Year Two

It is hard to believe that this week will be the start of my second year of teaching! This summer has absolutely flown by, and I’ve been so lucky to spend it with all of my favorite people on the east and west coasts. I am forever thankful for the constant love and support from everyone back in Pennsylvania, and to all of the amazing people I have met here in Arizona. My first year of teaching would not have been what it was without all of you!

I must admit that it feels pretty nice to no longer be a first year teacher. I feel even more confident going into my second year knowing that I already have one year of experience under my belt. Last year challenged and taught me so much, and I know that I have grown immensely as an educator and as a person. While setting up and planning for this school year, I had a much better idea of what I wanted to do… and what I did not want to do. As much as I know that college had prepared me very well for my first year of teaching, there were so many things that it could not have prepared me for. For example how to choose a behavior management plan that worked for me – I must have tried out at least five last year before finding one that seemed to work. This year I have a clear plan of what I want to do and hope to be consistent with it all school year. Another example is how to set up a classroom. In college it never occurred to me how many little things went into setting up a successful classroom. Last school year there were things that I had not thought about in the beginning, so I would come up with a spur of the moment resolution when they would arise. This year I felt that I had a more thought out and organized approach to setting up my room and I absolutely love how it all came out! Check out some pictures and further explanations of parts of my classroom below:

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This is what you would see if you were walk into my classroom! I will be starting on Monday with 29 (yes you read that correctly) students – and that number is likely to increase within the first month of school. Figuring out a seating arrangement for that many students was a definite struggle, but doing something a little more unconventional seemed to work! On each of my students desks is a miniature Accountable Talk chart in a little adhesive sleeve from the dollar spot at Target. Teacher friends – these little adhesive pockets are my newest obsession and I may or may not have already stocked up on them for next school year… go check them out! Accountable talk is something that is highly promoted in my school and it is essentially a series of sentence stems which students can refer to when communicating with their peers.

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Here you see my class calendar, small group table, and class library. My calendar is essentially the same as it was last school year because I loved how much room it gave me to add in important dates and reminders! Students were able to use it as a resource and it gave them an easy place to look for information. This year though I ended up moving my small group table to the back of my classroom. Last year it was along the side and I felt that it took away space that could have been utilized otherwise. Therefore, by moving the table into the back of the room I was able to create a space on the carpet to be used for class meetings and as a reading nook.

That brings me to my classroom library! Last year I was fortunate that I had a class that ordered a lot from our Scholastic book orders each month. This allowed me to place orders which earned me a good amount of free books as well as accumulate points to spend on books as well. My class library has easily been tripled from where I started at the beginning of last year! I went back on forth on if I wanted to organize my books or just have them be random on the shelves as both had their pros and cons. I ultimately decided to do a combination of the two and am extremely happy with the result! The books which are part of a series are in their own baskets while other books are simply displayed on the shelves. Fingers crossed my kiddos keep this somewhat organized!

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Math and Reading centers are both something that I want to improve on this school year. Last year they were something that I was just figuring out come the end of the year, so they are a big priority this year! I wanted to have a central location where all of the centers materials would be stored, and this half-sized bookcase in my room ended up being the perfect solution! The banner that I created was made using materials from the Target dollar spot as well (are you noticing a pattern here…) and I love how it makes the intent of the book case clear. This year I also wanted each center to have a distinct place for it to occur – that way I could easily look around the room and be able to tell if my students were following the correct expectations for that specific center. One of my teammates no longer had use for a set of cubbies so I re-purposed the back of them to create a spot for my Listen to Reading center. Students will be able to pull over their chairs and have a designated place to listen to a story of their or my choosing. I absolutely am in love with the look of this center!

Next to the Listen to Reading center is my class jobs chart. I am beyond excited to have an actual chart put together this year. Somehow at the beginning of last year classroom jobs completely escaped me and I ended up just putting up a series of post-its on one of the walls. I also plan on rotating my jobs every two weeks instead of daily which I am hoping will save me some time in the mornings. The intent behind this is also to have students really take ownership and responsibility for their jobs. I cannot wait to see how this works out!

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The above three aspects of my classroom are ones that I am also very excited about! The first picture is of our class meetings poster. Class meeting are something that I initiated at the beginning of 4th quarter last year. This year I will be starting them during week two! Together we will set a class goal and will be working towards it throughout the week. The poster also leave spots for students to give each other shout outs, voice questions or concerns, and leave ideas for my discussion whiteboards. (Teacher friends check out #ms5thswhiteboards for ideas if you want to start discussion boards of your own!)

The next picture is of the Proud Wall. This is another aspect which is returning, with some alterations, from my room last year. Previously I would switch out student work on a bi-weekly basis, but this became something that was difficult for me to keep up with. This year I plan to keep it much more simple. If a student is proud of something, they can request for me to hang it up. I hope to see a variety of different things hung up on this board throughout the year!

Another addition which I love are the mini circles around the clock. I know it seems like a tiny aspect of the room, but believe me it is an important one. Last year my kiddos really struggled with telling time which made it difficult when they needed to. If I had a nickel for every time I was asked for the time last year, I might be a millionaire today! Hopefully this will be a useful resource for my students and that it gives them some confidence in their time telling abilities.

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Finally here is the front of my classroom! To the left of the board are where my daily objectives will go. My school requires them to be posted each day and I like having them in the front where they are easy to reference. Above the whiteboard under the alphabet are the non-negotiables for my classroom. Below is a close up of them and here is a link to a free download from Head Over Heels for Teaching if anyone else would like to use them for their rooms. (https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Non-Negotiables-Building-Classroom-Community-Posters-2406829) I love, love, love the messages they send and the tone they set for the room!

On my teacher desk you will see three of my new favorite things. The first is my teacher toolbox! I saw so many of these on social media that I just had to create one of my own for this school year. I already love how organized and convenient it has made my supplies! The second is my task card organizer. This is also something which I saw on social media and just had to have. It is simply a plastic box which has 16 smaller plastic boxes inside of it (see picture below). Being that I use task cards all the time for lessons, this was an obvious purchase for me. The third is my wooden V signed by all of my kiddos on the last day of school last year. I love that I will have a part of them in my classroom with me this year.

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**This is not an image of my personal task card organizer, but it gives a better understanding of it. Mine has all clear boxes instead of rainbow**

Overall last school year was more than I could have asked for. It was both incredibly challenging and rewarding, but I would not trade my experiences for anything. I know that year two will also have its fair share of challenges, but I know that I am going into this year being even more prepared! Here’s to an amazing second year of teaching!

GOODBYE YEAR ONE…

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… HELLO YEAR TWO

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Thank you for reading!

Love – Ms. Visnov ūüôā

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The Little Things

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I have been thinking about all of the¬†things that I have been thankful for so far in this school year. One of the biggest things that I’ve learned so far is that not every day will be the best day, but the little things that happen throughout the day make it a good one. From day one I have said that as long as one thing makes me smile during the day, it’s not really a bad day. When I think back to the last 14 weeks of this school year, it really has been the little things which have made me smile every day. So, in honor of Thanksgiving, here are just a few of the many little things I am thankful for so far this school year:

After having a one of my first rougher days I sat down at my desk at the end of the day to find this note. It immediately cheered me up and reminded me why I love teaching. This note also inspired me to write individual notes to each and every one of my students. That is one of the beautiful things about my classroom in my opinion, for the most part my students want to see me be happy as much as I want to see them be happy.

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**for those who can’t understand 4th grader the last word is supposed to¬†be succeed**


At the end of the first marking period, I had given my students a “report card” to fill out on me. I only thought that this was fair since I get to give them a grade, they should be able to give me one too. The report card was set up with a bunch of questions and the students filled it in with a 1-5 rating (1 being never, 5 being all of the time). One of the questions asked the students whether or not they knew that their teacher cared about them. When looking through them the most meaningful response came from one of the boys in my class who I am constantly battling with behavior wise. On a scale of 1-5 he had given me a 10 for knowing that I care about him. This really made me feel good because even though him and I are at odds more days than not, at least he knows that through it all I still care about him.


I like to think that I am very honest and open about myself with my students. I want them to feel comfortable sharing about themselves and their lives with me, so I try to share about myself with them when I can. Before fall break I was doing a mini-unit on poetry because it is something that I really enjoy. Ever since telling my students that I enjoy poetry I have gotten quite a few poems from them just because they wanted to make me smile. I love that they took the time to not only write me note at home, but that they took the extra time to make it a poem (which mind you is not always the easiest task for a 4th grader). Here are a few examples of the poems I have gotten from my kiddos:

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There is another boy in my class with whom I am constantly battling behavior-wise. When the Arizona State Fair was in town for a couple a weeks, he came into school one Monday (after his birthday weekend) and excitedly told me that he had something for me. I was assuming that it was a note or a drawing like some of my kids give me after weekends, but I was surprised when he handed me a little stuffed animal! He was overjoyed to tell me that he had won it for me at the fair over the weekend! I thanked him and promptly put it on the shelf behind my desk. It meant so much to me that even though he doesn’t always love having me as a teacher because I am hard on him – he still worked hard at the fair to win me a prize.


During another one of the tougher days I’ve had, one of my students older siblings stopped into my room on her way back from recess to give me¬†a note. I figured that it was something from their mom to ask me something, but I was shocked when I opened it to find this:note

Reading these kind words completely made my day and it meant so much knowing that it wasn’t even coming from one of my own students. You never know what your students go home and talk about at the end of the day, so this was a spectacular thing to read. Even more so, this was a student who came in crying the first 2 days of school because she was nervous, so knowing that I have impacted her in such a positive way is incredibly rewarding.


One of the most special notes that I have received this year was something that made me almost start crying. The morning was going on like any other as I was taking attendance and checking homework. Three of my girls then came over to me and presented me with the sweetest card (pun intended).candy3

I opened it expecting a note or picture like any other, but began to tear up as I read the first few lines. I actually had to put the card down and read it at lunch because otherwise I knew I would be full on crying within seconds. It was evident by the colors, writing, and glitter (not shown due to student names) that the three girls had spent a lot of time on it. They even took the time to incorporate our school motto into it – “I am bold. I am inspiring. I am a leader. I am Desert Spirit.” Most notes and drawings I keep at school in a huge box, but this note in particular I keep on my desk at home.


 

Overall, I have so many things to be thankful for this year. I am thankful that I was even able to make this move to Arizona and that I have had the best support throughout it all. Even though I am over 2,000 miles away from home, I have never felt far away. Every week I’ve gotten texts and phone calls from family and friends, and I love that we are all still able to share what is happening in our lives. Two thousand plus miles has never felt so small. But, I can’t wait to hug you all in person in 4 short days!

Additionally, I am beyond fortunate to have found a great support system here in Arizona. At school I feel that I am able to grow as a person and educator by being surrounded by so many wonderful people. Part of why I look forward to going into school each day is because I like to see and be around who I work with. I feel that this is not something that is found everywhere – so I am truly lucky to have found that at my school. Within my coworkers I have also found great friends. I love that after a long day or week I love that I have people to go to dinner or a movie with to relax. Sometimes all I need is a good laugh and I know that I can turn to those people to get it. Between my coworkers, friends, and roommate, I am thankful to Arizona for bringing me so many absolutely incredible people.

I’m thankful…7fea67bd9007790341ad520383074a24

 

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One Quarter Down

Before I actually get into this blog post I just wanted to take a quick second to thank everyone who has been reaching out to me over the past three months to see how I am doing. Even though I am over 2,000 miles away, chatting with everyone makes me feel so close to home. I am truly so lucky to have the most incredible support system at home and I am more than thankful for the new¬†support system that I have here in Arizona as well. So now that I actually have a little bit of down time (yay for Fall Break!), I figured it was way past time for a new blog post. So family and friends who actually read these posts¬†(thank you for being patient)… Here you go!

It is crazy to think that I am already finished with my first quarter of teaching! I have learned more about myself from this move and job than I ever could have hoped or imagined. Here is a list of the top 5 things, in no particular order, that I have learned:

It is perfectly okay for not everything to go as planned throughout the day! I cannot tell you how many times I end up changing my lesson plans throughout the week from what I had originally planned to do. But, that being said, I have found that sometimes these impromptu lessons end up being the most successful. These “teachable moments” or conversations definitely keep my days interesting and entertaining even if they take up a little more time than I had originally allotted for that subject. Thankfully some of my coworkers showed me these amazing erasable pens which keep my lesson¬†plans looking organized even through all of the changes. I cannot rave about these enough so here is a link if anyone wants to check them out¬†—> https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_7?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=frixion+erasable+pens&sprefix=frixion%2Caps%2C205

No day is a “bad day” if at least one thing made you smile. Throughout my first quarter of teaching there have definitely been some days which have been a little bit easier than others… but I can honestly say that something made me smile each and every day. Even the smallest things and moments during the day never fail to put a smile on my face. Some days its the 5-10 minutes that a few of my students choose to spend with me in the mornings at bus duty. (And hey, I live in Arizona… so having students willingly stand with you in the hot sun for any amount of time just to chat with you is love.) Other days is when I go through papers that I’ve collected to find “to: Beverly Visnov <3” on the top of a particular students work. I love that most days this one student takes the extra minute to address her work to me. Nine weeks in I have come to expect to see this on her work, but it never ceases to make me happy.

Learning is all about baby steps. Working in a Title 1 school where the majority of the students are below grade level, I have really come to see that learning happens over time. I love getting to see that “ah-ha moment” where the students make the connection that they have been working for over days or weeks! Seeing them feel accomplished makes me feel accomplished as well. One of my favorite things to do is to have conversations with them about their improvements on various things. It makes me happy to see them so proud of themselves when they simply go from a 60% to a 70% on a pre- and post- test. As long as they are making progress, I have learned that I do not¬†necessarily¬†need to¬†worry about¬†how much.

The little things mean the most. The mood in my classroom has always been one of the most important things to me as a teacher. I want my students to like coming to school, and I find that doing small things throughout the week really makes the biggest difference. One of my favorite examples happened after a particularly rough day. I felt as if the day had ended on a negative note, so I wanted to start the next day on a positive one. That night I took the time to write each of my students a little note about how wonderful¬†they are¬†for them to find on their desks the next morning. Seeing their faces when they walked in the room was absolutely priceless! The cutest part was that I even found a few of them back on my desk later in the day with a note on the back thanking me for writing them. The hour that I spent writing those 25 notes was absolutely more than worth it! Those notes were written about 6 weeks ago and about half of my class still has their notes taped down on their desks. It’s amazing what happiness something as small as a post-it note can bring to people.

I really¬†really LOVE Fall. Oddly enough, one of the¬†hardest parts about moving to Arizona is that its October and it’s still 95 degrees out.¬†Most of you¬†know that I love my boots and scarves… so not being able to (comfortably) wear them has been quite strange. So, being that I consider myself to be going through what I like to call “Fall Withdrawal,” I have been baking pumpkin muffins all the time. They have been fun to share with neighbors, friends, and coworkers and to me it’s the little piece of Fall that I am missing from Pennsylvania. If any of you want to give them a try, here is the super easy (and yummy!) recipe:

Mix together in a bowl yellow cake mix (any brand) and a 15 oz. can of pumpkin pie filing. Those are the only two ingredients – no eggs, no water, that’s it¬†– told you it was super easy. ¬†Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes and then enjoy!

Sending all my love from Phoenix to Philly from the pool! XO

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Welcome to Room four-twenty-fun!

Tomorrow is the big day – the first day of school! How crazy to think that I have had so many of these come and go over the years, but now I am the teacher. I never realized how much went into planning, organizing, and designing a classroom. These past three weeks have been packed full of endless hours in my room as well as professional development. Luckily I am LOVING my school and fellow staff members, so I actually look forward to coming in to work each day. My classroom and school have become a happy place for me, and I hope that my students will feel the same way starting tomorrow!

This past week ended up being quite the series of events… Ms. Visnov may or may not have had a little incident early in the week with a stale bagel and a large knife.¬†Upon arriving at school my principal immediately sent me to urgent care to get my thumb checked out (did I mention how much I adore her!). 10 numbing needles and 5 stitches later we were back in commission and the¬†day continued. This is when I realized that all of my students and their families would be meeting me with a¬†bandaged hand and that I would most likely be flooded with questions about what caused it. So I decided that¬†when life gives you five stitches before Meet the Teacher Night, you turn it into a fun activity for the kids!

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The activity ended up being a hit, and definitely saved me from answering the same question all night long. I told my students to get as creative as they wanted to be with their guesses and that I would reveal what actually happened at the end of the day on Monday. I was glad that I was able to keep the focus of the night on the excitement of the first day and welcoming my students instead of my thumb. Not all of my kids answered yet, but so far these are my two favorite responses:

“She was probably reading a lot of¬†books and then accidentally slammed her thumb in one.”¬†

“I think she was stapling papers and then… well you know.”

Now for a little tour of the room!

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These two panoramas are from Meet the Teacher Night. My room is set up with four groups of six desks with an extra desk tacked on to each group. This seventh desk acts as the supply desk for that particular group. Typically the orange caddies are on top of the supply desk and this is where students have pencils, erasers, crayons, etc. to be used during lessons. As of today I am between 24 and 26 students, so this arrangement could easily be completely different in the couple of days!

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When designing my classroom, the most important thing to me was to have it be a warm and welcoming place. I have always believed that school should be like a second home, so I wanted that to come across to my students. These are three things that I love the most about my room. The letter to my students is hanging next to my desk as a reminder to them how I feel and that I am always there for them. The WELCOME board is the first thing my students see each morning before they enter the classroom. I felt that it was imperative that it set the right tone, I am obsessed with how it came out! Lastly I have my Proud Wall. This is where student chosen work will be displayed each week. Every Friday I will have six to seven students submit something that they are most proud of from that week, This work will then be displayed the following week until the next rotation of student work is displayed. I felt that it was important to have students choose what goes on the Proud Wall because it is their room too. What they are most proud of from that week may be completely different from what I think they excelled in – and as long as they are proud of themselves I am one happy teacher!

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The last thing that I am really happy about in my classroom is the giant calendar I created with Washi tape, Velcro, dates, months, and post-its. I hated that there was this dead space on the closet so I decided to get a little creative! I love that it is a large focal point for all things going on within the month. Fourth grade is a busy year, so I love that this is a one-stop spot to keep track of it all. Here I can post early release days (almost every Wednesday!), student birthdays (two the first week Рyay!), exams, and other events going on in school. I am excited to see how this transforms over the course of the school year!

Thank you¬†so much for¬†reading and for all of the continued love and support I’ve had sent my way over the past month!

Love,

Ms. Visnov

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Coming up next…. MY APARTMENT! My wonderful roommate, Giselle,¬†arrives this coming weekend so once the place is all finished I’ll be sure to post a little tour ūüôā

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From Philly to Phoenix: The Road Trip

1 (very full) car

2 people

3 overnight hotel stops

4 days of driving

9 gas stops

10 states

27 CDs

35 hours (and 20 minutes) of driving

2366 miles traveled


Well, we did it! My mom and I drove across the country Рand still actually enjoy being around each other! Surprisingly, the actual road trip itself was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. It was fun to see how beautiful and unique different parts of our country are while eating cheese-its and singing to Kelly Clarkson, Adele, and Taylor Swift with my mom.

Our journey took us through¬†a total of¬†ten states: Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and finally Arizona! As we were driving an average of ten hours per day, some of the states (and days)¬†definitely blurred together at some point. I cannot even count the number of times we asked each other “What state are we in again?” or “Today is what day again?” – but this absolutely added to the adventure that was our road trip!

While driving across country, we took this as an opportunity to see some friends along the way. On our first day we made a “Pitt stop” in Pittsburgh (embrace the pun) to¬†get lunch with my friend¬†of 21 years, Emily. Her and I typically only get to see each other once or twice a year, so it only seemed right to squeeze in one last visit before I was across the country. I am so glad that I was able to see her, and hopefully we will be able to get together next time we are both in the Philly area! On day two we were staying in Oklahoma City where my good¬†friend from high school, Jason, had just moved the week prior. It was great to be able to get dinner with him and we could not get over the fact that we were sitting in a restaurant about 1000 miles from home! Once we made it into Arizona, we took a quick detour to Sedona before heading to Phoenix. It was BEAUTIFUL and I absolutely plan on making more trips to that area in the future.

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Also, take a look at this slideshow of pictures and geotags that I accumulated throughout the trip: http://flipagram.com/f/ZIGbYQpnDL

This whole road trip really made me realize just how small our world really is. It absolutely blows my mind that we can drive across the country in just a few days, I feel like this is something that should take weeks! The comforting thought in that though is that I realized that I am really not all that far from home. Sure, on a map I look at it and say “Oh my god Arizona is so far away from Pennsylvania!” But when I think of the bigger picture, by car I can be home in a few days and by plane I can be home within one. That being said, I am starting to think of Arizona as another home as well.

So far I have been in Arizona for a little bit over a week, and for three days by myself. I am proud to say that I have for the most part been able to get around without using the GPS and I’ve already gotten together with a few friends – old and new! Though most of this time has been spent in my classroom¬†getting it ready (keep your eyes out for a post about this soon), driving around and seeing¬†mountains and palm trees everywhere has been¬†a refreshing change of scenery¬†for sure.

Overall, these past two weeks have been quite the adventure! From driving across country, to setting up my apartment, to beginning classroom setup, and starting to become familiar with my new home… I am most thankful that I was able to do so with my mom. Though we got annoyed with each other a few times along the way, I could not have done this without her – nor would I have wanted to! Thank you for going on this adventure with me mom and for wanting me to always be happy. And though I wish my dad could have come along as well, I am forever grateful to have had his long distance support through it all. I love you both.

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Beyond Thankful

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to celebrate my upcoming move to Arizona, and recent graduation with family and friends. As I looked around the room, I felt truly overwhelmed with the amount of love and support that I felt from the people in the room with me. How lucky I am to have people from all walks of my life over the past 22 years come together to celebrate the next exciting chapter with me.

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With 75 people coming in and out throughout the course of the event, I tried my best to take a moment and talk with everyone there. About 25 minutes into the party it began to hit me that that night would be the last time I would be seeing some of these people for quite a few months… this is the hardest part of the upcoming move for me. I have been so fortunate to have both sides of my family and many of my friends be within about a 30 minute radius for my whole life, so¬†it is a bit scary to realize that I will now be on the other side of the country. But with that being said,¬†thank goodness for technology!¬†It is comforting to know that my family and friends will only be a phone call, text message, or Skype session away. Additionally, I will now be keeping this blog to keep everyone on the east coast up to date with all things Arizona! Though I expect to be very busy as a first year fourth grade teacher, I will try to post once a month or so to share what is happening. Keep an eye out for posts about the road trip with my mom from Pennsylvania to Arizona, setting up my new apartment and classroom, Meet the Teacher night, and various other things!

To my friends and family: Thank you. Thank you for the constant love and support over the years, and more recently as I made the decision to start a new adventure in Arizona. I will miss you all more than words can explain… so how about we all squish in my car and go on this adventure together! (Okay, I’m kidding because we clearly won’t all fit in my car… but how about we try??)

To end my first official bog post (this is kind of fun!) I want to leave you all with a quote that truly epitomizes how I am feeling:

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Countdown until the road trip: 19 days

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