Monday, May 14, 2018

May Letter from the Principal

May 2018

Hello, Great Falls Parents,

It’s been a great year! We would like to thank you for your trust and commitment to the vision of Great Falls Elementary School, “Succeeding today to be ready for tomorrow!” It is your belief in our values that help us to sustain our vision. We will continue to put your child first in everything we do!
This was a very busy year and you, as partners in education, played a great role in making it a success! Although it is a hectic time of year, it is the time when we most realize how blessed we all are to be part of this amazing school community. Parents and teachers commit their time and energy every day toward creating a nurturing environment in which children can thrive!

We accomplished a ton this school year!  Below are some highlights of the wonderful events from 2017-2018:

Kids’ Clubs: Our sessions of Kids’ Clubs were a tremendous success!  The morning session was very well received by parents, teachers, & kids. Club offerings included: Legos, Arts & Crafts, Perler Fuse Beads, Spanish, Paint Party, Pillow-Polo-Hockey, Learn to Sew, Animal Refuge League, Walking, American Sign Language, & Homework club.
Student Ambassadors: We had over sixty fourth and fifth-grade students who have volunteered to be student ambassadors this year. These students were required to fill out an application and obtain a reference in order to be selected.  Students served in a variety of roles including Reader Leaders, Math Mentors, Morning Greeters, Lunch/Recess Buddies, Dismissal Monitors, and Books-On-the-Bus readers.
Socktober: Great Falls participated in our annual sock collection for those in need.
Jump Rope for Heart: Every student enjoyed an assembly showcasing our third,  fourth and fifth-grade jump roping talent. Every student participated in this campaign through their PE classes, and Gorham Elementary Schools donated over $7,000 to the American Heart Association.
C.O.C. : We continued with our school-wide focus on the Code of Conduct!
6th Annual Empty Bowl Project: The Empty Bowl Project is an international grassroots effort to fight hunger. The basic premise is simple: students create handcrafted bowls. They are asked to keep a bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. The money raised is donated to an organization working to end hunger and food insecurity. All K-5 students created a pottery bowl during their recent art classes with art teachers, Allie Rimkunas and Patricia Kaczmarek. We asked parents to support our act of kindness by making a donation in any amount to purchase their child's bowl made during art class. The bowls were distributed at the extremely well attended Family Movie Night! Great Falls donated $1,500 to the Gorham Food Pantry and contributed over a 1,000 pounds of food.
Art of Literacy Night: Students and families came together to celebrate literacy as the culminating event for Read Across America week. The school community enjoyed decorations, art projects, reader-theater presentations, music, and face painting all connected to themes of our One School, One Book Project.
One School, One Book Project: Great Falls Elementary completed our 3rd annual One School, One Book project. The book that we chose to read was Mr. Poppers Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater.
The Teamwork for The Taylor’s Event was a huge success! The Gorham Teachers’ Association supported the TEAMWORK FOR THE TAYLOR’S event on Sunday, March 4th at Great Falls. GTA members and other staff donated more than $4000 for the Taylor family allowing the GTA to apply to the MEA Partnership for Caring for $1500 in matching funds. The event began with a very competitive staff volleyball tournament consisting of 5 teams. Although the championship was a close showdown between the Great Falls’ team and GHS, the high school claimed the victory! We had a ton of laughs, delicious food, and the Taylor family was overwhelmed with the kindness, love, and generosity of the district.
Great Falls Family Fun and Wellness Fair 2018: Great Falls held our 7th annual Family Fun and Wellness Fair for 300+ staff, students, family members, and health and wellness vendors. It was a spectacular event bringing together the Gorham business and service community with our school community.
GHS Mentor Project: Gorham High School student mentors hosted their buddies for a day at the high school. The students had a great experience. The power of mentorships is amazing!
Mindfulness: Jaime Tardif and Stacey Sawyer completed a 12-week training course by Mindful Schools over the summer. They piloted the program in K and other classes that expressed interest. Mindful Schools curriculum is designed to help children develop awareness in order to improve attention, focus and self-control and the concept has been greatly endorsed.
Learning Beyond the Classroom Experiences: Each grade level participated in two field experiences to enhance grade-level content. In addition, our whole school community enjoyed The Power of Yet assembly as well as multiple author visits, both in-person and via Skype.
Backpack Program: We continually accepted new enrollees into the Backpack Program for families experiencing food insecurity. Food bags were delivered each week for the student to take home prior to the weekend.  
King Arthur’s Bread: On Thursday, December 7th, our 4th and 5th graders learned to make bread from scratch. They discovered that math, science, reading, and baking know-how add up to delicious bread and donated many loaves to the Gorham Food Pantry.
The MELMAC Education Foundation is committed to supporting high-quality initiatives that serve the purpose of increasing educational opportunities for Maine people. The Foundation believes that Maine people and the State of Maine will thrive in the new economy by providing access to the appropriate education, skills, and training at all levels. Exciting news… Great Falls has joined forces with Gorham High School on a special Adopt a Classroom project through GHS’s MELMAC work in an effort to promote college and career aspirations. Research shows that college and career aspirations start in elementary school. Every Great Falls’ class experienced 3 visits by a pair of GHS students. One student will have college aspirations and one student will be a participating VOC or PATHS student with career aspirations. The final session will end with our annual Great Falls’ Career Fair!

Phew! … and that was only a few of the many AMAZING things your children and our staff took part in during this school year! We truly appreciate your ongoing support and partnership in all that we do. We look forward to continuing these and many other opportunities to build community and enhance the positive climate & culture at Great Falls next year! My June letter will cover all of our end of year events.

As always, please feel free to reach out to us at any time with questions and feedback.
Kindly yours,

Becky Fortier and Stacey Sawyer