Campus buildings, millenials, raising global children, foreign language instruction, teacher gifts


Lorna Sheridan/Index-Tribune Education Editor


Just in time for Christmas break from school, here are some ideas of what are thought to be the most-appreciated teacher gifts:

• Handwritten notes of thanks or praise

• Baskets of school supplies to replenish the classroom

• Flowers or a fresh plant

• Homemade foods

• Handmade or relevant ornaments

• Personalized stationery

• Starbucks cards, iTunes, bookstore or dining gift certificates

• Favorite foods or drinks (and/or wine, maple syrup, olive oil, honey, etc.)

The Sonoma Valley Unified School District announced building and maintenance plans for this summer which include two new portable classrooms at Adele Harrison Middle School; four replacement portable classrooms at Sonoma Charter School; one new portable classroom for El Verano Elementary School (to house preschool); some general maintenance including painting, roof repairs, flooring and heating/AC repairs; and work on the kitchen at Dunbar Elementary School.

There continues to be evidence that learning a second language can be the key to a student’s success. Not only does it increase cognitive function, it also seems to lead to higher rates of success in school and in the workforce. Of students studying a foreign language in the U.S., 69 percent are studying Spanish, 18 percent French, less than 1 percent other languages, and the remaining 12 percent are not studying a language. Students who study a foreign language for all four years of high school have been found to score 140 to 150 points higher on each section of the SAT, and bilingual workers earn five percent to 20 percent more than their peers who speak only English. The only problem? The number of elementary and middle schools offering world language instruction is decreasing, and in middle school that percentage has dropped from 75 percent in 1997 to 58 percent today. (Middlebury Interactive Languages).

The Sonoma Valley Library is a busy place, even in a slow month. In November alone, the library saw 10,863 visitors and had 18,396 items checked out. The busiest month is February and the least busy is September. This past month, the branch sponsored 13 events with 471 attendees. Consider “liking” the library on Facebook to hear more about its activities and programs (facebook.com/sonomavalleylibrary).

Millennials in college are suffering high rates of depression, according to a recent opinion piece in Slate magazine. They are finding the transition to adulthood completely overwhelming. The issue, said the therapist interviewed, is that people in their 20s no longer view themselves as adults because of benign reasons like longer life spans, and depressing reasons like helicopter parenting and unemployment. Read the entire article here: http://tinyurl.com/kowpkde.

If you are interested in multiple intelligences – the idea that some students are visual learners, some are auditory learners and some learn by doing – then you will enjoy the page of resources put together by the Ed Tech website. The site categorizes apps and learning tools by how well they suit each kind of learner. tinyurl.com/onof5qv

The Eva Longoria Foundation (yes, the TV actress) commissioned a report titled “Making Education Work for Latinas in the U.S.” which found that participating in extra-curriculars in high school is a strong predictor of graduating from high school and going on to college. Involvement fosters “belonging” at school, something it found to be missing for many Latinas. It also found, for Latinas, that having Latino/a teachers/counselors, having good math scores in elementary school, and being bilingual are the major predictors of being college-bound. tinyurl.com/k2jbtel

There is a terrific full-day program for high school girls who are interested in either engineering or medicine on Saturday, Feb. 1, at University of California at San Francisco. The day features hands-on workshops and lectures from female doctors and engineers. Students must apply by Wednesday, Jan. 1, to perryinitiative.org.

The band students at Adele Harrison Middle School invite the community to a free holiday concert at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18,in the amphitheater in the Sonoma Plaza. The audience is advised to dress warmly.

There has been a lot of debate over the results of the recent testing of 15-year-olds worldwide (the PISA literacy, math and science tests are administered in 65 countries every three years). American students score right around the world average in all categories and came in 17th in literacy, 21st in science and 26th in math. While the U.S. Dept of Education was embarrassed by the scores, defenders feel they are perfectly fine considering the socioeconomic challenges of many of our students. Every news article seems to suggest different reasons for the mediocre scores – search “PISA 2013” and you will get the drift. While the differences between the U.S. education system and countries abroad should not be reduced to statistics, Amanda Ripley’s “The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way” is a lively read that tries to tease out some answers. Ripley follows U.S. high school exchange students studying overseas and she interviews foreign students studying at our high schools.

Along those lines, I have another book recommendation. “Raising Global Children: Ways Parents Can Help Our Children Grow Up Ready to Succeed in a Multicultural Global Economy” is a combination parenting-advocacy book that details what raising global children means, why global awareness is important and how to develop a global mindset. According to the National Research Council, Americans’ “pervasive lack of knowledge about foreign cultures and foreign languages threatens the security of the United States as well as its ability to compete in the global marketplace and produce an informed citizenry.”

Shiso Sushi has expanded its menu beyond sushi and its new offerings are very kid-friendly. Meanwhile, the restaurant (together with Maxwell Village) is donating 10 percent of all Tuesday night proceeds for the next six weeks to Prestwood Elementary School and offering a 10 percent discount on food to Sonoma Valley School District families (on Tuesday nights only). Reservations are recommended via email at info@shisorestaurant.com or by calling 933-9331.

There is another Mindful Parenting Workshop starting soon on Wednesday evenings from Jan. 15 through Feb. 5 in the Presentation School library. Visit mindfulsprouts.com for more information.

Next up for Silver Moon Theater is an acting class for ages 10 to 16 that focuses on the play “Tom Sawyer.” Beginners are welcome. Classes are Wednesdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. from Jan. 22 to March 12, 2014 at the Sonoma Community Center. You can see the details at sonomacommunitycenter.org.

One more plug for the Sonoma Cultural and Fine Arts Commission’s 2014 Student Creative Arts Award Program, which is now open for entries. Sonoma Valley residents ages 16 to 21 who are studying visual, literary or performing arts are urged to apply for the $2,000 award. Download the application at sonomacity.org. The deadline is Jan. 17.