Powerful Learning

As we begin October, I am in awe of how much has been accomplished already. In all of our learning spaces, students have reviewed and been practicing routines and procedures intended to develop habits as caring, safe and productive members of their class and school community. While establishing community and developing learning habits has been and will continue to be a primary focus, students have also been immersed in academic experiences growing their skills as mathematicians, readers, writers, speakers, scientists, historians, citizens, artists, singers, musicians, and fitness enthusiasts. Our school focus this year is on powerful learning experiences that promote the students’ active participation in their learning. Our students have demonstrated that they are up for the challenge!

When not working with students, our teachers have been busy collaborating to develop a shared vision for learning, goals for improvement and plans for powerful learning experiences. This important work began during teacher work days before school started, has continued during teacher planning time and after school meetings, grounded our work on our professional development day on September 21st and will be the primary focus of professional development opportunities throughout the year. At Back to School Night, I introduced our focus on powerful learning experiences and active student participation in their learning. Our multi-age and open classrooms are a perfect match for these two concepts. In addition, they are aligned with our school division vision, “All learners believe in their power to embrace learning, to excel, and to own their future.” Parent-teacher conferences begin next week. A key to the teacher’s ability to plan powerful learning experiences is knowing each child, his/her interests, passions, learning preferences, etc. Your input is invaluable as you know your child best. If you haven’t already scheduled time with your child’s teacher, contact him or her to do so.

While at a professional conference a couple of weeks ago, I heard Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D speak. A scientist, who studies how children learn, Dr. Hirsh-Pasek and a colleague have recently published a book titled Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children. Her presentation affirmed much of work at the state level to define the Profile of a Graduate, broadening expected outcomes for high school students beyond mastery of content knowledge to include critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication and citizenship. For the past two decades Albemarle County Schools has infused these skills in the Division’s mission, School Board priorities and in the related practices in curriculum, assessment and instruction that guide teachers’ in the development of learning experiences that develop Lifelong Learner Competencies. The back cover of the book describes Becoming Brilliant as providing, “a framework for how we should be teaching children in and outside of school.” I am eager to read the book and invite you to join me. The goal of this shared learning would be to engage families in shaping and achieving our shared goals for our children. We discussed this idea at last week’s PTO meeting and those present indicated that they too would like to read the book. We decided to create a book club which will meet on the first Tuesday of each month during the regularly scheduled PTO meetings. Please consider joining. Look for an invitation with more details in this week’s folder.

Welcome to the 2018-19 School Year

In the short time since officially joining the Red Hill community, I have experienced the intense school pride felt by everyone I have met. Whether it be teachers and staff, families or other community members, in person, by phone or by email, it is clear that the community supports the school and that school is central to the identity of the community. It is an honor to be here with all of you.

While school families have hopefully been enjoying a slower pace and more time together, teachers have both enjoyed some R & R and been busy with a variety of activities to support students and to further their own professional development. In June, seven teachers attended the school division’s Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction Institute to deepen their understanding of instructional strategies that lead to powerful learning experiences for our students. Several teachers led our three week summer school program and week-long Kindergarten Jump Start program. Throughout the summer, teachers have opted into numerous professional development opportunities aligned with their interests and the school division’s goals. Mrs. Rondeau opened the library two evenings for book check-out, with one more evening scheduled on August 13th. And most teachers have come to meet with me individually and in groups to share their hopes and dreams and begin planning for the upcoming school year.

Our custodians, Mason and Stephanie, have scrubbed and polished the building from floor to ceiling so we will be ready to welcome teachers back on August 13th and students on August 22nd. Mrs. Cason has been busy in the office closing out the last school year, updating records and registering new  students for the upcoming year. While busily tackling their own lists of things to do, all three have graciously and patiently answered my many questions to help me with the resources and information I have needed to learn about the school. They are truly the linchpins of the smooth functioning of the school and I am grateful for all they do.

While I met several families during summer school, during the open library night in July and through phone calls and visits, there are still many of you who I haven’t met and I am eager to do so. Please know that I look forward to partnering with you to ensure your child’s success. I hope to see all of you at Open House on Monday, August 20th, 4-6PM. In the meantime, do not hesitate to stop by, call or email.

Your principal,


Nancy McCullen