Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Joy Filled Holiday Gesture at Horace Mann

As you can imagine, the atmosphere was brimming with excitement during our last week before winter break.  We had terrific fun with spirit week, made keepsake crafts for parents, enjoyed holiday themed work and culminated with a beautiful concert and art show. 

Amidst all the activity, I experienced a small gesture with the potential for big effects.  The clever parents of a sweet--but somewhat shy--childdeveloped a routine where they sent him to school each day with a $1 scratch off lottery ticket.  The boy approached different familiar adults at school, presenting them with the ticket and having short, fun conversational exchanges while the ticket was scratched. 

While I was lucky enough to have the interaction and see the boy's grin, I, alas, was not a monetary winner (our secretary Barb, on the other hand, claimed $10!).  I was, however, fortunate to contribute to the growth of this child's broader confidence and his joy in giving to others. 

Thank you to all parents for the creativity, generosity and love you give your children every day.  We here at Horace Mann benefit by extension, and you are making an immeasurable difference in our community and our world.

Have a safe and joyful holiday, and we'll see you in 2018!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Spotlighting Horace Mann 5th Grade and CHAMPS

Horace Mann 5th grade teachers Kelsey Robinson and Allison Martzolf got a jump-start from CaTT Julie Ferrone for their students' latest work.  As a culmination of the recent non-fiction reading unit of study, students learned how to create GoogleLinks.  Then, they used their GoogleLinks to give 3-minute class presentations, showing off their newfound expertise.  The graphics below show  two student GoogleLinks  (web links provided if you want to click and learn).  Thanks to Jane W for the Army/Police Dogs exemplar (Dogs), and  Isaac C. for the one on Pearl Harbor (Pearl Harbor).

Inline image 1  Inline image 2

The CHAMPS team at Horace Mann is a "school within a school."  The six teachers (Rita Axford, Maureen Crane, Caitlin Dukes, Erica O'Grady, Cristina Smith, and Cheryl Smolen) provide leadership and inspiration for the staff in their classrooms--and our entire school--on a daily basis.  Together and individually, the both spearhead and support innumerable initiatives for ALL Horace Mann students, always looking for new ideas.  There are too many accomplishments to list (and always something new on the horizon).  Two recent standouts are their use of yoga/mindfulness in their classrooms and starting a "helping hands" program.  Helping hands are 4th and 5th grade students from general education homerooms who volunteer in a CHAMPS classroom during recess 1x/week.  This engagement gives students authentic opportunities to practice kindness, compassion and playfulness, and is deepening relationships among students.  Who knows...maybe we are even growing some future special educators?!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Lakewood History Comes to Horace Mann

The kindergarteners at Horace Mann experienced some history this week, as the Lakewood Historical Society brought a traveling trunk filled with items from an old school house (circa 1180s).  Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Cassey Rini wrote, "Students held books that were used 150 years ago, used slates with chalk and tried on clothing." 

Consequences for bad behavior were also shared, such as wearing a slate with the "crime" (as shown by Mrs. Rini) and standing in the corner in a dunce cap (Mrs. Mandi Sloan demonstrates below).

Students were highly engaged in this hands-on learning experience, and we are grateful for the Lakewood Historical Society for making it available to us. 

I'm sure many Horace Mann families are already aware of the Oldest Stone House and the other resources available, yet I've linked their website here in case it is time to take another look:

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Light of Kindness at Horace Mann

During a recent classroom visit, I was lucky to hear our teacher of English Learners, Mrs. Noon Kim, reading aloud from a Newberry Award-winning picture book entitled, Last Stop on Market Street (LaPeña & Robinson, 2015).  Last Stop tells the story of a boy and his Nana on a Sunday afternoon.  The boy asks his Nana many questions about why they don’t have certain things and why they are doing nice things for other people (such as going to help others after church).    Although he pesters her, he also follows her lead, smiling and greeting others, and pitching in to assist people.  Of course, he learns that kindness to others is a win-win situation for everyone.  It is a touching book and is available in our school library.

This story illustrates a point I found recently in a more academic format.  An article in the journal Educational Leadership (Goodwin, 2017)  noted the differences between empathy (feeling what others feel) and compassion (becoming concerned for others’ well-being and wanting to help them, yet not necessarily mirroring their emotions).  So, while connecting with the feelings of others is a step in the right direction, it is often the action that can make a bigger difference.  

Acts of kindness abound in the Horace Mann community.  I see students and adults do special things to improve the lives of others every single day.  In this season of charity and gift-giving, this light of kindness at HMES burns even brighter.  Thank you for modeling and encouraging generosity with goods, talent and time throughout this holiday season.  As a result, our children are learning to be compassionate, which bring greater happiness to all!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Witnessing Acts of Kindness

As many of you know, we have "Five Bs" at Horace Mann:

Be Safe
Be Respectful
Be Responsible
Be Kind
Be the Best You Can Be

We are always looking for opportunities to encourage and reinforce students when they behave in ways that show those qualities. It is clear that Horace Mann families also value these behaviors. We feel fortunate to partner with you, helping our kids learn to overcome the obstacles.

This week's post focuses on kindness. Now, it is just common sense that when someone is kind to you, you feel good. It logically follows that the person who acted kindly also gets a boost to their spirits. Did you know that even just witnessing an act of kindness raises the level of seratonin in the brain--thereby giving us that warm, fuzzy feeling?

So being kind is good on a physical level, not just for the giver and receiver, but all who notice.  If you’d like a dose of seratonin (and that nice feeling in your heart that goes with it), watch this 3:05 video:  Acts of Kindness

As we enjoy our Thanksgiving break, let's make special efforts to be kind, because, as we know...our kids are always watching!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Being safe, respectful and responsible with dogs...and having fun with them, too!

Many readers know that Horace Mann is lucky to have a canine staff member:  Stanley "Stan" Cramer.  Stan is a sweet, handsome Golden Retriever who comes to school on Thursdays with 1st grade teacher Patti Cramer.  Stan is a trained therapy dog and he enjoys being pet, read to and played with by kids and adults, alike!

Last week, we had an assembly featuring Cleveland animal photographer Greg Murray.  He is a born Lakewoodite (right on Norton Ave!), but has received national attention for his book, Peanut Butter Dogs. Not only did he share hilarious pictures of dogs eating peanut butter, he talked about following his career dreams and volunteering with the Animal Protective League (APL). He also provided helpful information and safety tips on interacting with dogs we may encounter.  

All students received a coloring/activity book about pet safety, and three students received their very own copy of Peanut Butter Dogs. Congratulations to Will McBride (kindergarten), Andrew Babson (1st grade) and Erin Gerity (4th grade)! The presentation was quite interactive and many students were able to ask questions about Mr. Murray's work.

Special thanks to Mrs. Cramer and her student teacher, Samantha Vidnovic, for bringing Mr. Murray to our school. Check out the picture below with Stan, Mr. Murray, Ms. Vidnovic and Mrs. Cramer's class.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

We Celebrate Our Veterans!

Veterans Day (originally Armistice Day) provides an important opportunity for students to learn about and appreciate the men and women who have served in the United States military.  Did you know that there are about 22 million vets in the US?  They certainly do deserve this day of acknowledgement.

With many staff and students wearing red, white and blue and other patriotic themes, we were fortunate to have 20 veterans join us for our assembly on Friday, November 10, 2017.  It was a treat to see students walk in with their veteran family member(s)!  We were inspired by the theme music for each of the five branches of the military.  At Horace Mann, we have a few Army and Marine vets, just a couple from the Air Force and no one who served in the Coast Guard.  The overwhelming majority of our vets were in the Navy.

Special thanks go to Mr. Waryk for leading us in singing patriotic songs and to our PTA for the refreshments to welcome our guests.  I'd also like to thank several 4th graders who participated in the program:
Scouts of the Color Guard:   Nathan Bruwer, Michael Frend, Kelsey Karban, Greydon Rosser and Jacob Tannous
Readers:  Ava Brooks, Erin Gerity, Nate Lewis and Justin Lewis

Thank you, veterans!  We look forward to celebrating the 100th anniversary of this holiday in 2018.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Book Buddies are the BEST!

There's a long and treasured tradition at Horace Mann called Book Buddies:  5th graders are paired with kindergarten students for a weekly get-together.  Both the older student and the younger student bring a book to share and teachers often coach the older students about how they can help their young friends who are just learning to read.  As kindergarten students become better at making familiar storybooks sound right (using expression, "reading" the story in memorized phrases), they often join in as their older buddy reads a common story.

It is a joyful thing to see our oldest and youngest students so engaged together over books.  Of course, sometimes Book Buddies do other fun things, such as designing jack o' lanterns in honor of the season.  Please scroll down to see a few pictures of the Buddies in action last week.

We hope that books coming home with every K-5 Horace Mann student on their reading level--and from our well-stocked library--is encouraging plenty of reading together at home, too.  Thank you for everything you are doing to partner with your child and his/her teacher to make reading a high priority.  If you are interested in learning more about the Reading Workshop here in Lakewood and how you can help your child at home, please join us at the PTA meeting on Tuesday, November 14th at 7:00 pm (childcare provided).  I'll be recapping the K-5 Literacy Night hosted by the district last week at Emerson.


Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Guide for Parents: Common Sense Media

Technology and today's media resources provide ready access to amazing resources for Lakewood students and adults, alike.  At the same time, we are increasingly aware of the challenges created by improper use of technology, including physical unhealthiness, decreased personal relationships and empathy, and exposure to inappropriate content.
Image result for julie ferrone

Even savvy parents can find it difficult to navigate this ever-changing landscape.  Fortunately, we have Horace Mann's new Curriculum and Technology Teacher (or CaTT) Julie Ferrone to help!  Mrs. Ferrone is a longtime Lakewood teacher (and parent), and we are fortunate to have her at The Mann on a part-time basis this year. 

In addition to supporting classroom teachers and students with fantastic technology enhancements to the curriculum and being lead adviser for both Future Club and Future Club Jr., Mrs. Ferrone has created a handy resource to help parents with issues like digital citizenship, online safety and finding the right ways to handle media at home (check out "Device Free Dinner").

Here's the link to Mrs. Ferrone's Common Sense Media resources:  Common Sense Media

If you have any questions or ideas, she'd love to hear from you on Twitter @LKWDjferrone or

Sunday, October 15, 2017

HMann Staff Spotlights: 1st & 2nd Grade

The 1st grade team at Horace Mann is a lively one, with two homeroom teachers (Patti Cramer & Julie Harkness), a shared intervention specialist (Jen Frank), shared educational assistant (Marie Banak) and shared student teacher (Samantha Vidnovic).  Throw in collaboration with CHAMPS teachers, Ellen McCafferty (SLP) and other related service providers, and you've got a party!  In particular, this team stands out for their teamwork.  Not only do they plan and TBT together, but they also co-teach everything from math to reading workshop book clubs (yes, book clubs in 1st grade!).  Their efforts have a phenomenal effect on student learning, and lead to satisfaction and fun for adults all the while.  Check out this recent book club video of Farouq, Elliot, and Brigid:
Moving on to Grade 2, the spotlight shines on long-time teammates Anne Carney and Patty Wynne.  Their conscientious work ethic shows in the gains their students make in all subject areas.  Additionally, Horace Mann students are succeeding behaviorally in 2nd grade, and their teachers consistently make time to allow students to access privileges on our PBIS reward menu.  Here are pictures of Leom reading to his first grade teacher's class (in the comfy chair, of course) and a Violet reading to our therapy dog, Stan (he comes to school each Thursday).

Keep up the great work, Horace Mann :)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Spotlighting Our Staff - Preschool & Kindergarten Mann welcomes a new preschool teacher to our staff.  Jonathan Davis as the general educator is a great addition to the integrated PK class team of Michelle Zahursky (intervention specialist) and Tammy Viserta, educational assistant.  We also welcome student teacher Samantha Vidovic to the same classroom this quarter.  Kids recently made self portraits, often needing to check the mirror!

After a smooth orientation and screening process, kindergarteners at Horace Mann are in the good hands of Mandi Sloan and Cassey Rini.  These teachers are avid users of the Seesaw app, and parents report they feel very in touch with their young scholars when they receive the social media updates throughout the day. It has also been inspiring to watch our kindergarteners take to mindfulness practices, such as yoga and mindful breathing.  Here is one student using a Hoberman Sphere (or “breathing ball”) and his friend making a ball with his hands.

Our teachers are second-to-none, and we are grateful for the expertise and care as they facilitate development of the whole child. We are ALL IN at Horace Mann!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

New Math Assessment - iReady

As we work with students, we should use many lenses to understand their skills.  When we understand their skills--and their traits as learners-- we can provide instruction that meets their needs. 

Many Horace Mann families are familiar with AIMSweb as the assessment tool the district has used for many years to benchmark students' reading skills, both decoding and comprehension.  In recent years, we've also added the "running records" as part of Reading Workshop that tell us what level book (that is, letter) is appropriate for each student.  Teachers use these assessments, in addition to daily observations of student work and other tests, such as the KRA for kindergarten and the AIR tests for grades 3-5, to guide their planning for reading instruction.

When Ohio adopted the Common Core State Standards several years ago, it necessitated a significant change to instruction for many subjects, especially math.  Responsively, Lakewood adopted Eureka as our curriculum, and we've used the assessments for each module--as well as daily "exit tickets"-- to see how students are doing.  While those tools have worked well, we've been lacking the overview of student skills that AIMSweb provides for reading.

After careful research, the district decided to try i-Ready, an adaptive diagnostic math assessment for students in grades 3-5.  This online tool provides a custom assessment for each child by giving an easier or harder item based on student performance.  Thus, no two students have the same test, and the experience yields highly individualized information.  Since it is built on the Common Core, the test explores exactly what we need to know about student skills and is expected to provide a roadmap for planning instruction.  If you are curious to learn more, here is a link to the iReady website:  i-Ready.

While we still have plenty to learn about using i-Ready, I feel optimistic about its potential.  After all, when we need to make changes, the worst thing to do is nothing at all.  By adding this simple, kid-friendly assessment to our toolbox, we are making good on the district's commitment to actively engage students in their learning.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Doughnuts with Dads 2017

Wednesday, September 20th was a special day throughout Cuyahoga County:  it was Fathers Walk to School Day.  At Horace Mann, there was an extra incentive for the "big guys," doughnuts, juice and coffee...and extra time to hang out with their kids.

 Wednesday, while last names M-Z were invited on Thursday.  Both days had a strong turnout with a total of about 60 adults attending.

While the name "Doughnuts with Dads" is catchy and has been around a long time, we recognize that lots of men are involved in kids lives, and we want to convey an inclusive tone in the name of the event.  What should we call it next year?  Fathers and Friends?  Dudes and Doughnuts?  Please share your thoughts with me or any PTA board member.

Speaking of PTA, big thanks to them for hosting the event again this year.  If you enjoyed it, please consider becoming a member at the bargain price of $6!  Special thanks to Amy Lardi, Anne Babson, Kate McBride, and Kristy Gibbons for serving up the goodies :)  Thanks, too, to The Doughnut Pantry on Madison for the group rate on these popular pastries!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tremont Scoops at Horace Mann

One of our awesome annual traditions at Horace Mann is our PTA Ice Cream Social.  The front lawn--too infrequently used, if you ask me--comes alive with sticky-faced kids eating dairy deliciousness (usually with sprinkles), lots of chasing games and parents catching up with each other.  In short, it is community-building at its best.

This year, the community spirit went even higher as a result of neighborhood connections.  The first connection comes from having Tremont Scoops ice cream (yes, of course there was Cookies 'n Cream and Superman).  Big thanks to brand new Horace Mann family the Weinzimmers for making that possible!  The second link was the flash sale of Lakewood Black Label-designed Horace Mann t-shirts.  T-shirt sales continue for the next week or so, so please be in touch with our school if you are interested.  We love to support local small businesses!

Big thank you's to everyone who put this event together.  I've captured two photos, but be sure to check out the  Horace Mann PTA Lakewood Facebook page for lots more pictures.

It is events like these that make school an even more inviting place for kids to be, a place where they feel comfortable and joyful.  And that is exactly what we want, for it supports the academic and social growth we strive for Monday - Friday 8:45 am - 3:05 pm.  🙂

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Last Kids on Earth

It is so fun to watch kids get really excited about and engaged in a learning activity.  Last week, our librarian, Ms. Jen Johnson, was given about 30 minutes to be with our combined 5th grade class.

First, she gained their attention with a personal story about her brother preparing for the imminent threat of Hurricane Irma, activating their minds for what a person might face in a crisis.  Then, she prompted them to think about what important things might need to be addressed in the event of a flu epidemic.  Finally came the irresistible part: what would happen if there was a zombie apocalypse?!

Ms. Johnson explained this idea is the theme of a series of graphic novels by Douglas Holgate and Max Brallier written at the intermediate reading level, called The Last Kids on Earth  (  The publisher describes it as "Diary of a Wimpy Kid meets The Walking Dead."  As you can imagine, the 5th graders were hooked.

They worked in small groups to devise what they would need/do in such a situation, and I've captured two work samples as evidence of their efforts.  The teachers and librarians have been glad to see their enthusiasm for the activity...and that these books are now flying off the library shelf and have a wait list to borrow.

If only reading could always be this exciting?  How can we get ourselves interested in something to read and make a habit of passing that on to our kids?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Repairing Bricks and Growing Our Learners

Recently, there has been much ado about the new school buildings all around Lakewood, including the newly dedicated high school.  We are so fortunate to have a community and district that appreciates the importance of solid, attractive schools.

Our beloved Horace Mann school building is 95 years old (originally constructed in 1921).  While it is in beautiful shape after the full interior restoration about 10 years ago, it is only natural for there to be periodic blemishes to repair.  We noticed a shifting in some bricks on the front steps and eventually a few bricks came loose (Photo #1).  

When the contractors came to repair the problem, they needed to carve away quite a bit of deteriorated material (Photo #2).  While I didn't snap a picture of the completed project, I invite you to stroll by the lovely West Clifton entrance to see how they quickly completed the work with skilled craftsmanship. 

This repair to our building seems an apt analogy to our August/September Habit for Happy Kids,  Be Proactive:  You're in Charge.  By taking initiative and using the right talents and materials, something that needed attention was made better than new.  We see this principle in action at school every day--teachers notice what needs to be done with students when they have a "gap" in their learning; students respond with applying themselves to goals and challenges.  At the end of the day, we hope there is real growth in what kids know and can do, not just on the facade, but at the structural level, just like our building.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Off to a Shining Beginning!

Thanks to teamwork, the 2017-18 school year is off to a "shining" start (please pardon the eclipse pun) at Horace Mann!

While we may have a few organizational tweaks for next year, the New Family Orientation and Supply Drop Off Night was a big success.  PTA volunteers were on hand to help families get supplies in the right place.  It was nice to a chance to get them to the classrooms before the first day of school.

We started the first day of school with music and a little looser atmosphere outside, getting rid of first-day jitters and having a little fun.  Thanks, Mr. Waryk, for providing the tunes!

Special guest Joe Morris (retired NASA scientist) and our very own Library Assistant Peggy Morris provided fun, informative lessons for our students about eclipse safety, science and lore.  Students enjoyed demonstrating what happens in an eclipse and "watching" the eclipse live on the special reflective setup.  Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Morris!

Our kindergarten students completed screening and proudly entered the halls of Horace Mann on Thursday for a short, two-day week.  They are catching on fast to the "Horace Mann Way," making friends and getting right to work!

Mrs. Sloan reads to her class 
Lastly, I was fortunate to visit the K-5 classrooms on Friday, reading a story and having a discussion with each group about kindness.  Kindness is prized at Horace Mann, and we hope this experience with the principal will help each child remember to Be Kind each and every day!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Closing 2016-17 and Looking Ahead

I hope you've enjoyed reading the blog this year, perhaps on Twitter or Facebook.  Writing it is a fulfilling experience,  as it provides the perfect opportunity to showcase celebrations and many of the neat things at happen at Horace Mann.

One last thing to share for the 2016-17 school year is the photo below of Mrs. Cramer's 1st graders hosting Mrs. Sloan's kindergarteners for a Q & A about what to expect in 1st grade.  I was impressed by the questions and the answers, too, covering topics such as reading, math, and classroom routines. Of course, the rising 1st graders wanted to know about lunch & recess--but who doesn't want to know when they'll have time for a break with friends?!
Thank you for a wonderful school year, across the board.  I wish each member of the Horace Mann family a safe, fun summer break.  Take advantage of all Lakewood has to offer and tell me all about it in August!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Talent Show and Field Day - So Much Fun!

As we zoom ever-closer to the end of the 2016-17 school year, each day boasts something special.  I know parents are enjoying the posts some of the teachers are making to their social media apps--such as Seesaw--with lots of great pictures.  Watch for more teachers at Horace Mann to start using Seesaw next year...

I'd like to celebrate the students who performed in the talent show.  Big thanks to Mr. Waryk, Mrs. McCafferty, and Mrs. Morris (as well as several parent volunteers) for organizing the whole show! A huge highlight was the emcee services provided by 5th grader Jalen Brown (pictured)--he has a future in show business if he wants it :)  Here is the "playbill:"

Leom Gabriel:  Karate
Alden Therrien, Olivia Baker:  Dance
Eve Lewis:  Guitar
Helen Alcantar, Annabelle McBride, Ellie Onyak, Owen Daggs, David Baker:  Magic
Piper Crislip:  Piano
Yanna Bonner:  Dance
Evelyn Lardi:  Singing
Lily Tabor:  Gymnastics
Ayla French, Alaina Parker, Milena Osborn, Baylee Deetz:  Dance
Jeremy Frolo:  Piano
Joanna Wright:  Irish Reel Dance
Carys Crone:  Tap

We also had an amazing blue-sky day for Field Day 2017.  Thank you to Mr. Karabaic and Mr. Hyclak, as well as all Horace Mann staff who participated and the MANY parents who volunteered to help!  The day was made "ful-filling" by the generous picnic lunch donated by PTA and other parents to culminate students' safe, respectful, responsible behavior during the 4th quarter.

There are sure to be great snapshots of Field Day on the Horace Mann PTA Facebook page--be sure to check it out!

Friday, May 19, 2017

So Many Kinds of Fun at Horace Mann!

The special events at Horace Mann came in all shapes and sizes this week!  We had an opportunity to learn about keeping our eyes safe with Realeyes classroom presentations provided by the Ohio Optometric Society (this explains why your child may have come home with a new pair of sunglasses).  We thank Ms. Wise (pictured below) for coming to our school for the lessons.

Next up were fun activities for The Lemonade War.  Thanks to our PTA, we had a lemonade stand for Horace Mann students on Thursday at recess.  It was a perfect - HOT - day and the kids drank it up :-)  There was also a Drop Everything and Read as well as daily prize drawings...

The K-Kids had their final meeting for the 2017-18 school year and showed their community spirit with a neighborhood cleanup.  Parent volunteers made this possible, and the ice pops to cool down afterwards were appreciated by all.

Last but not least was our Spring Concert.  It was another amazing show, thanks to the students' talent and energy, the instruction and coaching of Mr. Waryk (K-5 Music Teacher) and Ms. Mallchok (Orchestra and Adapted Music Teacher), and the support and enthusiasm of kids' families.  Thank yous all around for a wonderful performance and community-building event!

Finally, good luck to our Girls on the Run as they participate in the 5K in Akron with over 1,000 girls from northeast Ohio on Saturday, May 20th. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Bagels and Reading Go Great Together!

At Horace Mann, we know that family involvement in our school brings big benefits for everyone.  So, we are always looking for new reasons to invite adults to visit!  The latest event was the Family Reading Breakfast, held on May 11th before school.

Our art room was full to capacity with students, parents, siblings and even a neighbor or two who came to play reading games and find some resources to support reading at home.  The atmosphere was lively, yet definitely on task with reading activities and conversations.

Big thanks to our Horace Mann reading specialists Heather Phillips and Katie Testen, as well as our Family Resource Coordinator, Therese Schwind, for hosting the event.  Also, we appreciate the generosity of Einstein Bros Bagels (14615 Detroit Ave. in Lakewood) for their donation of bagels. Delish!

Here are a few pictures from the event: