Monday, August 7, 2017

Welcome to the 2017-2018 School Year!

Dear Parents and Families of Spicewood,


Welcome to the 2017-2018 school year! I hope everyone had a fantastic summer and is ready to embark on another school year full of fun, rigorous learning and community building! As I begin my fifth year at Spicewood, I have been reflecting on what an amazing school community Spicewood has been. I would like to thank all the parents and community members for their continuous support as partners in education. It is also with great pleasure to announce that Spicewood has won a 60K Innovative Schools Grant yet again to expand our inquiry learning into the atrium area as well as throughout the school building. This grant also allows us to bring in Kagan Cooperative Learning training in August when teachers return, which will help empower student voice by implementing structures for cooperative learning in the classrooms. Spicewood will continue to be a team of dedicated educators and professionals committed to high achievement and success beyond academics for all students.

We say farewell to our retiring teachers: Mrs. Peggy Powers (TAG Specialist) and Mrs. Julie Jacobs (2nd). Mrs. Sara Hougham (Counselor) will be joining Canyon Creek ES. Mrs. Susan Albright (5th) will be teaching science at Pearson Ranch MS. We also say farewell to Mrs. Nancy Kenny (1st) and Mrs. Della Robinson (5th) as they take on personal transitions in life. They will truly be missed. As we see off our beloved teachers and staff, we welcome a handful of teachers and staff members to the Panther family. They surely have big shoes to fill; however, I have utmost confidence in each individual that we have welcomed and that Spicewood will continue to be a place where all stakeholders seek excellence beyond academics for all students. Please join me in welcoming these exceptional educators!

Brenda Elder-Mrs. Elder is a former Spicewood Elementary IB teacher that is returning to us as a kindergarten teacher.  A graduate of Texas State University, she earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a minor in reading. Her 20 years of educational experience have come from teaching in Round Rock ISD and various surrounding school districts. She has taught kindergarten for six years, 1st grade for nine years, 2nd grade for two years and Reading Recovery for two years as well as assisting in intervention for a year.  She crafts opportunities of exploring and promoting independence in her students as they acquire knowledge and the love for learning. She shares her busy life with her husband of 23 years, two daughters, both in college, and her three Labrador retrievers.

First Grade
Kendall Lough-Mrs. Lough moved here with her husband from their home state of Colorado. She has 9 years of teaching experience. All nine years she was a first grade teacher at an IB PYP school in Denver. She has a clear understanding of the IB Primary Years Program after implementing it for nine years and attending six IB trainings. After receiving a graduate level Early Literacy Certificate, she was her school’s Early Literacy Specialist last year. She is passionate about teaching and believes there is nothing better than watching students make discoveries, think, learn and take action. She is excited to be a part of the Spicewood team!

Jennifer Stavrou - Ms. Stavrou grew up on the east coast and has been living in Texas for just over a year. She graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas College in New York with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a minor in Mathematics. After graduation, Ms. Stavrou taught Kindergarten for nine years at two different New Jersey elementary schools. Ms. Stavrou is a mom to two amazing seven-year-olds. She and her children love giving back to their community! They are avid volunteers in the area and have helped the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Lift Brigade (a charity that helps pediatric cancer patients), and local animal shelters. Ms. Stavrou loves inspiring learning and believes that every child has the potential to do amazing things. She is thrilled to be a part of the Spicewood Elementary family!

School Nurse (RN)
Samnoun Kim (RN, BSN)- [Nurse Kim’s not related to Principal at all, nor has she known her before the interview.]
Nurse Sam comes with one and a half years experience as a substitute nurse in Round Rock ISD and Leander ISD. Before moving to Austin in 2013, she had her internship at Medical-Surgical Unit in Sacred Heart Hospital and also at an Internal Medicine Doctor's office in Allentown, PA. While transferring her RN license from PA to TX, she completed School Nurse Preceptorship at Cedar Creek Elementary School in Eanes ISD. She graduated as Cum Laude at Cedar Crest College Nursing Department and received BSN degree. She completed two semesters of Family Nurse Practitioner Program at DeSales University, Center Valley, PA. She is currently living with her loving and supporting husband, 8 years old daughter, and 6 months old puppy. To avoid confusion between her and the principal who shares the same last name, she’ll be referring herself as Nurse Sam for all stakeholders.

School Counselor
Molly Kentopp- After teaching for six years in Grisham's IB Middle Years Programme, Mrs. Kentopp decided to pursue a Master’s in Professional Counseling at Texas State University. She holds both a Generalist and a Special Education K-12 Certification, and will use her teaching experience to provide a differentiated and engaging school counseling curriculum. Mrs. Kentopp has spent the past year seeing child and adolescent clients at the Texas State Counseling Clinic, as well as working as a volunteer counselor at Phoenix Center Camp with children who have experienced trauma. Mrs. Kentopp will use her experience working at an RRISD IB school to integrate the IB philosophy and curriculum into Spicewood’s school counseling program, and work with the school community to ensure all students are reaching their highest potential. Mrs. Kentopp lives in Austin with her husband and two energetic toddlers- Ellis (3 years) and Leon (15 months).

Educational Assistant- Intervention
Kristin Martinez- Mrs. Martinez has been a preschool lead teacher for a few years. She has a passion for young school aged children. Her caring mind and love truly stood out during the interview process.

That was a long introduction, but a very necessary one! Kudos to all who will be joining the Panther family for making it through the grueling interview process!

We also have several grade level assignment changes per teacher requests and for their professional growth.

Ms. Jo Williams (4th grade last year) will start serving as a TAG Specialist next school year.
Mrs. Amy Mitchell (regular 5th grade last year) will be taking over the 5th Grade TAG class position that Mrs. Albright has been in.
Mrs. Jenni Redick (Kinder last year) expressed a wish to join the 2nd grade team so she'll be joining them next school year.
Mrs. Cortney Sanchez (1st grade last year) expressed a wish to explore a different grade level next year so she'll be joining the 4th grade team.
Mrs. Jaime Pierce (1st grade last year) also expressed a strong desire to teach in an intermediate grade level to expand her professional realm so she’ll also be joining the 4th grade team.

My priorities this school year will focus on 1) continuing to build relationships and partnership with all stakeholders; 2) expanding opportunities for innovation and creativity for all students; 3) continuing to promote Growth Mindset for all students beyond academics.

Please note that students in K - 5 will be receiving a postcard during the week of August 14 that will inform them who their new teacher will be. Kindergarten Orientation is on Monday, August 21 from 2:00 – 2:45PM. Parents and students will begin their visit in the cafeteria and then travel to the classrooms after introductions. Spicewood’s Meet the Teacher Event for all students in 1st-5th grades will also be on Monday, August 21 from 2:30- 3:15PM.  During this event, students and parents can go to their teacher’s classroom, meet their teacher, drop off their school supplies, collect their “First Day Packet of Information,” and review bus routes provided. (School supplies purchased through PTA will have been delivered directly to classrooms.)    

We look forward to a great first day of school on Tuesday, August 22, 2017!

Welcome to the 2017-2018 school year!


Jiae Kim
Proud Principal