Henley Happenings 12-4

Dear Henley Families,

Well, the recent weather certainly doesn’t indicate the coming of winter, but I think our students are greatly anticipating winter break in just a couple of weeks.  I thought I saw some news about cooler weather on the horizon and it gets pretty exciting in middle school when snow rumors start!

Our students and teachers have been busy. We’d like to share several informational items with you.

  1. Students took a brief survey about how we are doing to achieve our School Goal #2: All students will be visible, feel safe, and have an adult connection in the building. We are looking at the results this week with our teacher leadership teams and we will share that data with you shortly.
  2. We’d love to hear your feedback about how you think we are doing toward making this goal a reality for all students. The survey also asks if you are interested in taking a tour of schools that have had recent security additions and modernization projects completed. Please respond! https://goo.gl/forms/qcFYclnCayXTVGQk2
  3. We are teaming with Brownsville Elementary School to support Hurricane Maria Relief Efforts. Some of our 7th and 8th graders have joined forces with BES students to gather much needed supplies and donations. Here is more information on the project and how you can help. Let’s make a difference for those in need.
    1. Hurricane Maria caused great devastation to the island of Puerto Rico and many areas remain without power, water or food!
    2. Brownsville parent, Elizabeth Alvarez, recently returned from a trip to Puerto Rico, where she helped distribute much needed supplies and provided medical support to those in need of care. Elizabeth will distribute any items or funds collected by Brownsville BEEs and Henley Hornets during her next mission trip to Puerto Rico in December. There are multiple ways you can help listed below:
      1. Supplies needed: diapers (any size), wipes, baby formula, water filters (i.e. Brita), solar lights, flashlights, and batteries.
      2. Option to order supplies online here: https://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/ACI1N6A8FE7F<https://brownsvillepto.us7.list-manage.com/track/click?u=68c76c79307c5693c1f95ff0a&id=d4d2ffa416&e=301f36ef34>.
      3. Supplies can be dropped off at Henley in boxes near the main office.
      4. Supplies will be collected until December 13.
      5. Monetary donations can be made here: https://www.gofundme.com/puertoricocville<https://brownsvillepto.us7.list-manage.com/track/click?u=68c76c79307c5693c1f95ff0a&id=743b2609d8&e=301f36ef34>.
  1. We are working on a matrix of “Who Do I Contact When…” for families to help make communication easier. In essence, we are trying to connect you quickly with the right resource for your question, concern, or feedback. Look for that document in the coming weeks.
  2. Speaking of what is coming…we are trying to push out more timely information on our website, not just to our families, but to our students, school community, and prospective families. Part of doing that is asking you to weigh in on what you’d like to see more of on our website. We’ll send you a survey after the Holiday Break.
  3. Please remember to respond to ACPS’s Budget Initiative Survey. The survey is open until December 17.
  4. This month’s Advisory theme is Diversity. We believe that we should explore how we are all diverse and how we use our cultures, heritages, and experiences to make meaning and construct our worldview. Our first task is to get to know each other better and learn to appreciate how we are all unique.

I realize that was a lot of information. I am very interested in hearing what you would like to learn more about, so that we can share relevant and meaningful information with our stakeholders.

I hope you will join us for the many student performances we have in the coming weeks (e.g. band, Strings, drama). Check out our school calendar for specific dates.

Please contact me directly with any questions or feedback.

Beth Costa, principal

Advisory for Wonder

HERE is the link to the Wonder Advisory…this is the anchor lesson that I provided. Teachers have several other activities to do with students…some are writing, others are discussion. Much of what happens depends on the students and how they want to explore the themes and ideas presented in the movie.



I would like to thank all of our students, teachers, staff, and admin team for planning and orchestrating such an amazing school wide field trip to see Wonder at the Stonefield Regal this morning.

Interestingly, a woman stopped me outside the theater as we were loading the buses and asked, “Are you with the school group?” To which I responded, “Yes, we watched Wonder.” 

“Oh, that makes so much sense!” She replied. “Did you have a good time?”

We had an amazing experience, one that we think contributes exponentially to our school goal of building a community where all students are visible. So much has been written recently about the importance of social/emotional learning and I am proud to be in a school where the parents, teachers, and students believe in the importance of developing these skills in all of our students and creating a safe learning environment where all students have an adult connection.

We have planned a movie debrief for tomorrow, 11/21, that will give us a lot of insight about how students perceive the importance of the movie’s themes #ChooseKind and #KindnessIsContagious, but more importantly than recognizing the importance is understanding how each one of our students contributes to the creation of a community where kindness is the norm. Stay tuned!

Henley Happenings

Dear Henley Families,

Tomorrow is our school wide field trip to see Wonder!  We have over 820 of 860 students attending, and I know that number also factors our families who have already started their holiday traveling.

A couple of informational items:

  • Tomorrow, we will leave at 9:15 in the morning and stagger our arrival at Stonefield Theaters. 8th grade will leave and return first. We will have all students returned to school by around 12:30. Classes for the day, after lunch and recess, begin at 1:20.
  • Tuesday’s schedule is altered for an extended Advisory. We will be exploring the themes of the movie (#Choose Kind, #KindnessIsContagious, Diversity) and debriefing our experience. We also have our November Activity Period in the afternoon.
  • During the week of 11/27, we will be asking students to give us feedback about our school climate goal #2: All students will be visible and have an adult connection in the building. Students will report feeling safe at school. We will administer a short survey during advisory and share the results with you by the end of that week.
  • We will also be sending parents a survey about some of our school goals around climate, communication, topics for exploration, and our modernization plans. Please participate. I value your feedback and we can only improve if we are in this together!
  • Are you aware that Henley will be undergoing a security addition and other modernization improvements? Would you like to tour other schools that have had similar improvements and talk about the opportunities for our Henley students? Part of the survey sent next week will ask for an RSVP to do either a day or evening bus tour of Jouett, AHS, Walton, and WAHS.

I hope you have the most amazing Thanksgiving Break! Find time for family, fun, and the activities that make you the happiest. We value your partnership in your child’s education and we appreciate you being a part of our team.



Beth Costa, principal

First Nine Weeks

So many bright spots for this first nine week term…a couple that immediately jump out at me are the school-wide unveiling of our Henley Social Contract for a Safe Learning Environment and our fall Field Day. In both cases our staff took risks and tried new things to make Henley a stronger school community and both went very well! The kids had fun and we are better as a result.

What is this new Advisory?

In the second half of the 2016-17 school year, I began having conversations with community members, parents, and teacher leaders about the direction for Henley Middle School. We were already in the ideating phase for 2017-18. A theme of kindness and community emerged.

Middle school is as tough as we all remember. I believe these three developmental years in a child’s life are the most critical. I am not a doctor, but from all that I see and hear on a daily basis, at no other period in our life do we experience such dramatic changes to our body and minds.

So, we did a “360” analysis of our school community and hypothesized that we could make significant gains as a learning community if we instituted a very purposeful social and emotional curriculum. In order to increase students’ academic achievement, we need to attend to their social and emotional development.

All of our elementary schools have a social and emotional curriculum in place-Responsive Classroom. They come to us having rich experiences in building community and having strong adult and peer relationships. It is our responsibility to build upon their elementary school foundation, consider their pre-adolescent and adolescent development, and establish the same safe and effective learning environment at Henley.

Henley Middle School committed to implementing a social and emotional curriculum for all students. Our school improvement goal #2 drives the work we will do throughout the entire school year: ALL students will be visible and report that they have an adult connection at Henley.

Over the summer over twenty teachers attended the week long professional development institute. They learned more about the philosophy and principles of Developmental Designs. Our “pioneer” teacher leadership group “tested” the principles of Developmental Designs against the Guiding Principles at Henley and found that we were a good match for each other.

Henley Middle School’s Guiding Principles:

  1. We are a community of educators, learners, and families who work together to ensure all members are visible, safe, and achieve to their fullest potential.
  2. We are welcoming inclusive, and student-centered.
  3. We are a community that takes risks, pursues passions, and fosters a growth mindset.

On August 14, the first day of Teacher Pre-Service Week, all of our teachers learned about implementing an Advisory, a period in the day when a smaller group of students meet to build community and have fun. Developmental Designs recognizes that middle school students have a need for autonomy and responsibility. We use the structure to support students’ development of these critical skills. The premise, “assume nothing, teach everything” will be an important reminder that it is our responsibility to not only teach the content of our classes, but also to teach students the “hidden curriculum” of self-management, empathy toward others, collaboration, problem solving, and many other skills.

For the first three days of school, we modified our bell schedule to make a lot of time for Advisory. We were intentional in our focus: welcome students, build community, develop relationships. It was a lot of time, but we believe the return on our investment of time will pay dividends throughout the year when students say they have an adult they trust, they are excited to come to school, and they are in a welcoming school community where students are kind to each other. When they say those things, they will learn more and they will learn better. We will be a stronger and better Henley.


On Saturday, 12 August 2017 I was a couple of hundred miles away in Aberdeen, MD. My son was playing in the Cal Ripken Experience Chesapeake Tournament.

By the early afternoon, I began to receive text messages from family members and friends from other parts of the country. I grew more and more anxious as my Twitter feed reported angry exchanges, fights, then a fatality.

As I looked around, other families were talking on the phone, checking on employees, or sharing their disbelief and sadness with each other.

All of a sudden I turned my attention to the field. Pre-game activity had stopped and the 13, 10 year old boys were down on one knee with their arms wrapped around each other and heads bowed. They were praying.

They weren’t praying for a win. They were praying for Charlottesville. They were praying for the safety and security of its people. They were praying for something they don’t know a whole lot about…an end to racism, hate, and evil.

In that moment I no longer felt sad. I felt hope. I shared this story with our staff on our first day of teacher pre-service and I told them that I believe in our young people and I believe in every member of our school community. We can have an impact on this hatred, this evil. We can challenge one another to make a difference in the lives of the next generation, so that they embrace people from all backgrounds, races, religions, etc. In our differences, we are similar.

In just a couple of days, we will welcome over 850 students. We will welcome them to a place where they are safe. We will welcome them to a place where they can learn. We will welcome them to love one another and make the world a better place.


Plenty of Summer Left…

As soon as August 1 hits, the pace of the slow summer changes in schools. At Henley our custodial staff is busily working to get our hallways, classrooms, and common spaces sparkling for students and teachers when they walk through our doors in just a few short weeks. I hope you are all having an amazing summer, filled with fun, family, and friends. I hope you had the opportunity to learn more about yourself and what makes you happiest. We cannot wait to see you on August 23rd. Stay safe!

Be Your Own Superlative

As delivered at the Rising Up Ceremony on June 9, 2017…

Good morning and welcome to our 2016-17 Henley Rising Up Ceremony,

Thank you families, students, teachers, and staff. We are here today to celebrate another milestone in our children’s lives. We appreciate all you have done to support these amazing young people.

I would like to acknowledge our families for all of their love, time, and commitment. You encouraged our students to do their best, high-fived them when they achieved, and stood beside them when they failed. When it was time to get back up, you held out a hand and they ROSE.

I would like to acknowledge our faculty and staff, not only the 8th grade team who worked tirelessly to deliver high quality instruction, to teach content, skills and understanding, and to support, mentor, and enrich the lives of our 274 students, but also the 6th and 7th grade teachers, cafeteria, office, and custodial staff, our guidance counselors and the countless others who work to do whatever it takes for kids.

I would also like to acknowledge each and every one of our students. You have breathed life into these halls for three years. You cared for each other, you worked hard, and you challenged us to give you all that you could handle. We hope you are proud of who you have become. You did well.

I took a small poll yesterday about how many boxes of tissues we may need for today’s event and the 8th graders looked at me as if I had sprung a second head! They have been waiting for this day for days, maybe even months, and they are anxious to transition to high school, to enter into that new and fresh part of their lives. We did all we could to get them ready and we have to have faith that we send them with the skills, the hopes, and the desire to become their best selves.

While it has been a long time since I was in middle school (and I will thank you all, 8th grade, to not ask how long:), I’d like to share a memory of my own middle school years. I remember a point in my life when I started to be more aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Learning had been something that came easily…I usually caught on to new concepts quickly and I was experiencing success as both a swimmer and a soccer player.

And yet, inevitably, there is a time when that changes and it did. I was driving home with my mother from a summer swim meet and I had just gotten beaten by a rival competitor. I wasn’t feeling great. My mom tried her usual pitch to cheer me up and finally stated, “Be your own superlative.” Don’t compare yourself to others, compete against yourself.

Now, let me pause by saying that I did prep our students at yesterday’s awards ceremony by asking them if they knew what a superlative is…they were mostly familiar because of the yearbook class’ tradition of putting out the “Best of the Class” honors, like Best Smile, Best Sense of Humor, etc.

So, to expand on that idea, a superlative is a comparison suggesting the highest quality of an adjective or adverb. For example, strong is an adjective and strongest is its superlative because it indicates the highest degree of strength. Likewise with prepared and most prepared.

“Be your own superlative” is an important piece of advice that I would like to pass on to you, Henley Class of 2017. It is often our habit as humans to compare ourselves to or compete against others. It is in this way that we “size each other up,” yet it is in this way that we begin to gain or lose confidence in our own abilities. For example, if you work really hard to earn a B in Algebra and hear that a student got an A, our inner voice may tell us that he/she is smarter than us. Today I challenge you to stop comparing yourselves to others. Do not become someone else’s superlative, but rather, be your own.

Let me just take one more minute to point out the gains you make when you do this. Each of us is an individual who has differing strengths, interests, passions, and areas for growth. We do not learn at the same rate or in the same way. We don’t develop in step with one another, but in our own way and in our own time.

So, as you “rise up” to 9th grade, take some time to learn more about yourself, your interests, your passions, and your areas for growth. Pursue things that you do not want to stop doing and set goals for yourself based on what you want to accomplish. Do not look at others and say they are better, smarter, happier, or more successful. Look within you and challenge yourself to get better at something you love, learn more about something that interests you, be happier because you take time to appreciate who you are, and be more successful because you are not comparing yourself to others, but improving your own self. AND, remember you is good, so celebrate you, all you have accomplished at Henley and all you will become at Western (or your high school destination) and beyond. We love you all and wish you the very best as you take this next step in your life. Come back and visit; you’ll always have a place here.



Henley Happenings-April 27

Dear Henley Families,

We are making our final push toward the end of the 2016-17 school year. I marvel how time can go by slowly and quickly at the same time! I wanted to share a couple of things with you this evening:

  1. Final day to make course overrides is tomorrow. Please double check your child’s recommendations to ensure that he/she is appropriately placed. This is so important for us to know early.
  2. Henley Summer Camp will be held June 26th-July 14th. Our teachers are planning an engaging project and passion based experience for our students. We are also offering an Algebra 1 BOOT CAMP. We are offering a three week course (same dates) to boost students’ confidence and ability in mastering the concepts in Algebra 1. It will be offered for both students who have taken the Alg 1 course already and for those who are going from Math 7 to Alg 1 (rising 9th graders MAY attend). Contact Matt Hopewell, summer school principal (mhopewell@k12albemarle.org) for more information. Conversationally, a rising 8th grader recommended for Pre-Alg Math 8 who takes the Boot Camp course could be ready for Alg 1 next school year. We will make an exception to the course override deadline for those students.
  3. Next week we will hold grades 6-8 Town Hall Meetings. Our focus is on finishing strong! Please talk with your child about the basic tenets of respect-respect for self, respect for adults, respect for peers, and respect for our Henley environment. We will be reiterating these basic principles and working on keeping the culture at Henley kind and welcoming for all stakeholders. We will be sending home a document next week for you to review with your child(ren).
  4. Please don’t forget to check your Parent Portal. Teachers update grades, at minimum, every two weeks. Your child’s teacher should be in touch if there are any problems; however, the Portal is an excellent resource for keeping up to date on your child’s progress.
  5. Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week! I know PATSO has requested gift cards for their daily drawings, but there are dozens of other ways to show our teachers that we appreciate all they do for our students and school community. I am sure that they would love a hand written note or email that shares how they have made a difference.

Let me know if you have any questions or feedback.  It is a daily pleasure to be with your child(ren) at Henley.


Beth Costa, principal