by Dave Emke June 15, 2017 at 4:00 pm 20 Comments

Students who will be graduating from South Lakes High School next week walked familiar halls this morning to provide inspiration to the community’s youth.

In a new tradition, seniors were able to visit their elementary school alma maters and celebrate with the kids there. Schools documented via social media the occasion, which was described as a moving experience for all involved.

“This is the first year for this Graduate Walk but it went so beautifully that we hope to make it a yearly tradition,” said Emily Burrell, spokesperson for South Lakes High School. “It was an emotional experience for the soon-to-be graduates and their elementary teachers. And the elementary students were thrilled to celebrate the graduates. They even made signs in the South Lakes colors. There were tears of joy all around.”

Students who did not attend an elementary school in Reston were allowed to choose which school they visited, Burrell said.

South Lakes High School’s seniors will graduate during a ceremony Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Eagle Bank Arena on the campus of George Mason University.

Photos courtesy South Lakes High School

by Dave Emke January 20, 2017 at 1:00 pm 3 Comments

Sara Balcanoff, Sunrise Valley Elementary School

A new way of learning at Sunrise Valley Elementary School is giving students the opportunity to stretch their creative thinking skills like never before.

Sara Balcanoff is the advanced academic resources teacher at SVES, as well as at Greenbriar West Elementary School in Fairfax. She has been helping students for the past year as they are encouraged to visualize, design and create to supplement their learning in core classes.

“The kids are impressive,” Balcanoff said. “They’re very imaginative.”

Balcanoff said kindergarten, first- and second-grade classes come in weekly to use the school’s “Makerspace” to experiment and learn to solve problems in creative and unique ways. Students also use the space to create projects related to units in other classes.

“It looks like trash, but they have to figure out how to make it work for their model,” Balcanoff said.

Projects can be made out of a variety of everyday materials including cardboard tubes, styrofoam blocks, bottle caps and more to help with fundamentals including creating simple machines and learning about force and motion.

“They have to use these materials to design a car,” she said of a first-grade project. “The car has to go a certain speed, it has to go a certain distance, it has to be able to stop in a certain location.”

Kevin West, Sunrise Valley principal, said Balcanoff’s work is an important part of creating a well-rounded learning environment.

“She really works on developing critical thinking with students, creativity, innovation, problem solving and collaboration,” he said. “It’s what we call in Fairfax County the ‘Portait of a Graduate.'”

Balcanoff recently applied for and received a $1,675 grant from Apple Federal Credit Union, which she will use to purchase a class set of programmable robotic toys called Spheros that she says can be used in a variety of educational ways.

“A lot of our students, outside of school, are starting to pursue an interest in coding,” she said. “I really want to bring that into school and into the curriculum a lot more, and have it accessible to more students.”

Balcanoff said she is hopeful the new technology will help get older students into the Makerspace more. Spheros can be used to design and create mazes, obstacle courses and other engineering challenges, she said, as well as to paint and draw.

“They have to code their way through them,” she said. “We can test it with weight limits and speed — there’s a lot that we’re going to work on.”

Balcanoff said she hopes to introduce another new coding toy, the Makey Makey, into the school later this year. The Makey Makey allows users to make everyday objects into keyboards, game controllers and more.

“The possibilities with this are endless,” she said.

West said the school is fortunate to have someone with Balcanoff’s innovative mind on staff.

“She is a great resource for our students and also for our teachers,” West said. “She’s very focused on providing very innovative educational opportunities for our students, a very dynamic learning environment for our kids.”

by Dave Emke January 13, 2017 at 9:00 am 4 Comments

W&OD Trail -- January 12, 2017

Metro Board Members to Hold Forum in Reston — The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce will host Virginia’s WMATA Board delegation Wednesday, Jan. 25 for a public discussion about Metro’s budget. Subjects will include the decision-making process when it comes to increasing fares and reducing train frequency. [Northern Virginia Transportation Commission]

Fairfax County Schools FY2018 Budget Proposed — A $2.8 billion budget for county schools would include $44 million for an average step increase of 2.5 percent for all eligible employees, including teachers and non-teachers. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Sunrise Valley Elementary School Teacher Earns Grant — Six Fairfax County Public Schools teachers, along with five schools, were recently awarded grants from Apple Federal Credit Union. Among them was Sara Balcanoff at Sunrise Valley Elementary School. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Number of Local Events Honor Dr. Martin Luther King — Don’t forget there will be plenty to do in Reston this holiday weekend. Scheduled activities include special speakers, performances and community service projects. [Reston Now]

by Karen Goff May 15, 2014 at 1:00 pm 0

Kevin West (right)/Credit: Alexandria City Public SchoolsSunrise Valley Elementary School has a new principal.

Kevin West of George Mason Elementary School in Alexandria will take over beginning July 1, Fairfax County Public Schools Cluster 8 Superintendent Fabio Zuluaga said in an e-mail to SVES parents.

Tim Stanley, a retired FCPS administrator, had been serving as the school’s interim principal for 2013-14 after former principal Beth English retired last year.

From Zuluaga:

It gives me great pleasure to inform you that Mr. Kevin West has been selected as principal of Sunrise Valley Elementary School beginning July 1st 2014. Mr. West comes to us from the City of Alexandria, where he is currently the principal of George Mason Elementary School and where he served with distinction.

Mr. West brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the principalship. Under his leadership, his current school earned a three-year waiver from annual accreditation due to “achievement of SOL passing rates of 95% or higher in all four tested SOL content areas for two consecutive years” — only 5% of schools in the state earned this waiver.

His school also received the Virginia Board of Education Excellence Award for advanced learning and achievement, and was recognized as “Best Elementary School” in Northern Virginia Magazine. In Alexandria, Mr. West served as the Lead Principal for Curriculum and Instruction for the city’s schools.

Mr. West began his career in the Fairfax County Public Schools, serving as a 5thgrade teacher at Crossfield Elementary School and 8th grade social studies teacher at Robinson Secondary School.

In 2004 he moved to Arizona where he taught, served as an instructional and technology coach and instruction specialist. In 2005, Mr. West was promoted to assistant principal and then principal of Canyon Ridge School. Canyon Ridge is the division’s Math, Science & Technology Concept School and also includes the District Gifted Program. Under Mr. West’s leadership Canyon Ridge emphasized 21st century learning and instructional innovation, including problem-based learning, content and technology integration across all grade levels. Mr. West was recognized as a “Visionary Administrator” at Canyon Ridge.

Mr. West earned his B.S. at James Madison University, his Masters of Education at Marymount University, and his Certificate in Ed. Administration at Arizona State University West.

Photo:  Kevin West (right) and George Mason ES student/Credit: ACPS

by Karen Goff October 30, 2013 at 1:30 pm 0

Pumpkin Pinocchio  (Photo by Nancy Cole)Fairfax County Public Schools in-house TV network, Red Apple 21, visited Reston’s Sunrise Valley Elementary School recently to showcase its annual Storybook Pumpkin Festival.

The event, organized by librarian Katie Pieruccini, challenges students to make a pumpkin look like a favorite children’s literary character.

The pumpkins will be on display for several more weeks in the school library.

Check out the video here.

(Photo by Nancy Cole)


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