

Congratulations are in order for the New Kent High School Scholastic Bowl team.  The team recently concluded an undefeated 18-0 regular season - the team's second consecutive undefeated regular season record!

In addition to their success in Virginia High School League competition, the team has also advanced to the quarterfinals of the Battle of the Brains competition.  The Battle of the Brains airs on CBS channel 6, and NKHS matches already completed will air on February 9 and March 9 at 10:00 am.

Team coach Matt Duckworth writes, "I would like to thank all teachers that have supported our program through their inspired instruction and rigorous curriculum. We could not be as successful as we are without such great teachers."

Great job by all, and best of luck to the Scholastic Bowl team as they enter post-season competition and as they continue the Battle of the Brains competition!

Team members receiving All-Bay Rivers District recognition are: 
Nathaniel Boughner- 1st Team, Heather Sledd- 1st Team, Alexys Gray- 2nd Team, Bailey Angle- 1st Team

Friday, January 11, 2013

Service Learning - The GWES SCA Gives Back

The SCA at George Watkins Elementary School, which includes students in third through fifth grade, recently sponsored the "Giving Tree".  With the theme of the book, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein in mind, the SCA decided to give back to its community by encouraging students and faculty to help make someone else's holiday a little brighter.  Forty-five children within the Watkins community were impacted by the students' and faculty's  generosity.

The SCA sponsors, who include school guidance counselor, Crystal Driggs, and teachers Kristen Gibson, Kristen Lorden, Emily Trainum, and Danielle Allen, then held a "Wrapping Party" with students and teacher volunteers to wrap all gifts, which were then delivered to families in time for the holidays.

Second grade teacher, Jennifer Rounds, helps third grade class representative, Grady Rounds, wrap children's gifts.

Prior to sponsoring "The Giving Tree", the SCA also sponsored a canned food drive, during which over 400 non- perishable food items were donated and then distributed to eight local families, as well as to the local food bank.

Thanks to everyone at GWES, and especially to the SCA, for sponsoring these great service initiatives!

Service Learning - NKES SCA Sponsors Penny Wars

The New Kent Elementary SCA sponsored Penny Wars to support the Toys for Tots Literacy program during the month of December. Penny Wars included a grade-level competition to raise funds and the NKES SCA collected a total of $1810.64 in only 10 days!  A great job by all at NKES and special thanks to the SCA and faculty sponsors for working to support the Toys for Tots Literacy initiative.  Working together to help others is a great way to learn!

The New Kent-Charles City Chronicle ran a photo and brief article.  Take a look!