Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 55--Wow.

Wow. That's just about all I can say.

Last night, I was nestled all snug in my bed when my phone rang at 10:30. When I saw it was Chris Stengel, my Tech Director extraordinaire, I did a double take. He doesn't use the "real" phone too often. He and some other Mt. Lebanon reps were at PETE&C--the prestigious PA educational technology conference in Hershey. I figured he was calling to rub it in my face that they were having so much fun without me (it's the first time in four years that I missed the entire weekend). He wasn't.

He and Kaelon were gracious enough to let me know that I won the 2010 Outstanding Teacher Award from the PA Educational Council of Technology. When I saw the photo, I laughed and asked him how he Photoshopped my name in there. It was a few seconds before I actually believed him.

I'm disappointed that I missed the banquet...only to thank everyone who believed in me enough to make that declaration. I hope they know how humbled I feel. However, it's a bonus that I also get to go to the national conference, ISTE, in June to "compete" at the national level. I have no idea what this means, but just to spend some time learning with my colleagues at the greatest conference ever is just fine with me.

Wow. It's such an honor. I really don't feel deserving of it, though. I don't do anything more than I expect most teachers do. Besides, there are so many other people that enable me to be successful in and out of the classroom, but it's my students who make or break a teaching job. The award should go to them.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 54

It was time for some good 'ol American food, so what's more American than Damon's for chicken salad and trivia? Even though it was Skillz that dominated the trivia competition, I held my own...barely!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 53

3:30am is obscenely early to wake up (and eat the cheese sandwiches they gave us for our "boxed breakfast"). That aside, it was a great day to travel home.

This is a volcano we passed over in Central America on the way home. I've never seen a real one that recently erupted like that.

15 hours later, I am home. It was such a great trip and I'm so happy I had the opportunity to go. It was a feast for the mind, body and soul. (This gray Pittsburgh weather seems much more drastic, though. I actually gasped at the whiteness as we emerged from the clouds before we landed!)

Day 52

DISCLAIMER: While I spent a TON of time trying to pack my "good" Nikon in my suitcase, find the filter, and wrap the lenses tightly so it could travel well. I love that camera and was so excited to take pictures with it in Costa Rica. However, when I went to use it, I realized that the battery stayed in the charger on my chair (see Day 48)...Sooo, these pictures are only mediocre and I'm not excited about any of them. :-(

That said, this is as good as my shots got on the river cruise. We saw tons of monkeys--white faced and howler monkeys (which are really loud!), dozens of crocodiles and beautiful birds. The monkeys were all just "hanging out" in the trees, but when they move, it's amazing to see how their arms can stretch across the branches. I liked seeing the Kapok trees, too.

After the cruise, we had a traditional Costa Rican lunch with rice, beans, chicken, chips, veggies and rice pudding. Then we cruised around Liberia...the second largest city in the country. I was surprised that it was hardly a city...One supermarket, one light and the church being the center of town.

A huge "gracias" goes to our awesome tour guide, Mayer, who even detoured us back into Liberia so I could find a cache...and three of us went and found it at the local hotel. Mayer even gave me Spanish lessons while we sat together on the bus.

Day 51

Paradise, Day 3
Even work is a lot of fun here. This morning we had our meetings and it was a great way to talk and brainstorm with each other. DSA also announced even more trips for next year...including a tempting trip to London and Paris for spring break (but I have some time to think about it).

In the afternoon, we got to sit by the pool and browse some of the local handiwork on the beach. These pottery pieces were some of my favorites.

For the evening, we explored the town Tamarindo. It's a large surfing area with tons of small shops. My favorite part was dinner at La Beach Club...a perfect little on-the-sand restaurant with lights hanging from the trees and some tables that were like beds. It made me really wish I lived by the beach!

Day 50

Ugh! What picture to post? A photo of the ziplines? One of the hot spring? One in the river where we were covered in lava mud? The one of the cashew fruit? I just couldn't decide!

I "settled" on this one because it's a great reminder of the landscape in Costa Rica...very dry during this time of year, but the palm trees are still beautiful and the volcanoes make the skyline amazing. We rode by horseback up the side of a volcano and ziplined down. I was only super nervous on the first three! It's quite enjoyable after you forget about the fact you're dozens of feet in the air only hanging by a wire over the canopy of the forest!

After our adventure portion of the day, we got to soak in the geothermal waters and ate lunch. I had the best tilapia EVER...I think they just reached in the ocean, seasoned it, and stuck it on my plate. The dragonfruit drinks were unbelievable too.

Dinner at the resort consisted of octopus (blah!), tons of fruit, and all kinds of fish I couldn't name. Life is good. :)

Day 49

It was a looong travel day...After a 4am wake up, 3 hour flight to Houston, 8 hour layover, 4 hours to Liberia and an hour ride to the hotel, I finally arrived at the Barcelo Langosta Resort in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. The "welcome drinks" were definitely appreciated! I am so excited to spend a long weekend with some dynamic teachers learning and having some amazing experiences!

Day 48

To pack is to charge... Ahh...the beauty of simultaneous chargings.

Day 47

Mardis Gras! It's no Bourbon Street (and there was way too much snow), but the hurricanes were a-flowing. Happy Fat Tuesday!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day 46

What is this new and foreign white stuff? The stuff that turned my 17 minute commute into 50?

Yep...six more inches on top of the 30+ inches we already had...

Blame it on the groundhog.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Day 45

Happy Valentine's Day. I'm not going to get all mushy and gushy on this very Hallmark holiday, but I will say that it was a perfect day. I got to spend it with all of my Valentines... I'm a lucky girl!

I hope everyone had a great day! Hugs to all!

Day 44

Going once. Going twice. Sold. (Not to me!)

Kevin and I went do a pretty huge art/antique auction this morning in the Shadyside-ish area (near Construction Junction). Now, I've only been to two other estate auctions, but this one was something to see. There were probably 50 people in the seats, but dozens and dozens more were tuning in from eBay and IM. To my left, a row of laptops were set up with people calling out the bids from the absentees.

The most interesting bids were on a short mink coat (two online bidders waged a war with the winner coming out with a coat and almost $2000 short). There were also tiles that we thought would go for about $50, but they ended up going for almost $2,000....probably etched with unicorn blood or something! Crazy!!!

We did "win" a vase, but it kind of doesn't count since we weren't there to raise our number, but it will still look nice. :)

Day 43

Data. There was a reason I wasn't a math major. Today was in-service and it was all about...yep, data. Students' math scores, reading scores, the percentage they'll score a Proficient on the PSSAs, their Lexile level, their rate of improvement, their chances of growing to be 5'11 or taller, blah, blah, blah.

Now, I get the importance of SOME of these numbers, however, after studying all of these scores for 300 students, they don't tell a lot more than I already know. I know the good readers. I know this lower level readers. But, we all want the kids to learn how to learn and to show improvement. So, for this, I will analyze this data and use it to plan my lessons...until we get new data and we'll start all over again.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day 42--Snow Day #4

Snow Day #4. Wow. I have to admit that I'm still not bored, but it was good to get out of the house today. I was lucky to get to go and visit my new little cousin and my uncle while they kept an eye on each other.

Aiden gave me one look and started to cry, but a minute later he was fun and all smiles. We played, read books and chatted (and babbled) all afternoon. He is too cute! It was a great way to spend a snow day! :)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 41--Snow Day 3

Today's 365: We all have some sort of hobby or favorite activity. Make a photo that shows something you enjoy doing.

Well, I was torn between reading and geocaching, but the outdoor elements made me choose reading. This is a smaaaaal sampling of the books on my entertainment center. Just there, I have about 200 books and have 4 other book shelves in my house. I can't think of a better decoration.

This is an accurate sample of the books I like to read...Beginning with red: Memoirs, professional non-fiction, contemporary/funky non-fiction, chick lit, poetry, and YA. "Regular" fiction should be in there too.

Right now, I'm reading The Help, a book about two maids during the civil rights movement in Mississippi. I highly recommend it...and I'm only 100 pages in! Hopefully I can finish it today.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Day 40-Snow Day 2

Snow Day 2
I'm not complaining. This is nice.

Since not too much happened today (other than a 45 minute terrifying trip to Giant Eagle), I decided to consult the 365 Challenge.

Today's Challenge: Franz Kafka said "Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old." Make a photo of something beautiful today.

Since snow photos are overdone these days, I decided to "make a photo" of the six roses that still grace my end table. Their first birthday is on Saturday. They are beautiful in everything they represent...mainly because I never thought they would make it to their first birthday.

Day 39--Snow Day 1

What's a better way to spend a snow day than with some Racko (and Diet Canada Dry)? This is my favorite game of all time and as soon as I got to my parents, I was begging SOMEone to play. My mom ignored the first few requests, my brother claimed he had work to do since he left the office early, and my sister went to the gym. I'm sure my dad would have played if he didn't have to go to the Pitt game. My mom finally caved for a tournament and she became the Racko Champion of the Universe. There. I said it.

(Sometimes you just have to let people win so they'll play with you again.) Kidding, Mom. ;-)

Day 38

More shoveling and snow blowing (photo) happened at my house on Sunday. Kevin and I trekked to the South Hills even though the interstates were completely ice covered and I still had no power or heat. It was back out to the North Hills when we were done...3 hours later...

Day 37

By noon on Saturday, 23 inches fell.

The day by the numbers:
Hours shoveling: Almost 5
Driveways shoveled: 2 (plus one on Sunday)
Socks worn: 8
Advil taken: 4
Hours of sleep needed by the end of the day: 11

When's spring?

Day 36

Friday night: 10:00ish

The snow started falling like snowballs. There were probably 4 or 5 inches at that time. Little did Pittsburghers know what they were going to wake up to in the morning...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day 34

Book Blogz! Today was the fourth graders' introduction to writing their own blog posts. Until now, they've only been able to comment on posts written by teachers. I think they got the hang of writing their book reviews and commenting on others' posts. I expect they'll get better, but here's an excerpt from one of my favorites (that was posted in the final 5 minutes of class):

This book (14 Cows for America) is amazing I am so suprised that it didn't get picked for the caldicot gold medal or at least the silver one. my favorite part in this book is when the illustrator painted those shoes when he returns to his home town.

Comment 1: I was very disappointed when it didn't win. It' s a really great book that has amazing pictures and has an amazing story to it.

Comment 2: Same here, I was very surprised.

Comment 3: I like the book too, good job.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day 33

Before we started our tutoring session today, Avery had to show me the battlefield he set up in the few minutes between when he got home from school and when I got there. I was surprised at the detail of Marble vs. White Coat armies. Notice the two marbles by each cannon and the "White Coats" in the boats across the "river." He really wanted a photo of it, so I let him take the picture for today.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Day 32

It's going to get a little tricky now that January is over... I can't just go by what the date is!

Anyway, I snapped this photo on my way into the grocery store tonight. Not only was the sky a beautiful color (One girl in front of me said, "Ooo...the sky is beeetiful. It looks like a volcano."), but it's also the first time since October that I've been home after work while it's light out. With only one tutoring session and a grocery stop, the sky was still lightish at 6:05 when I got home. It's getting better every day. Nice.