Appreciating teachers and staff

Let us count the ways

Parent-teacher organization volunteers and students came out in full force this week to recognize teachers and staff as part of National Teacher Appreciation Week.

These lawn decorations at Monteith Elementary School, above, and Parcells Middle School, below, were among many signs of appreciation on display to recognize teachers and staff during Teacher Appreciation Week.

In addition to lawn signs, staff members were greeted upon arrival at school with chalk drawings and decorated doors, showered with flowers, and treated to lunches from local restaurants and a host of other surprises, from coffee, donuts and bagels to candy, frozen banana custard and even a taco truck at Mason Elementary School.

Students at Ferry Elementary School brought in three flowers each to fill vases and brighten classrooms and offices throughout the building. Maire Elementary students each gave their teachers a flower to thank them for helping them bloom.

Clever notes accompanied gifts. “Great staff makes us smart cookies — something sweet for the best staff around” was the message on a card attached to individually packaged cookies for faculty and staff at Defer Elementary School.

A note on custom-made Frozen Wally’s banana custard cups at Kerby Elementary School said: “We would have gone bananas without you this year!” Packs of Extra gum for Defer staff came with the note: “Thanks for going the EXTRA mile!” Individual salads for Parcells Middle School teachers and staff on May 4 — National Teacher Appreciation Day — included the message: “May the fourth be with you.”

Sara Dirkse said in her three years as principal at Pierce Middle School, she has “never seen such an outpouring of support.” She was in the building on Sunday while students came in to decorate 44 classroom doors, with illustrated messages appropriate to teachers’ individual subject area such as “Taco bout a great teacher” and “U r the music to our ears.”

“It was 85 and sunny out and they still came!” Dirkse said.

Surprises continued throughout the week, including chalk drawings on the sidewalk and individual notes from students left on their teachers’ doors.

Staff from Barnes and Trombly Early Childhood Centers brought the appreciation full circle with signs of their own thanking parents and local businesses for their generosity.

GPFPE announces SEED initiative

The Grosse Pointe Foundation for Public Education shows its appreciation for Grosse Pointe Public School System teachers and staff on a regular basis — by giving them the resources they need to enhance teaching and learning in the district.

Teachers, students and parents have two opportunities each year to apply for grants to support academic programs, instructional materials, or enrichment projects. The GPFPE announced the recipients of its spring grant cycle at the April 26 Board of Education meeting, awarding a total of more than $35,000. Four of the grants were funded through the Lois J. Warden Fund, established to support early learner programs.

In addition to meeting these annual classroom and program needs, GPFPE often seeks to fill a broader need. For example, several years ago it set a goal of supporting every elementary school in the district to become a Leader in Me School. Leader in Me is an evidence-based whole-school transformation program that unites students, teachers and families around a common culture of student empowerment. The GPFPE provided funds for all the needed training, materials and support to implement this program, which is now part of the curriculum in all the elementary schools in the district.

To meet today’s greatest needs, GPFPE Vice President Christie Scoggin announced at the April 26 board meeting a new fund-raising initiative called SEED, which stands for social-emotional encouragement and development. Students, teachers and parents may apply for grants year-round for programs that support the social and emotional health of students and staff in the district.

The idea came up “after all that has happened this past year with the pandemic and the school system,” Scoggin said. GPFPE representatives asked curriculum directors Maureen Bur and Keith Howell what was most “important in the school system right now. They came back with some counselor recommendations and most all of them came under the umbrella of SEED.”

They also addressed needs from around the district, from preschool to high school, Scoggin said.

“Even though our board has educators and a lot of smart people, a lot of involved people, we’re not mental health experts,” GPFPE President Bob Bury said. “What we did is recognize the need. Rather than dictate a specific program, we went to the district and said, ‘You know what the needs are for your students and staff.’”

Supporting students’ social and emotional well-being is not new to GPFPE. Past grants have funded mentoring programs, training and certification of a therapy dog, playground and other equipment geared toward healthy play and stress relief, sensory room equipment, yoga as a restorative practice, and positive behavior programs. Many of these programs overlap with other disciplines, but have a mental health focus.

This is the GPFPE’s first initiative focused directly on supporting students’ mental health.

“One could argue that the needs today are probably higher than they have ever been in a lot of areas,” Bury said.

The goal is to help fund GPPSS programs already in place as well as new ideas focused on post-pandemic social and emotional growth, healing and connections and other health programs.

A wish list of future ideas and programs came directly from GPPSS school counselors. These include professional development, “chill” spaces for staff wellness, restorative practices at all levels, extracurricular clubs to build connections and give purpose, mentoring programs, and the University of Michigan’s TRAILS program. TRAILS, which stands for Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students, is focused on bringing effective mental health care to all students.

A benefit of the SEED program, Scoggin and Bury agree, is that a teacher, counselor, parent or student interested in applying for funding to support a mental health initiative doesn’t have to wait for a grant cycle or apply within a particular deadline, but can submit a one-page application at any point. The amount given will be capped to allow for gifts throughout the year.

GPFPE plans to kick off SEED at its “Be the Beacon” benefit on Thursday, June 3, held on the grounds of the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. Funds raised will go to GPFPE’s grant fund as well as to support SEED.

GPFPE board members view SEED as a multiyear initiative.

“This is not ending,” Scoggin said. “Mental health is at the forefront of everything right now with students and teachers. The need is going to go on.”

Donors may direct their gift to the SEED initiative or other focus area, give an unrestricted donation, sponsor the annual benefit or donate to the GPFPE endowment. The GPFPE also offers the opportunity to give a gift “in honor of” a teacher, administrator or student within GPPSS — a perfect way to conclude Teacher Appreciation Week or the school year.

For more information, visit or contact Karen Lawrence at (313) 432-3058 or

The Grosse Pointe Foundation for Public Education is an independent, not-for-profit organization with the mission of funding extraordinary educational opportunities for the students of the Grosse Pointe Public School System. Since 2007, the GPFPE has provided close to $3.5 million in funding, supporting a diverse roster of programs and projects at every school and grade level across the district.

OneGP Virtual on the move

Teachers in OneGP Virtual have created a fun community-building activity for Young 5 to grade 8 families that promotes physical fitness and strives to bring the OGPV community together to finish the year strong.

“Move it in May” encourages students to get up and active through a host of physical activities. The possibilities are endless — do push-ups, jump on a trampoline, walk a dog, jump on a Pogo stick, attend sports team practice, jump rope, do squats or squat jumps, have a dance-off or go for a run.

For every 60 minutes of exercise a student completes, they will get a raffle ticket they can turn in for a chance to win a prize. Students submit their forms by 12 p.m. on Mondays. Winners are announced on Mondays and prizes can be picked up at Maire Elementary School.

National Bike to School Day

Across the district, students dusted off bike helmets, checked the combinations on bike locks, and headed off to school Wednesday as part of National Bike to School Day. Not only does biking to school have health benefits, but it contributes to a cleaner environment and builds a sense of community as children and parents develop walking and bicycling buddies and greet neighbors along the way.

Pierce parents Wendy and Vikas Relan organized a Bike Train for Defer and Pierce students who live south of Jefferson. Beginning Wednesday and throughout the week, students met at Trombly at 7:30 a.m. and biked to school together. Former Trombly Principal Walter Fitzpatrick made a guest appearance on Thursday to greet former students before waving them off.

Kerby Principal Walter Fitzpatrick, pictured here with Defer third grader Hunter Savage, met up with some former students during Bike to School Week. Below, Mason Principal Roy Bishop makes biking to school a family affair.

The middle school principals waged a friendly competition on which school yielded the greatest participation. Results just in Friday determined Pierce as the winner with 31 percent participation; Parcells in second place with 25 percent participation; and Brownell trailing at third with 20 percent participation.

“It’s tough to beat those Trojans!” Brownell Principal Rodger Hunwick said.

As part of the district’s Safe Routes to School program, officers from the City of Grosse Pointe and Grosse Pointe Park were on hand to provide bike licenses for students at Defer, Maire and Pierce. Officers from Grosse Pointe Woods also provided bike licenses at Mason, and will do so at Parcells May 26th.

Grosse Pointe public safety officers help Defer Young 5 quintuplets, from left, Charlotte, Patrick, Riley and Emmett Hilliard, check the serial numbers on their bikes before issuing their bike licenses.

Another activity to promote biking as a community event is Pointe Pedalers’ family bike rides Saturday, May 15, on the south end of the district (meet in front of Pierce on Kercheval) and Saturday, May 22, on the north end (meet at Parcells’ parking lot off Sunningdale). This includes a 5 p.m. safety lesson before a 5:30 p.m. departure.

Green Team earns Evergreen award

Brownell Middle School was named an Official Michigan Evergreen School for 2020-21 by the state, receiving a signed certificate from Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans and Wayne County Green School Coordinator Susan Thompson.

This is the third consecutive year Brownell has earned this recognition, according to faculty adviser Tracey Corden. Carrying the torch for Brownell’s Green Team this year are eighth graders Katie Peck, Aliana Ritter, Bella Rondini and Allie Thomas.

“It was so great being able to reach Evergreen,” Aliana said. “It’s our first time in Green Team. We didn’t know because of the pandemic if we’d have enough points to reach it. It was so good working together, putting the application together. And our work paid off!”

The mission of the Green Team, according to Aliana, is “to promote recycling and bettering our earth and our school and around our community. All of us here know global climate change is a big problem and I know all of us are big activists on that. We’re always talking about recycling and pollution.”

The girls divided and conquered to tackle different projects. Bella organized Ride Your Bike to School Week, which extended into a second week due to snow the first week. The team created a ticket bin and gave students a ticket each day they rode their bikes. They concluded the project with a drawing and awarded $25, $15 and $10 gift cards and Bronco Bucks, the school currency.

Allie organized a book drive for used children’s books ranging from infants to age 12 or 13 to donate to children at Ascension St. John Hospital.

Aliana was in charge of planting for the flagpole garden.

“We’re working on the beautification of the courtyard and flagpole garden because we may have graduation outside and it’s so nice to look at a garden and flowers,” she said.

The first stage was to dig up the old garden, with the help of volunteers from the National Junior Honor Society. Next the Green Team members replanted the garden, repurposing flowers and plants students brought in from their own gardens.

From left, Bella Rondini, Allie Thomas, Katie Peck, Ellie Beckerman and Aliana Ritter admire their handiwork with the recently planted flagpole garden.

Katie is looking to a future project — hosting a Penny or Change Wars throughout the school to raise funds for a charity of choice.

The girls attribute much of their success to their teacher.

“I just want to give Mrs. Corden the credit that she deserves,” Aliana said. “She is probably the most supportive, productive, most amazing teacher, supervisor, friend. She is just the best.”

“They’re my wonderful girls,” Corden said. “I told them the only thing that makes me sad this year is that we had a short year. Because I have the best teams right now and it has been so much fun working with them. They are dedicated, they are smart and they’re about the world. They get it. They are my hope for the future.”

Monteith student top seller

Allisa Bohl, a third grader at Monteith Elementary School, was a top seller of Girl Scout cookies in southeast Michigan, having sold 750 boxes of cookies.

“I started off thinking I’d sell about 85 or 100,” Allisa said. “A lot of my family bought a lot of boxes. Also, a lot of people in my neighborhood bought boxes.”

Her sales strategies included creating a flyer and distributing copies on doorsteps throughout Grosse Pointe Woods, calling, texting and emailing friends and family, and selling to her principal and teachers. She also participated in a cookie drive-through with her troop and held a cookie booth in front of her house.

Of the boxes she sold, Allisa delivered nearly 500 of them. Her favorite part was “seeing people after I gave them their cookies and how they came out and said, “Are these my cookies? I’ve been waiting so long for them.’”

The top seller, she noted, was thin mints.

Allisa hopes to be a baker when she grows up, she said. Early training, in addition to in-home practice, includes watching baking shows on TV. Her favorites are the Kids’ Baking Championship and Best Baker in America on the Food Network, she said.

School Pointes is a publication of the Grosse Pointe Public School System. To submit story ideas or Pointes of Pride, email