Saturday, December 10, 2016

Books & Bird Feeders

Here at Horace Mann, we are generous givers and grateful receivers.  In the giving side, our K-Kids club (about 50 kids in grades 2-5) made cards and birdfeeders for area organizations such as police, fire and nursing homes.  These pictures show the fun the kids were having!  Many thanks to Anna Bacho from Kiwanis, parent volunteer Melissa Diemert and Horace Mann Family Resource Coordinator Therese Schwind for setting up the stations and supporting our students' natural altruism :-)

In other blog-worthy news this week, about 1800 brand new, beautiful books were delivered to our school.  These books were purchased by the school district for each of the 7 elementary schools to use in conjunction with the Reading Workshop curriculum.  When the books arrived, they needed to be unpacked, checked in, labeled and distributed to classrooms.  A big job, for sure...

Well, Peggy Morris, our fabulous Library Media Assistant, turned the library into a big workspace and the next morning, PTA volunteers showed up as a force to be reckoned with.  It was a whirlwind of activity, and within 36 hours, all of the books had been properly marked and delivered to their rightful rooms.  The volunteers said the hardest part was not stopping too often to admire the lovely new reading material!  Big, BIG thanks to our volunteers and to Brenda Budzar from Teaching & Learning, too.

The blog will take a brief hiatus during winter break, and we hope to see you at the Winter Concert on December 16th.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Celebrating Mysteries in 3rd Grade

A fun, new unit of study for Reading Workshop was introduced this year in 3rd Grade.  Mysteries!  This genre is very popular in our culture, and has some important  & unique features, so dedicating a unit to it in 3rd grade is a great idea.

Lakewood students are fortunate; when I read mysteries as a kid (oh, boy, was I a big Nancy Drew fan), I devoured and enjoyed them.  However,  I've gained a whole new appreciation for the distinct elements and vocabulary mystery writers use in order to hook their readers,  through observing in classrooms during this unit...and even teaching a lesson myself.  Thank you, Mrs. Cali, for allowing me to take over for a day :-)

Of course, mysteries aren't limited to the printed word, there are many movies and TV shows, too.  As a way to celebrate the end of the Mystery unit, the 3rd graders enjoyed watching a Scooby Doo movie on Friday as a whole grade level.  Are you smiling right now because you liked Scooby Doo as much as I did when you were a kid?

Yesterday after school, I asked 3rd grader Eva Brooks if she enjoyed the Scooby Doo movie and she said she did.  I also asked her if she likes reading mysteries.  She said she loves them, and she didn't know that at all before this unit.   Wow, no mystery here...good curriculum + good teaching  = student engagement and learning.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

It's a Read-In at Horace Mann!

Readers all over Horace Mann are setting individual and class goals for books (or minutes) read as part of Reading Workshop.  And what do we do when we reach a goal?  Why, we celebrate, of course!

Fifth grade students reached a class reading goal right before Thanksgiving and they celebrated by (what else?) reading some more :-)  Students were invited to bring their favorite reading and relaxing items from home (pillows, blankets, plush toys, etc.) so they could get really comfy during their extended reading time.  As you can see from these pictures of Mrs. Robinson's students, they totally immersed themselves in the books on topics of their choice at their just right reading level.

I don't know about you, but when 5th graders are enthusiastic about a celebration that involves reading, it makes me proud, optimistic and just plain happy.

I hope everyone spent a little extra time reading over the long weekend.  I know I did!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

Around here, we feel we have had a wonder-FULL school year so far, with lots of learning and plenty of good times, too!  We are so thankful for our community, our students and each other.

Of course, we also welcome the short week ahead and the joys of Thanksgiving with family and friends.  We hope you'll watch the video to see how some of our students worked together--using technology--to tell us about the upcoming holiday.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Honoring our Veterans

Horace Mann Elementary School has a long tradition of hosting a Veteran's Day assembly each year. Our community deeply respects the commitment made by American men and women when they choose to serve in the armed forces, and we are proud to set time aside to pay tribute to them!

On Friday, November 11, 2016, twenty-one military veterans representing the Army, Marines and Navy visited our school.  Each vet has a student(s) at Horace Mann, and each was introduced--along with their student(s)--during the assembly.  Fifth grader Elise O'Donnell broke a record by having three veterans at our program :-)

Fourth grade students take the lead during this assembly, providing the color guard and a variety of readings.  The color guard members all participate in Cub/Girl Scouts (Christopher Mathiaos, Connor Pierce, Azaia Novak, Kaylin Arcuri and Nathan Kopko) and took their role seriously.  Our readers--Isaac Craciun, Ayla French and Emma Kelly--did a great job helping us understand the history and importance of the day.

Big thanks to Mr. Waryk for providing recordings of the songs of each of the branches of the military and for leading the whole group in patriotic songs.  Thanks, too, to PTA for having coffee and welcoming smiles on hand for our vets.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Wheelchair CAVS & Spooky Spirit at The Mann

Although it was the last week of the grading period and students and teachers worked hard to complete assessments for report cards, we found plenty of time for fun, too!  Students took field trips to Donato's and Playhouse Square and we showed our Cleveland pride by wearing Indians and CAVS gear almost every day.

Two "firsts" happened at Horace Mann this week.  One of them was a visit from the Wheelchair CAVS--a squad of amazing basketball players who showed us their skills during our Positive Behavior Intervention & Supports (PBIS) celebration.  One of the best parts was seeing several Mann teachers try to play basketball in wheelchairs.  It only took Mr. Karabaic about 2 tries until he seemed like he'd been doing it forever!  These players' stories were quite inspiring and showed all of us what it means to do the best with whatever life gives us.

We also had a great time during "Spooky Spirit" on Friday during lunch and recess.  PTA provided a fun recess activity where kids listened to music and made toilet paper mummies out of each other (see photos).  There was also a quiet craft for kids who preferred something different.  A little treat bag for each child and student-carved pumpkins from Mrs. Axford's class rounded out the super-fun atmosphere.  It was great to have a chance to celebrate the season without interrupting instructional time.  Thank you to all the parents and grandparents who helped with this new tradition at our school!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Fall Book Fair & Family Dance

Our fabulous Horace Mann PTA made the most of the "Bookaneer" Book Fair this season, and capping it off with party on Friday night that would have made any pirate proud!   The Horace Mann news crew got into the action by doing daily "book talks" each morning, featuring a "hot title" available at the book fair.  Students were able to shop before and after school, and many classrooms visited during the school day to make wish lists and enjoy looking at all the treasure.

Coming off the tremendous success of the Mother-Son Dance organized by the Horace Mann PTA (but held at Harding Middle School for space), our Friday night party was extra fun this year, with popcorn and fun booty for kids to enjoy with their dancing (and just plain running around the gym).

 We all know that the primary purpose of school is to learn, but here at The Mann, we believe that having fun and loving your school provides a strong foundation for that learning.  Thank you so much, PT--and all the parents that supported the book fair and attended the dance--for making our school a place for the whole child...and the whole family!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

We Love That Fire Truck Ladder!

Safety was the emphasis last week at Horace Mann! We had our annual school-wide Fire Safety Assembly with comments by Lakewood Fire Marshal Tim Dunphy and an engaging video about smoke detectors. Our 5th grade essay contest winners were Olivia Diemert (right) and Regan Bratko (below). Regan was also named Jr. Captain at the district level. Both girls did a great job reading their essays for our entire student body.

Before we headed outside to cheer the fireman all the way up the SUPER tall ladder, we also swore in 24 new Safety Patrol members. They are off to a great start this year, assisting adults with safe and orderly arrival and dismissal. Here is this year's Safety Patrol, co-supervised by 5th grade teachers Mrs. Allison Martzolf and Mrs. Kelsey Robinson:

Madison Civille Conor Carlin
Rowan Brown Joseph Villafane
Akram Ali Jalen Brown
Olivia Diemert Annabelle Baker
Aidan Maxwell Savannah Zaleski
Owen Gibbons Ariana Marich
Michael Fallon Moyeen Ali
Grace Rowell Carlito Gonzalez
Elise O’Donnell Nora Germaine
Olivia Baker Hutch Reed
Anthony Severino Hannah O’Toole
Hayden Trnavsky Cicely Campen

Kids excitedly streamed outside to watch the fireman climb (with fun theatrics and lots of cheering, I might add) all the way to the top of the ladder. After he made it back down, the ladder swung out over the kids as it was reeled back in - cool!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Kids Voting at Horace Mann

 OK, so recess might not be as important as the upcoming general election...or is it?  For kids in grades K-5 at Horace Mann, recess is a pretty big deal!  Since recess is important to kids, we believe they need to have input into how the game is played...

Last year, we introduced a bench to the playground.  The bench, itself, is not much to look at, just a plain black metal seat.  The big deal is how the bench is used.  The adults tried a few different ideas last year, and then we realized we need to ask the students how they want to use it!

With the ever-ready help of parent volunteers, a voting system was designed to allow kids to vote by grade level.  Since each grade has their own recess time, we have the freedom to designate different uses for different grade levels.

Students had three choices:

  • Buddy Bench:  If you need someone to play with, go to the bench.  All children are taught that they can be the person who goes to the bench or the person who sees someone sitting and offers to play.
  • Friendship Bench:  Students in each grade level (grades 2-5) are given a little training on how to start play or conversation with someone who might struggle in that area.  these kids (who we called Recess Rangers) would take turns being at the Friendship Bench.  Thus, when a student needed a friend, s/he cold come to the bench and find a peer there to help.  

  • Resting Bench:  Just a place to sit and take a break.  The bench has not been and will not be used for time out (although we do have a another spot for this appropriate consequence).

The results are so interesting!
  • Resting Bench was the clear winner for grades 2-5.  Several students described a desire to just have somewhere to sit peacefully for a few minutes.
  • The results were mixed for K and 1.  This may be due to several factors, including not quite understanding the differences among the choices.  We plan to follow up with these groups to see what will work best.
We have other ideas in store for recess this year, including Recess Rangers leading and organizing games and small groups of students receiving extra TLC for social skills using a variety of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, architecture, math) toys (think Legos, Erector Sets, Robotics, etc.).  As always, we welcome your ideas and suggestions!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Horace Mann Medical Center

Where could a Lakewood student have a vision screening, dental exam and well-child visit all in one day?  Horace Mann Elementary School, that's where!

Last Thursday, our school morphed into the "Horace Mann Medical Center," complete with high school and college students being trained to provide medical care.  Upstairs, children in multiple grade levels had vision screenings administered (with supervision, of course) by West Shore Career Tech students in the Health Careers program as well as college students from Lorain County Community College.

Downstairs, the SMILE! Dental Program was set up to do a variety of dental procedures for students (with appropriate permission from parents).  The SMILE program comes to Horace Mann annually and will complete its third full day here on Monday, October 3rd.

Finally, in the Webb parking lot, the Cleveland Clinic School-Based Heath Center mobile unit made its Horace Mann debut (after successes at both Harrison and Garfield last year).  Eleven students were seen for parent-requested services such as well-child visits, vaccinations and flu shots.  The team from The Clinic were wonderful (thanks, Dave and Jami!) and provided additional information about the mobile unit:

Many thanks to the Lakewood Schools Student Services Department--including our own Health Aide, Sheila Sabol--for bringing these critical health care offerings to our school.  While they can make for a day where instruction is not as seamless as usual, the access to health care is well worth it!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Father Walk & Donuts with Dads

 Here in Lakewood, we are fortunate to have lots of fathers (and other "big guys" in kids' lives like grandpas, uncles, etc.) walk their children to school every day.  Many more drop them off on the drive line, helping with the family responsibility of getting children to school on time and ready to learn.  We appreciate every effort to support the education of our students!

As a way to encourage male mentors to be involved across Cuyahoga County, the Healthy Fathering Collaborative of Greater Cleveland ( organizes the Fathers Walk each year.  Below, see the pledge that describes the goals of the event:
The Fathers Walk Pledge
On September 22, 2016, fathers and male mentors will be encouraged to take the following pledge and keep it year around:

  • I am responsible for the education of my child.
  • I will encourage all children to do their best every day at school.
  • I will speak to my child about the value of learning and the importance of reaching your potential.
  • I will help with school work and review assignments for completion.
  • I will praise my child when he/she does well in school.
  • I will speak with my child’s teachers and support them in educating my child.
  • I will teach my child the value of education and the value of family.
  • I will work with my child’s mother or guardian to achieve the best academic and social outcomes for my child even if I do not live with my child.
Families enjoy doughnuts in the Horace Mann cafe
At Horace Mann, our PTA likes to connect their annual Doughnuts with Dads event with Fathers Walk, alternating parts of the alphabet each year (it was M-Z's turn to have doughnuts on Father Walk day this year).  Our new Family Resource Coordinator, Therese Schwind, started a new tradition of taking a photo of each male mentor with his kids, and she'll be sending that home to families, soon :-)

As always, these events are well-attended and the Doughnut Pantry doughnuts put early morning smiles on everyone's faces.  Many thanks to PTA event chair Kristy Gibbons (left, below), and her team:  Amy Lardi, Anne Babson, Danielle Catteau and PTA President Nora Katzenberger.  For more pictures, be sure to visit the Horace Mann PTA Facebook page!
Thanks, PTA moms, for the doughnuts!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Mitchell's at The Mann!

     I looked up to see a friend jogging past Horace Mann with her dog on Thursday night. She was smiling, seeing the happy commotion that was our front lawn during PTA's annual ice cream social.  I caught her eye, smiled and waved, feeling so happy in the moment.

     Thankfully, in spite of multiple road closures and delayed commutes, many, many families turned out to enjoy the perfect weather, community spirit, and delicious Mitchell's ice cream (hard to say if cookies 'n cream or chocolate was the most popular flavor).  

     Many thanks to PTA event chair Sandy Najarian and her crew of scoopers.  I've included a few pictures below, but please be sure to check out lots more on Horace Mann PTAs Facebook page!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Baking the Intervention Cake

I'll admit it...I used a picture of a minion cake as an attention grabber: this post has nothing to do with minions.  It is really about interventions during and after school for our striving readers (I love this way of referring to readers who are below expected levels--it  has quite a different feel than "struggling," doesn't it?).  I am thinking about the process as being similar to baking; hence the photo of a minion cake.

We already have our bakers in place.  They include your child's teacher, our library staff, and our intervention providers.  While you have likely already met your child's teacher, I want to mention the names Candy Olender, Heather Phillips and Katie Testen.  These teachers specialize in providing targeted reading services to our readers who need a little extra.

Of course, to bake our intervention cake, we need ingredients.  I suppose our children are the main ingredient!  To that, we add assessment data.  Last week, we gathered reading data on students in K-5 classrooms using the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment and AIMSweb measures.  Teams met on Friday to create suitable groups to provide assistance to student in our daily 40 minute intervention block.

I'd characterize the interventions, themselves, as the heating process in the oven.  That is where the action is; where the cake begins to take it's delicious shape.  We use several different interventions--different temperatures, if you will--depending on the students' needs.  They may receive a "double dose" of the instruction they are getting during classroom reading instruction, or complementary materials and strategies may be used.

Of course, families have a role in the creation of the masterpiece.  You help us by frosting the cake during the hours children at at home and in the community by reading to/with kids and having conversations about the things in the world.

Setting aside the cake analogy, I want you to know that our interventions during the day begin on Monday.  Due to the State of Ohio AIR tests for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders, striving readers in those grade levels will also be invited to participate in one after school session per week to further boost reading attitudes and skills.  If your child is invited, I hope you will make every effort to take advantage of the free program.

If you have any questions about our reading intervention at Horace Mann, please be in touch with your child's teacher or with me at 216.529.4257.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Sharp Focus on Literacy

     Several years ago, Lakewood City Schools developed a vision for curriculum adoption and implementation for the essential area of Language Arts.  The district was fortunate be selected from many applicants around the world to work with the Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project (Columbia University).  If you want to learn more, here is a link to their website:

     Since then, Writing and Reading Workshop have been phased into our elementary and middle schools.  There have been summer training institutes and "coaching" visits throughout the school year in order to help us become experts in this challenging, yet rewarding, way of teaching.  Last week, two sessions were held in the district to be sure everyone--general education teachers and intervention providers--has had training in the Workshop model.  With everyone "speaking the same language" when it comes to teaching reading and writing, we feel confident that Lakewood's children will become confident, enthusiastic readers.

     One note about the reading workshop model--which is just being introduced in grades 3-5 this year--is that phonics instruction plays an important role.  In Lakewood, we use the Fundations curriculum for this purpose, with lessons taking place daily in grades K-3.

     Your child should be bringing books home with him or her every single day, and I encourage you to listen to them read or read your own material beside them.  I see Workshop in process when I visit classrooms daily, and it is a thrill to see kids reading and talking with their teachers and with each other about what they've read.  The best way to become a better reader and writer is to practice!  If you have any questions or feedback about Reading or Writing Workshop, please be in touch with me or your child's teacher.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Off to a Good Beginning

     After lots of summer fun, everyone seems so happy to be back at Horace Mann.  We love time off, but we love to learn, too!

     In our first week, teachers and students got back in the swing of things by reviewing our school rules and expectations.  Our framework involves Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), and we sometimes call it the Star Program for short.

     As part of the review students created many great artifacts to show what they learned.  Here are photos from Mrs. Harkness' 1st grade class, showing our three school rules and one very important way we treat one another.  It is awesome to see our clean hallways decorated with student work once again :-)

     There is information about the Star Program in a parent brochure and the Family Handbook, and I encourage everyone to watch for celebration events throughout the year.

     Additionally, we will expand our character education program to move beyond the rules and behavior expectations (be safe, be respectful, be responsible), to the "why and how" of the way we treat ourselves and others by introducing The 7 Habits of Happy Kids.  Again, keep an eye on home-to-school communication to find out more as we dive into the 2016-17 school year. Welcome back!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Thank You for a Wonderful Year at Horace Mann

     As I review this year's blog entries, I am in total awe of the wonderful year we had at Horace Mann. Our students grew academically, socially and physically.  Staff members worked hard, blending tried-and-true techniques with new curricula and their ever-present love for children.  Parents and other volunteers became involved at unprecedented levels, supporting the work of the students and teachers.  And we had fun, too!

     This was my 20th year of service in public education here in Ohio--thank you for making 2015-16 the best year yet.  The challenges and rewards of being principal of Horace Mann are second-to-none, and I look forward to returning in August to continue our work--and play--together.

     Have a safe and satisfying summer!

Dr. Merritt Waters

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Big Fun at Horace Mann!

We fit more fun into last week at Horace Mann than seems possible!  Be sure to visit the Horace Mann PTA Facebook page to see lots of great pictures ( These are the cool things we did:

Monday:  Lakewood Public Librarians presented to each grade level about summer reading opportunities and the library's 100th birthday celebration.

Tuesday:  CAVS Spirit Day, Volunteer Thank You Brunch, CHAMPS class 5th graders visited Garfield.

Wednesday:  3rd Grade Field Trip to The Nature Center, 1st Grade Walking Field Trip to Webb Park to meet Grant Elementary Pen Pals.

Thursday:  Wicked/Wizard of Oz performance by The Beck Center Sign Language Choir

Friday:  Field Day (4th Quarter Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports Reward), Picnic Lunch, BOGO Book Fair, One School One Book Finale, May Star Student of the Month Drawing, 5th Grade Instrumental Concert

Congratulations to our Star Students for May:
Kindergarten:  D'Lila Burns, Aliyah Rush
1st Grade:  Leonard Bonner, Bridget Katzenberger,
                  Mariam Othman, Connor
2nd Grade:  Joseph Smiddle, Nora Kelly
3rd Grade:  Nathan Kopko, Liam Wallace
4th Grade:  Ashan Mabuoi, Aidan Weisman
5th Grade:  Aidan Parch, Sophie Craciun


Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Mann This Week: State Testing, Safety Drills, Humphrey, and Field Trips

     With the end of the year fast - approaching, it was a smorgasbord of activity at Horace Mann last week.  Starting with academics, we officially completed our Ohio AIR testing sessions.  Our technology worked very smoothly and there was extra help on hand from central office to be sure teachers and students had support.  We had great student attendance which resulted in very few make-ups.  Thank you to kids, teachers, parents and staff for all the teamwork to get through this important process.  We won't receive results until well into the 2016-17 school year, and they will be sent home to parents when they arrive in district.

     Sticking with academics but moving a the fun side of things, enthusiasm for The World According to Humphrey continues to ride HIGH, HIGH, HIGH!  Humphrey is visiting classrooms, daily prize drawings are happening and most importantly, kids are reading :-)

     Part of the core mission at every school is to keep students safe.  The State of Ohio sets requirements for the number of fire, tornado and lockdown drills schools need to conduct each year, and we gladly comply.  Last week, we finished off our annual quota, running one of each.

     Finally, two fun field trips happened last week, with kindergarten heading to The Cleveland Zoo and Horace Mann's Future Club meeting Grant's Future Club at Webb Park for a picnic lunch and group photo taken by a drone.  Big thanks to teachers and parent volunteers for taking our students out-and-about!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Amazing Horace Mann PTA

     Last week was Staff Appreciation Week at Horace Mann.  Our PTA went all out for this opportunity to pamper our teachers/support staff for 5 days straight!  Using what they learned via feedback about prior years' events, PTA provided a potluck lunch on Monday, morning coffee and goody cart on Wednesday and Dewey's Pizza for lunch on Friday.  On Tuesday and Thursday, April Crone, parent of a HMES first grader and licensed massage therapist, provided chair massages.  Talk about taking good care of us :-)

     Not only was PTA busy with providing for the Horace Mann staff last week, but they were also busy receiving accolades at the annual Lakewood Council of PTAs Installation and Recognition Ceremony, held at Harding Middle School on Wednesday, May 4th.  Here is the (long) list of honors garnered by Horace Mann as a result of PTA's work and/or nominations:

  • Outstanding Educator of the Year:  Cristina Smith, Horace Mann Teacher
  • Helping Hands Award:  Chris Bringman, Horace Mann Family Resource Coordinator
  • Perfect Attendance at Monthly Council of PTAs
  • Ripples Award (Silver) for volunteer hours logged this year
  • Family Engagement Award for PTA/school partnership for our Positive Behavior Instruction & Supports 
  • President's Award:  Nora Katzenberger, Horace Mann PTA President
     As principal of Horace Mann, I could not be more grateful for the work of so many PTA members.  It is a true collaborative relationship, and I look forward to even more involvement for parents in the years ahead.  If you are not yet an involved member of PTA, please consider joining or volunteering.  It is a rewarding, worthwhile experience that makes a real difference in the lives of everyone at our school!