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Gratitude and Innovation

By Ted Graf, Head of School

While we educators love our summers, it’s a myth and misperception to think that all teachers take the summer off. Many teachers work at camps or in summer school programs; some travel or lead student groups; some tutor, and all teachers I know spend some time working on their curricula, lesson plans, major assessments and projects for the coming year (we also spend nearly two weeks preparing before schools opens on August 22!). We here at Headwaters are no different, though this year more than 20 teachers will be doing even more work as part of a new grant-based program called Innovation Grants.

Thanks to the vision, generosity, and support of Headwaters parent, Suzanne Deal Booth, we have stimulated the creativity and ingenuity of many of our teachers by offering them grants to improve an aspect their classroom. Back in February, faculty were invited to submit ideas to create or revamp a unit(s), create or overhaul a project, or revamp an entire course. Successful applications incorporated outreach and connection to the greater Austin community, and/or integration of the arts with any of the other academic subjects. Grants span all three campuses and will touch children in virtually every classroom. Below, you’ll find a sample of the exciting work being undertaken by the faculty.

On the Early Childhood Campus, Jenny Novak will be developing a series of materials and lessons to support exploration of Art Across the Continents; Lea Comte will be deepening her movement work with the children by exploring Sensory Integration and Movement Study, while Chelsea Knezevich (our Campus Manager) will be working on labeling and identifying our Gardens for Wildlife.

On the Elementary Campus, Eduardo “Lalo” Martinez will be developing a Carpentry for Children unit (think industrial arts and design); Jennifer Giroux will be working on a unit on Peace Heroes, and Christi Wilson will travel to Virginia, where she’ll learn about The World Peace Game and how to implement it here at school. (Check out the organization and its developer, John Hunter, at this link).

In addition to the low-cost facilities improvements at Rio in support of our Middle and High School programs (see Ryan Phillips’ update from Friday, May 6), Sherre Boothman will be (re)working her Chemistry curriculum and connecting it to the broader community of Austin; Brian Derrig and David Heroy will be doing deeper exploration of  experiential education by attending the 45th Annual NSEE (National Society for Experiential Education) Conference–Experiential Education: Institutional Impact, Diversity, and Student Success–in September. In the area of mathematics, Patrick Frasier will be doing more work and research expanding the Harkness Table approach and problem-based learning in the upper school math curriculum. There are many other ideas and projects being pursued, and we’ll post a comprehensive list on our website.

Before closing, and in the spirit of celebrating our teachers, we’re grateful to the many parents who gave thousands of dollars to the Cash is Love fund in celebration of our remarkable, resourceful, resilient, and inspiring faculty. Thanks are due to the Parents Volunteer Community (PVC) for their leadership and work in organizing this extraordinary act of generosity for the teachers.

Thanks are also due to the 185 community members (and to Alamo South) who turned out for the screening of “Most Likely to Succeed;” we hope you made some new friends, started new conversations, and generated some unfamiliar ideas. I’m thrilled to say that some of the ideas generated after the screening and as part of strategic planning are coming to life in the form of innovation grants.  

As always, feel free to share those or any other ideas with me at or post them to me on Twitter @HeadwatersHOS.

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