Archive for the ‘Faculty & Staff’ Category

Update from the Head of School


December 7, 2012


Dear Friends,

Today I met with the Villa Parent Association (VPA) and presented an overview of a comprehensive school improvement plan, associated with our Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools (PNAIS) re-accreditation process that will commence with the 2013-2014 academic year.  As an accredited school, Villa Academy undergoes a peer review process on a seven-year cycle, with our next evaluation scheduled for the 2014 – 2015 academic year.

PNAIS accreditation is an inclusive, continuing process that involves reflection, rigor and forethought to assist each member school to clarify and live its own vision, mission and values. The process promotes quality standards without standardization in a way that supports both school independence and educational quality in a collegial environment of peer review.

PNAIS schools voluntarily join the Association and, in so doing, commit to the core value of continuous school improvement with the goal of maintaining accreditation through compliance with the Association’s Standards and Indicators. PNAIS accreditation is an elective and thorough process that ensures that schools have the leadership, resources, organization, staffing and structures in place to allow for continual improvement that will sustain schools and ensure a quality educational program over time.

At Villa Academy, the most recent  on-going school improvement process generated from our 2007 accreditation report, but began in earnest during the 2010 – 2011 academic year under the leadership of Mrs. Jody Elsner, Villa’s Lower School Director who was, at that time, Villa’s Interim-Head of School.  During that year, Mrs. Elsner and the Villa faculty and staff began studying the components and implications of a “21st century education” at Wednesday afternoon faculty/staff meetings and through outside reading and research.

There are numerous definitions of “21st century education/21st century skills,” but a particularly useful and succinct definition comes from Mr. Barnett Berry, founder and chief executive officer of the Center for Teaching Quality:

Twenty-first-century learning means that students master content while producing, synthesizing and evaluating information from a wide variety of subjects and sources with an understanding of and respect for diverse cultures. Students demonstrate the three Rs but also the three Cs: creativity, communication and collaboration. They demonstrate digital literacy as well as civic responsibility. Powerful learning of this nature demands well-prepared teachers who draw on advances in cognitive science and are strategically organized in teams, in and out of cyberspace.”

The research, review and discussion of “21st century education/skills” at Villa Academy continues and includes both formal and informal conversations centered on the application of new instructional techniques and curricular standards, while ever mindful of our Mission as a Catholic independent school dedicated to excellence in the education of the whole child and guided by the Cabrinian tradition of educating compassionate hearts and confident minds.

This self-assessment and professional development process, along with our review of educational “best practices,” serves as one foundational leg of a school improvement process.

The second foundational leg of Villa’s school improvement process is the formal PNAIS self-study, which will be conducted during the 2013 – 2014 academic year. The self-study is an inclusive, collaborative and reflective process involving the Head of School, the Board, faculty, staff, parents, students, alumni and others who have an interest in the school and its future. It provides the background information and analysis upon which a peer review team will rely during their visit to Villa Academy in the 2014 – 2015 academic year.

The self-study process, followed by a peer review report, looks for congruence between a school’s mission and its programs and practices, and starts with a review of the school’s mission statement. The process considers the school’s strengths, weaknesses, priorities and plans and should identify any “gaps” as well as articulate aspirations (programs and facilities) for school improvement.  A peer review team will review the self-study and, following a three-day visit to the school, provide an additional written report to the Head of School offering team observations and highlighting areas of commendation, recommendations and conditions that the school must satisfy in order to maintain accreditation.

Considering the best practices/standards of a 21st century education, the findings of our self-study and the report from a peer-review accreditation visit, a new school improvement plan (Visioning Villa – 2017) will be developed and pursued in the years ahead.  In this improvement plan I hope to draw on all of the sundry skills and significant talents of the Villa community and will rely on its collective wisdom to make Villa Academy all that it can be – sooner rather than later!  This school improvement plan may suggest that the Villa Academy Board of Trustees consider a capital campaign in the next couple of years to support our improvement goals, to further Villa’s progress and to fully meet its Mission and Vision.  This is an option that has been occasionally discussed at meetings of the Board of Trustees over the last eighteen months, though no decision has yet been made.

This graphic was presented to the VPA to help illustrate this process:


The next few years at Villa Academy will be exciting – and pivotal.  I’m enthusiastic about our future and our potential and am convinced that the best is yet to come!

Stay tuned!



John K. Milroy

Head of School

New Head of School (for the day)

6th grade student Caitlin H. has jumped feet first into her new role as Head of School for the Day.  If you’re on campus today, you can’t miss her. Caitlin is wearing an official “Head for the Day” t-shirt which lets everyone know just who’s in charge.


Caitlin’s interim position as Head for the Day comes courtesy of her parents, the highest bidders for Mr. Milroy’s experience item at this year’s fundraising auction.

Caitlin is not taking her new role lightly and has already implemented a few changes. In addition to calling for free dress, Caitlin had decreed a special recess period for the entire 6th grade and is currently meeting with Mr. Milroy, Middle School Director Mr. Joseph, and two special middle school consulting advisers regarding improvements within the Villa Middle School.

The rest of Caitlin’s schedule is booked solid. She has K-2 recess supervision duty, lunch, and then classroom visits to oversee.

Perhaps you can catch her out front at afternoon carpool duty – she shouldn’t be too busy for a friendly wave!

Volunteer Appreciation Week

Dear Villa Academy Community,

In honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, we would like to say a heartfelt thank you to all past, present, and future volunteers.

The amount of time and energy volunteers dedicate to our school is incredible! Whether serving lunch, driving on field trips, raising money for the Annual Fund, supervising recess, coaching a sport, organizing the lost and found or uniform exchange, working in the classrooms, serving on the Board of Trustees, Parent Association, or auction committee, and all the other important jobs volunteers do – each and every minute you contribute to Villa Academy makes an amazing difference to the overall educational experience we are able to provide. THANK YOU!!!

Please look for us at drop off Wednesday morning. We will be handing out a delicious treat as a symbol of our appreciation for everything you do.

Thank you so very much for making Villa Academy such a wonderful place.

With warmest regards,
Villa Academy’s Administrative Team

Faculty and Staff Appreciation

Villa Academy Faculty and Staff Appreciation Day Thank You Notes

Due date for Notes: Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Villa Faculty/Staff Appreciation Committee will be coordinating a heartfelt appreciation luncheon in celebration of Villa’s fabulous teachers and staff on Monday, March 26, during conferences.  At the luncheon, each faculty and staff member is presented with a decorative bag containing appreciation notes written by Villa parents and students. Many have commented that the thank you notes are the best part of the day!

All forms of expression of “appreciation” are welcomed and encouraged!

  • Children’s drawings
  • Student or parent written thank you notes (they need not be lengthy)
  • Other wonderful, original ideas (just need to fit in the bags)
  • It is the thought that counts!

Quick check-list:

  • Remember to write notes to members of the non-teaching staff who work hard behind the scenes helping the school to run smoothly.
  • Click HERE for a list of our Faculty and Staff for a convenient reference.
  • Put the recipient’s name on the outside of the envelope so we can sort the envelopes quickly and accurately.
  • Drop your notes (which we will collect daily) in the decorated box in the Parent Lounge or send them via KidMail (Stephen M. 7A) so we have time to sort them and prepare the individual gift bags.

Thank you for taking the time to make the Villa Academy Faculty and Staff Appreciation Luncheon a huge success!

Also, if you are interested in contributing a dish or helping with the lunch, please contact Laurie Blattner at or Gina Hampson at

Questions regarding the notes?  Please contact:

Kathryn Evered                   or     Suzanne Moreau

Teachers Helping Teachers

Teaching is not an easy job.  It is even more difficult in parts of the world where the basic cost of books and school supplies total well beyond the financial means of most families.

Reminded of this at a recent Wednesday professional planning meeting, faculty and staff at Villa Academy joined together to support Avivara, an organization that provides assistance to the grossly under-funded education efforts in Guatemala.

The truth about Guatemala education is distressing. A one-room schoolhouse, sometimes the second function of an agriculture loading dock, will enroll nearly 100 students. A serious lack of teacher resources and inaccessible curriculum, available only via the web, make lecture the primary (yet ineffective) method of instruction. Given such inefficiencies, it is not surprising that Guatemalan children generally do not advance beyond the third grade – that is, if they have the privilege of attending school at all!

In true Cabrinian tradition, our community immediately stepped up to help. A group effort from Villa Academy employees, initiated by Becky Bocian in the Business Office, raised enough support to sponsor the educational needs of 56  students for an entire year!

Way to go Villa!

For more information on Education in Guatemala, or to find out how you can help, please visit:

Villa Employees climb for Cystic Fibrosis!

On Thursday, December 2, 2010 a handful of Villa Academy faculty and staff teamed up to participated in the Cystic Fibrosis Stair-climb. Every step (56 floors in total) brings us one step closer to the a cure! Way to go!!

Faculty Focus: The Talent Code

Last Thursday fourth grade teacher, Ms. Nichols, attended a lecture by Daniel Coyle, the author of The Talent Code.

Coyle visited nine “talent hotbeds”, places (sometimes small and unlikely places) that produce great talent. In his talk, Coyle gave the example of one small Russian tennis club, Spartak, which has produced more top 20 women players than the entire U.S.

Coyle has observed common patterns – methods of teaching, motivation, and coaching. His research distilled the essentials of how talent is made, or as the title of his book states, “The Talent Code.”

According to Ms. Nichols, “he assured us talent IS made – it’s not simply present at birth.”

Ms. Nichols noted what Coyle presents as the ingredients for talent:

Talent ingredient 1:
Deep practice.  “Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways – operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes – makes you smarter.” … “The best way to build a good circuit is to fire it, attend to mistakes, then fire it again, over and over.  Struggle is not an option: it’s a biological requirement.”

Talent ingredient 2:
Passion.  Energy.  It takes tremendous energy and time to stick with deep practice for the amount of time needed to develop talent.

Talent ingredient 3: Environment.  Where does the passion come from?  It comes from one’s environment.  How someone sees himself or herself makes a difference in how much they learn.  It’s important to see someone you want to become – to have someone in your windshield.

Just mix those ingredients together and voila, talent!

Mr. Coyle said the biological basis for why deep practice works is the building of myelin insulation that wraps around nerve fibers.  The more a circuit is fired, the more layers of myelin and the faster and more efficient the firing gets.
He also said that as a teacher or a parent you can’t force talent on a child, but you can look for it and encourage it.  He specified that kids need private space to ignite ideas, experiment and develop obsessions that lead them to develop talents.