Tuesday, September 30, 2014

BCS is a National Blue Ribbon School!

By Wanny Hersey

Superintendent/Principal at Bullis Charter School

I am excited to announce that this morning, the U.S Department of Education designated Bullis Charter School a National Blue Ribbon School for the 2013-2014 school year.

For over 30 years, the NBRS Program has been recognizing exemplary schools from across the country in an ongoing effort to illuminate best practices in education. This year, BCS will be one of just 287 public schools throughout the country to receive this very prestigious award, and the only K-8 program in Los Altos to do so.

We greatly appreciate your support of our programs over the last 10 years.  I hope you will join me in celebrating our school and the wonderful community of students, teachers, staff and parents that have helped make BCS a shining example of all that is possible in public education. 

You can view US Secretary of State Arne Duncan's announcement here:

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ms. Stone's Work on LearnZillion's "Dream Team"

Our 7th Grade ELA/History teacher Lisa Stone was featured this week in the Los Altos Town Crier for her work over the summer as one of 200 teachers on LearnZillion’s “Dream Team” - a start-up designed to provide high quality Common Core resources to teachers and students across the country.  

Keep up the great work, Ms. Stone!

BCS teacher works with online lesson plan resource

Photos Courtesy of Bullis Charter School 
Bullis Charter School seventh-grade teacher Lisa Stone, right, worked on LearnZillion’s Dream Team this summer to develop online Common Core-aligned lesson plans, left. 
Bullis Charter School has a new tool in its arsenal this year as it tackles the implementation of Common Core curriculum standards.
Seventh-grade teacher Lisa Stone was one of 200 chosen from among 4,000 applicants for the “Dream Team” assembled by the educational startup LearnZillion. Stone and the other members of the Dream Team worked to create online lesson plans for teachers that are Common Core-aligned.
LearnZillion, an online resource for teachers, offers a growing set of math and English resources for grades 2-12, developed by experienced teachers and connected directly with Common Core State Standards.
Stone spent the summer collaborating with four other teachers and a coach to dissect a Close Reading lesson for seventh-graders.
Her team was given a text selection and tasked with creating a five-day lesson plan around the text that would meet Common Core standards.
“Common Core now says that you need to put text in front of students that is really too hard for them to understand,” she said.
The final product instructs teachers on how to examine a piece of literature, identify what is complex about it and explain what to focus on with the students – step-by-step and at a determined pace.
The resource is valuable for teachers because it not only provides them with the lesson, but also offers real-time professional development, Stone said.
“It really teaches how to engage in metacognition,” she said. “It models for teachers how to teach these types of habits of mind.”
The lesson plans include instructional videos that teachers can use in the classroom or as part of their lesson preparation. The videos for each lesson are free and available to teachers, students and parents.
LearnZillion’s premium service provides details on how to build a unit around the Common Core concept. The end product of The Dream Team’s work is a textbooklike resource for schools and their districts that addresses the requirements of Common Core.
Common Core spells out the benchmarks and concepts that students need to learn, but leaves how to get there up to teachers. That’s where LearnZillion steps in.
“The focus of LearnZillion is on the metacognition – what are the building blocks you need to build up to the requirements of Common Core,” Stone said.
Because Stone served on LearnZillion’s Dream Team of teachers over the summer, Bullis Charter School benefits from the website’s premium service – equipping teachers with many different Common Core lessons to select and implement this school year.
“I think it is part of my job to help teachers become the best they can be,” she said. “Part of the reason why I chose to do this was because I need to go outside of my school and scale my impact.”
For more information, visit LearnZillion.com.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

New Teacher Spotlight - Emily Drew-Moyer, 4th Grade Teacher

Who or what inspired you to become a teacher?

Being a teacher is always something I was drawn to, even when I was a young child.  When I was seven years old, I remember my dad bringing home two wooden desks that came from a one-room schoolhouse nearby.  I used to set them up in the our backyard and made my younger sisters - who were only two and three years old at the time - act as my students.

I grew up in a small town, and when I left for college, everyone assumed that I was going to be a teacher!  Looking back, they were right, but at the time, it made me want to pursue something completely different.  My mom strongly encouraged me to take an education class my freshman year, which I did.  The course involved helping out in a first grade classroom, and from the first day I knew that this is what I wanted to do.  I was hooked!

What do you like most about being a teacher?

Helping students interact positively with one another is my favorite part of teaching. I believe the content we are teaching is extremely important, but helping students become confident, kind, independent learners and thinkers is the most rewarding for me. Watching students solve problems with each other and helping them to cooperate and teach each other is what makes me want to come to work every day.

How do you like to establish rapport with your students?

I like to establish rapport with students by having very clear expectations for how we treat each other in class. I have a Morning Meeting every morning, where students have time to greet one another, to listen to each other share things that are important, and to complete some kind of team building activity. I think this establishes safety and trust in the classroom and allows students to take risks and really be themselves.

When away from school, what interests and hobbies do you enjoy?

Away from school, I spend a lot of time with my dog. I like to take him to the park or on hikes. I also love going to the movies, reading books, and practicing yoga.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Houses and Kindergarten Buddies!

Tomorrow, students will have their first House meeting of the year!  

Houses are an opportunity for all of our students and staff to build community together and participate in fun activities like door decorating, relay races, and chalk murals.  All of our K-5 students are in mixed groups, so they have a chance to interact with other students and staff that they do not normally get to see during the school day.  

In preparation for tomorrow’s event, our fifth graders recently met their kindergarten buddies - you can tell from these photos just how excited they all were!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How Focused Learning Goals Lead to an Alcatraz Swim

Seventh grade student Joe Gallagher is featured this week in the Los Altos Town Crier for his impressive swim from Alcatraz to the San Francisco shore - a tremendous achievement that began with a Focused Learning Goal in fourth grade at BCS.  

Every year, each student at BCS develops Focused Learning Goals (FLGs) in the core subject areas, a social/emotional/behavioral goal, and a passion goal.  Last spring, the Distinguished School Site Validation Team observed this signature practice, and were struck by “the amount of student reflection and ownership or learning in each grade level.”

For Joe, he set his passion goal in swimming and water polo for the last several years, providing him practice in goal setting and perseverance.  The ambitious one and a half mile open water swim that Joe completed in the bay - with no wet suit! - aligns with our mission to help students reach their full potential.  

Please join us in congratulating Joe on this wonderful accomplishment!


No suit, no sweat

Courtesy of the Gallagher Family 
Joe Gallagher – a 12-year-old from Los Altos Hills – swims from near Alcatraz Island to the San Francisco shore. His uncle, Joe Locke, an accomplished open-water swimmer, accompanied him.
For his recent swim from just off Alcatraz Island to the San Francisco shore, Joe Gallagher had little choice but to brave the chilly bay wearing only a Speedo, goggles and a swim cap.
“I don’t have a wetsuit,” the 12-year-old said.
Before it was over, Gallagher didn’t have a swim cap, either – it was lost at sea – but that didn’t stop him from completing the nearly 1.5-mile swim in 60-degree water. The Los Altos Hills resident and his uncle, Joe Locke, managed to reach the beach at Aquatic Park in 45 minutes.
“It’s always really cold,” Gallagher said of the San Francisco Bay. “I was numb for a couple of seconds, then I was better.”
This wasn’t the seventh-grader’s first foray into the bay. Inspired by his uncle – an accomplished open-water swimmer – Gallagher began swimming at Aquatic Park in fourth grade.
The first time out, he swam for 30 minutes in 55-degree water, according to his mom, Anne Marie Gallagher.
Gallagher completed a longer swim at Aquatic Park the next year and by the end of sixth grade set his sights on Alcatraz.
“That was my goal,” he said.
Gallagher prepared for a month, mostly in the pool at Fremont Hills Country Club. The Bullis Charter School student estimated that he swam 40-45 laps every day by himself.
Five days before heading to Alcatraz, Gallagher journeyed to Aquatic Park with his uncle for a test swim.
“I did a training swim that was about the same distance (as departing from Alcatraz),” he said. “That helped me.”
Then on the morning of Aug. 16, the pair returned to San Francisco for the real deal.
Riding in a small vessel with room only for his parents, Anne Marie and Fred, and the boat captain, Gallagher and Locke slipped into the bay just a few hundred feet from Alcatraz at 6:15 a.m.
The swim started smoothly, according to Gallagher, but then they hit rough waters.
“Near the middle, the current got really strong,” he said.
So strong that the boat captain – who followed them closely – grew concerned for their safety.
“I sort of got swept away, and the boat captain thought we weren’t going to make it,” Gallagher said. “Then my uncle went to the left and I followed, and we were OK.”
At least they didn’t have to contend with sharks – Gallagher said the only sea life they encountered were seals.
When the duo touched shore at 7 a.m., Anne Marie said her son had “a huge grin on his face.” Gallagher didn’t have the energy for a celebration, however.
“It was really early – we were up at 4:30 a.m. – so we didn’t really celebrate,” he said.
There’s always next time. Gallagher, a former competitive swimmer who switched to water polo a year ago, said he is contemplating doing other ocean swims.
“I’ll probably do more,” he said. “But as of now, I haven’t decided.”
If Gallagher does, it’s a good bet his uncle will be swimming alongside him.
Gallagher probably couldn’t have found a better partner for the Alcatraz swim than Locke. The 45-year-old swam the English Channel three years ago and the Catalina Channel in 2009.
Last month, the Mill Valley resident became only the second person to swim from the Farallon Islands to the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge – and he did it in record time. Locke completed the approximately 30-mile swim in 14 hours. The water temperature dipped close to 53 degrees and he didn’t wear a wetsuit.
“His toughness and perseverance inspire us all,” Anne Marie said of her brother.
As the wetsuit-free swim from Alcatraz proves, Locke’s nephew is showing some of the same attributes.