Category Archives: Orange County

Apopka Streets and Halloween

apopka1The maestro who owns and designs this amazing site will greet you.

By the Kit Land Nelson Park, there is a street called West Orange right off Park. There you will find elaborate house decorations, but especially Halloween at number 58.


We don’t do much about Halloween in school. but this neighborhood makes up for it in their own colorful way. For many of us, though, this is the holiday that sets up a trio which brings us finally to the new year.

The fun part is the same people in the neighborhood who work so hard at Halloween are even more reverent for Christmas.


Thank you

My future Rothkos, Klines and Mondrians will be allowed to start with me, due to the Foundation’s support!

“I was very happy to receive an Orange County’s License4Learning Arts Education Impact Grant presented by The Foundation for Orange County Public Schools. As art teacher to Apopka Elementary, the grant will allow me to pursue work with my students, I may not have had the funds for. I would like to thank Deborah L. Pedraza  for her leadership with the Foundation. A special thanks to Twanna Scroggins for all her help and support during the grant writing process. ”  -2016-17

This was my second win, and it is an honor not to scrounge around for supply money, or take it out of pocket. This pet project allowed my kids a chance to Paint Large, like real studio artists do. The kids, and I, truly appreciated the honor.

Orlando Rep: A Playful Approach to Writing

Workshop mates EJ  Jordan, Adelia Chambers with our wonderful leader, Mary Hall,

The Orlando Rep has offered these great workshops on Wednesday in conjunction with Orange County Public Schools, for teachers to resee writing possibilities by the use of theatre, tableau, portraits, comic strips etc. These are sponsored by the Kennedy Center. This particular workshop was presented by Mary Hall Surface , a playwright who came down from DC.

Mary Hall took us through strategies on how to guide students to reinvent an old tale (Little Miss Muffet) into a personal theatrical interpretation. In turn as teachers we would be able to guide our students into new ways of creating a unique literary perspective. This is very different than dry writing prompts, abstract character analysis, etc Students recognize structure (beginning, middle, end) and become accountable for breathing new life into old entities.

We developed characters as a group and then gave them life with a quick improv, which Mary Hall considers a first draft. We had to discover a problem and then how we resolved it. We had to clearly come up with a beginning, middle and end. Each group devised a totally different interpretation.

My group, Muffet 1 (not here as a video), presented Ms. Muffet as a shady lady who had kidnapped Curds N. Whey. She was aided by her henchman, Tuffet (me). But along comes a Spider(man) who frightens Muffet, using Net to allow the release of Miss Whey. A very goofy, but interesting concept, as Muffet becomes the antagonist. The problem being how will Whey get away from Muffet.

The characterization for Muffet 2 created several new characters and used as a problem how Mom and Muffet would get to where they were going. So each presentation allows for its own interpretation which eventually promotes a writing component.

Teachers get excited over this because it is a new tool, using theater which allows kids to get up on their feet and perform, regroup and rethink outside the standard box. There is a lot of room for critical thinking and discussion. There is synthesis, analysis and application all going on at once, as anyone in the arts can recognize.

This was the final workshop for the season of 2016-17. These workshops because of their nature make teachers rethink writing, using the performing and visual arts as a way of getting students to bridge writing and action. This is the third workshop of four this season, I have attended.  The workshops are always pertinent to getting kids to write, but also to get kids to take on broader perspectives.

Teachers find fresh approaches to working with students. We have had many classroom teachers, but many ESE teachers as well, who find this approach liberating for students who may need to explore success a different way. I thank the Kennedy Center and the Orlando Rep; all presenters this season; and Ashley Spero and Scott Evans from Orange County Public Schools. These workshop events offer us fresh approaches to being successful with our students.

Christmas comes (and goes), 2016

apopkaKit Land Nelson Park becomes a focal point for holiday celebration and one of the backdrops for the Christmas Parade.

tree-lighting-1The tree lighting ceremony in Kit Land Nelson Park is preceded by snow machine to entertain the kids.

tree-lighting-2It was about sunset and the light was quite beautiful, the weather perfect.



Adelia Chambers, our music teacher, and tree-lighting-3Deanna Roth, who came to help her, were in charge of our terrific chorus group. Several schools came to perform and the audience literally was so close to the bandstand, that I had to get down on my knees to shoot. The kids did great and seemed right at home with their performance.



parade1Then the parade came, it is interesting to see all the city officials, Miss Apopka and the schools.

the-flipmobile-interim2Ms. Miller and Mrs Vazquez rode in the red pickup.

flop-cake-5th-grade-girlsThey added a trailer to the red truck, so Flip, our mascot, rode with a group of friends!



Then there was the PJ party which Mrs. Maise, our superb librarian, works hard at every year! This year kids came in droves with lots of activities and to end with hot chocolate and cookies.

shot-for-programMrs. Chambers also produced the Talent Show, a great event.

Where else are you going to see several singers, one acapella, a crackerjack yo yo expert, a hula hoop performer, one jiu jitsu master, dancing acts, two doubles, and a wonderful magician—all for free!

emmanueli-mompoint-garciaOur wonderful paras Emmanueli, Mompoint and Garcia clowning to become immortalized as part of the Kindergarten/Support hallway.










Each year we move along to Christmas and Apopka comes alive in its own right.  We did our design the hall thing again this year, although, there was so much going on with the end of the marking period grading. Some of it was fun. And Admin and Cheer had a luncheon,  while I followed the judges through the halls.

For a three week period, a lot goes on, including Christmas parties and final quarter grades. Mrs. McCoy from our cafeteria and many of the staff coordinated with students, a food drive on the Saturday morning school ended.



A Year (and a half) in the life

In a year plus, so many things went on. I actually put a 90 minute video of it together, each in 3-30 minute parts, but because of issues with privacy cannot put it up, but i will put up sections here that seemed more public, and informative, to what became our first year in a brand new school. So many small things happened.

We started off with a great Meet the Teacher, a terrific Hispanic Heritage Month, had to pose for a big “A” (I Will Survive video) went on to a great STEM Fall Festival during an October Saturday (Weird Science video). We did the Dedication for the new school in November and I was asked to produce a short continuous running (Gift) video.

la-senorita-and-mrs-vazquezOur committee leader Assistant Principal, Mrs. Aleli Vazquez Santiago of Hispanic Heritage month.

big-a-copyThe big “A” shot.

ribbonRibbon cutting ceremony

4-principalsFour principals during Dedication Ceremony

adelia-birdsong-chambers-pastor-melvin-chambers-denise-paleriniAdelia Chambers, Mr. Birdsong, her dad and our own wonderful secretary, Denise Palmerini, one of our school photographers at the Dedication.

After giving Thanks, and a commemoration to a student we had lost the year before, the winter holidays moved in. Festivities both a concert and our Pajama Party given by Mrs. Maise, our wonderful media specialist, seen in the masthead head shot on the right. We decked the halls before going on break (All I Want video).

After a Fun Run, we went through the beginnings of really getting down to the realization that FSA was around the corner. Black History was presented in February, with one presentation seen in the video below.

We began to move into testing, and the school went along, as all do in our area in an orderly manner. The kids were great, we had an FSA rally, which was filmed, but again not here. Finally in May we came around again to another fairy tale ball, this time the theme was Paris.

lion-kingLeft to right: Principal Lukeshia Miller, Assistant Principal and Director Adelia Chambers

Then there was the Apoka’s Got Talent Show, which our music and performing arts teacher, Adelia Chambers, put together and three weeks later The Lion King Kids. What great productions, some day we’ll be able to post the shots and film. It was incredible to work with Adelia!

omaI took Art Club to OMA, which was great.

Jim Montgomery, our guidance counselor, said goodbye last day. He tirelessly worked for our kids for 19 years. Whether helping out with kids who faced death of a loved one, homelessness, hunger, or a Christmas present that needed some angel to find it, Jim came through. We miss him for his great Irish humor, his grace and his real feeling for those around him. He moved up the street to high school (and many of his old students) as an assistant principal. Best, always.

The boss also played a part in the Talent Show. Great performance.




With thanks. . .


“I was very happy to receive an Orange County’s Top Talent Arts Education Grant presented by The Foundation for Orange County Public Schools. As a new teacher to Apopka, the grant will allow me to pursue work with my students, I may not have had the funds for. I would like to thank Cindy Williams for her work with the Foundation. I would also like to thank Twanna Scroggins for all her help during the grant writing process. ”  -2014

It is kind of nice, that there is somewhere to go in our county where we, as teachers, can get pet projects funded. Principal’s are often maxed out, no fault of their own.

The grant allowed me to fund projects for my 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. The kids, and I, truly appreciated the honor.



this is what an art room looks likeLast week in my room.

one week laterLights ripped out and a lot of furniture gone.

A year ago, I walked into the room with Matt, bringing in exactly one truckload and one carload of materials to start me off on the new year. At the end of the week, last week, I was back home, 95 boxes packed (top). On a trip back to school this week I found lights were all gone, boxes gone and furniture moved in most cases.

front officeFront office

Being at this school was a welcome. It would be the third “T” school plan I had worked in. I had spent time at Ridgewood Park, which was built around 1970 and had one of the most interesting street layouts I had ever seen, nestled in a community. I worked for two years at Ivey Lane right in the building, in what might have been a first grade room, as the original Kindergarten rooms were huge with 2 classes at once, and half day.




I have also been in the buildings interviewing for Aloma, Windermere and Lake Sybelia. Somewhere, I realized there was something different about this school, while the front was still the same, cafeteria (with media center on the floor above), same offices and the original teacher lounge (only the stove and sink were gone!)I remember Windermere, like Apopka was not a “T” plan as was Ivey Lane and Ridgewood Park which were built around 1970. Those schools had an extension  from the center of the building with I think, at least 6 more classes per floor, and a back stairwell. The pre-T plan had an exterior stairway, unlike anything I have ever seen (below).

DSC_0691Again, this might have been a revision, with these old buidlngs revisions often came along with admin changes.

denise officeDenise’ office

vazquezMrs. Vazquez plugging away

teachers loungeTeacher’s lounge

ferneys room
Ferney’s room

thurmonds roomThurmond’s room

playground gonePlayground gone

vazquez goodbyeVazquez’ goodbye

A school is forever, only the architecture really changes. We have all seen these ghosts, some for the better, some not. The “post-Modern” thinking is we won’t need books, it will all be tablets and technology. Stay tuned.