Friday, March 15, 2013

Holland teacher's efforts catch the interest of the National Kidney Foundation

Holland and Myers elementary schools are making plenty of interesting progress with their Physical Education and Nutrition (PE Nut) programs, to the point where one teacher’s efforts have even caught the eye of a member of the National Kidney Foundation.

According to a recent e-mail exchange, Jill Paladino of the National Kidney Foundation was “blown away” with the efforts of Holland teacher Rhonda Danaj. In fact, Paladino was so impressed that she asked Danaj to send her all the healthy reward mechanisms that she is using in her classes, so that she can pass them along to those who fund the program and other teachers who are involved with PE Nut.

The National Kidney Foundation has a grant to promote healthier nutrition and living at both Taylor elementary schools this year. They involved three grade levels at each building, according to Danaj. The specific grade levels are selected by the principals of each school.

At Holland, PE Nut includes first-, second- and third-graders. Teachers are given one day’s training in the fall, dates scheduled by Paladino, who serves as nutrition instructor.  She comes into the schools and works with the classes. The sessions are held monthly and are an hour long. They include a Fit Bit (fun physical activity), a lesson on health and nutrition and a healthy snack.

“Jill is absolutely wonderful,” said Danaj. “We all look forward to her visits.”

Meanwhile, each teacher is given a variety of materials that support the program and can be taught in the classroom throughout the year. There is even a take-home component for children to share with their families, Story books are provided for the classroom, daily Fit Bits, healthy snack ideas, practical lessons in health and nutrition, fruit and vegetable stuff animals, etc.  The program has been running for a handful of years and also includes the physical education teachers.

“The healthy rewards that I use in my classroom have evolved over the year,” Danaj said. “I have had students with food allergies and that made me aware of the candy that I was guilty of using in the past. (The program) has been very beneficial to have in our classroom.”

The following are some of Danaj’s ideas that she’s developed through the PE Nut program:

  • Each student gets a small sticker book at the beginning of the year. Throughout the year, they earn stickers for good behavior. When teachers catch someone being good, it’s amazing, according to Danaj, how others start to “get good” too.
  •  Pupils also get a construction paper wallet and earn “money” rewarded for educational tasks. The “money” can be used in the school store.
  •  Each child has a “flip card.” If you have to flip your card, that means you’ve done something wrong. If Danaj’s pupils don’t have to flip their cards all week, they receive something special on that Friday.
  •  “Happy Calls” are made home if pupils get a perfect score on a big test. The calls are made out of the school office and the teacher and pupil participate in the “Happy Call” to whomever the pupil wants to make the call to.
  •  After library visits, Danaj picks a “Superstar.” As a result, pupils stay quiet. Whomever is named a superstar gets to open the “Hut of Honor” (opening to the tune of the theme of Gilligan’s Island). The hut is filled with trinkets that costs under a dollar and, according to Danaj, is worth their weight in gold. By the way, when the door opens and theme plays, everyone dances and sings along.
  •  Thursdays is “estimating jar” day. The jar is filled with various objects. Whomever guesses the closest to the correct number gets to go into Danaj’s closet and pick something out of the prize box inside (Dollar Store items or donations).
  •  Students bring in their own healthy snacks daily and eat them when they want to. They love clementines because Danaj draws faces on them. She brings extras and leaves them on her desk, and pupils are free to request them.
  •  Every day there is a “Teacher’s Helper.” Pupils love the responsibility and step up to the task.
  •  Danaj asks some children to help their peers, which can lead to rewards and self-satisfaction.
  •  A check tournament reinforced good sportsmanship.
  •  Positive words are used in Danaj’s classroom daily.
  •  A principal’s program at Holland is called “Caught Being An Awesome Kid Award.” It leads to weekly drawings for non-food prizes and a monthly drawing for “lunch with the principal.”
  •  Who needs candy for Halloween? Holland pupils made baby scarecrows with stuffing and baby sleepers out of garage sales and wrapped parents up like mummies by using toilet paper.
  •  Bookmarks are used as rewards, along with some books.
  •  After finishing the Ramona Quimby Book Series, we watch a Ramona movie with blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, healthy snacks (and no shoes).

“The mother of all rewards is extra recess time,” Danaj said. “Extra minutes are like gold. I’m constantly on the lookout for things that work in bringing out the best in a child academically and emotionally. I’m shifted away from unhealthy rewards. Part of that shift came when I had to deal with food allergies in the class and from this wonderful PE Nut Program. It’s given me knowledge and awareness.”

And she’s doing a great job passing that along to her students.

Any comments or questions on this story? E-mail blogger Karl Ziomek at If you have questions specifically for Rhonda Danaj, Ziomek will relay them to her.

Myers has a busy schedule

Superintendent of Schools Diane Allen serves families at Myers Elementary School on the first Thursday of each month. 

The food for distribution comes from Gleaners Family Food Pantry. Gleaners delivers fresh produce, fruit, vegetables, juice and non-perishable items to the Myers. 

In other Myers' news, Mustang Report Cards will go home with the students next Wednesday (March 20).

Meanwhile, the Myers Mustang ALL STAR Student Assembly will be held between 10-11:45 a.m. next Friday (March 22).

"Parents as Partners" (PAP) monthly meeting will be held at 2 p.m. that same Friday (March 22). Our guest will be Oakwood Health Care System, which will share information about ways to boosting nutrition.

Myers' Mustangs Kindergarten Open House 2013-14 will be held on March 27. All parents and students attending kindergarten this fall will visit our kindergarten classrooms, music and gym classes and tour the school. Each student will receive a T-shirt which says, "On my way to Myers this fall."

The Mighty Myers Reading Month of March includes CAMP LEARN-A-LOT on March 28.                                                                                                                                       Mustangs will pitch tents, eat s'mores and enjoy books while camping out in the school's Multi-Purpose Room.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

News-Herald Newspapers' story centers on 'Talking Taylor Schools' blog


TAYLOR: Former News-Herald editor blogging for schools

Wednesday, March 13, 2013
By David Komer
Twitter: @DavidKomer_NH
TAYLOR — Want to know what’s happening in the school district? Bookmark “Talking Taylor Schools.”

The blog is the brainchild of former News-Herald Managing Editor Karl Ziomek, who has been hired by the school district as an hourly part-time communications consultant.

Promoting positive news, Ziomek hopes to spotlight some of the everyday activities and events going on in the district to keep parents, students and prospective district families informed.

Although the district prints a quarterly update, the immediacy of having a news vehicle that can be updated by the minute on the Internet with far-reaching accessibility made it a perfect idea, Ziomek said.

“When I sat down with (Supt.) Diane Allen and (Assistant Supt.) Teresa Winnie, to discuss some issues, the blog was the one thing they grabbed a hold of right off the bat,” he said. “We wanted to get the good news out there in the cheapest way possible.

“I am not looking for the negative — we can let (someone else) write that and we can handle it on our own. I am not trying to spin what they are giving me. They are giving me things that are positive.”

The blog,, is linked to’s blog listing and a link eventually will be placed on school websites within the district.

There, searchers can find listings of upcoming workshops or events, photos of third-graders from Blair Moody Elementary visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts, pictures of Eureka Heights students visiting Toledo’s Imagination Station or Truman High School Principal Tommie Saylor’s weekly update.

Ziomek said his approach is like that of a community newspaper — one he should know well.

A 35-year veteran of newspapers, Ziomek was at The News-Herald for more than 31 years, with 30 in some type of editorial capacity. He spent 21 years as managing editor and as an executive editor in the chain and presided over a nearly 20-year streak in which the paper was named Newspaper of the Year by the Michigan Press Association, something no other publication can claim, regardless of class.

Ziomek’s work on the board of the Taylor Reading Corps is how he met Allen.

“I loved his ideas and formed a partnership,” she said. “He knows how media works and he is going to help us get the positive message out. The Taylor schools have a wonderful story to tell. We need to let people know how good we are. Karl will help us with that.” The blog fits Allen’s current focus on revitalizing the district and appealing to the roughly 3,000 students who live in the district and attend school elsewhere.

Ziomek also will be available to help the district in public relations matters, as well as possibly setting up two more blogs for the district, one for Allen and another for sub-varsity sports.

“Taylor is one of those districts that has not told its story as well as it could have and it is not alone,” Ziomek said. “Plenty of districts are doing the same thing. I’ve always been a proponent that any classroom is worth its weight in positive stories. All you have to do is walk into a school and you’ll run into a story worth telling.”

Ronald McDonald celebrates reading at Holland Elementary

Anyone ready to take a Big Mac break?

Students at Holland Elementary School had a special visitor on Monday. Ronald McDonald visited the school to celebrate March, which is Reading Month.

Ronald shared a story with the students, along with magic treats. He encouraged them to read.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Eureka Heights shares reading with the ones they love

Pupils at Eureka Heights Elementary School put on their reading shoes March 8 -- and they brought their parents along to lend a hand!

Students enjoyed two (Listen to Reading and Read to Someone) of the Daily 5 steps with their parents as they shared their favorite book titles with the ones that they love. They also shared some tasty treats.

After school art, Grandparents Day scheduled at Taylor Parks

Things are very busy at Taylor Parks Elementary School these days.

As part of the "Arts at the Parks" program, third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at the school have the opportunity to join the "After School Art Club." It is hosted by third-grade teacher Amanda McLaughlin. Each grade receives a month of instruction and the resulting artwork is displayed in the hallways of the building.

March 14 marks "Grandparents Day" for kindergarteners and first-graders. Interested grandparents can spend a half-day with their grandchild and visit the book fair. Lifetouch offers a memory portrait of the event and snacks and projects will be on the agenda.

That day, by the way, marks the start of the book fair, which runs until March 21. All students and parents are welcome. An online book fair is available on the school's Web site.

Lastly, a big thanks goes out to State Rep. Douglas Geiss (D-Taylor), who visited Taylor Parks on March 4 to kick off Reading Month.

Learning -- and living -- Michigan history

Blair Moody Elementary School's Living Museum of Michigan History recently showcased third graders dressed as key people in the history of the state. This project is all about teaching pupils the importance of Michigan history and the key players in the state's development.

Some of the historical figures that Mrs. Wolney's class learned about: Chief Pontiac (Tyler), the French Fur Traders (Levin) and the Potawatomi (Kody).

The entire class took time out of their busy agenda to pose for a photo.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Class takes in the DIA

Third graders from Mrs. Wolney's class at Blair Moody Elementary recently visited the Detroit Institute of Arts. They were given a guided tour and learned about artists, such as Vincent van Gogh.

Rep. Geiss pays a visit

State Rep. Douglas Geiss (D-Taylor) recently visited Blair Moody Elementary School to celebrate March, which is Reading Month.

Geiss read "Ruby in Her Own Time" to third graders.

Geiss has a long history of service to the Taylor community. He worked as a Congressional Page for the late U.S. Rep. William Ford in Washington, D.C., in 1986-87 before graduating first in his class from Truman High School in 1988. He earned Engineering (1992) and Masters in Business Administration (200) degrees from the University of Michigan. He worked at the Ford Motor Co. and served on the Taylor City Council (2001-2005).

He currently represents Michigan's 22nd District, which includes Taylor and Romulus.

Just showin' off

Kaitlyn (top) and Tyler show off the Native American dioramas they created while learning about the early history of the state of Michigan in Mr. Wolney's class at Blair Moody Elementary School.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Using their imaginations at the Imagination Station

Kindergarten, first- and second-grade pupils from Eureka Heights Elementary traveled to the Imagination Station in Toledo, Ohio, March 6. In fact, some of the pupils even took center stage!

In all, 140 students attended the trip along with 47 chaperones and eight teachers. They all explored the learning activities together. In fact, one of the pupils was chosen for a science demonstration (see photo) during that portion of the day's activities.

Eureka Heights plays, cheers past Baptist Park

Hey, LeBron James and the NBA defending champion Miami Heat may be cruising through the regular season, but they haven't met the Eureka Heights Elementary fourth and fifth grade boys' team -- at least, not yet!

On Saturday, Eureka Heights defeated Baptist Park 20-16 in what was generally thought of as a hard-fought game between a pair of good teams, featuring the Panthers' superb defense and showcasing their well-developed teamwork.

On the sidelines, there was even more action: The Panther cheerleaders sparkled and supported the winning team.

If only LeBron was so lucky ...

The blogging bus has left the station!

A couple of weeks ago, this blog was just an idea. Then it became an action point and, following a meeting with the principals of the Taylor School District last Wednesday and some work with online personnel at Heritage Newspapers, it became a reality!

We're talking about "Talking Taylor Schools," the newest edition to the online world.

By last Friday, we had set up an internal communications network in the school system with one purpose -- getting the good news into circulation. And the posts were very telling during the opening run of what I like to refer to as "the blog bus."

Principal Tommie Saylor of Truman High, in his "Friday Update" that now lives elsewhere on this blog thread, offered a very interesting read that most knowledgeable educators -- and not enough people outside of the field -- can relate to. It was about the long, tedious experience of standardized testing. The preparation. The frustration. The long hours. The -- at times -- disappointing returns.

Simply put, being an public school educator these days can be a no-win proposition. There are so many things that you can't control on top of the so many things that people want out of you. You can work so hard and, through no fault of your own, come up short of somebody's expectations.

And then, a couple of months down the line, all the scores are published and usually compared. That's not what they are for, mind you, but that little fact doesn't stop the process. If that comparison doesn't look good, it's like having someone kick sand in your face.

What I enjoyed about Saylor's update was that he put it in "real life" terms. He talked about the somewhat never-ending tasks of trying to win the standardized testing battle, but then spent most of his column about all the good things that are going on at Truman High School. Like the 40 DECA students being honored in competitions. Or the symphonic band's recent successes.

He talked about the JROTC and how proud his was of the program. The science department's rocketry program. Even things like lifesaving on the Truman pool deck, ping-bong and Youth in Government. The most I thought about it, the more I remembered my own high school days, not long past. I couldn't tell you many specific test scores I had, but I do remember certain teachers going out of their way to help me at the time. I don't remember too many academic honors, but I do remember so many of the names and face of professional educators -- many who have now passed on -- who lent something very important to my life development.

As Saylor's piece told everyone who managed to read it, there is more to education than just numbers and percentages. It's a message that needs to be told often these days ...

In other places around Taylor schools, good things were happening. Blair Moody Elementary partnered with Tim Horton's to supply hot chocolate to parents dropping off their children at school. The teachers served as the waiters and waitresses. A nice touch.

And look for a nationally-honored workshop coming to Truman soon. It's about helping parents connect with their sons and daughters about sex. It should be worth attending. Just touch base with Mary Logan at the high school for more information -- a complete story is also elsewhere on this blog thread and will likely be published in The News-Herald Newspapers in future editions.

Whatever you do, keeping coming back. This blog bus will have more good news and information on the Taylor School District in coming days ... if not hours!

By Karl Ziomek

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Principal's Friday Update From Truman High School

By Tommie Saylor
Truman High School Principal

“Judge not lest ye be judged”  (The Holy Bible: King James Version, Matthew 7)

Today marks the end of the annual state mandated testing that includes the ACT, Work Keys, and Merit Examination, or more affectionately known as the MME’s. 

Our juniors endured three days of testing, costing the district thousands of dollars in both preparation and implementation, and our students hundreds of hours of study to make themselves ready for this evaluative marathon.  But what is really sad about this, is that in a few short months the test results will be made public, and good orbad, this is how we will be judged.  

The media, the politicians, and even our own community members only look at this one point of data and derive conclusions of our worth, make determinations if we are doing our jobs, come to conclusions that influence funding and distribution of resources, and enact decrees that affects careers and students alike.

What the media, politicians, and many of those in the general populous do not understand, or choose to not understand, is that we do so much more than just simply teach Math, Science, English, and Social Studies…. WE TEACH STUDENTS, not subjects.

We teach lifelong skills that prepare students to enter into the adult world.

If one wishes to evaluate the level of instruction taking place at Harry S Truman High School, lets looks at the whole, not the part -- not a single point of data, not three days of grueling test taking, but the totality of what takes place within our hallowed halls.  

Let’s consider the nearly 40 students that qualified for state level DECA competition thanks to the tireless work of Ms. Carly Lundgren. 

Let’s consider the band that received the highest marks possible at District level MSBOA competition, a band that is now preparing for state level competition thanks toour amazing director, Mr. Jason Cassell.  

Let’s consider the nearly 200 students who were accepted to college on the spot during our college fair, where over 30 colleges were represented handing out over $1.7 million in scholarship money, all thanks to our counseling team of Mr. Jerome Abraham, Ms. Maryann Chaparian, Ms. Jennifer Moitozo and Ms.Kim Wozny.

Let’s consider our JROTC program that just a few weeks ago took first place in a drill competition due to the efforts of First Sgt.  Karol Clampitt and Staff Sgt. Kurt Wilson.  

Let’s consider our science department that took their students out to the football field this last fall and taught them all about rocketry, culminating in the launching of multiple rockets affectionately known as “rocket day,” thanks to the organizationand diligence of Ms. Shannon Adis, Ms. Neeru Bhooi, Ms. Jamie Crosson, Mr. David Grimason, Ms. Michelle Szabo, and Mr. Anthony Thomas.  

Let’s consider the lifesaving skills being taught by Mr. Pimer on the pool deck, the Ping-Pong matches organized by Mr. Bechtol between our students and the senior citizens within our community, and the 30 years Ms. Fortune has been leading the Youth In Government students to Lansing to give our students the experience of proposing bills and passing resolutions.  

Let’s consider the school newspaper edited by Mr. James Solak, WHST broadcasting class taught by Mr. Dennis Winnie, after school tutoring organized by Ms. Linda Rzepecki, the endless hours spent by Ms.Roseann Woloszyk making sure our special needs students are appropriately accommodated for MEAP and MME tests.

Let's consider Ms. Teri Hanning without, without whom we would not have been able to conduct any of the multiple standardized tests taken by our students this year, Ms. Graznak who teaches our students the art of publication through the production of the Yearbook, and Ms. Lisa Arseneau and Ms. Rosalind Lojewski, who head up the AP program affording many of our students college credit before they even enter the collegiate world.  

Let’s consider Ms. Melissa Skopczynsk,i who feeds a student every morning knowing that this student does not receive breakfast at home, our maintenance team that keeps our school in working order, our secretaries that have become surrogate mothers for us all, and Ms. Kerrie Voorheis who leads the team that worked for months resulting in Truman becoming fully accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) on our first attempt.  

I wish that I could remember more, but I’m sure you get the point. So many good things take place at Truman that goes well above and beyond what can be gleaned through state mandated tests.  

We afford our students educational experiences that cannot possibly be measured by paper and pencil, yet are exponentially more important that just standardized testing.

Let the chips fall where they may, I fear not the results of the MME’s. I know what kind of educators we have. I have seen the blood, sweat and tears -- so many tears you have shed on behalf of your students.

We will do what we have always done, celebrate our successes and tackle our failures. 

We, the teachers, will educate. 

Remember, their future is in our hands. Improving one week at a time.

This is The New Truman High School.

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