Thankful for Partnerships

Administrators in the SURN Principal Academy help shape an educational partnership that spans the state.

Administrators in the SURN Principal Academy help shape an educational partnership that spans the state.

At this time of year, many of us engage in reflection on the many things for which we are grateful. At SURN we pause a moment this week to acknowledge our gratitude for the many meaningful partnerships that breathe life and purpose into the School Leadership Institute. Our connection with William & Mary School of Education runs deep, and the support we receive from faculty and staff provides a foundation for reaching beyond the university and into the K-12 classrooms and schools we serve.

We collaborate and work with our 30 Virginia school divisions to bring quality professional learning and development to educators across the Commonwealth. Through these collaborations and experiences at William & Mary School of Education, leaders have established relationships far beyond our walls. This fall principals willingly opened the doors of their schools to allow their colleagues an opportunity to develop their skills in instructional leadership as they complete collaborative walk throughs together.

The opportunity to network and to collaborate with peers is cited as a strength of virtually every workshop and program at SURN. Learning and innovating together to enhance student achievement is a hallmark of what we accomplish in partnership with each other, and relationships are at the core of this. We look forward to continued growth in our partnerships with all of you.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at SURN!

SURN’s 20th Annual Leadership Conference: June 20-21, 2016

Join SURN to explore cutting-edge ideas in learning and practical application. With innovative discussions on engagement and developmental feedback, modern views on branding and preparing students for the future, this promises to be a dynamic conference. Let’s turn tomorrow’s classroom into today’s reality.

Register Online Today:

Monday, June 20, 2016:
 8:30am – 3:30pm

Tuesday, June 21, 2016: 8:30am – 2pm

Registration begins at 8am

The SURN Leadership Conference offers a forum to learn and exchange ideas at The College of William and Mary. SURN invites researchers and practitioners to share their work in a combination of interactive general and concurrent sessions to promote dialogue. Each year’s theme connects to the priorities identified by the SURN Advisory Board. Participants from our SURN programs share their experiences from year-long, job-embedded professional development that can be applied in other settings. Leading education writers, researchers, and consultants provide international and national perspectives on their work. The opportunity to share with other educators, discuss topics with leading researchers, reflect on the prior school year, be inspired, and plan for the upcoming year are all reasons individuals and school division teams attend.

Conference participants are primarily from Virginia, they include: superintendents (5%), central office personnel (35%), principals and assistant principals (45%), teacher leaders (5%), and other educators such as The College of William and Mary faculty, VDOE personnel and retired school personnel who coach in the schools (10%).

We are pleased to offer a wonderful slate of speakers, as well as concurrent sessions, and a post-conference session!

We will have featured addresses from Dr. Billy Cannaday and Dr. Steven Staples, impactful leaders in Virginia Education. Session presenters will include Shawn Boyer, Shawn Clark &Abbey Duggins, Mary Cay Ricci, Joe Sanfelippo, and Allison Zmuda.

Past speakers have included Prof. John Hattie, internationally renowned researcher of education; James Nottingham, creator of The Learning Pit; Deb Masters, Principal Consultant at Cognition Education and the Director of Visible Learning Plus, and more! To see a full list of speakers from previous years, please click here.

Support SURN Partner: Crittenden Middle School

Help support a middle school in the SURN Partnership to get 100K. Crittenden Middle School in Newport News is a semi-finalist for an award from Northrup Grumman STEM School FAB LAB. They need your help as they have a “voting day” through Facebook on November 19th. The school with the most votes moves forward. Crittenden Middle is one of 20 schools in the USA in the running, support Crittenden in winning the day by voting for them at The site has a paragraph and video of what they propose to do.



Crittenden Middle School is located within the Newport News Public School District of Newport News, Virginia. Crittenden has an underutilized space that could be used for a new lab – otherwise known as a ‘STEM Zone.’ The school’s STEM program draws students from all across the city, and they believe it could be further enhanced with a renovated lab. Their dream lab would feature a research center including a design, build and testing center. ‘STEM Zone’ could also host local leaders and innovative experts to bring real life scenarios to the classroom to inspire students. For more information about Crittenden Middle School

Thinking about Text Sets: Considering Time and Place

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Thinking about Text Sets: Considering Time and Place

by: Kerrigan Mahoney

If you ever dutifully memorized the definition of the setting of a novel as the time and place where the story happens, and never much thought about it again, well … you have much to look forward to! Setting is the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven, the eerie chirps of crickets at twilight, the sensation of a pat on the back for a job well done; the sound of hope, the smell of fear, the chills of desperation. Time and place shape identity, experiences, and social and cultural norms: both for our students and in our books. Considering how time and place impact identity and shape actions can be a powerful bridge between students’ own lives and experiences and those of the characters in a book. Centuries can become seconds when you can stand next to your character and empathize with her.

These three books put time and place, front and center:

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, the Michael Printz Award winning novel for excellence in young adult literature, links together seven vignettes that unfold on the same Scandinavian island over the course of millennia. The sensory experience of the island itself, along with the mythology and peoples tied to this place bring together each vignette in captivating and visceral storytelling. This genre-defying book will provoke discussion on the nature of time and the congruency of the human experience among students and adults alike.

“Open Mike Fridays” in Mr. Ward’s English class bring together the students of Bronx Masquerade, Nikki Grimes much beloved Coretta Scott King Award winning novel. The first year copies of this book showed up in my classroom shelves I heard: when can I read that book? Hey, that looks like a book I actually want to read! My internal celebratory dance and accompanying whisper/shouting was immense, but I played it cool – and my students certainly took the bait. Each chapter in this story is told from the point of view of a different student in Mr. Ward’s English class along with accompanying poem shared at “Open Mike Friday.” The importance of classroom space itself and its power to help students learn through shared experiences in a positive and supportive environment cannot be undersold – in this book or your classroom.

“Where the best and brightest strive and shine and stairways lead right to cloud nine.” Sugar Hill: Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie is a celebratory picture book for all ages. The reader can dance, sing, stroll, study, and play through the masterful use of language and compelling illustrations that take us on a journey in Sugar Hill. An excellent book to think about how literary devices and figurative language can help to captivate readers; it also could be an excellent mentor text for students to write about their own neighborhood, school, classroom, time, or place that is important to them.


Questions to consider when thinking about setting:

  • How does the setting impact the plot, characters, or conflict?
  • In what ways does the setting evoke a sensory response?
  • How does a change in setting (or lack thereof) help to propel the story?
  • How does the combination of words and images shape your experience of the story?
  • How does the setting in this story relate to places you have been or settings you have experienced in other stories? How does this impact your understanding of the setting in this story?


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To all of our SURN Assistant Principals, thank you for all that you do!

AP Week

March Reading Madness Round 2

The Winners Are In!  Time for Round 2!

Your votes have been counted, and we are moving to round 2 of SURN’s March Reading Madness!  Please take a minute and vote for your favorite books.  Only the books with the top votes will advance to round 3!  Please also share with your colleagues and students for more fun!

March Reading Madness Schedule:

March 3 – Round Two
March 10 – Round Three
March 17 – Quarter Finals
March 24 – Semi-finals
March 31 – Final Championship

The Official Bracket Based On Your Input:

Click to enlarge image.

Click to enlarge image.

Please visit our Google form to vote.  It should only take about two minutes—it is super quick!

More Information on the Books:

White Dolphin

Ruth and the Green Book

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

The Book Whisperer

Accessible Mathematics

The Energy Bus

Teach Like a Pirate


Papa’s Mechanical Fish

To Kill a Mockingbird

Mr. Peabody’s Apples

Another Day in The UK

As SURN Director, Jan Rozzelle, and Assistant Director, Jenny Hindman, travel through the United Kingdom to visit schools they may visit for the 2016 Study Tour, they have been building relationships with school leaders. They are learning about how these schools are using research and practices

Jan and Jenny engaged in conversation with Jill Harland and Jo Davies, co head teachers at Brudenell Primary School in Leeds England. Their passion for seeking out research and placing it into tactile is evident. For the past 5 years teachers at Brudenell have engaged children in P4c (Philosophy for Children). When asked what p4c helped them do, the year 3 and 4 students in Mrs. Acton’s class said, it “warms my thinking” “I like p4c because there are millions of answers,” and ” it helps us reason and think fast,”

The mud kitchen in the outside play area at Brudenell

The mud kitchen in the outside play area at Brudenell

We saw evidence of the growth mindset (Carol Dweck‘s work) and Will Ord‘s mindfulness. Every space in the school communicated care and learning. Like the schools we visited in Berwick-upon-Tweed students questions and work covered walls making the values and learning in the school evident.

Present made by a student in response to the query of what life would like without books

Present made by a student in response to the query of what life would like without books

The action research being conducted by teachers and support staff on questions of interest in their context was especially interesting to us. We sought to know more about this school wide job-embedded professional development by talking with faculty members and the co-head teachers.

James Nottingham identified this school as one for SURN to visit and we hope to include it on the 2016 study tour we are planning

SURN Observes P4C!

As SURN Director and Assistant Director, Jan Rozzelle and Jenny Hindman travel through the United Kingdom to visit schools they may visit for the 2016 Study Tour, they have been building relationships with school leaders. They are learning about how these schools are using research and practices

Jan and Jenny traveled to see two schools in Berwick-upon-Tweed, which is located on the east coast of England near the Scottish border. Both schools start at Reception (kindergarten) and continue through upper elementary. They have approximately 150 students.

At Holy Trinity Primary School, we had the honor of listening to students in Mary- Rose Blythe’s class engage in a p4c experience. P4c stands for Philosophy for Children. The students made observations about a stimulus material in this case a painting. Then they generated words and questions. The class voted on a question and engaged in rich dialogue about it. In the process they agreed, clarified, disagreed, and refined their thoughts. A fish bowl strategy was used. The students on the outside made their thinking visible using a map.

Student work from Holy Trinity Primary School

Student work from Holy Trinity Primary School

At Tweedmouth West Primary students filled every space and their teachers invited students to think through multiple ways of approaching content. For example in Anne Robertson’s classroom students were to work graphing data. Her students shared different ways to display data including Carroll charts, bar graphs, and others – we left before seeing students collect their chocolate data.

Tweedmouth West Primary Students

Tweedmouth West Primary Students

In another room we heard students practicing violin. The violin teacher works with students in both schools. The rhythm of music has impact in other subjects such as reading.

Tweedmouth West Primary Students Practicing Violin

Tweedmouth West Primary Students Practicing Violin

James Nottingham, 2014 SURN Leadership Academy speaker, recommended both of these schools to us.

SURN Around the World

Jan Rozzelle and Jenny Hindman, SURN Director and Assistant Director, have been spending this week in Edinburgh. They had an amazing conversation with The Edinburgh Rudolf Steiner School  teacher and class guardian, Dr. Mark Burgess, who described the values and hallmarks of a Steiner Education. Dr. Burgess trained for two additional years to become a Steiner teacher. The focus of learning is on the student. The format for learning includes verse, song, recall of the previous day’s learning, time for the new material, a portion of the day is called the will where students continue to develop and show their learning. Jan and Jenny experienced through Dr. Burgess’ words the Steiner vision.


Jan in Edinburgh with a Scotsman playing bagpipes


Jenny petting Greyfriars Bobby, a faithful dog whose legend is a popular children’s book

SURN Book Recommendations

By: SURN Graduate Assistant, Jennifer Pogue