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The Details on Departmentalization

By: Kelly Reilly, Principal

With the addition of 5th grade this year, HTLS has completed the build out of the Elementary School, but that’s not the only exciting thing happening this year.  HTLS now uses the departmentalization model for 3rd-5th grades.  Each day the students rotate between classrooms for their four-core subjects.  They see Ms. Hemmann for Language Arts, Ms. Vogel for Math, and Mrs. Kellar for Science & Social Studies.

So why the decision to departmentalize?  During the 2017/2018 school year, HTLS interviewed teachers and administrators from other Lutheran Schools as well as the local public schools that were using this model.  We also paid a visit to a few neighborhood schools to see the process in action.  Through this, we learned that with departmentalization:

  1. Teachers have more opportunity to collaborate on student success
  2. Students are introduced to various teaching styles
  3. The physical movement between each class provides an energy boost
  4. Students are more prepared for the style of middle school
  5. Responsibility & independence are encouraged

It was clear to the school board and administration that shifting to departmentalization was the right move for HTLS.   We are now more than a month into the process and have been encouraged by the positive response from the staff and students.  We look forward to the success the rest of the year will bring.

Here’s what the experts on the situation have to say:

  • “As a teacher, I am empowered to specialize my craft.”  – Nicole Hemmann, Language Arts
  • “It’s really fun because you’re not sitting down at the same desk all day.”  – Luke, 4th Grade
  •  “I like having the support of the other teachers to bounce ideas off of.”  – Katherine Vogel, Math
  • “It’s fun because we get to see different teachers each day”.   Sidni, 3rd Grade
  •  “With departmentalization the students are given a unique opportunity to be able to prove themselves as responsible and mature individuals.”   – Elizabeth Kellar, Science & Social Studies
  • “I like that we get to have different teachers and different activities in each of the classes.”   – Taylor, 5th Grade

Over the past two and a half years HTLS has gone through a process of building our curriculum through the use of Curriculum Maps. So what are curriculum maps and what does that mean for your student? In order to understand curriculum maps, you must understand that curriculum is more than the textbooks the school has chosen. Textbooks are used as a guide to ensure that all educational standards are met, but the curriculum process also involves how the teachers choose to implement the topics and the steps they take to modify and adapt lessons to meet the students’ needs.

Imagine you are on a road trip from Florida to Los Angeles. To plan your route, you need to know your starting point and ending point, but you will also have some points marked along the way that you know you want to check out. You may even try and map out your stops along the way for breaks. The same goes for a curriculum map. Our teachers have maps in each subject area to show where the class is starting, where they will end up by the end of the year, what they are going to see (units, topics, themes), and where they will make “pit stops”.

There are many advantages to mapping out curriculum. Here are just a few:

  • To continue the road trip analogy, trips don’t always go as planned. Sometimes roads are closed, there are traffic jams, or you may just want to take the scenic route. Because the teachers have their school year journey planned with the end goal in mind, they are able to veer off throughout the year to adjust to the class or individual student’s needs. For example, if a class is struggling with a new math concept, the teachers can make a “pit stop” to re-teach and re-group before moving on. This stop does not affect the end destination because they know where they are heading.
  • Knowing the target goal of each lesson and topic allows the teachers to determine how they want to teach. Perhaps they have found a better way of communicating the concept of diagramming sentences than what is given in the textbook. The maps encourage teachers to go for it! Use another road because you know you will still get to the same destination.
  • Curriculum maps encourage and enhance teacher collaboration. With the overview of the year in front of them, teachers can see where topics and themes line up across grade levels, so they can work on planning together.
  • Curriculum maps help to shift the questions teachers ask when they are planning from “what to teach” to “how to teach”. Classroom instruction then becomes more personalized and pointed, which enriches the student’s experience and utilizes the teacher’s strengths.

So buckle up passengers, we’re ready for an incredible road trip this year!

It’s Back to School time again, and by now you have already tackled the apparent needs: shopping for new school supplies, a snazzy new backpack, a cute and trendy lunch bag, and those great new shoes that all the other kids will envy. You've sent your child out to begin the new school year! But are you really done preparing for the school year? For some of our young students this is a brand new experience, destined to be repeated for at least the next dozen or so years. So, how prepared were you?

It seems so obvious, but if all you’ve done is shopped for the necessary supplies, you haven’t addressed the most important concerns of preparing your child for the start of the school year and for a lifetime of success. You’ve still got time. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Rest. Your child needs it, more than you might realize! Studies show that our young ones need an amazing amount of sleep time: 11-12 hours a day for pre-schoolers and elementary-aged students, and a whopping 14 hours for toddlers. The same studies also indicate that most children don’t get their daily required amount in. What can you do?

Begin by establishing a nighttime routine. Children thrive on routines, and few are as important as the nightly rituals. Choose the time and the activities that need to be addressed (bathing, brushing teeth, bedtime story, evening prayers, etc.) and then get started establishing that pattern. Make it a priority to provide that ‘down’ time each and every night, and your child will gradually learn to go off to sleep without much fuss. I say ‘gradually’ because it will be a process at first; your child won’t easily adhere to the schedule, unless you allow no wiggle room. It does mean that you will need to relinquish some of your early evening time to the needs of your child, but once she is down for the night, you have the rest of the evening for yourself!

2. Nutrition. The value of that simple word cannot be stressed enough. Start now, even in the beginning weeks of the school year, to get your child to eat well. Keeping to a daily schedule of meal and snack times is ideal, but if your schedule does not easily allow for that, then put your focus on the ‘what’ rather than the ‘when’ of eating.

One of the best pieces of advice that my children’s pediatrician gave me was to instruct me that variety isn’t always necessary. “If your child wants to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day—give it to him,” he advised me. So, once you have determined which foods are acceptable for your child to choose from, give your little one some choices and allow him to decide from which items you will choose. The key is: healthy foods. Bypass the pre-packaged Oreos and Doritos in favor of something with a bit more nutritional value—fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, yogurt, proteins. Occasional treats are not a problem, but a steady diet of junk food won’t give your child the fuel her body needs to succeed.

By giving your child some ownership in the decisions of what will be selected, you are teaching him skills that will assist him in becoming a healthy eater for life. Just be advised that because your daughter chooses cheese & crackers now, it does not necessarily mean that she will accept them in her lunch bag for the next ten weeks straight. Try to come up with a few alternatives, and then do vary, accordingly. Children get bored easily, so mix things up a bit.

If you really want to give your child some responsibility, have him help you with the preparation! Spend a few minutes gathering the food items and packaging them up for the week. Then your child might even be able to help out the night before by going to the cabinet and finding one of the ‘snacks’ he would like for the next day’s lunch. By allowing some degree of choice, you are lessening the possibility that your child will turn a nose up in disdain when the lunch bag opens tomorrow. If he complains, simply remind him that it was HIS selection, and ask if he’s changed his mind. (They are allowed to do that.)

And while you are preparing to pack those school lunches, there’s one more thing to include. Of course, you won’t want to forget the napkin and utensils your child will need, but young children LOVE getting personalized messages in their daily lunches! Even a couple times a week is something they will find exciting. Start now, preparing some simple messages or pictures that will be designed to put a smile on the face of any young child!

3. Information. Even young children can be taught to remember their address or phone number when it’s set to a familiar song. For years I would remember my sister’s phone number by singing along to ‘I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,’ just as my niece had been taught to do. It was highly effective. Your child may be preparing to head out to a new classroom or a new school, surrounded by new faces. Help them have the tools they will need to get in touch with you, should the need arise.

At the same time, you may need to spend a bit of time giving your child some basic ideas on what NOT to share. If you don’t want her telling the teacher all about Aunt Martha’s surgery, don’t bother sharing details. If you don’t want him telling anyone and everyone that you have a house key hidden under the back mat—well, don’t let him see you putting it in and out! And look for ways to share (it’s very individualized, by child) some simple Do’s and Don’ts of dealing with people they don’t know. Begin to teach them who they can talk to and who they can trust. Always reinforce that teachers are there to help and how to reach out for help when they need something.

4. Experience. You can use these precious first weeks as opportunities to help your child to become more independent. When the skies are gray and you are heading out for the day, ask your child what you will need to bring along. If it’s a hat or umbrella, encourage the child to find it and bring it with you. If you are packing for the pool or the beach after school, include your child in gathering the necessary items, and ask what will happen if you don’t remember them. “What if we forget to bring your towel?” Your child will quickly learn about the process of planning ahead—a life skill that will be ever-so-useful in all daily activities.

If you want your child to wear a sweater, spend a few extra minutes allowing her to put it on herself. It doesn’t even matter if it’s not buttoned correctly; she will be practicing something important. If it’s important for your child to have shoes on, give him the chance to try to get them on before you assist. And if he should balk at the prospect, do not cajole or threaten needlessly. Simply find a convenient consequence that will fit the situation and use it to your advantage. “If you don’t wear shoes, we won’t be able to stop at the store for [insert positive reinforcement]. That’s too bad.”

5. Routine. There’s that pesky word again, but it’s vital. Start now to instill routines, and stick with them, even when YOU get tired and out-of-sorts. The most destructive thing you can do to prepare your children for school is to allow them to believe that school is optional. They need to know, right from the start, that just like Daddy and Mommy have a job to do, they have responsibilities, too. And it’s never too soon to begin to teach that.

So, establish routines and follow them. Make Tuesday your Library Day, and make sure that every Tuesday, at the same time, you say, “It’s Tuesday, and it’s time for the Library!” If Sunday afternoon is your time to visit the grandparents, make sure you keep to that plan. “This is Sunday, and we’re off to Nanny and Pop’s house!”

Then, find a few optional activities that you CAN deviate from, now and again. “Would you like to go to the zoo on Saturday or to the playground?” Your child will quickly learn that some activities are designed for recreation and others are part of the regular schedule in our lives. Then they will understand, right from the start, that school is not optional and certainly not something that they have the power to choose to attend. (Some studies have indicated that decreased scores in reading and lack of success in later school years can be linked back to poor attendance habits beginning as early as pre-school and Kindergarten.)

By now you’re thinking that this is all common sense, and it is. But it’s also very easy for parents to fall into habits that enable their children to develop poor habits of their own. Good routines are easy enough to establish, but harder to follow, as time goes by.

Develop a plan for your child, and then implement that plan, and the results will be transformational! Your child will benefit from increased confidence, and your child’s teacher will be so impressed with how organized and efficient you are! And even if your child never thanks you, or even realizes what you’ve done, you will have the personal satisfaction of knowing that you gave your child all the tools he would need for a successful school year, for this year and beyond. So, pack up those backpacks with school supplies, and get your plan going!

Cracker Country Fun!

April 6, 2018

Hello! Miss Vogel here! The third and fourth graders at Holy Trinity were able to travel back in time on March 23rd when we traveled to Cracker Country. The field trip was a lot of fun and it had a lot of interactive activities. The third graders and I wanted to share some of our favorite memories with you about our trip!

1. What was your favorite part of Cracker Country?

  • J.L.: “My favorite part of Cracker Country was the toys and the garden.”
  • A.V.: “My favorite part was when we washed clothes the old-fashioned way.”
  • P.D.: “I really liked the gift shop and getting to make butter.”
  • R.E.: “I liked the candles, the house, and the store.
  • Miss Vogel: “I really enjoyed seeing how excited and inquisitive the students were about each activity. We got to take part in a lot of fun activities. I also enjoyed seeing the printing press and the candle-making process.”

2. What is one fact you learned at Cracker Country?

  • N.G.: “I liked learning about what time in the year plants grow. My favorite part was the garden.”
  • G.N.: “I learned that back then soap was made from water and animal fat.”
  • L.S.: (How Cracker Country got its name): “The word ‘cracker’ isn’t about food. It’s the crack in the whip from the cow herders.”
  • K.M.: “I learned that sand doesn’t catch on fire.”
  • K.R.: “I learned how to make soap and candles.”

Family STEAM Night

March 9, 2018

This just in--They came. They learned. They conquered.

Our elementary students and their families came and took over the school on Thursday, February 22nd for Family STEAM Night. With a fun night ahead of them, over 40 students arrived excited to challenge their STEAM skills. The evening began with a STEAM Open House. We had a number of community partners come and provide information and resources to our students and their families, including Nancy Larson Science, TECO, Hillsborough County Public Library, Catapult Learning, a computer engineer, and an electrical engineer.

Families then traveled to the classrooms to participate in four fun-filled, Olympic-themed, STEAM challenges. Ms. Hemmann and Ms. Vogel helped students build bobsleds and tested them using various ramps and slopes. Mrs. Knecht challenged families to work together using only one rubber band and five strings to stack cups. Ms. Larson built marshmallow shooters with students and challenged them to shoot marshmallows through the Olympic rings. Mrs. Mitchell assisted the students in making their own lava lamps and exploring chemical reactions. Finally, the night ended with a blast – of soda! Students and their families watched a demonstration of how Mentos reacted with different types of sodas, resulting in some epic geysers.

Thank you to all who came out to help or participate in our first Family STEAM Night!

Caitlyn DeJose

Have you ever been to Fort Foster? Well if you haven’t been, you have to go! It will be an extraordinary experience for you. Fort Foster has many thrilling activities planned for you to do. Such as meeting the Seminole Indians, and you can also go to the infirmary, or watch them shoot their muskets and look at all the cool tents. Don’t forget to go on the weekend so you can see the live reenactments of the Second Seminole War. I hope you enjoy your time there — I sure did!

Alex Martinez

The musket firing was really cool and the Seminole Natives were really cool. This one guy [Seminole Indian] had a ring through his nose. The infirmary was really cool too. They showed the medical stuff that they used. And all of Fort Foster was really interesting that day!

Faith Neil

When we walked into Fort Foster, we strolled back in time. We talked with soldiers from 1837. We watched them load and fire guns. It was loud! We walked across the bridge [over the Hillsborough River] they were protecting. We came home with fun trinkets that remind me of the Second Seminole War.

Taylor Ball

Fort Foster was super fun to go to. First, we had to drive there. It was long! Then, we had to walk on a trail. There were lots of plants and trees on the trail. Next, when we had finished walking on the trail, we saw the soldier reenactors. We got to go inside their tents. Then, we got to talk and ask them questions. We also got to go inside the fort. It was super cool. We got to see a cannon. It was big! Next, we crossed a bridge and met the Seminole Indians. We saw them make a fire. Then we left for lunch. Yummy! It [lunch] was at a big park. We also got to play on the playground. Finally, we left to come back to school. We had a fun day at Fort Foster!

Gift Like a Kid

December 18, 2017

Looking to bring the holly-jolly back into gift giving? Well, look no further than the elves living all around us. They are excited, energetic, and full of cookies!

Last week Holy Trinity held it’s annual Santa Shop. On this day our students bring a list of up to 5 people to buy for. The shop is filled with wonderful options for everyone on their list. You should see how the children look around at the possible gifts with such wide-eyed wonder and excitement. Oh, how I long for that feeling in place of the terror I experience when perusing the department stores, toy stores, and Amazon! 

Here are a few tips they shared to help reacquaint ourselves with the joys of gift giving:

It’s all about TOYS:  A pre-K student (I’ll not share her name since I don’t want to spoil the surprise) explained that last year she purchased practical gifts for her parents and siblings.  Among them: a magnifying glass, a notebook, and pens. Her strategy this year was simple.  TOYS TOYS TOYS! Everybody get’s a toy! And why not? We put so much pressure on ourselves to give something useful, educational, or meaningful. If you feel stumped, simply put on your Santa hat and go for the toys!

Don’t overthink it!  I asked a 3rd grade student how he goes about choosing gifts for the friends on his list. “You know what they like.  So get that!” Us grownups tend to second-guess our choices. Will they like it? Won’t they? He went on “Get mom mom-things, and grampa gets grampa things.” What about a friend or a pet? You’ve got it! Friend things and Pet things!

A student nearby also suggested, “If you can’t remember what they like, just get them something you like. This way if they don’t like it, they can give it back to you.” I thought re-gifting was not allowed, but according to kids, it’s always allowed if you are choosing things you would appreciate getting! So give what you would hope to receive. Chances are they’ll love it too!

TWINKLE, SPARKLE, SHIMMER:  Several of our kindergarten students chose shiny, shimmery gifts for loved ones on their lists. Get something that’s glittery or just add glitter. This is my favorite idea! Everyone could use a little more sparkle. They picked things that struck them as beautiful. Smelling the candy canes yet?

SHHHHHH!   None of the kiddos would let me peek in their gift bags, nor would they share what exactly they bought. Giving gifts is all about the surprise. Wondering what’s hiding in all of that red, green, and silver giftwrap is so much fun. Try giving something unexpected! And don’t tell what’s hiding under all those bows!

Bell’s are ringing, so get shopping! Remember to think like a kid this year. Then put your feet up, enjoy a cup of cocoa and have a Merry Christmas!

Thankful for Our Staff

November 16, 2017

As children grow they are being educated in a number of ways--both formal and informal. Sometimes they learn through instruction, and other times by example; sometimes they can be told and they get it, and other times they must be shown. Whatever the method though, they are learning.

Our children are learning who they are, who others are, how things work, what to value, and more. Things learned now can stay with a child for years, if not a lifetime. This is one of the reasons that I am thankful for the staff at Holy Trinity.

The Holy Trinity staff gives me confidence that our students are being well-instructed formally in the classroom, as well as informally throughout the day. Our staff brings an attitude and energy to what they do that communicates the love of Jesus in so many ways: taking extra time with a student to help them grasp a concept, or correcting them in a way that encourages them to do better; putting in extra hours for a school program, or attending a student's game to support them.

With our staff I can be sure that as our children learn who they are and what is important, they'll also understand that they are loved and cared for and always will be because of the love that God has poured out for us in His Son, Jesus. The love of God in Jesus is demonstrated toward our students by our staff and so I am thankful for them. What a blessing it is to see them working with our students.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor Andy

We’re Entitled to Title I

October 19, 2017

Did you know that your Elementary student may be eligible for free support services through Hillsborough County School District? Yes, I said free! As a private school in Florida, qualifying HTLS students are entitled to receive Title I services. So what is Title I and how do you know if your student qualifies? In Hillsborough County, 90 of the public Elementary Schools are identified as Title I schools. If the public school your home address is zoned for is one of these 90 schools, your student is eligible for services.

Ok, so now that we know who is eligible, what exactly are these services and how can they help your child? Hillsborough County has a contract with Catapult Learning, LLC to provide qualified and experienced teachers to deliver Title I services for Reading and Math. Administrators (that’s me!) meet with their assigned Catapult teacher to determine which of the students are address eligible for services. From there, the teachers make recommendations as to whether the qualifying students show academic need and could use the extra help in the subject areas covered by Title I. Our current teacher, Beth Kellar, is in her 3rd year at Holy Trinity and also happens to be a parent of one of our Tiny Tigers! Parents of eligible students are given consent forms for services and after those have been returned, Mrs. Kellar can begin to work with the students twice per week. The students work in groups by grade and/or skill level, and activities are age appropriate and fun! Mrs. Kellar also keeps communication open with the classroom teacher and the administration to ensure that focus is placed on areas in which students need the most growth.

If you are interested in learning any more details about Title I, you can visit the following website, or contact me at [email protected].

Energized? Enthusiastic? Empowered? Equipped? We sure are! Fourteen Holy Trinity staff members recently spent 3 days at the FLGA District President’s Equip Conference with over 700 fellow attendees. Have you ever heard 700+ people singing Amazing Grace together?? It was truly an uplifting experience. The staff joined together to hear inspiring keynote speakers that encouraged us in our work in God’s mission field and urged us to keep reaching out to God’s people. During the conference there were 5 workshop sessions in which the staff could choose the topic most meaningful to them. The great thing about this set-up is that because the staff chose different sessions, they all have different things to share with each other. Each staff member was touched in different way by this experience and brought back wonderful ideas and new energy for our school. Here are some of the highlights shared by the staff:

  • This year's conference was excellent! The breakout session, "Sharing Your Faith with the Homeless" was transformative. I learned that many people are spiritually homeless. Identifying the needs of the heart is more crucial than identifying tangible needs. Sharing Jesus and scripture in addition to meeting immediate needs, provides the Holy Spirit an opportunity to work and transform lives. Jesus is always the game changer!
-Ms. Russell, VPK Teacher

  • What a great conference! I learned many great ideas to apply to our kindergarten curriculum! The bonus was spending special time with our HTLS faculty who are such wonderful people.
- Mrs. Mitchell, Kindergarten Teacher

  • A favorite quote from keynote speaker Erik Dellenback, CEO of Tim Tebow Foundation. “We are unimpressive, but we have an impressive and awesome God who is for us!”
-Mrs. Alfonso, Tiny Tigers Teacher

  • Even though “the future is no longer that it used to be”, we have to stand firm and build our Christian faith because it is our future, not just our past, that affects our present.
-Mrs. Hidremichael, Tiny Tigers

  • Ms. Larson, 2nd Grade teacher, was excited about new ideas for student led chapels as well as for the time spent laughing, talking and sharing with the staff.