From the principal’s office | There’s a lot going on at Kings Beach Elementary School | SierraSun.com

From the principal’s office | There’s a lot going on at Kings Beach Elementary School

Eileen Fahrner
Special to the Sun

KINGS BEACH, Calif. – About this time each year, I face an auditorium full of prospective kindergarten parents. Each year I try to convey to them that I sat in that same chair 18 years ago. I tell them that I shared the same hopes and dreams for my child as they have for theirs: that their child will grow up to be hard-working and kind; that he or she will be able to attend a college of their choice and have the tools necessary to pursue a fulfilling career; and that they will be able to get along with other people from all different walks of life. And, finally, that Kings Beach Elementary will do everything we can to help them achieve those dreams.

Kings Beach Elementary has changed a lot since I sat in that chair. We are now a Two Way Immersion school based on a 90/10 model. Starting in kindergarten our students are immersed in Spanish; 90 percent of the academic curriculum is taught in Spanish, and each year more English instruction is added. By fourth grade 50 percent of the instruction is in English and 50 percent in Spanish. The program continues through eighth grade. Our students emerge from the TWI program able to read and write in both languages, and by fifth grade, an overwhelming majority of our students score proficient or advanced on the state standards-based exams.

Last year, for example, 24 out of 27 students were proficient or advanced in language arts and 25 out of 27 were in math. We strive to create classes made up of 50 percent native Spanish speakers and percent native English speakers. The staff at KBE is organized into collaborative teams better known these days as Professional Learning Communities, or PLCs. Our focus for this year has been to improve our good “first teaching” so that fewer interventions are needed in the long run. Almost every Wednesday you’ll find the staff in room M4, under the guidance of our academic coach, Linda Bendock, pouring over what we have learned and making commitments to incorporate the strategies in our lessons.

As you visit classrooms, you’ll notice teachers introducing language and content objectives; choosing students randomly to answer probing questions, providing guided and independent practice to help students master standards, checking for understanding frequently, and intervening when a student struggles to achieve. Next year, grade level teams will work on common lessons together, use release time for peers to observe the lessons, and then meet on Wednesdays to discuss observations.

KBE strives to provide a well-balanced program incorporating science, music, art, drama, technology, social studies and physical education. This year, there have been a myriad of student activities including:

• Local drama teacher Diane Hanzel’s eight-week-long drama workshop that incorporates the scientific method with our first through third graders. This was funded by a Tahoe City Rotary Club grant.

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• The local Lake Tahoe Shakespeare company is working with our third graders.

• Our Measure A-funded technology teacher Amber Donnelly works on computer skills in the lab and also provided six science assemblies – funded by our School Improvement money.

• Arts For the Schools and our PTO science docents to bring art alive.

• On an average of once a month, our students attend Arts For the Schools and other assemblies funded by our PTO.

• The Boys and Girls Club and the PTO partnered this year to bring music lessons and Zumba to our after school program.

The last week of school, we will host a Field Day with PE-related stations, a hands-on math assembly, and a watershed exploration day.

Additionally, we have established guidelines for behaviors in the classrooms and common areas. Staff acknowledges good behavior through verbal praise, a certificate and “caught you being good” tickets that students can collect and cash in for prizes.

We view parents as our greatest partners in helping us to make KBE a wonderful place. We provide numerous opportunities for parents to get involved through our “Zero to Five” Family Room, Parent Teacher Organization, English Language Advisory Committee, Site Council, as well as classroom volunteering opportunities. Several of our parents serve on other district committees, included a team that established a program to improve school meals and snacks. Additionally, next year a pilot program is slated to increase the amount of intense physical activity in our student day and help them to monitor their progress.

As you can see, there is a lot going on at Kings Beach Elementary School, and I have only given a brief and broad snapshot! I feel blessed to work in this school with our wonderful students, families, staff and community partners. We welcome visitors, so please come visit any time.