Lisbon Elementary School on August 31, 2015.

Welcome Back!

I am thrilled to welcome you back for a wonderful new school year. We’ve worked hard over the summer to make this school year even better for our staff and the students we serve.

I am committed to leading this great school system with a call to action grounded in equity. Every child has individual needs that require different supports, which is why we must place equity and responsiveness for every person at the foundation of all decisions and actions. We must take care of our most vulnerable young people by believing that every child can and will learn.

Here in Howard County, we understand that to teach a child well, you must know a child well. This week, the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) is supporting schools in building meaningful relationships through community-building classroom engagements. Teachers throughout HCPSS will offer lessons and activities that:

  • establish classrooms as communities
  • emphasize each individual’s contribution to the classroom community
  • set up norms for respectful, trusting and safe engagement in the community
  • and define equity and what it looks, sounds and feels like in our community.

In my first few months, we’ve already been on an amazing journey to set the course in preparing every Howard County public student for the best possible start in life. I invite you to watch the video below to hear how we can create a more nurturing and inclusive environment that empowers every student to achieve.

Thank you for everything you do to prepare each student for a happy, healthy and prosperous future.

Please join in the first week of school celebrations by sharing photos on social media with the hashtag: #NewDayHCPSS.

An Exchange of Learning

June KauffmanJune Kauffman, an ESOL teacher at Ducketts Lane Elementary School, has taught in the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) since 2011. Prior to moving to Laurel with her husband and two children in 2008, she lived in Hong Kong, China for 15 years where she taught English and fell in love with Asian food and hospitality.


Pam Freedman
Pam Freedman teaches English Learners (ELs) at Ducketts Lane Elementary School. This is her ninth year teaching in Howard County and her 12th year teaching ELs from Pre-K through 12th grade.

Here Kauffman and Freedman write about their experiences with the Korean Summer Cultural Exchange Program, where they enjoy learning from their students as much as they do teaching them.

Ten years, seven teachers, more than 200 Korean students and an abundance of learning have taken place in the Korean Summer Cultural Exchange Program hosted by the International Student Registration Center of HCPSS. Started in 2005 by HCPSS International Student and Family Services Specialist Min Kim and taught for many years by retired teacher Pat Previdi, the three-week learning excursion challenges students to learn to navigate culture and language through daily formal English classes, visits to places with historical or cultural significance, and building relationships with host families.

Middle school students from Iksan, South Korea go through a rigorous selection process to be accepted into the program. They attend classes taught in English every morning, and focus on all skills necessary for English language development: reading, writing, listening and speaking. This multi-faceted approach helps to build confidence and camaraderie among students as well as challenges them to try new things.

South Korean English language teachers accompany students on their trip and join in the learning environment. This exchange provides a prime opportunity for the teachers to participate in hands-on professional development and gain teaching skills they can use in their language classrooms. We encourage the teachers to teach a mini-lesson to the students, so we can learn from them as well.

This summer, we co-taught 20 students and hosted two teachers at Patapsco Middle School. Students loved debating, learning idioms, typing journal responses in the computer lab, and giving and receiving feedback from their peers. Throughout the three weeks, the students’ strong English language skills “knocked our socks off” and challenged us to challenge them even more.

One of the most enjoyable and rewarding activities involved the Korean students’ interaction with American students. Students from both countries learned about each other through various games and activities. It was gratifying for their teachers–both Korean and American–to watch them interact and witness first-hand how the students’ English skills had developed. This activity left both the students and teachers feeling accomplished.

At the end of the program, the students showcased musical performances and read essays that highlighted their talents and time spent in the United States. Host families were invited to attend the ceremony. In addition, a memo of understanding was signed by HCPSS Interim Superintendent Dr. Michael J. Martirano and Superintendent Jideug Yu from Iksan, South Korea, expressing an intent to continue in this amazing partnership.

To see video and photos of the closing ceremony, visit here.

Argentina spring break

Broadening HCPSS Students’ Perspectives Through Cultural Exchange

Julia Greiwe-MartinezJulia Greiwe-Martinez has been teaching Spanish at Howard High School since 2000 and served as the World Language team leader for more than 12 years. Previously, she taught English in Spain and co-founded a translation agency. She has traveled with students on cultural exchanges to Argentina, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica and Spain.


Brandon Morfoot After graduating from McDaniel College in 2015, Brandon Morfoot joined Atholton High School as a Spanish teacher. Morfoot, who enjoys learning about other cultures, travels around the globe at every possible opportunity.

Greiwe-Martinez and Morfoot blog about their recent spring break trip to Argentina with Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) students.

Students from three Howard County high schools participated in Explore Argentina, a cultural immersion and community service trip through SAGE and No Barriers, an organization that creates travel opportunities for students to become engaged and compassionate global citizens. We spent 11 days with 12 Howard County students exploring Buenos Aires, Tigre, Iguazu Falls and parts of Misiones.

The entire trip was conducted in Spanish, from the moment the students arrived at the airport until the final good-byes upon returning to Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport. The visits included two service learning opportunities, one in Buenos Aires in the Banco de Alimentos (food bank) filling boxes with consumables for charitable organizations to share with families and communities in need. The other service learning project took place at school number 153 in Oberá Misiones in a cultural exchange through a school façade painting project and school supply donation ceremony.

Another highlight of the trip was Iguazu, where students marveled at one of the seven wonders of the world, Iguazu Falls. There we stood at the meeting point of three nations, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, and toured a local wild animal rehabilitation center to learn about the challenges of different species in this sub-tropical rain forest.

Other activities included: an educational tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site San Ignacio Jesuit Missions, a traditional Argentine asado (barbecue), tango lessons, a stay at a traditional family style chacra and mate plantation, the Argentine hot tea mate, in addition to a cultural tour of Buenos Aires with a visit to the renowned Café Tortoni, the hang-out spot of the cultural elite.

Throughout the trip, students had regular reflection and sharing time, where they were able to process their experiences as a group and make connections to their personal goals. Based on student feedback on the trip, the opportunity to spend time with the kids at the local school, help out, play, share tereré (a cold form of mate made by the kids with soda) and learn about each other’s cultures and ways of life made the most impact.

Greiwe-Martinez said that the highlight of her language teaching career is the opportunity to travel with students in a country where they are able to apply their skills in a real world situation and make connections to the community in a natural way, through shared experiences. This was the case in our journey to Argentina. Mentoring the students to explore new foods, take risks in language learning, and engage in dialogues with locals about important social, political and personal topics such as social justice, the changes in the environment, corruption, changing family values, and cultural customs is a living and breathing classroom experience.

Safety is the school system’s top priority. HCPSS follows the U.S. Department of State’s recommendations to ensure the safety of its students and staff while on school system-sponsored international travel. The planning and approval of international educational travel events to Europe have been suspended until the current Europe Travel Alert is lifted.


Reservoir High School Celebrates Black History

Harriet Beckham LeeHarriet Beckham Lee is the Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP) liaison at Reservoir High School. Before joining Reservoir, she served River Hill and Marriotts Ridge high schools in her BSAP role. Here Lee blogs about Reservoir’s commitment to honoring black history throughout the school year.

Each year, Reservoir High School’s theme for the year is Black History 365, with a specific enrichment.  At Reservoir we believe black history is American history.  Therefore, all throughout the year we encourage our entire school body to participate and become engaged with school-wide cultural and ethnic events. This year, we are celebrating Black History 365: Believe.

To begin the 2016-2017 school year, a partnership began in October between Reservoir’s English Department and BSAP to encourage and support students to participate in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. essay-writing contest.  Throughout Dr. King’s historic speech “I Have a Dream” is the belief for a better community and a better world. Three students, Eugenie Choi, Yasmine Allen and Tiffany Hooker, participated in the contest and received good luck tokens from the school.

In November, students attended a BSAP college and career readiness trip to Howard University and Bowie State University, two historically black colleges and universities. This began with a preliminary assignment for the 60 students to research notable statistics about each school, such as retention, acceptance and graduation rates, and financial costs.

The college visit trip ended with the students completing a survey and signing on to attend Reservoir’s December REAL TALK, a collaboration between Student Services and BSAP. This program hosts alumni to return to provide students with REAL and courageous conversations about preparing for and attending college. There were 12 alumni who returned to share their suggestions and experiences.

All Reservoir clubs and organizations have been invited to share what they “Believe” with one another by participating in the “We Believe” poster expression showcase.  Posters were prepared in January and will be laminated and hung on the first floor bulletin board.  No doubt each club’s members had some soul-searching conversations while preparing them.

The band’s drum line players, under the direction of David Bacon, were showcased during Gator Break on Feb. 1, beating out tunes familiar to us all.

The Reservoir media center joined in the Black History Month salute by highlighting novels and other texts authored by or written about blacks. By being displayed, students are further encouraged to celebrate the heritage of African Americans.

On Feb. 15 during Gator Break, the Reservoir step team, under the direction of Marinda Williams, shared a melodic stepping rhythm that echoes “Belief” in oneself.

Freshman Stephan Khangaa introduced the video “Lift Every Voice and Sing, The Balm in Gilead” to the students during Gator Break on Feb. 22. “Lift Every Voice and Sing,”reverently referred to as the black national anthem, was originally written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) in commemoration of President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12, 1900.

Elder Earl Owens, chair of education for the Council of Elders of the Black Community of Howard County, was the featured speaker on Feb. 24 in the school’s media center.  Owens shared information about African-American integration in Howard County.

Reservoir’s school-wide assembly on Feb. 28 showcases our diverse student body while sharing the message that you should believe in yourself–in who you are and your dreams.  There will be individual performances, along with participating student classes and organizations including Jazz Band, Best Buddies, dance, Los Gators Latinos, African dancers, and video monologues by Alpha Achievers, Student Government Association, Delta Scholars, and Black/African Leadership Union.

The school-wide assembly features parts of the play “House of Mirrors,” written by Jacquelyne Jenkins originally for the HCPSS Summer Institute and co-directed with Lezlie Hatcher. In the play, a young black man (performed by Marcus Campbell), who was often in trouble in school and who didn’t take advantage of support from his teachers and friends, has a dream that his invention will change many lives. Ms. Jensen (performed by Stephannie Joseph) yearns to learn more about the product, and Nicole (performed by Taylor “Drew” Henry) is supportive of the main character in every way.

Then in March, Reservoir Scholars and BSAP will offer all students an opportunity to meet and begin preliminary discussions about what was happening in history during John F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidency.  The discussions will lay the groundwork for viewing the movie “Hidden Figures” on April 21 in the school’s auditorium.  Charlene Allen, coordinator of leadership development, and Shannon Keeny, facilitator of cultural proficiency, will lead follow up discussions in March and April.

African–American seniors will enjoy a time to reflect and catch up during their senior activity “The Best is Yet to Come” in May.  Seniors will receive their heritage stoles from Elder Towanda Brown as she provides them with words of wisdom during the event and performs a semi-traditional African donning ceremony.

There’s always a piece of black history happening at the Swamp!

GatorsReservoir Principal Patrick Saunderson commends Lee’s work, saying “Ms. Harriet Beckham Lee is an integral member of the Reservoir community, serving as a wonderful resource for students, colleagues and families. She is known for her wisdom, grace, dedication, calm demeanor and positive outlook. The programs she has created have greatly impacted our school and become part of the fabric, the tradition and the rich culture that is Reservoir. Ms. Lee is truly a treasure!”

Lee’s guest blog is part of HCPSS’ participation in celebrating Black History Month, this February.

CRES wordle

Honoring Black History this Month and Year-round

Lezlie T. HatcherLezlie T. Hatcher has worked in the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) for nearly 10 years, currently with the Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP) at Cradlerock Elementary School. Previously Hatcher was a drama instructor with HCPSS’ summer program. Here she blogs about Cradlerock’s Black History Month activities and the importance of cultivating respect throughout the year.

My goal for Black History Month is to get students interested in history, and to learn about the contributions of so many African Americans in the past and present to form this nation. Oh yes, there’s excitement knocking on Cradlerock’s door this month!

Here at Cradlerock, we are hosting a school-wide weekly wax museum where teachers and students pose as prominent African-American figures. Some of our 3rd, 4th and 5th grade teachers are also collaborating to bring about Cradlerock’s first interactive museum to their classrooms. In doing so, more students are able to play an active part in learning about a chosen figure and sharing that information when a button is pushed in the museum.

Our younger students are having “Share-a-Moment” with me and perhaps a few volunteers from the community. This block of time includes short stories bursting with valuable lessons, historical events and a rich history told by African-American authors.

A few of Cradlerock’s 3rd graders are participating in HCPSS’ Unheard Perspectives: Black History Month Expo for the first time this year. The expo enables elementary students to spend extra time uncovering findings on an African-American innovator through the performance-based program.

Finally, this month we are hosting our annual “Taste and See” cultural food fest for those with adventurous taste buds.

The wise saying “It takes a village” holds true on more than just raising children. For a nation to be great, it takes sincere respect for all groups. That process starts in homes and in schools: the first two places children’s minds are shaped.

Like many other citizens, African Americans are doing awesome things every day. That means that while we celebrate during the month of February, black history happens 365 days a year and that makes it American history.

Hatcher’s guest blog is part of HCPSS’ participation in celebrating Black History Month, this February.

Jonathan Taylor with his Personal Finance Challenge team.

Academy of Finance Changed My Life

Jonathan Taylor (above right) is a senior at Long Reach High School while enrolled in the Academy of Finance. He plans to study finance and business in college. Here, Taylor blogs about his Academy of Finance experiences and their impact on his future goals.

It was my first day at the Academy of Finance. As soon as I walked in the room, I saw the stock ticker in the back. After finding a seat, I started talking to the students around me. Some went to Atholton, some to Marriotts Ridge, but for this class we were all in the same room learning about topics that interested us.

We kicked off the year by talking about the Dow’s recent downturn and the S&P 500. I was somewhat confused, to say the least, but it didn’t matter. This was going to be a great class. About a month into the class, we started learning about financial literacy. I had learned quite a bit about financial literacy at home, and I half-expected to be covering things I already knew. What I didn’t expect was for us to be participating in a 3-month personal finance simulation.

Through the simulation, everyone had the same income, job and set of vendor options, but could choose which options to select. I had several different choices for my bank, credit card, cable television, cell phone, auto loan and even renter’s insurance. The goal was to pick the best options, so I could save as much money as possible. I had my fair share of mistakes and errors, but learned a lot not only about budgeting but about myself as a consumer. Most importantly though, the simulation felt real, like something I could apply to my own life.

Throughout my time at the academy, I’ve had similar experiences with economics, accounting, international business and even entrepreneurship. But perhaps the most significant experience for me was participating in the Personal Finance Challenge. After learning about the opportunity, I hit the books reading through all the financial literacy topics we had covered in class. Additionally, my team had the chance to study with John Hauserman, a certified financial planner that my Academy of Finance teacher connected us with. We learned about tax returns, annuities, retirement planning and estate planning, all with John Hauserman.

A few months later it was time for the state-level competition. After three rounds of testing and a quiz bowl, my team emerged as first in the state. Before I could register what was going on, we were being congratulated and told we’d represent Maryland at nationals in Kansas City in May. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, it was May, and I was flying out with my team for nationals. I felt prepared but also extremely nervous.

After the first round at nationals, I looked at the team leaderboard to see how we did. We didn’t even place. “Is there even a chance to win now?” I thought to myself. We had to place second overall to qualify for the quiz bowl and have a shot at victory. Two more rounds of testing later, and I looked at the leaderboard, nervous and excited. We had qualified for the quiz bowl.

During the quiz bowl, we faced off against the first place team as we were asked 30 questions about regulations, investing, financial calculations and other financial topics. Our teams were neck and neck the entire time; there didn’t seem to be a clear winning team. Finally, it was the final question. We were up a point. We buzzed in but got the question wrong. Then the other team buzzed in and got the question wrong, too. I looked at my team and made the realization: we just won the National Personal Finance Challenge. My team’s preparation through the Academy of Finance had paid off.

Apart from providing me with valuable, memorable experiences, the Academy of Finance has made a huge impact on my future goals and plans. Before the academy, I knew I liked working with math and money, but it was only through the Academy of Finance that I got to try finance out and confirm it was right for me.

With everything I have done in the academy, I feel prepared and confident for the real world, and look forward to studying finance and business more in college. The Academy of Finance has changed my life, and I believe it can do the same for anyone else who takes advantage of the opportunity.

The Academy of Finance is one career academy in HCPSS’ Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. Taylor’s guest blog is part of HCPSS’ participation in celebrating CTE Month®, this February.

Mia Mcllwain, 6th grade African American History Seminar Student

The Entrepreneurial Spirit of the Harlem Renaissance to Contemporary Times

Marcus Nicks

Marcus Nicks serves as the achievement liaison for the Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP) at Patuxent Valley Middle School. He is the program director and founder of the school’s Students of Success leadership group as well as a co-teacher for Patuxent Valley‘s African-American History Seminar. Here Nicks writes about his school’s efforts to encourage entrepreneurship during Black History Month this year.

Black entrepreneurship has always been the spirit of the African-American experience especially during the legendary time period of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s to the 1940s. The work ethic and determination through cultural expression and social change during this time period in American history serves as a model of extraordinary inspiration. At Patuxent Valley Middle School, we expose students to entrepreneurship opportunities and engage them in conversations on what makes entrepreneurship powerful. For Black History Month this year, our school will provide month-long experiences encouraging entrepreneurship while making the historical connection to the Harlem Renaissance time period.

The month of February will begin with a Black History Month kick-start celebration for students during their lunchtime. Students will be able to enjoy the smooth melodic music of the Harlem Renaissance while viewing a slideshow of influential African-American entrepreneurial pioneers. Over the course of the month, our students will start each day learning about significant achievements of African Americans in our “Who Am I” morning news segment. Parents can get involved by showing their appreciation for the staff by serving food at our Soul Food potluck feast during lunchtime.

When it comes to entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial spirit, Howard County has much to offer its students. This will be the central focus of our Patuxent Valley Middle School Community-wide Black History Celebration, which is scheduled to take place on Friday, Feb. 24, from 6-8 p.m. This event will conclude the school’s Black History Month festivities. This will be an evening with a packed itinerary including student performances that pay tribute to the Harlem Renaissance, and a fashion show with local fashion designers and modeling agencies. There will be a gallery with local, black-owned businesses where people can network and make purchases. Author, speaker, educator and historian Dr. Deborah Newman Ham will serve as a featured speaker for the night, and we will conclude the celebration with a panel of prominent entrepreneurs from Howard County discussing the importance of entrepreneurship in contemporary times.

As a representative of BSAP, I take pride in being able to use my role here at Patuxent Valley Middle School as a platform to lead the way in representing the African-American experience in an uplifting and empowering way. All people regardless of race, ethnicity or color have been impacted and influenced by the illustrious accomplishments that African Americans have made through their undying entrepreneurial spirit. Awareness of the victories obtained throughout the African-American historical journey can instill pride, confidence and help to foster racial sensitivity. I appreciate the opportunity to work with school principal Rick Robb and African-American History Seminar co-teacher Monica Bickerton, along with the rest of our staff, because we all share the vision of embracing the rich history of African Americans of the past to give our students inspiration for the future.

Nicks’ guest blog is part of HCPSS’ participation in celebrating Black History Month, this February.

Picture of Esther Lawson-John

Amplifying Student Voice for Excellence with Equity

Picture of John KrownappleJohn Krownapple, the coordinator for Cultural Proficiency, first joined the HCPSS community as an Oakland Mills High School student. He has worked in the HCPSS for 20 years, previously in roles including an elementary teacher, Social Studies/English Language Arts resource teacher and professional development facilitator. In his current role, he coordinates systemwide efforts to support schools working toward excellence with equity through professional learning and organizational development. Here Krownapple blogs about partnering with students in the process to ensure inclusion and equity.

In the below video, recent graduate Esther Lawson-John advocates for educators to tap into the power of Student Voice as a means of improving schools for all students. If you are new to the concept of Student Voice, you might be wondering: What exactly is it? How does it work? What are its benefits? If you’re familiar with the concept, you might be asking: How can we amplify Student Voice in ways that help us work together to shape inclusive, equitable and democratic communities, schools and classrooms? Let’s explore these questions.

Over the past few years, Student Voice has emerged as a popular term in conversations about excellence in education. A quick Google search will show school districts around the world heralding Student Voice as a pillar of school reform. However, it is not a new concept. As far back as 1916, educational reformer John Dewey wrote about Student Voice as a necessary part of the educational process in a democracy.

It’s helpful to think about “voice” as expression. Educators, parents and adults can’t “give” students a voice; students already have a voice. The question is: Are we listening? Or do we tacitly believe some variation of the old dictum that “children (or in this case, students) should be seen and not heard”?

To join the movement to amplify Student Voice, we can adjust our thinking and realize that students have something valuable to say, and that by sharing their experiences, these young adults-in-training can help us become more effective educators. As adults, we can use our power to issue invitations and listen. In these ways, we can “turn up the volume.” We can choose to amplify Student Voice. We can choose to listen and learn.

Now, let’s consider “voice” metaphorically. If voice is power, then Student Voice represents educators and students sharing power. It represents student choice and involvement in decisions that affect their experience within the classroom. It represents democracy in our schools. It represents the choice of teachers and administrators to lead with students.

Research over the past decade has clearly linked Student Voice to academic motivation and achievement. Students who believe they have a voice in school are seven times more likely to be motivated to learn than students who do not believe they have a voice, according to the 2016 School Voice Report developed by the Quaglia Institute for School Voice and Aspirations (QISA). QISA research also suggests that students who feel they have voice are more likely to experience self-worth, engagement and purpose.

In June, the HCPSS held a two-day Cultural Proficiency professional learning conference with the theme “Student Voice: An Instrument for Inclusion and Equity.” The event featured keynote presentations and breakout sessions that highlighted promising practices across the district and facilitated discussions about how to turn up the volume when it comes to Student Voice.

During many sessions, students led professional learning alongside their teachers. Lawson-John co-led a keynote presentation with HCPSS Leadership Development Coordinator Charlene Allen. Both educators and students in attendance responded enthusiastically to Lawson-John’s presentation. “Give that student a TED Talk,” tweeted one audience member.

It may be possible for us, adults to use our power to give her a TED Talk or a similar platform, but nobody can give Lawson-John a voice. She already has one. And what an incredibly powerful voice it is, especially when amplified.

Additional Diversity and Inclusion Resources:

Student on a computer completing coding task

Coding is for Everyone

PIcture of Kristina John-Gabriel Kristina John-Gabriel began teaching in HCPSS in 2000, becoming an instructional technology teacher in 2012. She recently received her Master of Education with a STEM focus, which has led to an increased interest in using computer programming (coding) with students in a variety of ways.


PIcture of Shari Beth Dardick LorchShari Beth Dardick Lorch, MS, OTR/L, began her career in occupational therapy in 1992 and joined the staff of HCPSS in 2006. Previously she was on staff with local hospitals, school systems, nursing homes and with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. She holds multiple degrees in occupational therapy and a certificate in educational leadership.

Here, John-Gabriel and Lorch blog about how teaching coding skills can support special needs students.

The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) prioritizes college and career readiness for all students. Computer programming (coding) has been on the minds of many students and staff. There are advertisements online and local fliers offering opportunities for youngsters to partake in after-school and weekend classes to access these valuable skills.

At Running Brook Elementary School, a few of our staff were very excited about the Hour of Code and began to question how this could apply to our special needs population. We noted that a particular second grade student on the autism spectrum demonstrated accelerated skill in the area of technology. This student is nonverbal and has at times exhibited severe behavioral issues, which have required special education team support. Our team felt that with some modifications and IEP support we could create a coding program for him, which we could tie into his current classroom goals and objectives.

Early in the fall of the 2015-16 school year, team members led by our instructional technology teacher, Kristina John-Gabriel, began working with this 2nd grade student daily to determine how to best provide coding instruction. Code in essence became a life skill the student was learning and a way to meet his IEP goals. With no prior curriculum outside of Hour of Code, we also found there was leeway in regard to supports and programs that could be utilized and accessed for him. We could create and adapt our curriculum to his skill level. At this time John-Gabriel also attended a workshop to obtain further support.

John-Gabriel saw the student daily for 15 minutes each afternoon. Our team met continually, which included our occupational therapist, Shari Lorch. Lorch provided continued support to the student throughout the year providing specific modifications to our blossoming curriculum. During this time she also initiated the development of a pre-coding skills checklist tool to be used by occupational therapists to help support the identification of student needs and skill levels.

Curricularly, our team opted to start this journey by having our student play the board game Robot Turtles as a pre-coding tool. Using physical game pieces to create a block of code helped us to determine if our student understood basic commands needed to code at a higher, more abstract and virtual level.

Once this task was accomplished, John-Gabriel found that our student was able to start learning to use block code, which is similar to placing puzzle pieces that fit together but on a computer screen. Based on his ability and engagement here, our team then opted to try the computer program ScratchJr with this student. We noted that our student showed ability to sequence and troubleshoot, again supporting his IEP goals and objectives. Our focus was also increased attention and time on task, which was slower than what may be typical but we found was still successful.

We then moved on to the more difficult Scratch program. The Scratch program requires the transition from placing symbols together to create code (cause and effect) to placing words together to create code. Our team was not sure if our student would be able to make these advanced and more abstract connections, but our student persevered and surpassed this!

During the 2016-17 school year, we plan to work with our student to continue to promote and enhance his skill ability, including creating his own game. We also want him to continue to recognize and troubleshoot issues with his coding independently. We hope and plan to expand this program this year with other students who exhibit similar pre-coding skill abilities as determined by our team.

Through this endeavor, much was learned by the student and by our team. A relationship of trust and respect was built, which branched out into classroom learning. We are extremely proud of our student and our developing program. We are happy to share information on this up-and-coming area, which we are certain will lend itself to continued student success, hope and engagement.

Picture of Kory Williams with family, and HCPSS and McDaniel staff at T4T signing.

What T4T Means to Me and My Family

Picture of Kory WillamsKory Williams, a 2016 graduate of Reservoir High School, is part of the first cohort of Teachers for Tomorrow (T4T) scholarship winners. While at Reservoir, Williams was a champion sprinter and hurdler, and taught sports fundamentals to youth through the Howard County Recreation and Parks department. Here he blogs about why T4T is such an incredible opportunity for him and his family.

In March, 10 students and I signed our contracts completing the process of obtaining our T4T scholarships. This scholarship was a great opportunity for me to help not only kids in the future obtain knowledge in the class but also my mom. How does it help my mom? It helps by relieving the financial burden of her having to single-handedly put another one of her children through
college. That is not the only reason I wanted to receive this scholarship though. Another big reason was in the 12 years I was in school, I never had one African-American male teacher in the classroom with me. I have had African-American males in the school that helped to mentor me but never had one in the classroom, and I wish to change that.

What I’m excited about with this scholarship is being able to receive a free education with a guaranteed job when I leave school. The bigger reason is to be able to follow my passion of teaching others and helping them increase their knowledge. Throughout high school I helped tutor my sister and cousins, and I loved helping them improve their grades in a variety of subjects. While tutoring them, I wanted to do it more and more each time, and this scholarship gives me the opportunity to do so.

Why McDaniel? Other than receiving the scholarship, McDaniel is close to home and with my brother and me both at school, it’s only my mom and my sisters left back home. So with me being close, I can come back home whenever my mom or sisters need me. Also McDaniel is a small private school. With it being small, I can focus on my books and classes more, and with it being private, it means that it is prestigious. Finally McDaniel’s teaching and science programs are well known and with a biology major and education minor, it helps with receiving my degree.