PARENT & STAFF BOOK CLUB (posted by Jistine Harrison; 01/26/17)
PARENT & STAFF BOOK CLUB: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families, by Stephen Covey.
For the last several months, K-5 teachers at both American Academy campus have been reading The Leader in Me and participating in a book study. The responses from a follow-up Leader in Me interest survey have been very positive and show a high interest in incorporating these ideals into our AA curriculum.
Part of implementing Leader in Me in a successful, long-lasting way is by involving the parents and community. Our mental health team would like to foster that by having a Parent & Staff Book Club featuring The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families, by Stephen Covey. This would allow parents and staff to discuss Leader in Me and Seven Habits as peers and gather parent input at the same time.
Ms. Shull and Ms. Guthrie will kick off the club on Wednesday, February 8, by discussing the first three habits. The next two meetings will be February 22, and March 8, at the same time and place. Parents and staff from both campuses, K-8 and KindiePrep, are invited to join, but please note the club will take place in the Motsenbocker campus library conference room after carpool at 4:30 pm.
Audrey Miller, Castle Pines School Counselor, will be providing FREE CHILD CARE during the book study! She will be doing Leader in Me activities with students who participate. If you are interested, register at the link below or contact Jamie Shull, School Counselor, for more information.
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

1st Trimester Newsletter (posted by Jistine Harrison; 11/28/16)
Leader in Me & American Academy Character
The SSS Mental Health team has been facilitating conversations among the American Academy staff around Leader in Me and its connection to AA’s Character program. The following provides some more information on the conversations being had:
Leader in Me Description: The Leader in Me is Franklin Covey’s whole school transformation process. It teaches 21st century leadership and life skills to students and creates a culture of student empowerment based on the idea that every child can be a leader.
Book Study: This year at American Academy we are attempting to complete a school-wide book study of The Leader in Me. Each staff member has been provided with a copy of the book and we are reading it together in sections and then using professional development time to discuss the book, the impact it could have in our schools and for our students, and how and if we can implement these leadership ideas along with our AA Character program. Teachers in K-5 have almost completed the book study and we look forward to starting with Middle School and other staff members after Winter Break.
Visit the following links to learn more about Leader in Me.
Leader in Me Website
Supporting Students at Home with Speech and Language Supports
Articulation at Home: Good communication depends on good articulation skills. Articulation refers to the production of speech sounds. When a child has difficulty producing specific sounds, speech intelligibility decreases, and the listener may not understand the child’s intended message. A speech-language pathologist (SLP) works with a child to help him/her produce sounds correctly. They may work on individual sounds in isolation or sounds in syllables, words, phrases, or sentences. The ultimate goal is to help a child correctly produce speech sounds spontaneously at the conversational level. The SLP may send practice work home for the parents to complete with their child. Homework activities provide opportunities for a child to practice speech in a more natural environment with the encouragement and support of family.
The following is a list of homework suggestions so that a child may practice speech in everyday situations and environments. Incorporate these simple suggestions at home to help your child practice speech sounds in a functional way. Be sure to follow the guidance of the SLP that is working with your child when implementing these—and any other—practice exercises.
Homework Suggestions – Word/Phrase/Sentence Level Activities :
1. Practice your ___words 25 times while getting dressed for school.
2. Practice your ___phrases 25 times on your way to school or on your way home.
3. Practice your ___sentences while shopping at the grocery store with your parent(s).
4. Practice your ___for five minutes before or after dinner.
5. Practice your ___25 times before turning off the light to go to bed.
6. Practice your ___with a brother/sister for five minutes.
7. Practice your ___words while taking a bath.
8. Practice your ___during commercials of one TV show.
9. Practice your ___25 times before or after playing video games.
10. Practice your ___25 times before brushing your teeth.
11. Practice your ___while riding your bike.
12. Practice your ___while cleaning your room/picking up toys.
13. Practice your ___while your family cooks dinner.
14. Practice your ___as you walk to the corner and back.
15. Practice your ___for five minutes while riding in the car.
Communication at Home: First of all, TALK A LOT!! Look around you and label / discuss everything!!!!
1. Give Wait Time: Most of us don't even wait for people to finish a sentence before we chime in with what we have to say. A good rule of thumb is to wait 5-10 seconds for your child to answer. It gives your child time to process what they want to say. This can also prevent or diminish stuttering in some children.
2. Don't Over Correct Your Child: If you demand that your child say a sound correctly, especially if it is a sound that doesn't develop until they are older......please stop! Over correcting is the exact opposite way of how to improve communication skills. The more you demand they say something right, the worse it may likely get. You don't want to make talking and saying speech sounds a negative thing, because they just might stop doing it altogether. Analogy time: Trying to "make" your child talk or say a sound "right" is like trying to tell someone who can't cook, to cook better.
3. Treat Your Child as a Full Communication Partner: This can be tricky to balance. You need to talk to them as if they are adults but still remember they are children. Talking with them like an adult doesn't mean use adult vocabulary, jokes, or information they won't understand. It means take turns, use eye contact, and value what they say.
4. Be a Good Model: I'm not talking about being a good "role model", although you need to be that too, I mean a good speaking model. If you want to build strong speech and language skills in your child, you need to show that you have skills yourself. A good rule of thumb for how to improve communication skills is to talk slightly above your child's level. That way they will be stretched enough to keep building their skills.
5. Turn Off the TV: We know life's hectic, there are great shows for kids, and it gives you much needed breaks but......try to have it off as much as possible. Just remember the less time you have the TV on, the less time your child will expect it to be on. This can help with behavior in the long run too. This will help your child expand their imagination, learn to entertain themselves, and consequently strengthen their language skills.
Executive Functioning and Its Everyday Impact
Executive function is a set of mental skills that help us get things done. Executive function is like the CEO of the brain. It’s in charge of making sure things get done from the planning stages of the job to the final deadline. These skills are controlled by an area of the brain called the frontal lobe. Executive function helps you: (1) Manage time, (2) Pay attention, (3) Switch focus, (4) Plan and organize, (5) Remember details, (6) Avoid saying or doing the wrong thing, and (7) Do things based on your experience.
A recommended reading around Executive Functioning is No Mind Left Behind: Understanding and Fostering Executive Control- The Eight Essential Brain Skills Every Child Needs to Thrive by Adam J. Cox. This resource provides a comprehensive look into Executive Functioning and is full of practical strategies.
Another recommended reading is Organizing the Disorganized Child: Simple Strategies to Succeed in School by Martin L. Kutscher and Marcella Moran. The authors explain the roots of children's organizational problems and the parents' role in fixing them. They outline different organizational styles used by different students. (Not all kids organize the same way!). They provide step by step plan for an organization system including: Refining morning and night time routines, getting the correct work home, planning the work, and getting it back to where it belongs. It also include tips for reading and note taking, study and test taking strategies, and learning how to ask the right questions.

SSS Beginning of Year Newsletter (posted by Jistine Harrison; 11/28/16)
We invite you to learn more about our Student Support Services Department and our role in supporting all students at American Academy. We strive to provide families with information and helpful tools throughout the year and will be posting a newsletter at the end of every trimester. Within the SSS department, we focus on Special Education, Section 504, Colorado READ Act plans, English Language Learners, Gifted & Talented, Mental Health support, and Response-to-Intervention. This week’s newsletter serves as an introduction to these many areas. It is highly encouraged that you visit our Student Support Services website throughout the year to learn more about our team and to receive helpful tips to support your child at home
Response to Intervention
Colorado Definition of RTI: Response to Intervention (RtI) is a framework that promotes a well-integrated system connecting general, compensatory, gifted, and special education in providing high quality, standards-based instruction and intervention that is matched to students' academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs. Response to Intervention is utilized to improve learning results for all students. Determining a child’s response to scientifically, researched-based intervention is also required in the identification of a Specific Learning Disability. Our RtI Coordinator for both campuses in Nichole Guthrie.
Special Education
At American Academy we typically provide special education services for Specific Learning Disability, Speech or Language Impairment, and other mild to moderate disabilities.
What is a Specific Learning Disability (SLD)?
Definition: Specific Learning Disability (SLD) means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. Specific Learning Disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of: visual impairment, including blindness; hearing impairment, including deafness; orthopedic impairment; intellectual disability; serious emotional disability; cultural factors; environmental or economic disadvantage; or limited English proficiency.
Formerly, the SLD construct of “unexpected underachievement” was indicated by low achievement as compared to a measure of the child’s ability (IQ/achievement discrepancy). Revisions made in 2008 redefined the SLD construct of “unexpected underachievement” to indicate low achievement and insufficient response to empirically validated instruction/intervention that works with most students, even struggling ones (Response to Intervention).
For more information on the Response-to-Intervention framework and the criteria for determining a Specific Learning Disability, please see the Colorado Department of Education’s Specific Learning Disability webpage.
Our Learning Specialists are Candyce Miller & Katie York (CP) and Kris Valkner & Erica Bartlett (Parker).
What is a Speech or Language Impairment?
Definition: A child with a Speech or Language Impairment shall have a communicative disorder which prevents the child from receiving reasonable educational benefit from general education.
The following is a list of common speech and language disorders with a brief explanation of each.
Speech Disorders include: articulation (the way we say our speech sounds), phonology (the speech patterns we use),apraxia (difficulty planning and coordinating the movements needed to make speech sounds), fluency (stuttering), and voice (problems with the way the voice sounds, such as hoarseness).
Language Disorders include receptive language (difficulty understanding language), expressive language (difficulty using language), and pragmatic language (social communication- the way we speak to each other).
Other Disorders include deafness/hearing Loss (loss of hearing; therapy includes developing lip-reading, speech, and/or alternative communication systems), oral-motor (weak tongue and/or lip muscles), and swallowing/feeding disorders (difficulty chewing and/or swallowing).
Our Speech Language Pathologists are Beth Culberson (CP) and Syndel Kinney (Pkr).
Section 504**
Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. 504 plans ensure that individuals with disabilities that significantly impact one or more major life activities have equal access to education and educational programs. At American Academy, 504 accommodations are designed to allow students access to the curriculum and programming based on individual needs.
** In order for a student to be considered for a 504 plan or Special Education, they must display significant academic struggles that were not effectively addressed with RTI. Significant academic struggles can be defined as a student who continues to show a pattern of academic failure. This can be demonstrated by a lack of response to interventions, failing grades, unsatisfactory performance on assessments, and an inability to comprehend grade level material. Significant academic struggles are more than having to spend hours on homework.
Our 504 Coordinator for both campuses is Kaity Fortney.
Colorado READ Act
In 2012 Colorado’s State Legislators repealed the Colorado Basic Literacy Act (CBLA) and introduced the Colorado Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act (READ Act) legislation. “The state’s goal [for the legislation of the READ Act] is for all children in Colorado to graduate from high school having attained skill levels that adequately prepare them for postsecondary studies or for the workforce, and research demonstrates that achieving reading competency by third grade is a critical milestone in achieving this goal” (Colorado Department of Education, 2015). The READ Act maintains many elements of CBLA such as a focus on K-3 literacy, assessment, and individual plans for students reading below grade level, but it also differs in that it focuses on students identified as having a significant reading deficiency, delineating requirements for parent communication, and providing funding to support intervention.
For more information on the Colorado READ Act, please visit the Colorado Department of Education’s Colorado READ Act Fact Sheet.
Our READ Act Coordinator for both campuses is Kaity Fortney.
School Counseling
What is the role of a School Counselor? Through a comprehensive and developmental school counseling program, Mrs. Shull (PKR) and Ms. Harding (CP) work as a team with students, families, and American Academy staff to address the academic, career and personal/social development of all students.
What does a School Counselor do? A School Counselor has many roles, including: (1) Work with ALL students to encourage a safe school climate of trust and respect, (2) Deliver classroom lessons that align to American School Counselor Association standards, (3) Facilitate small groups, (4) Meet individually with students to provide short-term support (not therapy), (5) Help students who are struggling to make positive behavior choices at school, (6) Collaborate with parents/guardians, teachers, support staff, and administration, (6) Maintain confidentiality of students and their families unless there is a need to know or a safety concern, and (7) Provide education and information about students’ social-emotional needs.
For more information please visit our website.
If you are interested in having your child meet with Mrs. Shull/Ms. Miller, please use the “Request for School Counseling” link under Parent Resources on the AA homepage.
Gifted & Talented
The mission of our Gifted and Talented Program is to promote intellectual, social and emotional growth in the gifted and twice exceptional student population through encouraging student-lead advocacy, providing active support and purposeful education programming and opportunities. Going into the ’16-’17 school year there are added opportunities for students on Advanced Learning Plans (ALPs). Mrs. Liddick, the Gifted and Talented Coordinator, has developed a new approach for meeting the needs of students who are on ALPs. Students can choose to do a passion pursuit! Details were sent out to families who currently have students on ALPs the week of August 22.
Universal screening for potentially gifted students has expanded this year as well. During the ’16-‘17 school year all third and sixth grade students will take the CogAT test. In the past, we have only given the CogAT to third grade students, however, beginning this year, sixth grade students will also take it. It is a group administered assessment tool that provides data in order to determine general reasoning abilities in verbal, quantitative and nonverbal. The results are used as one source of data for gifted identification and can be utilized by teachers to inform instruction.
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