Aug 7, 2008

Meet Your Teacher Night

By Stephanie Abney

Well, everyone ~

My feet hurt. I’m exhausted, but it’s that good, satisfying exhausted feeling. It’s my turn to blog and it’s getting pretty late so I figured I’d tell you some sweet moments I had with my first official “Meet Your Teacher” ~ well, certainly I’ve GONE to plenty of them, but this is the first time that I was the teacher and the students and parents came to meet me, in the rain no less. It was awesome. I’m pretty much in heaven; tired heaven, but heaven.

In case you are not aware, I am teaching full time this year after 13 years of substitute teaching (including 10-11 years at the school I’m now at). I’m at Eagle’s Aerie School (K-12) in Gilbert, AZ and our own amazing Lorna Hale is the Assistant Director (and as such, she pretty much runs the show ~ there is a Director, Tim Peak, and a board and all... but Tim and Lorna’s husband, Rob, are pretty busy with the L.E.A.D.S. center and that’s another blog all on it’s own), so Lorna hired me and Lorna has done the most training these last two weeks (although her hubby, Rob, did some and Tim has given us some excellent information) and here I go again… running off at the mouth (or the keyboard keys) and not telling you about the school or my evening. However, I should mention, that Lorna is a dream to work with because she is so supportive and follows through on everything she says she will do ~ she’s been there every night until after midnight for days now just getting ready for the new school year.

The focus at Eagle’s Aerie is on citizenship, leadership, patriotism and excellence. They embrace what is known as a “Thomas Jefferson Education” (you should get the book: A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century by Oliver Van DeMille). You will be enthralled with the principles. They use a “mentoring” program for the upper grades (7-12) – those students are referred to as the “American Leadership School.” (And ANWA’s own Kaleen Polakoff teaches the upper grades). Eagle’s Aerie has a rural feel to it and maintains a barn with horses, goats, chickens and other animals as well as garden patches. Working with the animals is part of the curriculum for all grade levels. It’s pretty cool. It’s not uncommon to open the door and have to wait for a mother hen and her chicks to walk past before you can continue on outside. This school also sets aside “reading days” and “writing days” every Monday (switching between the two subjects) and their reading and writing scores have shot through the roof (in the top 5% for the entire state of Arizona). The school also has a brief “opening” and “closing” ceremony each day where the pledge for the flag is done, patriotic and character building songs are sung, announcements given, etc. American Leadership Scholars take turns leading these ceremonies and gain leadership training and so much more.

Anyway, now that I’ve thoroughly impressed you with all of that when I said I was tired and it is late, I’ll confess I just copied and pasted that (NO, not plagiarized) it from the answers I gave to a question in my EDU class that I took this summer (with a few little added tidbits). So, on to tonight… Every day after training and staff meetings for the last couple of weeks, we have been given time to work on our rooms ~ the room I inherited was in pretty bad shape ~ but with help from the school maintenance staff and my husband, Jim, we whipped it into shape.

A couple of days ago I was in the office when a cute little boy was standing there waiting for his mom. I spoke to him and found out he was new to the school and would be in the second grade and I told him I was the second grade teacher. So, tonight after his mom filled out the forms in my room, she said that he told her he really hoped I would be his teacher because he met me in the office and I was so nice. Sweet. (Maybe he missed the fact that I am the ONLY 2nd grade teacher). Then, one of the moms walked in, took one look at me and said, “Oh it’s you!!! I’m so thrilled.” And she gave me a big hug (she remembered me from substitute teaching). She was bringing in her daughter this year. And then, a cute little girl that met me earlier in the evening and then went to some other places on campus brought her mother back to my room because she “wanted to say good-bye” to me.

Everyone there is so marvelous… very much a servant leadership situation… which is awesome. I was running behind getting my room set up because I was starting from scratch and they had to paint it, etc. My husband was very helpful, coming out two nights to paint a bookcase apple red for me and to help out otherwise. And then tonight, it was getting close and I still hadn’t had a chance to set up the desks and they were all bunched together at one side of the room. In walks Lorna (just 30 minutes before she had to be meeting parents), and Angel (she teaches horsemanship and riding) and then, Cody (Tim Peak’s son who works on the grounds) and with all of us, and a brainstorm from Cody ~ we got it all to fit beautifully and then, I was ready.

Towards the end, it started to pour and I still had a couple of families show up. Once it was over, that sweet Cody (whom I remember well from years ago and throughout the years when I would substitute for whatever class he was in). He's a great young man and I enjoyed him then as a little boy and I have loved getting to know him all over again. He is so friendly and helpful. We had to park our cars out on the field to free up parking space for the parents. When it was time to go home, Cody came in my room with an umbrella and said, “Come on; let’s get your car off that field.” He handed me the umbrella and walked me to my car. I drove it to my classroom door, went in my room, gathered up my things, turned off the A/C and the lights, locked the door and slid in behind the wheel of my car, thinking, “When you come to the end of a perfect day…”

More later ~ I actually have a combined class of 18 children, ages six, seven, and eight … makes me feel like “Little House on the Prairie” ~ but the school offers individualized education ~ whatever that child needs, is what that child gets so it doesn’t really matter which class they are in.

Good night ~ I’m going to bed!


  1. I envy you. Mentoring and teaching our young leaders especially with the special knowledge we have of how they are and what they face is the best job on the planet to me. Count me in as a prayer mentor. I'll keep you, the students and the school in my prayers. Having lived for years near Monticello, I learned a lot about our founding fathers and Thomas Jefferson. They were foresighted and not just about our country.

  2. Thanks, Terri ~

    It's been about 7 years since I was able to tour Monticello and I was so fascinated by everything. And I'll gladly take the prayers and any suggestions anyone has to offer. I'm pretty excited. It's a wonderful format for educating the next generation of leaders!!


  3. sounds like things are getting off to a wonderful start for you, Stephanie! Hurrah! I enjoyed reading "A Thomas Jefferson Education" and I have a young friend who attends Geaorge Wythe. I love sharing ideas with her. If we didn't live so far away, I would seriously consider sending my 10 year old son to your school...sigh...I am very concerned about how things are going to go this year. I prayed about home schooling...but that is not the answer for him. Anyway...thanks for your post. It was wonderful to read.

  4. Three cheers for you. It's good to know there are schools that still teach patriotism, ethics, and all the frings things like we grew up with when I was young. Sunnydell school was a two-classroom, 'modern' building with indoor plumbing and steam heat, but during my 7th and 8th grades there was not enough money in the coffers to pay two teachers, so the same wonderful man, Frank Ricks, taught all eight grades and cleaned up as well. (If we really misbehaved, we knew we's have to scrub the latrines.) And, I felt like I had a truly wonderful education. Mr. Ricks had us memorize poetry, and played softball with us.


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