Lawrence Kids Fall 2021
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Lawrence Kids Fall 2021 Helping Kids Help Themselves
Season’ Reading Suggestions 12 Ryan Takes the Reins 18 Seasonal Essentials w/ The Lieszlers 20 No Place Like Home 26 What a Little Birdy Told Me 32 Season’s Snack 34
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Helping Kids Help Themselves Marne Fleming, middle school counselor at Southwest Middle School, helps parents unravel their child’s pandemic mindset.
During early adolescence, kids are making new friends, forming their identities, and rapidly learning. Because of these changes and developments, the pandemic has been especially difficult for kids ten to fourteen years old. Throughout the ongoing pandemic, our students have had to deal with a myriad of stressors. Some students have lost family members, some live with family members who have health concerns and are still worried about bringing something home from school and getting them sick, some have had parents/guardians lose their jobs, some have had to move, and some have had to stay home and care for younger siblings. Along with family concerns, the changes in learning environments were difficult for many students (and teachers). Some students did online schooling for the entire last school year, and some struggled with remote and then hybrid learning. Students struggling with fears and regulating their emotions are more likely to experience challenges in school. We’ve seen youth anxiety and depression rise. After a school year of what felt like more time apart than together, getting back into the swing of things, of our new “normal” has been hard. While we’re happy to be back to school, we are all still dealing with the side effects of the ongoing pandemic. Over the last year and a half our students have spent more time than ever connecting virtually, with school, friends, activities, and other social activities that would normally give kids face to face time. Because of this, I’ve seen more kids struggle socially and emotionally. A few things I’ve noticed are students are nervous about missing out (kids
post what they are doing and who they are doing it with all the time) or because they have missed out on valuable “practice” on how to engage socially with their peers, friends, and adults. After this time apart, our students want to be around their peers. They not only want to be around them, but they want to be very close to them (seriously, middle schoolers have no idea about personal space). Their friends and teachers are buffers against stress, and those buffers disappeared during the pandemic, but coming back together has had its share of stressors. Because the pandemic has affected every single student and in numerous different ways, there is no simple way to say how we are doing back in school as a whole. Each kid is bringing a different perspective and experience back to school with them. Their realities of home life are vastly different from one another. This can affect everything from how they make friends or who they make friends with to what classes they are now interested in. Friendships have changed, the activities they are involved in have shifted, and expectations from home and school could now look vastly different than before. One of the most important things parents can do to help ease the stress middle school kids might be facing is talking with their students. Debrief after a day at school or talk about the day ahead during breakfast or the drive to school. Ask questions about friends, what they are planning on doing after school, or who they sat with at lunch. Also, ask questions about how they are feeling being back at school. Openly communicating about their day-to-day life, I believe, is one of the most important things parents can do. One last thing: Realize they are going to be exhausted (and most likely crabby) by the time they get home. Getting back into “school shape” is tough in a normal year, and this one is even tougher. Give them some grace. The good news? Kids are astoundingly resilient. For the most part, students couldn’t be happier to be back in school. They’re excited to see friends and teachers, plan spirit weeks, attend pep assemblies, and get involved with sports, after-school activities, and clubs. It all feels so good. Even though we still have many mitigating measures in place, things feel more normal than they have since March 2020. LK
BRACES to fit your LIFESTYLE
Emma Newell, 2nd grade
Baby-Sitters Little Sister: Karen’s Roller Skates “It’s a very good book about a mom and a dad getting divorced. I liked it when she talked about going to her dad’s house because it was very interesting to have two homes.”
Season’s Reading Suggestions by the Library Advisory Board of Sunset Hill Elementary School
Kids on the Library Advisory Board at Sunset Hill Elementary are into books. Fallon Farokhi, Library Media Specialist at the school, has helped inspire and develop the students’ love of reading. “The Board is full of students who have a rotating display of their picks for fellow students,” Fallon says. “So they are already in that mindset of sharing their favorites!” Farokhi asked a handul of students about what must-read books they would recommend to other kids. We’re happy to share the great suggestions... photos by Fallon Farokhi
Bennett Lyon, 1st Grade Dog on a Frog?
“It’s very funny. The dog sits on a log and the frog bosses them to sit on different things. We read Frog on a Log? last year and I loved it. When you find that the dog sits on the frog at the end, the second book starts where the first one leaves off.”
Annalise Jannsen, 3rd Grade El Deafo
“I feel like it’s interesting because she can’t understand things at first but then she figures things out since she can’t hear. Also she doesn’t look like a real human. She has big ears.”
Julian Storck, Kindergarten
Ida Hegeman, 3rd Grade
“It’s kind of scary and fun because they start with big tall grass. They go through a big pond, a bunch of mud, a deep dark forest, a snow storm, a cave, and then they run home so they’re safe and then the bear walks home!”
“It’s always interesting, there’s always a scary part, but it turns out okay. There’s always adventure and in every book they go to a different place.”
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
Magic Tree House: Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve
Domanick Pennel, 5th Grade
Jaia Rohrberg, 3rd Grade
“It’s so funny! That’s why I love this book!”
“It has magic in it with magical creatures. The cover has lots of details which is why I chose it in the first place.”
Big Nate: In the Zone
The Girl Who Drank the Moon
Jossi Rohrberg, 1st Grade
Kash Welty, 4th Grade
“It’s about people that can do other things and anybody can read it. I liked learning about the man who went to space.”
“It’s funny because a lot of funny things happen like the people turn into frogs and squids. They also have super armpit spray.”
Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History
Captain Underpants and The Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-a-Lot
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Varsity Issue Two • Fall 2021 lawrencevarsity.com
Ryan Takes the Reins
USD 497’s New Director of Elementary Schools Kristen Ryan Shares Her Plans for the Academic Year LK: What are your responsibilities as the new director of elementary schools for USD 497? KR: Supporting elementary schools in the areas of leadership, teaching, learning, equity, and social and emotional support for students. LK: Lawrence schools are experiencing unparalleled challenges. What do you think is the single biggest challenge facing elementary schools? KR: “Normal school” challenges when nothing about this year is normal. Our students, families, and staff need support as we transition back to school. Our students have missed opportunities, socially and academically. Our challenge is to meet our students where they are and work together to accelerate student growth. LK: How important is it to keep elementary school kids in class? KR: Beyond important. The pandemic has shown me, personally, the power of our public schools. Our school staff are miracle workers. The work our support staff, teachers, and principals do daily to help our students improve academic, behavioral, and social skills is the hardest and most rewarding work to be done. Our students need consistent learning environments with high expectations. LK: We’ve heard parents express worry that the past eighteen months may cause children to fall behind academically and socially. How is the school district addressing those concerns? KR: We provided a summer learning program for the first time in many years. Schools invited students who needed extra support into the building before school started to set them up for success. Teachers started the school year focused on building relationships and getting to know their students since everyone has experienced so much change and uncertainty. We build strong classroom management routines so students know our expectations and procedures. We use assessments to identify student needs, interventions to support their needs, and consistently monitor their learning progress and make adjustments along the way. By using federal emergency relief funds, the district hired Academic Interventionists for each school to improve our support for student learning. We also have learning coaches in our schools to support instructional strategies, content collaboration, data analysis, and profes-
sional learning for our teachers. LK: Can you discuss specific changes parents of elementary children may see this academic year? KR: Safety protocols are still in place, like they were last year, to support our students’ health and well-being. The biggest change for elementary schools from last year is having a majority of our students back in the buildings while navigating these COVID prevention measures. LK: What advice do you have for parents? How can they best help their child succeed in school? KR: Working together with school staff as one team for the positive outcome of their child. Limiting screen time. LK: How can USD 497 address the unique challenges faced by low-income families, families of color, and ESL (English as a Second Language) families? KR: Our teachers, support staff, building leadership, and district administration are focused on supporting the individual needs of each student and family. We have systems of support in place with our school Mental Health Teams, Equity Teams, Title I and ESL teachers, and Native American Services, to name a few. Our school social workers and guidance counselors play a big role in supporting our families with needs and providing social-emotional support throughout the school day. They also work with local agencies to connect families with the community services and support they may need. Our building equity teams meet regularly. As a district, we have an Equity Advisory Council, Parents of Color committee, and Special Education Advisory Council that meet regularly to provide input and feedback about access, opportunity, and our district’s equity work. LK: After years as a middle school principal, what are you most looking forward to in your new role directing elementary schools? KR: I am excited to be back at the elementary level to support our PreK through 5th grade students. Many of the staff I worked with ten years ago as an elementary learning coach are continuing to thrive in making a difference every day for our students. The dedication of our teachers, support staff, and building leadership inspires me. I am grateful for the opportunity to work alongside them to provide the highest quality education possible for our elementary students. LK
Seasonal Essentials Dr. Chris and Anne-Marie Leiszler, with their boys Harrison (12) and Bennett (9) make the most of every opportunity. When the heat breaks and the leaves start to fall around Lawrence, the crew gets outside. Here’s how they celebrate the season! photos by Amber Yoshida
What the Leiszler Crew Must Do 1. Flying Squirrels Flag Football – Sunday afternoons are spent on the gridiron with Lawrence Youth Football as Chris coaches both boys and their buddies. 2. BVB Soccer – The boys love the other kind of futbol too! 3. Baldwin City’s Maple Leaf Festival – This is a can’t-miss tradition on the third full weekend of October every year. 4. The Lawrence Zombie Walk on Mass Street – We don’t don the makeup, but it is so entertaining and SO Lawrence! 5. Fall Adventure Day – A trip to the pumpkin patch followed by a hike on a local trail to take in the crisp autumn air. 6. Watching Sunsets – We love heading out to the Baker Wetlands or catching a shooting star at Wells Overlook. 7. SO. MANY. LEAVES. – With four large old oak trees in our yard, raking leaves is a full-time job in the fall. As crazy as it sounds, Anne-Marie loves the work! (And the boys are good at jumping in them.) 8. Homemade Halloween Costumes – We try to make the most elaborate, creative, or funny Halloween costumes each year. No store-bought costumes for this family! And when Halloween finally arrives, you’ll find the boys strutting their stuff at the Downtown Lawrence Trick-or-Treat event. 9. Anne-Marie’s Homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies – Enough said. 10. Busking on Mass – As autumn concludes, our favorite family tradition takes place on the day after Thanksgiving when the boys raise money playing their violins on Mass Street. They take their earnings to The Toy Store where they spend every penny on items to donate to Toys for Tots of Douglas County.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME photos by Amber Yoshida
When Darrell Stuckey’s seven-year NFL playing career with the San Diego Chargers ended, he and his wife Lacie had the opportunity to move anywhere they wanted. The decision was pretty simple. “I mean I don’t want to sound corny,” Darrell says with a hearty laugh. “But there’s really no place like home.“
Darrell and Lacie met while both were students at the University of Kansas. Darrell was a defensive back for the Jayhawk football team and Lacie worked with the athletic department. The two met when Lacie checked Darrell into an advising session. To say it was love at first sight might not be totally accurate.
Lacie said yes and the newly engaged couple held their breath, hoping the Kansas City Chiefs took Darrell with one of their draft pics. If Darrell played for the Chiefs, it would sure make life easier for the couple. Lacie still had a year of student teaching to finish before earning her degree from KU. Darrell was drafted by the San Diego Chargers.
“Love at first sight?” Darrell asks with a laugh. “Uh, no. She made me work.”
“There wasn’t a chance I wasn’t going to finish my degree,” Lacie explains. “He knew he was going to San Diego alone. I stayed in Kansas and did my student teaching while planning our wedding.”
She thought he was cute, but nothing too special. “He grew on me, slowly,” Lacie says laughing. “We were friends long before we dated, which I think was really important. We were surrounded by our friends and got to know each other pretty well before the first date. Once we started dating, things moved pretty quickly.” It didn’t take long for Darrell to realize Lacie was the girl he wanted to marry, but he had to accomplish something first. When Darrell was confident he would be drafted and he knew he would be able to provide for a family. “It was very important to me to know I would be established and capable of being finacially stable before I asked Lacie to marry me,” Darrell says. “I’m old-fashioned like that. I was confident I would be drafted so that gave me the confidence give Lacie a ring.”
Lacie earned a lot of frequent flier miles traveling between Kansas and San Diego. She taught the kids in De Soto during the week and made most home games on the weekends. “The kids sure had fun talking about it,” Lacie says. “Darrell was well-known because of KU football’s success and every Monday we’d discuss Darrell’s game. I think some of them even cheered for the Chargers when they didn’t play the Chiefs. I didn’t tell my students too much about the wedding, but they thought it was pretty cool that on a Friday I was Ms. Reed and on Monday I was Mrs. Stuckey.” By the time Darrell started his second season with the Chargers, Lacie has graduated, they had gotten married, and both were living in San Diego. Lacie worked as a substitute teacher in the San Diego area, which allowed her the flexi-
bility to travel with Darrell. The couple soon welcomed their son Jayton. As Darrell’s career blossomed (he was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014), the couple’s family also grew when their daughter Kinsley was born. “Those were really fun times,” Lacie remembers. “Darrell worked hard and then came home to play. That’s when we started talking about the future and where we would want to be after football.” When Darrell’s football career came to an end after the 2016 season, the young family had a decision to make. The decision, however, wasn’t that difficult. Both Darrell and Lacie are Kansas natives and the idea of raising their family in the Sunflower State was, essentially, a no-brainer. “We thought about different areas,” Lacie says. “I think we both always knew Kansas was home. Our families are here and our roots are here. Kansas is home. It’s that simple.” “And our money goes a lot further in Kansas than in southern California,” Darrell adds. “We are very blessed to have opportunities and we’re so happy to be able to raise our family in this community.” After moving back to Kansas, Isley and Caysen rounded out Team Stuckey. The family is now all-in on life in Lawrence.
Darrell works with KU as the director of football relations and Lacie manages the expanding list of the kids’ activities. Both Darrell and Lacie are thrilled to be raising kids in Lawrence and look forward to the challenges and experiences parenthood offers. “This is home,” Darrell says emphatically. “We are totally invested in making this town as good as it can be for our kids and for all of the kids in Lawrence.” Darrell and Lacie understand extra eyes might be on their kids because of their father’s fame. They don’t, however, think the extra attention is all that bad. “I don’t think our kids think people saying ‘hello’ to me is odd,” Darrell explains. “I think it’s a natural part of being an engaged member of the community. We want them to know that we are involved and active in the community, so some people might recognize us.” The future is bright for the Stuckey bunch. With four active kids under nine years old, Darrell and Lacie know the best is ahead of them. “We have family and friends surrounding us,” Lacie says. “We feel so lucky to have a community like Lawrence to live in and build a life. We’re blessed to live the life we have and to have an opportunity to help make Lawrence a great place for all families.” LK
What a Little Birdy Told Me A long-time Lawrence educator is using her knowledge to help parents at home.
When Jennifer Baker Powers left teaching, she knew she
had a lot of knowledge to share. After working in childhood education for more than twenty years, and raising three daughters of her own, Baker Powers had learned a thing or two about adolescent behavioral development. “Throughout my career parents would often ask for advice when dealing with their children,” Baker Powers, who holds a master’s degree in education, explains. “When I left teaching, a natural step was to focus on helping parents navigate the challenges of raising young kids.” Baker Powers started What a Little Birdy Told Me, a behavioral and educational consultant company that utilizes her decades of experience. Baker Powers’s areas of consultation include realigning authority, setting boundaries, behavioral challenges, school-related issues, understanding developmental milestones, spectrum and processing disorders, as well as potty training. Baker Powers is skilled at working with scholars of all ages on executive functioning challenges and learning differences. She offers a thoughtful approach to working with students that inspires a love for learning. “I’m not totally sure how she did it, but Jenny worked wonders with my boys,” says Molly McVey, mother of 3 boys. “Of course she communicated her strategies and methods, but the way she interacted with my sons really helped with our struggles with control. She gave us the tools we need to create an environment to really help our boys succeed.” Baker Powers says behavioral issues are most often a symptom of a different, larger need. She strives to learn what is at the heart of a child’s behavioral decisions. “If your child is challenging parental authority or struggling with boundaries, that’s probably not just ‘kids being kids,’ but a loud symptom of a bigger problem,” Baker Powers says. “I work to get through with parents
and learn what the bigger issues are. When we get to the heart of an issue, we can make great progress.” A major goal of what Baker Powers does is equip parents with tools to create environments in which their children can thrive. The simple design of a room can have a large impact on a child’s psyche. “I’m a strong believer that the environment, both physically and emotionally, has a major impact on behavior,” she explains. “Organization and boundaries are invaluable for kids. Sometimes all a child needs is a better organizational system to help calm their energy. That can help translate into better behavioral choices. Those better choices will snowball into better behavior and a happier child” Baker Powers accepts clients at her East Lawrence office by appointment only and frequently conducts topical workshops with various community partners. For more information about her services, please visit her website at www.whatalittlebirdytoldme.com. LK
Season’s Snacks Fall, 2021 / S’mores with Peanut Butter Cups There are very few things we love more than sitting around a campfire with our kids. And there are very few things that go with a campfire better than s’mores. For years and years, we’ve toasted marshmallows and squeezed them between graham crackers and a chunk of Hershey’s chocolate. Not only is a great s’mores a rite of the season, it’s a rite of childhood. This summer, everything changed. On a camping trip, a friend prepared s’mores for the group. He had graham crackers and marshmallows, but no Hershey’s chocolate. Instead, he had Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. We were a bit hesitant to try the revolutionary idea, but we are so glad we did. There’s just something about that hit of peanut butter with the chocolate and marshmallows that is perfect for campfire snacks. This fall, now that the weather has cooled and the leaves have turned, have a family campfire. Get the graham crackers and the marshmallows, but leave the plain chocolate. Put some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on your s’mores and hold on to your taste buds!
Drs. Newkirk, Adams and Willms