Learn more about Marsha Theus (Behavior Support Specialist) and all she does to support students and teachers at Caliber: ChangeMakers Academy!
A recent interview with Marsha Theus:
Tell me more about how you support students and teachers?
“My role is very complex. I do a lot! One of the things we work on is the COLLAB group. We talk about the students with the highest level of need, behavior, emotional, and developmental. With the leadership team we discuss how we can support them through group behavioral therapy (serves grades TK-8. In addition, I support those with emotional needs, all ranging from different manifestations by providing individual therapy. I utilize counseling techniques to understand if these patterns are being seen at home or if there are underlying causes as to why behaviors are showing up . I create plans to reinforce students as well as deliver consequences when mistakes are made. We repair the harm in a way that is not punitive, only restorative and doesn’t rob the child of their voice. I also support teachers and other staff with high need students. I coach teachers about systems to implement to help support their students. I want to give a special shout out to our entire SPED team for helping move this work and making sure that things are happening with all kids and being advocates for them.”
Tell me about the restorative project you had a student do?
“The student got caught doing something that they weren’t supposed to in the restroom and did this because he had been influenced by older students and was seeking social capital. To fit in one way or another. The big thing about it is that he lied about it. He had an impact on a lot of staff members that he works with. He is a student that needed something meaningful and long to understand the impact he had both in his life and people he works with very closely. There were 3 parts to the restorative project. One was writing an essay about what he did, another was creating a powerpoint to present to his class and younger grade levels.”
What is the work involved in repairing the issue?
“It looks different for every child! A lot of the kids that I work with have experienced trauma or have a disability. I try to understand and appreciate that background, but also hold them accountable. For the student I worked with it looked like a lot of conversations constantly. It’s not a linear process. Often times, this work is something we have to go back to.”
How does this impact the community?
“I think knowing that the same standards and expectations are held for all students. It is a frequent topic that our leadership team talks about, which is that all things be fair. It's important for students to see, but for staff to know that everyone is being held accountable. We want the harm to be repaired, no matter the magnitude of people affected by it.”
Learn more about how parents, families and staff came together for an event that truly represents what community is!
A recent interview with Vivian Johnson (Founding Elementary School Clinician & Social Emotional Learning Lead) Tell me more about what inspired the resource fair at CMA?
“ I view CMA as my community and my colleagues as chosen family members. My viewpoint coupled with my passion to help people become the best version of themselves, led me to complete an assessment. I assessed what could better in my community, improve my work-family, and help others along the path of self-empowerment. By triangulating the school, community, and families, with bringing together resources; this could only strengthen and develop our community, contribute to improving student performance, bring awareness to mental health resources, all while continuing to validate and affirm our students and families. Additionally, it is also imperative that we recognize that during the midst of a trial, it can often be difficult to locate the resources that are needed in order to overcome the challenge. Therefore, I want to make it my best practice to bring resources to our families while continuing to outsource. Thus, the fair was born and this is the foundation of a phenomenal trend.”
Why was the fair important for the community?
“ A community should serve as a viable resource to meet the needs of its children, youth, and families. The importance of the fair is that it provided a framework for developing and identifying services, solutions, and the foundation for a school-based community that supports and nurtures children and families as it should. A resource fair is essential in every community. Everyday, CMA Staff and Teachers strive to teach, support and meet the needs of every student on campus. A community resource is a great practice that aligns with our daily goals and actions.”
What is something memorable that happened?
“ The Community Resource event was paired with CMA’s Family Reading Night. It was such a beautiful sight to see our parents, families and teachers/staff coming together in order to consistently commit to our students learning and school experience. This night was not only a memorable night, but it was a true testament to the commitment that all of our CMA Staff / Teachers have for the Vallejo Community. The unity that was observed that night, was the true definition of what community means.”
CMA would like to express so much gratitude to the following vendors:
Learn why the 8th graders at CMA visited a courthouse and got to participate in a mock trial!
A recent interview with Ms. Williams (8th Grade ELA Teacher):
Tell me more about the books your students are reading in class?
Ms. Williams: “We are reading the playwright 12 Angry Men by Reginald Rose and a lot of the focus is on writing. They really like it because we divided the parts for the 12 jurors and they get to read and act as if they were these characters. We have a narrator and a guard and they all get to act out the parts. We read out loud and do a bit of pre reading. We did act 1 and it's really cool to see it in action!”
Why is this important for students to read about and experience?
Ms. Williams: “ Well, 12 Angry Men represents 1957 and some racist ideas that people had back during that time period. We also just finished reading How To Kill a Mockingbird - there was no justice in that book. This current book shows some things that students face today-like being stereotyped, so they get to see a different side and get to analyze the actions of the characters. They are learning a lot! We are visiting a courthouse because that’s the setting of the book, so I want them to be able to visualize the book and make a connection. They will walk through a courtroom in Fairfield and see the Jury room. The judge that cleared his schedule for us is going to do a mock trial with the 8th graders!”
What do you want your students to get out of this lesson?
Ms. Williams: “ The real world connection is that we live in a society where racism is covert. I want them to know that there are people who are good and who will stand for what is right and the book shows that.”
Has anything surprised you?
Ms. Williams: “ Yes! Before I assigned the jurors, they were already picking out who they wanted to be. Even students who are usually super shy and don’t want to read out loud were really excited to participate. I LOVE IT! I am shocked at how well they are scoring on our exit tickets, quizzes, etc. I don't know if it’s the book, I don’t know, but they don’t have the holiday blues and have been scoring really well. They are really working hard.”
Learn all about how Mr. Binz incorporated cultural art into a digital media research project!
A recent interview with Thomas Binz (3-5 Computer Science Teacher) & a 5th grade student:
Tell me more about the research projects students have been working on?
Mr. Binz: “It is a unit based on quality digital presentations and digital research. They started looking at what aspects made digital presentations easy to understand and appealing for people to want to explore more. Then they synthesized what they wanted to include. Everything from fonts and how easy they are to read to the color of the text, etc. We learned that we don’t want to overwhelm our audience with every word that spins on the screen. Then we started talking about when they would need to use digital research and they came up with things like applying to colleges, where they want to go on vacation or a science experiment. The students realized they would be doing this forever. The topics are different for each grade level. This year I wanted to focus on cultural art. 3rd grade is focusing on Buddhist Sand Mandalas, 4th grade is doing Islamic Mosaics and 5th did African Adinkra’s. These are all cultural realia that students are accessing and understanding through digital research. They learned what sources they can trust and identify as factual. Another part of the unit was digital responsibility!”
Why is this important for students to learn?
Mr. Binz: “It's Important because they will need to engage in digital research for the rest of their lives- this will help them to and through college. This is a skill that will help them be competitive in the future. I also think that it’s important to incorporate cultural art into their education."
Has anything surprised you?
Mr. Binz: “How much they love it! Their enthusiasm, joy, eagerness, they have embraced this unit with open arms. Their presentations have blown me away. I couldn’t produce a digital presentation on this level until I was in 10th grade and they are doing it now."
What did you learn about doing research?
Erik Rodriguez: “I learned that we had to be serious about our articles. Some articles are too advanced or go off topic and we learned to choose the best ones for our presentations. We also learned skills that made sure our presentations were easy to understand by viewers. Things like font size and colors matter!
How do you feel about making a digital presentation?
Erik Rodriguez: “I think it's fun work because I have really liked putting it together and I'm even more excited showing people what it will look like when I'm done.”
How do you feel about making the art work related to you research?
Erik Rodriguez:” I’m not super artsy and I’m excited to see how it turns out- It will be cool to look at something I made instead of only seeing these in a book.
How do you know if a source is reliable for research?
Erik Rodriguez: “That it stays on topic, and that it’s not too easy to take things from. We have to shorten what we see online to use for our presentations. Sources that have .com,.org, or edu are reliable sources. Information sources like youtube aren’t reliable!”
A recent interview with Ms. Evangeline Carrillo and two 2nd grade students:
Tell me more about student led circles?
Evangeline: “What this means is that the students are running the morning greeting, temperature check and going over the rights and responsibilities. These are all things we go over during our morning circle, except they get to do plan for it and execute it!"
Why is this important for students to learn?
Evangeline: “It is very important because it builds confidence and gives the kids opportunities for them to be listened to by their peers. It gives them a voice really!"
What has surprised you?
Evangeline: “The confidence they bring! I thought a few of them wouldn’t want to volunteer or feel like this was something they had to do. I thought it was going to be hard for them to plan out the entire thing, especially when it came to scaffolding the activity, but they did it very well! Every student followed directions."
Why is it important to empower students to lead circles?
Evangeline: “It is very important because students learn better when it is being led by peers. All the goals are concrete if they see their peers doing it. It shows them that they can do it too. The way they demonstrate it is at their own level. If they are the ones teaching about the tools from toolbox, it registers more for them because they see a peer performing it!”
What do you enjoy about leading circles?
Alexia: "I enjoy it because we get to do activities and we get to read books. It is really fun because I get to ask my class tricky questions that I come up with."
Kennedy:" I enjoy being a leader! I get to be the teacher and ask questions."
Why is it important to lead your own learning?
Kennedy: "It is important because you get to think about the things you want to learn.”
Alexia: “ It is important because I get to pick what learning skill I want to focus on before I teach the lesson to the rest of the class. I want to be a teacher when I grow up, so this is fun.”
Read all about Dia de Los Muertos @Beta Lower School!
Aiko Gonzalez, 5th grade Instructional Aide, Art teacher and general Jack of all Trades, created an amazing unit on Dia de los Muertos in which Beta’s 5th grade students learned about the history of the celebration, created ofrendas, sugar skulls and ended with a celebration with Chocolate and Pan Dulce. This multifaceted unit was an opportunity for students to leave and share about their own and their classmates identities and culture. Check out what Ms. Gonzales and some of her students had to say about the unit.
A recent interview with Ms. Gonzalez and three 5th grade students:
(Denisse Navaro, Ca’Mya and Ca’Mariya Bridges)
What was your goal for Dia de Los Muertos?
Aiko Gonzalez: “The original goal was to share the cultural importance of Dia de los Muertos. We had two weeks where I introduced the theme and explored the unit. We played the intro of Coco, talked about what they celebrated in the film and from there I had to gage what they knew or didn't know about this celebration. Being Latinx and sharing this part of my culture was important. We learned about why we have ofrendas and explored this theme. I wanted to make broader connections that not only focused on Latinx culture, so we mapped out different countries that have similar practices. They learned about key things put in the altar like pan de muerto, water, salts, and the marigold flower. A lot of kids made connections with colonization and how some practices merged and spread throughout different countries. It was really cool to hear how they connected this.”
Did anything surprise you?
Aiko Gonzalez: “Initially, I had some students not be too excited about learning this since it didn't pertain to their cultural background. We had not given each other time to honor and learn about each others differences. When this came up on our preview day, we did a circle and talked about cultural differences and engaged with each other. Once I pulled this circle, I made sure that all students understood that you didn’t need to identify as Latinx or speak Spanish to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos. One we had this talk, there was a huge positive shift!”
What was your favorite moment during the event?
Aiko Gonzalez: “I think it was decorating the sugar skulls! I got to see them get very creative and talked about the traditional ways of decorating the skull. It was really interesting to see their own designs and them not eating it- this was a win..they really wanted to eat it. I will also say that it was beautiful to see everyone in the community come together. Parents, teachers, students all came together to make this happen.”
What did you learn about Dia de Los Muertos?
Denisse: “I learned that for dia de los muertos a lot of people draw skulls on their faces and set up altars for their loved ones that passed away. They also make pan de muerto and place this on the altar.
Ca’Mariya: “I learned that they make sweet bread called pan de muerto that is used for the altars."
Ca’Mya: “I learned that it’s about honoring the people who have died. You get to make an altar where you can place things that they liked when they were alive.”
How did it make you feel to learn about this tradition?
Denisse: “ I celebrated it and made me feel excited that we got to share something that we have done in my culture for generations.”
Ca’Mya: “Now I know more about a different culture! They use the orange flowers for their dead and it’s really cool to see many things in the altar.
Ca’Mariya: “ I feel a little more educated on a culture I had not known about before. I’m really glad Ms. Gonzalez taught us about it!”
What did you like about it?
Denisse: “ I liked that we had a lot of activities for dia de los muertos. We made an altar and placed many things on it. I had a lot of fun remembering my grandfather that passed away 3 years ago. It was also really cool that other kids got to learn about a tradition that pertains to my culture. We didn’t get to do this in my other school.”
Ca’Mariya: “ The food! We had a lot of hot chocolate and sweet bread.”
Learn more about Ms. K and Ms. Crump and what they enjoy about being content leads!
About Ms. Keaton and Ms. Crump:
Our content leads are an incredible new part of our upper school! They have a super tough job: they are not only in the classroom but they take on a huge responsibility of going the extra mile in building the capacity of their team through observation + feedback and leading our weekly PLCs. They serve as exemplars of self reflection and humility and I appreciate their desire to learn more each and every day! Y'all rock my socks and our team appreciates the work you do!
A recent interview with Ms.K and Ms. Crump:
Tell me more about your role as a content lead?
Nychaela: “I really enjoy it! I stepped up and feel like when I first started I was nervous. When I interviewed for it, I didn’t realize these were things I was already doing. Instead of answering the question, I was giving examples of this role — that were already in place. We meet, talk about out curriculum, process of building Caliber’s own kidfit curriculum. I led a session during Summer PD— the coaches at Beta and CMA were pumped about developing our own curriculum. It’s fun. We meet, we do inventory, we learn from each other. We elevate each other a lot! We all get to step up and use our experiences to grow and help each other. We always strive to do better for our classes and team.”
Lawren: “As content lead I participate in collaboration with the humanities teachers (English and history). I enjoy this role because our team is doing such great things in the classroom. It is cool to talk through best practices or strategies with one another because we are not alone in the classroom so it’s good to have the space to do that. I relish this role!"
What is your favorite thing about this role?
Nychaela: “That I can use my prior knowledge to help my team. It’s a role that I can speak from daily experience and we are all going through experiences together. My position is real, I don’t just suggest ways that work for me, we bounce ideas off each other.”
Lawren: “The professional development piece. I get to learn through my own experiences while facilitating the development of our humanities team. But the best part is that I learn from my colleagues practice and use some of the great things I get to see in their classroom!"
What’s your favorite thing about your team?
Nychaela: “We are funny! The team is open and honest and real. We are on the same page about a lot of things and we see wrong when wrong is present and celebrate right when we see it.I love that we don’t overshadow each other.”
Lawren: “ I love how open-minded we are to one another's ideas and the effort we put forth to be on the same page. Our team is strong in so many ways. We share a common goal for our students to grow as scholars and as individuals."
What’s a goal that you’re currently working on?!
Nychaela: “I really want to push my team to showcase what they do in their classes because their classes look beautiful.”
Lawren: “Collaborating on how we want to develop writing across grade levels. We want our students to be strong writers once they go off to become 9th graders. And also student growth. We want our students to achieve growth and be able to celebrate their wins.”
ILearn more about how they get to practice and teach conflict resolution!
About the Peer Mediator Group:
I believe in student leadership and have spent a lot of time preparing the students to take on the role of being peer mediators. It is really helpful for students to learn about conflict resolution. Interested students had to fill out a three page application to become a peer mediator. They had to go through a round of interviews and have their teachers write them letters of recommendation! Once I selected the group of students who would be doing this, I had them do some intensive training. They had training every single day during DEAR and lunch time for 4 weeks. Their parents had to sign permission slips for them because if they missed class, the students had to be responsible for their work and grades. Student leadership and ownership is important in middle school-- I am grateful that I have a group that wants to learn and give back in a positive way.
A recent interview with the mediators:
Tell me more about your role as a peer mediator?
Abby Lewis: “ We help kids that have problems with other kids at school. Like if two kids had an argument, they can come to us and we help them figure it out and reach a solution so that the issue is resolved. We also give them a safe space to talk about these issues and I think it’s really helpful to them.”
Valeria Lara: “ As a peer mediator we talk to students that have issues with other peers and we help them fix it. We also teach them skills about how to better resolve issues that come up later- so we are teaching them how to approach an issue in the future without our help.”
Why do you think it's important to have peer mediators?
Dalia Garcia: “I think it's important because kids might not want to talk to adults. They might feel like they don't understand them as well as we might.”
Veronica Leon: “I think it's important because it's helpful to both of the students having the conflict. They are able to talk about the issue with someone who is in the same age range. Students also know they have someone that will be there to listen and support them at school, so they don’t feel alone.”
What's your favorite thing about being a peer mediator?
Malani Garcia: “ My favorite thing about this is that you can go home knowing that you helped someone. Not only that, but you don't have to worry about someone going home feeling sad or angry. As a community, we all need to help each other. We all have a role to help others.”
Christian Fernandez: “I think that the best part is knowing that you helped someone, but it’s also really cool wearing the shirts! It makes us feel empowered to know we are leaders and mediators on campus.”
How do your classmates benefit from this program?
Belen Islas: “ Students benefit from this because they feel safe at school. We help prevent a lot of bullying issues from happening.”
Maria Jimenez: “ I feel that they have someone they can trust and talk to and feel safe with.”
Abby: “ I think that students feel they are in a safe space and know that they won’t get into a ton of trouble when they talk to us as opposed to talking to an adult on campus.”
About the Publishing Party:
"On Thursday October 10th Caliber Beta Lower had their first ever publishing party! For the weeks leading up to the party, our Dragons participated in the writing cycle to create amazing narratives which they shared during the party with classmates and families. Campus was decorated with balloons and each room had snacks and music as families and guests joined to hear our student authors. Check out one author’s experience below and join us for our next publishing party later this year!"
A recent interview with Kayla Caballero ( 3rd grade student):
Tell me more about what the publishing party was about?
“ The publishing party was about sharing a story written by you! During this time, we all sat together on the carpet and got to eat snacks while some of us read out loud. All the grades got to do this at the end of the day. It took us a few weeks to prepare for the publishing party, but we got to practice in our writing class a lot. We wrote a lot of drafts in pencil, but got to type our final draft!
Tell me about what you wrote about?
“I wrote about the first time I got my cellphone. I wrote about that memory because I wash shocked that I even got one! I was 7 years old and usually people get cell phones when they are 14 or older.”
What is something you loved about the publishing party?
“I liked that we had snacks! I also liked that it was towards the end of the day so we didn’t have class right after, but mostly that the students liked listening about the stories that were personal to us. I’m usually shy, but I really like sharing this story with my class.”
Who is your writing teacher and what did you learn about writing?
“ My writing teacher is Ms. E and we practiced a lot in her class. She taught us that we can turn anything into a story and write a lot of paragraphs about it. We can write about our opinions, a memory or anything we want to tell a story about! I also learned that it’s okay if we make mistakes in writing. While writing my story, I made a lot of mistakes. You can always rewrite it, you can always change it.”
How did sharing your story make you feel?
“I felt really good because I wanted to share how I felt when I got my phone. I got to share with my parents when I got home and it made me feel happy because this was the first story I typed and printed. My parents felt appreciated that I included them in my story.”
Learn more about the annual book fair @ Beta: Lower School
About the Annual Book Fair:
Caliber Beta Lower completed their 3rd annual book fair last week! Organized by volunteer school librarian, Jackie Grossman, Head of Ops, Frances Lizarde and a host of parent volunteers, for 4 days the Multipurpose Room was transformed into a wonderland of books. More than fourteen parent volunteers assisted throughout the week and students purchased over $8000 in books! Here is what one of the students and volunteers had to say.
- Andy Grossman (Beta Lower School Leader)
A recent interview with Victoria Ruiz (parent volunteer) & Sebastian Valencia (4th grade student):
Tell me about the book(s) you purchased at the fair?
Sebastian: “I could only get one because it was time to go, but I purchased Amulet. This book is part of a series- it’s #8. I’ve read all of them except this one, but it’s about stone keepers, and they have amulets they carry , which is why they are called that. In book 7, they have magical powers and the person with the red amulet lost control, so the amulet is controlling her-- book 8 will tell me what will happen next!”
What is your favorite thing about the book fair?
Sebastian: “My favorite thing is that there were a lot of books to choose from like weird animals, fiction, video games (books about video games) and Youtubers!”
What are you excited about for next years book fair?
Sebastian: “Hopefully I can find book #9! I hope that more students come because it helps us with our reading and honestly I want to be able to read the newspaper when I’m older.”
Why do you think it's important to host a book fair for the students?
Victoria: “ It’s important for students because it helps them with their reading skills. The book fair gives them a lot of book options. I think that reading in the classroom is great for their academic growth, but it’s also important for them to develop their own love for reading outside of the classroom.”
Tell me more about your experience as a parent volunteer?
Victoria: “This is the second year I volunteer for the book fair and I do it for two reasons. One, it’s a way to give back to the community and two, to support my child’s love for reading. As a parent, it’s rewarding to see your child be excited about seeing so many books in one place!”
What is something memorable about the book fair?
Victoria: “ I think that seeing the little kids get really excited and seeing their faces light up is the best part about volunteering at the fair.”