Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Guest Blogger - Kathleen Tomei

Dear Pleasantdale Elementary Families,

Many of you already know that I have been named Principal, replacing Mr. Vandercar as he begins his retirement. I am excited to join the Pleasantdale community and have enjoyed the time I've spent in the district and school beginning to meet families and students. 

I look forward to continuing many great traditions, like the ever popular lunch-time Uno, and beginning new ones which we will create together. I believe strongly in home/school partnerships knowing that the best way to support students is through our joint collaboration. My door will always be open to you. 

For those of you who would like a little background on me, I'm proud to share that I'm the mother of two wonderful boys ages 10 and 12. We live in Elmhurst, which is also where I currently work as the K-5 Principal of Lincoln Elementary School. I have been here 6 years. Prior to this position, I lived and worked in Lake Bluff where I was the Assistant Principal for 3 years. Before working as an AP, I taught 2nd grade in Lincolnshire-Prairie View School District 103 for 10 years. Prior to District 103, I taught 2nd grade at St. James Catholic School in Highwood, IL for one year. 

Dr. Palzet, Ms. Tomei, and Mr. Vandercar are all "Wild About Learning!"

My other half, Steve, is an Optometrist in Frankfort where he owns his own practice. As a family we love to travel, in fact, we are heading to New Mexico next week. We also like to spend nights at home hanging out as a family watching movies, having epic Nerf battles, shooting hoops, or taking a bike ride. My boys enjoy lacrosse, basketball and video games. They also play keyboards and electric guitar. Like your family, our days are busy!

I am a strong believer in the importance of education and will work passionately with you and the staff of District 107 to provide a top-notch experience for your children. Please feel free to reach out to me at any time. In the meantime, have a wonderful summer!

For our students,
Kathleen Tomei

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

We Are Wild About Learning!

As the school year nears an end, it is fun to look back at major events and accomplishments that took place in a relatively short period of time.

4th grade iPads - Our oldest students received new iPads over the summer and did a nearly perfect job implementing the District’s first 1-to-1 technology initiative.  Students helped identify positives as well negatives and what is necessary to expand this use of technology to other grade levels.  We are quite pleased 3rd graders will move to a 1-to-1 iPad initiative next year.
Our December snow storm was memorable.  How often do you get to play in the snow with several hundred of your friends? 
Ms. Tomei will be our new principal!  Mr. Vandercar announced his retirement early in the school year to allow as much time as possible searching for a replacement.  After a rigorous process, Ms. Kathleen Tomei was selected as the new principal.  Ms. Tomei has been visiting numerous times meeting staff, parents, and students and preparing for an excellent 2017-2018 school year.
Welcome Principal Tomei! 
Concerts - Wow!  Mr. Woltman genuinely tries to make each concert better than the one before.  Once again, his creativity and dedication paid off.  I hope everyone gets a chance to check out many of the concert videos on our Facebook page.
PTA Writestuff recognition.
PTA - Our generous and supportive PTA kicked off the school year with an exciting welcome back event. Throughout the school year, the PTA provides memorable holiday parties and activities kids love.
Happy Halloween!  Thanks PTA.
Thanks to the Class of 2016 for the wonderful benches. Students love them.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


The recent 90-degree days have caused quite a bit of excitement in the school building.  Hot weather is a sure sign and reminder that summer break is around the corner.  This realization often causes excitement as well as concern about the unstructured and lengthy break before school resumes in August.  As Principal, one of my concerns about the break is the loss of good solid habits students have established during the school year.  Our children work very hard during the school year and it is normal for them to slow down academically to take more time with family and friends.  

Kids are a little different when it is getting close to summer break.
Actually, it is Mustache Day at school.
I encourage families to incorporate learning consistently into their summer days.  If families are looking for ideas, a simple internet search will give you much more than you ever imagined.  Here are some of my favorites:


The 606 Trail in Chicago is beautiful and family friendly.
Part of my summer plan is to let families know some things for them to do before school starts back up.  So, expect to hear from me in mid-June.

Most of our students know about the summer reading incentives.  For many years, we have rewarded children for setting reading goals over the summer and turning in their parent-signed forms once school resumes.  You can look for these coming home in early June.  I am predicting our new principal, Ms. Kathleen Tomei, will continue encouraging summer reading and offering incentives.  She has many new and fun ideas.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Countdown Continues

The Last 26 Days

If you haven't heard, the elementary students and staff participate in the Alphabet Countdown to celebrate the final 26 days of the school year.  This week included Exercise by taking Extra recess Day, Fruit Day (bring some extra fruit), Game Day, Hat/Hair Day, and Interesting facts about Mr. Vandercar Day.  Well, it was a very interesting week.  I am really looking forward to "J" Day next week when students can give me suggestions about what my next Job will be.  Our students are very creative and are sure to come up with some winners.  Believe it or not, many of the students are very serious about what job I should take after I retire.

H is for crazy Hair Day.

Plans are underway for all of the end-of-year activities.  Field trips, awards ceremonies, concerts, cumulative class projects, Kindergarten Celebration, Preschool Celebration, and Field Day are just a few of the many.  Although all of these activities have unique purposes, the overall goal is to celebrate learning in a very fun and exciting way.

The final day of school is Wednesday, June 7.  This is our annual Field Day.  It is a celebration of the school year.  However, it takes a great deal of planning because our primary goal is to make it educational.  So, this day is a compilation of many topics we emphasize during the school year.  Our Social Emotional Learning (SEL) components are vital for the overall development of students.  Some of the focus areas are sportsmanship, team-building, honesty, and getting along with others.

Our Summer library will be held at Pleasantdale Middle School.
Mrs. Steinmetz has put together a wonderful calendar for summer fun! The library will be open:

Wednesdays 6:00 - 8:00 pm
June 14 - August 16
Thursdays 12:00 - 2:00 pm
June 15 - August 17

Thursday, May 4, 2017

“We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. 
Without diversity life would be very boring.”

                                                                                 — Catherine Pulsifer

Giving tours of the building are one of my favorite things to do.  I love introducing parents to our staff, showing off the classrooms and showing potential parents first-hand what goes on in school.  Parents are usually very impressed and want to move into the district.  As I was finishing up a tour with a young couple several weeks ago, I asked the ages of their children.  The answer stunned me - they didn’t have children yet and were looking at schools to decide where to raise their family.  Wow!  Now I was impressed and they were too.  Their comments focused on diversity and unique makeup of the student population as well as the staff.

3rd grade lunchtime Book Club
PES Family Fun Facts (from Illinois School Report Card):
White: 75%
Black: 2%
Hispanic: 13%
Asian: 7%
ELL (English Language Learners): 14%
Low Income: 9%
Special Education: 14%

Although these statistics don’t look as ethnically diverse as many schools, the range of backgrounds within each of the above categories is unique. For example, our ELL population currently includes students speaking 17 different languages. This percentage and range of languages are the highest they have ever been. As a matter of fact, the district recently hired an additional teacher to work with our ELL population. We welcome our new staff member, Maggie Bialobrzeski.

Science fair fun
Our staff is much more diverse than it has ever been in my 15 years as principal. Not only do we have a nice mix of experience, we have staff fluent in Serbian, Polish, Arabic, Lithuanian, Dutch, German, Spanish, Russian, Bosnian, Croation, and Italian. This diversity certainly helps us meeting the needs of all children and families. And, it makes school a lot more fun and exciting.

A photo from our annual Cultural Celebration. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Final Countdown

The Final Countdown

Once the school year begins, it goes very quickly.  At Pleasantdale Elementary School, the last 26 days of the school year are celebrated by exciting and creative activities based on the alphabet.  The schedule is put together by our dedicated Student Council led by teachers Mrs. Griffin and Miss Macek.  The rumor among Student Council members is the supervisors get more excited about the “ABC Countdown” than the students.  Regardless, thanks to the Student Council and staff for starting this a few years ago and maintaining this fun way to finish off a tremendous school year.  The daily activities/themes are slightly different this year due to my retirement.  Although slightly embarrassing because of the added attention, I hope our students get a kick out of it.  Here are a few of the days I am pretty sure I look to forward to the most:

Is it Mr. Vandercar?  No. It is Sophie.

May 3: B is Book Day - read one of Mr. Vandercar’s favorite books (I have many and will share them with classes).
May 4: C is Cubs Day - dress in Chicago Cubs clothing (of course optional to the few who do not understand).
May 15: J is Job Day - let Mr. Vandercar know what you think he should do after retirement (This will be interesting).
May 24: Q is Quiet Day - show Mr. Vandercar how quiet you can be in the hallways (I am skeptical).
May 30: T is Tie Day - Mr. Vandercar loves to wear ties so wear a tie to school (let me know if you need to borrow one).
June 2: W is Where is Mr. Vandercar Day:  (This should be interesting).
Halloween 2012 - Very Scary!

Thank you in advance to the Student Council and supervisors for putting this together every year.  Many younger students in the building cannot wait to get into Student Council specifically to be part of the ABC Countdown planning.

Keeping students motivated and engaged till the very last day is a challenge.  I applaud our teachers who do this better than any staff I have ever worked with.  The staff believes it is not too early for children to know that as they get older, the last few days of class are typically most important.  Although we try to block final exams out of our memories, these assessments are a very stressful part of our educational careers.  

Here are some other exciting events coming up over the last 26 days:

  • May 9 - 4th grade Band and Orchestra - this concert culminates a lot of hard work by our passionate students and instructors. This is going to be a great event and all are invited. Thanks to Mr. Woltman and Mrs. Burke who do a magnificent job working with our budding musicians.
  • May 11 and 12 - Schoolwide Spelling Bees - these 1st through 4th grade competitions have been part of May for the past 10 years. We believe the pros surpass the cons in this competition. We stress participation, sportsmanship, and supporting our classmates. We also explain that luck has a lot to do with winning many competitions.
  • May 23 - 3rd and 4th grade Concert - our oldest students will have fun and sing some very fun and special songs for parents and friends.  They perform in the evening as well as later in the school day.  All are invited.
  • June 7 - Field Day!  This is the last attendance day for children and what a memorable day this usually is for all.
Spelling Bee 2015!

  • June 8 - Parking lot replacement.  If you have not noticed, our parking lot is in need of improvements.  The entire parking lot and foundation will be replaced over the summer.  Throughout June and July, there will be no access from School St.  Parents will be given detailed instructions about contacting school staff during the summer months.  It will be beautiful (in August).
A big "Thank you" to parents for their constant support.  This is especially key during the last few weeks of school.  It is very easy for children to ease up and not push hard right up till the final day.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Citizenship in the Classroom


We recently named our 2016-2017 School Citizen of the Year (SCOTY).  This prestigious award goes to a 4th grader who best exemplifies our description of a good citizen.  However, this year was particularly difficult.  It was not difficult due to a lack of good candidates for this award.  It was quite the opposite.  We had way too many nominations.  And all of them would be legitimate winners for this award.  As a matter of fact, we used to recognize the top ten candidates but this year decided there were just too many quality candidates and it might seem as though we were “watering down” our expectations.  
SCOTY winner from 2014-2015

This year’s 4th graders are a tremendous group of students and we are super proud of them.  These oldest students serve as leaders and role models for the younger students.  So, we expect a lot out of them.  Seeing the cumulative result of stressing citizenship starting as far back as preschool is quite satisfying.
4th grader Joey is recognized.

Here are a few ways we teach and encourage positive behaviors in the classrooms:

  • Social/Emotional Learning (SEL) opportunities naturally occur and teaching these skills are integrated throughout the school day. Modeling behavior expectations, calming strategies and role-playing what problem-solving looks like is extremely beneficial. We use 2nd Step teaching students about feelings and how to manage them. This is done through a variety of lessons using puppets in realistic/familiar scenarios.

  • We use conflict resolution skills to resolve daily conflicts.  This builds self-confidence as students learn to “talk things out.”  We focus on compromising, taking turns and sharing.  Using conflict resolution strategies reduces arguing, bickering, and enables and empowers students to work conflicts out.

  • Our SEL program uses consistent language that teaches good listening and learning behaviors.  Using the same language daily in our classroom and in our weekly lessons has made a huge difference in our class.  Expectations are clear and reinforced daily!
  • We focus on skills that strengthen students' ability to learn, have empathy, manage emotions, and solve problems. It helps foster a safe, respectful learning environment. The lessons involve brain builders, role-playing activities, songs, videos, and Family Home Links.
  • We use the class meeting format to discuss how to learn and get along with others.  Discussions, role playing, videos, and songs are used during class meetings to discuss skills for learning, empathy, emotional management, and problem-solving.

  • The Eagle Way is probably the number one way we SEL in class. The Eagle Way keeps expectations consistent throughout the building.  It is a great way to create a respectful learning environment.

Earning Eagle Feathers is fun!

Thank you to our wonderful parents who have set a strong foundation focusing on citizenship.  We feel very fortunate that such quality children come to us eager to learn, try their best, and be on their best behavior.  I predict there will be an even larger SCOTY candidate pool next year and the years following.