Monday, October 30, 2017

Sensei Yoshimi Aoyagi

To step into Yoshimi Aoyagi’s trailer at Chapel Hill High is, by one student’s description, “to step into a bubble.” During first period, 26 students stay alert and focused as they write, listen and speak rudimentary Japanese. When a bleary-eyed student yawns and stretches slightly, Aoyagi adopts a strict expression and reminds the students, “In here we do not yawn,” but moments later she is smiling, and the yawning student, sleepy as he is, grins and nods in agreement.
“From the first day of Japanese I, the moment you step into class, it’s different from any other class you’ve taken,” said Jillian Breithaupt, AP Japanese student and class assistant (or sempai) for first period at CHHS. “I love it!”
On Saturday October 21 at this year’s Foreign Language Association of NC (FLANC) conference, Yoshimi Aoyagi was honored as Teacher of the Year. During this calendar year alone, she has also won the Elgin Heinz Outstanding Teacher Award in the Japanese Language category in April, and the Outstanding Achievement Award at Southeastern Association of Teachers of Japanese in March. There are probably many reasons that these awards are flowing her way, but most apparent is the success of her students, year after year, in various essay and speech competitions, as well as her devotion to them on a more personal level. “She’s like our mom,” Breithaupt said. “She’s always asking, What do I need to be doing better to help you succeed?”
Sensei Aoyagi came to CHCCS in 2007, after many years of teaching at the college level (Rollins College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and others). She has taught at CHS, East and CHHS, but has now settled in at the latter two - mornings at Chapel Hill High and afternoons at East. At both schools, she covers Japanese I-IV as well as Advanced Placement, and her students quickly form a community that carries them well past graduation.
The students come from many language backgrounds themselves, and for some, Japanese is a third or fourth language. Some choose to enroll in a class because of their strong interests in Japanese culture, perhaps anime or film. Some hope to teach English in Japan. And though Sensei is tireless in her efforts to help them perform at a high level, no one signs up for these classes because they’re easy. By October, even Japanese I students are writing essays, forming the characters in tiny boxes on Genkō yōshi, a special kind of paper.
I always challenge students to develop their cognitive ideas including understanding different cultures,” Aoyagi said. “I want to give them chances to think what they are and what they can do.”
The atmosphere in her classes is both light-hearted and formal, an odd balance, but it’s striking right away. Students bow to visitors, and when they introduce themselves, they use different honorifics, depending on the visitor’s status - a parent or older sibling versus a principal. All students call their teacher Sensei. In the profile posted when she won the national Elgin Heinz award this year, her impact is described this way: “Ms. Aoyagi has a reputation for being strict; her classes are rigorous and she sets high expectations. Nonetheless, her students know her best for fostering a classroom environment that is inclusive, exciting, and inspiring.”     
One point that Ms. Aoyagi emphasizes is that students who study a foreign language need experiences outside the classroom. Besides encouraging them to enter regional and national competitions, she has established exchange opportunities with schools throughout Japan. More than 120 of her students have traveled with her to Japan during summers since 2009.  In noting her qualifications, the Elgin Heinz committee wrote, “Ms. Aoyagi’s decades-long career demonstrates her sustained commitment to improving mutual understanding between Americans and Japanese, and she has made considerable contributions to enhancing students’ knowledge of foreign language.”
In her Level I and II classes, Aoyagi incorporates instructional support from current or former AP students, like Jillian Breithaupt, or Finn James at East Chapel Hill High. At East, 30 students study Japanese I this year. In the district, 109 students are enrolled across the levels.

East principal Eileen Tully said, “I am so happy that she has received such an amazing recognition because she works so hard.  She is a fantastic teacher because she is passionate about her students and about sharing the Japanese language and culture with them.  It is simply great that her dedication has been acknowledged by FLANC.”

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Teacher Workday, Nov. 7 & Parent Conferences, Nov. 7-8 / Día de trabajo para maestros, 7 de nov. & Conferencias de padres, 7-8 de nov.

Teacher Workday Scheduled

Teacher Workday and Parent Conferences Scheduled
Tuesday, November 7 is a Teacher Workday.  It is also the first of two days scheduled for district Parent/Teacher Conferences. Conferences on November 7 are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on November 8 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Please contact your student's school to schedule your conference.  Elementary report cards will be handed out at the Parent-Teacher Conference.

November 7 is also Election Day, so please remember to Vote! For more information on voting in Orange County, click here.

Día de trabajo para maestros y conferencias de padres y maestros
El martes, 7 de noviembre, es un día de trabajo para maestros. Los estudiantes no tienen escuela. También es el primero de dos días de conferencias de padres y maestros programado por el distrito. Las conferencias del 7 de noviembre son de 10 a.m. a 4 p.m. y las del 8 de noviembre de 5:30 a 8:30 p.m. Por favor contacte la escuela de su hijo(a) para programar su conferencia. Los informes de calificaciones de las escuelas de primaria son entregados a la mano a los padres de familia durante las conferencias de padres y maestros.

¡El 7 de noviembre es también el día de elecciones, así que por favor recuerde votar! Para más información sobre el proceso de votación en el contado de Orange haga clic aquí.

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Say Something

“Kids are the eyes and ears of a society.” This is the message and focus that Nicole Hockley and other Sandy Hook parents bring to their anti-violence work in American schools through the nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise (SHP). Last spring, SHP joined forces with the national student organization SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere). This month, the Chapel Hill High and East Chapel Hill High chapters of SAVE have been awarded $1,000 SHP/Allstate Foundation mini-grants to extend their peer education efforts to prevent suicides and violence in schools and communities. The first major initiative of the year was Say Something week, October 16-20, which overlapped with National Safe Schools Week.
Say Something Week was founded on the simple premise that a great deal of violence committed by young people toward others, or turned inward through suicides, could be prevented if their peers were more willing to step forward when they see or hear troubling signs. Three premises were shared over and over through the Say Something campaign: know the signs, take them seriously and tell a trusted adult.
“Teens don’t always know what to do if they see something is up,” said CHHS SAVE member Katie MacKinnon, “and hopefully we can provide resources for them to know how to properly say something and protect their peers.”
The statistics used in Say Something materials are startling and convincing - four out of five school shooters told at least one person about their intentions before taking action. Seventy percent of suicide victims spoke with their peers or posted warnings on social media. There is an average of nearly one school shooting per week in the U.S. and more than two million American students have suffered violence or crime at their schools. According to the SAVE website: youth between the ages of 12 and 19 are victims of crime twice as often as any adult age group in the United States...including the elderly.
As one Say Something slogan goes, “Saving a life is worth a broken promise,” emphasizing the crucial need to find a counselor, a teacher, a parent, with whom to share troubling concerns. SAVE Promise Clubs are student-created and led, but the adults involved highlight the unique roles that young people play in keeping their schools and communities safer. Jim Wise, SAVE adviser at CHHS, said that their club has traditionally focused on preparing for, and supporting, the Mock Crash as well as general youth safety, so joining forces with Sandy Hook Promise provides a flow of new resources and ideas.
The emphasis on building a culture of “looking out for one another” is one of the main reasons that several East SAVE members cited for joining the club this year. One student talked about the power of “all paying attention to each other.” Another said that even though she’s only been a member since September, she can tell that the club helps students feel less alone, and the club meetings give them more opportunities to interact with students of different ages or social groups.
At East this past week, the SAVE students, plus their adviser Shari Coveney, planned actions for all five days of the week, including handing out “I would be honored to be your Trusted Adult” signs for staff and encouraging students to sign a wall banner that reads, “If this person needed help, I would want you to say something.”
The culmination of the week at East was an all-school viewing of the Sandy Hook PSA “Evan,” followed by restorative circles led by 4th period teachers. In just over two minutes, the video illustrates how tough it can be to pay attention to signs of impending crises among fellow students.
As the students in Hans Hiemstra’s history class reflected on the action steps they can take to prevent bullying and isolation, many suggested starting with the basics: Be kind, Pay attention, Be friendly to everyone. One student said, “It doesn’t need to be some big intervention…just reach out when you see someone is struggling.” In Dominic Koplar’s class, students zeroed in on the goal of always being inclusive as well as “making an effort to open our eyes to those around us.” And when a classmate’s pain is apparent on social media or in the hallways, Say Something.

Sandy Hook Promise identifies the organization as “a moderate, above-the-politics organization that supports sensible non-policy and policy solutions that protect children and prevent gun violence.” Students participating in SAVE activities need not choose legislative sides, nor embrace specific gun controls.

It’s all about bringing awareness into their own lives, and the lives of their loved ones.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Table Top Conversations

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools operates under the direction of a strategic plan. The existing five-year plan is now in its final year. As we work hard to finish strong, we are concurrently in the process of creating a new plan. This new plan will govern our work for the next three years. We hope to have it ready by June.

In order to create a plan that points us in the best direction for serving students and their families, we need input from everyone. To that end, we have set up a series of 20 table top conversations that will take place throughout our community in the coming weeks. You are encouraged to find one that fits your schedule and come on out. The entire event should not last longer than 90 minutes. We will also be sending out a survey that attempts to capture feedback to the same questions discussed at the table top conversations.

Many thanks to our School Improvement Teams for organizing and hosting these events. Below are the dates and times. No reservations are needed, just show up and share your thoughts.

Morris Grove Elementary --- Monday, October 23  (6 p.m.)
Chapel Hill High --- Monday, October 23  (6 p.m.)
FPG Elementary --- Thursday, October 26  (6 p.m. Spanish and 7 p.m. English)
Northside Elementary --- Friday, October 27  (6 p.m.)
Culbreth Middle --- Wednesday, November 1  (9:30 a.m.)
East Chapel Hill High --- Wednesday, November 1  (6 p.m.)
Glenwood Elementary --- Wednesday, November 1  (6 p.m.)
Estes Hills Elementary --- Monday, November 6 (6 p.m.)
McDougle Elementary --- Monday, November 6  (6 p.m.)
Phillips Middle --- Monday, November 6 (6 p.m.)
Scroggs Elementary --- Monday, November 6 (6 p.m.)
Culbreth Middle --- Tuesday, November 7 (6 p.m.)
McDougle Middle --- Tuesday, November 7  (6 p.m.)
Lincoln Center --- Thursday, November 9  (6:30 p.m.)
Rashkis Elementary --- Monday, November 13  (6 p.m.)
Carrboro High --- Tuesday, November 14 (5:30 p.m.)
Ephesus Elementary --- Tuesday, November 14 (5:30 p.m.)
Seawell Elementary --- Tuesday, November 14  (5:30 p.m.)
Smith Middle --- Tuesday, November 14 (6 p.m.)
Carrboro Elementary --- Tuesday, November 14  (6:15 p.m.)

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

John Williams - CHCCS Principal of the Year

Phoenix Academy High School Principal John Williams was named the 2017-2018 Principal of the Year by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.  The announcement was made today by Superintendent Pam Baldwin in the presence of students and staff.

Williams was selected for the honor by his peers for the numerous accomplishments he has made during his tenure at Phoenix.  He will go on to represent CHCCS at the state level.

“John Williams is a hero at his school, in our community, and, most importantly, in the lives of his students,” said Superintendent Pam Baldwin. “John is the principal who comes to work early on Monday mornings and picks up trash in the parking lot because he believes his students deserve a clean campus. His students tell stories of him showing up at their homes to take them to school on days when they decided not to attend. He laughs with them, he cries with them, and he is always there for them. John is a very worthy choice for Principal of the Year.”

Williams has been the principal of Phoenix since 2012.  Previously, he served as a principal and assistant principal with Durham Public Schools.  He began his teaching career in Greene County. Prior to his work as an educator, Williams served in the United States Air Force for 20 years. He retired as a Senior Master Sergeant. Upon retiring from the Air Force, Williams operated a private mental health counseling practice.

While his background is not the traditional path for a high school principal, Williams emphasizes the role his distinct experience has played in preparing him for his current position.

“My own high school experience was not positive, and returning to work in a school was never something that crossed my mind,” said Williams. “However, I realized that my background in both the military and in the mental health field provided a unique set of life experiences that could work for the benefit of young people. I’m so very thankful for the opportunity to genuinely help students every day.”

Williams holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, and master's degrees from Troy State University and East Carolina University.
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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

International Welcome Center - Above and Beyond

On any given weekday, no matter the month, the CHCCS International Welcome Center at Lincoln Center can be bursting at the seams with activity. Housed in a trailer with a brightly colored sign, the Center opened as a stand alone facility in 2015, one of the only of its kind in North Carolina. Families who have just arrived in the U.S., as well as those whose first visit to the Center was a couple of years ago, might be speaking to one staff person in Spanish, another family speaking in Karen, and another may be waiting patiently for an interpreter in a different language. For some newcomers, it’s not too much of an exaggeration to call the Center a lifeline and the starting point for their journeys into brand new lives.

“They leave this office with some hope,” said Zulma Urena, EL Student Success Advocate. “We can’t change all their lives. But maybe one a week, one a day,” she added with a smile.
On the Center’s website pages, the messages are in Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Burmese, Karen, Korean, Arabic and Swahili, a dramatic shift for a school district that had relatively few English language learners even 20 years ago. Also on the Center’s website is a nine minute orientation video in numerous languages, covering the most basic aspects of orientation to our schools: attendance, transportation, nutrition, inclement weather, etc. Currently, there are nearly 60 home languages identified among CHCCS families.

The most basic mission of the Center is to fulfill the requirements for registration and assessment of new students whose dominant language is other than English.  These students must ta

ke the N.C. state-designated English Language Proficiency assessment, as well as a math test, while families meet simultaneously with Zaida Walker, the ESL Parent Liaison to complete a language survey and listen to a general overview of CHCCS. Although many assessments are scheduled by appointment, throughout the day other newcomers find their way to the Center by word of mouth, or they stop by when they see the multi-language sign on the trailer, so the flow of people can be nonstop for hours.
Before the Welcome Center existed, most new ESL students started at their base schools before their assessments took place. Helen Atkins, the district’s ESL Coordinator, said that when she came on board in October 2014, many ESL teachers had not yet begun teaching their students because they were still testing. I knew that we had to help teachers so that they could spend their time instructing instead of testing.”
Atkins and the rest of the staff at the Center rarely hide their passion and commitment to our new international families; their love for this work is evident immediately. They understand the depth of support they offer to adults and children who feel vulnerable and confused. Zulma Urena said, “It’s hard to believe that a person you haven’t met before can trust you so quickly.” She described the experience of home visits with families who rarely unlock their doors. “But they see our staff, our faces, and they open the doors, the windows, and they’re happy to share the food that’s on the table.”
A brand new feature from the Center, launched this month, is a hotline that directs callers to leave messages for interpreters in Spanish, Karen, Arabic and five other languages. The challenges tied to giving and receiving information for non-English speaking families are often enormous...and stressful. Hundreds of CHCCS families have no direct access to internet, and some have no personal phones, so the impediments to navigating an unfamiliar and mysterious school system are compounded in many ways. Communications that come from Lincoln Center, the home school or the classroom teacher might all be impenetrable, and the quick clicking most adults and children do on their computers to find information, from calendars to transportation to PowerSchool, is not a part of these families’ capabilities. For the rest of the district, these limitations are often off the radar, yet the team at the Welcome Center immerse themselves in outreach and problem-solving, in order to ease these transitions.
Often the first point of contact at the Center is Ya Day Moo, the administrative assistant, bookkeeper, scheduler of interpretation and translation services - and “Jill-of-all-trades.” Her demeanor is unfailingly calm and warm, but her emotion is notable when she describes how powerful she finds this work, and how blessed she feels to have landed at the Center. In 2007, Ya Day arrived with her family from Southeast Asia to the U.S.; none of them spoke English. They settled in Georgia, and though they had few of the resources available that our CHCCS newcomers find, Ya Day was able to complete high school and then attain a business degree from a community college, first in ESL, then in regular classes. Working at the Center is her first official job, and yet she is the adept and confident heart of the information flow.
Besides greeting people at the front desk, Ya Day answers the phone and acts as air traffic controller as she matches visitors with other staff or outside resources. She organizes most of the interpretations and translations provided by the Center. In 2014-15, more than 4,000 requests were filled; last year the number climbed to more than 6,300. So far this school year, they have already received 1,500 requests, in languages ranging from Rohingya to Swedish. In September alone, they handled more than 450 requests for Spanish language assistance.
Contracted interpreters will function as the support spokes for the newcomer hotline, but traditionally their roles cover many in-person functions, from accompanying Center staff on home visits, to assistance with food stamp applications, making appointments with health agencies and IEP meetings at schools. Currently the Center contracts with 26 interpreters, but the need is higher. The Center also makes sure that there is interpreters’ equipment in Spanish and Karen at district and school functions.
There are 612 newcomer families currently on the roster this year. But many families who first met Ya Day Moo or Zaida Walker, EL Family Support Specialist, months ago, still call and drop by with questions, fears, or simply to say hello. Not all of these newcomer families are refugees, but many are, and the entire staff at the Center embraces the research that learning, especially among young people, happens most effectively when their social, physical and emotional needs are addressed. The students themselves may adapt to their schools quickly, while parents remain apprehensive and isolated much longer. Taking a holistic approach to meeting a family’s needs means recognizing how much students’ academic success is tied to their parents’ and other family members’ overall mental health. Teens from immigrant families might miss school to accompany parents to medical or legal appointments, so the more the families recognize available resources, the fewer days their high school children will miss as interpreters and guides.
In the past two years, hundreds of newcomer parents have responded to surveys created by the Center, and more than 80% of them have rated the services with 5’s-- “extremely satisfied.” In the comment boxes, parents have written, “The staff answered ALL my questions and concerns amazingly,” and “We are so glad to live in such a supportive community.”
From a single trailer packed with supplies and printed resources - and a small team of staff members sharing space - an abundance of positive outcomes unfold, day in and day out.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

“Hope for Houston” at Carrboro High School

Within days of Harvey’s crippling blast through Houston, a group of students and staff at Carrboro High created a committee to organize support for affected students and teachers in Texas. They called the group “Hope for Houston,” and through a grassroots Facebook effort, “Principals Helping Principals,” Carrboro High adopted Cypress Creek High in Houston.
Beverly Rudolph, principal at Carrboro High, and CTE teacher, Julie Francis, set the process in motion at a faculty meeting in late August as reports of damage from Harvey dominated the news. Francis said, “It actually started through my business classes. I wanted to open up a dialogue about businesses getting involved in their boiled down initially to hey, we can write letters of support and encouragement...then look to next steps.”
Principal Rudolph knew of the Facebook leadership group, “Principals Helping Principals;” a member of that group, Texas principal Kristen Eriksen, created a Google sheet to share with principals around the country. Within 24 hours of Rudolph’s conversation with Francis, Carrboro High had connected with Cypress Creek High in Houston, and their drive was underway. Now, a group of CTE and other students are providing leadership and ideas as they meet weekly in Ms. Francis’ classroom.
Since the school adopted Cypress Creek, the country has watched as two other hurricanes have decimated parts of Florida and Puerto Rico, but the committee decided to stay focused on their original goal of supporting one high school. Ms. Francis said they recognize how many donation drives have sprung up around the country, but they want to sustain a long term partnership with Cypress Creek.
As future business leaders, Ms. Francis’ students, as well as the members of DECA and Skills USA, understand how important it is to step forward and contribute in your own community and beyond. During the first meeting, Ms. Francis urged the new committee to ask themselves, “How do you step out of the box and make an enormous impact?”
Reflecting on how social media targeted and expedited this national aid drive, the creator of Principals Helping Principals, Kristen Eriksen said in a Dallas News article, “A big part of that Facebook page was sharing great ideas and advice that helped fellow principals. Now to see those principals who have helped you in need? You have people in Texas losing everything, including schools. There’s going to be so many little things that you’re used to having that are just gone now.”
By early September, more than 275 partnerships between schools had formed, and the original spreadsheet now has been changed to “view only,” since all of the Texas schools in need have been adopted.
Anyone who would like to contribute to Hope for Houston can make donations via the following:

  1. Write a check payable to Carrboro High for any amount with Hope for Houston on the memo line. Bring to room D212 or email Ms. Francis at
  2. Go to under Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools/Carrboro High School, Donation- Hurricane Harvey
  3. Cypress Creek High School has suggested that if individuals would like to contribute something more personal, they are requesting gift cards to the following stores: Target, Walmart, Lowe’s Home Improvement or Kroger’s. Gift cards should be sent to the attention of Ms. Francis in D212 so that they can be mailed together.
The students on the committee reflect a “sky is the limit” attitude as they continue to brainstorm ideas for support, both large and small, beyond the direct financial donations. Certain Carrboro High clubs are discussing ways to adopt their sister clubs at Cypress Creek, and several members are looking toward the holiday season, when they hope to send homemade gifts.
One young entrepreneur at Carrboro High, Katie Coyne, is exploring ways that she can contribute from Katie’s Kreations, her growing online business that sells small stuffed animals, soft slippers and other fabric items. “I’m always trying to find a way to help out, and every year I try to incorporate my business as my way to donate.” Katie hopes the committee will create a Hope for Houston logo soon, so that she can use that on each toy or baby blanket she sends to Houston. “We can also do theme colors for the stuffed animals. Or I can donate 30% of my overall profits for a certain amount of time as well if that's easier.”
The entire school community has undertaken a letter writing campaign to students and teachers at their adopted school. Several of Ms. Francis’ students drew from comparable experiences in their lives. One who lived in New Orleans as a child wrote, “Before Katrina, there was an incredible aquarium in New Orleans that I loved visiting. After Katrina, there was an incredible aquarium called New Orleans that I hated visiting.” Another shared her dramatic story of living through floods in Southeast Asia, when the river “came to our home and some houses (were) taken away by the river.”
Another wrote that he had lived in Texas for 11 years, and he watched the news from Houston, wondering if his family would get to safety. One student described how she had watched reports on television as she worked at a restaurant, “During the time of Harvey, it never left the news channel, and so I constantly had my eyes on what was happening. I thought about high school students a lot.”
Who knows what new support ideas will spring from the next Hope for Houston meeting in Ms. Francis’ classroom?

Other Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools are engaged in a variety of hurricane relief activities. Stay tuned for an update on those drives!

A comprehensive list of organizations collecting support for Hurricane Harvey victims is posted on the TASA website, Texas Association of School Administrators.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Special Board Meeting - Wednesday, October 11

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education has called a special meeting to take place at Glenwood Elementary (2 Prestwick Road - Chapel Hill) on Wednesday, October 11 at 6:30 p.m.

The purpose of this meeting is for staff to present options for the reduction of enrollment levels at Glenwood Elementary, and to collect feedback from the Board regarding the criteria for evaluating the options. The Board will also entertain public comments.

Glenwood Elementary's enrollment currently exceeds capacity by 68 students. Each of the school’s 20 classrooms and five mobile classrooms are now in use. The school's enrollment is projected to increase again next year. This increase is anticipated due to the expansion of the Mandarin Immersion program along with growth from within Glenwood’s attendance zones. As a result of the Mandarin expansion, the projected number of classrooms for traditional students will decrease in 2018-19.

For more information, see the agenda abstract for this Board item.
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Friday, October 6, 2017

Music Mentors

Every Tuesday afternoon, soon after the 7th period bell rings at East Chapel Hill High, a group of more than 20 Wildcat musicians journey over to Phillips Middle School. Some carpool, some take the city bus. They roll up their sleeves, forget about their own homework for an hour, and pay it forward.
Two years ago, Jack Welsby, now a senior at East, met with his former Phillips orchestra teacher, Ann Daaleman, and he proposed starting a mentoring program for her current students. “We set up a plan during the summer,” Ms. Daaleman said, “but quite honestly, I thought it would last a month or two and then everyone would get too busy to continue or lose interest. Instead, it is growing and prospering in Year Two and reaching many of my students. It’s also spread to our band program.”

In fact, nearly 60 Phillips students, participants in Ms. Daaleman’s orchestra and Mr. Ashley Sample’s band programs, are now involved in the after school mentoring.

As any parent of a young musician knows, the cost of ongoing private lessons can be expensive...and completely out of reach for many families. Ms. Daaleman said, “Many of the Phillips students who participate would not have a chance for private lessons due to finances.” She noted that the high school students involved in the mentoring program are some of the best musicians at East Chapel Hill, with years of private lessons already behind them.

With the help and encouragement of Ryan Ellefsen, the orchestra and band teacher at East Chapel Hill High, students Zac Johnson, clarinet, and Quentin Sieredzki, horn, have helped to coordinate the band side of the mentor program.

When asked about why he chooses to mentor middle school students, Sieredzki explained, “It was kind of natural...and it was a way for me to give back to our middle school band.”
Program founder Welsby said, “The Phillips and East orchestras both have a lot of talent, and it’s hard for beginning students to keep up with the advanced ones. I wanted to offer free lessons so the beginning students would keep up with music.”
Some East students work consistently with the same Phillips musicians, but others teach pairs or small groups, as the numbers dictate. The mentors smile often and radiate patience, even at the end of their own long, demanding school days. “There you go, that was amazing,” one mentor said to a young violinist. “Perfect.”
“I can't tell you how rewarding it is to see my former students come back to teach and inspire my newbies as they learn how to play their first songs,” said Ms. Daaleman. “Even my more advanced students love coming on Tuesdays to work with the high school students.”
The young musicians understand the gift they’ve been given, and their comments reflect that awareness:

"We get to learn things ahead of the class."
"It’s a private tutor for free."
"They help you specifically with what you personally are struggling with."

When asked what he receives from the mentorship program, Johnson stated, “I feel that I am learning to be a better teacher and how to interact with students that are younger and have less experience playing their instrument.”

There really is a bond that develops between the mentors and young musicians. Taniya Rogers, a 6th grade trombonist, asks each week, “Is Megan coming? I really want to work with Megan!”

Ms. Daaleman deflects any credit for this flourishing program, although Jack Welsby said one of the motivations for him has been “to give back to Mrs. Daaleman for helping me find my love for music.” The orchestra teacher’s influence is pervasive. She and Sample are fervent proponents of arts education as part of the district’s larger equity work. They will continue to look for ways to make instrumental music education more widely accessible. Teachers are partnering with the SKAJAJA non-profit on instrument donations for middle school students across the district who want to play but are unable to afford an instrument.

Ms. Daaleman said that this program gives her as much joy as she’s ever experienced in her long teaching career. “I just sit at my desk and observe this magic and enjoy seeing the smiles, the relationships and the learning.”

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