Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Faculty Follies--Filled with Fun and Frivolity!!

Every year, our wonderful faculty and staff put on a musical for the students at our school. There are three teachers who get together sometime in the fall to write the script for the upcoming Faculty Follies. It is always about something that is happening in the world of entertainment, etc. They always include a take on events that happen in the education world at this particular moment in time. There are always different acts that are posted and different people sign up to be in a certain act. We have two wonderful teachers who always volunteer to be Santa and Mrs. Claus--Tom and Jo. Our wonderful music teacher, Clare, brings this altogether--which is amazing to me.

This year, the children were told that the teachers were too busy to do the Follies and that it really didn't fit into the "state standards." This was done on our morning live news program. Our two anchors urged the students to start petitions to get the Follies back. So students signed petitions on the playground and the Follies were on again.

Over the years, I have seen the kids get so into what was happening, that they actually believe it to be real. One year the Easter Bunny, Father Time and various other characters were beating the Christmas characters on a game show. The kids were incensed that this was happening.

This is probably one of the best things that our school does to build community. The staff has such a great time putting the show together. The students absolutely love to see their teachers and IA's up on stage singing and dancing and having such a good time.

In this day and age of standards, high stakes testing, etc., we can't lose sight of how important that community is to the adults and children who spend so much of their time together. We need to sing and dance and most importantly--laugh at ourselves in order to cope with the every day stresses that constitute our lives.

I know I have said this before, but I am very grateful for the wonderful group of people who I work with more than 185 days a year at Gilbert El. It is truly a wonderful place to be. As this new year begins, thanks to all who make our school community what it is--Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wishing You a Holiday Filled with Joy and Laughter!

I have never been good about sending cards for holidays. If I did, this would have been the picture for the "homemade" cards!! Did I ever think that I would take "dogs" to have a picture with Santa--NEVER!!!!!! Oh how times have changed! Over the past few days being home from school, we have been busy trying to get some things done in the house, etc. I got new counter tops and a new sink installed today and it looks great! Our pugs (and Harvey the chow who thinks he is a pug) have provided non-stop entertainment!! What fun they are!

We have had Teresa, Judy, and family every night for dinner. It is so nice to be home and be able to have the time to cook.
Yesterday I made chicken noodle soup with my own noodles. It always tastes good, particularly when it is cold outside. Teresa loves this soup so I decided to make it. I also wanted to make something special for my friend, Martha, who is fighting inflammatory breast cancer. Our staff is getting her family a Christmas dinner that I will pick up and deliver to her tomorrow. I wanted to be sure to take some soup for her family also--a little comfort food.

Tomorrow evening we will go to Christmas Eve Mass at St. Mary's in downtown Phoenix with all of the cousins. We usually go to Yaya's house after church for tamales and enchiladas. This year we will be going to Pat's house as Phil is to weak to go anywhere. I received an email update from Pat this morning and Phil is declining rapidly.

Cameron is very excited about Christmas. He is getting a guitar and begins taking guitar lessons next Monday evening. He has been playing Rock Band on his Wii and is really getting into music. As always this time of year brings many memories of wonderful holidays that I have spent. I am so thankful that my own children are doing well in their careers as teachers and in their lives. Cameron is such a blessing and is growing up so quickly! My Aunt Teresa and Judy and her family continue to be such a support. And of course, there is our wonderful extended family--the Scott Family--who provide so many memories. I am so thankful that we have all remained close and stay in contact the way that we do. I am also thankful for my many wonderful friends who make my life complete!!

As I was looking for pictures for this post, I found this one of Cameron getting a doctor's kit when he was about two. That was the year that my mom fell and broke her hip right after Christmas. When the paramedics came to the house, Cameron ran to get his doctor's kit so that he could help his "Great," along with the paramedics. As I say so often, one has to find the things in life to laugh about. That picture brought a smile to my face as I remembered that day.

Happy Holidays to everyone!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

BEEing a Good Speller and Learning to BEE an Even Better Person!!

Recently, our annual school Spelling Bee was held on a Friday afternoon. The winner will participate in the district Spelling Bee in January. Cameron was one of two representatives from his class. He was very excited and very proud! He studied the week of the contest and was fairly confident in a good way. His Tia came all the way from Douglas to see him. I told him how proud I was of him just being a participant. I also shared with him how I still remember the word that I missed when I was in seventh grade in our spelling bee at Loretto School in Douglas.

I think that having the opportunity to participate is great for kids. They go up in front of all the students in third through sixth grade, as well as teachers, staff, and parents. The students are very nervous. I always stand by the benches and give the students encouragement and a hug if needed when they miss.

The first round is a practice round so that the kids can learn the rules and get a bit of nervousness out of their systems. Cameron spelled his practice round word correctly. His words that he spelled correctly were "diplomat, tundra, feldspar, and Frankenstein." This year the students were able to write the word before spelling it. Cameron did this every time. I believe that he is a good speller because he is such an avid reader. I think that is why I have never had trouble with spelling (until I got old, that is).

Anyway, all of a sudden there were just three spellers left and Cameron was one of them. Then we were down to two and again there was Cameron. The other speller is a great young lady who is a sixth grader. Cameron was given the word "ramada." He spelled is "rOmada." The young lady spelled her word correctly and so she was the champ.

The last three students were asked to give their names and whose class they were in. I think that the most proud moment with Cameron was when he clapped for the winner. To me, that good sportsmanship was the absolute most important "winning" that he could do! What a life lesson the Spelling Bee can bee.................

Monday, December 15, 2008

Happy Birthday, Rosemary!

This time of year, it is so busy that I can't keep track of the days. I truly thought that Dec. 15 was tomorrow. I want to wish my cousin, Rosemary O'Brien, a very happy birthday. Rosemary is the second daughter of my Uncle Bill. Bill was my mom's youngest brother and my godfather. Bill was the apple of everyone's eye because he was the baby of the Scott Family!!

Because Bill's kids were quite a bit younger than me, we didn't spend the time with them like we did with the other cousins. As an adult, it has been great to get to know all of these cousins.

Rosemary has three great kids and a wonderful husband, John. One of the neatest things that has happened in our family is that we have had brothers marrying sisters. Now don't take this wrong--let me explain. Rosemary's husband, John, and his brother Mike, are both married to sisters--Rosemary and Maria. With my Aunt Dot's family, Kathy is married to Lynn Boyer and Jan is married to Tim Boyer. So there are double cousins. I look at it as wonderful families who are a part of our family now.

Rosemary and John are the proud parents of Brendan, Johnny, and Katie. They see the importance of our family--particularly Brendan who has spent a lot of time with us. I feel we are so blessed with this connection to our San Francisco cousins.

My Uncle Bill died in 1993 and their mom died several years before. I think that my mom, our Aunt Teresa, and other members of the family have served as surrogates for my cousins.

Rosemary and John bought Rosemary's parents house in San Francisco. They live in the house that she grew up in. I know that houses are just buildings, but in our family there seems to be more of a connection. I am sure that is because of the house in Douglas being in our family since 1918.

Whenever we go to San Francisco, we always have many places to stay. I am thankful for that connection!

Happy birthday, dear Rosemary!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

They Say It's Your Birthday!

My cousin, Cecilia, celebrates her birthday today! What can I say about Cecilia? Actually, there are a lot of things I can say about her. Cecilia, or Rosie as she is known to some of the elders of the family, was born on December 10 in Phoenix, Arizona. She is the fifth of the six childen of my Uncle Matt and Aunt Gyp Scott. Cecilia is four years older than I am and I have wonderful childhood memories of the time spent in Douglas during the summer. Cecilia spent most of her summers in Douglas with us.

One of the best memories I have is the club that we started in the neighbors' backyard. We were the "Death Boys, the mighty, mighty, Death Boys.. How all of us girls came up with that, I don't know. I was the youngest and I went along with everything that they did. How I loved to be included!! We all had code names. I was Mehitabel, the Cat. I can't remember what Cecilia's name was. Someone was Archie, the Cockroach. (Maybe my cousin Marion will be able to remember and put a comment on this post.)

Cecilia is one of the most fun people to be around. She is always up for a party and a good time. I think she will be having fun when she draws her last breath some day way in the future.

Despite her fun-loving ways, there is no one that you can count on more than Cecilia--any time, any hour. She will do anything she can to help. Cecilia is not afraid of hard work and will do any job at any time for family and friends. I know this to be true because I have been the recipient of her help many times over the years. She is always there for us and I am thankful for that.

I remember when my kids were younger, they were a bit afraid of Cecilia. I think this was because she made them tow the line and put them to work. Now they look back and can't believe that they were ever afraid of her. They love her dearly. I remember being a little bit afraid of her mom, my Aunt Gyp, when I was a child. That was until I came up here to go to ASU and was so incredibly homesick my first year. Cecilia would pick me up on Fridays and then take me back to the dorm on Sunday evening during that first year. I found out then that Gyp was way more "bark than bite." I will always be grateful to Matt and Gyp for helping ease me into being away from home and becoming a real grown up person!

Cecilia and her awesome husband, Jay, have six wonderful kids. They also have six grandchildren, with the newest one being born just as short time ago. They are all fortunate to have such a great mom and grandma!

I have heard many times that you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family.... I feel blessed that I come from such a wonderful family. Cecilia Rose Scott Henderson is not just my cousin, she is my very dear friend!!!

PS (I usually only put one song on when I have a new post. However, I have two for you, Cecilia. Hope you like the significance of one of them! It didn't seem possible when the Beatles sang this song that one day it would happen, did it? Notice the "rose" colored font?)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Happy Birthday, Joan!!

Earlier this week, my wonderful Aunt Teresa said that she has started calling all of her brothers' and sisters' children for their birthdays. This is just one of the many ways that endears all of us to Teresa. Teresa is the only surviving member of the Edward and Katherine Scott Family. My grandparents had 10 children, but only seven of them survived to have families.

I am sure that it is very difficult for Teresa to be the only one left. However, all of my cousins treat her as the matriarch of our family. She is so deserving of this title because she cares so much about everyone in our family and makes every effort to make sure that we all keep in touch!! All of "The Cousins" include her in family events by giving her a place of honor in weddings, etc.

Teresa loves that I do this blog. So when she told me that she was starting to make these phone calls, I told her that I would do a blog post for these birthdays! She was very pleased. We talked tonight about the December birthdays.

It is fitting that this begins with my Uncle Johnny's family as he was the oldest of the Scott children. Johnny was born in Leadville, Colorado on February 5, 1903. I have done previous posts on Johnny as he lived with us when I was growing up in Douglas. Johnny's son, John Edward, was an incredible person. John died in November of 2005. John's wife, Joan, is celebrating her birthday today. Teresa will be calling her sometime today.

My cousin, John, had many health problems. He was diagnosed with diabetes as a young adult. Joan took such wonderful care of John and I know how much everyone in our family appreciated that. Joan is a kind, gentle person who we are proud to have in our family.

So Joan, I hope you have a very happy birthday. We love you very much!!!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Welcoming!

The holidays are always filled with optimism and a bit of stress. Thanksgiving brings thoughts of being thankful for so much. It is good to take a look at everything around us and find the many reasons to give thanks!! And there are many, many reasons....

Of course I am thankful for good health, good friends, and a great job working with wonderful teachers and staff! This time of year is always difficult at an elementary school. I don't know what the reason for this is, but it has been my experience. I just know that the next three weeks will probably not be so easy--they never have been. These weeks between Thanksgiving and the holidays have never been my favorite. I think this year with all of the bad news about the economy might even make things a bit more difficult. However, after 19 years of doing this, I know that January will bring a renewed energy to everyone.

I am also very thankful for the wonderful family that I am blessed to be a part of. My children, Kerri and Patrick, my grandson, Cameron, my wonderful Aunt Teresa, my sister Judy and her family are so much a part of my every day life and I am grateful for this blessing, In addition, the extended Scott Family is such an integral part of our lives that I don't know what I would do without their love and support.

We spent Thanksgiving at my cousin Pat's house this year. Her husband, Phil, is not doing well. I have written about him in previous posts--a wonderful man. Pat wanted everyone at her house for this Thanksgiving and I am glad we were all there together.

My cousin Cecilia's daughter, Annie, was there on Thursday VERY PREGNANT as you will see in the picture that I am posting. Yesterday (Nov. 29) Annie gave birth to a new member of our family, Cole Jacob Grove. Annie and Jeremy have a two year old son, Mattox. Mattox celebrated his second birthday on November 28. Cecilia called us about 6:00 p.m. to let us know that all was well and that Cole weighed in at 9 lbs. 7 oz.

So welcome to the world and to our family, Cole!! You will have a great life, this much I know is true. You have great parents, aunts and uncles, great grandparents in Jay and Cecilia, and lots of cousins who love you! It couldn't get much better than that!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ticket to Write

Last summer, I attended an entire week of training with four of my teachers on a program to teach writing to students. We have all kinds of programs to teach reading, math, science, etc., but there is very little out there to actually teach writing. When I think back to my school days, I don't ever remember actually learning how to write. As a teacher, I always felt that it was one of the hardest subjects to teach. It was exciting to me to find something that would really assist teachers in the teaching of the writing process.

One of my former students is a writer for the Arizona Republic. In correspondence with her, she told me several years ago that her love for writing came from the year she was in my class. Although I don't think I did a very good job of teaching writing, I do know that I showed my students how much I love writing. So that is a good thing, I think!

I have always loved to write. Humor was probably what I enjoyed the most. I actually wrote an "underground bulletin" at my schools when I was a teacher and it was a lot of fun. Since I have become a principal, I have to write so much with an enormous amount of it being tedious. At times I have come to dread writing. As a result, I haven't done much of the enjoyable writing for quite some time.

Then came this blog.......... All of a sudden writing became fun again. Over the last several months, I have thoroughly enjoyed writing again.

The week we spent in June in the training was great. I learned a lot about the art and science of teaching writing with a great instructor. We were given an assignment that had to be turned in when we went back for the next phase of the training. With my busy schedule and so much to do, I didn't think about it until yesterday. One of my dear principal friends reminded me at a meeting we were in that I needed to have this assignment completed. Of course, I had nothing with me. She gave me her outline and the "prompt" that we were given. We had a choice of two prompts, but I knew that I would do the one about the Dairy Queen. I had actually thought about it, but hadn't actually sat down to do this. So in the middle of our "other" meeting, I wrote my story with confidence born out of seven months of blogging!!

The following is my story with the first sentence being the prompt that was given to us:

I raced from the car to the Dairy Queen door, threw it open and slid into line.

The Dairy Queen in the small town I grew up in was only open for the sizzling hot summer months. April 1st was an exciting day in our town as the local DQ reopened after six months. So many people were anxious for the first Dairy Queen treat in months.

I couldn't decide which item on the menu I had missed the most. Was it a Dilly Bar or a chocolate ice cream soda?

I could taste both of these after months of not being able to go to Dairy Queen. I was so excited that it had reopened and that I could go every evening on my bike, although tonight my mother drove me. I think she was as excited as I was that it was open again.

Finally, I was in line with only one person in front of me--decision time! I decided on the ice cream soda at the very last minute before I had to place the order. I could taste it even before I ordered it--sweet, delicious, and refreshing.

Going back to the car, I asked my mom if I could walk home. I wanted to savor every drop as I sauntered home, just four short blocks away. She said yes, which was exciting in itself to be allowed to walk on my own.

As I walked, I thought about the 12 Dilly Bars that my mother had purchased and was taking home to the freezer. Dairy Queen treats were back for a few months at least. The enjoyment of these treats had to be even better because of so many months without them.

Oh, the wonderful memories of growing up in a small town will be with me every time I pass a Dairy Queen!!

Much of this is true. This is called believable fiction I learned today. The Dairy Queen part is very accurate. I was never really that excited about the opening or closing of it because I don't really care much about sweets. The rest is accurate. My mom loved Dairy Queen and so we went often. It really is only four blocks from 858!

I turned my paper in at the end of the day yesterday with great confidence. Our instructor told us she would have them ready for us tomorrow and not to worry if we didn't get a check. Most mistakes would be easy to remedy. So I am thinking--no problem. Even though I did this quickly, I am a very good writer. I will have a check mark.

So this morning I go to get my paper and there is a SEE ME. SEE ME???? I couldn't believe it. So I saw her! I needed to have two sentences for my opening and two for my closing. Okay, I could fix that easily!! So I added to my entry "The excitement of this event filled the air." That was fine. But I truly felt that my voice in the closing would be compromised by adding another sentence. But I did it anyway...: "I love these memories and I am happy that there are still Dairy Queens everywhere."

At the end of the day, I was able to speak with our wonderful instructor. I told her how I felt about my voice at the end. She read it and suggested that I just change the order of the sentences. It would read "I am happy that there are still Dairy Queens everywhere. Oh the wonderful memories of growing up in a small town will be with me every time I pass a Dairy Queen." I could definitely live with this!!

Tomorrow is the last day of training. It has been great and I have learned so much. I know that my teachers who attended will be able to bring this back to our faculty and to our students. I truly am excited that we finally have a "program" that I think is going to be fabulous in the teaching of writing. Because I love to write so much, I hope that our students will also have this love.

I look forward to the months ahead where we can instill the love of writing (and reading) in all of our students and possibly untap some incredible potential that is out there with our children. Writing is so personal and can be so therapeutic. At the same time, being able to read a great writer can work wonders and draw out such emotion. I know how much it has helped me and I hope my love for this craft will be imparted to others. This blog has done this for me. I truly hope that what I write is enjoyed by others out there. Technology is such an awesome tool!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Glimpse of a Moment in Arizona History

A few Sundays ago, there was an article in the Arizona Republic about the Gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. October 26th was the 127th anniversary of this infamous gunfight.

Reading this article brought back a flood of memories. I have always been interested in Arizona history. It has been a passion of mine and so much of the history of Arizona is not that long ago when you compare it to U. S. and world history. When I was growing up in Douglas, I remember hearing stories about Pancho Villa, the deportation in Bisbee of the miners who worked in the copper mines, Texas John Slaughter, and so many stories.

When I started teaching third grade, I wanted my students to be able to know about Arizona history first hand, so I decided to take them on a field trip to Bisbee and Tombstone. I was the first elementary teacher in Gilbert to ask to take students on an overnight field trip. I remember that I had to go before the Governing Board personally to make this request. The members of the Board had many questions as to why I wanted to do this and how I was going to make it happen. I was prepared and they gave me the go ahead.

The entire semester before we went, I did a lot of teaching about the science and history of southern Arizona. I continued this trip for the entire time I taught third grade, about nine years. It was an incredible trip and one that I know my students remember to this day!

I always remembered hearing from my Uncle Matt about his father-in-law, Emil Marks. Emil was his wife, Gyp's, father and the grandfather to my wonderful Phoenix cousins. Emil was a barber in Tombstone during the 1880's. He cut the hair of many of the historic figures. I remember hearing about how he decided to move to Bisbee because things had gotten so bad in Tombstone during this time.

The year 1981 was the 100th anniverary of this historic event. The morning of October 26, 1981, there was an article in the Mesa Tribune by a columnist by the name of Walter Zipf. He wrote about the 100th anniversary of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He told the story of what occurred that day. Of course, I was very interested to read this when I saw the headline. In this article, Mr. Zipf told about how he had actually interviewed someone many years before who had witnessed this gunfight. He went on to write about Emil Marks, a barber in Tombstone. I immediately called my Uncle Matt. He immediately went out and got copies of the newspaper for all of his children. I don't think that he knew that Emil had witnessed this event.

The past few weeks I have tried to find my copy of the article. I was able to locate a copy of it from some papers that are at the University of Arizona. I have been in contact with a librarian from the U of A who is trying to locate it and send it to me.

I did find some information on the web from the Arizona Jewish Historical Society. Here is what they have written:

"Emil Marks, a barber, completed his 1881 journey from Germany to Tombstone by stagecoach over the very rough road from Benson. He was to find himself shaving the beards and cutting the hair of the likes of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and the Clanton boys, all of whom kept their guns on their laps during his ministrations. This made him very nervous.

He realized that his fears were well founded when hostilities opened up and he watched as the memorable gunfight at the OK Corral unfolded."

I find this information fascinating! Even though Emil was not related to me, I feel as though I am a part of his family because of how I feel about my cousins, Yaya, Pat, Marion, Cecilia, and Teresa. I hope they enjoy reading this post! The picture at the top of this entry is of their grandfather, Emil Marks!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Happy 30th, Patrick!!

Today is Patrick's 30th Birthday!!! Where have the years gone??? It just doesn't seem possible!

Here's to the next 30, Patrick!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Remembering My Dear Friend, Ellen...

October is a month for so many memories...... In a previous post this month, I wrote that it didn't seem like six years since my mom's death. And it doesn't seem like five years on October 23, that my very dear friend, Ellen Widmer, died. This was the first time that I had a very good friend die and it was very difficult.

Let me write and tell about my friend, Ellen. I first met her in August of 1980 at Patterson Elementary. I had been teaching there and Ellen was just hired. My daughter, Kerri, was to be in her first grade class. I loved Ellen from the day that I met her and our friendship lasted until the day that she died.

Ellen went through a lot in her life. She was divorced and had three sons to raise. Her son, Troy, fell off of Camelback Mountain in May, 1981 and things were never the same for Ellen and her family. Ellen's loyalty to her family was an inspiration to everyone. She always had a smile on her face and absolutely loved teaching and all children. She was a remarkable human being!

When she found out that her illness was terminal, her greatest fear was that she would have to quit teaching. However, we were so fortunate at our school to have a position where she could teach reading every day. Even though she did not have a classroom of her own children, she was able to teach what she loved most, which was reading. Everyone benefited from this as Ellen was able to continue teaching and many children benefited from her wonderful expertise in the teaching of reading. She continued to always have a smile on her face and a kind word for everyone.

She started out the following year, but had a fall in the classroom at the beginning of the year. Because of her illness, her bones were brittle. She was hospitalized for some time, and was never able to go back to teaching. She still continued her wonderfully positive attitude.

I still remember the day that she called me at school and asked me if I would deliver her eulogy at her funeral. Of course, I was so honored, but I was also so sad. I didn't want to think about my life without my friend, Ellen!!

I remember going to see her on the Monday before she died on Thursday. She was in the hospital and was so weak and so sick. I was able to tell her good-bye and how much our friendship had meant to me. I am so glad that I had that opportunity.

Her memorial service was filled with so many people whose lives she touched. Getting up to deliver her eulogy was probably one of the very hardest things that I have ever had to do in my life. But I was so honored to be able to speak about this wonderful woman, teacher, and friend!!

I am putting the eulogy on this post because I think it tells so much about Ellen.

There is an old Indian proverb that says, "When you are born, you cry and the world rejoices. May you live your life so that when you die, the world cries, and you rejoice. Ellen's life certainly reflects this proverb. That is exemplified by seeing all of you here.

I'm Sheila Rogers, Ellen's friend and colleague at Gilbert Elementary. And I am honored that Ellen asked me to say a few words at her memorial service. I have so many wonderful memories about Ellen, both professionally and personally. It is hard to know where to start talking about my dear friend, Ellen Widmer.

I first met Ellen at Patterson Elementary School when she came to Gilbert in 1980. I was teaching third grade and she was teaching first. She was my daughter, Kerri's, first grade teacher and later became my son, Patrick's, fourth grade teacher. Kerri loved that year with her. It was the same year that Troy fell from Camelback Mountain. I will never forget the love and dedication that she showed to Troy during this crisis. Her sons, Mark, Troy, and Steven, meant the world to her and she would do whatever was necessary to insure their happiness, even if it meant making great personal sacrifices. I know that her sons returned that love. Steven did such a wonderful job of caring for his mother this past year. I will always remember with admiration Ellen's devotion to her children.

This same devotion was apparent in her profession. Ellen loved children and loved to teach. She loved every aspect of her job. After I became principal of Gilbert Elementary, Ellen transferred to Gilbert El. I was so pleased and honored that she chose to work with me at Gilbert El because I knew Ellen would bring so much to our children, our families, and to our staff.

In preparing these words about Ellen, I had an opportunity to look at her Gilbert personnel file. In the file was her original application for a job in the District. It was very touching to read what she wrote about her philosophy of education and I quote, "Each child is unique and my philosophy is to create an environment where learning in not depersonalized, where each individual is reached so he can grow academically, socially, and emotionally. My best quality is my caring. I genuinely care about each child, and it is a joy to see their growth." Those of you who had Mrs. Widmer for a teacher can certainly attest to this. She was exactly the kind of teacher that she said she would be in her application.

Ellen particularly loved to teach reading. She imparted her love of literature and language to all. One of my favorite children's books is 'The Last Dance' by Carmen Agra Deedy. In this book, the grandfather tells his grandchildren that every human being has the right to three things in life:







There are so many stories that Ellen has left behind. As people learned of Ellen's illness, so many have come to me with memories and stories all of which illustrate how many lives she has touched and how she will be remembered. Last week, after the news of her death spread, I received an email from a dad who had two children in her room. One of the children is in college and the other in high school. It said, "Ellen loved my children. I think of them as shining examples of her influence and support."

Last year when she was the American Legion Elementary Teacher of the Year, I asked some students to tell me about Mrs. Widmer. Here is what a few had to say:

"Mrs. Widmer made learning fun. She never put anyone down because she was too busy giving them compliments. She is a great teacher and an even better friend."

"Mrs. Widmer didn't just help us with school problems, but with family and social problems too. We could always talk to her about anything. She is kind, caring, and loving to all of her students. She will always hold a special place in our hearts!"

The best part about having Mrs. Widmer for a teacher was that you got to have her for two years. My most memorable moments from Mrs. Widmer's class are the ones I had during Friday Free Time. We had fun during free time, but we also learned many valuable life lessons that I use today like how to build friendships."

In the course of our education, we all have many teachers, but it is those teachers who care about us personally and about our learning and who we are as a person are the ones who become models for how we want to conduct or lives as adults. In the words of Carmen Deedy, those we love are nver really gone as long as their stories are told. Ellen's stories will live on with the children whose lives she has touched. People die, but relationships live on. Memories last a life time and can never be taken away.

Because I am of Irish heritage, I find comfort in Irish Blessings. And so my dear friend, Ellen,

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

To this day, I miss our dinners together, our talks and our laughter over so many things. Ellen Widmer was truly a wonderful human being and I am so glad that I had her in my life. I know many other people feel the same way. Our world is a better place because of teachers like Ellen Widmer!!!

The song on this blog is a song that Ellen wanted for her memorial service. It was sung at the service by one of our wonderful teachers, Peggy, who did a beautiful job!

The picture below is of Ellen's first grade class her first year in Gilbert. Kerri is in the front row on the right hand side in the red dress.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Celebrating Success and Much Hard Work!!

In a previous posting, I wrote about the difficult year that our school had last year because of not making AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) which was determined by No Child Left Behind which is from the federal government. At the same time, our school was labeled as "Highly Performing" which was determined by a law passed several years ago in Arizona. So last year our school was both "failing" and "highly performing." How on earth do you try to explain this to people who aren't familiar with education and for many people who are????????

The reasons for this are complicated and difficult to try to explain in a post that wouldn't use up all of the cyberspace allotted to me by this blog! Basically what it meant for us is that we gave accommodations to our special education students when they were tested and so they were not counted as being tested by No Child Left Behind standards. As a result, we were considered "failing" even though our test scores were quite good.

In early August, I found out that our school had made AYP and that we are considered to be Highly Performing by Arizona Standards. However, this was "embargoed" so I was not able to share it with my staff. I was fairly sure that we would make AYP because we did what was required and gave all of our special education students the AIMS test on grade level with none of the accommodations that would have caused them to not be counted. I truly believe that this is wrong to do to special ed kiddos, but we had no choice. Because all of the scores would now be counted, I was thinking that we might go down a bit on our state label. But we didn't!!!

Then came the "roller coaster ride." Due to some problems at the Arizona Department of Education, scores were not always correct on their website. When I went in to look at our information, there was a little red stop sign by our AYP designation. This meant that we didn't make AYP. I was assured by our district testing director that this was not accurate. She showed me all of the information and it truly looked like it was a mistake and the people at the Department of Education were saying there were problems. But I did not rest easy until Sept. 3 when everything was to be fixed.

September 3 came and it was fixed, but I still couldn't tell anyone. This is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do because I knew how thrilled (and relieved) our staff would be. The Highly Performing label is a true testament to the incredible teachers and staff that we have at our school!!!
I was "allowed to announce" this on the 1st of October as that was when the media would know.

Our monthly faculty meeting was that morning. I couldn't think of a better way to thank everyone than to have a celebration breakfast instead of a meeting. As everyone walked in to the song "Celebration" we had tables set up and juice and breakfast burritos for everyone. It was a great way to say thanks to everyone for their hard work. We are planning to do something for the students because they certainly did a lot of hard work and took all of this so seriously! I am hoping to do something special for them within the next month or so!!

I could not be prouder of the teachers, staff, and students at my school! I am fortunate to work at such a great school with such great teachers, staff, and students!!

I hope you enjoy the two cartoons that I found relating to testing!! You can click on this bottom one to make it bigger to read it!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It Doesn't Seem Like It Has Been Six Years........

This week is filled with so many memories for me. My mom died on October 6, 2002. Her birthday was October 8, 1917. She would have been 91 years old today.

The years have passed quickly and there is never a day that goes by that I don't think about her. So many times something funny will happen and I want to pick up the phone and call her to tell her about it. Or an issue will occur and it is something that I would like to discuss with her and get her incredible perspective on things. It is almost an automatic response because that was how it was for 53 years of my life.

My mother was quite a woman! She loved this time of year and the presidential elections. She would have watched all of the debates and would have definitely had an opinion. Knowing her, I think she would probably have been for Hillary, but she was a Democrat to the core and would have supported Obama and Biden.

Whenever I would get a card for her birthday or for Mother's Day, it was always difficult to find the right card. She was never the kind of mother who made cookies or did any of the things that so many cards stereotype a mother to be and do.

Her love was unconditional. She was a role model for how a woman can be strong and self-sufficient. She was always for the underdog. I attribute so much of what I have done in my life to her.

Her sense of humor was second to none. She always found the humor in life and I thank her for passing that gift to me. She was feisty and would stand up for what she believed in no matter what.

She also believed in giving back to your community. After she retired from Phelps Dodge at 65, she ran for the city council in Douglas and served until she was almost 80. Her first election was in the mid 1980's when I was still teaching. I took personal time and took my kids down for the election. She was running against an incumbent and she beat him four to one. On election day, we made phone calls, took older people to the polls, made sure that people who said they were voting for her actually got to the polls, and were busy all day. That evening, there was a party at 858 to celebrate her victory. She ran for two more terms serving 12 years. For several years, she was the vice mayor of Douglas. She served on many boards and always rang the bells at Christmas time for the Salvation Army. She even did this in December before she died after she had been so sick for those few years. She worked at the thrift shop for St. Vincent de Paul into her 80's. She was a member of the Cochise County Fair Board until the day she died. She was also very active in her church, St. Luke's.

I remember her telling me that even though we went to a Catholic school, it was very important to vote for every school bond election and every school board election. She said that public education was what made this country what it is today and that it must be supported no matter whether you have children in school or not!

She also loved sports, especially ASU and Notre Dame. She watched games on television all of the time, even reruns!! She would have loved HD and our big screen television!!

She loved my kids, but she was always strict with them. The best thing that ever happened to her was Cameron. Did she love that little boy!! He could do absolutely no wrong in her eyes and she made no bones about making sure that everyone knew that, including his mother. When he turned three, he wanted to go to Douglas for his birthday to be with Great and Tia. He called my mom "Great" which certainly didn't hurt him in her eyes. He couldn't say Teresa and so he called her Tia, which is so appropriate!!

She had a stroke on May 5, 2002. That was the beginning of the end. She was unable to walk and she worked so hard with the physical therapist trying to regain the ability to walk. When she had the aneurysm a few years before, she had to go through therapy. When the physical therapist told her to do something, she would retort, "If you think it is so great, why don't you do it?" Needless to say, all of the therapists and nurses loved her and her wit. She went to a private home after getting out of the hospital for the 24 hour care that she needed. That was so hard because she wanted so much to go back to Douglas. I will always be so grateful to Judy for taking her home to her house for that last month and taking such wonderful care of her, along with hospice. Kerri and Patrick were also wonderful with her. Kerri would help Judy with any of the tasks that needed to be done and Patrick took her to appointments or wherever she needed to go by lifting her into and out of the car.

In the words of my favorite children's author, Carmen Agra Deedy, "Those we love are never really gone as long as their stories are told...."

Margaret Scott Shannon
Oct. 8, 1917 - Oct. 6, 2002

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Congratulations to Maggie and Mike!!

Last night we went to a celebration to congratulate Maggie and Mike on their engagement. It was held in Phoenix at Monica's and Derik's house. Maggie's parents, Marion and Ron, came in from Turlock and Mike's parents from Mississippi along with Mike's younger brother. Maggie's brother Scott, his wife April, and their three children traveled from San Diego to be a part of this celebration. Her Aunt Teresa and Uncle Don also came from Turlock, as well as their daughter, Kate, from San Diego. Of course, our family was there and they alone make for a big party!!! Our Aunt Teresa from Douglas stayed up here so that she wouldn't miss this party!! Many of Mike's and Maggie's friends were also there.

At any family gathering no matter what it is, there are always plenty of children. It is so great to see how well the young cousins get along and truly like each other. We had to leave a bit early as Kerri wasn't feeling well and Cameron was so disappointed to have to leave.

Mike and Maggie are both wonderful young people. Maggie is always so thoughtful in so many ways. I have so enjoyed getting to know her as an adult since she moved to Arizona a few years ago. Mike is one of the genuine nice guys of the world. I know that they will have many wonderful years together. They are planning their wedding for September, 2009.

So Maggie and Mike, here is an Irish Blessing for you:

May the blessing of light be with you always,

light without and light within,

and may the sun shine upon you and warm your heart,

until it grows like a great fire
so that others may feel
 the warmth of your love for one another.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


This has been a busy weekend to say the least!! Kerri decided to have a belated birthday party for Cameron with our family and a few close family friends. Cameron's favorite food is red chili meat. When I was a kid, that is what I always asked Mary to make for my birthday to invite friends over, so I totally understand this. So Friday morning, I put three roasts in the oven to cook slowly during the day.

I left school a little early to check on the roasts and to pick up my Aunt Teresa who was coming up for the events. She took the Agua Prieta/Douglas Shuttle and they dropped her at the Denny's on I10 and Baseline--you have got to see this to believe it!! I got to the Denny's just as the shuttle was pulling in. The driver was helping her out of the van that was completely full. Just about everyone on the shuttle spoke only Spanish. But that was fine with Teresa. She gets her novenas out and says them during the trip and she also finds a way to communicate with people in her own unique way!! The driver took her bag from the top of the van and we headed back to Gilbert to "string" the roasts. I had put three more on to cook before I left to pick her up.

Saturday morning I had two more roasts that I had cooked over night. I made those into green chili as that is Patrick's favorite and just to have a little variety........ Once again I thought about our wonderful Mary who taught me how to make all of this food!!

Saturday was the ASU/Georgia game. We were meeting all of the cousins in the parking lot around 2:00. My cousin, Teresa, and her husband, Don, were here for the game. Their daughter Allyson, her husband, Jason, and their darling baby were also here. Teresa and Don lived many years in Atlanta and most of their kids have gone to Georgia. So here we are tailgating in the 100 degree weather with Georgia fans no less!!!
One of the cousins, Mike, and his friends cooked a prime rib and all of the fixings. It was so hot I think that they could have cooked it without the grill!! Three years ago when ASU played USC during the day, I said I would not do this again.

And here I was again......... As always, we had a great t
ime. Now if we could have just seen a better game.......I don't know about those Sun Devils this year!!

brought everyone over for red and green chili meat and beans. Cameron had a great time. I asked him what his favorite part was and he said, "I don't know. I liked it all." The kids played Rock Band on the Wii in Shenanigans and we were even serenaded by P.T. (That, too, is another post.) They went swimming and had an all around great time.

sa was able to meet her newest great, great niece which was the main reason she came up from Douglas!!

It is now around 7:30 and I am thinking that it is time to try to get some rest for the week ahead!

Thanks to everyone who was here today to make this a great weekend. Happy Belated Birthday, Cameron!!! We never really have to have a reason to get together and celebrate, but I am glad we were able to celebrate your birthday today!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Goodbye Kareem, Our Loyal Canine Friend!

As I write this post, Kerri and Judy have taken Kareem to the vet. Kareem has been Kerri's dog since she was 19 years old. She just turned 34.

I still remember the day that she brought him home--a bundle of white fur. I was not thrilled to have this chow puppy. She didn't ask if she could get him, she just brought him home. Kerri had dealt with a lot during that time. She lost a former boyfriend to suicide and had a couple of other traumatic things happen to her, so I didn't say much.

It didn't take long for me to fall in love with Kareem. He was so protective and any time I was alone for the night in the house, I never worried. I could have left all of the doors unlocked because Kareem would have protected me without a doubt. Kareem was definitely our protector.

Chows have a reputation that at times they can be mean. Kareem was never mean. He just was loyal--maybe to a fault. There were a couple of times when he bit someone over the years and spent time in doggie "jail." It was always when I think he was trying to protect us.

The last few years as he has gotten elderly, he started to exhibit signs just like a person does as they age. His eyes grew cataracts, he didn't always hear the doorbell or when someone came in, and he sometimes just stood and looked at the wall and stared. The doctor said that he had "doggie dementia." Sometimes he would go outside and then look in through the back doors and see us. He would wag his tail...it was almost like "hey, I know you guys in there!"

The past few weeks have been tough on Kareem. He tried to bite Patrick one time when he was surprised by him. Last Friday when Kerri tried to get him downstairs, he tried to bite her. I believe it was just a reaction from not being able to see or hear well. That is when Kerri made the final decision to call the vet. I know how difficult that phone call is to make.

Yesterday, as he was walking across the living room, he staggered and then had a hard time getting his balance.

So today Kerri got the leash and he was so excited. She took him in my car as it would be too hard for him to have gotten in her truck. She took a picture of him with his head out of the window as they drove to the vet's office. Kareem loved the wind on his face in the car!! Judy met her there and I stayed home with Cameron.

Dogs become family members and are so important in our lives. Kareem has been a part of our lives for the past 15 years. We will miss him, but know that he lived a great life and gave us unconditional love. I will miss him and I am not sure that I will ever feel as safe as I did knowing Kareem was there to protect me no matter what. He was our protector and brought joy to our lives in so many ways.

I found this wonderful poem and think it says it all... so to Kerri and Kareem with much love.........

If it should be....
If it should be that I grow frail and weak,

and pain should keep me from my sleep,

then you must do what must be done,

for we know this last battle can't be won.
You will be sad, I understand,

but don't let grief then stay your hand,

for this day, more than the rest,

your love and friendship must stand the test.

We've had so many happy years,

what is to come can hold no fears.

Would you want me to suffer?
when the time comes, please let me go.
Take me where my needs they'll tend,

only stay with me until the end,

and hold me firm and speak to me,

until my eyes no longer see.
It is a kindness that you do to me,
although my tail it's last has waved,

from pain and suffering I have been saved.

Do not grieve,
it should be you,
who must decide this thing to do.
We've been so close, we two these years,

Don't let your heart hold any tears.

Author unknown