Thursday, June 7, 2018

Eight things I love about Maplewood, and goodbye


Tomorrow will be our last day at our beloved Maplewood, after SIXTEEN YEARS. That's what happens when you spread your children out (and have a bonus baby). We began in the fall of 2002. 

One of my first memories of Maplewood is the kindergarten open house, when then-Principal John Blanck explained to a handful of anxious my-kids-are-geniuses-and-need-to-be-challenged parents that Maplewood was not a good fit for everyone, because they didn't teach to the tests. Having recently come from a play-centered coop preschool (Multnomah Playschool), this fit perfectly into our education philosophy. (Sadly, John Blanck retired and things have changed since then--now Maplewood does have to teach to the tests, like all other schools.)

Chris started kindergarten (half-day, which was all that was offered back then) with Cass Lang, who would end up being the only teacher who would teach all three of our boys. Cass is one of only five staff members who were there in 2002 (and still there). 

Here are eight things I love most about Maplewood:

1. Exceptional staff. In spite of constant budget cuts in Portland Public Schools, way-too-big class sizes in small classrooms, and the increasing pressure to step up the curriculum, we have loved our Maplewood teachers. Our kids have had an outstanding elementary school education and a great start to their schooling experience. 

2. Highly involved parents. Maplewood is not a wealthy school like others in SW Portland, but the parents are actively engaged and involved. 

3. Teaching to the whole child. Even though the stakes have risen considerably in the 10 years' span between Chris and Nick in kindergarten, the teachers still place a big emphasis on teaching beyond the tests. The kids also learn citizenship, values, the arts, technology, and physical fitness.

4. Interesting extras. When Chris was at Maplewood, we had a music teacher who taught each class AND had a band and choir. It's where Chris first learned to play the drums. After she left, we had a big gap for several years, so I went into my kids' classrooms and sang with the kids. When the school was able to reinstate music, it was never to the quality of Kathie McNett, but the kids got to sing regularly. This past year they've had dance and movement instead. When they weren't able to fund PE, the husband of Nick's kindergarten teacher came in to teach the kids. (That's commitment!) The one regular extra has been computer technology and library taught by Elin Kordahl, one of the few teachers who's been around all 16 years. 

5. Honored traditions. For years, we would have a Halloween parade, which John Blanck had to defend to the school district and other schools. We'd also have an annual carnival (not my favorite event but the kids loved it!), Run for the Arts, an auction, and a fifth grade talent show, among other events.

6. Strong commitment to literacy. Thanks to the creative and committed Elin Kordahl and the fantastic teachers, Maplewood is highly strong on literacy. Each year the school celebrates Read across America with local celebrity guests in the classrooms, Readaloudathon (which Mike has run for years, and which raises thousands of dollars each year for the school), Bookbaggers (an ambitious literacy-themed, elaborate sleepover, which was started by the previous librarian, Pepye Ladd), Oregon Battle of the Books (which made me wish I was a student again and could compete myself!), and Poem in Your Pocket Day. Maplewood also has a Reading Friends program, in which adults volunteer to read with kids who need a little extra reading help. Mike was a Reading Friend this year for the first time and had a rewarding experience.

7. Compassionate community. Another annual tradition is to help families in need around the holidays. This program was started by one of our beloved teachers, Renay Schaeffer, and a parent (and teacher in another district), Bobbi Janssen. Mike stepped into Renay's role a few years ago, and last year they fed more families than ever: 31. I was astonished to see the incredible amount of generosity displayed by our small school community. 

8. Time-tested friendships. Last week we went to a great 50th birthday party for a former Maplewood parent. As soon as we walked into the Old Market Pub, Kieran was embraced by his former Maplewood friends. Even though he went to a different middle school and consequently was separated from those kids, it was clear seeing them together that they formed strong bonds at Maplewood. Chris is still in touch with some of his closest Maplewood friends, and Nick...well, Nick is our most social child ever. He values his friendships above almost anything beyond family. And then there's us. We knew a lot of families going into Maplewood (from Multnomah Playschool), and I have enjoyed our continuing friendships with great families. As we've entered the sports world, it's been great to watch baseball and basketball games with other Maplewood parents. And then there's the teachers...some of the teachers have become our friends, as well, and we still see them even after retirement!

And here's a trip down memory lane! I can't seem to find any photos of Chris in kindergarten...that was the pre-digital age, so I suppose they're in the basement somewhere!

With Principal John Blanck, first grade

Chris with his friend James, first grade

Second grade?

Second grade

With Mrs. Schaeffer, second grade teacher to Chris and Kieran--we LOVE her!

Chris in third grade with Sharon Gray, in "Grayville"
(the name she called her classroom...they even had a mayor and various
other municipal jobs in rotation...and she taught cursive, even though it was falling out of favor!)

Another literacy project--Chris made a
Charlotte's Web themed game in third grade

Fourth grade

Fourth grade with Liberty Looney, who also taught two of our kids,
and shares Chris' birthday and our wedding anniversary!

Fifth grade with Terri Harrington, who left the school to work for the union

Chris' fifth grade promotion

Kieran starts at Maplewood; in the kindergarten playhouse

With Mrs. Lang in kindergarten

Kieran with John Blanck

First day of kindergarten

Silly Mrs. Lang (who during today's promotion assembly
was tenderly comforting one of her students, who was having a rough time)

End of kindergarten

Kieran's first drama experience, after school at Maplewood


First day of first grade, at which he seems to be wearing the same shirt
he wore on the last day of kindergarten! That kid loved tie-dye!)

First-grade holiday performance at Washington Square
 (with Maplewood's last full-service music teacher!)


Halloween parade (first grade)
Another drama performance, in which Kieran made his own costume



Maplewood student-to-be!

Second grade--bring it on!

Catching up with Mrs. Schaeffer

First day of school
Halloween parade, second grade, vampire again!

Kieran with Liberty Looney, his fourth grade teacher too


Nick headed off to kindergarten
Finally, with our third child, we get the privilege of Marianne McClenaghan, before she retired. She is a phenomenal teacher!!! 

For each child's birthday, they sang a Hawaiian birthday song and made a big deal of it!
Nick starting kindergarten

Gordon, Nick, and Baxter

Nick's kindergarten teacher went above and beyond, teaching them several songs and tap dances for the final program!

Nick with my parents at the end of kindergarten

The amazing Marianne!
Me with my guitar, singing with the kids

Throughout the year in various classrooms, I got to see the Maplewood teachers in action!

Kieran moves up to the portables

Maplewood arts night

Another music day, with Mike singing enthusiastically!

Renay Schaeffer came to see Kieran's summer dance performance

I had to have ear and brain surgery when Nick was in kindergarten.
 Nick's teacher Marianne had the whole class autograph
 this teddy bear for me and make me get well cards. Heart, melted. 

Kieran in fourth or fifth grade

First day of school, first grade?



Doing music in Kieran's second grade class

One of the many beautiful cards I received from appreciative students

End of fourth grade

Posing with the beloved Renay Schaeffer

John Blanck retires, and parents and staff throw him a big party!

Art night
Third grade with Karen Scherlie (and his friend Kayra)


Third grade (view from the music chair)

Great singing third-graders with the song sheets I made for them

Seymour and Audrey (entirely made by Kieran)
One year we did World Book Night in front of the school, giving away free books!
Fourth grade Oregon Trail overnight

Maplewood Carnival, where the kids always love the "jail"
Mike celebrating that the kids are all back in school!

First day of fifth grade

Kieran's theatre fans!
They came to see Michael Banks in Mary Poppins (Maplewood teachers come through!)

Our three boys in front of the Maplewood mosaic they helped create

Another Halloween carnival (Kieran in the evil joker costume!)

Fifth grade field trip to downtown

Kieran's fifth grade Halloween costume
Mike decided to dress up one year as Dumbledora, and he met Hagrid (fifth grader Annika)

Another song session

I took my percussionist along when he had a day off school,
and he played on a wooden chair with his drumsticks!

Nick's teacher in first grade, Cass Lang in her final round with the GGs!

Kieran's fifth grade promotion
Kieran with friends



With his fifth grade teacher, Suzanne Smith
Another first day photo
Marianne retires! 


Marianne with her mom and long-time second grade teaching colleague, Renay
Nick's second-grade teacher Kate Johnson, who I seem to lack a photo of,
 so I stole this from her Facebook! :)

First day in separate schools

Nick with his fourth-grade teacher, Patty Stanich,
another diehard Blazers fan who came to one of his basketball games
Nick and friends competing in the Oregon Battle of the Books

First day of school, fifth grade

With his buddy Lindsey

First day of fifth and ninth grade

Nick York

Just one of many photos of Nick playing sports with his Maplewood buddies




Oregon Trail overnight

Backpack Boys and Girls (a one-time band)


And today, we went to the final fifth-grade promotion ceremony. So much growth and development in this little neighborhood school. Our kids have blossomed under the tutelage of exceptionally talented and loving teachers. I am feeling sad about leaving this wonderful shelter of a school. 

Chris with his kindergarten teacher and the champion G-G teacher of all time, Cass Lang! 

With Elin Kordahl, the best computer teacher/librarian ever!

Waiting for the "clap-out," when the fifth graders get clapped through the halls

Chris with his first-grade teacher, Ms. Hawes

Nick with the other conflict managers,
fifth-graders who volunteer to resolve disputes at lower-grade recesses

Tribute to Patty Stanich, who is retiring after 47 YEARS of teaching!


At the actual promotion ceremony, each student went up to say their "precept" (a quote that represents who they are). I was touched to hear how many of them chose quotes about helping people, being kind, or making the world a better place. A true sportsman always, Nick's precept was about winning and losing. :) 

This class of students is really exceptional. The teachers said it's the best class in quite a long time. The kids are so nice, funny, and interesting. 

Family shot with our sixth grader

With the amazing Lindsey

With GG boy #3, we finally got to have Dave Kaplan as our teacher!
He's the only male classroom teacher at the school, and he's fantastic.
Nick had a great fifth grade year!

Nick with Dylan

The last requisite shot by the Maplewood sign!

Love this boy, and this school!
Okay, who's crying? I am not usually the sentimental type, but I'm feeling a sense of loss, moving on from this tightknit, comforting school. Thank you, Maplewood staff, parents, kids, and community! It's been a wonderful 16 years!