New York State Education Department I State Office of Religious and Independent Schools I Catapult Learning


Fill in the blank: This school year was…………..!

Exhausting, inspirational, enlightening, phenomenal, insightful, full of friendships, exhausting, hectic, transformative, full of new learnings?  What have you learned about yourself as an educator this past school year? What will you stop/start/continue as we step into the new school year?

Taking the Time to Decompress as we Zoom Across the Finish Line

It’s been an exceptional year and through it all, educators across NYS have devoted countless hours to supporting the social emotional well-being of their students. As we approach the end of the school year, it is time to honor ourselves and focus on what we need to recharge and reenergize to be the best educator for ourselves and for our students. Self-care is an important aspect of teachers’ and school leaders’ mental health.

Self-care typically falls in different dimensions:






Take this Self-Care Questionnaire to help you prioritize your SEL needs this Summer! What are your strengths? What can you further prioritize? Purposely pick one aspect of each dimension as you move forward in your self-care journey.

Improving Writing and Thinking Across the Curriculum:
an Online Writing Series

Join our online writing institute, presented by Dr. John Collins of the Collins Writing Program, designed to help teachers use writing to better engage, teach, and assess students.

Session Dates: Track One (for those new to the Collins Writing Program):
June 28 – July 6, 2021
Track Two (for those who have attended previous Collins Programs): July 7 – July 15, 2021

Leadership Institute:

Building an Effective School Culture

Collaborate with leaders from across NYS to discuss important steps we can take now to build for a successful school year. Join this one-day virtual professional learning community, facilitated by Mitch Center, of Center Educational Consulting, to build strong overarching connections and shared values.

Session Date: July 26, 10am-3pm: Building an Effective School Culture

Thank You for the Feedback

Here’s what participants of our past Leadership Circle shared:

“The best part of the Leadership Circle is the diversity of the group and the reverence people have for one another. We need more of that. It’s a great place to be refreshed.” –  S. Debbie, Principal, Upstate NY

“The Leadership Circle has inspired me to be a better leader and to learn more about leading others, especially during a crisis.” – Leslie P. Principal, NYC

“I recommend the Leadership Circle to a colleague because hearing strategies and experiences form other leaders is encouraging and inspiring. Although we are working in different educational settings, we are all handling similar challenges. Diverse ideas and approaches benefits us all. It has been very helpful.” – Cathy P, School Director, Rockland County

Leadership Conversations

By Mitch Center

In 1975 psychologist Henry Freudenberger described burnout as an experience characterized by deep exhaustion, cynicism and feelings of inefficacy. In recent years, researchers who specialize in motivation have identified three elements that protect against burnout: autonomy, relatedness and competence.

As you rest and reflect this summer, and think about how to come back stronger than in the past, consider the following questions:

Autonomy: How can you provide more autonomy for teachers, and where in your role, would you like more autonomy. Knowing what you need is the first step towards self-advocacy.

Relatedness: How can you help teachers feel more connected to one another, and how could deepen your connections with other leaders so that you might continue to support and learn from one another?

Competency: How can you help teachers feel more competent, and in what areas do you need to improve your level of competence? Answers to these questions will help you identify the key learning experiences that you and others require.

Now is the time for rest and reflection, and for doing what you need for yourself to heal from the stressful days you’ve endured. In time, consider how you might address the key elements above to make for a better experience for yourselves and the many educators you work with. And invite others into the conversation, so that together you begin to solve for a challenge that you all experience. 

Have a wonderful summer, everybody, and thank you for supporting your teachers, families and students through one of the most challenging years of our lifetime!

Celebrating Juneteenth

Honoring Juneteenth

We honor Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, on June 19, to commemorate Black and African American Freedom and Achievements.

Learn about the History of the Juneteenth



37th Annual Rise Conference

The 37th Annual Religious and Independent Schools Educators Conference will we held virtually November 9-10, 2021. Stay tuned for further details in the coming months.

The End of the School Year is Here

By Etta Siegel, MSED | Catapult PD Coach

The end of the school year is coming.

Where did the time go? This makes me nostalgic as I think about the past year and hopeful for the next.

Nostalgic: as a coach, I had to stretch in ways I did not see myself growing. Though I love paper and the feel of books in my hand, I had to master Zoom and Google classroom, and then help teachers I mentor learn to use them as well.  I met with teachers (remotely, of course) to develop ways to bring the best practices I believe into the screen.  I had to embrace frontal learning as a side effect of on-screen learning, and yet learn to work with breakout rooms to continue to encourage partner and group work. Principals, teachers, students – the learning community around me was so strong! So committed!  So devoted to preventing learning slides and pushing for growth ladders as we lived through our own form of Chutes and Ladders of school closings and reopening in the private sector.

Hopeful: I am looking forward to even further growth as we continue to open to the back-to-school of old and can continue to encourage students to be hands-on curious – each day motivated to succeed and do better than yesterday. Having children work together and collaborate in person, present material to the class, work in centers, play together at recess building healthy social skills, and overall, going back to a face-to-face learning community, sharing smiles and thoughts…  all are best practices and gives me hope for the future of our children’s education.

      Lately I have been meeting with teachers to plan for the close of School 2020-21. Here are some tips I am sharing with them.  I hope it helps you, too!

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In the Classroom:

FIRST: Make the most of your time. Spring fever is everywhere, and it affects teachers also! The only problem is, if you let it affect you, it will send the message that school is not serious right now, and the person that hurts most is YOU.

     If you find that you have too much curriculum to cover, do a pretest activity (KWL, quick pre-test, a game, or just ask questions) at the end of the week (So you can plan for Monday) or day (because last minute planning does happen) and then form your lesson based on what they don’t know. This cuts out unnecessary information and saves time and prevents unnecessary preparation for the teacher and boredom for the students, as we know happens when a teacher tries to teach material the children already know.

     Make sure goals are clear.  Celebrate the completion of every unit, every chapter, and of course every book!  Have mini contests- I helped a 5th grade teacher set up a reading contest; a chart trying to reach 100 books, and another chart aiming to reach 1,000 pages. The kids are so psyched as they mentally add up the parties they plan on having. (No Debbie Downers, please, a party can be a scoop of ice cream with sprinkles, an ice pop, or a small pastry. I find children are fine with small parties, and love the idea of lots of them!) One teacher has the children earning privileges instead, like more minutes being read to, playing outside and other such treats.

SECOND: No Dead Time! Children are sponges.  Even when eating their celebratory ice cream, the teacher can share exciting history facts, or share information about an invention…

     There are so many exciting learning projects that can be done this time of year.

     Since the a teacher read Mrs. Piggle Wiggle stories to her class over the year, one second grade is writing their own Mrs. Piggle Wiggle stories since they are so familiar with the characters and style of the stories.

     An eighth grade is done their math curriculum and their big exams are over this week. Together she and I created real-life situations that the students can work on collaboratively to solve. (Ex: Here is a diagram of a house with a yard, and Home Depot and Lowe’s catalogs. Please prepare an estimate of what it will cost to fence in the property… Every group can get 100% even if their design and fencing differs but all points on the rubric are met.)

     An overview of the whole year through games and activities is a productive time filler (you taught it, make sure they leave the year with the information!)

     There are so many different and fun ways to review the year’s learning. One teacher I worked with now keeps academic vocabulary and concept phrases in manila envelopes sorted by category. What she does once a month can be done now, once, or once a week… depending on time available. The class is put into 4 tables and each table gets an envelope (science, social studies, literacy terms and concepts, and math).

     They have ten minutes to pass the envelope around, take out a card, define the phrase, and pass the envelope on. After ten minutes all cards are collected, put back into the envelope and passed to the next table. A score board can keep track of how many cards the table remembered.

     Another teacher has the children write and illustrate a book about the year. Each page has a memory- an event the class did or learned about, with illustrations. Another teacher gave out pictures of the event for children to use as the illustrations.

     Having the class take five minutes to fill a blank page with every memory, learning, or skill covered that year is fun, especially when the teacher then goes around the room and puts each child’s contribution on the board. The board fills up so quickly and the children have to listen so they do not repeat what someone else said, and there is a wonderful sense of appreciation as the student realize how much they have learned!

     Let kids teach! Either give them material and run a jigsaw lesson or let children who love a topic share.

     Now is a great time for special events; career appreciation with invited guests sharing their careers and taking questions, fairs that can be open to parents or just to other classes in the school, whether it is a state fair, and animal habitat fair or the like it generates pride and unity in the class as they get to show off. You might want to keep in mind that parent invitations should be kept to a minimum as parents have to go to work and feel put upon when forced to choose between taking off work or missing their child’s event. A Junior High teacher I work with teaches remotely, and put on a Zoom play, Twelve Angry Men, and recorded the play for parents who could not attend.  Another in-person class had Authors Day and sent home a DVD of the event.

THIRD: Build memories.

     I did this and heard that others do this successfully as well;

     Make a bouquet of compliments! Every child gets a few sheets with flower shapes on them, and a class list. After a discussion about compliments and appreciation, I brainstorm with the class different compliments and messages of appreciation we could say to others. They then are assigned a few classmates a day to “compliment.” I quickly check them all (of course, as I need to be sure the occasional mean-girl comment is not inserted) before I give the go ahead for cutting out, and distribution day finds everyone reading, oohing and awwing as they read, and gluing down the flowers on a poster-board with an optional vase to glue down as well. In older grades, children get index cards and, on distribution day, can get a loose-leaf ring to put them on. There is nothing so wonderful as reading a whole bunch of wonderful thoughts people have about you! (And there is no greater lesson for each student that everyone has wonderful qualities, and it is time to notice them!)

     A letter from the teacher is a great souvenir of the year, especially if it is private and authentic.

     Make a class “yearbook” or memories book, have the kids fill a graffiti board of memories (large paper where everyone writes) … Have journal entries; My most meaningful memory of this year, The person who made this year most special for me, the subject I liked most this year, Something that was hard for me in September but is easy for me know, My favorite moment…
The ideas are endless. Have fun!

FINALLY: Solidify your thoughts.   Write up strengths and weaknesses of students NOW while you remember the details most clearly, and it is not yet crunch time. With a few more weeks to go, now is the time to really solidify what worked with each child, what talents you discovered your student has, what are the child’s trigger points, and any other trick or tip you know. This will help when filling out report cards, record cards, and at meetings with the administration.

     Any last attempts at skill-building needed? You still have time to focus on the children at school and give them a last-minute push. Make those phone calls to parents now, so they understand what their child needs are over the summer to ensure success for the coming year, and make sure to give your principal a copy of the phone log. A paper trail is very important.

For Yourself:

  1. Take pictures of a bulletin board or wall display you liked so that you can recreate it the next year. Our memories get hazy over time.
  2. Make a complete inventory list so you know what you used up and need more of for the coming year. Some supplies are just not available last minute, and why add stress to an already stressful job!
  3. Look over your posters and anchor charts- do some need to be laminated? Replaced?
  4. Make notes for yourself in your plan book of things that worked and did not work; you think you will remember but you probably won’t without a reminder. Next year is a long way away!
  5. Write down issues you want to deal with better next year, now while you are still in school mode, so you are focused when you ask experienced teachers questions and gather advice. Summer is coming! Great time to schmooze! Even busy teachers are usually more free to talk in the summer. Without a list the issues suddenly don’t seem urgent, and often we don’t remember what they were. When the school year starts they will be urgent again, but the chance to leisurely discuss them and prepare for them will have passed.
  6. Note problems your room has and submit it. Even if it won’t be your room next year, the next teacher will appreciate your letting the administration know!

Enjoy your well-deserved vacation after the frenzy of the end of the year!


Would you like to submit an article for inclusion or highlights from your school community? Do you have a comment or suggestion?