The United Teachers of Island Trees are so excited to be back for another amazing school year. Over the summer and throughout September, teachers throughout the district have been working extremely hard to make sure that the 2023-2024 is one that students will forever remember.
Preparation begins when the school year ends. This summer, many teachers participated in a variety of Professional Development sessions on mental health and supporting our English Language Learners. Additionally, many took part in curriculum writing in all academic areas, a curriculum writing project across grades, new entrant screenings for Kindergarteners, preparation for the mentorship program, preparation for the Bulldog Press, volunteering to be part of interview committees, and collaborative planning amongst colleagues to continue serving our students with the most current and effective teaching practices.
Many teachers provided enriching experiences to our students throughout the summer. We continue to have a presence in Athletic Camps, STEAM Camp, Music Camp, and the Summer Learning Academy. Teachers have brought their talents and passions to offer two new programs to our students through Fashion Camp and Service Leadership Camp. Teachers organized a summer field trip to a Ducks game and to volunteer at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter. We continue to partner with the Public Library, encouraging our students to access the books and available programs. Students’ well-being and success is always a priority in and out of the school calendar year.
Over the summer, teachers at Sparke Elementary School were individually delivering welcome signs to every incoming Kindergartener’s home. They hosted supply drop offs with an opportunity to meet their new teacher. Teachers prepared welcome gifts, such as class friendship bracelets, for each student in their class. Teachers filled prize boxes with new and enticing items, and set up first day of school photo booths to take the perfect first day of school pictures. In preparation for Reader’s Workshop, teachers in both elementary schools spent countless hours leveling new classroom libraries for students to explore during independent reading time.
In Mrs. Brody’s fourth grade classroom, students started the year with multiple team building activities in order to give the students time to get to know each other and become more comfortable with their new school family. The activities all required students to work in teams or groups for a common goal and sometimes they weren’t even allowed to talk while doing it! The quiet activities challenged them to find alternate means of communication which over time builds stronger bonds and trust amongst peers. Their favorite game, called Human Knot, challenges a group of 4-6 students to all hold hands in a twisted knot and untangle themselves through a series of calculated moves (without letting go) until everyone is holding hands in a circle. This short exercise had the students figuring out quickly that the best way to succeed is by working as a team.
The teachers at Island Trees Middle School worked tirelessly over the summer to prepare for the school year. Special Education teachers from Sparke Elementary School, Stokes Elementary School and Island Trees Middle school collaborated to develop IEP data sheets for progress monitoring purposes. In addition, Special Education educators completed summer hours for IEP work. Ms.Truono, Ms. Guarino and Ms. Mazzo created a curriculum over the summer for the new Life Skills and Social Skills Class offered through the Special Education Department. The ENL department created individual profiles for all current English Language Learners to help teachers better understand the needs of the students that we serve. Over the summer, the Sixth Grade Science Department wrote curriculum for the new science program, Inspire Science.
The Fifth Grade department at Island Trees Middle School welcomed all incoming students with extra tender care. Teachers made sure that at the end of the first few days of school, students boarded the correct bus, exited out the correct doors and were picked up safely. The Fifth Grade team walked their classes to lunch, introducing the students to the procedures for purchasing lunch and/or finding a table with friends to sit at. Oftentimes, new students to the district are buddied up with a partner to ease the transition. Teachers continue to walk their classes to special area classes and return at the end of the period until the students become more acquainted and familiar with the building. Additionally, since lockers are new to students, teachers ensure time is set aside to become familiar with opening them in order to prepare for daily usage.
The Sixth Grade Math Department worked hard over the summer to create a spiral review for each quarter of the school year, which will reinforce skills previously learned in fifth grade. The spiral reviews will also allow students to practice skills learned in sixth grade. These spiral reviews will serve as a strong data collection tool so the math teachers can differentiate material to best meet the needs of their students. In addition, the Math Department created student-based learning tasks and projects over the summer for core extension. These projects reinforce skills learned in the sixth grade math curriculum. Some examples include choice boards, designing a restaurant, creating math anchor charts, creating their own math games, and conducting research based on real-life scenarios. Students will be engaged and take ownership of their learning throughout the entire school year.
The summer painting workshop for sixth, seventh, and eighth graders in July was a success. Students created nine or more pieces of art during the week-long camp. It ended with a colorful art show, which was attended by the students’ families, teachers, and administrators. Currently, all arts students in fifth through eighth grade are participating in a school-wide art display that promotes art and literature. Students are choosing their favorite books and are using the covers to discuss the principles of art and design. Conversations are naturally leading to beyond the cover, and students are finding new reads from their peers. The upcoming display will give students, teachers, administrators, and community members a place to start and engage in conversations about their love of books and art.
Over the summer, the Island Trees Music Program hosted 125 students from fourth through twelfth grade. Students participated in band, orchestra, and theater. The camp met every day for four weeks. The program culminated with a concert for family, friends, and members of the community. This summer, the music teachers organized the band library by level. The teachers removed music that was obsolete or not playable by modern band instrumentation, consolidated filing cabinets, and labeled drawers. The music department also maintained the school band instruments to prepare them for the upcoming school year. Maintenance included cleaning mouthpieces, oiling keys, greasing slides, vacuuming cases, and ensuring every instrument is in working order for students to use during the school year.
At Island Trees High School, teachers have been working hard to write letters of recommendation for students that are beginning to apply to college. The High School Guidance Department has hosted two college fairs, with roughly eighty schools in attendance during the month of September. The high school staff also participated in College T-Shirt Day to promote post-secondary options for the students of Island Trees. The High School Guidance Department also held a New Student Breakfast at the end of September. The department welcomed over twenty new entrants to the school with a bagel breakfast in the cafeteria. Freshmen mentors, counselors, administrators, and several teachers were in attendance to welcome these students to Island Trees High School.
The Middle School and High School Social Studies Department have been working hard to develop a program for students to gain the Seal of Civic Readiness on their diploma. The program will include civics projects, a High School Capstone Project, elective reflections and service projects. The High School Social Studies Department also introduced the AP Human Geography course last year. Students found much success on the exam, and scores were above the state average. Way to go educators and scholars!
The High School Mathematics Department wrote a curriculum over the summer for Algebra I, which is a new regents exam beginning in June 2024. This exam will be aligned to the Next Generation Mathematics Learning Standards. Educators also wrote a curriculum for AP Calculus, Personal Finance, and AB and AP Computer Science Principles, both of which were re-aligned with the College Board Course and Exam Description. All AP Statistic classes donated school supplies to the John Theissen Children’s Foundation in Wantagh, which resulted in three boxes of supplies going to children in need this school year. This supply drive is hosted each school year by the High School Mathematics Department. The SAT Preparation/College Process is preparing high school students for the implementation of the new PSAT, which will take place in October, and the SAT, which will take place in March. The exam will be digital in nature (Computer Based Testing), as well as adaptive. Math teachers are exposing students to the change in questioning, as well as user interface online for the exam. The Mathematics Department is facilitating student registration with SUNY Farmingdale for two courses, Probability, Sets & Logic and Precalculus. Students may receive up to four credits for their junior and/or senior math class this year with dual enrollment with SUNY Farmingdale. The department is also looking for other avenues of dual enrollment, independent from AP coursework for the students of Island Trees High School. Members of the Mathematics Department ran a one day “crash course” on the basics of programming in commonly used computer science languages. The purpose of the day of coding was to help remove any negative feelings about programs to encourage students to try the new AP Computer Science course that is available to all students. A new course is being offered to juniors this year entitled Intermediate Algebra. Students who have successfully completed Algebra I and Geometry may opt to take this course instead of Algebra II. Its many topics cover college-level algebra, as well as technology and programs students may be expected to know when they graduate.
Over the summer teachers, guidance counselors, and psychologists from all four buildings attended a voluntary training session to become mentors to new staff. Over twenty-five teachers spent a day training with a mentoring specialist, along with program coordinators Helen Kane and Rebecca Benjamin, learning how to help guide the new generation of teachers, guidance counselors and school psychologists within Island Trees School District.
The teachers within Island Trees are united, always prioritizing the students and providing them with only the best educational experiences. We cannot wait to share all of the wonderful things that will be occurring in months to come.
–Submitted by Brittany Lahti