October, 2014

Website Banner 2Fall Festival – A Great Success!

AZ Academy hosted its 13th Annual Fall Festival in style! The decorations, lighting, and fog were a hit creating a perfect fall ambience. The new, colorful games as well as the classic favorites were busy with guests playing all night long. The high school band, Chained Freedom, rocked the house between DJ’s, while the sounds from the Haunted Trail filled the upper campus. And the Harvest Grill filled our bellies with delicious food. We are so excited that everyone had a wonderful time!

A special thank you to KDM for lighting and sound. And another special thank you to all of our families who worked tirelessly to help our community have a great family-centered event!

Finally, DON’T FORGET THE RAFFLE SALES ARE STILL ON-GOING UNTIL NEXT FRIDAY! After that, we will publish the fundraising results of the Fall Festival, so please help up reach our goal to raise $30,000!

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No Buses on Monday and Tuesday (11/3 & 11/4)

For public schools, Monday is a professional development day and Tuesday is Election Day. Therefore, the public schools are closed and buses will not be in operation.

Independent Reading is FUN-damental!

Research shows that students who read more are more successful in school, in post-secondary education pursuits, and in their careers. But students who struggle with reading, and even those that don’t, are reading less and less every year in their media rich environment. To combat this trend and to create a different culture at AZ Academy, we require independent reading outside of school using the Accelerated Reader (AR) program hosted by Renaissance Place.

Our biggest problem with implementing this program is that the reading happens outside of school – where the teachers aren’t there to remind students to read! There are three ways we hope to help improve students’ quantity of independent reading:

  • Convince parents that it is important that their child actually do the reading, so that they will continuously talk to their student about what they are reading,
  • Give students tools to monitor weekly reading, so that teachers and parents can monitor it as well, and
  • Give students motivation to complete their reading point goals each quarter.


DATA-page-001 (1)So parents, here’s the scoop…the more students read every day, the stronger their performance on standardized assessments that measure reading skills.  In addition, Accelerated Reader users show significant gains in reading achievement in elementary straight into middle school.  Finally, research shows that gains are sustained through high school and beyond. To read more about the importance of independent reading and AR research click here.

So what can you do at home?

Talk to your student about what they are reading. Ask questions about the characters, the plot, what they liked, and what they didn’t like when they are reading a book. Ask them if they did their AR reading for the week. Take them to the bookstore to look for something of interest, talking about the different types of books.  Check that it is in their ZPD range by going to www.arbookfind.com!

Model reading as something important – talk about what you read. In the Heller household we are often talking about what we are booksreading, whether it be news, video game updates, work…just about anything to draw attention to the fact that reading is the gateway to knowledge!

Understand what AR is and the language that goes along with using the program. There are points to earn, ZPD’s to be mindful of when choosing books, and quizzes to take online. Go this this Parent’s Guide to using AR to be fully informed!


Every teacher has a method for implementing and tracking AR progress at AZ Academy. Here are some general guidelines to what methods teachers are using:

Elementary – Teachers publish weekly homework schedules which call for daily reading. Students generally take quizzes at school, and based on the reports that were just printed for portfolios, they have been busy reading! Quarterly point goals are set by teachers, and are monitored throughout the quarter.

Middle School/High School – Most students have red reading log folders, where they record how many pages they read and a brief red foldersummary every time they read. The expectation is that students read for 30 minutes 4 times per week. Many students read more than this, but this is what they record. The reading log is checked the first school day of every school week! Students can take quizzes at school or at home, and there is an App on their iPads. Their reading folder shows their ZPD and their point goal for the quarter.

We need to set students up for success, so using simple tracking systems helps teachers determine if students are actively reading outside of school. But we need parents to ensure that students are doing the reading!


poolOne of the keys to success in implementing any program, is setting up rewards! For the students that successfully reach their point goal at the end of the 2nd quarter, AZ Academy will host a POINTS POOL PARTY to celebrate their reading achievement with some fun in the sun. We hope that launching this rewards program will help motivate students to reach their point goals. It will be a race to the finish, and teachers will do their part to hype it up. But we need parent support, too, so please encourage your student to read, read, and read!!!

AZ Tech Corner

The internet can be an awesome resource for kids. But this access can also pose hazards. It is vital to be aware of what your kids see and hear computeron the internet, who they meet, and what they share about themselves online. Here are a few internet safety tips for parents:

  • Talk with your child about Internet safety as soon as he/she begins using the Internet. It is never too early to start discussing the importance of being a good digital citizen.
  • Use age-appropriate filtering, blocking and monitoring software on all Internet-enabled devices used by your child, including laptops, wireless phones and video games.
  • Stay involved in your child’s online world by setting limits on his/her “screen time” and monitoring who your child is communicating with online. Get to know the web sites your child is visiting and educate yourself about your child’s online activities.
  • Explain to your child that he/she should never give out personally identifiable information online. For example, your child should understand that he/she should not post detailed information about his/her whereabouts.
  • Make sure your child knows never to meet someone they met online face-to-face without first talking with you about the situation.

Please visit the Family Online Safety Institute for more information at www.fosi.org. If you would like assistance with implementing these tips, please contact Mr. Mauree in the main office at AZ.

After School News

photo_1 (1)The skateboard club has been having a great time shredding. The kids have been working on all their balance skills and basic tricks. All the skaters were extremely excited to go out to Frederiksted to skate.

Unfortunately, it had just rained and the half pipe was too wet to skate safely. We all made the best of it and skated on the basketball court. I am so proud of all the hard word and determination of all the skaters.

Red Ribbon Week…Students Pledged to Stay Drug Free!

red ribbonAZ Academy’s Guidance Department coordinated a Red Ribbon Week celebration during the final week of this month (October 27 – 31, 2014). The Red Ribbon Campaign was started after drug traffickers tortured and killed Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Enrique (Kiki) Camarena in Mexico in 1985. This began the continuing tradition of displaying red ribbons as a symbol of intolerance towards the use of drugs. The mission of the Red Ribbon Campaign is to present a unified and visible commitment towards the creation of a DRUG-FREE AMERICA.

The week began with an opening ceremony and an extended assembly for grades 4th – 12th graders. Mrs. Luz Maldonado-Vanderperk who serves as the Substance Abuse Outreach Worker at the Department of Health, Division of Mental Health, Alcoholism & Drug Dependency Serves shared her experience of drug abuse, recovery, and service with the students. The students were fascinated to learn that although Mrs. Vanderperk abused drugs for many years and lost everything including her home and children at one point, she was able to go to treatment, remain clean and sober for over 20 years, and now goes out into the community to provide services for those who are struggling with addiction.

During the week there were several presentations by the Virgin Islands Police Department K-9 Unit, the Virgin Islands National Guard Counter-Drug Task Force, U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection, and Maren Roebuck & Maria Thomas from the Department of Health, Division of Mental Health, Alcoholism & Drug Dependency Serves. Since this is Bullying Prevention Month, there were also presentations about bullying. Ms. Wallace played Drug and Alcohol Free Earth Bingo with several classes and shared “Tony’s Sobering Lesson,” a comic book that shares surprising facts about alcohol, with middle school students.

All classes decorated their doors throughout the week in preparation for AZ Academy’s Annual Door Decoration Contest. Four judges who were selected by their teachers, went from door to door and judged each one based on a rubric. The winners were as follows: 1st place – 7th grade, 2nd place – Pre-k & Kinder, and 3rd place – 1st & 2nd grade. All doors were beautifully decorated with messages that warned about the dangers of drugs.

IMG_0084It was a sight to behold on Friday as students and staff gathered on the campus wearing red as an outward demonstration of their commitment to a drug-free lifestyle. Within the sea of red, some went to the extreme to ensure that they qualified for the Wear Red Contest. The four students who wore the most red earn prizes and the first place winner, Riley S. won 25 points for the silver team. The contest was judged “Apollo” style. The week ended with a closing ceremony where students shared what they learned throughout the week and pledged to stay drug free.

I pledge allegiance to myself, and who I want to be.
I can make my dreams come true, if I believe in me.
I pledge to stay in school and learn the things I need to know
To make the world a better place for kids like me to grow.
I promise to keep my dreams alive, and be all that I can be.
I know I can, and that’s because I pledge to stay drug free!

Math Course 2 Shapes Up

Getting geometric! The students in Math Course 2 have been focusing geometry in their class. We have been learning to construct shapes and designs using a compass and straight edge. One great tool is the Smart Board compass that allows the students to manipulate the shapes.
Keep an eye out for other exciting mathematical updates!

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3rd Graders Explore Friendship

The third grade has been busy this October getting ready for Fall Festival, exploring the ocean zones, learning about different landforms, multiplying and dividing using arrays and bonds, and becoming close readers through the fantastic tale of Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte’s Web is a story about an unlikely friendship between a piglet and a spider. It shows the triumph of true friends and sometimes the difficulties that come with standing up for one another. The third grade students have been working hard on their own friendships both in and outside of the class. Make sure to continue to foster these positive bonds with your child!

Field Studies Bring Learning to Life

On October 17th, 45 students from the middle and high school social studies classes took a break from the classroom to participate in International Archaeology Day at the National Historic Site in Christiansted. This field trip supported learning happening across these grades in multiple classrooms, including science and English/Language arts!
Students had the opportunity to observe and help with a real archaeological dig that was under way near the Customs House at Fort Christiansvaern. Perhaps you read about it in the St. Croix Source or The Avis. Both newspapers had nice articles about the project and our participation. The students also had a tour of the fort and tried their hand at collecting data in a mock dig. It was a fun learning experience.

IN THE FORT Mock dig-data collection (2) sifting

4/5th Grade News – We’ve Been Busy!

Happy Halloween!! We have a lot of things going on in the fourth / fifth grade classroom. We have done several pieces of writing including note taking, argumentative writing, and short stories. We are currently working on sections of the 6 + 1 trait writing program (coming up with ideas and organizing our writing). We are also halfway through our literature set, “A Long Way from Chicago”. Please ask your child to summarize the story for you. We just started another research project in Social Studies on famous people. We have been discussing primary sources, artifacts, and oral history; as well as what historians do and why it’s important to learn about history. We will soon be having a test in Science over living things and cells. A study guide will be coming home to help with that. Your child also has an on-going vocabulary list of words and definitions that will help them prepare for the test. Math students have begun the always fun concept of long division. We are actually enjoying it, and the kids are working hard. Have a great weekend!

Fall Learning is the Theme in Early Elementary!

preKOctober up in pre-k/kindergarten has been a blast! We have been hard at work mastering our letter sounds, learning about fall and creating spooky creatures! The kindergartners are READING and are quickly devouring all of the books in our classroom. Our pre-k students are well on their way to learning how to read by the end of the school year! In math we have been working with charts and graphs to organize important information such as what skittle colors we have. In science we talked about fall and explored the different leaves we have here at AZ Academy. We talked a lot about our families and how they are very special to us. We made flowers, leaf prints and a scarecrow attacked by crazy kids! Our class has grown in size and I am amazed at how well we have come together as a little community!

The Giver Enlightens Students

Composition V pictureThe Composition V class has been reading The Giver in the first quarter of school. One of the themes we discovered in the book was the right to individual choices – a theme the students firmly believe in! But to be good sports, the students dressed in their drab wear to simulate Sameness, the philosophy by which the community in the book lived in order to prevent such atrocities as war and world hunger. The apple symbolizes the topic of color which was one way the main character learned about the lack of choices available to the community. It was a fantastic read and was turned into an almost equally fantastic movie. The release date for Netflix is November 25th. Be sure to enjoy this great film with your child!

Information Galore!

Our first and second grade class has been busy during the month of October!  We have had two guest speakers from the local community to teach us on our AZ campus.  Ms. Theresa from the Animal Humane Center communicated with our class about proper treatment of animals.  She brought her furry pal Buster for a hands-on approach to kind treatment of these friends.  Our second visitor was Ziggy, who joined us to discuss marine life and proper care of our oceans.  He displayed videos, which included his own videography of marine animals, and led a discussion about what is happening to our ocean life and how we can help.  The children were completely engrossed in the learning and engaged in group discussions.  For more information on Ziggy’s importance cause, please check out his website at forthesea.com.  It’s always wonderful to hear from local St. Croix community members about kindness and the animal life surrounding our island!

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