Our admiration spawns from those who have taught us, to those who teach the children of today, and those who commit to teach the children of our children. Teachers cultivate curiosity, ignite imagination and learning, and shape our future.
If you teach in America today, you do all this against the backdrop of many voices that are not singing in harmony, many voices talking over one another while you continue to teach and provide certainty in uncertain circumstances, all the while reminding us that school is community and the safe haven for many children and parents. If you teach in America, you also choose to fight for our children’s right to adequate and stable funding for their schools, choose to explain why we must keep the doors open.
Thank you, teachers, for showing up and caring and teaching. Thank you for setting a good example: choosing to do the right things, choosing to keep advocating for our kids and to keep explaining, even when you feel we aren’t listening.
Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) supports and values what you do for our kids. Staff, volunteers, and partners work together to remove barriers to learning so that students can learn from your teaching. Thank you!
Here are a few of our favorite quotes about teaching and teachers:
“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”
“Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions.”
“Teaching is the greatest act of optimism.”
“When we connect our students with the world, we are building bridges today that tomorrow will walk across.”
-Vicki Davis @ coolcatteacher
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupér
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
How many of us make it to our 150th Birthday? Well, Edwards Garment has, so instead of scrambling for 150 candles, we thought we’d light up the blog by sharing what a spark a business partner can be for students.
A CIS supporter since 2004, Edwards Garment is a business rich in Kalamazoo history, having been a part of the community since 1867 when the Rosebaum family began producing pants for men and boys out of the Rosebaum building. Did you know the name of the company is inspired by Edwards Street, the side street in downtown Kalamazoo which the old Rosenbaum building shares with Michigan Avenue?
Today, Edwards Garment is a leading specialty image apparel and uniform supplier for men’s and women’s clothing. Their headquarters are located on South 9th Street and they employ 185 individuals from the greater Kalamazoo area.
Partnerships, like any relationship, evolve over time. This year, Edwards Garment has expanded their reach by supporting students at Prairie Ridge Elementary School. The school’s CIS Site Coordinator, Carly Denny, says the students as well as the school staff deeply appreciate their involvement. “Their support is wonderful,” she says. “They have given us generous donations of backpacks and school supplies. They’ve provided our students with lots of winter apparel. CIS was also able to pass some of the overflow of larger sizes on to our high school students at Kalamazoo Central and Loy Norrix.”
Edwards Garment employees commit time and energy to building a stronger community in the areas that they reside. This year, the business has also joined forces with CIS partner, Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring to become a Bigs in Schools. “Right now we have four ‘Bigs’ working with our students,” says Carly. “The Bigs have lunch with their “Littles” twice a month. They spend an hour together and work on specific goals with their Littles. The students adore the extra attention and really thrive with this support.”
A few days earlier, we had a chance to meet up and interview Dave at Humphrey Products, a Kalamazoo, Michigan-based manufacturer. Founded more than 100 years ago, Humphrey’s innovations date back to the commercialization of gaslight products in 1901.
Today, with over 250 employees, Humphrey is recognized as a leading producer of pneumatic products, serving organizations worldwide.
Dave grew up here, moving to the area when he was in elementary school. He graduated from Portage Northern High School and then obtained a degree in economics from the University of Michigan.
Dave first started working for Humphrey in the assembly department. It was his summer job in 1984. “By the end of that summer, they needed help in sales and in the marketing department. They knew I went to U of M and asked if I knew about spreadsheet programs. These were relatively new back then. I had learned about them so I started doing life cycle data entry and analysis for Humphrey. I did this over both summer and Christmas breaks, and they offered me a job upon graduation in the marketing department.” Today, Dave is President of the company.
What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?
Not so much learned, but has been dramatically reinforced. History repeats itself. The book I’m currently reading really brought this home to me. I guess the older I get, the more I understand the ebb and flow of things.
What are you currently reading?
Right now, I’m reading Arthur Herman’s Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II. This book really reinforces the cycles we go through in terms of both industrial and military strength, and especially emphasizes how atrophied we became as a country after World War I. It’s amazing when you realize the effort that was required to assist Great Britain prior to entry into World War II.
We generally had excellent leadership at the time, but many of the industrial leaders who had participated in the buildup for World War I were persecuted in post-war society. With tensions in Europe building leading up to World War II, most of the country felt we should remain neutral. “Don’t get involved; don’t pick a horse, don’t engage in helping either side of the battle.” Yet, with all the atrocities that came to light, we really couldn’t ignore it. Pearl Harbor ultimately sealed our involvement. Regardless, we had some phenomenally gifted leaders that took this country from being unable to produce a single aircraft engine to producing thousands a year. It’s just amazing to consider the supply chain that had to be created and sustained. This book is a good reminder that those cycles go back forever and how critical the role of a strong manufacturing base is in maintaining pre-eminence in the world. It’s very easy to get complacent…or even feel that manufacturing is some type of vestigial appendage of the U.S. economy.
What is your favorite word right now?
What is something you love about Kalamazoo?
There is a lot of variety in terms of things to do here! Almost certainly driving that is the fact that we also have a lot of people that are willing to get involved. I work in some organizations at the state level and see just how blessed we are in this community with thoughtful individuals who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved. There are many communities that don’t have a very deep bench for this type of work. It sets us apart.
I like to fish. I like to hunt. I like to read. I like to cook. I’m a little bit of a current events junkie.
What dish are you known for?
We love the U.P. and have a cottage there. We have an outdoor, brick smoker that my late father custom built. I love to load it up with beef brisket, pork butts, and chickens and let it go all day. We’ve also done cedar-planked white fish in it. It tastes great!
Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
I had wonderful parents. My dad was very active, served on a number of boards, served in the church and was a good mentor and model. So was my mom, in addition to being an outstanding cook. She was involved in the Institute of Arts, the church, and a number of other groups. They were both excellent role models. I learned good balance from them: community service, family care, self-care, and faith.
What advice do you have for our 12,000+ students—the up and coming generation of workers—to prepare themselves for obtaining a job in the manufacturing industry?
Do not give up on math and science.
They can be difficult concepts, sometimes, but they are cumulative. You have to go through one discipline to get to the next. And once you give up, it’s very difficult to get back on the escalator of math and science understanding. It breaks my heart when this happens. It often feels like this is a problem in the United States more than any other country and I sometimes wonder if that is because our kids are given the flexibility to check out of the most rigorous disciplines in these areas…I’m afraid we’ve lowered some of our expectations and provided weak alternate paths.
Particularly in some of the Asian countries I travel to it seems like there is a much higher level of expectation with regard to persistence through advanced STEM curriculum. As a student, you are expected to persist through these disciplines. At the same time, I also witness their interactions with their parents and see first-hand that the kids are often more stressed about achievement—so it’s not 100 percent healthy either. There has to be some “happy medium” out there we can aspire to. Lowering our expectations cannot be the answer. Our kids are going to have to compete against these folks and we aren’t doing them any favors if we’re lowering our expectations.
What one thing can parents do to help prepare their child for today’s labor force?
I think we have a generation of parents who didn’t necessarily persist through these disciplines either, so they feel a little at a loss as to how best to help their children do so. It’s especially hard for parents who aren’t very comfortable asking for help. They want to help and yet, they can’t provide the help themselves. Finding resources to do that is not so easy. I did persist and, still, it can be challenging to help my kids. I once had a half hour argument with my son about the proper way to do long division. A half hour…and I have a degree from U-M.
But it’s important to send that message: persist. Help your child persist.
You joined the CIS board over six months ago. As you know, there are many great organizations throughout the Kalamazoo area that support kids. Why CIS?
One of my previous favorite reads is The Coming Jobs War by Jim Clifton. [Dave pulls a dog-eared book off the shelf in his office and opens it to Chapter 10: “K-12 Schools—Where Entrepreneurs are Created.”] This is one of my favorite chapters.
One of the fundamental principles of the book is that we, as business leaders, must take an active role in the day to day nurturing of schools—be a face that these kids see—and be an active part of the community that is supporting them. CIS helps with this. As business leaders, we are in a unique position to give them hope, let them see what is available for them when they are done with their K-12 education. We can be a role model, help them make that connection from where they are today to where we are today. We can also sometimes offer some degree of job and financial security where none exists today. But if we don’t create opportunities to connect with the kids, that connection never happens.
We tend to really like life-long learners. But, it’s difficult to assess this in an interview, in that short window of time. So we try to proxy that, find ways to ask questions that indicates how they might be a life-long learner and see if that is a fundamental part of who they are. Do they have that willingness to learn and advance?
Eighteen years is the average tenure for folks at our company. Well over half of our management team here at Humphrey have come up through the ranks. If we’re not hiring people eager to learn new things, we can get stale. We need to constantly bring in new ideas from the outside world even if we’re not bringing in new people.
It seems like you’re doing a pretty good job with this. Your company has been around since 1901.
The Humphrey family deserves credit for that. I have to give them phenomenal kudos. As a fifth generation family business, they have persisted through the years. There are ups and downs in business and there are always companies who desire to purchase us. The Humphrey family has the patience to persist. They understand all this and are happy being in this community and feeding a couple hundred families. They see this as part of their role.
For eighth grader DeKarieon, the CIS support he’s received over the past three years at Hillside Middle School has done more than put him on the road to success in school and life. He’s also giving back by assisting other students and connecting them to CIS so they can get on track too.
“CIS has helped me with school,” he says. “I’m doing better academically. It’s helped me adjust my attitude and control my anger.” Upon meeting this calm and steady young man, it’s hard to imagine that behavior could have gotten in the way of his academics, but it did. “I would get in a couple of fights here and there,” explains DeKarieon. “My attitude, my anger, it just got in the way and I’d always be off.”
What made the difference? Getting connected to CIS. “Especially [CIS After School Coordinator] Ms. Katherine. She helped me mellow out…And then I could focus and get my homework done. I left for a while,” admits DeKarieon, as his desire to play sports conflicted with the after school support. “But then my grades started slipping again. I really want to get past high school and so I decided to come back…people like [CIS Youth Development Workers] Ms. Jay and Mr. Alex, they really helped me understand my homework and keep me focused.”
Through CIS, DeKarieon has learned to tap into his strengths to help him calm himself down and focus. “I’ll read a book, draw, or write.” DeKarieon notices a positive difference but says he isn’t yet where he wants to be. As he puts it, “I’m only half-way there.”
DeKarieon’s hard work is not going unnoticed. Ms. Jessica Jeffrey, who has been his science teacher for the past two years notes, “DeKarieon is a wonderful, polite, hard-working student. He has shown much growth and maturity in the time that I have known him. I am very proud of his accomplishments and I look forward to seeing all of the wonderful things he will do in the years to come!”
Precious Miller, CIS Site Coordinator at Hillside says, “DeKarieon is a true leader. He’s brought in several of his peers to my office. Some are in need of school supplies or some other basic need, others need snacks and some kind of support. He also advocates for students he thinks could benefit from the CIS After School Program.”
CIS After School Coordinator Katherine agrees. “He shines,” she says. “If he sees a student going off the rails, especially the younger ones, he speaks up. He’ll say, ‘Come on guys. Quiet down and listen.’ DeKarieon really is a leader. He is a kind person. He’s sensitive to other people’s feelings, and he reaches out to them.”
Empowered to succeed, thanks to the combined investment of his school, a supportive family, and the community working through CIS, DeKarieon’s future looks bright. Upon graduating from high school, DeKarieon is looking forward to taking advantage of The Kalamazoo Promise. He loves to write and tell stories and one day hopes to become a published author. He plans to attend Western Michigan University and study journalism.
If this is what “half-way there” looks like—striving to be his best as a student, exploring his gifts as an artist, writer, and musician, and helping others along the way—we can’t wait to see what it looks like when DeKarieon reaches the finish line!
All of the great work you’ve been reading about is made possible by people like you who volunteer and partner with or donate to CIS. Please invest in local students and be a part of more success stories like DaKarieon’s.
Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature PJ Buchholz, a third grade teacher at Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School.
At Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, we feel fortunate to work closely with wonderful and wise Kalamazoo Public School teachers like Ms. Buchholz. Ms. Buchholz is also featured in the CIS Annual Report and shares some of the benefits she sees by having CIS in her school. That report will be out soon, so be on the look out for it.
Alright, Ms. Buchholz: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?
I’ve been hosting international students for a while. It’s very interesting. I’ve learned that we’re all so different in our cultures but we’re all so the same in our hearts.
I also learned about small happiness. One of the girls I’m hosting had to write a speech about how to be the best at something. She pondered this for quite a while and then wrote about “How to be the best at being happy.” She practiced her speech with me and said, “Happiness is not one big happy day but many small happinesses, like a compliment and a joke, coffee and dark chocolate.” She ended her speech by asking, “What is your small happiness?” Just wonderful.
In today’s environment of high stakes testing, a highly political culture, and working with students/families who struggle with getting their basic needs met, it is more important than ever to find our small happiness and help others to find theirs. I’ve even started regularly asking my students, “What is your small happiness?”
Speaking of questions, according to Josef Albers, “Good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers.” What other questions do you love to ask your students?
What are you good at? What do you love? What do you love to do? What do you think about when you play? Who do you play with? What do you like to play? How did you organize that? What are you going to do next about that? If you could ask one person, who would you ask?
I have a series of favorite words right now: Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right?
I am Malala. It’s a memoir by the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai. I’m also reading Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. I’m really into elder care and raising children. I see similarities between them.
My parents are getting up there. I see how they can become nervous and scared about things. It’s important to honor their ambiguity and their uncertainty about things. You have to do that with children, too.
What is one of your favorite things about being a teacher?
One of my favorite things is seeing how caring children are for other children. It’s why they like Harry Potter, right? It’s the children against the adults working together to figure things out. When you can get them to include the adult, when you can be part of their alliance too, be in it together, that’s really special. I just love seeing the inner circle of children working and playing and seeing the alliances they have for each other.
What is the hardest thing about being a teacher?
Knowing you can’t do everything, that it’s not possible to take care of every need and be efficient and be political and address every need in the classroom setting. Sometimes, you’re so busy dotting all the I’s and crossing the T’s that you have to just have to sit on the rug. You need to sit down and do great work with kids.
Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
We really explored and learned and had a lot of educational opportunities. We took advantage of them together, on behalf of students. Kevin recognized our skills, strength, and passion and always came knocking on that side of us, never the deficit side.
I want to be a strengths teacher and not a deficit teacher. I want to teach to students’ strengths and they both helped me teach to my strengths. My time with them made me want to continue to grow in this area and network, and be with other people who are like that. Coming at students from a strength-based approach, you don’t worry so much about crossing the I’s and T’s.
When it comes to distracted driving, young people are texting and talking behind the wheel like never before. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatalities involving young drivers between the ages of 15-20 increased 10% in 2015. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for American teens. Today in the United States, 11 teens will die as a result of texting while driving.
We’re proud that two of our CIS partners—AT&T and State Farm®—have both been leaders and are at the forefront in helping combat this growing epidemic.
To keep young people safe, AT&T launched their “It Can Wait” campaign back in 2010. AT&T’s message is simple: Don’t text while you drive. They created an online virtual simulator to show how just a glance or quick response can prove deadly. To date, over 12 million people have taken the pledge to never drive distracted. You and your teen can also take the pledge by going here.
State Farm® has a Teen Driver Safety Website filled with free tools, tips, and resources designed to help teens and their parents throughout the learning-to-drive process. They also conducted a recent survey this past July. They found that over 80 percent of teen drivers (ages 16-19) have chosen to be distracted by their phones when they’re driving. Teens who have their own car were significantly more likely to participate in distracting behaviors while driving than were those who share the family car. To read State Farm’s full report, go here.
KDPS will be hosting a fire prevention event alongside the mock trauma simulation. Several exciting displays and simulations will be on site for education about fire prevention and safety, including an interactive smoke house, fire sprinkler demonstrations, a bomb squad truck, fire engines and ambulances.
Anyone who sets foot in a school knows that the role of a custodian is vital to the health and climate of a school. At Milwood Elementary School, students, their parents, along with KPS and CIS staff, and every community partner and volunteer who serves Milwood Elementary, is better because of Mike McCurdie. CIS Project Manager Missy Best says, “As Milwood’s wonderful custodial staff person, Mike has also really gone above and beyond to do things for CIS.”
Milwood’s CIS Site Coordinator, Dalanna Hoskins, agrees. She tells us Mike embraces his work as a custodian, going above and beyond to assure that the learning environment is ready every day for children. “Every now and then I bring him coffee, or free coffee coupons to let him know much we appreciate his help,” she says. And today, as guest blogger, Dalanna Hoskins shines the spotlight on one of her favorite custodian and tells us how other schools will soon benefit from Mike’s ingenuity.
“Mr. Mike” is what I call him. Before I even set foot in Milwood, Mr. Mike was supporting CIS staff, volunteers, and partners. For more than a decade, Mike McCurdie has served as custodian at Milwood Elementary School. Since the time of Renita Ellis (Milwood’s first CIS After School Coordinator) to now, we know we can count on Mr. Mike. Whenever I need help or assistance with access to the school or unlocking rooms or bringing in boxes of supplies –whether it’s clothes, backpacks, or other basic need items from CIS Kids’ Closet or items from one of our partners, like shoes from First Day Shoe Fund—Mr. Mike is always there to help me with getting these much needed resources into the school for our kids.
Most of you are probably familiar with the Friday Food pack program that exists throughout many of our CIS sites and made possible thanks to our partnership with Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes. It was first piloted right here at Milwood Elementary, back in 2003. We credit our steadfast partner, Milwood Christian Reformed Church, with helping us get this program off the ground. Mr. Mike, too.
From the beginning, he has always there, helping with the food pack deliveries. As the program expanded and the number of food packs grew, Mr. Mike grew tired of always using the huge flat beds for the food packs. They were big, heavy, and cumbersome to wheel around. He knew there just had to be a better way. When, due to renovations, we temporarily moved to the school building on South Westnedge, Mr. Mike realized that the flat beds were not going to work at all. So, he came up with the idea of using wooden scooters instead.
The dolly that Mike made:
And we have been using them ever since. In fact, it works so well that we are going to recreate his dolly for other CIS sites!
Partnerships, like most things in life, begin by putting one foot in front of the other. The first steps for Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) and First Day Shoe Fund (FDSF) go back to early 2000 when Valerie Denghel was a tutor at Edison Environmental Science Academy with CIS. Valerie noticed some children without appropriate shoes for school. So Valerie began buying shoes for one child at a time. Valerie went from buying shoes for individual children to taking a giant step and founding the First Day Shoe Fund.
First Day Shoe Fund, which believes that all children should start school on equal footing, is celebrating their ten year anniversary and we couldn’t be happier for this tremendous milestone.
“CIS is a crucial partner for what we do,” says John Curran, Executive Director of First Day Shoe Fund. “CIS staff go above and beyond to facilitate distribution of shoes to children in the schools. For ten years we’ve relied on this successful partnership to help us do what we do and we look forward to many more years of working together.”
CIS is proud to have partnered with FDSF since its beginnings to help identify children in need of shoes and to create the infrastructure needed to get the shoes onto little feet. Valerie Denghel recalls that first distribution “On that hot summer day in 2006,” when First Day Shoe Fund, with the support of Kalamazoo Public Schools, Communities In Schools, and Junior Women of Kalamazoo distributed 307 pairs of shoes to children who needed them. (You can read her full reflection by going here).
By the Fall of 2014, we were still in step as partners, distributing 1,654 pairs of new shoes to students. The nonprofit organization has gone on to create an even bigger footprint by expanding beyond Kalamazoo Public Elementary Schools and into Comstock Public Elementary Schools and Paramount Academy. John Curran notes that this past year, the organization provided 4,371 pair of shoes!
Over these past ten years, First Day Shoe Fund, their board, and volunteers have worked hard to help meet a basic need: shoes. CIS values the sustained commitment First Day Shoe Fund makes to children to ensure they have both the physical comfort of correctly sized shoes and the sense of pride and belonging that comes with having appropriate footwear to start the year on the right foot. New shoes are one of the important pieces of the puzzle that fit together to help all of our children achieve the Promise.
As John Brandon, Partner Services Coordinator for Communities In Schools puts it, “First Day Shoe Fund is an essential partner, working with us to address the needs of the whole child. Our CIS staff positioned within Kalamazoo Public Schools see children celebrating new shoes and showing up for school, not just the first day, but throughout the year thanks to First Day Shoe Fund.”