Getting to know my students


What inspires me is knowing that when I greet the students I get to hear their thoughts and opinions. I’m really excited about what they have to say on any topic, whether it be related or about what’s going on in their outside world and how we can connect the two. It’s my passion because it allows me to see where the students are coming from so we can find something in common. Because when I know them, I can talk about it and it shows them that I know what they’re talking about. I can relate to them and they get really excited. So that’s really interesting to see in terms of getting to know the students.


I’ve always been so happy doing ballet


I have been dancing ballet since I was three, and right now I’m at Ballet Virginia International. We’re doing “The Nutcracker” at the Sandler Center. This my 10th year. This year my main roles are Russian lead and Marzipan lead, and then I do the normal snow, flowers and soldier.

It’s cool to have a professional experience because not many people get that. Normally you have to wait until you’re a professional dancer to go on stage and perform in front of hundreds of people. I think it’s helped me mature faster than most people my age. I’ve always been so happy doing it. I’ve always been a shy person, but I’ve never had a problem performing in front of so many people. I think it has helped boost my self esteem. I’m definitely a different person because of it.


Climbing to New Heights


Right now I feel like the luckiest principal in the world to have gotten Salem Elementary School. This is an amazing group of teachers, amazing group of students and amazing community, where there is really good work going on. There is a lot of really focused instruction that helps our kids succeed. This year, coming in brand new and thinking about where we go from here, the assistant principal and I put our heads together and came up with this “Climbing to New Heights” theme. Things are good. We just want to go the next step. And that’s what we’re doing. We’re taking what we’re doing and going higher. We’re trying to stretch our kids. Can we push our pass-advanced rate? Can we push the critical thinking, the creative thinking, the problem solving and give our kids opportunities to continue to go higher and to build new things? Staff has really bought into that and our teachers are willing to take risks, which is scary when you’ve got a new principal. Both Mrs. Quinn and I have come in new and we’re saying, “It’s safe. Take a risk.” For example, we’ve been looking at our digital transformation and we want people to try new technologies and take risks. We’re calling it our “Climbing to New Heights Innovation Challenge,” and we’ve challenged every teacher to, between now and winter break, look at some way they can look at technology differently to solve a problem, to meet a student’s need, to explore something that might engage students, to try something new and to feel safe doing it. It hasn’t been long and our teachers are already sharing what they’ve done and what worked well.

We all grow from that kind of trying-something-new, seeing-how-it-impacts-kids kind of experiment. That’s how we all grow as educators. It’s asking ourselves, “How are we going to use technology to support instruction, make learning new and relevant, and reach students in a way we couldn’t reach them otherwise?”


I am passionate about being a mother


I am most passionate about being a mother. I have two daughters who attend Indian Lakes Elementary and they are my world. They’ve made me the teacher that I am today by helping me care for and love my students the way I care for them. I really try to focus on their social/emotional development. I think that’s one of the most important parts about school. Although I want students to remember everything that I teach them, I think the one thing I want them to remember most is that they are loved. Same thing goes for my daughters. I tell them every day, “You are loved; you’re a friend; you are the reason we are here,” and I just want them to feel that special bond when they come into the room each day.


I like to play on my tablet


salem-es-braydenI like to play on my tablet all day. I usually get to watch videos on YouTube and play games. My favorite game on my tablet is a zombie game. I like Star Wars now.

There is a new movie coming out soon, right?

Right, but it’s not really like Star Wars: The Force Awakens because you don’t see Rey or Finn or Poe Dameron. I like Star Wars because they have blasters and light sabers. And because my room theme is Star Wars.


I like building things like robots


I think I want to become an engineer and an oceanographer. I really like animals and the ocean animals, too, and I like building things like robots. I was in the STEM club last year. I applied again this year.

Are you going to build robots that go under the sea?

Maybe…I’m not sure yet.

And this year I’m in strings. We’re just starting to learn the plucking for the violin. I like strings. I also know how to play a brass instrument. It’s called a baritone. I’ve played since I was seven.


I’m a champion for underdogs


I’m passionate about making a difference in students’ lives. What I really love are the underdogs. I’m a champion for underdogs. I want to get them on equal playing field and I want to make sure they have success. I do believe every child can have success. I hope I lead from example. I want teachers to have the same passion I have and, after 35 years, for them to still have the passion I have for children.

And what we ask of teachers these days… Do you know what our teachers do? They kill themselves each and every day, and I have such a regard for teachers and how hard they work to meet the needs of children. When I taught school, they sat in rows and I just told them. It was sit and get. Now, we have them differentiating everything. It’s almost as if every child has their own individualized education plan. But it’s working. And that’s probably why I’m still here, because we’re getting better and better every year. I just want everyone to see the glass half full versus half empty and believe in every child because they can do it. They can do it. They can have it. They can make it. That’s my philosophy.


Thankful for my dogs


I am thankful for my two dogs. Their names are Koda and Broker. Broker he likes to snuggle me and Koda he likes to watch over us. She’s a German Shepard. Broker, I think we got last year. Koda, my mom and dad got when I was a baby.

I have three sisters, too. They’re all younger. Sometimes they’re a little mischievous and stuff. The second oldest, she is good. The one that’s next, she’s three, and she’s kind of wild and runs around and stuff.


My friends are coming here


On Thursday and Friday it will be really fun because tonight, today and tomorrow people are going to come to our house! My friends are coming! It takes eight hours, I mean seven and a half hours, for one friend. It takes three hours to the other house.

And they are driving all that way to see you?

Yes! I have new friends in my neighborhood and my dad said I can take them with me to play with them.

And also yesterday, with my friends, I went out and I played football, and they taught me. And I got two touchdowns!


Being at school makes me happy


Being at school makes me happy because I like having good grades and I want to have a nice job when I get older — a job that I like. I like learning new things because it just makes me smarter and I like that.

If I get into a good college, I can get a better degree. I want to be a therapist and you need a lot of college experience to do that. If I start young with a good education then I can get better.

There is an art and journaling therapist and that sounds interesting, and being an occupational therapist sounds interesting. My grandma was a therapist. It’s kind of a thing in my family. It just sounds interesting.

My cousin has Down syndrome, and he’s really smart and really awesome. Occupational therapy helps kids with special needs and I love that. So, I think I’d like helping people with special needs because he is such an inspiration.


We are all unique


We are all unique in our own different, but great, way. We all don’t have to be the same and we can all be different the way we are. Everybody can join together and be a group because of their uniqueness and differences. People can have different hair colors; they can wear mismatched socks just because they like it. It’s OK to be different from others. I’m more like an active, crazy, sporty, dancer, singer, actor.


I have a really big passion for soccer


I’ve been playing soccer since, I believe, I was 4. Right now I’m playing for the Beach FC U12 travel team and a lot of my friends here play soccer. I’m also on what is called the Olympic developmental soccer team where it’s kind of giving you a better chance of being on the Olympic team. It’s training you earlier when you’re younger. I practice Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and sometimes Thursday and usually Friday. Then I have games on Sunday. On Fridays, when I don’t have practice, I help the coaches coach the younger kids. And then on Saturdays I coach younger kids when they have players missing. I have a really big passion for soccer and it’s just something that I’ve really enjoyed doing.

I’ve played tennis. I always do swimming in the summer. I’ve played basketball sometimes. I used to play the piano but then I didn’t have time for that. A lot of things I’m pushing into my schedule because I always want to get new opportunities to do things so I can really try out everything, not just one thing that I’m doing.

I’m in the ODC art program. I like cartoonist style. I don’t like doing realistic things. I like making stuff up and making things look funny and making it look weird — giving it my own perspective. There are only two boys that go there and we’re always making comic strips. We’re taking things that we see around us that seem like they couldn’t be funny and then we take them and blow them up or shrink them down, and we do a bunch of stuff to make it look really funny and it makes people laugh. It’s really fun.


It is important for me to love my job


It is important for me to love my job. “Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.” When I come to work I feel at home. My coworkers are like my brothers and sisters, and the students are like my own children. I have worked here for nine years and it feels good to not count down the days until I retire like most people would. I enjoy being here. In life I am very passionate about family, Landstown Middle School is part of my family! I am passionate about the children and making sure they feel loved at all times. I am passionate about my coworkers and making sure I treat them all as equals. And I am passionate about doing my job and doing it well with all credit to God.


I like headbands


I like headbands. A lot. I have a lot of them. I haven’t counted, but it looks like I have 13 of them. I wear one every day because I think they are pretty and I like to wear them. My favorite one has a really big pink bow with gold hearts on it.

I also like to play outside and ride my bike and go to the beach. And I like to sleep in on weekends.

My favorite color is violet-blue. It’s a little light and a little dark, and I like light and dark colors mixed together. And I really like blue.

Do you have a violet-blue headband?

Yes, I do.


It’s okay to lose in sports


I like to play basketball and to play with my brother and sister and my little baby sister. I also like to go see my grandma. She lives in Georgia but we go to see her in the summers. I like to go see her because a lot of my family lives in Georgia. I like to play a lot of sports. When I’m losing at a sports game I always try to win, but it’s okay to lose in a sports game. In basketball, I use my Habits of Mind, like listening, because a starting point guard has to listen more. And when I listen, I get more plays and people start to score more. It’s okay to win and lose. If you use good sportsmanship, it’s okay if you lose. If you lose you can always win a new game and you can always play them in the finals.


I like to make books


I like to make books. I’m starting one about Hogwarts. I have one about baseball, Star Wars… I made a Finding Dory book. On the Finding Dory one I told the same story because it’s easy for me to tell the stories if I put it in a book. Sometimes I do it on the computer; I’m not very good at that yet. Right now I’m making paper books though I’m starting a series on the computer. My latest book though is a paper book. It’s the one about Hogwarts. I haven’t finished that one yet. I just made the cover yesterday.

Do you want to be an author when you grow up?

Basically, YES! On my “All About Me” thing, it asked what you want to be when you grow up, and I said, “Author.” I have thousands of books! I started when I was like six…and now I’m eight. I have one in my desk right now that’s not finished, but I’m on the last chapter.

It must be hard to hand write chapter books.

My hand gets tired. Sometimes I put my pencil down and just lay back and take a break. Then start doing it all again.


My family is my driving passion


My family is my driving passion. I have twins, a boy and a girl, who are 11. My wife works at Kellam with me and I have worked with her for years. I basically like to hang out and spend a lot of time with them. I like to surf and fish, and I truly do like American history. I spend a lot of time reading American history and visiting a lot of local sites whenever I get a chance.

I think my love of family comes more than anything from my parents. I have a father who is still alive. My mother passed away 11 years ago. We were always a very close family, and the relationships that they had with my sister and me reminds me of the relationships that I have with my kids. That’s something that keeps me grounded and reminds me of the relationship that I had with my mom. She’s not around anymore so that’s important to me.


Being a big sister


I have two brothers and one sister. My youngest brother is a baby. He’s like two months old. I have a little bit older brother who is one. I have a little sister who is four.

Being a big sister means it’s my responsibility when my mom asks me to do something with my little sister and my little brother, to do it. It’s my responsibility. It’s a lot of hard work because if Hudson wants something, that’s the 1 year old’s name, and if the baby is crying…I have to do a bunch of things.

What do you like to do when you’re not helping mom?

I like to ride my bike because I get to play with my friends. We have to watch out for cars. I also like reading. I really like it because if you read a chapter book it gets really interesting, like if there is a problem to solve. The Magic Tree House books, they are really interesting. I’m going to buy the whole set. I like the characters and I always love at the ending, especially if they get surprised.